Our First Trail Season: Highlights

A few months ago, the BES Drongos was merely an idea to bring the public around a nature reserve in Singapore to emphasise the importance of nature and let them experience natural spaces for themselves. Now, we are a volunteer group of 25 Bachelor of Environmental Studies students who are proud to call ourselves the BES Drongos nature trail guides. We spent months organising ourselves through recee trails and concluded our first ever trail season last month after taking eight groups of trail participants onto the Petai Trail!

Committee Group Photo
The BES Drongos committee AY2014/2015!

As a guiding group, we are still young and have much to learn about how the public interacts with nature – what’s interesting to us as nature lovers and scientists-in-training may not engage families, young children or people who are there to take selfies photographs.

 “When you get caught up in the things that went wrong, always think about how we started with nothing.”
– Jacqueline, our research officer

This trail season, we took seven groups of trail participants onto the Petai Trail at MacRitchie Reservoir Park/Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Mother Nature doesn’t take cues for scheduling according to our walks. Our first ever opening walk day on 4 October was rained out, despite a full turnout from the participants who had signed up. Nevertheless, we were lucky to have been able to allow all walks after that to continue as expected!

4 Oct – it rained 😦

11 Oct

12 Oct

18 Oct 

Image credit: © NUS OSA 2014 | Photography by Clement Hong

25 Oct

Image credit: © NUS OSA 2014 | Photography by Clement Hong

1 Nov 

9 Nov 

15 Nov 

We were glad to have interested participants come on our trails who enjoyed exploring and finding out about nature as much as we do! Some of our participants came from abroad, and they brought with them interesting stories about other nature walks back in their home country and the kinds of animals they have seen.

PGP Walk

Each of the walks was an exchange of knowledge and wonderment, as we continued to learn about the wildlife in our nature reserve and broaden our perspectives about what it means to live in a city that claims to be fully urbanised, but has pockets of nature worth preserving.

For instance, we experienced some kind of (nerdy) joy when we managed to overturn common misconceptions about forests: tropical rainforest soils are actually nutrient poor because of heavy rainfall leaching away the nutrients. Therefore, plants like the leaf litter plant (Agrostistachys indica) to flourish because of their clever way of trapping leaf litter and absorbing nutrients from this decomposing matter through its rootlets.

Leaf Litter Plant

We also spotted lots of variable animals in the nature reserve! We have talked about the Greater racket-tailed drongo, the long-tailed macaque, the Asian softshell turtle and common sun skink in this earlier post.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The greater racket-tailed drongo, our nameksake!

While on our recce walk with the Toddycats, we spotted an ornate coraltail dragonfly and two venomous snakes! The Blue Malayan Coral snake and the Wagler’s pit viper (which we also later saw once more on the trail with public participants) were rare finds that we got really excited about and blogged here.

Wagler's Pit Viper
Wagler’s pit viper… look at those ominous eyes

We also encountered on our public walks some new animals that we hadn’t seen before, such as this pin-striped tit babbler:

Pin-striped tit babbler peeking out at us!
Pin-striped tit babbler. Photo credit: Tanvi of Saving Macritchie

On this same walk, we encountered some crimson sunbirds, the unofficial national bird of Singapore!  Tanvi, the young creator behind the blog Saving MacRitchie, was a participant on this same walk and these photos were taken by her.

And, we’ve captured some footage of a pair of greater racket-tailed drongos along the Petai trail, how awesome is this? Note the tail flicks!

We hope that we’ve touched the lives of the people who have come on the trail with our stories of the animals and plants that are found along the Petai Trail in the secondary forest of MacRitchie. Our guides have learned a lot about environmental education, whether it is storytelling to engage an audience or public speaking practice. We are infinitely glad to have the support of our BES office in NUS, our readers of this blog and followers on our Facebook page and everyone who has helped to support us in one way or another.

Let us know if you came on the trail and have something to share about your experience! Mail us at besdrongos@gmail.com or drop us a comment on our Facebook page!

The BES Drongos will be resuming guided Petai trail walks in 2015, so until then, we wish you happy holidays and a happy new year!

Words by: Judy Goh

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Recruitment, Round 2.

ROUND 2 OF RECRUITMENTS!

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Who we are: We are a group of ardent nature lovers from BES (Bachelor of Environmental Studies, NUS) who are keen on passing on this passion to the general public. We call ourselves the drongos because they are iconic birds within our central catchment area with a penchant for following monkeys. (They do this to feast on insects the monkeys stir up; aren’t they clever?)

What our goals are: To educate the public on the value of our resident flora, fauna and ecosystems as well as raise awareness about the importance of preserving green spaces such as our central catchment nature reserve.

What we are looking for: Committed nature-lovers (from BES) who are free on weekends (You do not need prior guiding experience or any detailed knowledge; we will provide training workshops and information!)

What you will do: Guide a group of interested participants through the Petai trail with two or three other guides, pointing out interesting plants and animals and explaining relevant ecological issues.

What the Petai Trail is: it is a popular nature trail in the Central Catchment Reserve, within MacRitchie Reservior Park. For more detailed information, click this link: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/docs/diy_guide/prunus_trail_macritchie.pdf

What you can see: Pit vipers, shiny beetles, skinks and well, more than we can list! Read our previous posts to see what you can expect!

What commitments: Attend 3 guiding workshops (tentatively in January and February, weekends) and provide guiding on weekends twice a semester.

How to sign up: Fill up this form and email to besdrongos@gmail.com by 19 December! If you have any enquiries about what it means to be a BES Drongo, please feel free to contact us at that email as well!

We hope to see more potential Drongos signing up, and we can’t wait to meet you all soon!