Category Archives: toddycats

Highlights of the June Love MacRitchie Walk

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A pleasant walk through the shady forest. Photo by Jensen Seah.

It had been a week of scorching hot weather so a walk through the shady forest was a much welcomed respite from the urban heat. Three Toddycats and 18 participants turned up at Venus Loop on 11 Jun 2017 to observe the wildlife in MacRitchie Forest and discuss the conservation issues surrounding the proposed Cross Island MRT Line.

The animals in the forest were going about their usual activities and we got to observe them really up close! There was a jumping spider was hopping around a plant, probably hunting for its breakfast. We got to see its huge pair of forward-facing eyes that helps it judge distance better so it can accurately pounce on its prey. A Common Flashwing damselfly (Vestalis amethystina) was basking on a sunny spot at our eye level, its purple wings shimmering beautifully. One group also spotted a headless Golden-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela aurulenta)! We wonder who the gruesome predator was.

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Jumping spider. Photo by Jensen Seah.

 

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Common Flashwing (V. amethystina). Photo by Jensen Seah.

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Golden-spotted Tiger Beetle (C. aurulenta). Photo by Joleen Chan.

The birds also came out to play. A Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis) came unusually close to the trail, prancing about the foliage. There was a Greater-racket Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) that was singing at the top of its funky metallic voice too!

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Dark-necked Tailorbird (O. atrogularis). Photo by Jensen Seah.

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Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (D. paradiseus). Photo by Chloe Tan.

Some of us saw a leaf-like object glide across the trail and perch on a dead tree trunk. Upon a closer look, it turned out to be a Black-bearded Gliding Lizard (Draco melanopogon)! A handsome male was showing off its black throat flap, possibly in an attempt to get the attention of a female that was on the same trunk. Nearby, a Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) was very busy collecting nesting materials.

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Black-bearded Gliding Lizard (D. melanopogon). Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Plantain Squirrel (C. notatus). Photo by Chloe Tan.

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Tak Wei from BES Drongos does some sharing. Photo by Joleen Chan.

On this walk, we felt with our own skin the profound importance of forests in climate regulation. Our biggest lesson of the day was that we depend on the forests of our Nature Reserves as much as the animals do! A big thank you to the guides and participants for the lovely morning adventure!

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Group 1 with their guide, Joleen (on right). Photo by Joleen Chan.

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Group 2 with their guide, Claire (on right). Photo by Claire Jonquieres.

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Group 3 with their guide, Chloe (third from right). Photo by Chloe Tan.

Find out more about the Love MacRitchie movement here. See more photos of the walk on Facebook or Flickr.

 

 

 

Toddycats’ prepare for Festival of Biodiversity 2017 – this time, a forest walk at the MacRitchie forest!

NUS Toddycats hit the trail again, in preparation for the Festival of Biodiversity 2017. The annual celebration of Singapore’s biodiversity by members of the Biodiversity Roundtable of Singapore with NParks will present a two day event of talks and exhibitions at Serangoon NEX on 27-28 May 2017: 10.30am – 10.30pm.

Toddycats’ seniors conducted the second of three training sessions (two field trips and a lab session) which last saw them at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. With the exams over, 21 joned the training today which was conducted by Sean Yap, Joleen Chan, Erin Tan, Marcus Ng, Alvin Wong & Claire Jonquieres.

During the training, seniors shared stories about insects, mammals, birds and reptiles, and about themes such as flight and gliding in the tropical rainforest, forest fragmentation, human-animal conflict such as the macaque culls and the recent year of the rooster red jungle fowl fiasco and invasive species introductions.

Animal life helped out with a Draco gliding to a tree, a flatworm everting its gut to digest a snail, ants tapping mealybugs for honeydew, barklice spinning a silk layer around tree trunk like cling wrap, and a stalk-eyed fly chasing off another fly with a dramatic display. And they were bedazzled by a colugo, resting just three metres above the ground!

Chloe is mesmerised!

Shhh, a resting colugo (a nocturnal forest denizen)

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Training in small groups along the trail

Thanks to Chloe & Weiting who organised this session, and Alvin for highlights!
For photos from the walk, see Toddycats’ Flickr album and Alvin’s Flickr album.

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!

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Biodiversity Roadshow @ The Forum

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16-oes-biodiversity-roadshow-forum-16feb2017jl16 Feb 2017 – NUS Toddycats joined forces with the BES Drongos and Campus Creatures for the first time to take part in the Biodiversity Roadshow organised by NUS’ Office of Environmental Sustainability at the Forum.

