Two prominent birds on Pulau Ubin – calls from movie clips

During the ecology class' field trip to Pulau Ubin, we alert students to prominent and unmistakeable bird calls. Two of these are the red jungle fowl and the straw-headed bulbul. These calls were recorded as movie clips with a camera and iphone by my field trip kakis – Marcus Chua recorded the bulbul's call and Amanda Tan recorded the junglefowl's call.

I used Quick Time Player 7.6 (coughed up for a license ages ago) to export the audio track out as an AIFF file, trimmed the sound down to the relevant bits and exported it out as an AIFF file once again. I did this earlier this morning for my 10am lecture with the current batch of LSM2251 ecology students.  

This afternoon, one of my online kakis was shaking her legs at OBS and using the wireless while the office getaway drowned in the rain. So I decided to try something I had not done for a long time – mount the audio files on the wordpress blog.

I emailed the two aiff files to posterous which mounted the aiff files beautifully as has always done. However, the automatic export to wordpress failed as the latter requires mp3 files. QuickTime Player 7 does not provide mp3 export capability and while iTunes could do it, it would require me to switch my default AAC import setting to mp3 before mp3 becomes an available export option.

So I cast about for some free software and remembered All2MP3 but somehow it was unable to read the file. Then I tried NCH Software’s Switch which worked beautifully. Switch is free for non-commercial use.

Switch for converting AIFF to MP3

Subsequently I followed the instructions about embedding audio and here we are:

Straw-headed Bulbul
Two calls run continuously due to poor editing; recorded with a camera on movie mode.

Red Jungle Fowl
Two calls recorded with an iPhone

P.s. Amanda Tan, who claimed to be a stranger to all these tools figured this out earlier on her own, using her pc and Audacity. That’ll be integrated with this (after I find out a bit more) for a post on Habitatnews later.

Blood type ‘O’ stocks still critical

Donorweb » Singapore Blood Stocks IndicatorThe Red Cross issued an appeal for donors last week and the blood stock indicator’s needle for units of blood left was at the 280 units mark.

A check this morning reveal last Saturday’s levels were still at critical levels (i.e. less than “very low”) at slightly over 360 units. With 15 units used every hour, the blood bank relies on donations to meet transfusion needs of patients in Singapore.

As a regular donor contributing whole blood (preferred for ‘O’ group donors), my availability is restricted by the post-donation buffer of three months. My next donation session is up, though, on 23rd September, and I will head down to Outram MRT and cross the road to the Blood Donation Centre for my 103rd blood donation session.

So if you are healthy and can donate, do make the effort to visit the Blood Bank or one of the bloodmobiles – e.g. the regular third Tuesday venue TODAY is available from 11am – 3pm at the Winning Lounge @ China Square #02-00 (above M11 Foodcourt), 51 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 048441 (map).

Donorweb Portal » Singapore Bloodmobiles

Onroad, offroad cycling today

I had left the house at 8.30am for a short spin since the weather forecast indicated it was to be cloudy and returned after 12. I had turned down a much longer ride so this was the minimum (46.53km, 3:01:53, avs15.3km/h).

Create Route at

With my knobbly tyres, I can break off from a road ride to enjoy the offroad trails which NParks has setup along the forest edge in the Central Catchment and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves. There are nice pockets of solitude and peace in the reserve which a cyclist can enjoy.

Specialists mountain bike riders actually drive down with their bikes and engage in muddy rides at the Chestnut Mountain Biking trail. Some of the trails are a little technical and I had to let air out from my tyres to cope and was glad I had good brakes. I switched from the dark sunglasses I had been wearing for the harsh light on the road to the lightly tinted sunglasses to see the canopy-darkened trails. Going relatively slowly allowed me to cope.




Since I was in the area, I extended my ride to campus to turn over and keep the gloves we had washed after the coastal cleanup yesterday. It was tough to restart after a break like that but I had not long left to go by then. And I could refill both water-bottles with cold water before pulling away. It had gotten quite hot by the late morning.


Muddy tyres meant bike maintenance but this took less than an hour once I was back home, since I have had plenty of practise recently. Xylo the cat kept me company, scratching his back on the floor while I went about my maintenance.


Appeal for Type ‘O’ blood donors (16 Sep 2010)


“The Singapore Red Cross and the Bloodbank@HSA are calling on type O blood donors to make a donation within the next one or two days. This is because the national blood stock supply for type O blood is low and enough for less than three days.

Donorweb » Singapore Blood Stocks Indicator

“The aim is to bring the current level to at least six days’ supply to ensure that daily transfusion and emergency needs are met. This means the support of at least 400 donors is required.

