Tag Archives: Love MacRitchie

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.

 

 

 

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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 Walk – kampung games and ethical wildlife photography

After a brief foray to explore the Prunus-Petai Trail –part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve – the Love MacRitchie Walk made a return to Venus Loop trail.

The walk, held on 15 March 2014 saw 19 members of the public, including six exuberant youngsters, go on a 2.5-hour jaunt through the regenerated secondary forest under the lead of six Toddycat guides.

Love MacRitchie Walk by Toddycats 15 Mar 2014 Group 1

Participants and guides of Group 1. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

Participants and guides of Group 2. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Participants and guides of Group 2. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Right at the start of the trail, the ground was littered with empty rubber seed pods. This was a wonderful opportunity to show the younger participants how  the older generations used to entertain themselves before the age of televisions and mobile devices. The halves of the pods were quickly assembled to resemble a windmill that spun when blown on, giving the kids a glimpse of a simpler time when people had to be more creative in making use of the resources around them.

Rubber seed pod windmill. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

Rubber seed pod windmill. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

The walk proceeded along the trail, with the guides sharing their knowledge on the plants and animals that can be found there, when attention was drawn by excited cries of a young boy. His sharp eyes had spotted a Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), which brought the rest of the youngsters scrambling to his spot. And true to its name, in the vicinity was also found a Greater racquet-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), or “hamba kera” (slave of the macaque) in Malay. The drongo earned this moniker due to its habit of following troops of macaques, picking on insects stirred up as they move through the forest canopy.

Long-tailed macaque. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

Long-tailed macaque. Photo by Yang Yi Yong.

A noticeable difference of this walk compared to previous ones was the presence of a large group of photographers camped along the trail, all cameras seemingly pointed on the same subject. At first glance, the attraction seemed to be a Red-legged crake (Rallina fasciata) which was foraging on the ground right in front of the group. A closer look, however, revealed the star attraction to be a Black-backed kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca), a small and rare migrant. It is hoped that these photographers adhere to an ethical code of conduct and not resort to practices such as forcefully posing or baiting animals just to get their “perfect” shot. 

Photographers shooting the Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Sean Yap.

Photographers shooting the Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Sean Yap.

Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

Black-backed kingfisher. Photo by Henrietta Woo.

As the 15 March marked the celebration of World Water Day, the walk was an opportunity to educate the participants on the importance of forests in maintaining good water quality in our reservoirs. This brought home one of the reasons the Central Catchment Nature Reserve should be left undisturbed, and not sacrificed in the line of some unjustifiable development. The next Love MacRitchie Walk at Venus Loop will be held on 29 March 2014 (fully subscribed).

View more photos from this walk at https://www.flickr.com/photos/habitatnews/sets/72157642477618975/