Monday, March 31, 2008

Hike from Teck Whye Park to Tree Top Walk

Teck Whye Park to Rifle Range (Total distance covered 14.4 km)

Training to climb another mountain, I decided to go for an endurance walk this morning. It will be exactly one week since I descended from Mt Kinabalu in Sabah, and my legs are still in recovery phase. Today, my objective was very simple – taking birds.

Previously, I was armed with a macro lens and it was not very useful for taking bird, this time I armed myself with Nikkor 80 – 400 mm lens, and this thing weight a ton after 3 hours of lugging it! But the effort was worth it, as I was able to get close to some of the birds.Delightfully, I managed to captured the Flowerpecker and the Speckled Munia which have eluded me previously because I was not equipped correctly.

As the walk is near to a swampy area, there were alot of dragonflies.

Some of the specimen were seen in my previous blog in Marina East.

Below is a pair of Starling (Black is a matured male and the striped is an immature male)

While walking, I saw a flock of Black naped Oriole (probably immature Oriolus chinensis) flying and landing on a tree nearby. Manage to took this shot before they flew deeper into the trees.

High up on the tree canopy, saw this female Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans).
Noticed some movement in the bush nearby, and darting from flower to flower, I saw this beautiful male Orange bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonestigma)
Another closed up shot of this bird.

Nearby I saw about 3 of them having a bath on a big frond. This is a immature male Flower Pecker.

Flying about in the tall lallang were these Scaly breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)

Reaching back my home, I saw this Olive backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis) having its lunch with the nectar of this flower.

Managed to capture two different Bulbul.

Below is Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)

Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus).

Marina East

Marina East (N1 17.692 E103 53.097) – this plot of land is destined to become some 18 holes golf course. This part of Singapore used to be the sea, but has been reclaimed land. Lies dormant for decades, and it has developed its own ecological system. There are much biodiversity here in terms of plants, birds, insects and reptiles. For mammals, we somehow might have missed them!

Development works have begun, and we were here to enjoy the biodiversity before they disappear under tons of earth for the manicured lawn!

The first plant that I was introduced was the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum). I was told that the active ingredient of the leaves is used to make the "Po Chai" Pill which is very good to stop tummy problem.

There is a pond where many species of dragonfly dwell. As there are dragonflies, there will be the predators. The predator for today is the Blue Tailed Bee-Eater (Merops philippinus), the other predator but on the smaller insects is the Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica).

The Bee-Eaters were very agile hunters. First they perched on the branches of trees, scanning for suitable preys, and then they launched, and in an aerial acrobat, they will have their meals in their bead. They will then head for another tree, to finish their meal, and the cycle repeat itself.

Managed to capture some of the action, but some of the shots are not very cleared, but you still can make out the pictures.

Pacific Swallows

A very beautiful bird, this is the male Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia).
White Throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)

We came across an abandoned Tailorbird nest. Without thread and needle, the Tailorbird uses the thread of the spider web, and with its bead, it stitches together the leave. The stitching is done, in such a way that the bird and its young can safely ride out the wind and rain. Incredible workmanship!We came across this species of St Andrew Spider (Argiope catanulata), the belly is with golden stripes. It has been mentioned that this species is quite widespread, and flourish in undisturbed swamps or ponds.
The Bee-Eater is not the only predator of dragonfly, spider with their beautifully crafted web will snare the unwary ones, dragonfly and any things that end up in their web. In this case, the dragonfly has been sucked dry by this spider (species unknown).

As mentioned, there is a pond here and many dragonflies were seen mating and depositing their eggs into the water. These are some of the better shots I have taken of the dragonfly.
Below is the Neurothemis fluctuans
Below is the Rhyothemis phyllis
This Red dragonfly (Nannophya pygmaea) is the smalles dragonfly in Singapore. This is the Male Pygmy Dragonfly.

When a land is newly reclaimed, certain species of plants will be the pioneer, the Seashore Morning Glory is one of them, being a creeper, their creep on the ground and its roots provide much support to the soil. With this pioneer plant, then the second wave of plants will settle in, notably the Casuarina with its deep root. Other plants also take root, and compete for space and light. Most of the plants here are unknown to me.

