Singapore Raptor Report – Early Autumn Migration, July-September 2016


Oriental Honey Buzzard (torquatus tweeddale morph) at Pasir Ris Park, 21 September 2016, by Tony Chua

The Osprey, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon were recorded during early autumn migration. The number of records for the Oriental Honey Buzzard during this period has increased slightly to 21 (compared to 16 for the same period last year). Out of these, only 4 were of the resident torquatus form. The remainder 17 were orientalis and at least 7 were juveniles – 5 in July and 2 in August. These juveniles were continuing their moult, showing new primaries (up to P5) and missing some primaries (up to P6), whereas in the last 3 months from Apr-Jun, only new P1 & P2 (counting from inside) were seen. These juveniles would have spent the summer in this region.

The first Japanese Sparrowhawk arrived on 16 Sep, followed by one on 21 Sep and another on 28 Sep. 4 Ospreys were recorded, one at Hindhede Quarry on 19 July and another at Springleaf Nature Park on 1 Aug, the other two were at the usual areas near Sungei Buloh and Seletar Dam. A Peregrine Falcon was recorded at Singapore Quarry on 21 Sep, seemingly in an aerial ballet with a Brahminy Kite.

A striking torquatus Oriental Honey-buzzard (sedentary subspecies) tweeddale morph was photographed at Pasir Ris Park throughout the 3 months and an ernesti Peregrine Falcon (sedentary subspecies) was photographed at Pulau Punggol Barat on 31 Aug.

For the resident raptors, highlights included the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle on 23 Sep at Bukit Kalang Service Reservoir. A juvenile Crested Goshawk was found dead near a window at the Botanic Gardens in early September. The unfortunate bird may have collided with the window and it is probably one of the 4 juveniles that fledged in the gardens in June. Another rescued juvenile was released at the Warren Golf Course. The Grey-headed Fish Eagles at Bukit Batok Town Park (Little Guilin) were spending time on and around the nest at end September and may be starting to breed again. An intriguing Changeable Hawk-eagle showing a rare mix of dark and pale morph features was photographed at Choa Chu Kang Park on 16 July.


An unusual looking Changeable Hawk-eagle showing a mix of dark and pale morph characteristics, at Choa Chu Kang Park, 16 July 2016, by Lau Jia Sheng

Many thanks to everyone for sending in / sharing their records; and to  Tony Chua and Lau Jia Sheng for the use of their photos.

For the full report in pdf with more photos, please click here singapore-raptor-report-early-autumn-migration-jul-sep-2016-v2



Singapore Bird Report-September 2016

Following the arrival of the Forest Wagtails, Yellow-rumped, Asian Brown and Asian Paradise Flycatchers last month, we had another thirteen passerine species arriving this month. Starting on the 4th with an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla tschutschensis, picked up at Mandai Mudflats by Martin Kennewell with Lim Kim Keang, David Li and Andy Dinesh during the Fall Migration Bird Census and a Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus, at the Japanese Gardens on the 6th  (Timothy Chua). An Eastern Crown, Phylloscopus coronatus, and an Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis, at the Rifle Range Link were reported by Francis Yap on 7th and a Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, at Kranji Marshes by George Presanis on 8th.

The most interesting arrival of the month was a White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, photographed by Richard White at the flooded fields besides the Marina Barrage on the 19th. This is more than a month earlier than the previous arrival date of 21st October.

white-wagtail-richard-whiteA female non breeding leucopsis White Wagtail photographed by Richard White near Marina Barrage on 19th is more than a month earlier than the previous extreme date.

A sub-adult Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, photographed at Bidadari on 10th by Marcel Finlay, signalled the return of the migrant to this soon to be developed site. Francis Yap at his favourite Jelutong Tower photographed a passing Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, and a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, on the 23rd.

pacific-swift-fyapPacific Swift photographed migrating over Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap.

David Tan retrieved a dead Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, from River Valley High on 23rd. This is the second Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher to hit the school in two years. He reported that a weakened Cinnamon Bittern, Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, was picked up by ACRES from Hougang on 28th. This is most probably a migrant.

On 24th Lim Kim Chuah shared a photo of another casualty from his office at Jurong Island. This time it was an uncommon and hard to see Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella certhiola, found dead by his colleague Nisha Begum. Unfortunately we will be seeing more migrants crashing into buildings during this period as they migrate at night.


The dead Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler showing the streaked upper parts. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah

Rounding off this month’s arrivals were the returning Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, Merops phillippinus, reported at Serangoon Tidal Gates 0n 28th by Lim Kim Seng, a Squared-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, from Tuas South on 29th by Robin Tan and a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 30th by Lim Kim Chuah. (A earlier Squared-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo was reported at MacRitchie Trail on 23rd by Marcel Finlay, but its status is not clear as we also have a resident population there).

@ sime track

You can just make out the buffy crowned stripe of this Eastern Crowned Warbler, but the yellow undertail is very obvious. Taken at Terangtan Trail on 21st by Laurence Eu.

Other migrants of note were another Eastern Crowned Warbler at Terangtan Trail on 21st (Laurence Eu) and three Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, Ficedula zanthopygia, at Gardens by the Bay on 21st (Dawn Birding). This is a new record for GBTB. Still at the Gardens, two adult Rosy and Brahminy Starlings created much excitement during the month. Both birds were either released or escapees.

