Best of our wild blogs: 31 May - 1 Jun 15

Join the fun on Ubin Day 13 Jun (Sat) and 14 Jun (Sun)
wild shores of singapore

"A Boar at My Door" and other delightful Singapore children's books
wild shores of singapore

Lower Peirce Recce (feat. Youth for Ecology and NUS Toddycats)
Herpetological Society of Singapore

Red-whiskered Bulbul: 4. Did a hornbill raid the nest?
Bird Ecology Study Group

The Horsfields’ have landed in Singapore
Singapore Bird Group

Morning Walk At Venus Drive (30 May 2015)
Beetles@SG BLOG

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) @ Kranji Marshes
Monday Morgue

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Keeping the birds away with gel

Odorous product being tested in housing estates facing bird menace
SAMANTHA BOH Straits Times 1 Jun 15;

A GEL that deters birds with its smell is the new weapon being tried out against the bird nuisance in two housing estates in the west.

The herb-based product from Japan is being tested in Bukit Batok and Choa Chu Kang by the authorities here.

Along a path in Bukit Batok Avenue 1, containers of the gel have been placed above five lamp posts, which are common roosting places for birds because of their broad and flat tops.

Not too far away, another trial is being conducted at Block 755 in Choa Chu Kang North 5. Rows of containers with the gel line the ledges on the sides of the block.

The trial in Bukit Batok began in December 2013 and the one in Choa Chu Kang started in February. Both are still ongoing.

Residents of the Choa Chu Kang block have endured years of disturbance from flocks of mynahs, said Madam Audrey Hoy, 56, a counsellor. "The droppings were all over, and the birds would fly into my bedroom," she said.

The situation worsens during sunset at about 7pm each day, when the birds fly back to the blocks or neighbouring trees to roost for the night, Madam Hoy said. "Sometimes, I still have clothes out and they fly all over them and soil them."

Another resident, student Nurul Ain Azhar, 23, said it can get quite disgusting as the droppings are splashed all over the walls of the building's facade.

The gel has been used in Japan for more than 10 years and was brought in by KSPA Singapore at the end of 2013.

The product typically takes about a month to become effective, based on current trials, Mr Ignatius Chua, chief operating officer of KSPA Singapore, told The Straits Times.

About 20g of the gel is placed in each of the containers, which are about 20cm apart. They have holes at the bottom to prevent stagnant water from collecting and mosquitoes from breeding.

"The birds will still keep coming back initially because they have the mindset that the place is their roosting space," Mr Chua said. "It is only after a few times that they realise they keep smelling the same odour and decide it is no longer the place to go back to."

He added that the gel does not wash away with water or melt under the sun, and should last for at least three years.

The gel is non-toxic and does not harm the birds, he added.

Besides the gel, other bird-control methods are being tested and reviewed, said a spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which oversees bird-control measures here.

Currently, town councils and the National Parks Board selectively prune trees to temporarily deter birds from roosting. Bird-control companies engaged also use a mix of tools, including spikes, nets and chemical-laced baits.

The National Environment Agency works with cleaning contractors to ensure the timely disposal of food scraps, which may attract birds at food centres and coffee shops. The AVA also clamps down on the feeding of pigeons, which has been banned since 1973. Those caught flouting the rules are fined up to $500.

Meanwhile, residents of Block 755 in Choa Chu Kang said the bird problem has eased somewhat in the last month, but they are unsure if this is because of the gel.

"It has been over two months since the block was painted and the walls still look clean - hardly any droppings," said Ms Nurul.

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Fun and food at first farm festival

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Jun 15;

Around 12,000 people are expected to visit Singapore's first Farm Festival - a two-day event which began yesterday at the grounds of Kranji's Nyee Phoe, Singapore's oldest horticulture business.

Organised by the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA), the festival features more than 50 stalls of local produce and locally made artisanal food and products, and live music by local bands. There are also live farm animals, including goats, quails, mother hens, chicks and frogs.

"The festival is a culmination of the educational and outreach work KCA has been doing in the past 10 years. It is our biggest event yet and is a real community effort from the ground up," said KCA president Kenny Eng.

KCA also launched its youth wing yesterday. Called the Singapore Young Farmers, it is led by KCA honorary secretary Chelsea Wan, and aims to encourage young people to appreciate local farmers and participate in agriculture-related activities. KCA worked with Nanyang Polytechnic on an exhibition now at the festival, and will also roll out activities later this year.

KCA said it hopes the youth wing will also give young people here a deeper understanding of Singapore's food system, as well as home-grown innovations and solutions for the food industry.

"Food and energy will be increasingly scarce due to the growing world population and uncertain climate. Agriculture should not be a sunset industry - it is an essential activity and needs to be up and coming... especially for a small country like Singapore," said Ms Wan. The festival, at 240 Neo Tiew Crescent, is on from 2pm to 9pm, although the market stalls close at 7pm.

