Monday, June 15, 2009

Noordin mangroves and the elusive Sea Durian

This is not my first time seeing the Sea Durian. My first time was when I saw one washed ashore at Changi Beach -- the first specimen I've seen that was intact and covered in kelp! I must write about that some day. Here's a close-up:

I joined Ria and team up at the northern shore of Ubin, Noordin Beach, to explore the mangroves there at low tide yesterday. The sun was out, it was blazing hot, and the soft squishy animals were hiding. Like these nerite snails I peeked at in a deep rock crevice.

We headed into the mangrove forests, and while clueless non-plant person (me) wandered about enjoying the foliage, mud lobster mounds, scurrying mudskippers and crabs, and sporadic spider-web-in-face experience, the rest went nuts over the mangrove trees that thrived in the cool calm of the Noordin mangroves.

The mangrove forest is quiet and peaceful, lovely rays of light break the shade occasionally, putting some part of nature in the literal spotlight. The forest noise of cicadas, birds and buzzing wasps was punctuated with the occassional crack of plastic bottle marine trash that somebody had to step onto while trudging through the mud. I admired the pretty mangrove plants, my favourite is surely the sea hibiscus.

The brugiera flowers and propagules drew a lot of attention from Ria and Marcus and they got all excited. Read Ria's (more informative than this) post on the fascinating mangrove plants she saw that day.

And I met my namesake in there too:

I took a while admiring these squabbling velvet ants.

Later when we left the mangroves, we got plenty engrossed in trying to photograph these coy fiddler crabs that live right on the shore.

The females were a lot less chicken and let me thrust the lens really close.

I got a serious butt cramp doing all that squatting!! I did more squatting trying to get good pictures of these sand wasps that were all over the periphery of the mangrove forest. Buzzing loudly, occassionally banging heads and busy digging burrows, these pretty blue-striped wasps were completely oblivious to me.

I was very enamoured with these wasps. It could be the hypnotic way their abdomens contract and expand rabidly when they are at rest, as if they were breathing with lungs, or the comical way they dug sand out of their burrows, vigilantly lifting larger objects and transferring them out, dragging the occassional leaf with considerable effort.

Or the way they pose handsomely for pictures!

These digging wasps are predatory, mostly preying on flies, killing them and then storing them in their burrows. The flies are food stores for their developing larvae young that live in the burrows until they mature. Amazing.

Noordin may be cursed with an unsightly shore, what with the ugly fencing just off the coast and shallow beach soggy with a somewhat marine mud substrate that lies just below the top layer of sand, but she boasts a healthy mangrove and thriving shore life. The lack of people there also means its more peaceful to explore. :D

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