Thursday, December 2, 2010

First field survey at Sungei Buloh (2 Dec 10)

Today is the FIRST field session of the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey! And a very enthusiastic team from all walks of life have gathered at Sungei Buloh to check out the mudflats there.
All ready for muddy action!

Mudflats are very important habitats for all kinds of animals. Such as shorebirds like the pretty white egrets that were foraging on the mudflats today at Sungei Buloh. Although we may not think icky worms are fun, they are the reason why other more attractive wildlife can be found in our shores.
Vast mudflats at the ponds near the Main Hide.
At the Visitor Centre, there is a display showing all the yummy bird food found in the mudflats. The different kinds of shorebirds have different types of bills to catch different prey. So the same mudflat can feed a wide variety of animals. Today, we are going to get a glimpse of what lives in these mudflats!

Before we start, we have a little safety briefing. Safety is a big priority for our field sessions. Then as we head out, various hazards are pointed out to us. THERE, for example, is the crocodile! It is lurking close to our survey site. But Sungei Buloh staff are at hand to keep a watch on it.
And HERE, is the highly venomous Mangrove pit viper! It looks just like a mangrove branch or root, so we have to be careful where we put our hand.
The viper hardly moves so it's hard to spot!
Everyone has a closer look at the pit viper.
It's a very short walk to our survey site. We carefully make our way down onto the mudflats.
The mudflat is full of life! It is dotted everywhere with tiny little Red berry snails! Also, lots and lots of tiny crabs. The trees are full of snails as well! So we try not to trample while we work.
Dr Tan Koh Siang and his able team from the Tropical Marine Science Institute tell us how to do the survey.
Here's all our tools! We have spades to dig out the mud, which we carefully put into a sieve and wash in the water nearby to get whatever is living in the mud.
We split up into teams of two or three.
Swee Cheng lays out the transect line near the water line. Being near the water makes it easier to wash away the mud in the sieve.
Near the water line, the mud is much much softer! Linda gives a helping hand to make sure everyone gets down safely.
As we work furiously, a Malayan water monitor is nearby trying very hard to eat a dead fish it has found. It is totally ignoring the busy team. Amazing!
It started to drizzle just as we began. But this didn't stop the determined team. We just put on our ponchos and got to work!
Here's the teams lined up along the transect line.
It's hard work mucking in the mud.
Especially with Jonathan taking real close up photos of you.
A determined family working hard in the drizzle.
It's back breaking work, the Heppells later tell me. I agree! So bravo to everyone!
A big problem with soft mud is that you can get stuck in it. Linda and Jonathan show us how to get out of a sticky situation.
You can use a wide bucket to distribute your weight on the soft mud and crawl out. Or as Jonathan shows, you can walk on your knees.
And here's some of the critters we found!
We take a short break while Dr Tan shares about some of our finds. We've found interesting stuff including some fascinating clams with eyes!
Ooo, and what is this?

We try to take a pretty photo of them in clean seawater. It's a bit hard to make mud creatures look nice. Among some of the finds, we have a green segmented bristleworm (Dr Tan explains it is because it has copper in its blood), with pink bristleworms (because they have iron in their blood). Also many long unsegmented pink Ribbon worms, some flatworms. Many different kinds of snails, little hermit crabs, also a tiny tiny horseshoe crab. Dr Tan suggests these animals look better in a video. Linda took some clips.
Bravo, Peanut worms have been found! These are yet another kind of unsegmented worm which are quite relished by animals. They look like delicious sausages. In fact, some humans eat them, and peanut worms were once so plentiful in Singapore that they were collected and fed to ducks. While we were looking them, one of peanut worms squirted out a dark fluid from its rear end. We're not sure whether it's poop or some sort of defensive substance.
Another fascinating find at the line was this fish. It looks like the Estuarine moray eel. Eels have a pair of tubular nostrils and tiny eyes. This fish is a predator with many sharp teeth in its mouth.
See the tiny tubular nostrils?

Alas, while we were making our second foray into the mud, the weather turned for the worst. Lightning in the distance, and Big Rain swept in over the work site. We quickly washed up at the water points so kindly provided by Sungei Buloh. This is royal treatment which we appreciate very much. We cannot enjoy such luxury at other sites!
What luxury! Washing up water, and tables and chairs!
Back at the Visitor Centre, we have another round of washing up, in the rain!
The rain has its uses though, a free bootie auto wash!
Despite the rain and the hard work, everyone was in high spirits at the end of the trip. What a great team! And thanks also to the wonderful support from Sungei Buloh!

Check out Rene's great photos of our session on the Mega Marine Survey flickr group.

There's more work to be done after the field session, to process, sort and identify all these fascinating creatures. Look out for more news on how you can help out in this as well.

Our next sessions is at Kranji mangroves on 15 Jan (Sat) afternoon. To join us, register your interest in this form and you'll be invited to join the mailing list to receive updates on the Survey and sign up for Survey activities.

Also check out our FAQs for more about the Survey.

To find out more about our common mangrove wildlife, check out the online Guide to the Mangroves of Singapore and the wildsingapore wild fact sheets.


  1. Nice... Now I can tell people that Singapore has moray eels! :)

  2. Nice pictures... enjoyed the experience and will be back for the next dig & sieve.


Related Posts with Thumbnails