Spider on Sky

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We can learn a lot from spiders.

For example: how to escape gravity. That is not to say we are all trapeze artists, capable of dancing through the air on silken cords. But rather to understand how to balance on a knife’s edge, to find a home and comfort millimeters from falling. How to resist the pull and instead keep one’s self aloft by the sheer sticky strength of will.

The value of patience, of waiting for hours on end in soft blanketed silence, statuesque, rooting yourself in the atmosphere, of becoming one with the sky. Perhaps then you learn to feel yourself as mere atoms, watch your fingertips become carbon, oxygen, hydrogen. Perhaps after a while you become a mere collage of electrons bound by surface tension, ready to evaporate at the slightest touch.

Depending less on one’s eyes, too. Understanding the world through touch and vibration. Knowing how we move. What a gift it would be to be fully conscious of every step through the world, of every brush with life.

Also, interconnectedness. Each strand of the house is built on the other is built on the other but is not codependent. They can exist half-formed and broken; they can form whole. It is circular. It all comes back to itself.

 

Flight

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against this sky’s endless canvas,

paint your image with your wings:

call it a self-portrait in ultraviolet.

I’ve been experimenting a bit with photo-editing lately. This, of a blue-throated bee-eater from a trip to Sungei Buloh quite a few months back, is one of the results. I’m not sure what I make of it – let me know what you guys think.

Note: this post is scheduled.

What You Lookin’ At?

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An insect (unidentified) that I spotted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve a few months ago. What do you think it’s trying to say?

Note: this post is scheduled, and all following posts till the 29th of December will be too. Where will I be? Wait till I get back to find out!

Waders Dressed in White

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Two Little Egrets and a lone Grey Heron stalk the shallow waters of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, just a few hundred meters from Malaysia.

Flurries of Excitement

GodwitsandWhimbrels_ProcessedLogoWe take a break from our (semi)regular posts to bring you a flock of assorted Whimbrels, Common Greenshanks, (possibly?) a few Pacific Golden Plovers… and ten Black-tailed Godwits.

To be frank, the Black-tailed Godwit isn’t a particularly impressive or beautiful bird. It is the dull brown that graces most waders; its black-tipped bill is the main differentiator from the otherwise drab Whimbrels. While graceful, frankly the sheer size of species like the Eurasian Curlew outranks it easily. Its impressive yearly migratory flights – from Mongolia all the way to Singapore – are commonplace for birds during migratory season here.

In Singapore it is merely uncommon – nothing compared to, say, the Nordmann’s Greenshank. Worldwide, however, its population is declining rapidly, and it is listed as near-threatened on the IUCN red list – a keen reminder of why mudflats and mangroves such as Sungei Buloh are so important to preserve.

Still, I could apply all of these descriptions, with a few modifiers, to Bar-tailed Godwits (which have the added distinction of the longest migratory flight ever measured) or aforementioned Eurasian Curlews. So what makes the Black-tailed Godwit so special?

Well, it is my 100th species of bird seen in Singapore. *does happy dance*

Admittedly, my record-keeping began recently, and I am notoriously bad at identification. (Also, I am prone to avoiding any rare birds visiting Singapore, simply due to the crowds associated with said bird. And I hate waking up in the morning, a necessity for uncommon forest birds.)

Still, this one-century milestone represents an added seriousness to my birding: I can now with confidence misidentify birds, rather than somewhat nervously as I did when my list hovered in the mid-70s. Yes, I can say, lowering my binoculars with a somewhat-manic look in my eyes, the venting is indeed a different color and the barring on the primaries do mark it apart. It is most definitely a… One more species and I can even add, I’ve seen over one hundred species in Singapore – I know these things. These hundred species are a badge I can proudly rattle off when prompted: Blue-winged Pitta, Abbott’s Babbler, Black-capped Kingfisher, Buffy Fish Owl… Each one has a story, a day I can recall with fondness – a smile at a flash of blue, or the building excitement as a song becomes increasingly closer; the anticipation when leafing through a field guide, perhaps, or a growing sense of wonder when reviewing photographs. One hundred birds represents one hundred scientific names, one hundred journeys I can take/have taken across the Internet, examining taxonomy and origins and discoverers and evolution.

It means one hundred memories.

And now I can add the black-tailed godwit to that hundred, and to my memories the fluttering, heart-palpitating excitement sweetened by a Sunday afternoon.

Cottoned Creepy-Crawly

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A cotton stainer bug rests on a leaf at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. A specialist, these insects’ food source is limited solely to the Sea Hibiscus, on whose seeds they feed. Usually found in huge numbers of more than twenty at a time, this individual was a lone ranger that decided to strike out on its own.

A Tale of Sungei Buloh and BESG

Most members of the Singaporean wildlife community will know BESG, or Bird Ecology Study Group, to use its fully name. Not fully limited to birds, it’s a blog that commits itself to recording behavior and ecology among animals and is globally famous.

Now to Sungei Buloh. The other day I decided to go over and explore its new Kranji Extension. To get there, however, I had to first pass through the parking lot – innocuous enough, but then I saw a lizard.

It took barely a moment to identify it as the overly-common Changeable Lizard. Still, with no other animals in sight or to pursue just then, I decided to pause a while and photograph it. What then transpired is best detailed in the article I submitted to the blog and that was published just the other day. (You should totally go and check out the rest of the blog. It’s completely awesome. Go on. Do it.)

“I visited Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve yesterday and in the car park observed a Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor). I was photographing it when all of a sudden it pounced on something in the leaf litter I had not observed previously.

“It was total chaos for a few seconds and I realised it was another lizard it had ‘attacked’; they thrashed together, the lizard I had seen first on top, and after a while they dis-attached.

“The two lizards sat facing one another and bobbed heads alternately. I realised this must have been a mating display. Just then a large group of people arrived and confronted with the sight of me lying flat on the ground for no apparent reason, became understandably worried that I had fallen.

“By the time I looked up, the second lizard had gone. I continued to observe the first lizard until the group went too close to it and it ran away.”

Me being looked at weirdly? Check. (I request the person from that group who took a photograph of me to please come forward and submit it for inspection.)

Cool animal behaviors? Check.

Article in BESG? Resounding check. All in all, a good day’s excursion.