We showcased wildlife commonly found within the leafy Kent Ridge campus, and by extension, in wild spaces around Singapore.

We had at our booth preserved specimens of commonly encountered snakes in NUS, a plantain squirrel, a palm civet, a specially curated insect box from the Lee Kong Chian Museum accompanied with blown up posters of other campus creatures found in campus.

A popular display with curious students and staff, they were given advice about what to do during snake encounters (most of all, don’t hurt the snake!), how to best enjoy the natural history museum on campus (free for all NUS staff and students), and learn about the wildlife that still survives urban Singapore.

We thank NUS OES for hosting us at the roadshow – it was fun! For more pictures from the event, see our flickr album.

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Festival of Biodiversity 2016

 

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The Festival of Biodiversity is back at the Singapore Botanic Gardens this year!

The Toddycats, together with Palm Civets of Singapore, Otterwatch, and International Coastal Cleanup will have booths throughout the weekend, featuring specimens from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Do drop by and say hello; our guides will be ready to regale you with wonderful tales of nature and Biodiversity in Singapore.

See you!

 

 

Toddycats @ Pesta Ubin 2016 (Part I): A Celebration of Singapore’s Marine Biodiversity and a plea to Reduce our Plastic Footprint

As in previous years, we’ve come together and contributed to a couple of events for the Pesta Ubin 2016 calendar!

This year Ubin Day has morphed from one weekend of short-lived fun into a month-long festival from 14 May to 12 June (Pesta means Festival in Malay). It was designed to celebrate Ubin’s kampong lifestyle, the Ubin Way, and its value as a nature refuge and to offer the public a glimpse of our past heritage.

Despite the rain, the booths from various local NGOs received a strong showing from the public. About 3000 visitors came to soak in the festive mood by participating in the myriad of events and informative booths. The celebratory atmosphere was buoyed by kampong games such as capteh and hopscotch. Activities such as cycling, kayaking and coastal clean-ups were made available too.

It was a delight to educate and raise awareness of the importance of conserving our local marine biodiversity in Singapore. Ten specimens on loan from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum were chosen to highlight some examples of marine life found on our shores and the disastrous after-effects of littering, boat crashes, illegal fishing and the importance of conserving our local biodiversity.

Our specimens from LKCNHM included a baby dugong, a dog-faced water snake, a giant mudskipper, an Asian small-clawed otter, shells from various local marine clams and snails, a black-tipped reef shark, a tree-climbing crab, a hawksbill turtle and seahorses. Pictures of our sperm whale, Jubilee, were also on display to highlight the imminent threat that plastics can have on sea creatures, even on large ones like whales. Our local marine biodiversity too is not immune to this global crisis of plastic waste.

There are four ways in which marine life is impacted by plastic littering:  strangulation of animals from entanglement, ingestion of plastics when animals mistake it for food, bioaccumulation when young fish or crustaceans eat micro-plastics (microbeads found in face-wash products) and the leakage of toxic pollutants into the ocean as plastics slowly degrade.

Minister for National Development, Mr Lawrence Wong, and Senior Minister of State, Mr Desmond Lee, graced the event as our guests of honour. Mr Wong announced that by mid 2017, the National Parks Board (NParks) would take on the role of central management agency and be in sole charge of managing Ubin.

In his speech, Mr Wong also highlighted several books launched in celebration of Ubin such as “Footprints on an Island: Rediscovering Pulau Ubin” by Chua Ee Kiam, Choo Mui Eng and Wong Tuan Wah and “Hunt for the Green Boomerang” by Neil Humphreys.

Apart from the humans, other living creatures such as the oriental-pied hornbills and green imperial pigeons were also in attendance during the event. Their presence further illustrates that Ubin continues to be a birdwatcher’s paradise and an important refuge for threatened species. Even Ubin’s friendly resident stray dogs came to pay a visit and provided great company.

The children had their fair share of activities to take part in and be excited about as well! We organised a badge-making session which kept the children thoroughly entertained in creating their very own badges, giving them a colourful experience and a sense of pride in putting their creativity to good use.

To conclude, Pesta Ubin was a celebration of all things nature and our kampong roots. If our heritage in Pulau Ubin is lost, we would not only lose our window into the past, but something more significant – our identity with nature. Our local biodiversity may be resilient but if we are not mindful to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our environment, we may stand to lose much of our precious Earth.

For more pictures, view our Flickr album!

 

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/