The moment that you have been waiting for is finally here – you can now sign up for the new walks via Eventbrite! Our fun-loving team of volunteers are all geared up for this guiding season! We’ve been ‘camping’ at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve every weekend for the past few weeks, training our volunteer guides and making sure that the walks will be refreshing for all of you.
Take the chance to walk with us in the early morning and enjoy some fresh air. Be ready to break a little sweat and fulfill your weekly workout quota with a leisurely hike while learning interesting stories facts about the unique flora and fauna of the CCNR. The 2.5hour walk follows the Petai Trail boardwalk, which hugs the MacRitchie reservoir. For more information on the trail, click here.
Invite a friend, a colleague or your loved ones to join you on this exciting walk, we promise that the trail is suitable for all ages! Plus, it’s completely free of charge, so what are you waiting for? Sign up now, slots are filling up fast!
P.S. Trail sign-ups for October and November will be released at a later date.
The BES Drongos are back! We are here to celebrate Singapore’s big fifty with the natural heritage of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) – you can find all 50 amazing wildlife (as pictured above) in our nation’s largest nature reserve! (See, Singapore got wildlife what.)
CCNR is known as the green lung of Singapore, occupying up to 2800 hectares of lush greenery – housing a magnificent diversity of flora and fauna right at the heart of the city-state. A mixture of young and mature secondary forests, as well as retaining a small patch of virgin primary forest near MacRitchie Reservoir, CCNR is home to fascinating creatures such as the Crimson Sunbird, the slow loris, the Sunda pangolin and even the critically endangered Raffles’ banded langur.
Can you imagine a better way to celebrate national day than spending it in CCNR, walking through the verdant forests and observing dazzling flora and fauna? I can’t.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next 50 days as we bring you more interesting facts and figures on each of the fifty species – right on our Facebook page!
Also, stay tuned for more updates on the next guiding season – we are currently gearing up for public walks soon, with new stations and more entertaining stories from our guides!
Hello everyone! The BES Drongos recently conducted our last training walk before the official opening for public trail walks.
Look at all the ready faces!
As with every walk, we see different things and it’s part of the reason why these walks are exciting because you never know what you will see! Animals aren’t stationary, like many of us who constantly check the fridge for something to eat. They are in constant motion and we cannot guarantee that you will definitely see an animal during our walks. They could be sleeping, feeding, hunting for prey… at any point in time as you’re walking along the Petai Trail boardwalk, which is a singular route that you can take along the edge of the forest that will minimise your disturbance to the quiet nature reserve.
However, the wonders of reading mean that even if you could not spot them on our walks, you can read all about what it’s like to experience them here! This post is on Variable Animals, animals that you might see along the walks – but have unpredictable behaviour and roam all over the nature reserve, unlike plants which are stationary and usually can be found in the same place from one week to the next.
This is our namesake bird, the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus). These birds are common in forested areas and have two distinctive elongated tail feather bare shafts. When they are in flight, it looks like they’re being chased by a pair of carpenter bees!
We call ourselves the Drongos because these birds, like us, are both noisy and clever. They can not only mimic calls of other birds very well, they also use this unique ability to steal food from other creatures. How do they do so? Well, they can use alarm cries known to, perhaps, pigeons to scare them away, stealing what food they have left behind. Scheming, aren’t they? This looting behavior is known as kleptoparasitism.
This video below shows how a clever fork-tailed Drongo, not the same species as the ones found here, steal food from a group of Meerkats!
This is not the only interesting foraging behavior they show. They have also been seen following in the trails of troops of monkeys to eat the insects that these monkeys stir up in their wake. In fact, our slogan, “Follow that monkey” is inspired by this sneaky behavior.
The Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) is another animal that practices Kleptoparasitism and more often than not, they steal from us! I’m sure everyone has been warned of the practice not to bring along food or plastic bags on the trail (if you have not, please read our Essential Information page for trail etiquette pointers). This is because the BES Drongos, along with people who live close to the habitats of the macaques in Singapore as well as those who frequent these places, have observed the macaques’ behaviour of having their belongings snatched away by these fleet-footed creatures.
These Old World monkeys are intelligent – they have even learned to use rocks as tools to crack open the shells of crabs to eat them! This gives rise to their other common name, the crab-eating macaque. Why crabs? These macaques originally thrived in the mangroves of Singapore where crabs are a common food source. Gradually, their populations have spilled into more forested settings, like the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Macaques are also a species that like to roam around the edge of their habitat. Since Singapore’s forest cover has diminished over the years, these macaques have increasingly smaller areas to forage for food, and thus, they turn to urban areas. Many people, at the sight of an adorable-looking wild animal, reach for food to feed it. However, by regularly feeding these macaques, they have learnt to associate humans with food. Some of them have abandoned their usual foraging behaviours because humans subsidise them with food! The food you give them are not in their regular diet and might make them sick. So, the next time you are faced with a macaque, please keep your distance and refrain from feeding it!