All healthy individuals between the ages of 16 and 60, weighing at least 45kg, are urged to donate blood. Donors who have not made a donation in the past 12 weeks are also encouraged to come forward.

Blood donations can be made at the Bloodbank@HSA located at 11 Outram Road, opposite the Outram Park MRT Station. Those who wish to make a blood donation can call the Singapore Red Cross at 6220-0183 for details.”

Today Online, 16 Sep 2010

11 Outram Road - Google Maps

In order to donate, the following applies (HSA webpage):

To ensure your health and well-being, you are encouraged to come forward and make a blood donation only if you:

  • Are between 16 and 60 years old;
  • Weigh at least 45 kg;
  • Have a haemoglobin level of at least 12.5 g/dl;
  • Are in generally good health;
  • Have not had any symptoms of infection for at least 1 week e.g. sore throat, cough, runny nose, diarrhea; and
  • Have not had a fever in the last 3 weeks;
  • Fulfill these other conditions – link

Thanks to twitter users for spreading the appeal to address the critically low blood stock today: @acroamatic @gurms @hai_ren @crucifixation @chengpuay @cl0udi3 @dweam @daphnemaia @wilfredphua

How to loosen a loose knee

On Saturday, sprint to Changi on a bicycle, with a deadline at 0700h, before the ecology class leaves for Pulau Ubin. Break the deadline by 15 mins and then criss-cross Pulau Ubin for four hours.

Photo by Kenneth Pinto

On Tuesday, remove 200m of ghost net from Mandai mangrove, half of it buried and much of it the middle of shin-deep mud.

Photo by Trina Chua.

On Saturday, run across a stretch of Pandan mangrove laden with a bag your friends struggle to lift onto your shoulders.

20100911-kevin, bis and me

Photos by Ou Yang Xiuling

But in reality I was cautious and my actions were tempered. “Always look after the knee!” has been a mantra for me for more than two decades.

So during the bicycle ride to Changi, I paid attention and worked the lower gears, spinning up slopes. This took the strain away from my knees although it winded me. I had worked in a 15 mins buffer in the timing so that I’d be early enough to have breakfast and see the ecology students across to Pulau Ubin. The four hours in Ubin were relaxed and served as wind-down. And my bicycle and I got a ride home!

In Mandai, I sank into the mud for a break to watch the freed horseshoe crabs. After the break I decided to abandon one-half of the net – left it bundled around a stick; less likely to entangle fauna but still in the inter-tidal area and in need of removal. With all of us exhausted and net disposal up to me that evening, I opted to leave it behind and get us out of the mangrove before the sun set and while we were still coherent. I’ll retrieve the net next week when I have energy once again and some help.

Admiring freed horseshoe crabs in the Sungei Mandai Besar mangrove. Photo by Trina Chua.

Today, I collapsed the run in Pandan mangrove the moment I got stuck. Instead of ploughing through, I tossed it the last metre or so, amongst the roots where I later re-bagged it for another volunteer to bring up to the Trash Disposal Point.

Point of collapse across the mangrove patch and re-bagging. Photo by Ou Yang Xiuling

Tomorrow I ride to Changi again, slowly. There is no deadline, this time.

iPhone case for field workers

200 baht gets you peace of mind on a field trip with your iPhone. I should have asked Ladybug to get a pile for the research students.

I wasn’t presented with one, despite the availability of this favourite colour of mine, as my iPod Touch is already encased in pink which ought to last a lifetime. It’s plastic you see.

GMail has Priority Inbox!

In 2007, I worked towards keeping my NUS IMAP account only for department admin, teaching and student matters. Everything else went to Gmail.

The volume of emails for with my volunteer projects Raffles Museum Toddycats and International Coastal Cleanup Singapore were too high for me to cope so I separated those out to distinct email addresses to keep my Gmail inbox manageable. The clarity of the separation helped with project management. And Mailplane enabled coherent management of multiple gmail accounts.

In Gmail I kept mailing list mail out of my inbox which kept it manageable. Eventually I migrated scheduling and collaborations with my research students into this inbox and it everything got messy again. As I scratched my head over how to gain control of my inbox once again, Google announced we were to look out for Gmail Priority Inbox!

Priority Inbox

I activate this new tool and am real excited to see how it can help me. It separates out “priority mail” based on your inbox behaviour and improves its predictions with corrections and affirmation. I am used to ‘training an app’ to improve its performance as I have been using Spam Sieve with Entourage and Mail for several years now.

It is looking promising; we’ll see. Still, technology will only go so far; eventually, some de-cluttering is on order!