Monday, February 13, 2012

Things We Find in the Woods Part Ten

Field work is in full swing, and that means ample opportunities to see neat new nature and wildlife! First of all, how about this super weird thing we saw in the water at Pulau Ubin?! It was long and squiggly and undulated all over the place. At first it looked like a long pink ribbon drifting through the water, but a closer look revealed that it was generating its own rhythmic movements. I think it's some kind of sea worm, but I couldn't find any more information about it in my handy dandy Singapore Biodiversity Encyclopedia.
I've never seen a sea creature that looks like a ribbon dancer!

Speaking of things that squirm and slither, how about THIS thing?! It's a terrestrial flatworm. Yes, that orange thing is its head. As my supervisor so accurately stated, "That thing looks like something out of X-Files." True. It behaves strangely too, eating up earthworms like they're going out of style!
Probably the weirdest wildlife I've seen in SE Asia. About 15 cm long.

At first we weren't seeing many snakes, but one day at Bukit Timah I saw an elegant bronzeback. I love those snakes - they're long and super skinny, and they're harmless, so I feel pretty safe observing them.
Who can resist this cute little guy?!

My bronzeback sighting seems to have broken our snake dry spell, because the next week we had a two-snake day! First I spotted this guy in the weeds off the trail. He's the venomous Wagler's pit viper, so we gave him a wide berth and moved on.
Not a great picture, but you get the idea!

A couple of hours later, I found ANOTHER snake. And guess what! It was a snake I've never seen before! When I first spotted its bright colors, I definitely thought it was venomous, but then I remembered a little rhyme my dad learned in the army,

Red to yellow, kill a fellow
Red to black, friend of Jack

I'm not sure if it's 100% accurate, but in this case, it was right. This red-to-black reptile is the harmless twin-barred tree snake, which is capable of gliding through the air, just like the paradise tree snake!
A NEW SNAKE!!! HOORAY! I wish Bryan could've seen it!

OK, I made it halfway through a nature post without mentioning monkeys. That's the best I can do. So. One day in MacRitchie we encountered a group of monkeys we'd never followed before. We'd been around them for about 5 minutes when they started alarm calling. That usually means that there's some kind of threat around - if the monkeys aren't habituated to people, they might alarm call at them. They also alarm call at other groups of monkeys and a variety of potential predators, including dogs, snakes, crocodiles, large monitor lizards, birds of prey, and more. We were pretty sure that we weren't the source of their distress, so we started looking around for what they were all worked up about. We didn't see anything, but the alarm calling went on and on for about a half an hour. We finally saw the root of all the excitement when this guy lumbered slowly around the bend in a little forest stream!!!
He was HUGE!
He was bigger than an adult monkey. I don't blame them for alarm calling!

If you know me well, you probably know that I ADORE turtles. They're probably my favorite animal after monkeys. Singapore has lots of red-eared sliders, but unfortunately I haven't observed many other turtles in the wild here, so this was really a treat. I think this is a Malayan flat-shelled terrapin, but I could be wrong, so any other suggestions are welcome!

Up until a few months ago, Singapore had a railway that connected to Malaysia (read a neat blog post about it here). The train tracks ran right next to Bukit Timah, and there were lots of fruit trees along the tracks, so the monkeys spent a lot of time there munching on fruits. When the train service stopped, Singapore decided to remove the tracks, and there's discussion of turning the old rail path into a green corridor (hooray!). I followed the monkeys to the site of the old tracks one day, and was astonished to see how well the land had recovered from the tracks. It looks like there was never anything there!! The section of tracks in the photo was left behind presumably because it runs across an overpass and would have been more difficult to remove.
Hard to believe trains were running here 6 months ago!

Of course, no nature post is complete without monkey photos! The road that leads up to the Visitor Center at Bukit Timah recently had new drains installed and the monkeys discovered that the drains make an excellent fort! They played in them for hours, popping in one hole and out the other, tackling each other, and wrestling.
Check out mah new FORT!
Go find your OWN playhouse. This one belongs to the Hindhede monkeys!

Watch out for lots more wildlife posts in the months ahead!


  1. The last two photos are so cute. I look forward to the wildlife posts :)

    1. Thanks! Bryan took those photos. I think they're super cute!

  2. How interesting to see your photo of the pink ribbon worm. Thanks for sharing this! I've seen these crawling on mud but not seen them swimming! More about the worm

    1. Thanks, Ria! I looked on Wild Singapore but couldn't find what I was looking for, because I had no idea what these things were! Searching "pink wormy thing" doesn't always get you where you need to be, haha.

  3. I know you love turtles, so I don't mean to disturb you, but I saw one on the street... it had been crushed by a car. What a turtle was doing in my residential neighborhood in Singapore I will never know, but it was really sad. And just strange.

    1. Sad face! Unfortunately lots of people buy turtles as pets and then release them into the wild when they realize how much work they are (the released turtles often die). Also, releasing turtles and other wildlife is sometimes part of a religious ritual. And of course, the turtle may have just wandered into your neighborhood from somewhere a little more wildlife friendly. It could have been any of those things...but it sure is sad.

      By the way, we saw a photo of Jeff on an ad in Holland Village! It was pretty surprising to come face to face with him, haha!