All posts by besdrongos

World Water Day 2018

world water day

Psst, World Water Day is coming up soon! Here’s a little tip for you to celebrate the upcoming World Water Day on March 22nd:

Go on down to one of the Singapore World Water Day (SWWD) roadshows with your latest Singapore Power (SP) bill, and if the folks at the roadshow see that you’ve been a diligent water saver, you’ll be able to receive an exclusive premium. This sweet opportunity will be waiting for you during the entirety of March, but limited stocks are available (just like one other precious, precious resource).

Find your nearest roadshow here: https://www.pub.gov.sg/getinvolved/singaporeworldwaterday

The above link is also where you can find SWWD’s official partners, including Ben & Jerry’s and oBike, who are eager to offer you a steal of a deal for the right water-saving attitude.

Here’s something to think about this World Water Day: wetlands. Sure, we need to do all we can to keep that fresh, clean, thirst-quenching clear water running out of our taps. But is that enough? Nature needs water too, and we need nature.

Urbanising cities have a common trend of gradually encroaching on natural spaces like wetlands. These cities will only expand and multiply as time passes, and it may seem a waste to preserve a wetland when it could be a bustling hub. The truth is, however, that wetlands are important to us, even to those of us who live highly urbanised environments. Wetlands provide a wide array of ecosystem services, such as absorbing excess rainfall during storms and helping to reduce the risk of flooding. Now, that’s relevant.

In particular, Singapore boasts a sprawling Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which is not only a site teeming with heritage, but also with birds of every shape and size. Native birds, exotic birds that have travelled from across the world to spend the winter in sunny Singapore – our very own wetlands are a key stopping point in the East Asian Australasian Shorebird Site Network, which include Kakadu National Park in Australia, Mai Po in Hong Kong and the Yatsu Tidal Flats in Japan.

This World Water Day, maybe leave a little room in your thoughts for the wetlands around the world and in our own garden city, while you’re taking a short shower.

 

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Save A Spider Day

It’s Save a Spider Day! OK, I know you’re about to click away because spiders are, well, look at them. If you haven’t gazed deep into a spider’s multiple eyes and shuddered, then you’re just a big, hairy, leggy, liar. But if you think about it, like really think about it, you’d probably still choose to live in a world with spiders in it, rather than without. I mean, I doubt Baygone would be a good enough substitute for a worldwide population of diverse spiders deviously conspiring 24/7 to eliminate their next insect. Do you like birds? Well, good, because birds love spiders. (As food.) Do you like diseases? No? Then thank your lucky stars, because spider venom will soon be used to treat a variety of diseases that cause muscular dystrophy. By the way, can YOU pull the natural world’s strongest material out of your butt? No? Then please, take a seat. (If yes, call 995.)

Hey, check out this fancy boy over here.

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Video: Jurgen Otto (https://www.youtube.com/user/Peacockspiderman)

Fashion week has nothing on this male peacock spider. When it’s time to find a lady, the male peacock spiders show off their brightly coloured backs and sweet moves. Peacock spiders are tiny, with the largest species measuring a whopping 5mm. Imagine that, a tiny colourful speck waving its arms at you because that’s the sexy thing to do. Also, the females eat the males who don’t dance well enough, but let’s not dwell on that.

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This spectacular shot by local wildlife photographer Nicky Bay does great justice to the silvery markings on the mirror spider’s abdomen. When the spider is at rest, the silvery shapes on its abdomen visibly enlarge. It almost looks like a piece of stained glass art!

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Photo: ggalice via Flickr

Net casting spiders are metal as it gets. They weave webs that resemble fishnets, which they then launch at their prey to capture them.

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Photo: Nicky Bay

Look at those eyes. They’re not messing around.

Next time you see a spider, maybe think twice before screaming and squashing it (you can still scream, though). First of all, it cannot be denied that spiders are way cooler than us and also do us a huge favour by catching insects. Second of all, I don’t think you’d want to make an enemy of a spider at this point.

 

Sources:

http://www.medicaldaily.com/venom-medicine-how-spiders-scorpions-snakes-and-sea-creatures-can-heal-328736

http://animals.mom.me/importance-spiders-ecosystem-6242.html

 

Goose mother

Gather round, friends. I’m going to tell you the story of Christian Moullec, world’s biggest goose mum.

You’ve probably heard about imprinting, the amazing and sometimes hilarious phenomenon where newly hatched ducklings or goslings look at the first large moving object in their field of vision and think: “That’s it. That’s my mum.”

