Category Archives: Love MacRitchie

Highlights of the April Love MacRitchie Walk

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Erin showing how to make a windmill using rubber fruit capsules. Photo by Lily Leong.

Toddycats volunteers had a great time guiding members of the public during the Love MacRitchie Walk that was held on 9 Apr 2017. This walk was unusually exciting because we saw many uncommon birds! A film crew from Mediacorp Channel 8 also joined us to shoot a feature on volunteerism in Singapore.

Aside from the usual suspects such as the fungi, figs, dragonflies and spiders, we were especially excited to see some pretty rare birds such as the Siberian blue robin (Larvivora cyane), blue-rumped parrots (Psittinus cyanurus), and chestnut-bellied malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus). The Siberian blue robin is an uncommon winter visitor in Singapore while the rare blue-rumped parrot and uncommon chestnut-bellied malkoha are forest-dependent residents.

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Blue-rumped parrot feeding on starfruit seeds. Photo by Jensen Seah.

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Chestnut-bellied Malkoha. Photo by Chloe Tan.

The film crew from Channel 8 interviewed the volunteers to find out why it is important to protect the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and what drives our passion to help conserve Singapore’s wildlife. Our friend, Teresa Guttensohn from Cicada Tree Eco-Place also joined us to share her story. The crew also interviewed the participants who shared their experience in the forest as well as what they saw and learned.

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A family of participants being interviewed. Photo by Joleen Chan.

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Teresa from Cicada Tree Eco-Place sharing her story. Photo by Chloe Tan.

Catch the Morning Express episode featuring Love MacRitchie on 2 May 2017, 9 am on Channel 8!

See more photos of the walk on Facebook or Flickr.

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walks August-September 2016

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The Love MacRitchie Walks in August-September 2016 are now open for registration! Join the NUS Toddycats! in discovering the forest and its amazing wildlife. These guided walks are conducted by volunteers and are free-of-charge! Limited spaces available.

Find out more about the Love MacRitchie Walks here – https://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/love-macritchie-walks/

Love MacRitchie Update July 2015-May 2016

Love our MacRitchie Forest continues to be a highly successful program in educating and expanding a growing circle of Singaporeans to appreciate our precious biodiversity living in our forests!  From the second half of 2015 to date, the Toddycats have conducted 21 Love MacRitchie Walks with 378 participants. Our walks have been a tremendous success with every fortnightly walk being fully subscribed. Let’s look at some fantastic highlights.

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Families enjoying a day out with nature! Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Brotherly love in action! An unconventional common mahang leaf umbrella. Photo by Chloe Tan.

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A happy tour group photoshoot after a very fulfilling walk around Venus Loop. Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Our walks cater to all ages ranging from families with young children to the young at heart. Photo by Alvin Wong.

The walks are a small step but a giant leap forward in nurturing a love for our biodiversity across all ages – from young children, adults to seniors. They also help to educate us of our responsibilities to our natural heritage so that plans for developments such as the Cross Island Line will not proceed without informed inputs.

There have been many wonderful encounters with unique plants and animals along the Venus Loop trail. It is an amazing experience to witness people marvel in awe of nature’s little intricacies such as the common mahang’s symbiotic partnership with ants or little blue-rumped parrots delightfully having a starfruit feast.

Nature continues to surprise and remind us of its resilience and fragility – from squirrels bravely squaring off against slithery snakes to skinks basking in the dappled pockets of sunshine that slip through the forest canopy – despite our encroaching urban world.

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Red tailed racer vs. plantain squirrel. Photo by Marcus Ng.

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A beautiful striped sun skink basking on the forest floor. Photo by Risk Koh.

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Blue-rumped parrot enjoying its starfruit feast! Photo by Chloe Tan.

Aside from walks, our volunteers also gave talks to the public and schools, and manned conservation booths, reaching an additional 3968 people! In March 2016, we organised the March for MacRitchie movement, which brought together passionate advocates from various nature groups to speak up for the conservation of MacRitchie Forest.

We hope that these activities will continue to inform and inspire people to greater ownership of our remaining precious forest biodiversity while enthusing others about this urgent cause. May they help nurture our collective consciences to ponder questions such as the cost of exchanging our priceless carbon sinks for a faster train-ride home. Or what our future generations may miss of our retreating native ecosystems as society advances materially. Let’s Love Our MacRitchie Forest!

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Our forest skies! Can we look forward to a greener future? Photo by Chia Han Shen.

 

Sign the letter to LTA here:

http://tinyurl.com/lta-crl

Join us for our walks:

https://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/love-macritchie-walks/

 

 

 

 

Highlights of Love MacRitchie Walks by Toddycats, Season 4

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Young and not-so-young participants delight in the forest that is full of surprises!

Between January and May 2015, Toddycats conducted Season 4 of our (almost) fortnightly Love MacRitchie Walks. On these walks at Venus Loop, our guides shared with participants the amazing wildlife that we have in the heart of Singapore, raising awareness about our natural heritage at risk. Love MacRitchie Walks are part of the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement, which was launched in response to the LTA’s proposal for the new Cross Island MRT Line (CRL) to tunnel under the fragile ecosystem of MacRitchie Forest. This season, 141 participants were treated to a leisurely walk through the rainforest. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for each walk:

  • 24 Jan – 19 participants, 4 guides (photo album)
  • 7 Feb – 21 participants, 7 guides (photo album)
  • 22 Feb – 27 participants, 8 guides
  • 7 Mar – 16 participants, 8 guides (photo album)
  • 21 Mar – 17 participants, 7 guides
  • 4 Apr – 20 participants, 4 guides (photo album)
  • 2 May (Jane’s Walk) – 21 participants, 7 guides (photo album)

Looking at the feedback that our participants shared, it seems that once again, the cute and cuddly mammals, especially the Malayan colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus) made the deepest impression. Well, that’s hardly surprising because these really weird looking creatures that are so hard to spot are extremely adorable! We managed to spot colugos during most of our walks. And when we got really lucky, we saw two colugos together!

With a young one in tow!

With a young one in tow.

One above the other!

One above the other!

Slender squirrels (Sundasciurus tenuis) also showed up pretty frequently but being the skittish creatures they are, we never really managed to have a good look at it. Not until one was spotted just as we rounded up the 7 Feb walk. It was resting on a branch right where we would usually take our final group photo!

Slender squirrel resting on a branch.

Slender squirrel resting on a branch.

Not forgetting the long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) that showed us just how capable they are of looking for their own food in the forest. So please do not feed the monkeys as this would condition them to approach people, sparking human-wildlife conflict. This was one of the key take-home messages, which was reinforced by the HUGE new sign put up by NParks near the start of the trail!

Long-tailed macaque eating fishtail palm fruits.

Long-tailed macaque eating fishtail palm fruits.

Long-tailed macaque foraging among the leaf litter.

Long-tailed macaque foraging among the leaf litter.

Please do not feed the monkeys!

Stop feeding the monkeys!

The Malayan blue coral snake (Calliophis bivirgatus) appeared on a couple of walks. This species made quite a statement with its flashy colours, warning others that it’s highly venomous. Here’s a video of it slithering across the forest stream! Some of the other reptiles and amphibians we came across include the black-bearded flying dragon (Draco melanopogon), yellow-bellied puddle frog (Occidozyga sumatrana) and American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeiana). The latter SHOULD NOT be found in the forest stream and it is likely to have been released by somebody. This alien species has the potential to outcompete and threaten the survival of our native forest amphibians. With Vesak Day just around the corner, Toddycats with PUB, NParks and other volunteers are conducting Operation No Release to raise awareness about the harm releasing animals into nature areas can inflict.

Black-bearded flying dragon (female).

Black-bearded flying dragon (female).

Juvenile yellow-bellied puddle frog.

Juvenile yellow-bellied puddle frog.

Juvenile American bullfrog, an alien species.

Juvenile American bullfrog, an alien species.

We also saw many birds, including the usual suspects like the greater racket-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), olive-winged bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus) and red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus). One of the more unusual sightings was the changeable hawk-eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus), an uncommon resident, perching up high on an Albizia tree. Our sighting of the blue-throated bee-eater (Merops viridis) in April signaled the end of the bird migratory season. The blue-throated bee-eater tends to make a comeback in Singapore when its cousin, the blue-tailed bee-eater (Merops philippinus), a winter visitor, returns to its breeding grounds in the higher latitudes. More on the bee-eater’s migratory behaviour HERE.