Table Fern (Pteris vittata)

Below I have taken close-up of two species of Mimosa.
This is the common Mimosa (Mimosa pudica) with its distinct Pink Flower.
In this area, we also come across the yellow Mimosa, the flower is very different from the pink mimosa, the leave has a whitish band across the leaf vein!

Fireweed (Erechthites valerianifolia) looks very much like the dandlion.
Beach Bean (belonging to the Legume family)
These tiny purple flower is called Clover-leaved Desmodium (Desmodium sp). Unfortunately, took this shot without placing a ruler for perspective.

Seashore Morning Glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae)
Sea Lettuce (Scaevola taccada)
This Unknown Plant has been identified with the help of LK.
Quote from her
"the solitary flower belongs to the Family: Passifloraceae. This climbing species will produce 2 types of leaf-shapes, a simple pinnate and also a trilobe leaf. It is non-native (imported weed from S. America), name: Passiflora suberosa"

It is inevitable that a golf course will be developed here, it is only hope that the pond and trees, and possibly some of the shrubs will be left undisturbed, to be made as part of the course. Better still, as a form of obstacles. I personally do not see why this is not possible!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gunung Kinabalu (4095.2 m)

Mount Kinabalu
From the Mersilau Park to the Kinabalu Park, there will be signed claiming that Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in South East Asia. This mountain stand at 4,095.2 m above sea level, but in my research there are three other mountains taller than Mt Kinabalu.
Puncak Trikora (in Irian Jaya, Indonesia) - 4,750 m
Puncak Jaya (in Irian Jaya Indonesia) - 5,030 m
Hikakabo Razi (Myammar) - 5,881 m
Since both Indonesia and Myammar are countries in SE Asia, than Mt Kinabalu can only be the 4th tallest mountain in SE Asia! Notwithstanding, it is still a mountain worth climbing as no techical skills are required. Just a pair of strong legs and willing mind.

For this year, it will be my 4th consecutive trek to this beautiful mountain in Sabah. Why four times? Take a look at this majestic view of the mountain, and soon your ache and pains disappear and you yearn to go up again.

Picture 1 - Mt Kinabalu (taken from Mersilau Nature Resort)

Upon arriving in Kota Kinabalu, we headed for Mersilau Park where we spent one night acclimatize to the high attitude. In the morning we proceed to the starting point and from there start the ascent. Equipped with Garmin GPS, one can see the 2D view of the climb. Though the entire journey is about 20 km, but factor in the attitude, it is more like 40 km!

Picture 2 - Attitude and Distant Chart of the Climb

The view of the mountain is affected by the mist that covers it. Depending on the season, in just one day, literally the whole mountain can disappear!

Picture 3 - Taken from KK Park HQ, the upper white dot of light is Laban Rata. Taken at 05:30 hr.

Pictue 4 - Taken at 06:30 hr. Just after sunrise. Perfect condition with no mist.

Pictue 5 - Taken at 10:30 hr. Where is the mountain?

At Mersilau Park, the air pressure is already 80% of sea level, and by the time we were at Laban Rata, the air pressure there was about 65%. The drop in air pressure also result in the thinness of air as well as the scarcity of oxygen, this results in giddiness and nauseating sensation for most of us. Thus the importance of acclimatizing before a climb, but time was not on our side, and panadol will have to do for these side effects of oxygen deprivation.

What is the feeling of doing this trekking? It has to do with countless of steps, and behind each bend, there will be more steps. For Mersilau Trail, there will be a portion where we have to descend (refer to the attitude chart), at this juncture one can only imagine that those attitude that has been gained, will have to be regained.

There is another trial from the Timpohon gate (if you refer to the attitude chart but move from right to left), it is a continuous upward climb. But Mersilau Trial offers better scenery and definitely a more enjoyable climb.
Picture 6 and 7 - Path leading to Whity Lodge where we spend 1 night at Mersilau to acclimatize.