We had only one non-breeding visitor, a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, photographed by Zacc at Dillenia Hut inside our Central Forest.  A Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, was reported at Kranji Marshes on 13th by Joseph Tan K. B. This flycatcher has its status revised from a non-breeding visitor to a winter visitor in our 2015 Checklist based on the recent arrival dates. It is listed as a resident and a migrant in Malaysia.


Brown-streaked Flycatcher, a Winter Visitor, at Kranji Marshes on 13th. Photo: Joseph Tan Kok Beng.

We added five newly arrived shorebirds and one tern this month. A non-breeding Grey-tailed Tattler, Tringa brevipes, was photographed at SBWR on the 1st ( Zacc HD). It stayed for a few days, long enough for most of us to tick it. Another Grey-tailed Tattler photographed at Seletar Dam on 7th by Lawrence Cher may be the same bird.

grey-tailed-tattler-zaccGrey-tailed Tattler dropping in to SBWR on 1st Sept. Photo: Zacc HD.

An adult Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, was counted at Mandai Mudflats by David Li and Lim Kim Keang during the Fall Migration Bird Census on the 4th. Two days later Frankie Cheong reported two more Red-necked Stints at Pulau Tekong. Both were in non-breeding plumage. Another was sighted at the Marina Barrage on the 16th morning by Lim Kim Keang but it did not stay. We found out later from TT Koh that he photographed a Red-necked Stint in transition plumage at Seletar Dam on 23rd August. His record marked the first arrival of this stint.


TT Koh shot this Red-necked Stint (right) in a transition plumage from breeding to non breeding at Seletar Dam on 23rd August, making it the first arrival for the season.

Red-necked Stint at MB LKK

Red-necked Stint (left) at Marina Barrage on the 16th. Photo: Lim Kim Keang

The five globally threatened Bar-tailed Godwits, Limosa lapponica, flying past Seletar Dam on 11th ( Lawrence Cher) and the two Broad-billed Sandpipers, Limicola falcinellus, at the Marina Barrage on 15th (Lim Kim Seng) made a one day appearance and could be on passage.

bar-tailed-godwits-lawrence-cherBar-tailed Godwits flying across the Seletar Dam. Their threat status had been uplisted by Birdlife in the latest IUCN Red List update due to the reclamation of their refueling site at Yellow Sea mudflats 

But the single Swinhoe’s Plover, Charadrius dealbatus, a distinct sub species of the Kentish Plover, sighted by Robin Tan at the Marina Barrage on the 19th was joined by another on the 23rd. Acceptance of this species to our checklist is pending.

swinhoes-plover-robin-tanThe Swinhoe’s Plover was first seen on the 19th at the Marina Barrage. Photo: Robin Tan

A single Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, was reported at the Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell on the 3rd. This was 6 days earlier than the earliest arrival date of 9th September. Richard White also reported three Whiskered Terns flying near the Marina Barrage on the 19th.

The numbers of Curlew Sandpipers, Calidris ferruginea, arriving here have declined drastically over the years. Only one was photographed at P. Tekong by Frankie Cheong on 21st and another two at SBWR reported by David Li on 26th.

img-20160921-wa0008A single Curlew Sandpiper photographed at Pulau Tekong by Frankie Cheong.

Long-toed Stints, Calidris subminuta, and Wood Sandpipers, Tringa glareola, were still around at Kranji on 10th (Alfred Chia and Lim Kim Keang). Both these waders were also seen at Pulau Tekong at a fresh water patch on 21st by Frankie Cheong together with two juvenile Ruddy Turnstones, Arenaria interpres.

Uncommon and notable residents for the month came from Bukit Kalang Service Reservoir in the Central Catchment where Keita Sin photographed a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, flying overhead on the 23rd, a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, was spotted at the West Coast Park Marshes on 12th (Kristel Yeong). Kieta Sin recounted that he had seen this heron there on 15 September 2015.

Others include a juvenile Crested Goshawk, Accipter trivirgatus, at GBTB on 14th (Danny Khoo), a Chestnut-winged Babbler, Stachyris erythroptera, at Terangtan Trail on 21st (Laurence Eu), a hard to find House Swift, Apus nipalensis, over at Punggol Barat on 27th (Joseph Tan KB) and an adult Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, photographed at SBWR by Zacc on 27th.

  1. List of first arrivals for the Season recorded in September.
Date Species Location Observer Remarks
1st Grey-tailed Tattler SBWR Zacc HD Non-breeding
1st Whiskered Tern x 2 Kranji Marshes Martin Kennewell New arrival date.
4th Yellow Wagtail Mandai Mudflats David Li & Lim KK FMBC
4th Red-necked Stint* (Adult) Mandai Mudflats David Li & lim KK FMBC
6th Tiger Shrike Japanese Gardens Timonthy Chua Juvenile
7th Eastern-crowned Warbler Rifle Range Link Francis Yap
7th Arctic Warbler Rifle Range Link Francis Yap
8th Grey Wagtail Kranji Marshes George Presanis
10th Indian Cuckoo Bidadari Marcel Finlay Sub adult
11th Bar-tailed Godwit x 5 Seletar Dam Lawrence Cher In flight
15th Broad-billed Sandpiper x2 Marina Barrage Lim Kim Seng
19th White Wagtail Marina Barrage Richard White New arrival date
19th Swinhoe’s Plover Marina Barrage Robin Tan
21st Curlew Sandpiper P. Tekong Frankie Cheong Breeding
23rd Dark-sided Flycatcher Jelutong Tower Francis Yap
23rd Pacific Swift Jelutong Tower Francis Yap
23rd Black-backed Kingfisher River Valley High David Tan Dead. Crashed
24th Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Jurong Island Nisha Begun Reported by Lim Kim Chuah
28th Blue-tailed Bee-eater Halus Barrage Lim Kim Seng Winter visitor
29th Squared-tailed Drongo-cuckoo Tuas South Robin Tan Winter Visitor
30th Ferruginous Flycatcher BTNR Lim Kim Chuah

*TT Koh later reported that he photographed a Red-necked Stint at Seletar Dam on 23rd

August. This marked the first arrival for this shorebird for the season.

Legend: SBWR-Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. BTNR- Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. FMBC Fall

Migration Bird Census 2016. GBTB-Gardens by the Bay.


Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009 Nature Society (Singapore). 

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Birds Society of Japan. 1993

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Richard White, Francis Yap, Lim Kim Chuah, Laurence Eu,  Joseph Tan Kok Beng,  Mohamad Zahidi, TT Koh, Lim Kim Keang, Lawrence Cher, Robin Tan and Frankie Cheong, for the use of their photos.



Birding West Coast Park

Text and Photos by Keita Sin

West Coast Park is where my birding journey begun in January 2014 and I’ve gotten quite a lot of interesting lifers there. This park, however, is probably not one of the places many would include their birding itinerary. Though usually associated with McDonald’s and the iconic giant pyramid, West Coast Park actually has a good diversity of bird life to offer.

Marsh Gardens

Located at the western end of the park, the best part about this place is that due to the small size, many of the birds can be seen at close proximity.

The highlight of the Marsh Gardens would probably be this lone Great-Billed Heron that has been seen rather consistently since September 2015.

photo-1wGreat-Billed Heron. This is an uncropped photo from a 300mm focal length x 1.6 crop factor. There are not many places in Singapore which offers such a close view of this bird.

The Marsh Gardens boardwalk, though a short one, is worth exploring too. A family of Abbott Babblers has been recorded there and I once encountered this friendly juvenile Crested Goshawk, which might have flew over from Kent Ridge Park. I was told that Black Bitterns had been seen here in the past ( per con Alan OwYong).

photo-2wCrested Goshawk, February 2015.

Carpark 2

The area around Carpark 2, especially the patch of vegetation indicated in this map, is another interesting area worth exploring (it’s quite hard to describe a location in West Coast Park).


Map retrieved from NParks. Watch out for snakes and random holes when exploring the area.

I found a lone Spotted Wood Owl here in August 2016, and a flock of Pied-Imperial Pigeon is usually around in the morning. I’ve seen most of Singapore’s parrots (every in the checklist except the Blue-Rumped Parrot) here too. The palm trees probably attract them to the area. A trio of Tanimbar Corellas and two Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos frequent this place as well.

photo-4wSulphur-Crested Cockatoo perched on a Pong Pong tree. They have been seen chewing on the pulp of the fruit.

The eastern half of West Coast Park

Majority of the people whom I see in the eastern half of West Coast Park are either joggers or dog-owners, because there are barely any facilities there apart from a dog-run. Just trees, trees and more trees – fantastic for birds.

I didn’t expect to see this Orange-Headed Thrush on a young Casuarina tree.

photo-5wOrange-Headed Thrush, December 2015.

I experienced one of my greatest birding moments so far when I spotted this Black-Capped Kingfisher through my binoculars.

photo-6wBlack-Capped Kingfisher, January 2016

Birding in West Coast Park

West Coast Park is a rather elongated one, so be prepared to walk some distance if you intend to explore the whole place. While there were few reports of rare finds in this park, the environment is fantastic for birding and it could just be because not many birders visit the place.

If you are unable to decide on a location this migratory season, do give West Coast Park a try. I was told that a Hooded Pitta spent a few week wintering here some years back.

Reference: Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd.

Missing Birds-Moustached Babbler

By Lim Kim Chuah.


MOUSTACHED BABBLER Malacopteron magnirostre

Status: Extinct???

Moustached Babbler from Panti (LKC)

This species was occasionally reported in very small numbers from the Upper Seletar and Sime Forest during the 1980’s. Breeding was also reported on several occasions. The last known report was from the MacRitchie catchment forest between 1993-94.

Considering the minimal size of the forest in Singapore and the vocal nature of this species, it is unlikely that the Moustached Babbler would have gone unnoticed all these years if the bird around. Also the sedentary nature of this species would probably rule out any possibility of birds dispersing from neighbouring Johor to Singapore. There is a high likelihood that this species could be extinct in Singapore today.

Hopefully I am wrong and should anyone discover this species in Singapore, please contact the Nature Society Bird Group.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009.

Yishun Dam and the returning Shorebirds.

Text and Photos by Mohamad Zahidi. 1st Oct, 2016.

There are a few places in Singapore we can go for shorebirds but I chose Yishun Dam as its close to where I live. For the shorebirds that flew thousands of miles from their Arctic breeding ground, the rich sand banks and mud flats provide a great refueling stop and a natural habitat to document them.

august-06Some of the early migrants to Yishun Dam. Small numbers of the Lesser Sand Plovers were seen.(6 Aug 2016).

c-august-15Increased in numbers in the following week. (15 Aug 2016)

I normally spend few hours playing the ‘waiting game’ under the hot sun and try to scan that area for some lifer or uncommon shorebird. The birds there also tend to forage for food at Khatib Bongsu and at some smaller island nearby.

img-20160825-wa0001Shorebirds shooting at low tide under the hot sun at the Yishun Dam. Photo: AlanOwYong


This year I am so determined to see the uncommon Greater Sand Plover. During my last Pelagic Trip in May, I was asking around about this Plover which I dipped during my unofficial Big Year in 2014. FrancisYap and See Toh suggested that I should go visit YD frequently in the month of Aug so that I can have a better chance to see the Greater Sand Plover there. 

september-22Lesser Sand Plovers at the sandbank. Background is the shoreline of Khatib Bongsu.

I finally decided to visit Yishun Dam (sandbank) somewhere in late July in order to see some early migrants with my birding kaki, David Tan. We ended up finding the Great-Billed Heron which Alan OwYong said was a new record for Yishun Dam (sandbank). The Western Osprey also made a brief appearance towards the end of our morning session there.

c-july-23Great–billed Heron adjusting to a new standing position. (23 July 2016)

Western Osprey was seen hunting for fish (23 July 2016)

b-july-23Western Osprey dropped its catch in mid-air (23 July 2016)

The news that a Great Knot landed in Yishun was sent to many by Francis Yap on a Saturday morning while I was at work. It attracted many photographers and avid birdwatchers to Yishun Dam again. It was time for me to get some new shot of this globally endangered star bird. There was a chance of getting the Greater Sand Plover as well.


b-august-15Great Knot was seen flying with the Lesser Sand Plover (15 Aug 2016).

Finally, on 22 August Lawrence Cher alerted us about Greater Sand Plover spotted in Yishun Dam. I was eager to go down asap but only managed to do it on 26 Aug 2016 despite the haze that morning.

aug-26Greater Sand Plover foraging along the shoreline (26 Aug 2016)

september-17-1Spotted another Greater Sand Plover at the sandbank. (17 Sep 2016)

Yishun Dam is a perfect place to see these great shorebirds and really hope that it will not be lost to development. I would like to thank Singapore Bird Group for the invite to write this article.

Below are some of my collection of birds taken recently at Yishun Dam.

september-22Common Sandpiper with baby cobra in threat posture (22 Sep 2016)

b-sep-22A pair of Pacific Golden Plover (22 Sep 2016)

a-sep-22Terek Sandpipers foraging on sandbank. (22 Sep 2016), Their numbers are in decline over the years.

oct-5-2014A juvenile Yellow Wagtail was spotted catching insects at Yishun Dam (5 Oct 2014)

sep-28-2014-1Ruddy Turnstone (28 Sep 2014)

oct-23-2013Close-up shot of Ruddy Turnstone (5 Oct 2013)

Reference: A Naturalsit’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited 2013.

Pelagic Birding in the Straits of Singapore.

Pelagic birding in the Singapore Straits. 18 Sept 2016. Text and Photos by Dirk Tomsa. 


Cruising eastwards at the start of out Pelagic with the Singapore skyline in the distance. Photo: Gerard Francis.

On 18 September 2016, the Bird Group of the Nature Society Singapore organized its first pelagic birdwatching trip for its members. There were ten of us including the leaders Alfred Chia and Lim Kim Keang. We left Sentosa Marina just before 6 am and set course for the Singapore Straits. I had done a few pelagics in Australia before and always loved them, so I was full of anticipation when we finally cleared immigration – yes, passport clearence out at sea, a first for me – and headed out to more open water. Compared to my previous experiences in the cold waters of the Southern ocean, this tropical pelagic promised very different birds. Terns, not albatrosses or prions, would be most prominent, with up to eight different species possible including the beautiful Aleutian Tern which migrates through Singaporean waters around this time of the year. Furthermore, we were hoping to see Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel, another migratory species that routinely passes through the Singapore Straits in September. For me personally, these two were the main targets as both would be lifers for me. And, as it turned out, I would not be disappointed.   


Terns like this Greater Crested Terns will be the most prominent pelagic species encountered.

In fact, it didn’t take long at all until we saw the first storm-petrels. Navigating the waves low above the surface, several small groups of Swinhoe’s whizzed past the boat, but unfortunately none of them came really close so that it was difficult to clearly see the subtle markings on these essentially brown birds. Eventually, my binoculars captured a bird close enough to the boat to enable me making out the slightly paler, crescent-shaped wing bar. Most birds, however, kept their distance and so I felt kind of reassured that Swinhoe’s was actually the only ‘stormie’ likely to be encountered here. Identifying different species at this long range would be a huge challenge. In the end, Alfred and Kim Keang confirmed that all storm-petrels seen that day were Swinhoe’s and that the total number of birds migrating through the straits that morning must have been around 300-350. Good numbers indeed, and a valuable tick for my list.


At this time of the year, the Straits of Singapore is one of the best places to see these Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels as they migrate through the Straits. More than 320 were counted this morning. Photo: Gerard Francis.

The storm-petrels were most abundant early in the morning. As the clock approached 9 am, the little brown birds became scarcer and we turned our attention to terns. Apparently a solitary Little Tern bid farewell to our boat as we left Sentosa but I had missed it, watching the distant silhouette of a Brahminy Kite instead.


Close up view of two Great Crested Terns in non-breeding plumage at the yellow buoy.

But now out at sea, more and more terns appeared near the boat. As expected, the most numerous were the fairly common Greater Crested Terns. More than twenty of this large tern species flew past throughout the trip and we were treated to some close-up views early on when a group of six perched on a buoy. We circled the buoy a couple of times so that everyone could get a good look. For the majority on board, this was their first pelagic birdwatching trip, so seeing these large terns so close was a great experience for all.


The Lesser Crested Tern on the left and the Greater side by side for comparison. The bright orange bill of the Lesser is a good feature to tell them apart.

Getting such good views of the very similar Lesser Crested Tern took a lot longer. In fact, we had to wait until we passed the same buoy again on the way back. This time the six Greater Crested Terns shared the tight space with two Lesser Crested Terns, thereby providing an excellent opportunity to compare these two species at close range. Despite the names, the difference in size is actually not that big, but the brightly coloured bills – orange in the Lesser, yellow in the Greater – made it easy for everyone on board to tell the birds apart.

In between our two encounters with the Crested Terns, there was a prolonged period where there were no birds at all. During this intermezzo, my thoughts drifted and I struggled to stay awake as my body reminded me that I had gotten up at 4.30 am. I staved off the temptation to just close my eyes by chatting with other participants, eating some snacks or looking at the field guides Alfred and Kim Keang had kindly provided. And then, just when I was about to doze off, another bird appeared seemingly out of nowhere.


Bridled Tern with its distinctive dark upper wings and eyebrow. An uncommon winter visitor.  

A Bridled Tern emerged near the boat and was gone within seconds, but then another one appeared. And another. With their dark upper-wings and distinct eyebrow, these are among my favourite terns. We would see several others later on, but most of them remained distant specs on the horizon and unfortunately not everybody on board saw them.  


Fantastic views of the Aleutian Tern resting on a flotsam,  a well known habitat for this tern. We counted eight of these wonderful terns during the trip.

The Bridled Terns had barely disappeared out of sight when someone from the front of the boat shouted ‘bird on water’. That sounded promising for Aleutian Tern because this species is well-known for its habit to rest on flotsam. And sure enough, an Aleutian Tern it was. Undisturbed by our approaching boat the bird perched calmly on a piece of driftwood, allowing fantastic views and great photo opportunities. Soon we saw a second bird perched a bit further away. All in all, we counted eight of these wonderful terns.


An uncommon Common Tern was our last and sixth tern species for the day.

Yet, not every tern on the water was an Aleutian Tern. Thanks to the sharp eyes of our ever-watchful guides, one of the flotsam squatters was identified as a Common Tern, a species which despite its name is actually fairly uncommon in Singapore waters. This was the sixth and last tern species to go onto our list for the day. The other two possibilities, Black-naped and White-winged Tern, did not grace us with an appearance this time, but that was only a minor blemish on an otherwise thoroughly rewarding trip.   

A big thank you to Alfred and the Bird Group for organising this trip, both Alfred and Kim Keang for the guiding and Gerard Francis for the use of his photos.


Wild Birds and Habitats-A Digital View.

Contributed by Andrew Chow.

My favorite paint medium for bird painting is soluble water color pencils. I still used them once in a while. But even an old hand like me had to embrace the digital age. I bought myself a Samsung Note 10 that came with a S-pen. With the help of the Autodesk Sketchbook software, it makes sketching a lot easier from the photos I took on site.

I did several digital bird paintings in the past years using the Note 10. I think it is important to include the habitat where the bird is found to tell the whole story. I hope to inspire those who wish to take up this absorbing hobby.


Little Guilin is close to my place. It is also the nesting site of the nationally threatened Grey-headed Fish Eagle. No invitations needed to try out and start my digital journey.


When the decision to turn the old Muslim Cemetery at Bidadari into a housing estate, I had to capture the lush greenery and woodlands before it was gone. The background shows the familiar view to all of us walking in. I had many lifers at this migrant haven. The one I chose to represent Bidadari is the globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, my lifer at this site.


The lost of our fresh water wetlands may see these nationally threatened Little Grebes disappeared from our island. I had the privilege of seeing this family bringing up their chicks at the new pond off Lorong Halus in 2014. It was my pleasure to feature them and their precious wetland for posterity.


One of the first birds I saw when I visited Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves many years back is the nationally near-threatened Copper-throated Sunbird. It is a mangrove specialist which means that we will have to keep our mangroves if we want to see this beautiful sunbird for generations to come. I want to illustrate the role the mangroves play in keeping our coastal biodiversity intact.



This is one of my latest work at the newly opened Kranji Marshes. The Black-backed Swamphen is the emblem for the largest wetland in Singapore. It is the bird that every visitor want to see when visiting the marshes. We are glad that NParks and the URA have created this wetland sanctuary to bring back the water birds.

I wish to thank the Bird Group for showcasing my works on their blog. I hope these paintings will give you the reason to go out and enjoy our wild places and the birds.






Is this a Greater Sand Plover?

High Ride Roost at SD

The rising tide forced this flock of Lesser Sand Plovers to roost close up to the dam. Many of them were still in their breeding plumage.

This is an often asked question when an biggish sand plover is seen. On 18th August KC Ling and Timothy Chua posted a photo of a non breeding sand plover with a longish bill taken at Seletar Dam on the Bird Sightings FB page. ID please?. As the bird in the image was a stand-alone, it received different answers from commentators. This was expected since the size of the bird in question, the length of leg and bill can all be very subjective when there are no other birds around for comparison.


This is what one normally sees in the field, a lone hunched plover making identification difficult even at this distance.

But on closer study, some diagnostic features can be discerned. I was lucky to be there on the 27th August morning to photograph the same plover close up in the company of Lesser Sand Plovers (LSP), Charadrius mongolus, during a low high tide to confirm that this plover in question was a Greater Sand Plover (GSP), Charadrius leschenaultii. Let’s take a look at these photos and pick out some distinguishing features to separate these two similar-looking species.

A more hunched posture of a GSP at SD

This same plover as above, cropped for a closer look. It has a seemingly horizontal stance and a dumpy appearance – descriptions somewhat fits a Lesser Sand Plover. 

Up right posture of the GSP

The same plover again but now in a more typical upright posture. The taller stance, proportionately larger body and longer (greenish-yellow) legs now makes it easy to identify it as a Greater Sand Plover. This is an adult in the non-breeding plumage having completed a full moult at their breeding grounds before migration.  

Two LSP  showing two different color legs.

Generally LSP has darker colored legs than the GSP. But as can be seen here, the left LSP has a paler leg than the LSP on the right. The leg colour should be used as a guide  and not as the sole identification feature. Both are juveniles moulting into non breeding plumage. 


size comparison head on

The GSP has a visibly longer tibia (i.e. upper half of the leg), than the LSP. But in the field it is not always easy to tell as can be seen in this photo. The tibias of the GSP (background) and the LSP (foreground) looks almost the same. But overall the GSP is  clearly taller when you have the LSP nearby to compare.

Size comparison

The GSP is a few centimeters larger than the LSP and this size difference is evident in this photo with both species close to each other. But on its own and at a distance it is not that easy to tell.


Size does not matter.

The size difference is quite obvious in this photo as well. The GSP kept to itself and did not mix with the rest of the Lesser Sand Plovers. It would chase away any LSP that come near. But in this rare occasion, a brave LSP decided to take the fight to the bully.

Apart from the size, posture and leg length of the plovers, a useful feature to separate the two species is the size and shape of their bills. For the LSP (left below), the bill length is slightly shorter than the distance between the bill base and rear of the eye. The bill of the GSP (right below) is visibly longer in this comparison. It is also clearly more robust.

But even this feature is not 100% foolproof in garnering an identification. Some subspecies of LSP, eg. ssp. schaeferi can have bills that appear as long as some individuals of GSP, while some subspecies of GSP (e.g. ssp. columbinus) have bill shapes more similar to the LSP.

One way to tell them apart is to look out for a noticeable bulge on the upper mandible. The LSP bulge is closer to the bill tip giving it a blunt look, while the bulge of the GSP starts in the middle. The bulge near the bill tip of this particular GSP was not particularly visible and that was one reason why the ID remained tentative without the benefit of the size comparison.

Most Lesser Sand Plovers start their migration while still in their breeding plumage and only completely moult into their drabber, non-breeding plumage in their wintering grounds. Most of the early arriving GSPs to our shores have moulted into their non-breeding plumage.

Two Lesser Sand Plovers above. a juvenile on the left and an adult in breeding plumage on the right.


This photo of the GSP shows the broader white wing bars on the primaries and the darker sub-terminal band on its tail. Both are minor features of the GSP.

From this case study, it is clear that it is not that easy to separate the two sand plovers by just looking at one or two features as some of the subspecies of GSP and LSP overlap in some of these features. The size of the bird, length and color of legs, size and shape of the bill, wing and tail pattern, feeding and behavior habits and plumage have to be taken together to come to a proper identification.

Text by Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

All photos taken at Seletar Dam on 24th August 2016 by Alan OwYong. All photos of the Greater Sand Plover are from the same individual. 


A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. The Wild Bird Society of Japan 1993. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Craig Robson. Asia Books Co. Ltd 2000. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited 2013. SASOL Birds of Southern Africa. Ian Sinclair. Struik Publishers. 1993. Identification, taxonomy and distribution of Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers. Erik Hirschfield, Kees Roselaar and Hadoram Shirihai. British Birds 93: 162-189, 2000.

Singapore Bird Report-August 2016

The Autumn migration is well underway this month with the arrival of the shorebirds early in the month followed by a flood of passerine migrants on the very last day. The wader stops are at Seletar Dam, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), Kranji Marshes and Pulau Tekong. The star was the globally endangered Great Knot, Calidris tenuirostris, arriving on 13th and staying around the Seletar Dam for a few days.

Great Knot FYap

The Wader of the Month is this Great Knot in partial breeding plumage taken at Seletar Dam by Francis Yap. It had been recently upgraded to globally endangered due to the loss of refueling wetlands at East Asia. 

The newly reclaimed land off Pulau Tekong is turning into a preferred stop for many of the waders. Four globally threatened Chinese Egrets, Egretta eulophotes, on 6th and an Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata, on 5th were recorded there. A big thank you to Frankie Cheong for monitoring this restricted location where he also found a family of 2 Malaysian Plovers, Charadrius peronii, adults with two chicks there on the 13th.

frankie-cheongThe newly reclaimed land at Pulau Tekong getting its fair share of rare waders this season. The Asian Dowitcher was the first record here. Three Grey Plovers in breeding plumage and a Greater Sand Plover are next to the Dowitcher. Photo: Frankie Cheong. 


An unmistakable Ruddy Turnstone in breeding plumage arrived at P. Tekong on the 27th. Thanks again to Frankie Cheong for getting this on record.

Parts of the construction site next to Kranji Marshes were flooded and shallow pools of fresh water attracted many of the waders that were looking for water fleas and larvae there. 13 Long-toed Stints, Calidris subminuta, (Alan OwYong) were counted on 31st. This is a high number for this uncommon plover as past records were in the single numbers.  Also present were at least two Wood Sandpipers, Tringa glareola, and up to 13 Little-ringed Plovers, Charadrius dubius, (Martin Kennewell).

Eurasian Curlew Millie Cher

These two juvenile Eurasian Curlews arrived at SBWR on 25th. The first arrival was recorded at P. Tekong on the 5th by Frankie Cheong. Photo: Millie Cher.

Here is the list of some of the first arrivals.

Species Date Location Observer/s Remarks
Wood Sandpiper x 2 3rd Kranji Marshes Martin Kennewell First reported on 31/8
Common Redshank x 30 5th SBWR Lim Kim Seng
Eurasian Curlew 5th P. Tekong Frankie Cheong. Two birds reported at SBWR by David Li on 25th
Chinese Egret x 4 6th P. Tekong Frankie Cheong
Black-tailed Godwit 7th SBWR Adrian Gopal One reported on 13th at Seletar Dam by Francis Yap.
Pacific Golden Plover 9th Seletar Dam Francis Yap Most in breeding plumage.
Great Knot 13th Seletar Dam Francis Yap Partial breeding plumage.
Greater Sand Plover 18th Seletar Dam KC Ling, Timothy Chua Timothy Chua. Another reported at Seletar Dam on 31st.
Terek Sandpiper 19th Seletar Dam Zacc HD Another seen at P. Tekong on 27th by Frankie Cheong.
Marsh Sandpiper 19th SBWR David Li
Common Greenshank 19th SBWR David Li
Asian Dowitcher 20th SBWR Keita Sin With a Black-tailed Godwit.
Intermediate Egret 23rd SBWR Veronica Foo
Ruddy Turnstone 27th P. Tekong Frankie Cheong One bird in breeding plumage.
Little-ringed Plover x 7 27th Kranji Marshes Martin Kennewell Numbers increased to 13 on  30th by Martin Kennewell
Long-toed Stint x 2 27th Kranji Marshes Martin Kennewell Numbers increased to 13 on 31st by Alan OwYong
White-winged Tern 27th SBWR Martin Kennewell
Grey Plovers x 12-15 31st P. Tekong Frankie Cheong All in breeding plumage together with an Asian Dowitcher.



The Greater Sand Plover taken at Seletar Dam on 22nd by Francis Yap showing all the identification features.

Then on the last day of the month, we had a furry of passerine making their first landfall here. Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, at Dillenia Hut from Francis Yap, a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, at Venus Loop from Goh Juan Hui and a Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, at the Gardens by the Bay from Danny Khoo. Earlier in the month an Asian Brown Flycatcher,  Muscicapa latirostris, was photographed at the Japanese Gardens by Kristie Yeong on 20th, four Daurian Starlings, Agropsar sturninus, were seen flying around at Seletar Dam on 21st by Keita Sin. We can expect to see more of these song birds at our forests and woodlands next month.

Yellow-rumped FC Juan Hui

Our first Ficedula for the season, a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher at Venus Loop on the last day of the month. Photo: Juan Hui Goh.

Also on the 31st, two non breeding visiting bulbuls were reported at P. Ubin by Lim Kim Keang and Willie Foo. The uncommon Streaked, Ixos malaccensis, and Cinereous Bulbuls, Hemixos cinereus. A rare winter visitor was the Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, reported at SBWR on 9th by Kingsley Phang.

Tan Gim Cheong was surprised by a Ruddy Kingfisher, Halcyon coromanda, flying across his path at Kelicap Hut, P. Ubin on 11th. This is our rare resident race, H. cminor, that had only been recorded in P. Tekong and Ayer Merbau groups of islands. This is the first record for Ubin confirming some local dispersal. We received an unconfirmed record of three male Cotton Pygmy Goose, Nettapus coromandelianus, a rare resident, flying over Cove Village at Sentosa from Esther, a resident there. I was not able to get more details on this sighting.

