Pedal Ubin on Ubin day (30 November 2014)

Between 1997 and 2009, the Toddycats organised a quarterly outreach programme called Pedal Ubin!.

We combined our favourite activities: cycling, nature, and public outreach, and set it on Pulau Ubin, the island time forgot. It was a great way to introduce to urban Singaporeans the pleasure of being outdoors, cycling in relative safety amidst the slow pace of the island, and learning about its history.

We retired the programme in 2009 and kept the website online as a resource page for visitors wanting to discover the island on their own.

When we were approached by the organisers of Ubin Day to be part of the celebration, it was very clear that we would bring back a one day edition of Pedal Ubin! A quick round up of the Jungle Fowls (what the Pedal Ubin guides were known as) saw Alvin, Kai Scene, Chee Kong, Marcus (Ng) and Kenneth respond to the call, in addition to new guides Yi Yong and Liana! We had enough guides for 50 sign ups!

Spaces were filled quickly and we looked forward to sharing with members of the public just how special Ubin is.

Breakfast at Guru’s, our usual meeting place before a day out on P. Ubin.

After some confusion and delay at the jetty due to the overwhelming number of visitors to the Island, we flagged off the first group, led by veteran guide Alvin and Yiyong, but not before a briefing on road safety, braking, and how to make the gears of the bicycle work for you, especially when climbing up slopes!



After an hour, the second group, led by Chee Kong, Kai Scene, Joelle, Liana, Marcus and Kenneth set off too! And yes, not before the obligatory briefing.


We took the Journey to the West for the day, and made Jelutong Bridge our first stop. Liana took the lead in explaining to our  participants what mangroves are and the kinds of flora and fauna that can be found in this habitat


Our first snake encounter happened here too, when Marcus found an oriental tree snake. Chee Kong, being the experienced snake handler in the team took the opportunity to explain more about snakes in Singapore (please do not handle snakes in the wild if you are not properly trained! If you encounter one, do leave it alone and call the ACRES wildlife rescue helpline at 9783 7782)


Alvin at the garden opposite the ‘Why you so like dat‘ drinks stall, regaling participants with stories of the breadfruit tree and its connection with the mutiny on the Bounty


Joelle at Ubin Quarry, possibly talking about the hemiparasite, the mistletoe, and its strategy for seed dispersal.


One of the highlights in our rides to the west of the island is the German girl shrine. While the original building is gone and it looks like a new one is being constructed, the shrine sits under a temporary shelter adjacent to the site. Here, Marcus gave a comprehensive history of the german girl and how she came to be deified by the local villagers. It was translated into mandarin by Kai Scene a second time round!


We also made a short stop at Ketam Beach, a short walk away from the german girl shrine where we spoke about the problem of marine trash, fish farming and food security in Singapore.


Chee Kong found a partial horseshoe crab carapace and we also spotted a single carpet anemone amongst the rubble. It was a good way to introduce to our participants some of the marine life that can be found in the waters off Ubin.


Three hours later, we returned from the west and deposited our participants at the basketball court where a whole plethora of Ubin Day activities were in full swing.

It was a great reunion for us Jungle Fowls and we had a good time reconnecting with Ubin and showing our participants what a gem of an island Ubin is.  We thank the organisers, NParks and Ria of WildSingapore for the opportunity to contribute something to Ubin Day and look forward to future Ubin events! More pictures can be viewed on our flickr album. 


Group photo with Siva (above) and the Guest of Honour for Ubin Day, Minister of State Desmond Lee.



Internship position open

The Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum seeks an intern to help organise outreach and education activities for 2015

Duties and responsibilities

You will assist with the administration, communication, and implementation of outreach events organised by the museum, including event planning, publicity efforts, and logistics support. These events include the Kent Ridge Walks, Biodiversity of Singapore Symposium 2015, International Coastal Cleanup, and others.

Skill sets requirements

The ideal candidate should be interested in nature and the environment in Singapore and is comfortable interacting with members of the public. Enthusiasm and the ability to work independently is a requirement, as is basic design skills, experience in web publishing, and familiarity with google docs.

Interview date: 22 December 2014

Internship Information

Duration: 6 – 12  months commencing January 2015.

To apply, please send a cover letter and CV to Dr. Joelle Lai at nhmlcyj[at] Shortlisted applicants will be notified for the interview.  

Ready for action at Sungei Buloh Anniversary celebrations!

Toddycats and our predecessor The Habitat Group have celebrated the anniversary of Sungei Buloh with a free guided walk in appreciation of this precious place since 1997, four years after the part was officially declared open on 6th December 1993.

In some years, the walk is part of a much bigger celebration with the reserve and we have set aside Saturday almost a year earlier! the 21st anniversary celebration will unveil the reserve extension and we are joining in with walks for 100 registered visitors and a specimen booth at the new Visitor Centre @ Kranji!

Joelle loading up a taxi with our posters and specimens at the NUS Biological Sciences car park
2014 12 05 14 45 50

Ivan Kwan of Toddycats and staff of SBWR helped Joelle set up the Toddycats booth in the Bakau Room
20141205 ToddycatsBooth

BirdBlitz – young greenies learn all about birds!

Last Saturday, on 15 Nov 2014, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) was buzzing with the excitement of some 40 young champions of nature and nominees for this year’s Green Carpet Awards (GCA). “BirdBlitz”, organized by World Edu Corp, brought together representatives of the birding community from Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS), Nature Photographic Society, Singapore (NPSS) and NUS to allow the students to experience bird conservation and research, first hand. The NSS birders and their young assistants did a count of migratory birds, NPSS photographers learned about bird behaviour while snapping away, and the NUS researchers hiked through the mangrove forest to understand its ecology, its role as habitat for birds, as well as conservation challenges.

Little binoculars for the little birders!

Little binoculars for the little birders!

Six Toddycats and friends from the department were present for the event – Kok Oi Yee (Toddycats), Alvin Wong (Toddycats), David Tan (Toddycats, Avian Genetics Lab), Keren Sadanandan (RA, Avian Genetics Lab), Chloe Tan (Toddycats, RA, Applied Plant Ecology Lab), Vivien Lee (RA, Applied Plant Ecology Lab). Ng Wen Qing from the Freshwater and Invasion Biology Lab was unwell to join us.

David, Keren, Vivien and Alvin all ready for action.

David, Keren, Vivien and Alvin all ready for action!

Oi Yee and Alvin starting the ball rolling.

Oi Yee and Alvin starting the ball rolling.

The young researchers were just getting acquainted with their new binoculars when our first bird sighting for the day – a noisy White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus), sent them peering across the pond.

"I see it, I see it!"

“I see it, I see it!”

White-breasted Waterhen.

White-breasted Waterhen.

When we ventured onto the Main Bridge, the students could barely contain their excitement with all the birds flying around and fishes swimming under the bridge. Here, they tried their hands at identifying shorebirds (very challenging!) for the first time, using the field guide issued by the organizers. We also spent some time orientating them and explaining how SBWR’s geographical position on the northern coast of Singapore contributes to the habitat here. Some of the students were surprised at how narrow the Johor Strait is, such that they could see Johor Bahru from here! Singapore is also part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, one of the major flyways of the world, which birds use to travel from their breeding grounds in the higher latitudes to their wintering grounds here in the tropics and southern hemisphere. SBWR lies along this flyway, serving as a crucial feeding and resting stop for migrating birds.

"What bird is that?"

“What bird is that?”

"I think it's a Great Egret!"

“I think it’s a Great Egret!”


Halfbeaks under the Main Bridge.

Things got even more exciting when we approached the mudflats – the perfect stage for students to learn how the diversity in form of the birds (e.g. bill and leg length) allows different species to come together to feed in the same place. Using Alvin’s drinking straw analogy, if you have a short straw you can only drink the foam of your Coke; if you have a longer straw, you can drink from deeper in the cup. Here, we saw several species of migratory shorebirds including the Common Sandpiper (Tringa hypoleucos) and Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus). A Milky Stork (Mycteria cinerea) was also seen hunting for fish. David intrigued the older students when he shared about the hybridization between Milky and Painted Storks, both of which are free-ranging birds from the zoo or bird park. Of course, he also went on to talk about how he has been collecting samples from birds, dead or alive, for genetic studies.

Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper.



Milky Stork.

Milky Stork.

David sharing how to tell if a stork is a hybrid.

David sharing how to tell if a stork is a hybrid.

David showing a picture of a  dead Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zanthopygia) he recently collected.

David showing a picture of a dead Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zanthopygia) he recently collected.

Further along the trail, we touched on the various aspects of mangrove ecology. The Sea Hibiscus (Talipariti tiliaceum) with its distinctive leaf shape and symbiotic relationship with ants left a strong impression among the students. They whipped out their smartphones synchronously when we spotted some other critters like a mating pair of stink bugs, St. Andrew’s cross spiders, Plantain Squirrels (Callosciurus notatus) and Malayan Water Monitors (Varanus salvator)!

