Tuesday, 12 January 2016

NSS Kids’ Fun with Nature at Gardens by the Bay (Singapore)

By Gloria Seow, Education Group Chairperson
Photos by Gloria Seow & Lena Chow

One sunny morning on 18 January 2014, Auntie Lena led us on an exploration of the verdant manicured grounds of the Gardens by the Bay (located off Marina Gardens Drive in Singapore). Starting at Satay by the Bay, we came across a small group of photographers who were pointing their ‘big guns’ at a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds sipping nectar from banana flowers. Soon after, we spied a beautiful male Pink-necked Green Pigeon perched directly above us, resplendent in its pinks and oranges.

We spied a beautiful male Pink-necked Green Pigeon resplendent in its pinks and oranges.

From a distance, we saw a big black bird land on a treetop. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be a male Asian Koel. Auntie Gloria guided the group to look out for the Koel’s pale green bill, red eyes and longish tail, three distinct features that separate it from the similar-looking House Crow. The kids then learnt that the Asian Koel is a brood parasite of the House Crow. When the Crow is away from its nest, the Koel deftly displaces the Crow’s eggs and lays its eggs as substitutes. The Crow then unwittingly brings up the offspring of the Koel. As a result, the population of the Asian Koel has grown at the expense of the House Crow. The Koel is also infamous for being Singapore’s unofficial ‘alarm clock’, with its ascending ‘koel koel’ call often emitted in the wee hours of the morning. 

At the pond area, we spotted the skulking movements of the White-breasted Waterhen. The bird could be seen weaving in and out of the tall foliage in search of its next meal. Auntie Lena’s keen eyes then found a statuesque Striated Heron fishing by the water’s edge. Its poised stillness afforded us excellent views through our binoculars.

Kids examining an Apple Snail up close.
At another pond, the kids were delighted to see the pinkish eggs of the Apple Snail. Soon enough, Auntie Gloria fished out an adult Apple Snail from the pond for all to take a closer look. By then, the slimy snail had retreated into its shell, and all we could see was its closed operculum. Auntie Lena also brought our attention to dragonflies such as the Crimson Dropwing, Common Scarlet, and Common Parasol as well as tiny damselflies called Blue Sprites and Bluetails. 

We stumbled upon a Zebra Dove sitting quietly on the ground.

As we approached a grassy patch, we found two species of Munias – Scaly-breasted and Black-headed – foraging on grass seeds. As the day warmed up, Auntie Lena was quick to point out butterflies such as the Plain Tiger, Painted Jezebel and Striped Albatross. She then showed us popular butterfly nectar plants such as the Ixora, as well as different species of Lantana that came in a multitude of colours. We also examined the attractive red buds of the Red Button Ginger also known as the Scarlet Spiral Flag.

We came across a fish tank filled with giant fishes from the Amazon River in South America such as the Arapaima, Pacu and Amazonian Catfish. At the pond just outside the fish tank, we found a pair of Collared Kingfishers perched on open branches. Their pretty blue plumages drew sighs of admiration. We even spotted the invasive American Bullfrog here. 

Sadly, we spotted a huge specimen of the invasive American Bullfrog.

On the walk back, we stumbled upon a Zebra Dove sitting quietly on the ground, probably just after enjoying a sand bath. Through our binoculars, we could clearly see the bird’s powder blue eye ring contrasting with its black eyes. We then parted ways at the main visitor centre. A few of us continued the walk back to Satay by the Bay. This was when Auntie Gloria found two Changeable Lizards before finally spotting the alien Brown Anole, a native lizard of the Caribbean. It was likely introduced to Gardens by the Bay via imported plants and appears to be slowly spreading elsewhere. We hope that NParks will do something to stop this imminent threat to native biodiversity.

The alien Brown Anole was introduced to Gardens by the Bay via imported plants.

No comments: