After a long hiatus and preoccupation with mammal work, I finally returned to Mandai mangroves and mudflats with Masters student Aisling (“Ice-Ling”) Dunbar from Ruth O’Riordan of University College Cork, Ireland who was formerly with our department.
Aisling will work on mangrove horseshoe crabs and kick start some studies. To narrow the proposal, a ground recce was conducted today. I had nursed my flu as tenderly as I could and thankfully this was not one of the really bad viruses, and I could hobble out of bed to get “Ice-Ling” started.
I brought reinforcements as I would tire easily and if I encountered something like the 300 entangled horseshoe crabs in 2009, I’d be defeated. So Joelle and Weiting came and were game for a visit after an even longer absence from Mandai than I have had.
Here I pointed out to Aisling that all four official languages were represented, unlike some signs around the island! We then headed towards the mangrove and were examining horseshoe crab distribution, favoured habitats, size, population status and similar issues in Mandai Kechil.
“Look for the young ones in streams” and Aisling laid hands on her first horseshoe crab!
Back in the steam it went, and then we looked for adults in the mud, easily done with all four of us spotting.
I was certainly glad to be back in Mandai, even thought the sight of fallen trees makes me feel like a howling Dogmatix.
We scrutinised Mandai Kechil and by then the tide was rising. Wading in mangroves is a lovely feeling and the horseshoe crabs were actively moving about in pairs, males hitching a ride on females. It got deeper as we headed up the banks of Mandai Besar. But this is all familiar territory, for I must know every inch of this terrain and can avoid the shin-scraping fallen trees in the water!
It was strange not seeing the railway line, which was removed last July.
And then, after some five hours, we were out. We’re all cleaned and changed and off to the bus stop to head to Kranji MRT – it’s quite a surreal change from one world to another.
Mandai mangrove is my enchanted forest. There might be cobras, mangrove whiprays and hornets but this is where I am most comfortable.
As for “Ice-Ling?” Well she had a great field trip, with no indication of problems of terrain, hydration or temperature. She’s ready for further explorations.