Changeable hawk-eagle.

Changeable hawk-eagle.

Blue-throated bee-eater.

Blue-throated bee-eater.

And now for the creepy crawlies a.k.a. arthropods! Where ever we looked, we would spot these little creatures so we hardly ran out of things to talk about. Every little thing in the forest is interesting. You just need to look closely!

A mating pair of grasshoppers.

A mating pair of grasshoppers.

A green jumping spider!

A green jumping spider!

Flower chafer beetle (Taniodera monacha).

Flower chafer beetle (Taniodera monacha).

Millipede on a bracket fungus.

Millipede on a bracket fungus.

What did these two young men spot?

What did these two young men spot?

A bright red net-winged beetle (Taphes brevicollis)!

A bright red net-winged beetle (Taphes brevicollis)!

Heartgaster ants milking honey dew from scale insects under a common mahang leaf. Tripartite symbiosis in action!

Heartgaster ants milking honey dew from scale insects under a common mahang leaf. Tripartite symbiosis in action!

Just a few of the butterflies we came across.

Just a few of the butterflies we came across.

The butterflies got this girl all excited!

The butterflies got this girl all excited!

Over these few months, we witnessed some changes in and around the forest at Venus Loop. Across the stream from the trail, we saw bulldozers and some new tree saplings. The area is to become the new Windsor Nature Park – one of the four new nature parks that will serve as buffer zones for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR). These buffer zones will help ease visitor numbers within the reserve. The construction works will be completed by end 2016. More information HERE.

Windsor Nature Park under construction.

Windsor Nature Park under construction.

During the final walk on 2 May, we were shocked to see how badly the forest was hit by the previous days’ storms. Several trees were uprooted, including an Albizia tree and a couple of strangling fig trees. The forest here is what we call an edge habitat that is exposed to the elements, making it pretty susceptible. We took the opportunity to talk about the importance of buffer zones like Venus Loop in reducing the exposure of the core forest within CCNR to storms.

First fallen strangling fig.

First fallen strangling fig.

Second fallen strangling fig.

Second fallen strangling fig.

Fallen Albizia that had been sawed into segments by NParks.

Fallen Albizia that had been sawed into segments by NParks.

The Albizia brought down some bamboos with it.

The Albizia brought down some bamboos with it.

To round things up, here are some of the group photos we took at the end of the walks. Up next – Love MacRitchie Walks Season 5 in the second half of 2015! Keep supporting the Love MacRitchie movement to help encourage our government to reconsider the alignment of the CRL through the CCNR.

  1. Follow us on Facebook
  2. Sign the Show of Support – http://tinyurl.com/lta-crl
  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 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMKsHZzYMRw

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Love MacRitchie Walks in 2015

Free guided forest walks at MacRitchie continue to be offered by NUS undergraduates in 2015. The page to check is https://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/love-macritchie-walks/.

The first four walks are over of fully subscribed and registration will be opened for the next lot of walks on 1st Feb 2015:

  • Sun 22 Feb 2015
  • Sat 07 Mar 2015
  • Sat 21 Mar 2015
  • Sat 4 Apr 2015

To be informed, please check the webpage for announcements.

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Highlights of Love MacRitchie Walks by Toddycats, Season 3

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“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.

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Haas’s Bronzeback.

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White-bellied Rat Snake.

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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).

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Clouded Monitor basking on a tree trunk.

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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.

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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!

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Malayan Blue Coral Snake.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.

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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.

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A pair of Shorttail Damselflies (Onychargia atrocyana) mating.

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Tiger Beetle.

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Striped Blue Crow (Euploea mulciber mulciber).

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Robberfly.

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Cicada caught in a spider web.

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Common Flangetail (Ictinogomphus decoratus).

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A fruit-piercing moth caterpillar.

St. Andrew's cross spider.

St. Andrew’s cross spider.

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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).

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Samuel Tan on the “scorpion tree”.

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Lim Zong Xian on the Common Mahang.

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Figs!

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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!

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BES Drongos honing their guiding skills.

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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 – http://tinyurl.com/lta-crl
  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 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMKsHZzYMRw

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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!

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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 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/habitatnews/sets/72157646067977917/

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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 http://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/love-macritchie-walks