Singapore Bird Report – October 2017

22179889_1472239912896645_8256191510998948950_oThe avian phenomenon at Yishun. Hundreds of Grey Wagtails roosting with Forest Wagtails. 

The avian phenomenon of the year had to be the congregation of wagtails at Yishun and Sembawang. On 23rd of September Shahrulbariah Arif-Sng alerted us to large flocks wagtails roosting on the palm trees at Yishun St 11 on Bird Sightings FB page. They were identified as Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea. Counts in early October exceeded 200. In the past we normally get to see one or two Grey Wagtails foraging at some quiet monsoon drains in the west. This large gathering has never happened here before. Another surprise was finding a small number of White Wagtails Motacilla alba and Forest Wagtails Dendronanthus indicus roosting with them. Alfred Chia managed to identify a rare lugens sub-species among the White Wagtails from photos posted. The Forest Wagtails forage at a different habitat from the other two, so how and why did they come to know about this roost was another mystery. On the 9th, Esther Ong reported another congregation of Grey Wagtails, this time at Sembawang a few kilometers away. The numbers here were just as impressive as those in Yishun. Efforts to find them in the day were not successful. We can only guess that they may be feeding somewhere in Johor. Another mystery was the absence of the Yellow Wagtails at both roosts.

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Red-legged Crake nesting at SBG with the first chick just hatching. Photo: Mike Smith of AsiaPhotoStock.com

On 14th, Mike Smith made avian history when he chanced upon a nest of the Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata with a clutch of 5 eggs, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. He monitored the nesting and found that some of the chicks hatched on 3rd and 4th Nov. This will be the first documented nesting of this uncommon and elusive crake in Singapore.

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Francis Yap’s photo of the year, a very rare vagrant, the White-throated Needletail flashing by over CCNR on 25th. 

The other excitement for the month were the sightings of the White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus a very rare vagrant first photographed over Bukit Timah Hill on 5 April 2008. There have been no records since then yet there are 3 records this month alone! Keita Sin managed to photographed one flying over Henderson Wave on 19th and another on 31st. In between Francis Yap posted an excellent photo of one he shot flying over Jelutong Tower on 25th. As a bonus, Keita also shot a very rare migrant, the Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus over Henderson Wave on 19th with Francis Yap following up with another over Jelutong Towers on 20th. Well done guys!

BCJFC Leslie Loh

Bidadari is still the favourite rest stop for the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher. Photo: Leslie Loh

This October, we welcomed back the Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis, the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers Cyornis brunneatus and the Siberian Blue Robins Larvivora cyane and other passerines to our forests and parklands. Bidadari is still a desirable stopover for many of our winter visitors, with the arrival of two Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers on 5th (TT Koh). Laurence Eu had one at Labrador NR on the 24th and another seen at Rifle Range Link the next day by Francis Yap and Richard White. Con Foley had another late arrival at Bidadari on 27th. Other records came from Jurong Central and Chinese Garden, Singapore Zoo and Botanic Garden. Singapore is the best place to see this globally threatened species in the winter.

As for the Blue-winged Pitta, the first one was picked up at Jurong Island although one was heard calling on the 10th at the Bulim Forest last month. Lim Kim Chuah found it on the floor of his office building on 22nd. He managed to nurse it back for release a few days later. The one found by Jayon P. Thomas at IMH on 23rd and another by Art Toh at Labrador old flats on 27th  were not so fortunate. But it was the one that ‘got lost’ and ended up at the playground at Hougang Central on 27th that became the star attraction of the month. Another one was reported at Potong Pasir by Choon Beng on 30th.

Lim Kim Chuah also found two Siberian Blue Robins, one a young male on the 22nd and the other on 23rd at his Jurong Island office. Both died as a result of window collision. Earlier on the 17th, David Tan retrieved the carcass of another dead Siberian Blue Robin from Bishan. It was killed by a cat after surviving a building collision there. Richard White reported a female at Hindhede NP on 21st.   

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Verditer Flycatcher, photographed by George Presanis at DFNP on 9th. Unfortunate it was not seen again. Status being reviewed by the Records Committee.

We also had three “out of range” sightings this month. A Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassini  was photographed by George Presanis at DFNP on 9th. Another species, the montane Little Pied Flycatcher Ficedula westermanni was reported by Dr. Niel Bruce at the downtown old Muslim Cemetery on 15th. Martin Kennewell and a few birders were at Hindhede NP looking for the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher when they saw a Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis flying across the park. All these were not seen again. The Records Committee will be reviewing these records for their status.

Francis Yap

Crow-billed Drongo arriving at Windsor Nature Park on 2nd. Photo: Francis Yap.

A Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans was photographed by Francis Yap at Windsor Park on 2nd. He later reported another on 25th at Rifle Range Link. A Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus was photographed by Hung Ting Wei off SBWR perched on the nettings. Pacific Swifts Apus pacificus were seen all over the Southern Ridges this month.  Zacc HD had one over KRP on 3rd and Alan OwYong came in with a report of five on 19th there. Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica were flying around the Kranji Marshes on 7th (Annual Bird Race) and photographed perched at Turuk Track on 28th by Fadzrun Adnan.  The first Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus  was reported by Goh Juan Hui at SBWR and as expected very skittish. Another early cuckoo, the Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus was reported on ebird by Martin Kennewell. It was seen at Bidadari on 17th. A third cuckoo, the Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported by Seng Beng on 29th at the SBTB. Martin Kennewell picked up a first White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis over at Pulau Ubin on 8th.

BCKF Wee Jin

Black-capped Kingfisher welcoming the birders during the NSS Bird Walk at Kranji Marshes. Photo: Mahesh Krishnan

The first Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca made a one day stop over at Hindhede NP on the 9th (Siew Mun and Francis Yap) much to the dismay of many birders and photographers. But the Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda did not make it. David Tan showed us the carcass after it collided with a building at NUS on 16th. The wait for the Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata ended with a sighing at Marina Barrage on 20th by Zan J. The regular at the Kranji Marshes was reported by Francis Yap four days later. It was still around on 29th during the NSS Bird Walk. A Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax was seen briefly at DFNP on the 10th by Alan OwYong and See Toh Yew Wai. Lee Van Hien had another at Bidadari on 25th. This non-breeding hawk-cuckoo always precedes the migratory Hodgson’s.

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Ferruginous Flycatcher “Iron Boy” from Pulau Ubin on 22nd by Veronica Foo.

A dead Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola was picked up at Changi T4 by Willie Foo on 10th. Another was reported at Kranji Marshes on 24th by Francis Yap. The rarer Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata was found by James Lambo on 29th at Tuas South. The first Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea was reported by Avinash Sharma at MacRitchie Park on 15th. Veronica Foo had a juvenile at Pulau Ubin on 22nd while conducting the Fall Migration Bird Census. An unconfirmed record came from Bidadari during the last week of the month.

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A very fortunate Laurence Eu was at the right place and time to snap this rare passage migrant, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, at Labrador Nature Reserve on 24th.

The rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata made a one day stop over at the Labrador NR on 24th. Laurence Eu was at the right place and time to captured it on his camera’s sensor. Last year he also found the one at the Zoo on 31st October. We ended the month with an Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus at Kranji Marshes (Veronica Foo) and a spectacular flypast of 66 Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum across Jelutong Tower was captured by Goh Cheng Teng. One was reported by Martin Kennewell earlier on 22nd at the Kranji Marshes.

 

Sanderling Luke

A lone Sanderling turned up at the Marina Barrage on 14th. Luke Milo Teo was there to snap it up. Another new species to add to this city waterfront.

The breakwaters next to Marina Barrage continue to attract interesting shorebirds like the juvenile Sanderling Calidris alba on 12th (Luke Milo Teo). This was where a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was reported two days earlier by TT Koh. The number of Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis at Marina Barrage went up to four on 17th (Alan OwYong).

LTS Frankie Cheong

A fresh water loving Long-toed Stint at Pulau Tekong. Photo: Frankie Cheong.

A rather greyish Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta and Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola were at Frankie Cheong’s restricted site at Pulau Tekong on 21st. Two more Wood Sandpipers were seen at the Kranji Marshes together with a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago on 29th during a Bird Group walk (Lee Ee Ling/ Yap Wee Jin). These fresh water shorebirds are the one that Nparks wants to bring in to the marshes. 

LRP Pary Sivaraman

A non-breeding Little Ringed Plover beautifully taken at the Marina Barrage by Pary Sivaraman

Larger waterbirds sighted include a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes at Pulau Tekong on 9th and 10th (Frankie Cheong), a Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra showing up at Marina Barrage on 16th (Siew Mun), a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis found dead at Jurong West on 23th by Ben Choo and another, very much alive was photographed at SBTB on 27th by Robin Tan.

Notable residents reported this month were the rare Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon at BTNR by James Lambert on 15th. A sizable flock of 10 Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea present at PRP on the 9th (Seng Alvin), up to 20 House Swifts Apus nipalensis over at KRP out hawking for insects in the evening of the 19th (Alan OwYong) and a large flock of 26 Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica being flushed out at Kranji Marshes on 22nd (Martin Kennewell). Good to see that they are returning to Kranji Marshes. Both the House Swift’s and Whistling Ducks numbers were the highest for some  time.

Francis Yap and company organised the only pelagic in the Singapore Strait (a multi-national stretch of water) for the month on 14th and returned with a Parasitic Jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticus, a few Aleutian Onychoprion aleuticus and Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus among others. 

P Jaeger See Toh

Parasitic Jaeger migrating through the Straits of Singapore by See Toh Yew Wai during this month’s Pelagic trip.

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Location abbreviations: SBG Singapore Botanic Gardens, IMH Institute of Mental Health, DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, KRP Kent Ridge Park, NUS National University of Singapore.

References:

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, individual reports and extracts from ebird. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Alan OwYong, Mike Smith, Francis Yap, Leslie Loh, George Presanis, Mahesh Krishnan, Veronica Foo, Laurence Eu, Frankie Cheong, Luke Milo Teo, Pary Sivaraman and See Toh Yew Wai  for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

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Singapore Raptor Report, July-September 2017

PF, 170817, Ubin, Xu Weiting

Peregrine Falcon (ernesti subspecies), at Pulau Ubin, 17 August 2017, by Xu Weiting

Summary:

The Osprey, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Chinese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon were recorded during the July to September period. The Osprey was recorded in small numbers all 3 months, at the Kranji-Mandai and Yishun Dam areas. The 5 Oriental Honey Buzzards recorded from 13 July to 6 September are more likely to have stayed for the summer; and the first autumn arrival was on 24 September at Lorong Halus, followed by another on 25 September at Bidadari and small flocks on 30 September at Tuas. A torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard tweeddale morph was photographed at Toa Payoh on 30 September.

The first arrival of the Japanese Sparrowhawk was on 24 September at Lorong Halus (3 birds), followed by singles at Bidadari and Jelutong Tower before the month ended. The first arrival of the Chinese Sparrowhawk was also on 24 September at Lorong Halus (2 birds), followed by an individual at Jelutong Tower later on. A Peregrine Falcon (ernesti subspecies) was recorded at Pulau Ubin on 17 August; another reported from the 39th floor of OCBC Building on 24 August was also seen feeding on feral pigeons on previous occasions.

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A Changeable Hawk-eagle, adult pale morph, at Springleaf, 3 Sep 2017, by Laurence Eu

For the resident raptors, highlights included the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle on 13 July at South Buona Vista Road. On 18 August at Little Guilin, a juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle was observed whining constantly in the presence of an adult, but just 2 weeks later, on 1 September, the adults were seen building a new nest on a tall tree.

A juvenile Crested Goshawk was recorded at Pasir Ris Park on 13 July, and Changi Village on 10 September, with a shrew in its talons; adults were recorded on 17 August at Kent Ridge Park, 21 August at Aljunied (2 birds), and 7 September at Sentosa, with a Plantain Squirrel in its talons. The Black-winged Kite was recorded on 9 July at Kranji Marsh, 10 July at Punggol Barat (2 birds) and 20 August at Changi Point Ferry Terminal. A Changeable Hawk-eagle which probably fledged sometime in June or earlier was seen on the nest at Dairy Farm area on 1 July and 15 July, maybe it was ‘homesick’.

Many thanks to everyone for their records and to Xu Weiting and Laurence Eu for the use of their photos.

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong 

For a pdf version with more details pleas click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2017

 

Out of Season Breeding of the Malaysian Plovers in Singapore.

By Goh Cheng Teng.
Introduction:
The Malaysian Plover is an uncommon resident shorebird found around the coastal sandy area of mainland Singapore and Pulua Semakau. First recorded in 12 October
1963 at Jurong by JC Darnell and MA Webster,  where subsequent sightings were also seen. They have been since recorded at Changi Coast, Tuas and Semakau.  One or two pairs have also been reported in Pulau Tekong, Seletar Dam, Marina East and Labrador as well.  It is considered nationally threatened ( Lim K S 1992) and globally near threatened.
On 17 September 2017, Lester Tan and I were scouring the shoreline of Marina East in search of the Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis, that had been reported earlier in the week when we came across a Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronil chick following its parents around. As we approached closer, the chick laid still as it attempted to camouflage itself among the debris and uneven surface of the seawall.
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17 September 2017 Marina East. Chick trying to hide among the debris.

After a brief period of close up observation, we retreated to allow the parents to collect the chick, which they did after we were a distance away.
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17th September 2017 Marina East. Parents coming back to collect the chick.
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17 September Marina East. Furry chick showing some of the sandy plumage.
The following weekend, on 23 September, we returned to the same section of the seawall in hopes of seeing the progress of the chick. We were not disappointed.
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23rd September 2017. Marina East. Glad to see it is still around.
The next day on 24th, the chick was again sighted. On this occasion, the family was observed venturing to the top of the seawall as well.
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The family venturing up the seawall on 24th September 2017.
Unfortunately, we were unable to return to Marina East in the subsequent weeks to further observe the chick’s progress. This series of sightings, however brief, has been a treat for us, and we hope the chick survived to adulthood successfully.
Addendum:
According to the Avifauna of Singapore (Lim Kim Seng 2009),  breeding had been reported in March and April and its breeding season remains to be investigated.
This record is probably the first of a pair breeding in September although I
have previously observed 2 nesting of Malaysian Plovers in Tuas South in July and August. We hope that this record will add to our knowledge of the breeding cycle of our only resident shorebird and help with their protection.
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20 July 2014. Discovered by Roy Sim in the preceding weeks.
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23rd August 2015 Tuas South
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23rd August 2015. Tuas South.
All photos: Goh Cheng Teng unless stated.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. Avifauan of Singapore 2009 Nature Society (Singapore).
A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. The Wild Bird Society of Japan 1993.

Nesting and Breeding Record of Stork-billed Kingfisher in Singapore

NESTING AND BREEDING RECORD OF STORK-BILLED KINGFISHER IN SINGAPORE

By Lim Kim Chuah and Marcel Finlay

The Stork-billed Kingfisher is the largest of the 8 species of kingfishers known to occur in Singapore. It has a wide distribution and can be found from the Indian subcontinent, mainland Southeast Asia to Singapore and east to the Philippines and Sulawesi. In Singapore, it is an uncommon resident and can typically be found in the mangroves, forest edges around our reservoirs and water areas. Some of the places include Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Kranji Marsh, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Pasir Ris Nature Park, Bukit Batok Nature Park, Hindhede Nature Park, MacRitchie Reservoir and Pulau Ubin.

Like many of our resident birds, there is not much documentation on the nesting or breeding of this species. Lim KS1 mentioned that breeding has been reported but nest has not been found in Singapore.

On 4 June 2017, I was scanning around the Pekan Quarry, Pulau Ubin when I noted a pair of Stork-billed Kingfisher at the far end of the quarry. The pair was observed entering into a termitarium nest. The termitarium was appended on bamboo plants growing at the edge of the quarry pond.  During my brief period of observation, the kingfishers were observed to fly into the hole periodically. Often one bird could be seen to perch nearby while the other is in the hole. This behaviour suggest that the birds were possibly nesting in the termitarium.

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Picture showing nesting site.

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Cropped picture showing the kingfisher perched (top left) close to the termitarium

According to Wells2, Stork-billed Kingfishers have been observed to use both soil and arboreal termitarium as nesting places. This observation of the Stork-billed Kingfisher using an arboreal termitarium at Pekan Quarry is probably the first documented record of the nest of the Stork-billed Kingfisher in Singapore.

To add to our breeding record of this species, Marcel Finlay observed an individual at the Petai Trail, MacRitchie Reservoir in 4 July 2017. The bill of this individual was mostly black and the legs were not the usual bright red. These features are indicative of a juvenile bird which is not often reported in Singapore.

I hope this short note will add to our knowledge of breeding birds in Singapore.

Marcel Finlay SBKF

Juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher showing darkish bill Photo: Marcel Finlay.

REFERENCES

1.Lim, K.S. (2009). The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 

2.Wells, D.R. (1997). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Academic Press.  

3. Yong, D.L., Lim, K.C. and Lee T.K. (2013). A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy.

 

 

 

33rd Singapore Bird Race (2017) – Arbitrator’s Report

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Participants of the 33rd Singapore Bird Race

The 33rd Singapore Bird Race, held from 7-8 October 2017, saw the participation of 27 teams across three categories. The 20-hour ‘Marathon’ category attracted 4 teams, the 5-hour ‘Sprint’ category 11 teams and the ‘Photography’ category 12 teams.

Marathon Category – Winning Teams

Scouring the island from the Marina Bay to the Southern Ridges to Bukit Timah and Kranji-Sungei Buloh areas, the Weekend Birders (Silas Tay & Jerold Tan) topped the Marathon category with 101 species. The Malay Pot-bellied Laughingthrushes (Sutari Supari, Ali Jaafar, P Pandian & Soh Lay Bee) came in second with 89 species. Teams ChonkChonkChonk (Keita Sin, Sandra Chia & Geraldine Lee) and ChongChongChong (Justin Nai, Ng Shao Hua, Teo Hui Min & Wong Chee Weng) tied for third place with 85 species. Alas, all 4 teams in the Marathon category walked away with prizes! Congrats.

Sprint Category – Winning Teams

To minimise time spent travelling, most of the Sprint teams limited themselves to the Kranji-Sungei  Buloh areas. In this relatively small area, Team Darters (Alfred Chia, Desmond Lee, Lim Kim Keang & Albert Low) turned in an amazing 75 species to top the Sprint category. The Falconets (Benjamin Lee, Chung Yi Fei, Chua Chong Tzeh & Thereis Choo) came in second with 68 species. The team JSP (Simon Siow, Alyce Ang, Fance Chua & Jimmy Lee) was a close third with 66 species. Well done.

Photography Category – Winning Teams

The Horseshoe Crabs (Goh Cheng Teng & Lester Tan) topped the Photography category with 59 species caught on camera. The team Gotcha (Michael Toh, Jane Rogers & Doreen Ang) came in second with 42 species. Right behind them was TnT (Tay Sia Ping, Ting Tuan Eng & Gan Lee Hsia) at third with 41 species photographed. Great work.

With several teams having photographed 40-odd species according to their log sheets, the fight for second and third place in the photography category was a tight one. In the end, it boiled down to things such as ensuring the photos for all species listed were submitted, submitting the photos in readable format (i.e. jpg and not raw, which we couldn’t read) and how closely the logged name matched the checklist name, etc. Future teams please note!

Race highlights

All teams combined, a total of 150 species were recorded. Among these, 3 species are listed as rare. They are the Lesser Adjutant at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 7 October at 6:11pm (an excellent record!); Little Grebe at Lorong Halus Wetlands on 8 Oct – both species were recorded by the Malay Pot-bellied Laughingthrushes; and the Blue-eared Kingfisher at Kranji Marshes on 8 Oct recorded by various teams.

Other interesting species included the Greater Sand Plover at SBWR on 7 Oct, Ruddy-breasted Crake at Satay by the Bay on 7 Oct, and the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul at Bukit Batok Nature Park on 7 Oct, and at SBWR and Hindhede Park on 8 Oct. Others on 8 Oct: Black-capped Kingfisher at Lorong Halus; Chinese Sparrowhawk and Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot at Kranji Marshes; Dark-sided Flycatcher and Slaty-breasted Rail at SBWR; Cinnamon Bittern at Neo Tiew Lane 3; Violet Cuckoo and Red-crowned Barbet at the Central Catchment Forests; Rusty-breasted Cuckoo at Neo Tiew area; Little Ringed Plover at Lim Chu Kang; Great-billed Heron at Seletar Dam; Blue-rumped Parrot at BTNR and Central Catchment Forests; Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Black-crested and Asian Red-eyed Bulbuls at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

A shout-out to fellow arbitrators Kenneth Kee, Morten Strange, See Toh Yew Wai and Francis Yap for generating the results so quickly.

Tan Gim Cheong
Chief Arbitrator, 33rd Singapore Bird Race

Bird Race Results

Position Marathon Category Score
1st Weekend Birders 101
2nd Malay Pot-bellied Laughingthrush 90
3rd ChonkChonkChonk & ChongChongChong 85
     
Position Sprint Category Score
1st Team Darters 75
2nd Falconets 68
3rd JSP 66
4th Jiak Hong Birders 61
5th Wings 58
6th Friends of Buloh 58
7th The Jiao Langs 53
8th Phalaropians 52
9th Robin’s Magpies 46
10th Bathawk, Robin & Penguin 37
11th Serendipity 33
     
Position Photography Category Score
1st Horshoe Crabs 59
2nd Gotcha 42
3rd T&T 41
4th Avian Pixels 40
5th JAWsome 40
6th The 3 Roosters 37
7th MNSJ Eagle 36
8th See & Shoot 33
9th The Trio 32
10th Wings of Johor 28
11th OK:-) 5
12th Kingfisher Blues

Phenomenal congregation of Wagtails at Yishun.

Contributed by Veronica Foo. 

On 3 October 2017, following Mr Lim Kim Keang’s alert of a few wagtail species sighting at Yishun,  I went down in the evening to a block of flats to see for myself this interesting phenomenal congregation and roosting of the wagtail species. With dimming light, grey sky and light drizzle, I did not expect anything much.

When I reached at the block of flats in the early evening, I was greeted by a small flock of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) flying above the roof top of an opposite block of flats and some were seen perched along the roof top parapet and the central antennae.

Grey Wagtails on Aerial Antenna @ Blk 153 @ 3 Oct 2017

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) perched on the aerial antennae.

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

Grey Wagtails on roof top @ 3 oct 2017 Yishun Blk 153

Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) perched on roof parapet.

A Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) was also seen perched momentarily before it was startled by more incoming flock of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea). It flew too soon to get a record shot of it. There must have been more than a hundred of them. Alfred Chia arrived slightly after me and he too expressed the large number of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) seen as unusual, as based on previous report and status, they are an uncommon winter visitor and very small numbers were seen during each migratory period.

A surprising find were a pair of White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) and Forest Wagtails (Dendronanthus indicus) seen together on the roof top as well as roosting subsequently among the palm tree on the ground.

White Wagtail @ Yishun Blk 153 @ 3 Oct 2017

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) on roof top

Forest Wagtail on roof top

Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus) on rooftop

As it was my first time observing such large numbers of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) as well as the congregational roosting of all the 4 species together, it certainly was a sighting to behold.

Forest wagtail among the Grey Wagtails

Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)  roosting in the palm fronds among the Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea).

The puzzling questions that come up after this phenomenal observation:

  1. What drew the large numbers of Grey Wagtails here?
  2. It was a surprise that the Forest Wagtails and White Wagtails were also seen together despite the differences in their habitat/feeding behaviour. As each species were seen in a pair, did they feel vulnerable to the point of seeking refuge amongst the large flock of Grey Wagtails?
  3. Since such a large number of Grey Wagtail were seen in the evening, where do they forage during the day without anyone noticing or reporting?
  4. Was there previous observation of a few species of Wagtails roosting together without any territorial conflict?

Reference:  Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing 2013. All photos: Veronica Foo.

 

Singapore Bird Report-September 2017

The autumn migration is truly underway this month with more passerines reported all over the island. Out of the twenty plus arrivals this month, only four beat their previous early arrival dates. Some like the Arctic Warblers were very late. 

The list of the first arrivals of the season:

Adrian Silas Tay

Red-footed Booby washed up at the seawall at Marina Barrage. Photo: Adrian Silas Tay.

  1. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, six birds scoped at Pulau Sekudu, Ubin on 1st by Lim Kim Keang, Low Choon How and Russell Boyman
  2. Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii at Marina Barrage on 1st by Russell Boyman. Photo posted by Seng Alvin on 2nd. Another reported at Seletar Dam on 7th by Fadzrun A.
  3. Red-footed Booby Sula sula, a dried up carcass was found washed up on the seawall at Marina Barrage on 3rd by Adrian Silas Tay and friends. May have died at sea while on transit.
  4. Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae, a female at Dempsey Hill on 7th photographed by Lawrence Eu. This is 10 days earlier than the previous early arrival date.
  5. Daurian Starling Agropsar sturninus a small flock seen at the sand banks at Seletar Dam on 7th by Wang Heng Mount.
  6. Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus, with a Godwit at Pulau Tekong on 9th by Frankie Cheong.
  7. Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes, bird seen on the same day on Tekong by Frankie Cheong. Another three were reported there on 23rd and one on 29th. The reclaimed land there had been their favourite wintering ground for the past few years.
  8. A White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus was reported by Adrian Silas Tay at Lorong Halus on 10th. Lim Kim Keang reported several White-winged Terns feeding at Serangoon Reservoir on 15th. White-winged Terns usually arrives much earlier in July and August.
  9. Adrian Silas Tay also had a Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hydrida, at the  Lorong Halus that same day. This is about a week later than last year’s early date.
  10. Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, one heard calling at the Bulim Woods on 10th by James Tann. It could be either an overstayer or a new arrival.
  11. Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus, seen at the MacRitchie Trail on 10th by Marcel Finlay. This was followed by one at GBTB on 25th photographed by Terence Tan and another at DFNP by James Tann on 25th.
  12. Another Wagtail, this time an Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla  tschuschensis, from Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course on 10th by Fadzrun A.
  13. Martin Kennewell had an early Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura, at Kranji Marshes on the 10th. Identified by call, this individual is 5 days earlier than the previous arrival date.
  14. Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis first one reported at Seletar Dam on 8th by Marcel Finlay. The second, a juvenile made a late landfall at Marina Barrage on 13th, duly spotted by Robin Tan. This juvenile stayed over to refuel for more than 2 weeks. On 23rd, Frankie Cheong reported three more Red-necked Stints at Pulau Tekong.
  15. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, two birds were photographed at the Marina Barrage on 15th by Robin Tan. Pary Sivaraman posted another photo of one of them he shot the next day. A subspecies, the Swinhoe’s Plover C.a. dealbatus, was identified by Dave Bakewell from photos taken there by Alan OwYong on the 15th.
  16. Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei, a recent split, was photographed at Chinese Gardens on 20th by Siew Mun and seen by Marcel Finlay at Bukit Brown on same day. He had another at Old Thompson Road on 25th. Terence Tan also shot one at DFNP on 21st. Two birds were reported from Bidadari as well on 24th by Francis Yap and Alan OwYong. The Amur seems to be more commonly encountered than the Blyth’s during this migratory period. 
  17. Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris, was photographed at the Japanese Gardens on 21st by Gerald Lim.
  18. A returning non-breeding visitor, Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus, was photographed at Lorong Halus on 26th by Seng Alvin. This is just a day earlier than the last reported date. Alan OwYong saw the same bee-eater there the next day.
  19. Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius, a male was a surprise find at Gardens East on 27th. It beats the earlier arrival date by 3 weeks. Unfortunately it did not stay around.
  20. Over at Pulau Ubin, a confiding Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca, was spotted by See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap and friends on 23rd. Last year one crashed into the River Valley High School on the same day.
  21. A Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus, was first recorded at Bukit Brown on 20th b=y Marcel Finlay. A second arrived at Bidadari on 24th. Robin Tan was there to welcome it. The next day another was picked up by Terence Tan at GBTB.
  22. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola, are overdue. Great that Rama Krishnan heard one calling at the Kranji Marshes on 25th to confirm that they arrived. These confiding warblers are notoriously hard to see.
  23. Two Arctic Warblers Phylloscopus borealis, was reported by Tay Kian Guan on 21st at the Southern Ridges. Veronica Foo saw another at Hindhede NP on 28th. Unusually late as we get them in early August.
  24. Finally we had our first Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneata, when Martin Kennewell photographed one at SBWR on the 30th. Previous early arrival date was 23rd September.
  25. Kozi Ichiyama recorded the first Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, on the last day of August. It was the start of an influx of these flycatchers all over the island for the whole of September including our second casualty that crashed into a factory in the Joo Koon, Tuas area on 18th (David Tan).

