Today a couple of us organized by Otterman took 109 participants around Sungei Buloh as part of our yearly celebration of the opening of Sungei Buloh in 1993. I have been doing this Sungei Buloh walk ever since I was a teaching assistant at NUS. And now as a teacher, I bring students every now and then to the wetlands reserve. I never get bored of it and every time I promise myself to sit and be more mindful of the migratory birds every december when I am free and when they are around. Sungei Buloh at this time of the year is extremely pleasant and cool; no mozzies along the boardwalks and bird hides so there really is no excuse not to be there. And it costs a $1 entry fee on weekends and public holidays for adults, 50cts for kids.
Anyway, the guides today are pretty well trained for this as most of us either have been teaching assistants bringing year one NUS students around this walk or have been trained by Siva or done this many times over. Each year Siva issues the invites for us to guide but I missed last year as I was at Resorts World Sentosa with my family on a “staycation”; well no more RWS for me until the dolphins are set free so I this year I made sure I freed up the 1st week of december to guide (I sorely regretted my stay at RWS last year and missed out on the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk as a result).
That’s the Otterman doing a pre-walk briefing and handing out our registration slips and handouts to participants
Every guide is is on the ball as Siva barks orders in the Sungei Buloh visitor centre.
This handout apparently was done by Ria in 2003. The back of it has a map drawn in a similar exuberant style.
The walk is centered around the visitor centre, bird hide (Station 1) and the mangrove boardwalk. We all hope to see the Crocodile and Otters but really the highlight of Sungei Buloh at this time of the year are the migratory birds. It’s always amazing to contemplate that these birds are overwintering and have flown from the northern hemisphere (as far as Siberia) to feed on the Sungei Buloh wetlands or use it as an important stopover before the fly further down under to Australia AND New Zealand
Before the September-March migratory season, a few resident birds are seen on the mudflats but by December, Sg Buloh mudflats teem with waders with names like Whimbrels, Redshanks, Sandpipers etc. They aren’t that difficult to identify if you have a guidebook, binoculars and some patience. This is the part where I encourage everyone (including myself) to spend some quiet time at the hide to observe and get to know the waders and some of the adaptations they have (different length bills) to reach different levels of mud for their food. The scenery plus birds is sure to calm your soul.
That is Marcus (facing you), the youngest of the guides and most energetic of us; what a way to get people excited about the wildlife we have.
It was a pleasure to have ex-students in the crowd; they haven’t changed a bit – more mature but still crazy about nature.
I wonder what Oi Yee, our other energetic guide is pointing to over the sluice gates?
A contemplative guide, Cheng Puay – he was pretty excited about seeing the croc surface.
2 of the triplets in the family I was guiding, looking for fish, anemones and mudskippers. Most of the time I was really talking about what could be eaten or not… It is a great way to introduce biodiversity of the mangroves as most of the things in the mangroves can provides a service to us.
I love pickled tree-climbing crabs in Thai papaya salads. I had them in Bangkok once and they beat some of the sashimi I have tried.
That’s Marcus gesticulating nature.
That’s Bruguiera gymnorrhiza adding to the festive spirit.
Lighter moments towards the end of the walk.
The date of the Anniversary also happens to be Otterman’s birthday so we either get cake or this time a very satisfying Punjabi meal.