It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever guided. My little audiences, the children present on 29 March 2009 for my botany and wildlife walk at the Lower Pierce Reservoir, were both knowledgeable and inquisitive. Auntie Gloria and the Education Group led a simultaneous birding session with helpers like Uncle Si Guim, Auntie Lena, Uncle Benjamin and Auntie Luyan.
Barely taller than the children he guided, Leshon gave a briefing before we started out. Photo by Goh Si Guim.
We started off at the Casuarina entrance of the Lower Pierce boardwalk, strolling along the Hevea Trail where I pointed out plants like the spiny-trunked Nibong (Oncosperma tigillarium), and talked about its traditional use as construction material for fishing stakes in kelongs, once the trunks have been stripped of their black spines. We also came across the Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis), which has leaflets shaped like fishtails, looking as if they had been eaten before by some animal. This is the plant’s defense strategy against herbivores, as typically, animals avoid eating leftovers too! This palm also has a unique flowering pattern – the first flowering cluster emerges at the top of a mature palm, with subsequent clusters appearing below this level and so on. After the final flowering cluster, which sprouts near the ground, the palm dies.
The kids learnt about how the Nibong can be stripped of its spines to be used as construction material for fishing stakes in kelongs. Photo by Leshon Lee.
A spider breakfasting on a juvenile forest cockroach. Photo by Gloria Seow.
Lots of kids were inspired by Leshon's nature knowledge. Photo by Gloria Seow.
We emerged from the forested trail to the scenic views of the Lower Pierce Reservoir where the boardwalk continued along the water edge. Over here, Auntie Gloria and the other guides pointed out birds like soaring White Bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites, and showed the kids through the scope, close-up views of an Oriental Honey Buzzard, a Purple Heron, Blue-tailed Bee Eaters, and the highlight of a Changeable Hawk Eagle at its nest, first spotted by Uncle Si Guim. We were indeed lucky to find four raptors in one morning!
We also passed mischievous Long-tailed Macaques and Plantain Squirrels scurrying along the trees, observed a jumping spider and its leaps, and witnessed another spider breakfasting on a juvenile forest cockroach. All in all, we had a wonderful time.
Leshon, possibly Singapore's youngest nature guide, with his 500mm camera around his neck. Photo by Lena Chow.