Other resident records were easier to confirm like the male Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, over at Jelutong on 5th by Francis Yap. As usual he got some great shots of this uncommon cuckoo. A Little Spiderhunter, Arachnothera longirostris, was also photographed at Venus Drive by KC Ling, and a report of the Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo at West Coast Park by Keita Sin, both on the 5th.  Jansen Seah came in with a report of a pair of Greater Green Leafbirds, Chloropsis sonnerati, chasing away other birds at Upper Thompson Road. Frankie Cheong showed us a photo of a dark morph Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, again at his backyard at Tekong on 6th. This Egret made its appearance at SBWR on 27th at the Striated Heron Island at the main pond (Daniel Ong and Francis Yap).

pacific-reef-heron-see-tohPacific Reef Heron paid a visit to Sungei Buloh and stayed for a few days. Photo: See Toh Yew Wai. 

Geoff Lim chanced on a Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupa, at Lower Peirce Boardwalk on 6th.  It was seen again on the 26th by Thio Hb. This was one of the most reliable locations to see this uncommon owl before they spread out. The newly fledged Buffy Fish Owl at SBWR made an appearance at the reserves on 21st spotted by Wing Chong. Great to know that it is doing well.

p8210891Sungie Buloh’s Buffy Fish Owl Jr. can now hunt for itself. Seen here finishing its catch. Alan OwYong

Zacc was really happy to get the House Swift, Apus nipalensis, on his sensors at Punggol Barat on 9th. This resident swift is getting rare nowadays. Aldwin Recinto photographed a Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis, a forest specific, at Pasir Ris Park on 20th, most likely a dispersal from  across P. Ubin.

Greater Coucal at PRP Aldwin

Greater Coucal a forest species photographed at Pasir Ris Park by Aldwin Recinto.

The resident ernesti race Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, was seen flying over Punggol Barat on 31st by Lawrence Cher. Tan Gim Cheong will have the rest of the raptor records in this coming Raptor Report.

Some notable records from eBird for August: Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone paradisi, at BTNR on 9th and an Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, at Coney Island on 12th both by Christopher Gainey. A Greater Sand Plover, Charadrius leschenaultii, at Marina Barrage on 16th by Malcolm Graham. A Brown Boobook, Ninox scutulata was seen at 7 pm on 23rd along the MacRitchie Boardwalk by Marcel Finley.


Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009 Nature Society (Singapore). 

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Francis Yap, Millie Cher, See Toh Yew Wai, Frankie Cheong, Aldwin Recinto, Goh Juan Hui and Alan OwYong, for the use of their photos.







Text and Photos by Raghav Narayanswamy.

I stumbled upon Hindhede Nature Park last spring when an Orange-headed Thrush popped up there. I had two hours to spare for birding that day and I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Before this not many people have heard about this corner of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The reserve now is only opened on weekends.

In just a couple of months, this rather small plot of land with nothing more than a flooded quarry and a short loop has offered me some great birding.


Male Jambu Fruit Dove

There’s always something happening here. Calls of the loud Greater Racquet-tailed Drongos, Red-breasted Parakeets, and Common Hill Mynas greet you when you walk in. Other uncommon birds like the Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Western Osprey, and the Emerald Dove, will keep you busy for long periods of time.

Displaying IMG_0191.JPG

Brown Hawk Owl. 

Compared with other more popular birding spots, this park is compact and you can expect to be amazed by the proximity of the birds to each other. It sometimes seems overwhelming to deal with so many birds at once, especially when they are meters from each other. At one particular spot in the park, a pair of Red-legged Crakes, four Sunda Scops Owls, and a pair of Brown Hawk Owls converge each evening, with me right in the middle of it all, struggling to pick one to shoot over the rest.

Displaying IMG_0099.JPG

This family of Sunda Scops Owl is doing well at the Park.

What’s the first place you think of when asked, “Where can you find the Blue-winged Leafbird?” Chances are it was probably the Central Catchment, or Dairy Farm Nature Park, or Bukit Timah Hill. And I’d bet a large — avery large — sum of money that it was not Hindhede Nature Park. But when there’s a tree fruiting at Hindhede, you’re bound to catch sight of it, and good views are the standard here.

Displaying IMG_0032.JPG

The Blue-winged Leafbirds making their appearance at Hindhede NP.

We all hear about fruiting trees at Dairy Farm, Bukit Timah, and Upper Seletar. But again, there’s a surprise coming from the Hindhede camp. With a pair of Jambu Fruit Doves, Cream-vented, Olive-winged, Red-eyed, and Black-crested Bulbuls, and at least two Blue-winged Leafbirds, you can’t go wrong with a quick visit.

Singapore is known across Southeast Asia as one of the best places for the globally-vulnerable Straw-headed Bulbul. After all, Noah Strycker came specifically here for it in his 2015 World Big Year at a point when he had already seen 90% of Singapore’s checklist outside of Singapore. But out of all the places I have seen this bird, Hindhede really stands out. It is nearly always around, calling, and offering great views.


The fruiting trees attracted this uncommon introduced Black-crested Bulbul 

Even birds that are traditionally seen around or past dusk, like owls, show up early here. Often, I don’t even need a flashlight for a decent photo, and the views, again, are guaranteed to be fantastic. Where else can you get to see three species of owls making their appearance almost daily. Other noteworthy sightings include the Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, which was fairly active in the month of June, during which it was presumably breeding, and a pair of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds. And all this was just in the last three months!

I cannot wait to see what the migratory season will bring, now that the breeding season is coming to a close and the trees are no longer fruiting. Will the thrushes stop over? I am sure the Asian Brown and Mugimaki Flycatchers will pass by. What about the visiting cuckoos?