It’s just been slightly more than two months into 2017 but we’ve had so much going on! Three walks have already been concluded, and we’ve also had a booth at the Biodiversity Roadshow in NUS. But apart from all the guiding action, BES Drongos has also undergone several revamps!
Our flock has expanded!
As with every new semester, BES Drongos has recruited new members to join our flock. This time, we have a record addition of 15 new Dronglets into our BES Drongos family!
Our new guides have been all trained up, and are ready to put up a good show for you. Do join us in our remaining walks to catch both them and our more senior guides in action!
Besides guides, we have also formed up a new writing team and photography team to bring you more insights into our biodiversity and all the action happening at our walks, so stay tuned!
A brand new committee
Just like ecological succession in our forests, change in leadership is also a natural progression for us here at BES Drongos. With committee handovers completed, a new team is born! We have a diverse team comprised of Drongos from Year 1 all the way to Year 3, and we sure hope this diversity will give BES Drongos a breath of fresh air!
Presenting, the BES Drongos Committee 2017/18:
President: Lee Juin Bin
Vice President: Sandra Chia
Secretary: Chow Tak Wei
Volunteer Manager(s): Sara Choo & Chua Ying Zhi
Research and Training Head: Quek Xiao Tong
Publicity Officer(s): Angela Chan, Ashley Tan and Nicholas Lim
With new blood and a new team, we are definitely stoked for what’s ahead, and we hope you are too!
In August, the BES Drongos recruited six new members into our cause. After a training phase marred by the dreaded return of hazy weather, we are glad to announce that our newly joined members are ready to step up as Drongos!
Following traditional norms, the journey of our new Dronglets began with a class held by Training Head Emmanuel, where they were introduced to the various elements of the guided trail. The Dronglets were then led by Senior Drongos on their first steps into the Petai Trail, where they could finally see and appreciate the flora and fauna they have learnt in class.
However, learning is better gained from practice, and mastery can only follow when put to the test. The final step for our Dronglets was a proficiency test where they were assessed on their knowledge mastery and presentation fluency. Held over 2 days, 23rd September and 4th October, the test involved the Dronglets identifying and presenting their stations without assistance from their seniors. This led to some humorous situations where stations were accidentally forgotten by the Dronglets and left behind (our examiners remained silent INTENTIONALLY)!
The Dronglets were also in great luck as they saw some really fascinating wildlife. On the first test date, the test participants and examiners were treated to some thrilling (and dangerous) moments when a large Malayan water monitor lizard was observed chasing 2 other smaller monitors away from a dense undergrowth of branches and roots. It is likely that the female was being protective of her nest in the messy clump, which would indicate the presence of monitor eggs.
A nest of termites was also seen relocating across the boardwalks, allowing freelance photographer Nicholas to utilise his macro lens to astounding effects.
The first test date was concluded on a high when a magnificent Stork-billed Kingfisher was also observed roosting above the water near the Petai Hut!
The day of the second test was equally fascinating. This time, the Dronglets witnessed a nightmarish scene, where a much larger swarm of termites were relocating using woody lianas and the boardwalk’s hand-railings. Things took a happier turn when a green-coloured cicada was observed perching on a nearby tree.
The walk back to the Mushroom Café upon the completion of the second day of testing revealed something adorable! A juvenile Clouded monitor lizard was seen hiding in a tree-hole just beside the concretised path. Most of the passers-by failed to notice it until the Drongos began snapping away with their professional DSLRs. A small crowd then began to form to observe the monitor lizard (which no longer seemed to be camera-shy and was becoming quite used to its job as our ‘model’). Such in situ observations of wildlife is pretty rare, and the public’s silent amazement could be felt even as we focused on photographing the lizard.
Thus concludes the graduation of our 6 Dronglets into Drongos! It is hoped that this period of training will have sparked our new Drongos on an eye-opening journey not just into the natural world of MacRitchie Reservoir, but to the entire natural heritage of Singapore. After all, the best tool a guide can have is experience, which is priceless and irreplaceable.
That’s’ all folks! So keep an eye out for our newest guides on the trail!
Our public walks are right around the corner, and we have been tirelessly retraining our volunteer teams over the past two weekends to provide higher quality guiding for all of you. A lot has changed along the Petai Trail, with new additions and some passings, so come with us to know even much more!
A delightful sight
For the first time on the Petai Trail, we caught sight of the Malayan Flying Lemur (Galeopterus variegatus), which is a misnomer for not only is not a lemur, it also does not fly! The more accurate common name is the Sunda Colugo. The Sunda colugos are usually mottled grey in colour but color variants exists. The one we documented is a brown variant with reddish to orange brown fur. Feel free to share your photos with the BES Drongos if you have seen any colugos along the Petai Trail!
Follow that monkey, indeed
The namesake of our guiding group, the greater racket-tailed drongos (Dicrurus paradiseus), were sighted following a group of macaques around. When it comes to food, these extremely intelligent birds have a few tricks up their wings!If you are wondering why they do that, you can check out our previous post to learn more about these clever and sneaky creatures!
Eulogies to our glorious Asam tree
Over the course of the past few months, we have seen a rise in the number of trees that have succumbed to termites’ insatiable demand for wood. The magnificent Asam gelugur (Garcinia atroviridis) has its bark stripped off and branches bare, although it still looks undeniably beautiful. We here at Drongos are going to miss telling how the ripe fruits of this tree, ‘Asam Keping’, are used in making our yummy curries. Both the massive Chestnut tree (Castanopsis schefferiana) and the endemic bat laurel (Prunus polystachya) tree were also severely damaged by the termites which come and go, leaving only wreckage and darkbrown trails of their poop!
Many people still do not know how to differentiate termites from ants, but we don’t blame them. They look remarkably similar and their size range is comparable to ants. However, termites are in fact more closely related to cockroaches (order Blattodea) than ants (order Formicidae)!
If you wish to know more about them, simply come on any of our trails. Don’t hover over the sign up link there (→) anymore – click it, you won’t regret it! Even our BES freshmen of class 2019 who joined us had fun! And when you see us on the Petai Trail and are interested to share with other people about our guided walks, feel free to ask us for a name card freshly printed for you!
Check out our flickr page for more photos taken by our photographers Jacqueline Chua, Emmanuel Goh, Teo Rui Xiang and myself, Aw Jeanice!
The BES Drongos adventures on the Petai Trail and more!