Contributed by Alfred Chia.
On 31 January 2016, some members of the Nature Society (Singapore), took a maiden cruise along the North-west coastline of Singapore. This trip was made possible through the support of the kind people at Raffles Marina who not only provided the vessels and crew support but breakfast, lunch and refreshments as well. A big thank you to Francis Lee, President of Raffles Marina, Edwin Tan and Ray Perry, CEO. Also accommpanying us on this trip to share & partake experiences were Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social & Family Development and Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for National Development & Home Affairs.
27 of us, allocated into 3 boats, left the marina in a convoy at 8.25am after a hearty breakfast. The route took us immediately under the Second Link viaduct, emerging quickly into the periphery of the restricted Western Catchment Reserve. We travelled gingerly to stay clear of the 75-metre navigable sea lane restriction that was adjacent to the Live Firing Area. We sailed passed Bridge Eins from afar and looked longingly at it for beyond this bridge lies the Tengeh Reservoir. This is where perhaps waterfowl may be found. But this is a restricted zone. I remembered looking down onto this reservoir from atop a small hill many years ago when Poyan was still accessible: at least up to where Bulim Cemetery was. The scenery was beautiful, serene & picturesque then. Birds fluttered from tree to tree and very often, you see raptors going in for the kill from where you are. But I digress. Ah, those were the days!
It was a hot day and raptors abound. There were Brahminy Kites, White-bellied Sea Eagles, singles of Changeable Hawk Eagle and a Western Osprey. A surprising find was a lone Grey-headed Fish Eagle perched atop a “Danger” sign very early on. At Pulau Sarimbun, where we slowed down to search for a long-lost fern, we heard the Olive-winged Bulbul and the Oriental Magpie Robin.
We were alerted before the trip by Dr Shawn Lum to search for the fern Dipteris conjugata at Pulau Sarimbun, a probable last stronghold. This primitive fern once abound on the coastal cliff surface of Labrador in the early years and Labrador was declared a Nature Reserve by virtue of its existence then. Sadly, it is now completely obliterated from Labrador. Happily however, we managed to locate the fern at Pulau Sarimbun, healthily sashaying with the breeze.
By 10.15am, we had Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in our view. We saw the familiar main bridge and its sluice gates. Great & Little Egrets and Grey Herons were more obvious here. In the heat of the day, many were just resting atop the numerous fish farms that dotted the coastlines.
We continued further to the Kranji mudflats. As the tide was about 1.1 metre, some mudflats were exposed. Distance do not permit us however to view any waders but the bigger egrets & herons were more obvious. We turned around from here to head back.
En-route, we stopped for lunch at Fish Farm No 33, just off the end of Lim Chu Kang Road. This farm is owned by a Mr Cheung. We were warmly welcomed by the spritely 79-year old patriarch himself, together with his beautiful family. We were then brought around the farm by Mr Cheung and his son. We learned that the farm specialises more in the rearing of milk fish and mullets. We learned also of the different type of feeds for different species. We were also given an impromptu lesson on the challenges the fish farm faces: from the level of dissolved oxygen to planktons, to red tide and to aeration needs. A scrumptious lunch, meticulously arranged by Raffles Marina and its hardworking support staff, then followed. A big thank you to them and also to Mr Cheung and his family for so kindly hosting the group.
It was also at the fish farm that we had the highlight of the trip. While we were standing at one end of the farm, Ju Lin suddenly looked skywards and shouted “Adjutant Stock”! In a jiffy, all eyes, bins and cameras were pointed at the stock flying overhead us. It flew in from the direction of Lim Chu Kang towards Johore. When it was confirmed as a Lesser Adjutant, there were smiles and a sense of accomplishment all around. Both ministers also revelled in our joy, knowing that we had finally seen what we had set out to look for, a great rarity indeed!
We returned to Raffles Marina at 1.20pm and gathered for some refreshments and tete-a-tete before calling it a day: a day very well-spent indeed.
In total, we saw 23 species of birds on the trip, confirmed that Dipteris conjugata is thriving in Pulau Sarimbun, saw the rare Lesser Adjutant and renewed friendship and made new ones.
Many thanks to Tan Chuan-Jin, Desmond Lee, Leong Kwok Peng, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee for the use of their photos.