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Pre-schoolers take on the world

Bryna Sim The Straits Times AsiaOne 1 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE - Pre-schoolers are never too young for any activity, it seems. Pre-schools in Singapore have been offering unusual activities for kindergarteners in recent years.

These include overseas exchange programmes, visits to soup kitchens and old folks' homes, plant cultivation, meditation, film-making and wire sculpturing.

Pre-school operators say it is never too early to expose kids to such activities which can teach them about other cultures, independence, values and skills.

Activities that involve overseas travel are usually add-ons to the core curriculum, which means parents pay extra for them, on top of the school fees. For example, Genius Hive's Taiwan trip costs $1,400 for a child and $1,400 for the accompanying parent.

Creative O's local soup kitchen visits also entail a transport fee of about $7 a child for each trip. There are no additional costs for visits to old folks' homes though.

Other activities at pre-schools, such as wire work and meditation, are part of the curriculum.

Beyond day camps and stay-in camps, at least one pre-school operator organises a three-day, two-night, Outward Bound-style camp every year.

Creative O Preschoolers' Bay takes Kindergarten 2 children to St John's Island on a camping trip every September, sans parents. The children pack their bags themselves and once there, they learn to cook, prepare a barbecue and play challenging outdoor games.

Principal Tan Beng Luan says the camp is meant to put the children in a new environment, away from their usual comforts. She adds: "They get to learn life skills such as planning, problem-solving, co-operation and responsibility."

Eight children aged five and six from Genius Hive Pre-school are now in Taiwan for the school's inaugural overseas adventure trip.

They will attend classes there with kids in three local schools, visit a farm and spend time at Baby Boss theme park, which allows them to role-play adult jobs.

Centre manager Kimberly Quek says: "Children learn and remember best when they can see, touch, hear, feel and taste. We believe this overseas trip will provide numerous learning opportunities for them."

Besides experiencing a different culture, the kids are also expected to come up with personal learning objectives for the trip, encouraging goal-setting and ownership.

The Little Skool-House International, a brand under NTUC First Campus, has been organising overseas trips to a rural part of Taiwan since 2009. The kids learn how to grow crops such as sugarcane and sweet potatoes, prepare simple meals and experience rural life there.

Several pre-school operators, including Busy Bees and Metropolitan YMCA's MY World Preschool, encourage their pre-schoolers to help the less fortunate and develop social awareness and compassion. These can come in the form of visits to old folks' homes or packing goodie bags for the needy.

Children at Creative O Preschoolers' Bay are taught to go one step further. Beyond monthly visits to three different charity homes, they are also responsible for planning the entertainment - songs, drama, dance or games - and snacks for the elderly.

Ms Tan says the children are "very serious" about this task and will discuss and rehearse before the visits.

"Adults should not underestimate children," she adds. "The children make good suggestions about what snacks or games are suitable for the elderly from their observations on earlier visits."

Since March this year, the pre-school has taken on a new community service project - helping out at Willing Hearts soup kitchen, which distributes free meals to the needy. The children do simple tasks, including pasting consume-by stickers on the lunch boxes and handing them out at distribution centres.

In doing so, they learn to be kind and helpful, and are "engaging in the process" of contributing to the community, says Ms Tan. She adds that at the soup kitchen, the children see how volunteers help to prepare ingredients, cook and pack the food. "It's very meaningful for them to see the effort that goes into producing these meals."

Other pre-schools seek to nurture character in different ways.

Kindergarten 1 children at NTUC's My First Skool centres are taught the value of responsibility by caring for a plant for an entire year.

When a plant dies along the way, the teacher will discuss with the child the reasons for its death, emphasising the importance of being a good care-giver and encouraging him to grow a new plant. Says Dr Connie Lum, head of Chinese Language Curriculum at NTUC First Campus: "Pre-school is an ideal time to instill core values as the children are able to understand that their behaviour has an impact on others."

Buddhism-inspired preschool My Little Gems has a concentration programme, which is based on Buddhist meditation techniques. At least twice a day for up to 15 minutes, the children meditate by focusing on their breathing and surroundings.

Principal Ben Lim says that in sustaining attention on an object of focus and in being mindful of themselves and their surroundings, the children learn to manage their emotions and exercise self-control.

Apart from ballet and gymnastics, some pre-schools also offer yoga, film-making and wire sculpturing as ways to enhance a child's gross and fine motor skills.

Children at EtonHouse pre-schools have in recent years been exploring wire work. EtonHouse Bilingual Pre-School principal Ng Shu Ping says this helps them strengthen their fine motor skills, as well as understand the material's properties.

Parents whom SundayLife! spoke to are supportive of these various activities.

Mr Tan Ming Kang, 42, whose five-year-old son Octavius Trajan is on Genius Hive Pre-school's trip in Taiwan with his mother, believes the trip will do his son much good.

"He will be exposed to a different environment and gain insight into how things work in a different place," says the consultant in an IT firm.

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