Discovering nature, and the spirit of discovery – Love MacRitchie Walk (December 2017)

“Korkor, is this a rubber seed?” “Yes.” “Is that a rubber seed too?” “Yep.” “How come this doesn’t have the same pattern?” Stumped. What is that? (Probably another rubber seed, on hindsight)

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Comparing different rubber seeds. One seemed to have been cracked open – by a bird or squirrel?

“What’s under that leaf?” A mealybug, or woolly aphid, or something else perhaps. So low in the undergrowth and so far out from the trail that getting a better look was impossible. My camera couldn’t pick it out either. But the two kids on the walk did. That’s the beauty of having children along with us on our Love MacRitchie Walks – they’re so observant, so fearless and eager to learn that, almost paradoxically, we find out more about what’s in our seemingly familiar forests from them instead.

Inspired by the children’s sharp eyes, we managed to find many other little creatures hidden in their habitats that day – a group of female Tree-hugger dragonflies circling a tree trunk (where were the males?), a hammerhead flatworm quietly probing the leaf litter for prey and a tiny Copper-cheeked Frog perched on a leaf, to name a few. The forest is never still, so long as we care to look.

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Spot the dragonfly! Female Tree-hugger dragonflies lack the distinct dark patches on their wings compared to the males, making them much more camouflaged against tree bark.
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Hammerhead flatworm
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Copper-cheeked frog. No prizes for guessing the inspiration for its name…

An experience in the forest is never only visual either. Despite not revealing themselves to us, a group of parakeets squawked away rowdily in the dense canopy. They were matched by a pair of excited Slender Squirrels, squeaking and tightroping so fast among branches that we caught little more than brief flashes of their silhouettes against the cloudy skies. Further down the trail, a homely sticky sweetness permeated the air – a durian tree had fruited and half-open fruits lay scattered around it, evidence of earlier feasts by the macaques.

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Don’t give fallen durian fruits too heavy a sniff though – some may have been sitting there for days…

In writing his surreal and immersive novels, author Haruki Murakami more than once planted this phrase in the conversations of his characters: “Walk slowly, drink lots of water.” It’s a deceptively simple advice, but one that I fear we rarely heed to in our busy lifestyles nowadays. When was the last time you had the time to slow down? To clear your mind and open up to the various stimuli of our natural environments? Try it one day. Take a slow walk in the forest. You might just discover a whole new world out there. Or a familiar one, stowed away years ago, as we proudly moved on from our childhood days.

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Claire guiding her group in the dense secondary forests of the Venus Loop trail.

The NUS Toddycats conducts monthly guided Love MacRitchie Walks at Venus Loop, a nature trail in the MacRitchie Forest. Follow us on our blog for updates on the upcoming walk in 2018! More pictures from our earlier walks can be found on our Facebook and Instagram, as well as NUS Toddycats’ Flickr page.

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