        (Note: Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you had an earlier sighting of any of the above or unreported species)                         

Terence Tan

A recent split Amur Paradise Flycatcher at Dairy Farm NP on 21st. Photo: Terence Tan

Based on our previous pelagic trips, mid September was the height of the passage of the Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels Oceanadroma monorhis, and Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus, with counts of 5-600 birds. Unfortunately the 17th September trip organised by the Bird Group for NSS members came back with very low counts for both (16 for Bridled and 18 for the Storm Petrels). But they did established new early arrival date for the 25 Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus. Other seabirds recorded by Alfred Chia, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kin Seng, Con Foley and others were 25 Swift Terns Thalasseus bergii, 3 Lesser Crested Terns Thalasseus bengalensis, and 1 White-winged Tern.

Robin Tan 2

This juvenile Red-necked Stint arrived at Marina Barrage on 13th. Photo: Robin Tan

Alfred Chia, Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo did a quick shorebird count at Chek Jawa on 24th. Their tally included 200 Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus, 9 Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinerea , 7 Barred-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica, 15 Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus, 35 Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola, 25 Little Terns Sternula albifrons, 3 Pacific Golden Plovers Pluvialis fulva, 2 Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

James Tann MW

Mangrove Whistler caught the eyes of James Tann at Pulau Ubin. 

With more birders and photographers in the field it was not surprising that a good number of rare and uncommon resident species were reported, most of them from Pulau Ubin. The elusive Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra, was heard calling along the Chek Jawa boardwalk at Pulau Ubin on 1st by Low Choon How and heard again by Veronica Foo on 3rd. Staying at Ubin, Veronica added 3 Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris, from Butterfly Hill on the 15th, an unusual record for Ubin. A day later James Tann returned with great photos of the Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea, a much sought-after island species. There were two birds at Ketam according to Adrian Silas Tay.

Serin Subaraj

Juvenile Barred Eagle Owl at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Serin Subaraj.

The NParks survey team and volunteers did one better when they found a juvenile Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus, among the durian trees on the 18th. Subsequent visits confirmed the presence of its parents nearby although out of sight. This is the first evidence of the presence of a breeding family of this rare owl in Singapore.

Veronica Foo

Cinereous Bulbul, a non breeding visitor at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Veronica Foo.

The female Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus, made an appearance on 21st (Alan OwYong) feeding together with the Oriental Pieds at Butterfly Hill. During the hunt for the owl, See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap and friends spotted a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda, there on 23rd. This could be our resident minor race or a migrant. The previous earliest arrival date of the migratory Ruddy Kingfisher was also on the 23rd at Pasir Ris Mangroves in 1989. The last uncommon record for Ubin were 2 Cinereous Bulbuls Hemixos cinereus, a non-breeding visitor, seen by Lim Kim Keang, Alfred Chia and Veronica Foo on 24th.

LKS

Three White-rumped Munias at Sentosa Cove on 18th. Photo: Lim Kim Seng.

Other notable residents was a King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis, from Kranji Marshes on 10th by Martin Kennewell, 14 Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica, at Lorong Halus pond on 15th by Lim Kim Keang, 3 White-rumped Munias Lonchura striata, at Sentosa Cove on 18th by Lim Kim Seng. A high count of 6 Red-legged Crakes were seen and heard calling at Bukit Brown on 19th and 20th by Marcel Finlay. An Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula, at Buloh Crescent on 29th by Derrick Wong, 4 Lesser Adjutants Leptoptilos javanicus, seen flying from Kranji Marshes Tower on 30th by Martin Kennewell and a Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea, at Sentosa on 30th by Lim Kim Seng. The White-rumped Munia is a new record for Sentosa but it’s status will required verification. The sighting of the 4 Lesser Adjutants was the largest for this former resident so far in Singapore. Lets hope they will re-establish here again.

References:

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, individual reports and extracts from ebird. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Adrian Silas Tay, Terence Tan, Robin Tan, James Tann, Serin Subaraj, Veronica Foo and Lim Kim Seng for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

32nd Annual Bird Census 2017

32nd Annual Bird Census. 

Compiled by Lim Kim Chuah.

PG Plover

This year only 73 Pacific Golden Plovers were counted ( 65 at Mandai and 8 at SBWR) compared to 522 last year. It is the lowest since 1990.  See chart below. Is this a blip or signs of habitat deterioration? We hope that these bird censuses and counts will provide the answers.

The 32nd Annual Bird Census was held on on 5 March 2017. The weather was generally good and the count went well for the 23 sites surveyed. This is one site less than the 24 sites that were counted in 2016. Sites not counted this year included Lower Pierce Reservoir Park, Upper Seletar Reservoir Park, Ubin Central, Botanic Garden, Khatib Bongsu, Pasir Ris Park and Kranji Dam.

Bird-wise, we continue to see a disturbing trend in the reduction of number of birds counted. A total of 5682 birds was counted this year. This is a drop of 1056 birds (16%) compared to 2016 and 2888 birds (34%) below the past 28-year average count of 8471 birds. In terms of species counted, this year total of 138 is 4 species higher than 2016 but 11 species lower than the past 28-year average of 149 species. What could the reasons for this declining trend in both the number of birds and number of species counted? Possibilities included loss of habitats, declining population in migratory birds, etc. More work and data mining need to be done to ascertain the cause(s) of this decline.

1-20170914_155759

And how did the counts go at the 23 sites that were surveyed?

Kranji Marsh turned out to be the site with the most number of species of birds counted (72 species) followed by Poyan (55 species) and Malcolm Park (48 species). Kranji Marsh again proved to be a very important site as it registered the highest number of birds counted (582 birds). This is closely followed behind by Sungei Mandai (560 birds) and Malcolm Park (361 birds). It’s interesting that Malcolm Park, an urban park located close to the city recorded such high density and diversity of birds.

1-20170914_155829_001

And which are among the most numerous birds in Singapore? Well it’s hardly surprising that the title went to the ubiquitous Javan Myna, a bird that is ironically listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red list of threatened species. This is based on a rapidly declining population in its native wild range i.e. Java and Bali due to the cage bird trade.

The Javan Myna has consistently been counted among the top 4 birds (see chart). But the same cannot be said of its close cousin – the Common Myna whose fortune has continue to dip since the 90’s (see chart). Is it something to do with the rapid urbanization of Singapore? Or strong competition from the Javan Myna? Unfortunately, we do not have the answer.

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Comparing the Top 10 birds in 2016 and 2017, the species are similar except for the conspicuous absence of the Pacific Golden Plover in this year’s Top 10. This species is usually recorded in good numbers during the ABC especially from Sungei Mandai. This year, only 73 birds were counted – the lowest since 1990. Sungei Mandai recorded only 65 birds and another 8 at Sungei Buloh. Hopefully this blip is only temporary and not a sign of habitat deterioration at Sungei Mandai. But the annual declining trend seems to suggest that habitat deterioration may be one of the reasons.

Top 10 Birds in 2017 & 2016

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Counts of Pacific Golden Plover from 1990-2017:

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Finally, a BIG THANK You to all participants some of whom has repeatedly helped with the census through the years. This year’s participants included Con Foley, Danny Lau, Andrew Chow, Wing Chong, Lee Ee Ling, Veronica Foo, LKS, Mick Price, Willie Foo, Alan OwYong, Keita Sin, Terry Heppell, Jane Roger, Kenneth Kee, Margie Hall, Wee Sau Cheng, Low Choon How, Tan Kok Hui, Rob & Kim Arnold, Koh Ai Kiak, Mithilesh Mishra, Jane Heppell, Ian Rickword, Nessie Khoo, Pang Hui En, Martin Kennewell + 9 NUS students, Liana Knight Spencer and George Kinman, Yeo Seng Beng, James Tan, John Ogiev, Richard Wong, Carmen Hui, Lim Li Fang, Eunice Kong, Yong Junzer, Milton Tan and Koh Ai Kiak.

The ABC was started in the 1980’s by the late Clive Briffett. What started as a fun activity to get more people interested in birds has generated a treasure trove of data through the years. We acknowledge that there are inaccuracies in the data collected e.g. skill level of counters, changes to sites, number of sites, routes changes etc. But if we are to look for trends in the data and focus on the big picture, then the data could prove interesting and useful as an indicator of the state of the health of the avifauna in Singapore. Hence it is pertinent that the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) continue to organize such counts and continue to monitor the trend. We look forward to the continued support of all members and participants.

Table: Summary of results from each site.

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Singapore Bird Report – August 2017

Eurasian Curlew, 29-8-17, SBWR Hide 1D, STYW

Eurasian Curlew, at SBWR on 29 Aug, by See Toh Yew Wai

August was a busy month as the migrant species continue to arrive. On the 1st, Robin Tan had an Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia at SBWR. On the 2nd, an Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina was found dead at Bendemeer Road by John Chan, probably after having crashed into the apartment flats. On the 3rd, David Li had a Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea at SBWR.

On the 5th, Frankie Cheong recorded the Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa at Pulau Tekong; while Martin Kennewell had a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius at Kranji Marshes. On the 6th, Martin Kennewell recorded 4 Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola at Pulau Ubin. On the 7th, Luke Milo Teo and Francis Yap found a lone Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus at Seletar Dam. On the 11th, a rare Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis, juvenile, was photographed at the Kranji Marshes by lucky Deepthi Chimalakonda and Tanvi DG.

Brown-streaked FC, 18-8-17, PRP, Francis Yap

Brown-streaked Flycatcher, at Jelutong Tower, on 18 Aug, by Francis Yap

On 13th, a rare Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni was recorded at Pasir Ris Park by “Trust Mind”; See Toh Yew Wai had even better luck, seeing an adult and a juvenile on the 14th; while Francis Yap saw the juvenile on the 15th; Seng Alvin saw it on 17th; and Con Foley had his on the 18th. At the Jeutong Tower, Francis photographed another Brown-streaked Flycatcher on the 18th.

Also on 13th, a Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone affinis, first of the season, was recorded at Venus Link by Siew Mun. On 21st, a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis was photographed at Jurong Eco Garden by Luke Milo Teo. On 25th, Veronica Foo reported a Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis at SBWR in the late morning; while David Tan reported that an Eastern-crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus was found dead at Winsland House.

Terek Sandpiper, 27-8-17, Seletar Dam, Goh Cheng Teng

Terek Sandpiper, at Seletar Dam, on 27 Aug, by Goh Cheng Teng

On 27th, Goh Cheng Teng found a lone Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus at Seletar Dam. On 28th, Robin Tan photographed an Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata at SBWR; See Toh Yew Wai found it on 29th; and Lim Kim Keang reported that the bird was still around on the 31st.

On 28th, David Li recorded a flock of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa at SBWR, and on 30th, Veronica Foo reported 10 birds in the afternoon. On 31st, Koji Ichiyama photographed a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Dairy Farm Nature Park. A Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea was also photographed this month at Upper Changi Road East by Ramesh Thiruvengadam.

Gerals Chua

Stork-billed Kingfishers mating, at Pasir Ris, on 3rd Aug, by Gerals Chua

For the residents – Gerals Chua photographed a pair of Stork-billed Kingfishers Pelargopsis capensis mating at Pasir Ris Park on the 3rd; while Luke Milo Teo documented an adult Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus feeding a juvenile at the Chinese Gardens.

Siew Siew Ang

White-rumped Munia at Chinese Gardens on 3rd Aug, by Ang Siew Siew

A White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata was photographed at the Chinese Gardens by Ang Siew Sew on the 3rd and seen again by See Toh Yew Wai on the 10th. On the 4th, James Tann recorded a Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at the southern Ridges near Kent Ridge Park, and Laurence Eu had another of this secretive bird at Dempsey Hill on the 7th. On the 5th, a family of Ruddy-breasted Crakes Porzana fusca with 3 chicks were seen at the Gardens by the Bay by Terence Tan.

On the 7th, Alan OwYong recorded a Malaysian Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica feeding an juvenile at the Chinese Gardens. On the 9th, James Tann saw 10 Pied Imperial Pigeons Ducula bicolor feeding on palm dates at Bukit Batok; Francis Yap photographed an Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis at the Chinese Gardens; and Dr Tan-Koi Wei Chuen reported several Grey Herons nesting at Pasir Ris Park. On the 10th, Seng Alvin photographed a juvenile Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana at Seletar Dam; while James Tann had an adult male Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu at the Green Corridor near Hillview Station.

During the NSS birding walk at Bishan Park for beginners on 13th, the Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus and Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo were recorded. On 16th, an Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula was recorded at SBWR by Meena Vathyam; a Chestnut-winged Babbler Cyanoderma erythropterum at Old Upper Thomson Road by Marcel Finlay; and Tan Eng Boo spied a pair of Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis mating at Lorong Halus Wetlands.

WB Crake, 14-8-17, Halus, Seng Alvin

White-browed Crakes, Lorong Halus Wetlands, 14 Aug, by Seng Alvin

On 14th, Seng Alvin recorded 2 usually secretive White-browed Crakes Amaurornis cinerea at Lorong Halus; on 16th Terence Tan photographed one; James Tann also photographed one on the 18th. On 18th, Francis Yap photographed a Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta at Jelutong Tower, while another was found dead at Lornie Road by Vincent Lao on the 26th.

On 20th, a Spotted Wood Owl was spotted at Pasir Ris Park by James Ngeo. On 22nd, Siew Mun photographed a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting at Jurong Eco Garden. On 24th, David Tan reported that a rare Black and Red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos crashed into Ubin Outward Bound School.

Pied Fantail, Aug 17, PRP, Harry Geno-Oehlers 2

Malaysian Pied Fantail at Pasir Ris, mid-August, by Harry Geno-Oehlers. This nest was placed on a single horizontal twig. On 18th, the nest was found to have swivelled downwards, emptying the nest of 2 young chicks.

On 30th, NParks announced that a family of Black-backed Swamphen Porphyrio indicus, including 2 juveniles, were seen ‘recently’ near a pond in the core conservation area, marking the 1st evidence of breeding since the opening of the marshes in March 2016. Alan OwYong reported the successful nesting of a pair of Grey-rumped Treeswifts Hemiprocne longipennis at One North Crescent, with the adult still feeding its young as at August. On 16th, Ang Siew Siew photographed a juvenile Pied Fantail apparently begging for food from its parent. Over at Pasir Ris Park, Harry Geno-Oehlers reported that the nest of a pair of Malaysian Pied Fantails toppled over, killing the 2 chicks; Seng Alvin added that it was the 3rd round of nesting. Finally on 31st, Terence Tan photographed a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus at Kranji Marshes.

 

SBWR = Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

References:

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 Tan Gim Cheong and Alan OwYong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebird. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap, Goh Cheng Teng, Gerals Chua, Ang Siew Siew,  Seng Alvin and Harry Geno-Oehlers for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee.

Fresh Water Ponds at Kranji Marshes

Kranji Marshes. Two conservation proposals in 1985 and 1990 resulted in adoption by NSS and later developed as a Kranji Marshes Park in 2005 by URA.

NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee:  (First published in NSS’s website on 10 September 2017)
A Review of the Facts
The views expressed below are endorsed by the following:
Dr. Shawn Lum (NSS President)
Dr. Geh Min (NSS Past President)
Dr. Ng Soon Chye (NSS Past President)
Mr Leong Kwok Peng (Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Dr. Ho Hua Chew (Vice-Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Introduction
Nature Society (Singapore) [NSS] members have been disturbed by statements made in
certain blogs and websites that they feel are inaccurate or misrepresent the work of the
Society and in particular its Conservation Committee both in the Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch) as well as in its emergence as the NSS after 1991. These comments aremade in articles posted in Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG) blogs, Raffles Museum of
Biodiversity Research (RMBR)’s DNA website and elsewhere. We feel it is important for the good name of NSS and the work we do that we attempt to clarify and correct some of these inaccuracies by giving our version of events. What follows below is our review of these inaccurate and misleading statements and our comments on them.
A) Campaign Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
1) ‘The almost daily media confrontation was led by Dr Wee, who was then President of NSS when the Conservation Committee Chairman declined to take up the fight as the area was not rich in birdlife.” .” (DNA, undated)
2) “… I have requested the Chairman of the Conservation Committee Dr Ho Hua Chew to
take up the cause. He declined. As a diehard birdwatcher he was probably interested in areas where the birdlife was visually as well as audibly obvious — like Kranji Heronry, Sungei Buloh or Khatib Bongsu.” (BESG, 2017a)
3) “Nature Society’s Conservation Committee was similarly not involved in the late 1990s
when Lower Peirce forest was under threat of being cleared for a golf course. I was the
Founding President of the newly formed Nature Society (Singapore) then and I sent a
message to Dr Ho Hua Chew, Chairman of the Conservation Committee, to oppose the plan. He was not interested. So I took charge.” (BESG, 2017b)
NSS Responses:
1) Dr Ho, with Sutari as assistant, was co-ordinator for the bird surveys under the NSS Bird Group. This was acknowledged behind the cover page of NSS’s Proposed Golf Course at Lower Peirce Reservoir: an EIA report (1992). Together with Sutari, Dr. Ho invited Dr.
Wee, the then President of the Society, to visit the bird survey transacts, which he agreed to do. To claim that Dr. Ho could not care less because the Peirce Reservoir Forest is not “rich in birdlife” is false. If that is true, Dr. Ho would not have, together with Sutari, persuaded and brought the then President to visit and have a look at the field of battle at all.
2) The claim that Dr. Ho declined “to take up the cause” is incorrect. What happened was that he was asked by the then President to co-ordinate/collate the results of all the surveys done by the various groups. Dr. Ho thought and told the then President that he (the President) was the best person for the task as he was a botanist and plant life was the main-stay of the nature reserve. Also, he was close at the time to the various academic collaborators.
B) Signature Petition Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
“There was also a spontaneous signature campaign … a campaign that was organized without the knowledge of the President” ( BESG, 2017a).
NSS Responses:
1) The signature campaign was organised with Dr. Wee’s knowledge and was not
“spontaneous”. In Wee and Hale, 2008, it is stated that: “A campaign was organized that
resulted in many thousands signing up, giving not only their names but their identity card numbers and occupations” to oppose the construction of the golf course … And further, in Wee & Hale 2008, it is added: “The almost daily confrontation in the media led to increasing public support against … the golf course”.
2) Dr. Wee himself had sent Dr. Ho a draft of the petition asking for his input. Dr. Ho
assisted to canvass for signatures in support of the petition. The signature collection was
impressive. NSS made extensive outreach to collect the signatures. It was not sent, as the
Government decided to shelve the building of the golf course.
C) NSS’s Conservation Proposals and their Aftermath
Here are a series of the internet postings on the Conservation Committee’s efforts at nature conservation:
Internet Comments:
1) “Flushed with success, the Conservation Committee of the society began a series of
campaigns to get government to protect the many areas listed in the Master Plan – as long as there was an abundance of birdlife. Filled with enthusiasm but lacking in behind-the-scene connections, the local leadership engaged in media confrontations when government failed to respond positively. Members were then new to conservation and more than a little naive, to say the least. Eventually every single non-gazetted area listed in the Master Plan ended up being developed.” (DNA, undated).
2) “Eventually, every one of the other conservation proposals in the society’s Master Plan
was rejected and till today, Sungei Buloh is the society’s first and only success in persuading the government to set aside any new area for nature conservation.” (Wee & Hale, 2008)
3) “This complements the Society’s earlier success, that of persuading government to set
aside an area for a bird sanctuary in Sungei Buloh. Until today these are the only two
successes the Society can be proud of “ (BESG, 2017a)

