I learnt about Uncle Ming, a biologist who conducts nature walks for kids, from a friend and promptly made it my resolution to arrange a walk with him before 2017 ended.
So glad that he was available, and that two other friends and their kids could join us. It was so good to be outdoors, and simply fascinating to learn so much from Uncle Ming.
We went to Pasir Ris Park’s Mangrove Boardwalk (which is a 10 minute stroll from Pasir Ris MRT station – head towards Carpark C), which hosts amazing biodiversity.
How apt for the season that one of the first plants we saw was Sea Holly.
These pencil roots and holes made by mud lobsters were everywhere. The little stream rises and falls with the tide too.
We saw these two giant mudskippers in close proximity. The darker one is male and the paler one, female.
Look at those bulbous eyes! We learnt that mudskippers are chameleon-like and their skin colour changes from light to dark.
Here’s another mudskipper with a very defined stripe all across its body. Have you spotted it? (If you need a clue, look to the bottom left of the photo).
This was the second most amazing thing we saw on our walk (the most amazing one is near the end of this blog post). If you look intently a the centre bottom of this photo, you will see a dome-like base, not unlike the safety net in a circus for the flying trapeze artistes.
This web was huge, and the red tent spider connected 3 dried brown leaves together in the centre of its dome, as it’s ‘shelter’ and hiding place. We stood there at length and marvelled at this wondrous creation, which looked so gossamer, yet was undeniably strong, and anchored with long thick strong spider web threads to the boardwalk railings at at least 5 points. We touched the web thread anchors, which felt like elastic threads.
We also saw another small ‘free-rider’ spider, who was near the top of the web. It gets to eat the leftovers that the red tent spider discards.
As we walked on near to Sungei Tampines, we saw many egrets and Grey herons. There are two of the latter in the photo below, whilst the rest are egrets – can you spot the two larger birds?
We were also treated to a clear sighting of a Blue Collared Kingfisher, resting on a branch, making raucous calls.
Such beautiful colouring.
It was a rainy afternoon, but thankfully we managed to start our walk after a few showers passed. That meant that it was cool during our entire walk.
Along the way, we learnt about bivalves, the symbiotic relationship between the algae and fungi that comprises lichen (really fascinating how different species combine in various permutations), how mud lobsters spew out concrete-like grey mud and create these holes that mud crabs then used as homes, how drastic changes in sea water salinity probably causes sightings of more dead fish… We also saw a natural wild honey bee hive, a moth caterpillar and many mud crabs.
We also saw a large fig tree with tiny figs scattered all over the floor, and many green pigeons feeding on the figs in the branches. Also this rare fungi, which had sprouted on this tree trunk in the rainy weather.
There were jungle fowl too, a rooster and two hens, likely flown across to Pasir Ris park from Pulau Ubin! What a handsome rooster.
We were almost at the end of the walk when Uncle Ming beamed from ear to ear and said, “You get a bonus today! You will get to touch something that most people won’t dare to touch. Who can spot it?”
We immediately started looking around for a snake, but it was a while before we spotted it! And look how beautiful this Oriental Whip Snake is!
Here’s a closer look at the bright yellow streak it has across its lower body.
Uncle Ming explained that it was one of the mildest and calmest snakes around. True enough, it was cool enough to let Uncle Ming hold it and for us to get a feel of its beautiful cool dry skin. Remember – snakes are not slimy!
All snakes are venomous, but this snake’s venom toxicity is low. In any case, don’t handle any snakes unless you’re a professional or with a professional guide.
Guess why it’s called the Oriental Whip Snake? In part due to its whip-like tail, and in part due to its slitty eyes! I thought it was simply the most beautiful shade of bright lime green ever. We were fortunate to meet such a large adult too.
Towards the end, the snake didn’t even attempt to move away when Uncle Ming let it rest on his palms like he was an inanimate branch. I then had a try and holding Madam Oriental but she caught sight of the nearby leaves and wiggled towards them. I guess we had learnt enough from meeting her, and it was time to let her return to her true comfort zone. Thank you for letting us learn more about you, it was a true privilege.