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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Penyabong Beach

Dear husband, together with a group of Christian bikers formed a group called The Lightriders. They have been visiting and organizing various activities for the orphans at Berkat Children's Home in Johore Bahru. On the third day of the Chinese New Year week, they brought the children to Penyabong beach for an outing. This beach was "discovered" by a fellow biker, who was drawn to the sandy beaches and the wide expanse of exposed sandbars during low tide.

After some tricky arrangement with transportation, my boys and I managed to join them in this outing. Penyabong is situated some 20 min drive north of Mersing. It was a bus ride of about 2 hours from JB.

D and B had a fun time playing with the children. Here is a shot of the children being organized to play some group games.

The children had more fun frolicking in the water...

building sand castles, burying their friends in the sand...

and playing soccer on the beach.

While my boys were absorbed in their soccer game, I took the chance to explore the beach to have my nature walk.

When we first arrived at the beach, we saw many balls of sand on the sand slopes just outside of a tiny holes. I squatted quietly to watch these holes and was rewarded with a good peek at the inhabitants of these burrows and the makers of those cute little sand balls.

(You can hear the children's happy romps in the background)

These crabs are Sand Bubbler crabs. They feed on the detritus on the surface of the sand granules. The processed sand are then deposited outside their holes.

The children found it fun and challenging to catch these sand bubblers. They did managed to catch some and we even smuggled one home! D chose to draw it and find out more about it the next day.

Interspersed between the sand bubblers burrows were precarious little tubes protruding out of the sand. These are the tubes of tubeworms.

Many pieces of driftwood on the beach had some interesting creatures stuck on them. I really didn't know what they were then. They clustered in an interesting pattern that make them look like shells strung together.

I saw that these creatures had a muscular foot that was used to attach it onto a substratum. Occasionally, the whole shell of the animal were swung gently from side to side. Little claw-like structures would also extend out of a slit on this "shell" to sweep in a unidirectional motion.

I later found out that these are called Gooseneck barnacles (or goose barnacles). They are free swimming when young. But as adults, they perch themselves on a solid surface and would not move off for the rest of their lives. The claw-like structures that I saw were their specialized limbs that help to gather food for the creature.

B decided to make a journal entry on the gooseneck barnacle in his nature journal using a photograph we have taken. This was done the next day, in the comfort of home. It would have been better if they could draw at the beach. But with all the children playing, who could have concentrated. I figured this will be the next best solution.

I decided to do the same.

Back at the beach, I then haven't yet noticed the Gooseneck barnacle's muscular foot, had thought perhaps these were hermit crabs. I searched the beach for something long and thin in which I could poke into the slit on the shell to agitate the prisoner within; in the hope of luring it out. I found a short stick which suited my use but was more surprised to find it studded with puny snails!

As the sun continued to beat on the beach, the receding tide unveiled more hidden beauties. Look at the tiny sand dunes formed by waves.

And I couldn't resist taking a shot of this angular weathered rock.

Such rocks created numerous pockets of water that form micro habitats for more animals. I spied many water snails that were very well camouflaged. Can you spot the snail gliding ever so slowly in this video?

By now, I had walked quite far away from where our party was settled. The sandbars turned rocky as we ambled further off shore. The little island that we saw during high tide, was now reachable on foot.

By then, unfortunately (or fortunately) my camera battery went flat. I found a crab lying exposed on a rock. The only way I could document it was to draw it. And that was what I did. Good thing I had my nature journal with me then.

I didn't do justice to the crab. The scorching sun was burning my back throughout the whole time I was drawing and that was awfully distracting. The glare from the sun also blinded me somewhat. I couldn't differentiate the colours on my watercolour pans. I mistook the red for a dark brown and blotted too much red on my drawing. The carapace was more of a reddish brown colour.

I was trying to draw really fast too, fearing that the crab would scramble off before I could complete my drawing. It however, kept so still for so long that I half suspected that it might be dead. Moreover, I noticed that it had two legs on one side and four on the other. One limb must have broken off.

Based on the markings on the carapace and the general outline of the crab, I am guessing that the crab I drew was a Porcelain crab. The Porcelain crab is known to shed its limbs in times of danger. A new limb will grow back in place of the one that is lost but is often smaller than the original. If I have correctly identified this crab, then the crab I drew could possibly be alive.

At the end of the day, the children were overcome with exhaustion. I was overcome with excitement over all the wonderful things I saw. I made a mental note to find out more about some of those mysterious creatures. I am also resolute to search out for more places with such treasures and be more diligent in documenting as much of God's marvelous creation as I can.

It is funny how God gave me a "Wild Day" after I have kind of given up hope on having one. It would be so nice to have more of such days.

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