In other words, imprinting is a process of rapidly forming strong social bonds with a parent within the first day of hatching (or, in the case of mammals, being born). This usually works pretty well, and imprinting is an important process not just in infancy, but also later in life when it’s time to mate. In this story, however, the distinguished mother goose is a 58-year-old moustachioed Frenchman named Christian Moullec. This proud parent hand reared his sweet children from gosling to goose, and the journey was nothing short of adorable spectacular.

Though it may seem cute to have a couple of fluffy little birds waddling after you, parenting is never a trivial matter. Moullec took on the grave responsibility of caring for his goslings 24/7, and this included teaching them to swim.

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When the goslings were three weeks old, they loyally followed Moullec to a pond, where he proceeded to teach them the Goose Basics of Safe Swimming, including Looking Around for Danger, Kicking With Your Legs, and Keeping Your Feathers Oiled. By allowing the ducks to imitate his behaviour, Moullec is able to effectively teach them what any respectable mother goose can.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the geese are more fully grown and ready for the next big thing.

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No, you aren’t dreaming. That is a man-goose-mum in a lightweight aircraft teaching his kids to fly. Thank you, universe, for this blessing. After several training sessions in his minimalist aircraft (known as a microlight), Moullec was able to guide the geese in a graceful soar over the city of Edinburgh, riding in perfect formation.

ss1.png There goes that weird family again.

For more than twenty years now, Moullec has been raising orphaned geese and flying alongside them in his humble microlight. The purpose? To guide them along safe migratory routes. Wild bird populations have been declining in Europe, and Moullec took the matter into his own hands – into his own home, where he raises the birds which would otherwise have been lost without a parent. He also provides visitors with the opportunity to fly alongside the birds and experience the awe and wonder that he knows so well – and that’s how he funds his own project.

“The most beautiful thing to realise on earth is to fly in the heavens with the angels that are the birds.”

– Christian Moullec: pilot, parent, hero.

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Sources:

Earthflight (2011) BBC One.

http://www.indiana.edu/~p1013447/dictionary/imprint.htm

https://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/psychology/psychology-and-psychiatry/imprinting

 

What If Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day

Happy ‘What If Cats and Dogs Have Opposable Thumbs’ Day!

It’s a mouthful, but a joy to say! I personally will be saying this non-stop to all my friends today.

You’re probably wondering why we even have such a day in the first place. Well, you can blame none other than Thomas Roy, who together with his wife have created over ninety holidays – it’s a pretty respectable hobby. Roy invented the holiday while pondering the endless hijinks his pet cats and dogs could get up to if they had opposable thumbs. They would probably eat with their hands, for instance, like monkeys, instead of sticking their entire faces in their food bowls. They could open the fridge and help themselves to your cake. The possibilities are both wonderful and terrifying.

A whole new world.

Opposable thumbs, which are able to face in the opposite direction to the rest of your fingers, are more vital to your daily life than you’ve ever considered. Without them, you couldn’t grab anything, not even your second helping of cheese rings. You wouldn’t be able to shake hands with anyone and would probably resort to slapping at them with your helpless paws, the way cats do now when they want a facerub.

Let’s celebrate the fact that we have opposable thumbs and our pets don’t! After all, it is because of opposable thumbs that we can squeeze their cheeks and they can’t squeeze ours. If they could, life with them would change forever.

Then again, it might not make that much of a difference. I mean, if your cats had opposable thumbs, they could clean up their own poop, but would they?

Halloween Fashion Week

Tired of being the same ol’ skeleton for Halloween? Looking for a costume to stand out in the crowd? Want to rack up those likes on Instagram? Look no further as we present some spooktacular Halloween costumes inspired by Mother Nature and her fantastic creatures. Although the Halloween culture in Singapore isn’t that strong, you never know when you need some killer costume ideas. From classic to cute to completely vile, we have it all covered in this post.

Classic Colours

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Dressed perfectly for Halloween! (Photo: https://i.pinimg.com/736x/0a/e8/02/0ae802a869cfd2c005d71a9b9d4d93a9–rare-animals-strange-animals.jpg)

If you’re looking to fit in with the Halloween colours of black, orange and yellow, you should certainly be inspired by the Halloween crab (Gecarcinus quadratus). This vibrantly coloured land crab inhabits mangroves, rainforests and sand dunes along the Pacific Coast. It’s basically dressed for Halloween – a black carapace with yellow spots, legs that are a mix of pumpkin orange and blood red and a splash of purple on its claws. These crabs create an underground system of burrows for shelter and brumation (a state similar to hibernation that cold-blooded animals use during cold weather) close to a water source. Like how Halloween comes to life at night, these crabby creatures are nocturnal as well and only forage at night.