This huge turtle you see here is the Asian Softshell Turtle (Amyda cartilaginea). This particular creature is fondly referred to as the “Mother-ship” by the BES Drongos. Why? As it is observed that wherever it goes, a trail of Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) seem to follow. It brings to mind a giant Mother-ship spaceship with the smaller spacecrafts swerving behind. DA DA DADADADAAAAADA DA…
Well, moving on…like the Red-eared Sliders, this species is not native to Singapore. It could have been brought over to Singapore to be boiled for soup. Yikes! Furthermore, since they are considered a delicacy in many Asian countries, their populations have been dropping. In fact, it is classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List. So, the next time you are at a Chinese restaurant, maybe you can order lotus root soup instead of turtle soup.
Lastly, this Common Sun Skink (Eutropis multifasciatus) is another cold-blooded creature you can often see basking under the sunlight along the boardwalk. As you can observe from this photo, they have a glossy, somewhat angular body with smaller legs. This feature, along with the fact that they have no pronounced neck, helps differentiate them from true lizards (Family: Lacertidae). They are also remarkably pretty under the morning sun with glints of auburn and bronze gleaming off their scales.
Like the “lizards” we find at home, or rather more accurately Geckos (Family: Gekkonidae), these skinks are known to practice Autotomy. Doesn’t sound familiar? Well, word comes from the Greek words “auto-“ meaning self- and “tome” meaning severing. I’m sure, all of you have seen, at one point or another, a clever gecko escaping leaving its wiggling tail behind to distract its predator. The Common Sun Skink is also known to exhibit this behavior but it doesn’t grow back perfectly. So, don’t go trying any experiments!
Well, as a familiar bunny goes, That’s all folks! I hope you have enjoyed reading about the interesting animals you can see along our trail. With the start of the Opening Walks, hopefully some of you guys will actually get to see some of these critters.
We are fullysubscribed for this season but do come and join us for our next upcoming season in January. We look forward to see you then!
This week the Drongos had some special guests with us, the Toddycats! The Toddycats are nature and environment volunteers with the upcoming Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, and they run another trail in MacRitchie, called the Venus Loop that is located further down Upper Thompson. The Toddycats also manage the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement, which was launched in response to the proposed Cross Island Line (CRL) that would cut through MacRitchie. The Toddycats hope to educate the public through their walks about the fragile ecosystem and stunning biodiversity we have here through their trails, and the Drongos are hoping to follow in their footsteps. So in a way, the Toddycats are our mentors, and we certainly learnt a lot from them on this trail.
This trail was also pretty special because it was the first time our volunteers were presenting to non-Drongos, and we are proud to say that they are shaping up to be promising guides!
However, we all certainly still had a lot to learn, as the Toddycats amazed us with their uncanny ability to spot all sorts of biodiversity along the trail. So for today’s post, there are a whole lot more animals, and we hope that with more experience we can someday be as sharp as the Toddycats in spotting such amazing creatures!
This Ornate Coraltail (Ceriagrion cerinorubellum) was flitting around near the boardwalk. The Coraltail is a damselfly, which is not the same as a dragonfly, even though they look very similar. Both dragonflies and damselflies are from the order Odonata but are generally classified into two different suborders, with dragonflies under Anisotera and damselflies under Zygoptera. The most obvious difference between dragonflies and damselflies is that damselflies have a long, slender body as compared to dragonflies, which have shorter, stockier bodies.
We were very lucky for this trail as we spotted both a Malayan Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus) and Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri )(photo below), highly venomous snakes that we had not seen since our first recce of the trail. A fun (and rather frightening) fact that we learnt from the Toddycats was that the Malayan Blue Coral Snake is also known as the Hundred Paces Snake, because its venom is so powerful that a person can only make it about a hundred paces after being bitten before they die. Ouch.
It seems that the snakes like to bask near the boardwalk because the vegetation is not as dense there and thus has more sunlight. Because venom takes a while to make, it a good thing to remember that snakes generally will not attack non-prey animals (for example, us) unless they are highly threatened or cornered, so if you ever see a snake, give it some room and back away slowly so as to not startle it. Always ensure that the snake has an escape route, and you should be fine!
