Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Herp Night Walk and a Photodump

What is it that is so appealing about reptiles and amphibians? Is it the fact that they are so very different from us -- so different from the furry, warm-blooded cute mammals that humans anthropomorphise and empathise with so easily? Is it because of how fragile they are, how susceptible to pesticides and other pollutants, that they have become such important indicators of environmental health? Is it because many of them, particularly frogs and lizards, eat insects that are disease vectors and thus provide biological pest control? Is it because they are mostly nocturnal, and therefore mysterious and fascinating? Or are they simply just beautiful to behold, and knowing that we share our Planet with such amazing living beings fills us with awe and joy?

Whatever the reason is, I've been spending so many of my Saturday nights volunteering with Reach Out Malaysia that I missed many opportunities to go on herpetology walks with the Malaysian Nature Society. I finally cleared my schedule and made up my mind to go on a herp' night walk at the Kota Damansara Community Forest with the MNS Herpetofauna Group, led by Steven Wong, on 6th Sept.

(Photos taken using an el cheapo compact camera and cell phone, hence the poor quality.)

Herp Walk participants gathering around Steven's car to sign the indemnity and waiver forms and spray on mosquito repellent.

A group photo for posterity at the head of the Harmony Trail in Kota Damansara.

The first frog spotting of the night was made just 30 seconds into the trail. Steven taught us to look for white eye-shine in order to spot frogs. This one is a Dark-sided Chorus Frog (Microhyla heymonsi).

A Huntsman spider (Heteropoda sp.) waiting for his supper to come along.

One of the participants spotted and picked up this considerably rare Rhinocerous frog (Limnonectes plicatellus) at the semi-dried up stream bed. Now we have another species for our natural history journals!

A well-camouflaged Lesser Stream Toad (Ingerophrynus parvus).

A Bent-Toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus bintangtinggi ???) with giraffe-like patterns trying to get away from us.

A juvenile slender squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis) ran out of the trees and fled up Danny's leg, much to our surprise. Maybe he was trying to stay warm and dry in the rain.

A rather common species, Garden fence lizard (Calotes versicolor).

We didn't get to see a very large diversity of herps on this walk, perhaps due to the rain, or perhaps they had just managed to hide themselves very well from our view, but I am grateful for the respite from the heat of the city, the litter-choked drains, the roads crawling with traffic and the dusty construction sites. Grateful for like-minded friends who are only too happy to impart knowledge and share their passion for wildlife and conservation with others. Grateful for the light rain falling onto our heads and in front of the beams from our flashlights, shining like swarms of gilded insects. Grateful that there are still green lungs and untamed wild spaces so close to our homes, where we can connect with nature and sit among the trees and put out roots and tendrils if we want to.

This fortnight's Photodump:

This is Miranda, one of the kittens rescued by Aravind last week. She was picked up from a rubbish dumping area and had sustained a big cut on her hind foot. We've taken her to the vet and got her all cleaned up and medicated. I am fostering her for the time being until her foot is fully healed and we can find her a good home.

We observed the Mid-Autumn Festival on 8th Sept with mooncakes and lanterns. I think this is the best use of our Nokero solar light bulbs ever!

One of my colleagues brought us this huge box of delicious pastries from her travels in Iran. Goodbye, Diet! Hello, Empty Calories! We all ended up standing around the Conference Table, munching away and saying to one another: "I really should stop eating now. OMG."

Skate park on a Friday evening.

Remember Chiquita, who was caught for Trap, Neuter and Release around 2 weeks ago? A very kind lady by the name of Sharifah offered to adopt her, so we went out and caught Chiquita all over again, gave her a bath and drove her to Sharifah's house. Chiquita must have thought she was in Kitty Heaven after living in the rubbish dumping site for most of her life. A scratching post, a nice comfy bed, a rug to lie down on, all the food she can eat and a loving family to give her all the cuddles and skritches she wants. Look how happy and contented she looks in this photo! And this was taken merely hours after her arrival at her new home! What a transformation!

Aravind and I are still in the process of catching all the stray cats in his area for neutering and release/rehoming. We managed to catch 2 more on 13th Sept, a baby and her Mama. This little one is about 3 months old. We've named her Munchkin. She has been bathed and Frontlined and I have also cleaned her ears with ear mite solution. The SPCA is helping us put her up for adoption. I hear she has been adopted already.

And this is Gaia, a 1-year-old domestic shorthair cat, and mother of Munchkin, Sierra and Sienna. She has been bathed, Frontlined and had her ears cleaned with ear mite solution. She was spayed on Sunday and will be released in the same area within 7 days if no adopter is found.

Bathing and tickwashing dogs at the SPCA animal shelter on Saturday afternoon.

I'm back in the groove of Postcrossing. Some of these postcards went to fellow Postcrossers, and others were mailed to my volunteers to thank them for their assistance during the World Environment Day celebrations. I love receiving postcards. I think they would, too.

I feel the same way about Mondays too, Puppy! (Photo taken at the SPCA, where the puppies have managed to climb up on the office chairs.)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Monthly Bucket List August 2014

Monthly Bucket List August 2014: 

1. Make a new friend. 

August brought me a new friend in the form of a fellow animal rescuer, Vedra, who I connected with when I saw her appeal for funds to pay the vet bills of a badly abused and injured dog. 

(Vedra and the rescued dog. Photo from Facebook used without permission. Kindly do not copy or use without the express permission of the individual in the photo.)

