Monthly Archives: October 2010

The squirrel and the jackfruit

The Plaintain Squirrel is the most common squirrel species in Singapore. They are found in many parks, gardens, mangrove and forested area. In other words, a very versatile species. It is also unfortunately considered a pest by fruit farmers as they have a liking for fruits. Thankfully for them, Singapore does not have many fruit farms (no, there are no orchard in Orchard Road), so they are not hunted down.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is one of those ulu (far flung and isolated) areas that I like to frequent, as there is a wide variety of animals and birds that calls it home. It is mainly a mangrove area (hence the Wetland designation). In the past, it housed a series of prawn ponds and fish farms, but now it has been redeveloped into a park with ready made trails for those seeking a dose of nature.

I was covering one of the trails, which overlook Johor Bahru city, Malaysia from across the Johor Straits. In fact, I can probably see the hospital where I was born in from there. Which reminds me, I need to take a picture of it the next time I am there!

Anyway, back to the story. Along this trail there are a few jackfruit trees. I have seen the plantain squirrels guard the unripe fruits before. But on this trip, I was luckier.

Plantain Squirrel & Jackfruit

Plantain Squirrel & Jackfruit

Plantain Squirrel & Jackfruit

Plantain Squirrel & Jackfruit

What is interesting is the way the squirrel uses its hands. Looks very similar to that of humans, although I cannot be certain whether they actually do have opposable thumbs or not. Not that it matters, as the squirrel clearly had no trouble eating almost half the fruit anyway!

Colugos at Lower Peirce

Two months ago, I was at the Lower Peirce reservoir looking for a Buffy Fish Owl that was mentioned by other bird photographers. Unfortunately, my timing was all wrong as owls normally come out in the late evenings and I was there in the mid afternoon!

Walking along the boardwalk, a fellow visitor noticed that I was carrying my long lens and mentioned to me that there was a flying lemur near the other part of the entrance. Carrying such a big contraption does have it’s benefits! I did not respond immediately as I was pre-occupied with photographing other stuff.

Later, I met another photographer who was there taking pictures of bulbuls (another kind of bird) bathing. He was an older gentleman who started chatting with me and later showed me around where the owl was suppose to be. As we walked along, he pointed to each location and what we may see along the way. Yet another visitor who had two kids tagging along again saw that we had long lens and mentioned that they just saw a flying lemur. One of the young kid, a boy offered to take us to that location.

Of course we tagged along. How can we disappoint a young kid?

At the location, hugging on one of the tree motionless was indeed a flying lemur or colugo. And it came with an extra head peeking out of it’s belly! A baby colugo. Apparently the colugo young spends the first 6 months of its life clinging on to its mother’s gliding membrane which folds up to a pouch.

A colugo (flying lemur) with a baby
Flying Lemur

 

A closer look at the adult
Flying Lemur

 

A closer look at the baby
Flying Lemur

Colugos are found in the tropical rainforest of South East Asia. They are nocturnal herbivorous creatures that spend the day resting. In this case, by hanging on to a tree. Their most distinctive feature is their ability to glide across treetops, using their outstretched gliding membrane. They are also known as Flying Lemurs although their are not lemurs and certainly cannot really fly.

In Singapore, they are found mainly in the Central Catchment area which encompass the Lower Peirce reservoir area. Since these photos were taken, there have been quite a number of sightings of these creatures, so I believe they are thriving for now.

A pair of Little Grebes

Little Grebes are pretty common water birds in many parts of the world. In Singapore however, there are only a few pairs left due to habitat destruction.

As far as I know, the disused Singapore Quarry near Dairy Farm Road is the only place you can easily observe these small duck like creatures. I was there on a Saturday afternoon looking for them. For 15 minutes I stared at the pond and only found swallows flying around. Only upon closer look did I manage to see the grebes, as they were very far away, and I did not expect them to be so small!

 

A pair of Little Grebes sharing a photo with Pacific Swallows

A pair of Little Grebes and some Pacific Swallows

 

A closer look (the pink bubble gum like packages are eggs of the apple snails)
A pair of Little Grebes

 

Another shot
A pair of Little Grebes

 

A walk at Japanese Garden

On Friday, I took a bit of time off from work to have a stroll at Japanese Garden. It’s a park in Jurong that as the name implies have some Japanese influence in it’s landscaping.  It’s also a favourite haunt for bird photographers as there is a wide variety of birds both resident and migrants that congregate there and the adjoining Chinese Garden. The reasons are simple. There are many trees and more importantly many ponds and even a lake there. Source of food and water. It also helps that it is pretty devoid of bird predators (except probably for some raptors which are also birds anyway).

So on this short trip, I saw hornbills, kingfishers, shrikes, flycatchers, sunbirds and herons. Nothing stands out, except for two things.

First, I had another encounter with yet another stork-billed kingfisher. Unlike my previous encounter at Hindhede Quarry, this time I was much nearer.
Stork-billed Kingfisher

 

It’s an adult and it’s looking for food. Unfortunately, it’s not very adept at fishing. I was observing it hunting a few times unsuccesfully.

Stork-billed Kingfisher

But not to worry, there are plenty of fishes at the pond and it has all the time to get it right. BTW on the same day, I received a promotional letter from Nespresso that came with a 50 cents stamp. Guess what, the picture on the stamp is that of the Stork-billed! Coincidence?

 

Grey Heron sunning

The other picture above is that of the Grey Heron. It is interesting just because of its pose, which reminded me of the shape of a heart. It’s actually the heron sunning itself, but makes for a somewhat unusual image.

Juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher

Somewhere in the middle of this tiny island lies a pond. A byproduct of a granite quarry long abandoned. Beside it, the highest peak in the entire island, with a name belying its past potential.

I was there for the hill hiking and hopefully some wildlife photography along the way. The pond was besides the point. But at the end of the hike I had nothing to show for my effort. So it was natural that I made my way to the pond, hoping for some change of luck.

The view was good, the water was calm. In the half and hour there, there were numerous birds passing by. Dollarbirds and bee-eaters were swooping through the water looking for food. Bulbuls were flying around. An eagle was soaring above. Quite a sight.

But the light wasn’t favourable and my photographic skill somewhat lacking, so the photos were mediocre at best.

Luckily for me, all was not lost. Calling loudly and incessantly at one side of the bush besides the pond was a juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher. It was quite far away and tree branches obscured its view. But I managed to capture a few photos nonetheless. Technically imperfect, but it was a rare sighting and it’s a cute bird.

Juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher

And below is the parent which I caught the next day (I just had to return to confirm their presence!). Notice the difference in the colour of the blue plumage and of the tip of the bill .

Stork-billed Kingfisher flying sequence

Stork-billed Kingfishers as the largest resident kingfishers in Singapore.  They are not very common, but can be found where there is a large body of water. And they are solitary birds, but this pond is home to a family!