Apr 20, 2007

Marvellous Changi morning

We were out early at Changi yesterday, for the first predawn trip there in months! Following the mass deaths at Chek Jawa, we feared for Changi. But the seagrasses at Changi were teaming with life!

This was a typical scene in the pools at low tide. How many different animals can you spot?

There's a moon snail (white shell and body) prowling in the sand, a scorpion fish in the middle, next to it a green pipefish, and zooming past all of them, some other kind of fish. Scattered all around are several tiny transparent shrimps (too small to see in this reduced photo).

Hidden in the sand were flat sand-coloured dragonets (Callionymus schaapii?). They flip in and out of the sand in an instant! When buried, only their beady little eyes betray their presence.

Tiny flat sole fishes were impossible to spot until they moved. These fishes 'crawl' on the sandy surface with the spiny ribbon of fins that edge the body. They too disappear instantly into the sand.

Changi is the one place you can find lots of hermit crabs with sea anemones on their shells. The hermit crab usually settles into the sand with just its eyes and feelers sticking out. And the sea anemones also poke out of the sand and unfurl their tentacles. When the hermit crab is on the move, the anemones tuck their tentacles into their bodies and turn into blobs on the shell.

It was hard to spot this rather large sea horse. It blends so well with its surroundings. Seahorses are surprisingly common on Changi.

Other fishes were also well camouflaged. Tiny green filefishes hung motionless among equally green seaweeds. The spiny and colourful scorpionfish is hard to spot when it rests on a less uniform surface.

It is quite common to encounter cuttlefishes on Changi. This little feisty one gave us a few tentacles-up as it scooted away.

Not all the creatures on Changi are bland. There were several of these large prawns with colourful peacock tails. The usual Tiger prawns are also commonly seen among the seagrasses there, as well as lots of tiny transparent shrimps.

We saw a moon snail with a brown shell and delicate white patterns on its red foot. We've seen this snail quite often on Changi and think it might be Natica orientalis. Hidden among the sand were many Gong-gong (Strombus canarium) with only their eyes sticking out of their shells. This is reassuring as Gong-gong were among the animals that died out in large numbers on Chek Jawa.

We also saw lots of sand stars! What a relief as many sea stars on Chek Jawa had died.

We also saw a large number of sand dollars. There were a few ball sea cucumbers looking plump and well, half buried in the sand. How reassuring!

There are large patches of Fern seagrass (Halophila spinulosa). And among the lush seagrasses, lots of tiny carpet anemones, some no bigger than a seagrass leaf!

And the best sign of a happy shore is mating! Which seems to be what is in progress between these two Moon crabs (Matuta lunaris).

Changi remains a delightful gem. Andy declared he saw more during today's trip that he had in all the trips he been with us. Besides the fact that Changi is indeed crawling with all manner of marine life, it was also the first predawn trip for the season. We do see a lot more action in the early morning!!

Alas, we had to leave quickly. Not just because the tide was turning.

The distant flashes of lightning had rapidly repositioned right overhead. We tried to ignore the thunder. Then we heard a terrifying ripping sound moving horizontally over us. Before whatever it was decided to move vertically, we scurried off the shore.


mantabuster said...

what's the big deal?

ria said...

I suppose it may not seem to be a big deal to some people, but I am glad that we have such rich shores on the mainland.

How wonderful that children can explore a natural shore and see little animals in real life. Instead of learning about them only from TV or books.

Being outdoors, discovering our own natural heritage, I think it's precious experience.

Quite a big deal for me :-)

eunice said...

Didn't know Chiangi has such a diversity of sea creatures. I used to think that our shorelines are so dirty that nothing really beautiful can survive in it hahaha
Nice pics !

ria said...

Thanks Eunice for the encouragement!

We JUST came back from another trip to Changi this morning!

See the entry for this trip.

Marvellous as usual. Always something new to discover or encounter.

Perhaps one day, you can come with us and see our fantastic shores for yourself?

But the low tide hours are a killer. Best tides are predawn. Sigh.