Monday, March 8, 2010

Gunung Angsi survey

Looming between Seremban and Kuala Pilah is the famous Gunung Angsi which stands at 825m. Height wise, it can be considered among the shorter mountains but it is popular for one-day trips. Generally it takes 3-4 hours from Ulu Bendol Recreation Park to reach the summit, which makes it a good mountain for trainings.

Actually there is another trail starting from Bukit Putus but I have never been through that. The more popular trail is the one from Ulu Bendol which runs along a stream until Jeram Kak Lang where hikers need to make the last cross. From there the trail goes up with several places require the use of ropes due to vertical climbs. The climb is long and moderately steep but the trail was made in such a way that it resembles a staircase interlaced with roots. The summit itself is quite spacious and can fit maybe 40 people but lacks shade. Unlike some higher mountains which are covered with mist, Gunung Angsi has a clear atmosphere meaning that daytime is usually hot.

I have been to the summit twice; the first one was 5 years ago. Nothing much changed and the hike is still very dehydrating. Hikers are advised to bring enough water supply and bear in mind that after the last water point in Jeram Kak Lang, every drop can be precious. The air is warm and hikers tend to sweat a lot. Although to me it is no where as difficult as Gunung Nuang, here dehydration is the main challenge, apart from the rope climb if you are clumsy. The open sky at several stretches will make matter worse if you already have water crisis.

To my understanding, it is not permitted to camp at the summit. There are several spots allowed for camping notably at the recreational park. Alas the place is not very conducive for camping due to its close proximity to the car park and the fact that the surrounding area is bustling with picnickers. I tend to dislike the general Malaysian picnickers as they are the biggest culprit in littering the nature. Ill-behaved picnickers often ditch their rubbish everywhere as long as it is to their own convenience, often resulting nature recreation areas to be infested with styrofoam containers and plastic bags. I personally believe that greater enforcement should be executed to put this to stop as well as a better program to educate the mass population on the devastating impact of such behaviour.

For the recent trip I brought along 2 friends who have never done mountain climbing before. Now this constrains my survey activity a bit as I was responsible to be their guide and coach. Most of the time I had my camera inside my bag therefore species survey was done only occasionally. Perhaps my luck was not so good that I did not manage to come across a lot of species during this trip but there were a few pleasant encounters.

Arachnura sp.

One of it is a female Arachnura sp. which was guarding her egg sacs at summit. I seldom come across this genus and this is the first time I saw one with egg sacs and hatchlings. The egg sacs were lined up within the web and hatchlings stick together at the upper portion of the web. The mother was seen to actively respond to snared insects while doing her maternal duty. Although arachnura belongs to the large family of araneidae orb-weaver, its shape is so slender that it looks out of place among other cousins.

Argiope sp.

Leucauge sp.

Beneath the dedicated mother and still in the same shrub was a small argiope. Usually adult or sub-adult argiopes with rather larger size weave stabilimentum (the thick cross silk line) but this little fella has a very pronounce one which is unusual for its size. On top of both was a small spider resembling a leucauge but with a rather unusual web for such genus. Leucauge is a common genus with beautifully symmetric orb webs but this one looks rather incomplete. Perhaps the strong wind on the mountain prevented a complete orb web.

Polyboea sp.

Not far from the shrubs I saw a polyboea in its 3-dimensional web. A very small cyclosa was nearby and it looks like one with a metallic abdomen. I hoped to find some spiders on the tree barks but did not manage to spot any. But mostly I was too tired to do any serious surveying. Actually I ran the morning before and my calves were still hurting.

Descending from the summit was much easier and even with many pit stops we reached the base in 3 hours. We ran out of water about a quarter way down so I left whatever water I had to my companions and ran down to the last water point to bring back a bottle for them. So remember- make sure you have enough water supplies when attempting this mountain.

Phoroncidia lygeana

I imagine the lower trail along the stream should have a much higher density of critters. Perhaps on another day I might just spend more time at the base for a proper survey of this area. I did found a very interesting spider- a Phoroncidia lygeana which has an extraordinary looks. This spider has 6 spikes protruding from its body and its web snare is a single vertical thread between two leaves.

Families encountered: Salticidae, Lycosidae, Pisauridae, Sparassidae, Tetragnathidae, Araneidae, Theridiidae, Psechridae.