Outreach Event: Otter Cycling Trail v2.0 (24 Mar 2013)

The Otter Cycling Trail is a biannual event where we take participants to beat-up natural areas along the northeastern Park Connector Network (PCN) to promote both cycling and nature guiding.

Amanda (Chicken/RedJungleFowl Girl) and I (Ottergirl) are out again to bring a whole new and improved version of the Otter Cycling Trail (OCT) !

After a challenging recce conducted a week before, the new guides were all fired up and prepared for this ride. With support from the veteran guides, we were well stocked with a total of 7 nature and 7 safety guides!

Siva, at his first OCT, started off the ride by introducing the ride and a safety briefing…

After the crucial bike checks, we headed off to our first pit stop – Pasir Ris Park!

View of Sungei Tampines
View of the mangroves along Sungei Tampines (Pasir Ris Park)

The faunal action that started with the resident Grey Herons certainly did not stop there. Shortly after, we encountered a waiting Andy Dinesh below several trees. A Spotted-wood Owl was in our midst! Participants and guides took great care to be quiet so we wouldn’t disturb it!

Spotted-wood Owl spotted in Pasir Ris Park
Andy finds a Spotted-wood Owl perched high up on a tree in Pasir Ris Park (Pic: Henrietta Woo)

As we rode along Pasir Ris Farmway 3 towards Lorong Halus, we were greeted by even more wildlife!

Storks fly overhead as we ride down Pasir Ris Drive 3
Storks (possibly Asian Openbill as identified by birder and participant, Ho Yong Tze) fly overhead as we ride down Pasir Ris Drive 3 (Pic: Fung Tze Kwan) 
A Baya Weaver maintaining its nest along Lorong Halus
A Baya Weaver maintaining its nest along Lorong Halus (Pic: Henrietta Woo)

The most exciting part of the ride had to be when we were graced with the presence of some special visitors! Just as I led my group into pitstop #2 (Serangoon Reservoir), I picked up the all-too-familiar squeaks amidst the loud, excited chatter of a wedding entourage that were taking pictures along the Lorong Halus bridge. Adrenaline shot right up me as I jerked my head towards the direction of the squeaks and saw round bobbing heads in a distance… “OTTERS!!!”, I exclaimed. A good 10 of them!

Round otter heads bob in the distance
Round otter heads bob in the distance

After orientating my group members to the direction to look, I ran to gather the other groups and did nothing to contain my child-like excitement. Back at the bridge, the large group of otters were noticeably closer and could be seen going up a nearby bank to groom and defecate. Foraging in the nearby waters followed as the participants watched in awe and let out exclamations of excitement.

“First time seeing otters in the wild!”

“I’ve never seen otters before”

“They’re sooo cute!!”

“They’re catching fish!”

“I didn’t know they were so big!”

It’s always wonderful to share the joy of watching animals like the otter in the wild, especially one that is not easily seen and is so charismatic to boot.

Otters forage for fish near the banks of Serangoon Reservoir
Otters forage for fish near the banks of Serangoon Reservoir

To have chanced upon them swimming up the reservoir at the right place at the most opportune time was certainly pure luck! For the virgin otter-spotters, this was certainly a treat and a story to tell!

an otteriffic encounter @ serangoon reservoir – 24Mar2013 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

Participants rode to Sengkang Riverside Park to have lunch at Mushroom Cafe.

Participants having a hearty meal and lovely conversations at Mushroom Cafe. (Pic: Fung Tze Kwan)
Participants having a hearty meal and lovely conversations at Mushroom Cafe. (Pic: Fung Tze Kwan)

Last stop of the day involved a story-telling session by Siva about the history of the Punggol/Sengkang area…

Pig farms? Docking vessels? That was the history of Punggol Waterway and the surroundings as Siva points out (Pic: Henrietta Woo)
Pig farms? Docking vessels? That was the history of Punggol Waterway and the surroundings as Siva points out (Pic: Henrietta Woo)

This video was made by Nature Guide Ng Wen Qing highlighting two of our lucky sightings during Otter Cycling Trail v2.0.

What a ride! Interested yet? Keep checking this space for the next Otter Cycling Trail v3.0!

How do you identify an otter?

I assume that these posters I’ve put up brought you to my humble otter blog,

OTTERWATCHOTTERWATCH2

SO before you go on to record your otter sighting (or if you’re just here out of interest), here’s a short tutorial to confirm the sighting of the animal. They’re often mistaken for other animals such as the moniter lizard which may appear to be an otter to an untrained eye.

There is only one otter in this picture! Photo: Ria Tan

There is only one otter in this picture! (Photo: Ria Tan)

There are two things to look for in an otter,

1. Round, brown, glistening head out of water.

Photo: Ubin

Photo: Ubin

Photo: Shirley Ng

Photo: Shirley Ng

Unlike the moniter, which has a scaley head and pointed snout!

2. It swims dorso-ventrally (ie. up and down movement)

A monitor lizard swims laterally, meaning, side-to-side. Notice that it keeps its head above the water the entire time. An otter will usually bob its head up and down, surfacing for breaths.

If you are now confident of your otter sighting, record your sighting HERE!

Tell your friends, spread the word!

Student Symposium for NParks and public

A student symposium will be conducted sometime in July. I will be giving a short presentation about my research findings about the smooth-coated otter’s status, distribution and diet in Singapore. Other research subjects include the Common Palm Civet, Common Water Monitor, Mangrove Crabs, Red Jungle Fowl and Domestic Cats. So watch this space!

Continuing otter research into another year!

The first year of my smooth-coated otter research found the species widespread distribution across the Johor Straits. This year, my research will delve further into understanding the ecology of this charismatic mammal.

Areas that will be looked into include,

1) Diet & Prey availability - through the analysis of spraints (faeces) and quantifying of prey composition in foraging sites

2) Habitat Assessment - surveys will be conducted to understand what makes a suitable habitat for otters

yves

Once again what ANYONE can do to help is the following,

a. Submit your sightings, photos or videos of any species of wild otter to me at uberhyped@gmail.com (I also welcome a chat about otters anytime!)

b. If you find any otter signs (faeces or paw prints), contact me as well.

c. Increase the awareness of otters in Singapore, promote this site!

Calling all PHOTOGRAPHERS !!

If you have photographs with the otters feeding, you are kindly urged to send in your photos!


The photos will aid greatly in the diet studies of the smooth-coated otter. From the pictures, the identification of prey species may be possible. Such information will supplement the diet studies and are very valuable as evidence for the kind of fish/organisms they eat.


So if you have such photos*, do drop me an email at uberhyped@gmail.com.

Source: Shirley Ng

Photo: Shirley Ng

Thank you for caring about the conservation of this species!

*These pictures will only be used for research purposes and credit will be duly given if they are reproduced.