Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Gem Of A Find

It was time to tend to the plants to ensure that they are fed and protected from harmful bugs. While spraying the Plumeria plants, two tiny insects caught my eye as they tried to avoid the insecticide. Realizing that both were mantids and beneficial insects, I carefully removed them and washed them down.
One of them was a tiny Ant Mantis. I heard about this mantis from Shawn, who is a follower of my blog. Thank you for educating me on this tiny wonder and it shows we're never too old to learn. These photos are for you, Shawn.
This mantis mimics a red ant all the way down to the mandibles.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How Can One Go Wrong With This Subject?

Walking more to burn off the extra calories gained from all the birthday meals in May, BBQs and plain over eating. Took the trusted camera with me and to my delight I bumped into this curious cutie that ended up playing peek-a-boo with me.
It is a baby gliding lizard about 3 cm big.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Collard Kings In An Urban Setting

This pair of Collard Kingfisher have moved into the neighborhood over a year ago and are usually very elusive. However, when breeding the pair are more conspicuous as they move into the open to hunt to feed their babies.
Managed to creep up to the pair and photographed one of the two in hunt mode.However, it noticed me as its mate flew off. Then it was gone too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The "Long Kao" Snake

The Blue-necked Keelback is another snake that seems to have an affinity with me. Thus far I've seen the species three times. This morning's sighting of the snake in the drain, makes four Whoop!!!! I was packing the camera this time and had an opportunity to re-shoot this beautiful snake.
Just managed to catch a full snake shot with my macro lens.This one looked well fed as it had a nice round girth.Had to be careful not to tumble into the drain and ended up scratching my sunglasses as I leaned onto the pavement to get closer shots. The photo shoot ended when people who know me stopped to view the snake and it made its getaway slithering up the side of the drain and into the undergrowth.

Beauty In Wild Flowers

Often, we walk past wild plants or weeds, and never notice the beauty of their flowers. This morning, while looking for animal subjects, a conscious decision was made to also document some of the beauty of wild flowers that get ignored. Tiny orange flower found on Sime Trail.Buds of a grass that hold individual pastel pink flowers.The flower of Cupid's Shaving brush starting to bloom.Tiny yellow flowers of a weed.Lastly, the pitcher plant, which goes unnoticed among the weeds.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Snake Swam By...

Spent some time by a stream looking for interesting dragonflies. Just as I was standing up after photographing this blue damsel, a snake swam by in the fast flowing stream.Based on the skin coloration and patter, I knew the snake was a Reticulated Python. Managed to grab a head shot as it raised its head to breathe before it was swept away and then a full length shot from a distance with a macro lens.Woohoo!!! my first constrictor and the largest snake I've encountered in the wild thus far. However, this one is still a juvenile at 2 meters as adults grow to a maximum of over 8.7 meters in length. Wished it would have gotten out of the stream as I would have loved to get better shots.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Standing Over A Clouded Monitor

Chanced upon a punch drunk lizard that didn't even bother that I was standing next to it. An opportunity just presented itself to photograph a Clouded Monitor Lizard up close. Slowly taking out the camera, the photo shoot began. Shot without flash so as not to startle the lizard. Judging from the size of its belly, it must have had a large meal.
I was not complaining as it was a great specimen and its skin was so beautifully patterned. That I present to you a deconstructed lizard to showcase the gorgeous skin patterns. Side view ear cavity.Skull areaTail Two days after these photos were taken this lizard was dead. We suspect that it was sick and dying by the way it behaved on the path.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When I Grow Up...

Chanced upon a baby Olive Bulbul that was with its parents in the undergrowth. It just gave me a look that said, "When I grow up, I'm going to fly like my parents." It's especially comical without its tail feathers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch

Took a drive to Greenwood Avenue to get a takeaway lunch from the Fish Market. Takeaway arrived in a plain brown bag, which is bio-degradable.This is what was hidden in the brown bag - fish and chips.This is the best value meal at $9.50, which half the price of the sit down meal at the restaurant. Two large pieces of fish resting on a bed of fries. Next time, I'm going to get me a bottle of Cider Vinegar to cut through the grease.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Getting Excited Over A Fungus

Damp and humid conditions the past week and a decision to take the route of the usual morning walks yielded the first sighting of a Stinkhorn Mushroom. Been looking for these mushrooms for sometime now and finally seeing one was like touching the lottery. This mushroom is the Long Net Stinkhorn or Veiled Lady, was just sitting by the path and as usual no one else noticed it but me. I finally got to see its delicate veil or skirt close-up and it was intricate to say the least.Stinkhorns are known for their foul smelling sticky spore masses, borne on the end of stalks. The spore mass typically smells of carrion or dung, and attracts flies and other insects to help disperse the spores.
This mushroom lasts only for several hours in the morning. Close to noon, this was what was left of the Stinkhorn.Insects that were feeding on the mushroom. I am pretty that I had eaten stinkhorn mushrooms at a Chinese restaurant before. Sure enough I found out that the Long Net Stinkhorn mushroom (zhu sheng) is commonly used in Chinese soups, braised dishes and stir-fries. They are always sold in dried form as the odor disappears during the drying process. When reconstituted and cooked, the mushrooms have a spongy texture, yet one that simultaneously offers a bit of crunchiness. That was why I remembered them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Try This Lemongrass Marinade for Beef