Alvin talking about the Sea Hibiscus

Alvin talking about the Sea Hibiscus

A mating pair of stink bugs.

A mating pair of stink bugs.

St. Andrew's cross spider.

St. Andrew’s cross spider.

Plantain Squirrel holding a twig, possibly to build its nest.

Plantain Squirrel holding a twig, possibly to build its nest.


Malayan Water Monitor

Tuning in to the sounds of the mangrove, Oi Yee took out a canister containing a dead cicada and a molt, fascinating us all!

Oi Yee with her cicada specimens.

Oi Yee with her cicada specimens.

The mangrove may seem well and alive, but it is constantly under threat by human impacts such as littering and high boat traffic that hastens erosion. We saw a Rhizophora tree that had fallen, despite its well-developed network of prop roots.

A discarded styrofoam box.

A discarded styrofoam box.

A fallen Rhizophora tree demonstrates the damage caused by erosion.

A fallen Rhizophora tree demonstrated the damage caused by erosion.

As biologists, one of our objectives for the event was to show the young ones how scientific studies on wildlife are conducted. We came across a camera trap along the trail and explained to the curious kids how the device is useful for studying mammals. Turning back from Platform 1, we noticed an unusual bunch of sticks tied to a tree. Upon a closer look, there was a tag which read “Research in progress. DO NOT DISTURB”, and the name of our colleague from the department who studies bees. Eunice Soh must have installed this stick nest to study the bees in the Reserve!

You shoot me, I shoot you!

You shoot me, I shoot you! Little Christine taking a photo of a camera trap.

A stick nest bundle used for bee research.

A stick nest bundle used for bee research.

One of the major threats to conservation is habitat modification by humans. SBWR was largely used for prawn farming in the past, and the sluice gates enclosing the mudflats are an evidence of its history. Oi Yee showed us how the sluice gates can be operated to control water level in the prawn ponds. Now that the area has been returned to nature, these gates are used still used to control water levels. For example, water can be kept out of the ponds even during high tide to allow migratory shorebirds to feed on the mudflats.

Oi Yee explaining how the sluice gate works.

Oi Yee explaining how the sluice gate works.

On the way back to the visitor centre, many other creatures made their appearance. There were a Little Heron (Butorides striata), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), mudskippers and crabs.

A Little Heron ready to snag its prey.

A Little Heron ready to snag its prey.

Little Egret.

Little Egret.


A mudskipper.

A crab.

A crab.

Back at the visitor centre, the students gathered to complete their handouts, putting together what they had learned during the walk.

Completing their handouts with the help of the guides.

Completing their handouts with the help of the guides.

Sea Hibiscus!

Sea Hibiscus!

Rounding off the event were two prominent figures from National Geographic – Dr. Greg Marshall, a Nat Geo Fellow, and Dr. Francis Downey, Vice-president and Publisher of Nat Geo Learning. The biologists in us related well with Dr. Marshall, who invented Crittercam, as he shared about his past work and upcoming project on cheetahs in Botswana!

The guides chatting with Dr. Greg Marshall (in white) and Dr. Francis Downey (in black).

The guides chatting with Dr. Greg Marshall (in white) and Dr. Francis Downey (in black).

A couple of the young environmental advocates attended a press conference on Monday (17 Nov 2014) to share their experiences during this programme. We hope that they are inspired to keep up their good work as voices for nature!

Researchers and their apprentices.

Researchers and their apprentices.

Group photo with the NSS and NPSS teams.

Group photo with the NSS and NPSS teams.

Highlights of Love MacRitchie Walks by Toddycats, Season 3


“What’s that bird?” Toddycats and Love MacRitchie Walk participants at Venus Loop.

Toddycats wrapped up this season’s Love MacRitchie Walks on 25 Oct 2014 with the semester at NUS drawing to a close. And what a fantastic season it was! Over the six walks from August to October, we took 126 participants to Venus Loop forest. A big thank you to all guides and participants! Additionally, we also helped a bunch of BES Drongos get started with their Petai Trail walks (they have five walks from October to November).

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for each walk:

  • 10 Aug – 17 participants, 6 guides
  • 30 Aug  – 17 participants, 6 guides
  • 14 Sep – 31 participants, 7 guides (photo album)
  • 27 Sep – 21 participants, 6 guides
  • 11 Oct – 24 participants, 9 guides
  • 25 Oct – 16 participants, 8 guides (photo album)

Each walk was a unique experience, with the new friends we make and the different animals making appearances. As always, the forest was full of surprises.

