Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Creepy Crawly Day at SBWR

Bryan got a new tripod recently, and we decided to go to Sungei Buloh to test it out.  After our awesome luck with wildlife spotting the last time we were there, we were hopeful about seeing some exciting stuff.  I got a little carsick on the taxi ride over, so just inside the reserve, we sat down at the visitor centre cafe and I sipped a 100 Plus while Bryan set up the tripod to capture some water monitor action.  There were seven or eight monitors hanging around the pond next to us, and they were really active.  They kept climbing up on the wooden platforms to sun themselves, but as soon as one would get comfortable, another would come along and chase it off.  It was pretty funny to watch!

The turtle and the lizard on the left were so nice and peaceful, just basking in the sunlight.  Then this guy came along.

As if one unwanted guest wasn't enough, this guy came along to crash the party too:

By then, the original lizard had decided that her little corner of the world was getting too crowded, so she got out of there.

As it turned out, the most recent newcomer wanted the whole place to himself, so he got rid of the other guy too.  But the turtle (a red-eared slider) stayed put, never batting an eye at those big scary lizards.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the lizard antics and moved on.  As usual, there were flocks of birds around, fishing, squawking at one another, and bathing in the water.  Sungei Buloh is known for its abundance of migratory birds.

The sky was growing darker and darker as we walked along, so we started to look for a shelter to hang out in, not wanting to have a repeat of our last outing, when we got stuck in a huge storm with no shelter.  One of the neat things about the wetlands is that you can see peninsular Malaysia from there.  It looked pretty neat under the stormy sky, but the crummy lighting made it hard to get good photos.

That yellow structure there is the City Square Clock Tower in Johor Bahru.

We did find a shelter, and ducked in for awhile, hoping to avoid the impending bad weather.  I poked around the shelter while Bryan snapped photos of some birds, and I found something exciting in the corner of the roof.  Check it out!

I think this is a Singapore tarantula.  And I believe that icky white thing underneath it is an egg sac!  Apparently when those sacs open up, between 50 and 2000 itty bitty spider babies can come creeping out!  Yikes!  We stood there and watched it for quite awhile, but the hairy bugger never moved much.  I'm guessing they must stay pretty still while caring for those egg sacs.

The storm we were waiting for continued to hold out, so we left the shelter and ventured a little farther.  It wasn't long before we spotted another sizable spider.  This one's a Batik golden web spider.  We see a lot of them in the nature reserves, but this one was pretty big.

Again, a storm looked imminent, so we ducked into another shelter  to hide out for awhile.  There was a mudskipper nearby, and we had a good time watching him clean out his little mud hole.  Mudskippers hang out in these little mud circles that are filled with water in the middle.  They often disappear under water, then pop out and spit mud over the side of the hole, which is why the circles have a strange ring of mud blobs around them.
See the lovely blob of ejected mud in the middle photo?
He's an immaculate housekeeper.
Again, after hiding from rain that never quite came, we left the shelter and continued our walk.  On a somewhat lonely part of the trail where we don't run across a lot of people, we saw a big monitor along the walkway.  Sometimes they just lounge around until you get just close enough to bother them, then they leap up and flick their tails and rush off, making a load of noise and scaring you out of your wits.  I'd had this happen a few times, so I was approaching cautiously, not wanting to get clipped with that whip-like tail.  But as I crept closer and closer, the lizard remained absolutely still.  Bryan thought it was dead, but as we watched it, we could see it breathing in and out, ever so slowly.  We walked right past it on the trail, within inches of it, and it never moved a centimeter.  It looked perfectly healthy other than the fact that it wasn't moving, so I couldn't help but wonder if it had been somehow stunned, maybe by a snake bite.  It was very unusual.

Other odds and ends along the trail included a bright red dragonfly, a slimy snail, and some pretty views.

We headed out of the park right around closing time, and as usual, a huge water monitor popped out of nowhere and scared me half to death.  I don't think I've ever been to Sungei Buloh without having a monitor blindside me.  This one lumbered across my path just as I walked out of the bathroom by the visitor centre.  I guess I thought our nature experience was over for the day, but I was wrong.  I would be proved wrong again one last time.

Public transportation out to the park is a little infrequent- it's serviced only by one bus that comes about once every half hour- and taxis are reluctant to go all the way up there, so far out of the way.  So when we saw the bus breeze by just as we approached the bus stop, we decided to walk to a busier bus stop, and to try  to catch a taxi along the way.  It was a pleasant evening, and the walk was nice.  There were loads of bright orange male changeable lizards, and we having fun zigzagging across the empty road, shouting, "THERE'S ONE!!!!"  Eventually we made it to a busier crossroad, and we continued to walk along, looking for a bus stop, as there weren't any taxis around.  As we strolled along the grassy side of the road, I spotted what appeared to be a large tree branch a little ways ahead, right in our path.  We moved closer and it suddenly dawned on me that that was no tree branch.  My throat constricted with fear and excitement and I flung an arm out in front of Bryan and gasped, "SNAKE!  Biiiiiiiiiiig snake.  PYTHON!!!"  I couldn't BELIEVE it.  It was HUGE!!!  And it wasn't moving....

We inched closer a little at a time, and eventually surmised that the snake was dead, although it hadn't been dead long- aside from the dull eyes and a strange kink in its body, it actually looked all right.  It was probably hit by a car.  It was indeed a reticulated python, and it was probably somewhere between five and six feet long- a big snake for sure.  Even though it was dead, it was exciting to see one.  Although they're apparently somewhat common in Singapore (and apparently live in drains, often close to humans), they're nocturnal, and neither Bryan or I have ever laid eyes on one in the wild.  Neat!

So we had a day full of bugs, snails, spiders, lizards, and snakes!  Every little boy's dream!  And this 25-year-old girl's...

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