Tuesday, 12 January 2016

NSS Kids’ Fun with Nature at Upper Seletar Reservoir


By Gloria Seow, Education Group Chairperson

Photos by Gloria Seow and Lena Chow

 

What could be more inspiring than a nature walk for kids led by a fellow kid, in this case 11-year old Mark Strange? We were not disappointed as Mark bravely took his peers and their caregivers in a fun romp through Upper Seletar Reservoir on 28 June 2014.

 


The white fibre or kapok in Malay of the Kapok Tree was used to stuff pillows and mattresses in the past.
We began at the 30-m tall Kapok Tree (Ceiba pentandra) located just behind the toilets at Car Park B. This is a magnificent heritage tree registered with NParks, which means that it is protected with lightning conductors. Kids became fascinated as Mark pointed out the many fat thorns growing out from the Kapok’s trunk, as well as its massive buttress roots. The Kapok’s claim to fame lies in its large fruit pods that split when ripe to release white fibres and black seeds. Called kapok in Malay, the white fibre was used to stuff pillows and mattresses in the past. We also observed large numbers of Cotton Stainer Bugs (Dysdercus decussatus), both adults and nymphs, clambering up and down the fallen fruits.

 


A miniature fig wasp with a patch of yellow can be seen just above the centre dark area.
A figging Fig tree caught our attention next. It was cloaked in tiny orange figs clustered brightly on low-hanging branches. Mark plucked off one of these figs, squished it open to show us its enclosed flowers, and promptly found a miniature fig wasp inside! Kids learnt that female wasps are the sole pollinators of figs as they squeeze their way in through a tiny opening at the bottom of each fig, to lay their eggs within. Plenty of birds such as the Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis), White-vented Mynas (Acridotheres javanicus) and Pink-necked Green Pigeons (Treron vernans) were seen feasting away at the figging tree.

 

Auntie Lena then pointed out the hairy leaves and fruits of the invasive Hairy Clidemia (Clidemia hirta) originating from Central and South America. Kids and their parents were invited to sample the purplish fruit which can be made into a syrup. This immediately triggered a stampede with children competing to find as many of the berries as possible. Some even whipped out plastic bags to take their harvest home. As we trundled along, Auntie Lena also showed us a number of forest butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies.

 


Kids were so taken by the taste of the Hairy Clidemia’s fruit that they competed to harvest as many of the berries as possible.
We came across many Macaranga saplings lining the forest edge. Auntie Gloria said that they had a symbiotic relationship with certain ants. The ants feed on the starch grains and live in the hollow twigs of the sapling, offering it protection from other herbivorous insects in return. Eight out of the 11 species of Macaranga found in Singapore are ant hosts.

 
A juvenile Field Frog, well camouflaged against the mottled brown of the forest floor.
Entering the forest proper, we were teased by the darting flight of the Common Faun (Faunis canens) as it zig-zagged down the leaf-padded path. The short trail ended in a clear stream. Here, we spotted an adult and juvenile Field Frog, well camouflaged against the mottled brown of the forest floor. We were immensely thrilled to come across a 1.5 m long Black Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana). The snake was first found with its head deeply buried in a pile of leaf litter that had accumulated in a huge drain. Uncle Tim speculated that it was probably hunting for frogs. We patiently observed it for some 10 minutes, watching its sinuous body writhe gently as it burrowed and poked around. We finally saw its head when it emerged briefly and slithered away.

 


We were lucky to spot the ‘mating wheel’ of the Common Blue Skimmer.
Walking into the sunshine again, we followed the elevated pathway fringing the reservoir back towards the rocket tower. Here, we came across a fabulous Tortoise Beetle (Aspidomorpha miliaris), so named because its thin translucent elytra resembles a tortoise’s carapace. From afar, it could be easily mistaken for a ladybird.

 


The Tortoise Beetle is so named because its thin translucent elytra resembles a tortoise’s carapace.

What a fantastic morning we had, observing and learning about Singapore’s flora and fauna in the outdoor classroom of Upper Seletar Reservoir!

 

 

 

 

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