Monday, August 31, 2009

What Hung Above...

Many noisy people talking loudly and covered from head to toe with mossie repellent wafting everywhere. I usually will stop what I'm doing and let these people pass as there was no way to focus nor would any creature stay with all the noise.
I also walk too slow for the hurrying crowd whose only goal is reaching the tree top walk and trail courtesy requires me to step aside. This time I was tilting my head upwards inspecting trees to see if I can spot any wildlife lurking above. Bingo! right above the path was a fat Reticulated Python precariously perched on a yellow palm frond sleeping peacefully. What made it even more interesting was the snake seem to be tethered to the palm frond was its tiny tail curled around the stem.I thought of pointing out the python but knew better not to do so. I left the slumbering snake to its own devices and headed home. However, I went back in the afternoon to check on sleeping beauty and it was still sleeping but without its tail hold.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

How Woodpeckers Walk Vertically Up Trees

Woodpeckers inhabit wooded ecosystems. If you see a solitary bird moving up a vertical trunk with its tail pressed against the bark and its beak busy pecking at the wood is probably a woodpecker.
Woodies such as the Common Flameback can be seen and heard in the forest each morning. If you're quiet enough you will also hear the pneumatic drill on wood of the Laced Woodpecker. I for one love to watch the woodies at work. Have you wondered how these birds can climb vertically up trees? Well they have four-toed feet with two toes pointing forward and two pointing back, or slightly sideways with sharp claws that allow them to dig into the tree trunk. Their feet enable them to cling to vertical tree trunks of various sizes. See how the bird below splays its feet for maximum grip. It also uses the tail feathers that are wedge shaped and have very strong shafts to hold the woody’s body away from the trunk and provides support.If you happen to spot a woodpecker stop and observe how it scales the tree picking off its food.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Beginning A New Chapter

Today was my mum funeral. She passed away peacefully on 23 August after being bed ridden for over 3 years. Although she has several illnesses, the one that claimed her life was pneumonia brought on by advanced Parkinson's'.
The one thing I've learnt going through it all with my mum, is that the human spirit can be extremely strong. We have weathered many storms with her over her last couple of years, with her proving to us that her will to live was stronger than the sum total of all her illnesses. In addition, to Parkinson's' she suffered from Aplastic Anemia and was given 3 months to live. Yet she battled that disease for over 6 years till it was beaten towards the end.
She lived through Sepsis, countless bouts of pneumonia, a brain hemorrhage and a fractured arm. My mum was a living pin cushion as her doctors and nurses tried their best to heal her. Her last stay at the hospital was for two weeks with her coming home for a 3-hour visit before we had to rush her back in. The next day she was listed as critical and was gone by Sunday morning.
If there is anything to be thankful about, it is her relatively peaceful passing. We were all surprised to see how serene and at peace she looked when all her pain and suffering were taken away.
In addition, it was as though things were all planned properly and we are all thankful for all the small miracles that we were blessed with. On this note, I bid farewell to my beloved mother and start on a new chapter in my life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dedicated To Those Who Hate Lizards ;-)

My cousin will spray a can of insecticide on a house gecko just because she afraid to be near one. Other friends will literally ran screaming out of their homes leaving the gecko going huh? what happened here? For those who go on nature walks there at the skinks, those shiny skinned lizards that you sometimes see sunning themselves on the boardwalk or on paved paths before the scamper off into the undergrowth. For those who listen to the rhythm of the forest you will here them scurrying around in the undergrowth like ghosts as they search for their insect meals.
I had the honor to meet this skink, which isn't the normal variety I usually see. It was a rather frisky little skink that was jumping around. Here you have the guy doing push-ups looking start at the camera and you go ain't he cute.Next he turns and gives the camera a coy come hither look.Before he leapt off into the tangled undergrowth with this person frantically trying to follow his every movement. What was he doing... Catching his rather MacSpidy breakfast.I actually didn't see the spider in his mouth till I got home and looked at my photos but MacSpidy and frisky skink had a royal rumble which ended up under dried leaves so I never go to see the skink swallow it Big Mac.
For who hate lizards, this is proof that they have a role in the ecosystem natural insect control. The bug spray should not replace the lizard nor should it be used to dispatch the lizard (end of soap box speech).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Day Kermit Leapt Out At Me

Operation palm tree inspection was on my mind when a movement on the ground caught my eye. Stop!!! Green frog leapt into my head as my eyes looked at the frog that was a little awkward on the grass. I knew it was a species of tree frog but something I have not seen before.
People like me will take photo first and ask questions later. Took this shot first before swapping the 300 mm to my favorite macro lens.This rather large tree frog looked at me with an "I am lost look". After snapping a couple more photos, I decided to bag him to relocate him a correct environment for a tree frog.As I was still not convinced that it was a native species, I went in search of my walking animal dictionary to see if he knew what species the frog was. I found my walking encyclopedia at the hut with his plastic bag of coffee with milk having a smoke. One look at Kermit, he confirmed my suspicions that Kermit was alien to Singapore. He also said that it is legally sold here in the pet trade. Hmmm... someone tossed out a poor defenseless frog.
Kermit, now is my long kang frog that sits on a rock in a tall glass vase happily munch crickets that I bought for it. After my mum's funeral, I will decide if I should keep it or hand Kermit over to the Zoo. I'll consult the zoo keepers and if I do keep Kermit, I will need their help to build an environment that is suitable for a docile large Green Tree Frog.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pleasantly Surprised

