ALL IN ONE PITSTOP FOR BIODIVERISTY

If you have only recently taken an interest in the biodiversity of Singapore, you may be wondering where to explore to see our local flora and fauna. Fret not, however! In recent years, a slew of new nature parks has been established and they offer an easy yet interesting experience for the uninitiated.

Figure 1. A trail in Windsor Nature Park. Source: Me

One such park would be Windsor Nature Park. With its freshwater streams, secondary forest and old settlements, there is a variety of wildlife to be seen, especially if one goes earlier in the morning. Before it was turned into a park, it was previously a rubber estate from the early 20th century up to the 1970s. [1] Work to turn it into a nature park started in 2015 and it was officially opened in 2017. [2] The park boasts a variety of flora and fauna, some of which are endangered. [2]

Figure 2. Map of Windsor Nature Park. Source: https://butterflycircle.blogspot.com/2018/09/butterfly-photography-at-our-local.html

Having been there several times, the park still surprises me with interesting finds on every visit. The park also contains freshwater streams, a habitat which can be considered a rarity in Singapore. The route I would normally take from the entrance is Venus Loop, Squirrel Trail, Drongo Trail, Venus link and then Venus Loop back out to the entrance. Along the way, several habitats can be seen, including freshwater streams, secondary forest and abandoned plantations. The freshwater streams are of importance since they have largely been obliterated in Singapore over the last two centuries. [3] Their clean, soft and mildly acidic waters are a refuge for a myriad of flora and fauna.

Figure 3. Two-Spot Barb (Puntius binotatus). Source: Me

The presence of the freshwater streams means that some of our indigenous fish species can be seen as compared to the exotic species which dominate urban waterways.  On one of my trips, I managed to catch a glimpse of this school of juvenile Two-Spot Barbs (Figure 3). These young fishes were darting about, swimming up and down the water column. One interesting fact about this species is that only the juvenile fishes have the attractive 2 spots on its body. As they mature, the 2 spots fade away. In some cases, the adults are almost completely silver in colour. [3]

Figure 4. Possible Pygmy Halfbeak (Dermogenys pusillus). Source: Me

Walking a little further along the stream, I chanced upon this halfbeak. They are named as such because their lower jaw protrudes out much more than their upper jaw, an adaptation for feeding from the water’s surface. [3] Although I could not positively identify it, it was likely to be a Pygmy Halfbeak (Figure 4) rather than a Forest Halfbeak (Hemirhamphondon pogonognathus) given that the latter is much rarer and likely to be confined to less disturbed forest streams. [3] Nonetheless, it was still an interesting find.

Figure 5. Cryptocoryne griffithii. Source: Me

Aroids refer to a broad group of plants which includes some that we are familiar with, such as the money plant and yam. Further down the stream, I caught a glimpse of the endangered aquatic aroid, Cryptocoryne griffithii. The common name in Malay is “Keladi Paya”, which literally means “swamp taro”, thus reflecting its relationship to the aroid family as well as its preference for aquatic habitats.  This species is found in Singapore, the Riau Islands, the southern part of Peninsula Malaysia and Kalimantan. [4] They grow only in forest streams where the water is soft and acidic, another reason why such habitats should be conserved. [4] Being small plants, they were quite easy to miss, especially since they were growing among the larger and taller Cryptocoryne pontederiifolia, a naturalized aquatic aroid from the same genus and originally from West Sumatra.

Figure 6. Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus). Source: Me

Figure 7. Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus). Source: Me

Moving on to the secondary forest portion, I was hoping to see some interesting bird species. Unfortunately, as it was later in the morning, the weather was starting to become quite warm and most of the birds were less active. However, I still managed to spot a Red Junglefowl (Figure 6) foraging along the trail, as well as a lone Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo (Figure 7) perched on a tree and preening its feathers.

As I headed towards the entrance, I noticed that several species of native plants had been planted, possibly as some sort of habitat enhancement work.

Figure 8. Leea rubra. Source: Me

Figure 9. Alpina aquatica flowers, with fruits in the background. Source: Me

Some of the plants were blooming profusely. The red flowers of the Leea rubra attracted plenty of pollinating insects. Meanwhile, along the water’s edge, the aquatic ginger (Figure 9) was also flowering. The Leea rubra was previously declared nationally extinct and it is heartening to see them being replanted in some of our parks and gardens. [2] Meanwhile, the aquatic ginger is critically endangered locally and they could be of value for homeowners who have ponds and wish to grow some native marginal plants along the edges.

While this nature park may not contain the richest in terms of biodiversity when compared to more mature forests in the Central Catchment area, it has its value because of the presence of different ecological habitats in such a small area. As such, it is suitable for the uninitiated who may want to explore different habitats without the need to hike long distances. Moreover, it is also easily accessible by public transport. If you are a budding naturalist, do check out this amazing place and you will not be disappointed!

References

[1]: Neo, L., Yee, A. T., Chong, K. Y., Yeoh, Y. S., & Tan, H. T. W. (2014). THE VASCULAR PLANT FLORA OF ABANDONED PLANTATIONS IN SINGAPORE IV: WINDSOR FOREST. NATURE IN SINGAPORE, 93-109. Retrieved from https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/app/uploads/2017/06/2014nis093-109.pdf

[2]: NParks opens Windsor Nature Park, Singapore’s sixth nature park, and announces plans for a new Rifle Range Nature Park. (2018, July 09). Retrieved November 13, 2020, from https://www.nparks.gov.sg/news/2017/4/nparks-opens-windsor-nature-park

[3]: Ng, P. K., & Lim, K. K. (1995). A guide to the freshwater fishes of Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre.

[4]: Cryptocoryne griffithii. (2003, January). Retrieved November 14, 2020, from https://crypts.home.xs4all.nl/Cryptocoryne/Gallery/gri/gri.html

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