Sunday, January 24, 2010

A morning of action at SBWR

I was at Sungei Buloh yesterday to guide a group of colleagues from the Bank, in support of a fellow GV's Climate Change Project. Instead of tagging along for the mangrove trees planting, I decided to take a walk of my own and was rewarded with scenes from Nat Geog (well... almost...).

The Estuarine Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) was in action, this time causing more excitement than usual.

It was initially taking a leisure swim at the opposite Bank, about 20m away from the bridge, exhibiting only its head. Shortly after, it was fully submerged and I lost sight of it.

A few seconds later, it reappeared but was swimming towards the main bridge.

Slowly but steadily, it looked just like a log floating on water - there were no ripples at all!

For a long while, the crocodile parked itself by the water edge and remain submerged. Our bewilderment was soon answered by a bobbing figure on the mudflat.

A Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) was foraging for food, bobbing its tail up and down as it walked about. The stalking thus began. The crocodile was stalking the Sandpiper. And we, were stalking the crocodile. =)

The Sandpiper paced up and down the water edge, obviously unaware of the danger and the existence of the crocodile.

It was no question that this crocodile was in a hunting mode. It adopted the underwater approach by orienting its head towards the Sandpiper, positioning itself in the immediate vicinity of this potential prey.

Slowly, the crocodile's head silently emerges, inching closer to the bird. The move was so sleek that one could hardly notice the movement.

The Sandpiper clearly was one of those who did not notice this move.  As it walked closer and closer to the water edge, my heart started beating faster and faster too. Beside me, a visitor's mumbling of 'oh no. oh no.' became louder and quicker. Momentarily, both of us held our breathe when the bird was within striking distance of the crocodile, fearing for what we assume will happen.

Not sure if the roots of the Avicennia was obstructing the way, but the crocodile never struck. I was hoping that it will lunge forward with the jaws opening then slam shut. Cruel to the Sandpiper, but thats the way how nature and the food chain works, isnt it?

The Sandpiper must have sensed the danger (or perhaps heard our gasps) and started taking off in short, jerky flight, landing a short distance away.

The crocodile then emerged from the water but it was all too late. The Sandpiper has landed too far away.

Minutes later, the croc also lost patience in waiting for the Sandpiper to return. It walked up the river bank, in anticipation of its next potential prey while basking in the sun.

I really couldnt believe the coincidence. Just as the Sandpiper disappears, a Striated Heron (Butorides striatus) emerged some metres behind the crocodile.

I doubt it would be in any danger though since this shy but intelligent bird typically would take flight long before it is in danger.

I left before I could witness any hunting actions of the crocodiile as the guided walk was about to commence. Just as I was about to walk away, a few school children sauntered past and was joking about how it was quite impossible to see the crocodile. Their expression of amazement was priceless, as we pointed out the crocodile to them.

I've always wanted to take a photo of the sign, with the crocodile in the background. Although the crocodile is fairly far away in this instance, its probably the best that I can get, for now. =)

The entire episode has reinforced my 2010 and 2011's resolution to plan for trips to Borneo and Kruger, for a bit of Nat Geog action! =P


tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Wah... Nice shots :)

Peiting said...


Commander said...

Nice documentary shots of the croc. Like you, I also meet people who scoff at the "Beware of Crocodile" signs, often saying that it's a ruse by the authorities to scare people from fishing or swimming. Little do they know...

Peiting said...

thanks for visiting!
i guess to many, seeing is believing. And for some, believing is seeing...