Sunday, January 03, 2010

Nature in the Heartlands: Toa Payoh Town Park

dragonflies at toa payoh!
Located beside the Pan Island Expressway and the Toa Payoh Swimming Pool, the Toa Payoh Town Park is one of the oldest neighborhood parks in Singapore developed in the 70s with Singapore's first satellite town. Despite being located beside the highway, the green belt acts as a buffer to the noise. It offers a relaxing sanctuary from the bustle of the mall that is just across the road. New plantings could be sighted amongst the old angsana trees heavy with staghorn ferns. These grand dames have probably seen the park change over the last 40 years.

Neighborhood parks like Toa Payoh Park are like a green oasis in the concrete landscapes that we are familiar with in our housing estates these days. One minute I could be walking past crowds at the HDB Hub and the next minute I feel like I have entered a secret garden, lined with trees that form a wall separating the garden and the madding crowd. It almost feels like they don't design parks the way they used to. New generation parks designed today seems to adopt an open concept which I suppose is inclusive but the concept of an enclosed lush green hideaway in the middle of the madding crowd appeals to me. Another of such a green oasis is the Istana Park located in the middle of orchard road.

View Toa Payoh Town Garden in a larger map

What more, wildlife appears to be teeming at the park as well! In fact, we were pleasantly greeted by these information boards about the dragonfly species which you can find at the park. And just as we were reading the signboard, a damselfly flew and settled on the blade of grass right in front of us. An excited monkey exclaimed immediately, "quick! quick! see which dragonfly is it!" but confronted with a choice of 6 different species on the board, we concluded that it must be "the red one", for obvious reasons.

For those who are unsure about the difference between dragonflies and damselflies, the next informative signboard down the path answered just that question! The table below from the insect page gives you some clue.

Eyesmost have eyes that touch, or nearly touch, at the top of the headeyes are clearly separated, usually appearing to each side of the head
Bodyusually stockyusually long and slender
Wing Shapedissimilar wing pairs, with hind wings broader at the baseall wings similar in shape
Position at Restwings held open, horizontally or downwardswings held closed, usually over abdomen
Discal Celldivided into trianglesundivided, quadrilateral
Male Appendagespair of superior anal appendages, single inferior appendagetwo pairs of anal appendages
Female Appendagesmost have vestigial ovipositorsfunctional ovipositors
Larvaebreathe through rectal tracheal gills; stocky bodiesbreathe through caudal gills; slender bodies

If you noticed the google map satellite image of the park, a series of freshwater habitats make up part of the park. The information board also pointed out how damselflies and dragonflies are important keystone species as they prefer clean clear unpolluted waters. In fact, in environmental assessment studies, the presence of eggs laid by mayflies, a relative of dragonflies and damselflies, are used as indicators of lake ecosystem health in the US. Perhaps likewise, dragonflies and damselflies play similar roles in our freshwater habitats. In Singapore, there are now about 117 species of dragonflies and damselflies, including some new records from last year. According to the signboard, a few species have gone extinct due to habitat loss.

If you're an enthusiast of our fragile winged friends, here's a guide from the Butterfly Circle blog which tells you more about butterfly photography at the Toa Payoh Town Park. It even includes a map of the place. In 2009, NParks held a workshop on creating dragonfly friendly habitats at the Toa Payoh Town Park! Personally I only happen to go there because dinner is in the middle of the park!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good job.keeping.