Vol 6 No 2
at Sungei Buloh
at Sungei Buloh
by the Park
Behold the magnificent display of the
changing of guards as Adeline Chia guides you along the road of ...
The daily rush to and fro in the course of work has left many of us with
little time to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature. Hence when faced
with an assignment to find out the life that could be seen before the last
rays of sunlight fade away, I was eager enough to finish my work early in the
late afternoon for a walk in park. Armed with my binoculars and drinking
water, I set off.
It did not take long before I had my first encounter: a Common Sun Skink (Mabuya multifasciata)
basking near the main bridge, motionless. Most skinks are terrestrial, making
their homes in leaf litter and loose soil. With over thousand species in the
world, it is no wonder that they are the most diverse of the lizard family. I
admired its rich orange-brown shiny body for a while until it decided that I
was getting too close for comfort and went into the bushes, making rustling
sounds as it went.
A stream of activities greeted me as I ventured onto Route 1. Most species of
birds are diurnal and are unable to feed at night. Once night falls, they
have to endure a full 12 hours (in the tropics) of non-feeding through the
night until the next dawn when they would be ravenous. With the last
opportunity to feed their young and themselves the before the sun sets, you
would notice birds engaged in various activities. A Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)
darted among the lower branches of the mangrove trees, deftly picking up
insects disturbed by its movements. Its eccentric behaviour has earned itself
a nickname called the 'gila bird' by the Malays. It
feeds in a rather haphazard manner, dashing through the vegetation in a
madcap chase with its long tail fanned open and closed, never staying at a
spot long enough for the untrained eye to observe it.
As I walked along the trail, Tailorbirds called out to each other, their
synchronised calls floating like melodies through the ears. Yellow-vented
Bulbuls (Pycnonotus jocosus)
cautiously approach their nests with their young, ever on the lookout for
predators. Always a joy to see, newly fledged nestlings followed their parents
around, ducking into cover at the first call of danger. Monitor lizards lazed
on the trails, enjoying the sun-warmed ground.
family of White-breasted Waterhens (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
cautiously crossed the trail into safer territory, the parents ever
watchful. A common resident, it is a comical looking bird that usually
dives into the undergrowth when it senses danger. Its gait is accompanied
with an occasional flick of the tail. When alarmed it will run away
clumsily, sometimes with its wings half open into the nearest cover. If you
will find that after a short while a white and black head will emerge from
its cover cautiously before taking the first step, then the next and resuming
its perky strut.
The flowers of the Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus)
were turning brown, swaying gently with the evening breeze. They have served
their function: ensuring the survival of their species. Soon they will fall
and in place the seeds of the tree's future generations will be produced.
Reaching the heronry, I was treated to an aerial display of the Grey and
Purple Heron (Ardea cinera
and Ardea purpurea)
returning to their roosts. Beautiful birds they certainly are. Beautiful
voices they have not, for their call is a harsh 'Kra-ak'.
Some were greeted by their young, hungry for a meal and rewarded with one.
Others opted to land on the mudflats to grab a quick meal before returning to
their nests which are massive platforms of twigs that sit in the canopy of
the mangrove trees. A Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax
nycticorax) stood motionless below the canopy
with its blood red eyes, its most arresting feature. It is an attractive bird
with black, grey and white plumage. One of the few nocturnal birds which is
also active at dawn and dusk. Look out for one or groups of them flying over
you in the evenings. Can't see them? Listen then to their call in flight
which is a monotonous 'kwok'.
Last stop: The freshwater ponds at Route 3. These ponds provide the habitat
for freshwater dwelling animals. Peering at the surface of the pond would
reward one with the sight of pond skaters and the Two Spot Gouramy (Trichogaster
trichopterus), a native species of freshwater
fish in Singapore, lingering at the surface. You might bear the occasional
splash caused by the Common Snakehead (Channa
striata) or Aruan as
it is commonly called. Oh, what a big mouth it has, for it is a carnivorous
species of fish which can grow up to a length of 90 cm. Valued for its
healing properties, it is the fish of choice for post-operation patients who
believe that it can speed up recovery of wounds.
Baya Weaver nests
grasses in the vicinity provide food and shelter for many species of birds
such as the Yellow-belied Prinia (Prinia flaviventris),
warblers and munias, which were unfortunately not
seen this evening. However a male Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus)
was busy building its nest by weaving strands of long grasses. Masters of
nest-building they certainly are, for a Baya
Weaver's nest is an ingenious piece of craft, easily surpassing other
species of birds in their construction. The male first builds a
"helmet" stage nest and displays on it, trying to attract a
potential mate. Once a female has inspected the nest and stamps her
approval, they mate and the male proceeds to complete the nest which ends
with a long tube leading to a side entrance. His partner then lays her eggs
and while she is busy with the incubation and caring of the young, the male
builds another helmet and tries to attract Mate No. 2.
By the time I made my way back, the sun was all but a dark orange ball in
From the limited light available I was able to make out the silhouette of a
few Large-tailed Nightjars (Caprimulgus macrurus) gliding around hunting for insects. Ah yes,
it's another nocturnal bird which sits quietly during the day, their greyish
brown plumage providing excellent camouflage against the background.
It was time for animals on the night shift to take over. The world does not
rest when the sun sets. Instead a whole new exciting episode begins. Sounds
that filled the air during the day are now replaced by others, predominantly
the shrilling calls of cicadas, the croaking of frogs and the songs of
nocturnal birds. Hence an evening walk is definitely interesting for it is
the transition period between day and night, light and dark where you can
find the beginnings of nocturnal life and the diminishing of day activities.
be surprised to find bats, the only true flying mammals flying around. When
night falls they will be out in full force finding their favourite fruits or
insects as they flit about. Slimy creatures such as slugs and snails crawl
out in response to the falling temperature and increasing humidity. As soft
bodied animals they risk the danger of losing body fluids through evaporation
hence a dark, moist environment is perfect for them.
An evening walk is definitely interesting and the Park is open until 7 pm
daily, so come on down to experience what the evening has to offer you. As
for me, it's time to go for a very important nocturnal activity: Dinner.