Monday, March 7, 2011

Kent Ridge Park and More More More

Last weekend Bryan and I continued our conquest of Singapore's nature parks by checking out Kent Ridge Park, near NUS.  We took a bus to near there and ended up roaming around and coming in what was the back end of the park.  On the way in, there were lots of lovely flowers.
Remember Koosh balls?
These flowers look plastic

The park was quiet for a weekend- Bryan and I were the only ones around.  The entrance we came in was next to two small ponds, busy with birds, turtles, and squirrels.  We were surprised by how friendly this little bird was- he perched calmly between us and a plantain squirrel as Bryan snapped away with the camera.
Oriental magpie robin
Chillaxin' red-eared sliders

Eventually we moved onto a path and started making our way through the park.  Bryan spotted this slimy little slug/snail (snug? slail?) on the underside of a leaf.  It looked like he was just starting to form a shell.  His shell looked like a toenail- ick!
Slimeball

As usual, Bryan and I were playing the lizard game, and he was in the lead (for once, haha).  He spotted this bright orange changeable lizard, showing off his fancy getup.

At the end of the path we were on was a nice overlook, with a view of the sea.  It was a stiflingly hot day and we were excited when we saw a pop machine (sorry Singaporeans, I mean a *soda* machine).  An ice cold drink sounded perfect!  Too bad we didn't have any change.  Instead we stared longingly at the refreshing drinks.  And took pictures.
So close...but so far

Nearby was a stand of trees where Bryan spotted a flying dragon (he was on a roll, what can I say?). "Sumatran flying dragon" is still one of my favorite names in the animal kingdom.  SUMATRAN FLYING DRAGON calls to mind some fire-breathing behemoth with big, bony wings, soaring over mountains and terrorizing villages.  Instead it's a wimpy little lizard that hides behind a tree branch if you get too close.
Should probably be called "wimpy gliding lizard"

In a pavilion in the stand of trees, we discovered a wealth of insect life.  Bustling ants were struggling with the herculean task of carrying a caterpillar up a wall.  Pretty impressive.  Farther down the wall, a smaller group was hauling a beetle, and near them was what I think was a scorpion spider, but I'm not sure.  I need to make friends with an arachnologist.
Teamwork
Ant dinner
Scorpion spider?

We decided to check out the canopy walk. I always enjoy canopy walks, because it's interesting to get a different perspective on the forest- to be up in the trees with the birds and butterflies, looking down on the forest floor.  Although this one wasn't very long, it didn't disappoint. In a short period of time, we saw dragonflies, butterflies, birds, and even monkeys!  This first bird was interesting- it had a patch of bright red on its rump.  I don't remember having seen it before, and I couldn't find it on the Singapore birds website.  Maybe I need to befriend an ornithologist too. (Thanks to Nikita Hengbok, I can tell you that this is a female scarlet-backed flowerpecker. Thanks!)

There was a group of four monkeys hanging out on the narrow walkway.  It was kind of an unusual group: two large males, an adult female, and an adolescent male.  I couldn't help but wonder whether the rest of their group was hanging around somewhere in the distance.  The ones we encountered were certainly active.  The female was pulling on branches to munch their young leaves, and the young male was racing back and forth between the other three monkeys, pulling tails, wrestling, jumping, swinging, and generally acting like an overly caffeinated 6-year-old boy.  The larger of the two big males was clearly in charge, and whenever he would get close to the other adult male, the poor thing would cower and crouch down and fear grin exaggeratedly.  The adolescent seemed to enjoy the protection of the top dog, so he frolicked around, pestering the crap out of the other adult male.  Whenever the alpha turned away, the adult male turned on the little guy, squeezing his face and pinning him to the ground, all while keeping a watchful eye on the alpha.  It reminded me of my big brother Kevin, poking me repeatedly in the forehead while watching my mom intently to make sure he wasn't caught in the act.  That's OK though, because I always got him back by screaming "MOM!  KEVIN'S HITTING ME!" at random points throughout the day, even when Kevin was doing something like quietly playing video games while I colored.  Then I'd suppress my laughter while she yelled at him.  Ah, the innocence of youth.  Anyway, the macaques seemed to be acting much like my older brothers and me.
Mmmm....leaves
Er...just let me get out of your way, sir!
Hangin' out...this monkey looks like it's doing the happy baby yoga pose!
Monkey Battle

Somehow, amid all the action and monkey chaos, Bryan managed to get this artsy photo of a macaque hand, with a flower petal lightly resting on her fingertips.  I like it so much I want to frame it and hang it on the wall!