Perhaps the most exciting sighting of the season was the Haas’s Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis Haasi), the rarest of bronzebacks! A record of this sighting was submitted to the Singapore Biodiversity Records and published HERE. On that same lucky day, we also saw a large White-bellied Rat Snake (Pytas fusca). Both species tend to occur in densely forested habitats, and can only be found in the Central Nature Reserves! Participants young and old learned that snakes aren’t all that fearsome, and are actually beautiful creatures when observed from a safe distance.


Haas’s Bronzeback.


White-bellied Rat Snake.


Observing a snake from a safe distance.

Other reptiles and amphibians we saw include the Clouded Monitor (Varanus nebulosus), Many-lined Sun Skinks (Eutropis multifasciata), flying dragons (a.k.a. gliding lizards; Draco spp.), and Copper-cheeked Frog (Hydrophylax raniceps).


Clouded Monitor basking on a tree trunk.


Many-lined Sun Skink basking on a log.

Black-bearded Flying Dragon. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Black-bearded Flying Dragon.

Common Flying Dragon displaying its throat flap. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Common Flying Dragon displaying its throat flap.


Copper-cheeked Frog resting on dumbcane leaf.

During the practice run with the BES Drongos at Petai Trail, we also spotted two magnificent snakes in a day – the highly venomous Malayan Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus) and Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri). Head over to their website to see other exciting critters they have spotted on their walks!


Malayan Blue Coral Snake.


Wagler’s Pit Viper.

The reptiles and amphibians never fail to amaze the participants, most of whom have never seen creatures like these outside of zoos. But those who got extremely lucky and spotted mammals like the Colugo (Galeopterus variegatus), Slender Squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis) and Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) were left no less awed. The colugo featured below looks to be a juvenile, indicating that the population at Venus Loop is likely to be doing well – a testament to the importance of our reserves for forest-dependent wildlife.


A young colugo. Photos by Sean Yap.

When our familiar furry friend, the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis), showed up on a few occasions, they also taught the participants another important lesson – Never feed or tempt them with food, or litter in the forest.


A long-tailed Macaque that found a food wrapper.

Speaking of the macaques, Greater Racket-tailed Drongos (Dicrurus paradiseus) were sometimes seen following the primates as they usually do, foraging for insects that had been stirred up. One of the usual suspects spotted during our walks, these birds are always a joy to observe with their graceful long tails and mesmerizing calls. The forest is also home to several bird species that are more shy, such as the Olive-winged Bulbuls (Pycnonotus plumosus), that were only seen by the more keen-eyed people.


Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.


Olive-winged Bulbul.

Bugs and more bugs! When the vertebrates were not showing themselves, we were similarly entertained by the creepy crawlies that were all around. Dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, robberflies, tiger beetles, spiders, cicadas, caterpillars… You name it.


A pair of Shorttail Damselflies (Onychargia atrocyana) mating.


Tiger Beetle.


Striped Blue Crow (Euploea mulciber mulciber).




Cicada caught in a spider web.


Common Flangetail (Ictinogomphus decoratus).


A fruit-piercing moth caterpillar.

St. Andrew's cross spider.

St. Andrew’s cross spider.


A participant with a hammerhead flatworm. Photo by Katie Tan.

And let’s not forget about the plants, shall we? Our guides also shared stories about interesting plants along the entire trail, including a “scorpion tree” where scorpions can usually be seen at night, the Common Mahang (Macaranga bancana) and its inseparable relationship with ants, fig trees with fig wasps, etc. But our stories about plants are not all merry. There are alien plants that have invaded our forests and are causing quite a bit of trouble, like the Zanzibar Yam (Dioscorea zanzibarensis).


Samuel Tan on the “scorpion tree”.


Lim Zong Xian on the Common Mahang.




Zanzibar Yam. Photo by Claudia Tan.

Toddycats also supported the BES Drongos, a bunch of undergraduates from the NUS Bachelor of Environmental Studies, during the preparations for their public walks at Petai Trail. With the aim of taking the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement a step further, and to take members of the public deeper into the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the Drongos have since conducted three walks, with two upcoming ones in November. Congratulations and well done, Drongos!


BES Drongos honing their guiding skills.


The Drongos soaked a seed of the Cheng Tng Tree in water to show how the familiar brown jelly is made!