Sometime walking a different route pays off extremely well. This morning's decision to go out again after I came home to deposit a rescue Green Tree Frog. Half way through my walk I spotted a Drongo up on a branch doing what Drongos do best - look down at you and sometimes call sweetly. The bird was jet black and glossy, one of the hardest birds to photograph because of its black shiny feathers. I had to try my luck with the bird after I finished, I stood observing the bird hoping to see what it will do next before movement above distracted me.
At first glance, I thought more Drongos till the dark silhouettes were highlighted by the sunlight. I was looking at my first Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.It is such a pretty bird with its red eye patches. The Malkoha is a species of Cuckoo but unlike many other species of Cuckoos, they build their own nests and care for their own young.
The Malkohas are large birds of about 49 cm and they prey on insects, small frogs and lizards.When I spotted the pair, they were in a location that nobody has reported sighting these birds before. This was exciting as if the pair stayed I'd have more opportunities to observe these birds. When I spotted them, they were jumping from branch to branch catching insects for breakfast.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Striped-tit Babblers Having A Bath

Here's another bird that people rarely see in the nature reserve. It is the Striped-tit Babbler, a small bird that forages in the understory. The Striped-tit Babbler forms small groups and clamber around the vegetation hunting insects.
They are interesting birds to watch if you can spot them as they move rapidly around catching insects. This evening I found a small group having a bath. Usually, one would assume that birds will go to a stream to bathe to maintain their feathers. However, with small birds such as sunbirds and the babblers. They can bathe in the most unusual places. The babblers were using a dried Nibong Palm frond stem that had water collected in it as their bath tub.All birds have to keep their feathers in tip-top shape on a daily basis. They will bathe and preen to keep their feathers in tip-top shape. After their bath, each bird disappears further up a tree branch and preen their feathers as they flapped and shook themselves to dry their feathers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Someone Dumped Bullfrogs Into The Stream

I head the call of a bullfrog yesterday morning by the stream but didn't think to investigate since it sounded like the Banded Bullfrog. However, this morning I wondered by the stream at the start of my walk and what do I see two large American Bullfrogs. Once my eyes got accustomed to the glare, I started picking out bullfrog, after bullfrog. Oh no!
I know they weren't there the last month when I last walked past the stream but now there were more than 10 full grown bullfrogs right before my eyes.
So what's the big deal you might ask just a couple of frogs released by someone into the stream? Well for one it is an alien species that can do a lot of ecological damage to our already very limited and threatened fauna. The American Bullfrog preys on any animal it can overpower and stuff down their throats. They can eat rodents, small turtles, snakes, lizards, fish, other frogs including their own species, and birds.To make matters worse, they thrive very well in warm climates and have longer life expectancy. A female bullfrog is an extremely prolific egg layer, she can lay as many as 20,000 eggs a clutch and have multiple clutches a year. At the rate in which they breed their enormous appetites, our native species will be wiped out in no time.
The bullfrogs were brought in originally to be commercially bred for frogs' legs. These bullfrogs are readily available in wet markets and supermarkets for people to buy. The young frogs also get sold in the aquarium business as food for ornamental fish like the Arowana. They have already colonized our reservoirs - MacRitchie, Lower Pierce and Seletar and even Singapore Botanic Gardens as people release them during religious festivals such as Vesak Day. Today, they have spread further into a stream that is home to indigenous Tiger Barb.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where Does Attap Chee Come From?

Training brought me to SBWR this weekend and it was an enjoyable trip since I've not been out for an entire week. While we walked on the mangrove boardwalk, we came upon a flowering Nipah Palm. The bloom is quite amazing and brightly colored. Among the male flowers is a singular female bloom which is the ball in the middle of the photo.
For those who do not know the Nipah Palm is considered endangered here due to mangrove habitat loss. Almost all the parts of this palm tree can be used. The sap from the flower stalk can be used to make toddy, or boiled down to sugar (gula melaka). The young seeds of this palm is our beloved attap chee found in ice kachang. In the good ole kampong days, the leaves were dried and used as roof material.
Personally, I think these palm trees are majestic as they rise up from the mud. Another interesting thing about the Nipah Palm seem to have no trunk. In actual fact it does have a trunk but it grows horizontally in the mud. Do look out for these palms the next time you head to SBWR.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Frowning Monkey

Training to be a volunteer ranger at the Singapore Zoo has meant that I have been spending quite a bit of time at the zoo for the past two months. As part of the training, we did keeper attachments and perform all the tasks the keepers do in animal husbandry.
During our break, I took my camera out and hung out with a free ranging female White-Faced Saki. This cute little primate prefers to hang out behind the scenes and she spends all of her time in the keepers' area behind the Fragile Forest bio-dome.
She is a species of saki monkey - a type of New World monkey - found in South America. Her kind live in the understory and lower canopy of the forest, feeding mostly on fruits, but also eating nuts, seeds, and insects. What made her special was the range of facial expressions she went through when my lens was in her face. It was the first time any of us had a primate frown at us the way she did.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Emerald One

I love the early morning walks when there are few people around as it always gives me opportunities to observe animals going about their daily business. This morning I had the company of a male Emerald Dove as it walked down the path searching for breakfast.The Emerald Dove is a pigeon but unlike it cousins it spends most of its time on the ground in the forest or mangrove where they search for fallen fruits. Not many people notice these birds as they are usually solitary and are very quiet as they move around the undergrowth or as they walk along the paths in the nature reserves.
To see these birds, one needs to be very quiet and walk very slowly as the slightest sound or movement will send the bird into flight.
I have encountered this species a number of times and still get a thrill when I have the close encounters. Each is special as it depends on what the bird will allow you to do. This individual was confident enough to let me approach and watch him as he walked about looking for fruits.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beauty Of The Blue-eared Kingfisher

I caught another fleeting glimpse of the extremely rare Blue-eared Kingfisher, this time a male and his coloration is even deeper blue than the female.Unfortunately, I have not seen the birds again as the area where the kingfishers frequent is also a favorite illegal fishing spot. It's been over a month now, still no sight of the pair just more men with fishing rods.
See the difference between the male and the female Blue-eared Kingfishers. The male has Elvis' side-burns.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Goodbye My Friend

Said goodbye to Ruben yesterday. He in his own way knew that his time was up and he spent the entire Friday night with me. Yesterday, he went into his box and quietly waited for the time he was to be driven to the vet.
There will never be another cat like Ruben but he will always live on in our hearts and memories. He will always bring smiles to us when we remember him.
This is he in April, right after he was diagnosed with feline renal failure. He spent a week in the animal hospital and was thankful to be home. He never liked the treatment nor the restricted diet of no fish. This was also his favorite sleeping position.His other favorite place was sitting on the roof of my car. It was also his way of telling me that I haven't spent enough time with him. He also loved his car rides and will sit happily on the passenger seat or stand with his paws on the window looking out.We will miss his 5 am wake up calls that will steadily get louder if we ignore him; his getting underfoot on Sundays in the kitchen while we prepared family lunch; his nagging us to feed him when he's hungry (Ruben loved his fish, especially fresh fried tuna); and his romps around the house when he is happy. Bye Bye my friend.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Litter In The Reserves

Why can't people take their litter with them when they leave the reserve. The walk today was a little disturbing seeing Macaques picking up the empty plastic bags and containers. Not only are plastics bad for the environment, they are bad for animals too. Plastics harm animals large and small.Soon we will need do not litter signs in our reserves too.

Preparing To Bid Another Cat Goodbye

It had been another sad week for me. Took Ruben to the vet as he was steadily not eating and had lost 1 kg in a month since his last vet visit.
His blood tests revealed the worse and I have decided not to prolong his suffering by forcing feeding him various supplements to help clear toxins out of his system and subjecting him to daily saline transfusions.
I'll let him live out his last days free of pain and am allowing him to do whatever he wants. It will also gives us all time to bid him farewell as we love him a lot.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Shiny Jet Black Snake

I caught a movement at the corner of my eye just below a rotting tree trunk as I turned to allow someone to pass. As I refocused my eyes on the object, it was quietly making a u-turn and heading away from me. It was a shiny jet black snake.
After the man passed me, I quietly waited hoping that the snake would resurface from under the tree trunk. Patience paid off again, the snake did emerge and I was able to get a couple of photos.As I suspected that it may be a cobra, I stayed well clear of the snake and made do with whatever clear windows that the undergrowth gave me to take some photos shooting with a 500 mm lens.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Pigeon Shoot Completed

Many photographers have posted their trophy shots of these pretty pigeons and I too must have my day with the Thick-billed Green Pigeons on the strangler fig tree.The tree was in a perfect location with a vantage point that allowed almost eye-level shots. Knowing the habits of the pigeons help too. I chose to photograph them in the morning when the light is softer.
As usual, I did not take into account mossies and they exacted their usual blood sucking fee. However, it was worth the VIP seat view of these birds as they picked they way through the thin branches and sometimes falling off.Overall, it was fun to observe these pretty birds as they had their breakfast. That is how I learn by watching the animals go about their routine.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Little Toddy Cat

I have a habit of sometimes checking the treeline to see if I can spot birds. Today, I spotted a makeshift wooden house with a tail and a paw sticking out of it. It was a rather comical sight and I wondered what kind of animal had taken up residence.I went about my business and half an hour later, this was what I could see through my lens.Sometime later, a rather cute face stared down at me. It was a Toddy Cat or an Asian Palm Civet, which I am seeing for the first time.Civets are still hunted and eaten in South East Asia and China. I've seen dead ones with bullet holes in them in at morning markets in Luang Prabang. Never did I think I'll meet one in the wild.
For those who don't know Civets help produce the world's most expensive coffee Kopi Luwak or Civet coffee. This coffee made from coffee berries which have been eaten by and passed through the digestive tract of civets.