For our group, we set off at 08:16 hr from Mersilau Park and reached Laban Rata Hut at about 15:30 hr.

Pictue 8 - 18 of us, at the starting point in Mersilau, with the peak behind us.

Pictue 9 - Mersilau Trial

Pictue 10 - Mersilau Trial

Picture 11 - Mersilau Rocky Trial

Pictue 12 - Mersilau Trail (it will be most beautiful if the mist has lifted, but still it is very magical)

Picture 13 - Mersilau Trial (one of the waterfall along the way)

Picture 14 - One of the stream along the Mersilau Trial

Picture 15 - Along the Ridge (this is one of the most beautiful spot along the Mersilau Trial)

Picture 16 - Water drenched moss (collected from the passing cloud)

Picture 17 - Whitish stringy fungus growing on the tree!

Picture 18 - Nepenthes (Pitcher Plant). The largest Pitcher Plant Nepenthes Raja grow in this area.

Picture 19 - Dead tree but covers with living moss

After arriving at our midpoint Laban Rata, we retired for the evening after loading ourselves with carbohydrate, as the morning hike to the summit will take place at 02:30 hr.

We set off for the summit at 02:30 hr, and the effect of thin air took its toll, as we can only walk a couple of steps before we have to stop to breath. Something that we do very naturally at sea level, but at this height, we have to make deliberate effort to breath in hard and into the diaphragm!

We reached Lows Peak at about 06:20 hr, just in time to see the sun rise. This was intentional, as the wind was strong, and there was very little protection up at the summit. Reaching the summit too early, means freezing in the cold windy rock face.
But when the sun rises, the whole mountain top landscape change from gloomy dark to golden hue. It is most amazing, and no words can simply describe it. Enjoy these pictures.

Picture 20 - Sunrise at the Summit

Picture 21 - Low's Peak

From the mountain top, one can look down at the surroundings, and wonder – did we walk through these in the wee hour of the morning. Look at the perspective of the human who are walking down the plateau. Puny! When we compare ourselves to the mountain. Did we conquer the mountain? I dare not say so, for to conquer the mountain is impossible, but simply we have climbed to the peak.

Picture 22 - The path to the summit is simply rocky.

Picture 23 - Summit Plateau

Picture 24 - Summit Plateau

Picture 25 - Summit Plateau (can you spot the line of human descending)

Picture 26 - Shot taken from the Summit Plateau

Looking at the plants that grow on the summit, these are very hardy species. At night, the temperature can drop to zero or even below (deg Celcius). For on my first trip up here, we found ice in pond. By mid-morning, the sun ray will be masked by the heavy mist that will flow over the mountain.

Picture 27 - Unknown Summit Plant

Picture 28 - Unknown Summit Plant

We can only stay that long at the summit before the cloud roll in and make the the descend dangerous. After an auduous climb down to the KK Park HQ, we look up at the mountain, and wonder - we have been up there, and we made it!

Picture 29 - The Summit as seen from KK Park HQ

Picture 30 - The dash of white is Laban Rata. On the left of the U Channel is the Donkey Ears Piak

Picture 31 - Unknown Plant (at KK Park HQ)

Picture 32 - Unknown Plant (at KK Park HQ)

Picture 33 - Unknown Fern (at KK Park HQ)

Picture 34 - Unknown Plant (at KK Park HQ)

Picture 35 - Unknown Plant (at KK Park HQ)

At the KK Park HQ, I have the priviledged of meeting like minded nature lovers from AWA (SkyLark). Really enjoy their company and the knowledge they shared with me.

Picture 36 - Swiftlet

Pictue 37 - Chestnut Munia (Lonchura mallacca) taken at sea level near to KK Town

Note : I have no idea to the IDs of the plants, moss, lichen and even the birds. But certainly I will have to do some research to determine the IDs. In the meanwhile, if you are knowledgeable to the IDs, I will certainly appreciate if you can provide them to me.

As I was lugging up at least 11 kg (water, food, camera etc), all pictues were taken with this versatile lens Nikon 18 – 200 mm VR lens mounted on my trusty D70S.