After spending quite a while with the monkey gang, we decided to move along.  It can be tricky to move past monkeys on a confined space like a bridge or a walkway because it's easy to get trapped and to not be able to give the monkeys the wide berth that you should usually give them.  But we cautiously squeezed by them and moved along.  The rest of the canopy walk was a little dull after the monkey excitement, but we still saw some neat stuff, like this shiny dragonfly and this fun staghorn fern.
Pretty dragonfly
Gotta love an epiphytic fern!

When we came out the end of the canopy walk, we were right in front of a little museum called Reflections at Bukit Chandu.  Admission was only S$5, so we decided to pop in and check it out.  I was immediately glad, but I have to admit that my first impression was pretty much based on how fantastic the air-conditioning felt after having walked out in the heat for hours.  After basking in the delicious processed air for a few seconds I started to actually notice my surroundings.  The museum was small, dim, and full of World War II memorabilia. Before we had much time to process it, a kindly Muslim woman was hustling us up some stairs to watch some sort of "multisensory presentation."  The presentation told the story of a small but heroic Malay regiment that fought bravely and heroically against invading Japanese forces outnumbering them more than ten-to-one. The battle took place right near the museum's location.  The presentation was multisensory indeed.  Sounds of exploding mortar shells assailed our ears, lights simulated explosions, smoke machines filled the air, etc. It only lasted about 10 minutes, and then we were free to explore the rest of the museum.  I've heard the story of the Malay regiment before (in The Singapore Story) but it was touching to see actual artifacts from their valiant struggle.
Mural outside of museum
Statue outside of museum
A rather graphic battle re-creation
Air raid siren
Old-school binoculars

To me, one of the most striking things about the museum wasn't the contents but the people walking around inside.  Most of them were Singaporean and as I watched a dad talking to his two little boys about the military, I realized that this is a shared experience that all Singaporean men and boys have.  You can tell any little Singaporean boy "You'll wear a uniform like that one someday," or "Someday you'll learn to shoot a gun like that," and it's a fact.  Every Singaporean man serves two years in the military, and they know growing up that this is ahead of them.  I think that's really interesting.  And apparently I'm not the only one who's intrigued by it- the National Geographic Channel will soon be airing a special called "Every Singaporean Son," about the experiences of Singaporean men serving their compulsory military time. If you're in Singapore, it'll be on Nat Geo on Tuesday, March 8th at 9:30 PM.


After Reflections at Bukit Chandu, we went back into the sweltering jungle heat. We found a mapboard and decided to take a path that would lead us to a place called HortPark, which sounded interesting enough to me.  It was a pretty short walk to get there and I was immediately glad we'd gone.  For one thing, the path went by plenty of small, skinny trees, which meant lots of changeable lizards and a chance for me to catch up on the lizard game.

But the real treat was when we actually got there.  I'd heard of HortPark in passing before, but neither Bryan or I really knew anything about it.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that HortPark is a large gardening space, with lots of different gardening projects.  The space is unlike anything else I've seen in Singapore- there are lots of gardens with different themes.  For example, we entered through the back end, near a cluster of greenhouses full of different types of plants.  Other gardens had sculptures, ponds, vertical walls made of living plants, recycled material turned art, gazebos, and more.  The outside area around the greenhouses was lush with all kinds of flowers- roses, daisies, morning glory, and loads that I didn't recognize.  One awesome flower that I'd never seen before was the monstrous pelican flower.  We both originally thought that the pelican flower must be related to the Rafflesia, the world's largest flower, owing to its huge size and stinky aroma, for which the Rafflesia is known (Rafflesia is sometimes referred to as the "corpse flower").  Anyway, we were mistaken, but the similarity is still interesting.  The pelican flower is so named because the bud is said to look like a sleeping pelican.  I see the resemblance now, but when I first saw it, I said it looked like a human stomach.  Maybe it's good I'm not in charge of naming the flowers.
Sleeping pelican or human stomach?
Pelican flower
Size comparison: my hand vs. giant flower

I liked the pelican flower a lot, but I think my favorite thing in the park was the lush living gazebo.  It was awesome!  Branches had been carefully twisted as they grew, and contoured to a frame.  The result was this earthy structure that blends seamlessly with the greenery around it!
Bryan in the plant gazebo

The park seemed to be a great habitat for birds and butterflies, and we saw lots of both, including a spotted dove, a yellow-vented bulbul, an olive-backed sunbird (a.k.a. a yellow-bellied sunbird), and a zebra dove.
Spotted dove
Yellow-vented bulbul
Yellow-bellied sunbird female
Zebra dove all fluffed out

What with the HortPark's focus on gardening, there were loads and loads of flowers, many of which I'd never seen before.  Flowers and plants are really not my area of expertise, so I will just present some here under the catch-all category of "pretty plants!"

Pollination action shot!

Eventually we weaved our way through the park from the back all the way to the visitor centre at the main entrance.  The front entrance had a large fish pond full of koi and other brightly colored fish.  I liked the funky effect Bryan put on this photo of one of the fish.

When we finally left HortPark, Bryan and I were kind of ready to call it a day, but we didn't quite know where we were.  Somehow we ended up on a neat pedestrian bridge called Alexandra Arch.
Alexandra Arch

From Alexandra Arch, we found ourselves on a long metal walkway that weaved through more green park area.  We decided to follow it awhile to see where it led, but once you were on it, you were kind of committed for awhile, so we walked and walked and walked. But that's all right!  Because finding this little guy made it worthwhile!
Stick insect!  He was just hanging out along the railing, being awesome!
Walkway where we embarked on our unintentional adventure

After getting across the metal walkway we really didn't know where we were, and we ended up roaming awhile longer before we found Henderson Waves.  At that point we were too hungry to stop and snap photos, so we pushed on until we got to the road, where we caught a bus to Harbourfront and ate lots of delicious sushi.  Adventure accomplished!

(By the way, for those of you pulling for Bryan, he did win the lizard game that day.  But I'll get him next time).

10 comments:

  1. those were pretty amazing photos, you guys capture the beauty and awesomeness of leaves and animals..

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  2. The majority of the photo credits go to Bryan, and he says thank you!

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  3. Awesome photos! The Southern Ridges is my favorite urban walk in Singapore, and not least because it starts right from our doorsteps. We often go running to Kent Ridge and Hort Park, since they have water fountains and vending machines so we don't need to carry our water.

    I also bring our visitors to the Southern Ridges since it is a gentle introduction to Singapore wildlife --- monkeys and cicadas. Sometimes those monkeys on the treetop walk are quite aggressive if you stop or even look at them. Most of the time they are nowhere to be seen.

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  4. Thanks Tei! I remembered you saying that you and Tomi like Kent Ridge. I can't believe it took us so long to make it over there.

    The monkeys were pretty agreeable when we were there but there were some other folks there who got very very close to them to take photos and that made me nervous. I was afraid the monkeys would become aggressive and we wouldn't really have an easy way to get away from them. But it all turned out all right.

    Maybe we'll see you around Kent Ridge the next time we go!

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  6. Great entry!

    Anyway, the bird which had a patch of bright red on its rump might be a female Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/52985265@N08/5098966042/

    I saw some male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker @ around Fort Parking Park yesterday. :)

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  7. Heya, great blog and beautiful photos! Doe anyone know what the name of the beetle is that is in the photo "pollinating in action"?

    I have also seen these guys in Indonesia (pollinating same flower - some sort of Thunbergia, Thumbergia grandiflora or lauriflora?) but as yet have been unable to ID the bug and its driving e crazy. Such a beautiful beetle - could watch it pollinate for hours!

    It went from one flower to the next, and became covered in yellow pollen. On each flower it landed and climbed inside so it was almost completely hidden, then it flew back out and on to the next!

    I could have watched it all day as it fed on nectar and pollinated! I have NO IDEA what this species it but it is utterly adorable! I couldn't get a good photo of it in flight - the translucent wings were rainbow in the sunlight.

    any help on an ID greatly appreciated! :)


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  8. That's a mantis, not a stick insect.

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