Costume idea: Wear an entirely black outfit to follow the crab’s body. You could have some splashes of yellow on your shirt. Paint your arms purple and your legs orange and red. You’re welcome for this crab-tivating costume 😉

Fresh Fusion

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A one-of-a-kind combination (Photo: https://www.biolib.cz/IMG/GAL/271622.jpg)

Some people dress up as deer. Some people dress up as vampires. What if you want to be both?

Be like the tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus).

This unusual creature is a small deer that inhabits mountainous forests across southwest China and northeastern Myanmar. Possessing a tuft of long, blackish hair from the forehead and large, sturdy upper canines, the tufted deer is a perfect combination of cute and scary. Male deer have tiny antlers which are almost hidden by the hair tuft. They either travel alone or in pairs and are most active during dusk and dawn. Unfortunately, very little is known about this species and it’s believed that population numbers are decreasing significantly.

Costume idea: Get those $2 antlers and fake fangs from Daiso. Put on a brown outfit, spike up part of your hair with some gel and you have yourself an awesome costume. Plus, you get to spread the message about these threatened creatures when people come up to you with a bewildered look!

Foul Fowl

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The Undertaker (Photo: http://creepyanimals.com/2013/04/marabou-stork/)

Maybe you don’t want to fit in with the Halloween colours or look cute. That’s totally fine – this last option should fulfil your desire to look evil. One fine specimen to imitate is the Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer). This stork is a massive wading bird that can grow up to 167cm. Combined with its cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, it’s no wonder that “The Undertaker” is its nickname. The Marabou also possesses a huge bill and a distinctive pink gular sac at its throat.

These birds are scavengers and having a featherless head is their way of avoiding messing up their plumage when feeding on animal carcasses. The storks aren’t fussy about what they eat as they have been known to consume human garbage such as shoes and metal. Unfortunately, human feeding has conditioned some Marabou storks to react aggressively when humans refuse to feed them. Reports of children being killed by Marabous are not unheard of in southern Africa.

Costume idea: To achieve this look, an all-white outfit is ideal. You should stuff a pink sock with cotton balls and tie it around your neck. Attach a cone to your nose to imitate that humongous bill. Putting on a pink bald cap and a black cape would make your costume more authentic. You may also lash out at people if they refuse to give you food.

So there you go, 3 drastically different costume ideas which you will definitely not find anywhere else. We guarantee that all heads will turn as you strut down the street in these outfits. Happy Halloween and enjoy the festivities with your family and friends (if you still have any after wearing these costumes)!

References:

Stephenson, K. (2015). 8 Things to Know Before Getting a Halloween Moon Crab. Petful. Retrieved 27 October 2017, from https://www.petful.com/other-pets/halloween-moon-crabs/

Stempien, A. (2017). 7 Animals That Were Made For Halloween. Smithsonian Science Education Center. Retrieved 27 October 2017, from https://ssec.si.edu/stemvisions-blog/7-animals-were-made-halloween

Nowak, R. M. (1999). Walker’s mammals of the world (Vol. 1). JHU Press.

Geist, V. (1998). Deer of the world: their evolution, behaviour, and ecology. Stackpole books.

7 Scary Bird Species | Holbrook Travel. (2012). Holbrooktravel.com. Retrieved 27 October 2017, from http://www.holbrooktravel.com/blog/birding/7-scary-bird-species

Hancock, J., Kushlan, J. A., & Kahl, M. P. (2010). Storks, ibises and spoonbills of the world. A&C Black.

Words by: Tan Hui Xin

 

Intertidal Watch

It is a truth universally acknowledged that trudging around in the mud is the greatest of joys.

Just kidding I made that up. But I know that deep within you, a wild spirit calls for the embrace of dirt and the salt of the sea. If, like me, you derive considerable happiness from being damp and muddy, you’re probably perfect for the Intertidal Watch.

Heard of citizen science? It’s an initiative undertaken all over the world to involve the public in data collection, mostly through simple surveys that anyone can learn to do. Counting birds, for example. Or butterflies. With the help of volunteers from the public, agencies like the National Parks Board can accumulate comprehensive information about the environment over years and years, something that has become increasingly important as we anxiously observe the effects of climate change taking the world by literal storm. That’s the unromantic and frankly depressing explanation. The romantic explanation is that we all have within us an innate curiosity, a sense of wanting to go out there and discover the world. That’s science at its foundation. It doesn’t matter what you studied or what you’re good at; if you have a clipboard and pen, you can be a scientist.

