“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Follow us on Facebook
- Sign the Show of Support – http://tinyurl.com/lta-crl
- Tell your friends/family about the Love MacRitchie Walks – http://lovemacritchie.wordpress/love-macritchie-walks
- Write in to the government (Land Transport Authority) to voice your concerns about the proposed alignment of CRL
- Watch, enjoy and share “Love Our MacRitchie Forest” – Official Music Video, specially produced for this movement – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMKsHZzYMRw