So, here we go. We are about to dive into this adventure I took a while back. Get ready!!
Circa: JUNE 6, 2016
Arrival at Ibajay, Panay
Our journey finally begins as we arrived in Ibajay, Panay at 6:00 pm. Me, Kuya Garrett and ate Aga went to our room and cleaned up our baggage. After preparing our backpacks with some of the survival and mangrove equipment needs such as :
First Aid Kit
Old newspapers (for press drying the leaves from Mangroves)
we ate our dinner and hit the snooze button.
Start of our field work
Around 5:00 am we ate our breakfast and headed straight to the Ibajay Mangrove Eco – Park where we waited for our guide. There were a lot of different kinds of mangroves it was sometimes difficult to tell apart. You really needed to check the bark, leaves, texture, color, fruits, and flowers. We would even use our newspapers to dry and identify them while we had our guide around. While walking through the park I found a few of the 28 kinds of trees :
1. Avicennia Alba / Marina / Officinalis / Rumphiana
5. Acanthus Ebracteate / ilicifolius / Volubilis
6. Aegiceras corniculatum
7. Bruguiera Parviflora
8. Ceriops Decandra / Tagal
9. Pemphis Acidula
10. S. Alba / Caseolaris
11. Xylocarpus Granatum / Moluccensis
12. And exploring more…
We went deeper into the park and went to explore the ground and get our hands dirty. We started to plot ten by ten meters square for our stations. Each station we would measure how big the mounds were, the circumference and the height. We have now created two stations and are planning on hitting 5 stations. Each side of the square we would use an app, altimeter, to find out the coordinates and the degrees. Measuring the plot would, sometimes, get us stabbed by the Acanthus Ebracteate, This plant was very sharp and you can find almost everywhere around or on top of the mound.
Mounds and Mud – lobsters
Mounds are like big lumps of soil which are made by mud – lobsters. You can find these mounds almost everywhere near the mangrove trees or the saline environment. The biggest mound we’ve measured had a circumference of 14 meters, which was pretty large.
Some of the mounds are all clumped together, we called these condos. When we open up these ‘condos’ there would be dozens of holes leading somewhere deep. We couldn’t even reach the bottom, the mud – lobsters are really good at making mounds. The mud – lobsters use their claws to burrow a mound. They are called engineers sometimes. When mounds are created it also helps the soil. People usually see these mounds as useless lumps on the ground, but actually, it provides homes for special snakes, ants, crabs, spiders and other animals. Mud – lobsters are very timid and nocturnal creatures so it is low probability to see one.
On the second plot, we started to hear some thunder. We hurried up our business before everything started to pour. We didn’t have time to measure any mounds because the hard rain started. We ran up the stairs to the nipa hut where we ate some snacks. Our research did say that the mud – lobster come out when it’s raining so me and ate Aga went to look at some of the mounds.
The rain somehow changed the color of the river to blue. Awhile ago it was murky green now it was just light clear blue. I wanted to get a sample but I didn’t find time to get any. We didn’t know why it changed the color. We were thinking maybe when the fresh water and the salt water mixed it did some things and changed color? I still need to research on that
We came up with an idea to conduct an experiment and see if the mud lobsters repair their damaged homes. We started to shovel up open the tunnels from the mounds which were really deep. We never reached the bottom but opened up everything. The next spot we dug up was near the biggest in width tree which was a 750-year-old Avicenna Rumphiana.
We all decided to check our second station and start doing our measurement again. Everything was covered with water, all the small plants. The water was so high up our knees we couldn’t find the path we were in awhile ago. We decided to do our studies of our second plot in a few hours.
While waiting for the tide to lower down a notch we swam in the beach. Not one single fish did I see. The water we swam in was clear. No corals. No fish. No seaweed. Nothing. We started to swim further from shore. There, in the middle of nowhere, a blue starfish with small spikes on top. We picked it up and I noticed one of its arms were missing. It must have been washed here by the tide. But, it was awesome that a starfish out of, so far, a clear sea just popped up here.
Setting up traps
After cleaning ourselves up we walked back to the eco – park. Finally, the tide calmed down and we could do more field work. We went to the spot where we opened a hole to see the progress. We raced back to the scene where we shoveled the mounds. Amazed, the mounds were covered with fresh mud. They say that this creature only does their work at night because they are nocturnal. This time, we planned to trap the mud – lobster with a snare trap. Luckily, we had a few which were made of bamboo. We put two snare traps in two holes which were in the area of the oldest mangrove.
A snare trap is bamboo contraption which was designed to lure in animals and trap them. This is the trap that was set up to catch them in the park.
While the others were setting up the snare trap, I and my brother looked for some fiddler crabs. The fiddler crabs (color: red, blue and gray) which were hiding under the soil were fast. We caught two each. One of them had a big claw and the others were spotty. We put them in a small plastic container to identify them later. Our guide said that the light red one was the female, while the fiddler with the large claw was a male. The crabs with the one big claw are the ones who fight for the female and gain their territories. If you stay quite and watch carefully you could find two crabs fight with their large claw. Their claw is the size of their body. While I held them captive I was watching what they would do when their just not bothered. The female crab was using its small claws to like scratch her eye.
There are about 100 species of the genus Uca. We have 5 in the mangrove park. I did identify it to be a genus Uca but not the exact species.
~ Juvenile L.O.A.S.H