Friday, July 17, 2015

Quiet Pulau Semakau South

This is Pulau Semakau, the southern island where our incinerated waste is shipped to. The aerial image shows the actual intertidal area of Pulau Semakau.
Aerial shot of Pulau Semakau
We had a great sunrise over Pulau Semakau this morning.
Behind the mangroves of Pulau Semakau, where the birds began to wake up to a new day and the herons are flying in to feed, the Sun peeks up gently with its golden glow.
Peeking sun behind the mangroves of Pulau Semakau
The magnificent sunrise this morning send the large golden yoke up to the sky.
Rising golden yoke
The break of dawn sends many animals in the intertidal back into hiding. They are becoming more visible to aerial predators such as the terns, who were actively out hunting in a shallow lagoon in rather close proximity to me. I just stood on the spot and enjoy the "painful" moments of the birds head diving into the lagoon to make their catch. 
Apart from the aerial predators, the larger water predators are also out feeding, as I caught a glimpse of the black-tipped reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) swimming by at the edge of the shore.
Before that, we had a good working hour in the dark, where animals were less skittish.
Andy came across a fire anemone (Actinodendron arboreum), which has a nasty sting. I took some photos of it and left it alone.
Fire anemone
Closer look at those stinging tentacles of the fire anemone
A suspicious clam-like opening beneath the sand reveals a beautiful strawberry cockle (Fragum unedo), which I had initially mistaken it as a heart cockle. On one side of the cockle, it looked like a heart shape, or some may see it as wings of an angel.
Strawberry cockle, placed back where it was found
Side view
The other side
"Angel's wings", "The heart"
"The butt"
Nearby, Marcus spotted a brown sea cucumber (Bohadschia vitiensis) with is sticky white cylindrical tubes (Cuvierian tubules) being released, clearly showing its objection with us disturbing it.
Brown sea cucumber
Releasing its sticky white cylindrical tubes
Let's play spot the animal game: Can you find the animal in this picture?
Who am I?
Can't find it? Let me zoom in slightly.
No? Let's go closer.
It is actually a decorator crab and this master of disguise crab had decorated itself with sand, seaweeds and seagrass. Here is a better look at the crab when it is on the sand.
Decorator crab
Since it is the durian season, a small durian sea cucumber (Stichopus horrens) was spotted on the shore.
Durian sea cucumber
As the sun rose and the animals went to hide, I got a bit bored and tired and went back to the departure point and noticed the soldier crabs (Dotilla sp.) are out busy making fine sand ball art on the sandbar. The crabs are in various sizes and I noticed that much bigger ones are more colourful. It is very difficult to spot these tiny crabs from afar but once you are near their holes, you will be able to see movements as the crabs retracts into their burrows upon sensing incoming movements.
Soldier crab almost about to drop the sand ball
Side view
This soldier crab is bigger than the rest and less sensitive to motion. It stood motionless for us on the sand.
This long weekend, we will be exploring various parts of the shore of Pulau Semakau. The shoreline is just too long for us to over in one trip, so we had to break it up into parts.

Come back tomorrow for another intertidal adventure from another part of Pulau Semakau.
Posts by others:
Ria - Checking up on Pulau Semakau South

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Double S - Stonefish and Sekudu

Have you heard about the story of Pulau Sekudu? Or the legend of why the tiny island near Chek Jawa is named after a frog? Let me show you.
Happy frog rock on Pulau Sekudu
Though it is not very convincing, but I am sure with some creative thinking, you will be able to see a happy frog looking at you. The eye spots on this rock is not natural and it was painted on by fishermen who used to come here to fish in the past. Now, the island is under restricted access and you will need to obtain a permit.
Here is the other side of the frog rock. It looks like the frog has a moustache and missing a top hat. 
The highlight of the trip for me would definitely be the hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida) spotted by Germaine from NParks. It was her first time visiting Pulau Sekudu, have been warned many times from many people about stonefish since her undergrad years studying horseshoe crabs and today, she found the stonefish. In fact, there were two stonefish today within stone throw from each other.
Stonefish 1
Stonefish 2, slightly smaller
Obviously the stonefish weren't not happy to see us while we got excited over them. Their grumpy faces remain as grumpy as ever. The spotted of the stonefish actually reminded us to be careful when walking on the reefs. No where is safe and as you can see, the stonefish really looks like a piece of ordinary stone. Beware, they have 13 dorsal fin spines, acting like hypodermic needles that injects venom when you step on them. It is a very painful experience.
Raised dorsal fin spines
Stonefish is one very grumpy fish, staying very still and looks exactly like a rock on the reef.
Arriving pre-dawn, I did my usual route of going south then east round the island. As usual, the sea lettuce seaweed is every where on the island and it hides many tiny animals such as crabs, amphipods, isopods and many swimming anemones. The thick layer of seaweed definitely provided a good hiding place for these tiny animals.
Juvenile crab?
Swimming anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi)
In these seaweed pools, you can still find other animals such as sea cucumbers, bigger crabs, snapping shrimps.
Garlic bread sea cucumber (Holothuria scabra)
Stone crab (Myomenippe hardwickii)
Flower crab (Portunus pelagicus)
Snapping shrimp at burrow entrance
Snapping shrimp
I did not get to see the Sekudu knobbly sea stars today, which a few of my friends did encounter, but I came across one orange crown sea star, one painted sand star and a few biscuit sea stars.
Crown sea star (Aquilonastra coronata)
Crown sea star, underside
Rather injured looking painted sand star (Astropecten sp.)
Biscuit sea star (Goniodiscaster scaber)
There were a few orange-striped hermit crabs around.
Orange-striped hermit crab
Oh look, a yellow cuskeel (Dinematichthys iluocoteoides). This fish is usually very skittish and swims into hiding very quickly but today, the fish was rather friendly and stay around for some time before it decided to hide. The cuskeel looks very graceful when it swims.
Yellow cuskeel, when spotted
Closer look at the fish
Hiding cuskeel
This predawn trip works till after sunrise and all of us had enjoyed the golden hour moment on Pulau Sekudu with beautiful background of Chek Jawa, Pulau Tekong and Pengarang, Johor, with arriving planes.
Sunrise on Pulau Sekudu
After capturing that beautiful moment, which we did not enjoy yesterday at Chek Jawa, we continued our survey.
The noble volutes (Cymbiola nobilis) seems to be in egg laying season as they were seen laying eggs yesterday at Chek Jawa and today at Pulau Sekudu.
Noble volute laying eggs
Chay Hoon showed us this beautiful nudibranch, which we also saw it on our previous survey trip last year.
Cow nudibranch (Goniobranchus tumulifera)
With solitary fan green seaweed around, there will bound to be some super tiny strawberry slug (Coastasiella sp.) and I found one. They are really difficult to photograph.
Strawberry slug
On the high water mark, there are a few mangrove trees and some interesting snails can be found along the branches or leaves.
It is really a wonderful day at Pulau Sekudu, with beautiful sunrise and the special find of two stonefish. This trip is made possible with permission from NParks and I am grateful for the opportunity. Also thanks to Chay Hoon for the transport arrangements.
Until we meet again, Pulau Sekudu!
Posts by others:
Ria - Sunrise survey of Pulau SekuduKok Sheng on his FB
Marcus on his FBRussel on his FB
Ivan on his FB


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