Tried this a new Vietnamese marinade using brisket for a friend's BBQ. As with everything to be served at a social gather, a sample portion needed to be cooked first to how the meat turned out with the marinade. Here's the sample portion.These were pan fried just two minutes on each side and the beef slices were done. I liked the way the sugar in the marinade caused some caramelizing to lightly brown some of the edges.It turned out really flavorful and the beef was a hit at the BBQ. The bunch preferred their beef well done, which also worked.

Marinade recipe
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, outer leaves discarded and root end trimmed
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Thinly slice lower 6 inches of lemongrass stalks, discarding remainder of stalks. In a food processor or blender finely grind together sliced lemongrass and garlic. Add remaining marinade ingredients and blend well.

In a large resealable plastic bag combine marinade and steak and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate steak, chilled, turning bag once or twice, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finally Some Teeth

This is Moe, Curly and Larry of Long-tailed Macaquedom making a monkey of themselves on a warning sign. They are trying very hard to earn free handouts as they do not understand what the sign said "Do not feed the monkeys. Fine S$500". To make matters worse they were performing outside the ranger's station with a ranger on duty. Could it be they were there to test people who visit the reserve to see if the warning worked? They tried every trick in the book. From Curly swing from Moe's tail aka Tarzan of the apes. To Moe putting on a Herculean act of pulling Curly up with his tail.Laugh at their antics but know not to spoil them by giving them free handouts.Cute and entertaining as they are Moe, Curly and Larry do not need free handouts as there is enough food in the reserves to keep their bellies from going hungry.There are still many inconsiderate people who secretly feed them. Many do not care that the consequences of turning Moe, Curly and Larry into public enemy number 1, is death for the animals when they are identified as nuisance or aggressive animals. The penalty for feeding monkeys can be a hefty too for the human offender who gets caught. Reported in The Straits Times today, a housewife got fined S$3,000 for throwing sweets from a vehicle at the monkeys at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve along the Old Upper Thomson. One of the hot spots for illegal monkey feeding despite warning signs. So please DO NOT FEED THE MONKEYS.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Poking Around In Pools of Stagnant Water

The daily downpour has created pools of stagnant water in Mossie Alley. This means more hoards of blood suckers but the pools also have other creatures living in them. Tiny frogs that use these pools during the wet weather. This is what draws me into Mossie Alley, litter frogs.This frog was well hidden among the leaf litter in the pool and one has to have a sharp pair of eyes to spot these frogs that are less than 2 cm big.The Puddle Frogs are still not to be found in the pools.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Look What Plonked Itself In Front Of Me

It's the weekend and the camera came out of its dry box. Time to see if there were any wild neighbors to photograph. Not long into my walk, the bird that had been eluding me decided, it was time for its portrait taken.Woody flew in quietly and plonked itself in front of me on a palm frond. He stayed long enough for me to take decent photographs in the open much to my delight. I was hoping Woody would stay longer but he got scared away by a well meaning lady who came over to chat with me. I present to you the male Banded Woodpecker out of the forest setting.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Dragonfly Having Breakfast

Nice red dragonfly in the right position. Took the shot and decided to try a different angle. Oops! dragonfly is having its breakfast. Finally, a shot that shows a dragonfly dining on a prey.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hong Lim's Cray Fish Hor Fun

The first thing that one sees when reaching this stall is a long queue. People patiently standing in line waiting for their order of crayfish hor fun.A simple dish of flat rice noodles (hor fun), gravy, prawns, cray fish and some vegetables. What make it so good is the mouth watering sauce that is made from stock of cray fish, prawns and chicken. This is ladled onto a plate of hor fun and finished off with prawns, cray fish, chye sim and fried shallots. To begin eating mix the noodles in the gravy ensuring that each strand of noodle is well coated. This will ensure that each mouthful is as enjoyable as the previous one. One must also have some amount of dexterity with disposable chop sticks to be able to extract the cray fish flesh from the shell. The crustacean meat is fresh, crunchy and sweet. A very satisfying one dish meal.
Tuck Kee is going to be another favorite of mine along with the fried chicken hor fun at Changi Village.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Two Eggs, Two Chicks and One Unlucky Fish

Which came first the eggs or the chicks?They were both hard to spot on the barren granite out crop at sea. The chicks popped out first and then the eggs.Although, perfectly camouflaged, the chicks weren't hard to miss as it was feeding time, and they made their presence known as they pestered their mom. Dad finally came back and did the honors of feeding this chick.