Family: Parrot

Draw a squawk that squawks for the sheer love of squawking.

Roll it into bird-shape.

Dip it in a paintbox.

Set it loose in the trees.

Red-breasted parakeet – Singapore

Red-breasted parakeet SG

Red-tailed black cockatoos – Litchfield National Park, Australia

Red-tailed black cockatoo

Sulphur-crested cockatoo – Mary River National Park, Australia

Sulphur-crested cockatoo1

Galah – Kakadu National Park, Australia

Galeh1

Little corellas – Mary River National Park, Australia

Cockatoo Mary River3

Timelapse

This, too, is Singapore.

Pulau Ubin

Before the skyscrapers came, there were kampongs. On the little island of Pulau Ubin, old times are still here, and narrow roads shadowed with tropical forest twist between the village and the sea. You cycle up them, pausing to swallow buko and listen to the insects buzzing in abandoned fruit plantations. There is no mains electricity or tap water on Pulau Ubin, but there is something wilder, quieter, hotter.

It is not so many years since tigers and black leopards swam in these turquoise straits, but the largest predators today are white-bellied sea eagles.

It is stifling – always – and the skies are stiff and sullen.

Pulau coast 29 May 2018

Red rocks, smooth beach, hot waves – this is Singapore.

Pulau Ubin beach

Long-tailed macaques exploiting the human presence – this is also Singapore. Nobody likes to see wildlife handling plastic, and it is rather depressing that monkeys are still affected by it even in the most anti-litter country on Earth.

Long tailed macaque with orange juice

Like wildlife conflict everywhere, it can be avoided with a little common sense.

Long-tailed macaque Pulau Ubin 29 May 2018

But the crabs of Chek Jawa concentrate on the tides rather than people.

Crab Chek Jawa

Pulau Ubin knew granite mining in the past. Picturesque quarries are silent reminders of an era of Chinese secret societies and massive construction in Singapore proper. Lighthouses on the main island were built out of Pulau Ubin’s bones.

Quarry Pulau Ubin

The industry fell apart decades ago, and rain filled up the quarries. But nature, as ever, just carries on.

Flowerpecker

Mystery bird SG

The Plant Dimension

They stretch from sand to stormclouds with enough lordliness for hornbills to choose them as a throne.

Oriental pied hornbill 28 May 2018

They sprout nuts and fruit alien to the English visitor, but welcomed by a hungry plantain squirrel.

Plantain squirrel SG 28 May 2018

They clothe fences built by people, sheltering reptiles in their sprawl.

Lizard1 SG 28 May 2018

This is Singapore.

People have had creative ideas about what to do with this island for generations, but for all the skyscrapers, golf courses and godowns, there is no doubt that this is first and foremost a humid, beetle-buzzed, rain-lashed benevolent dictatorship run by plants. Every square metre where something can grow, something does. They even scramble over each other, climbing high like children.

Plant scramble 28 May 2018

Epiphytes – plants that live harmlessly on the surface of other plants, usually trees – are as common as daisies here. Amongst them, more lizards lurk.

Lizard2 SG 28 May 2018

It would take several lifetimes to document the bewildering variety of wild living things in south-east Asia. I’m travelling around the region for the next couple of weeks, revisiting some places, venturing into new ones.

There are many more moods of plants to learn.

 

Singapore’s Wildside

March 2017

Singapore’s water is everywhere, even in the air – it batters you with humidity. Water is never far away as a walking companion either; Singapore is, after all, a small island with a large river. Walk by the coast, and you never know who you’ll meet.

Paradise tree snake1 SG 31 March 2017

Paradise tree snakes are famous for flying – they can glide 300 feet between trees – but this one was weaving its way along footpath railings. They are mildly venomous but do not really pose a risk.

You may look upwards to detect snakes, but the crash in the undergrowth signals something much bigger…

Malayan water monitor adult1 SG Mar 2017

Malayan water monitors are dragons of the sea: they can reach ten feet in length.

Oriental pied hornbills are giants of the feathered kind.

Oriental pied hornbill sg Mar 2017

Their massive bills are surprisingly dextrous in handling fruit.

Pied Hornbill2

They share the trees with smaller birds such as bulbuls.

Yellow vented bulbul SG Mar 2017

And tropical squirrels.

Squirrel SG Mar 2017

It’s so easy to forget that the city is just minutes away.

Raffles