Another interesting reptile we saw today was a Clouded Monitor Lizard (Varanus nebulosus), named as such because it has beautiful yellow cloud-like markings on its back. Monitor lizards are closely related to Komodo Dragons (the largest lizards in the world which grow up to 3 meters long), but thankfully all the Monitor Lizard species in Singapore are unable to grow that big.
This Common Sailor butterfly (Neptis hylas papaja) was resting on some Resam ferns (Dicranoptris linearis). Both the Common Sailor and Resam like the sun, and both are common species found on nature reserve fringes.
Speaking of butterflies, we found this fantastical caterpillar (Eudocima smaragdipicta)creature so strange that it really seems otherworldly. Other than the weird Pokémon ball-looking patterns found on its body, the oddly shaped “head” at the end of the caterpillar facing up in this photo is actually its tail! The caterpillar uses its false head to give the impression of a rearing snake as it raises its behind, serving as a defense against birds and other hungry predators.
While we are on the topic of fake snakes, we also found the flower of the Rattan Plant (above) and the resulting fruit (below). The scaly fruit develops in between the “cups” of the long, segmented flower, and the cups only fall off after the fruit is ripe, exposing the fruit bunches.
As most of us know, the main stem of the plant is often used to make furniture and other products (like canes), but did you also know that the fruit produces a red resin known as “dragon’s blood” and is often used to dye violins?
Well, that is about it for this trail! We would like to give special thanks to the Toddycats Chloe Tan, David Tan, Yi Yong, Sean Yap and Amanda Lek for taking the time to come down to our trail with us! We hope that as we develop our own stories and gain experience as guides that we will one day make you guys proud. (:
(Thanks to David Tan, Sean Yap and Samuel Chan for pointing out some initial mistakes in the post!)
Hello everyone! The Drongos have had their first guiding for our expanding flock! Due to stormy weather, our guiding session was pushed back for half an hour. Because we started a bit late, we did not manage to see as many animals as we did previously. However, it was still a very fruitful session with the flock picking up many new and fascinating stories about the trail!
Jac, the ponytailed one in blue, was our official guide. Though hoarse from all her work in the zoo, she was enthusiastic and incredibly knowledgeable throughout the trail!
These thick, woody Lianas can commonly be seen weaving through the gaps of trees. They are commonly referred to as Tarzan’s vines as you can very well imagine him swinging through the forest using one of these. OOOAAAOOOOO!
The recent wet spell seems to have resulted in a great mushroom boom, and we certainly saw a pretty big variety today! They sprouted almost everywhere: from amongst the leaf litter to rotting logs. We are not quite sure what the exact species of these shrooms are but it is better to not to pick or eat any mushrooms growing in the wild. Some mushrooms can be very poisonous (even if they look pretty familiar or tasty), so try not to eat and random mushrooms you find outside your supermarket!
This Branded ImperialButterfly (Eooxylides tharis distanti) was spotted perching picturesquely on the stem, allowing for this wonderful shot. It is a rather common sight and can be seen in gardens and parks all around Singapore.
This Hairy Clidemia (Clidemia hirta)might be a common sight along the roads of Singapore but did you know that it is an alien species? It actually originates from the American Neotropics (Mexico to Paraguay) and has invaded three continents including Africa! Its nickname, Koster’s Curse, is well-founded as it is known to grow in dense thickets and smother hence outcompeting native vegetation.
This winged fruit is from a Diterocarp (Greek for two-winged fruit)tree, likely belonging to the Seraya genus. It’s three wings help disperse the fruits so that it would not compete with the parent tree for resources such as water and sunlight. It was great fun watching these fruits spinning down like helicopters! Moreover, these tall trees are known to be keystone species, it’s effects far outweighs its abundance, serving as a home for mammals and providing food for them. Isn’t it cool how such little seeds are so important?
A Golden silk orb-weaver (Nephila pilipes) was seen hanging by sidewalk, a common sight in most nature reserves in Singapore. Surprisingly, the Golden within the name does not refer the bright yellow strips on the spider but how some threads in their web glimmer like gold in sunlight.
The Rattan (Myrialepis paradox) looks forbidding with its spiky bark but more people are familiar with it when the spikes are gone. After all, it is from this plant when our parents commonly get their canes from!
This Halictidae (Nomia sp.) or more commonly known as Sweat Bee, seems intent on gathering nectar from this Sendudok (Melastoma malabathricum). Its nickname is apt as these bees are known to be attracted to perspiration.
It was a fun, informative and wet session spent together with the flock! Do look out for our next exploits with our new flock and hopefully more sightings of animals!
Credit for the brilliant photos: Aw Jeanice, Judy Goh and Jac Chua
The BES Drongos adventures on the Petai Trail and more!