Category Archives: sungei buloh

Otters and crocs @ Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – Toddycats gear up for Festival of Biodiversity in May

We are counting down to Festival of Biodiversity 2017 which is a month away! This annual celebration of Singapore’s biodiversity by members of the Biodiversity Roundtable of Singapore with NParks will present the two day event at at Serangoon NEX on 27-28 May 2017: 10.30am – 10.30pm.

To prepare our crew, Toddycats’ seniors are conducting three training sessions (two field trips and a lab session) which fittingly began on Earth Day last Saturday 22 Apr 2017 at our precious mangrove reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. The field trips will help bring the magic of our natural areas to the shopping centre to encourage

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With undergrads slogging away for the exams, the cosy session of 12 Toddycats was split into four small groups, each led by an experienced Toddycats senior – Amy Choong, Alvin Wong, Marcus Ng, and Theresa Su & Xu Weiting.

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What’s in the water? Theresa sharing form & function stories of halfbeaks and archer fishes from the main bridge.

Some groups were really lucky in the post-drizzle and saw the elusive black spitting cobra, a family of six smooth-coated otters and an estuarine crocodile.

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A family of six otters having their brunch at the Main Pond. Photo by Alvin Wong

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The two hours were filled with many observations and personal stories about the mangrove denizens, reminding us of the importance of mangroves , which we will share with the FOB2017 visitors.

Bring family and friends to FoB2017. Toddycats alone have recruited 50 volunteers to ensure we always have fresh faces eager and ready to share stories with visitors on the 27 & 28 May 2017. And there will be many nature groups there, with talks at the library by various working groups. A wonderful way to discover biodiversity in Singapore. See you there!

Festival of Biodiversity 2015
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Roundup of Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk

It was a rainy Saturday morning, but that did not dampen our spirits for the 21st Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk!

This year, the anniversary marks another momentous occasion. Sungei Buloh is now ever more accessible to visitors with the opening of the new Kranji extension.

To celebrate with Sungei Buloh, we hosted two activities – a show and tell booth at the new education centre, and an early mangrove walk.

For our early morning walks, 105 spots were filled up within two days of our email invitation to the NUS staff community!

It was great to see the first participant show up at 7 AM, 30 minutes ahead of our stipulated meeting time of 7:30AM. Most participants streamed in between then and 7:45 AM, and I was able to send the first group off with Siva at 7:25 AM, and subsequently, one group was flagged off with a guide every 5 minutes.

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Guides Ivan, David, Adrian, Alvin and Oi Yee having a light moment before our participants arrive.

Alvin with the second group of the morning.

Alvin with the second group of the morning.

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Chee Kong with his group on the main bridge.

Back at the new extension, things got busy with with our booth, with Tze Kwan and Weiting helping to keep a lookout and many enthusiastic Toddycats in attendance! MoS Desmond Lee graced the event and was ‘ambushed’ by Jhar, Audrey, Cherry, and Le Min, eager to share with him stories of mangrove critter!

It is a double celebration for us as Sungei Buloh and Otterman share the same birthday.

All in all. it was a great day out, despite the rainy weather. We will be back next year!

For more photos, see our flickr album!

 

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

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.

Whimbrels.

Whimbrels.

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.

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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.

Mudskipper.

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.

Sungei Buloh walk with FASStrack Asia students

Last Saturday, Toddycats Alvin, Sarah, Kar Mun and Katie took 40 students taking part in the FASStrack Asia summer school programme for a morning walk at Sungei Buloh.  Hailing from US, UK, Vietnam, Turkey,  Canada, Australia, Mexico, Europe, Japan, China, Taiwan, as well as NUS, it was a good opportunity to introduce to them the wild side of Singapore. It was also a very good way for them to get used to our local weather and get over jet lag!

Despite the 35 degree heat, it was an engaging walk enjoyed by the participants, with Alvin’s group lucky enough to catch sight of  two crocodiles! Besides the two crocs, monitor lizards and skinks were among some of the wildlife spotted at SBWR that morning. Each group focussed on different topics based on the interest of the students and guides, and according to Alvin, his group was particularly fascinated with Nephilia spiders and their webs!

We’re glad everyone had a good time and it was a good start to their five weeks of summer school here in Singapore 🙂

Photo by Alvin Wong

Veteran Sungei Buloh guide  Alvin welcoming everyone to the Reserve.

Veteran Sungei Buloh guide Alvin welcoming everyone to the Reserve.

Photo by Alvin Wong

More pictures at the FASStrack Facebook page.

Raffles Museum Toddycats! at the 20th Anniversary celebration of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (7 Dec 2013)

Every December since 1996, the Toddycats have an important engagement to keep with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – The Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk.  This year, the special day fell on Saturday, 7 December.

With Otterman away in Brunei (but with us in spirit!), the job of organising SBAW fell on to Joelle at the Raffles Museum, who is now looking after the Toddycats.

Unlike previous years where Toddycats were rounded up to give visitors an early morning tour of our precious mangroves, we were invited by Nparks to set up a show and tell booth near the new but yet to be launched visitors’ centre.

Chloe, Katie and Letchumi with our ICCS poster.

As with the usual Toddycat efficiency, an email call for volunteers to help with this event saw 23 Toddycats respond, ready to share with members of the public facts and trivia about critters living in our mangroves. It was a great mix present that day, with SBAW veterans Oi Yee, Alvin and Amy joining Toddycats who had either guided at Sungei Buloh before, or had prior experience doing Show and Tell at our previous events. We even had five newbie Toddycats who were there for on the job training –Delicia, Jharyathri, Katie, Navneeth, and Shermaine were introduced to the mangrove and coastal horseshoe crabs by Germaine and Weiting and they were good to go!

On job training for the newbies – Shermaine, Delicia and Jharyathri with Weiting.

We spoke to 70 over people that day and discovered the Toddycats can guide  adequately in Mandarin and Teochew too!

David entertains members of the public with his stories

Marcus can guide in Teochew!

Weihan captivating kids.

Veterans Alvin and Oi Yee take a wee break and let Yi Yong introduce the blue swimming crab to a visitor.

Horseshoe crab girl Germaine with her study organisms.

Blue spotted mudskipper and fiddler crab drawn by Ambert.

Bob the croc made an appearance at the bridge, staff, friends and well wishers of Sungei Buloh sang the Birthday Song to SBWR and we ate cake. All in all, a lovely way to spend Saturday morning. We look forward in taking part in SBAW again in 2014!

Group photo before we hop on the bus back to NUS – smiley faces all around! Missing in this picture are Oi Yee, Amy, Marcus Chua, Marcus Ng, Weiting and Tze Kwan.

For the full set of pictures, visit our Flickr album. Thank you Marcus (Ng) and Tze Kwan for the photos!

Sungei Buloh celebrates 20 years: Join in the festivities with Toddycats this Saturday 7 December 2013!

The Raffles Museum Toddycats have been organising Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walks every December since 1997, to celebrate the official opening of Singapore’s first wetland reserve at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserves. It is a little different this year – SBWR turns 20 and a slew of activities have been organised by the Reserve to mark this milestone starting from 7 December.

There will be free guided walks, face painting, origami, and exhibitions organised throughout the month.

For the first weekend, we have been invited by Nparks to set up a show and tell booth within the yet to be launched new public gallery to share with members of the public the wonder critters that reside in the mangroves.

Toddycats in action: Show and Tell at the 15th anniversary bash.

Do join us for a morning of fun and celebrations!

For more information, visit  SBWR’s webpage.