A citizen scientist, anyway.

The Intertidal Watch is one of those citizen science programmes, created and conducted by NParks. It is an effort to study the biodiversity on our shores during the low tide. That’s when the sea retreats from the land, leaving a few precious metres of muddy beach that’s just teeming with life. Hermit crabs, sea cucumbers – you name it, we’ve spotted it – wriggling on the beach. Volunteers step gingerly around these creatures and take pictures of them like enthusiastic tourists; more importantly, they count and record the species and number of organisms present. This information is then carefully entered into NParks’ database, to be used by conservationists and researchers who make decisions on how to manage Singapore’s coastline.

I myself joined this programme as a volunteer just last year. It was all very simple: I went to their booth at the Festival of Biodiversity, saw a picture of a knobbly sea star and immediately signed up to be on their mailing list. Knobbly sea stars have that irresistible seduction.

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Ever seen anything so charming? Feel free to marvel at the quaint asymmetry (Photo: Qiu Jiahui)

Once you’re on their mailing list, you’ll be notified when they conduct a survey or training workshop. It’s best, though not strictly necessary, to go for a training workshop before embarking on your first survey. You’ll learn about the surveying method, how to identify the different types of flora and fauna on the various beaches, as well as how to record information reliably and succinctly. After that, you’ll be ready for your first citizen science experience.

Depending on the time of year and the tides, the survey can be conducted from the middle of the sweltering afternoon to the crack of dawn. At present, the surveys are mostly limited to a few beaches such as Changi Beach and East Coast Park, but plans to include other coasts are underway.

Recycling old plastic bottles and taking showers instead of baths are excellent and necessary ways of protecting the environment, but if you’re itching to do more, why not go out into the environment itself? Not only is it deeply meaningful, you’ll also get to know the side of Singapore that too many people miss out on: its rich and slightly wacky biodiversity. So don’t hesitate! Plan an unforgettable outing with your friends, take your date to see the sunrise and sea cucumbers – all you have to do is drop NParks a little email at Intertidal_Watch@nparks.gov.sg.

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See you there! (Photo: Gwendolyn Chow)

Words by: Qiu Jiahui

 

BES Drongos is 3!

How time flies! It seems like just yesterday when the idea of having a nature guiding group was conceived by a few Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) undergraduates wanting to share their love for nature with the public. 3 years down the road and having trained generations of BES students, let us now take a trip down memory lane to see how BES Drongos has grown over the years.

Follow that monkey?

Ever wondered how our namesake came about? Well, we named ourselves after the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), one of a few iconic birds in the Central Catchment area. These birds are extremely intelligent, with the ability to mimic the alarm calls of other birds so as to scare them away and steal the food left behind by them. Sneaky, but also really clever, aren’t they?

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Greater Racket-tailed Drongo on Petai trail (Photo: Nicholas Lim)
First trail

Our first ever public trail launch on 4 October 2014 was rained out on; what a way to begin! Nevertheless, our opening weekend on 11 and 12 October 2014 received fabulous support. Since then, Drongos has reached out to more than 500 participants over 3 years, and we certainly hope to see more of you at our trails!

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Opening weekend trail on 12 October 2014 (Photo: Jacqueline Chua)
Conservation booths

Besides bringing people close to nature, we have also brought nature closer to people. Drongos has regularly held conservation booths to showcase our local biodiversity to the masses. With specimens from the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, the public has never failed to be amazed by what’s out there in the wild in Singapore.

On the web

Apart from physical outreach, we believe in the power of social media to garner support for our cause. Our Drongos don’t just guide; many have different talents in photography, drawing and writing!

Below we present to you a small selection of artwork by our resident artists, but be sure to check out our Facebook page and WordPress for more amazing content!

What’s next?

Over the years, the Drongos flock has expanded, with volunteer guides from all batches of BES. We are also currently training up a new batch of guides, so do look forward to seeing them on our trails!

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Drongos flock at the beginning of 2017 (Photo: Nicholas Lim)

Looking forward, we are excited to be taking part in more outreach events to bring our love for nature to more people. For one, BES Drongos will be taking part in the NParks Parks Festival 2017 at Pasir Ris Park taking place on 28 October. We also have 2 more public trails happening on 21 October and 4 November, so do sign up for an enriching time with us!

With that, our #throwback is over but we look forward to many more great years ahead for BES Drongos. And we certainly hope YOU will be a part of this exciting journey ahead!

Words by: Angela Chan

Header illustration by: Ashley Tan