Tag Archives: rattan

Toddycats and Drongos Unite!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

For more photos, check out our Flickr albums!

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First Flock Session

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

Branded Imperial (Eooxylides tharis distanti)

This Branded Imperial Butterfly (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.

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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.

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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?

Golden silk orb spider

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.

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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!

Sweat Bees (Nomia sp.)

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.

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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