To round things up, here are a few of the group photos we took at the end of the walks. Full of happy faces! Look out for our fourth season of walks in the first half of 2015. Till then, keep supporting the Love MacRitchie movement and help encourage our government to reconsider the alignment of the Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) through the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

  1. Follow us on Facebook
  2. Sign the Show of Support –
  3. Tell your friends/family about the Love MacRitchie Walks – http://lovemacritchie.wordpress/love-macritchie-walks
  4. Write in to the government (Land Transport Authority) to voice your concerns about the proposed alignment of CRL
  5. Watch, enjoy and share “Love Our MacRitchie Forest” – Official Music Video, specially produced for this movement –


E-waste recycling & hard disk shredding! NUS U Town, Fri 12 Sep 2014: 10am – 4pm

NUS’ Office of Environment Sustainability is organising an inaugural electronic waste (“e-waste”) recycling drive in NUS on Friday 12 Sep 2014: 10am – 4pm. Anyone can drop off their e-waste at the NUS University Town near the bus stop and if you are driven through, there is a drop-off point at the Stephen Riady Centre.

This e-waste drive ensures your unwanted electronics / electrical equipment and accessories are disposed off in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Let your friends know. and make good use of this inaugural e-waste recycling drive in NUS.

This free recycling is provided courtesy of Apple.

I see they offer shredding of hard disks, so peace of mind ensured for your data on old hard disks. See OES’ Facebook page for more.

OES U Town E waste ex

If you are unable to make the date, there is existing e-waste recycling locations in Singapore offered through Funan Digital Mall and Starhub – see details at the NEA webpage.

First Love MacRitchie Walk of the season, and more to come!

On 10 August 2014, six Toddycats brought 17 participants to Venus Loop for the first Love MacRitchie Walk of this season. What a great way to celebrate Singapore’s birthday, seeing and learning about wildlife in our very own rainforest!

And into the forest we go! Sankar sharing about the fishtail palm.

And into the forest we go! Sankar sharing about the fishtail palm. Photo by Chloe Tan.

With the cosy group size and sharp-eyed participants, many forest critters made their appearances. Amongst them were the usual suspects like the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) and the fungus beetles.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Fungus beetle. Photo by Claudia Tan.

Fungus beetle. Photo by Claudia Tan.

We were also extremely fortunate to see and learn about many dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies, thanks to nature enthusiast Lena Chow who has a profound ability to spot them and very kindly shared her knowledge. The Toddycats learned a lot from her that day too!

Immature male and female Common Parasols (Neurothemis fluctuans), Dark-tipped Forest Skimer (Cratilla metallica), Treehugger (Tyriobapta torrida), Blue Sprite (Pseudagrion microcephalum) and Ornate Coraltail (Ceriagrion cerinorubellum).

Immature male and female Common Parasols (Neurothemis fluctuans), Dark-tipped Forest Skimer (Cratilla metallica), Treehugger (Tyriobapta torrida), Blue Sprite (Pseudagrion microcephalum) and Ornate Coraltail (Ceriagrion cerinorubellum). Photos by Chloe Tan

Branded Imperial (Eooxilides tharis distanti), bush brown (Mycalesis sp.) and Striped Blue Crow (Euploea mulciber mulciber). Photos by Chloe Tan and Claudia Tan.

Branded Imperial (Eooxilides tharis distanti), bush brown (Mycalesis sp.) and Striped Blue Crow (Euploea mulciber mulciber). Photos by Chloe Tan and Claudia Tan.

That’s not all! We also saw some of the rarer vertebrates like the Copper-cheeked Frog (Hydrophylax raniceps), which was perching quietly on a dumbcane leaf by the forest stream, as well as the Black-bearded Flying Dragon (Draco melanopogon) that glided right past us and landed on a tree near the trail!

Copper-cheeked Frog. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Copper-cheeked Frog. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Black-bearded Flying Dragon. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Black-bearded Flying Dragon. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Our national bird, the Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) also made an appearance, flitting around and showing off its magnificent plumage. You can just imagine the delight on all our faces then!

crimson sunbird

On behalf of MacRitchie Forest, we thank all participants for attending this enjoyable walk, and for making a stand to support the re-routing of the Cross Island MRT Line. See more photos from this walk –


Group photo 1! Photo by Claudia Tan.

Group photo 2! Photo by Chloe Tan.

Group photo 2! Photo by Chloe Tan.

Want to see for yourself the wonders of the forest? We have more walks open for registration now! Spread the good news, and see you at Venus Loop!

For more information on Love MacRitchie Walks, visit