2. Help a stranger. 

As mentioned above, I made a cash donation to Vedra for the injured dog she was helping. I wish I had more to give but Aravind and I have enough vet bills to deal with considering the number of TNR cases and injured and ill cats we have been picking up this month. 

Project Second Chance had 5 new beneficiaries this month: 

This is a pair of formerly stray colourpoint kittens, Sierra and Sienna, who I bathed, cleaned up and treated with Frontline and ear mite solution and put up for adoption with the help of the SPCA (both were rehomed within a week, hurrah!) 

Sierra and Sienna: Vaccinated, dewormed and rehomed, hurrah! They will be neutered once they are of age. 

In the final week of August, we picked up Chiquita, a stray mama cat, who we have since brought in for spaying and vaccination, and her 2 kittens, Darwin and Belle, who I have also bathed and given the usual Frontline and ear mite solution treatment. All of them are currently for adoption at the SPCA following an agreement I have with the vets. 

For spaying and release: Chiquita

For adoption: Belle

For adoption: Darwin

I started volunteering with the Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Society on Tuesday evenings at their community recycling centre this month, and am loving the work and the company. 

Sorting recyclable items at the community recycling centre on Tuesday nights.

All sweaty and grimy after spending close to 3 hours sorting and bagging up recyclables with the other volunteers at the community centre. 

I also accepted the "Plant A Tree for Groot" challenge and planted these fruit trees from seed, which I will transplant at the Kota Damansara Community Forest and the neighbourhood community edible garden if the seeds do sprout. I will keep sowing as many seeds as I can. 

Aravind and I donated blood at the National Blood Bank on National Day, and although I have done this many times before, I believe blood donation always counts as "helping a stranger" because we may never know who the beneficiaries are or will be. 

3. Eat something/at someplace new to me. 

I ate at 3 new-to-me restaurants this month:

- Old Fuzhou Restaurant in Damansara Kim; 
(Brief review: Not a vegetarian restaurant, but a Chinese restaurant with reasonably-priced fare and good service. The staff were happy to oblige when I requested a vegetarian version of a standard dish, and the food, while not exceptional, was tasty and wholesome). 

Vegetarian fried vermicelli.

- Appu Uncle Curry House in Petaling Jaya; 
(Brief review: This restaurant reopened after several months of closure due to renovations. I have heard many good things about their food and I have to agree with all of them. Service was efficient and the food was delicious. The ambiance was enhanced by the whimsical curry-themed posters.) 

The folk-artsy mural outside the shop. 

Scrumptious banana leaf meal with fragrant, delicious curries that will haunt your dreams at night.

Witty and charming curry-themed posters.

I parked across the road in front of this succulent bush festooned with crab shells, courtesy of the Chinese seafood restaurant next door. From afar, I had thought it was the oddest plant I have ever seen. 

- Acha Curry House, also in Petaling Jaya. 
(Brief review: Recommended by my colleague, Vidya. Food was average and there was not much variety for vegetarians and vegans. But maybe this is because we arrived after 2 p.m. and they had run out of most of their vegetable dishes by then. I was rather disappointed both by the lack of variety and the exorbitant bill. For the same amount, we could feast like kings at Appu Uncle or Usha's). 

I also tried 2 foods new to me this month: 
- Chuppa Rustam at Radhey's Restaurant (Spicy green veggie cutlets with a mint dip); 

- and fresh figs from my best friend Nicole. 

My Mid-Autumn Festival themed bento with fresh figs.

4. Go someplace I've never been. 

No travelling done this month, but I did visit and volunteer at Taman Rimba Riang, Section 9, Kota Damansara, a public park I had previously never been to, as well as the nearby jungle trail. 

Also had the opportunity to stop by the new Spotlight store in Ampang Point. The variety of fabrics, home decor items and craft items was pretty amazing. I had to keep reminding myself to think of Mother Earth so that I would not buy things on impulse. 

The first Spotlight store in Malaysia, on the 3rd Floor of Ampang Point. Open until 10 p.m. daily.

The tastefully decorated displays entice shoppers to purchase and consume more.

An assortment of Star Wars-themed fabric at Spotlight.

Craft items galore at Spotlight.

5. Learn something new. 

This may not seem like much, but I learned how to roll up curbs in skateboarding. 

Also, during kickboxing, I learned that you can make your jabs explosive by angling your fist at the point of impact, in a motion we refer to as "pouring the beer". This makes one's punch much stronger than the average straight jab.

6. Declutter and cull 100 items. 

I have been decluttering 2 spots in the house each week and removing over 25 items each week for disposal and recycling. In August alone, I cleaned out 6 storage boxes and crates and managed to dispose of, donate or recycle most of the contents of the said boxes. My decluttering initiative is therefore well on track. 

7. Give up something for a month. 

For all of August, I resolved not to eat after 9 p.m. This is more difficult that it sounds because I work late and go to bed late, and so if I eat at 8 p.m., there is a good chance that I will be hungry again by midnight. However, I notice that when I eat after 9 p.m. I tend to choose less healthy options such as carbohydrate-rich and high-sodium snacks. I decided to cease eating after 9 p.m. to see if it could help me manage my weight. 

I did relapse on 4 occasions when I was too hungry to concentrate on work, but I made a conscious effort to choose healthier snack options such as oatmilk beverage and raw vegetable sandwiches, rather than go to the nearest 24-hour food court. My weight has so far remained the same, but I feel less sluggish when I go to bed or wake in the mornings compared to when I snacked on unhealthy food late at night. 

This Monthly Bucket List initiative has helped me break out of routines and improve the quality of my life incrementally in ways I never expected it to.