NSS Responses:
1) Only two of these nature areas proposed for conservation “ended up being developed”; these are: Marina South and Senoko. The claim that there are “only two successes the Society can be proud of “(citing Sungei Buloh and the campaign against the Lower Peirce golf course) is again incorrect.
2) Here are the facts pertaining to the proposals submitted to the relevant authorities and their aftermath, stated in brief. The readers can judge the facts for themselves:
a) Kranji Dam Mangrove (MNS, 1987a): A proposal for its conservation was put in a small section of the Sungei Buloh proposal, formulated by the NSS Bird Group and Conservation Committee. Thanks to Clive Briffett, who identified the area as important and formulated the detailed proposal after the Buloh proposal was submitted (MNS 1987b), it was designated a Nature Area in the inaugural Singapore Green Plan (SGP, 1993). And it was subsequently named the ‘Kranji Nature Trail Park’ and incorporated into the management of Sg Buloh Nature Park by National Parks (NParks). In 2015, it was officially integrated into Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, dropping its former name.
b) Kranji Marshes (MNS, 1985 & MNS, 1990a): The Kranji Marshes was included with
five other Singapore wetland sites in the IUCN’s Directory of Asian Wetlands, emphasizing its ecological importance as “a fairly rare type of habitat in Singapore and the Peninsular Malaysia” (Hails, 1989). An outline proposal for the conservation of the freshwater marshland at the Kranji Reservoir was submitted as early as 1985 to the relevant authorities. An expanded and updated proposal was submitted in 1990. After the tussles with the Mediacorp Transmission Project (1990) and the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course (2002), the remaining intact marshes, mostly south of the BBC station, were designated “Kranji Marshes Park” in 2005 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). NSS carried out an adoption programme here under the Public Utility Board’s (PUB) ABC Waters Programme from 1999 to 2014. After this, URA has, in consultation with NSS, made the Park more accessible to the public while also making it more attractive to the birdlife.
c) Senoko (MNS, 1990b): This bird sanctuary, a remnant mangrove area with aqua-culture ponds, was overwhelmed by the Sembawang HDB project. In response to its request to manage Senoko (NSS letter, 13 July 1992), NSS’s Conservation Committee received a reply from the Ministry of National Development (MND) stating that it had set aside 24 hectares of Senoko for conservation, but that the area boundary had not been finalised yet and they would revert back when it is done (MND letter, 6 October 1992). The Committee then requested a meeting to discuss the run of the boundary to include an important part of the habitat (NSS letter, 6 Nov 1992). The Committee was trying to do the best for the wildlife in the area, given that the authorities were not familiar with the habitat and its wildlife . In the meantime, the Committee managed to show NParks the area of concern in January 1993. While awaiting the MND’s reply, the then MND Acting Minister announced in Parliament that the Senoko bird sanctuary area will be developed for HDB upgraders.
d) Sentosa (MNS, 1990c): This report proposed Mount Serapong and Mount Imbiah for
conservation. These two areas were put into the Singapore Green Plan (1993) as Nature
Areas. This proposal has so far stayed the hand of Sentosa Development Corporation in its ,plans from eating into Mount Serapong and, to some extent, Mount Imbiah.
e) Marina South (MNS, 1991a): The NSS Conservation Committee’s effort to save the
marshy area with ponds for the wild ducks and other wetland bird species was overwhelmed by the government’s land-fill to prevent mosquito infestation. After the conservation proposal was rejected by the Ministry of Environment, the Committee requested that the marshland be filled up in slow stages to allow for the preparation of an adjacent, manicured pond in the Marina South Public Park for the wild ducks — as an alternative refuge (NSS letter, 20 May
1992). This was not acceded but, two decades later (2012), this park pond was enlarged and extended to form the Dragonfly Pond in the Gardens by the Bay.
f) Kent Ridge Environs (MNS, 1991b): This proposal covers the belukar forest of Kent
Ridge Campus. Still very much intact and put into the revised Singapore Green Plan as a
new Nature Area (URA 2003).
g) Pulau Ubin (NSS, 1992): Now a park under NParks management. This proposal was
based on an island-wide survey (1991) of the birdlife of Pulau Ubin by the NSS Bird Group when Ubin was a little-explored area in terms of biodiversity. The proposal was a pioneering conservation effort for Ubin. The Conservation Committee again re-emphasised its commitment to the future survival and viability of Ubin as a Nature Area in its Position Paper submitted in 2014 to NParks and MND. This report urged a Nature Reserve designation for Ubin, with one centralized management authority together with proposals for further protecting and enhancing its biodiversity assets. In 2016, NParks was assigned to be this central management agency, which will enable NParks to “respond more quickly and directly to queries and issues raised by residents and the public, instead of having to refer these queries to other agencies…” (NParks, 2016). This is a huge conservation step forward together with the URA’s shelving of its plan for the MRT connection as well as for housing and industrial development.
h) Sungei Khatib Bongsu (MNS, undated/a) and South Simpang (NSS, 1993): The Khatib
Bongsu proposal covers a mangrove area where the heronry of the Black-crowned Night
Heron was located. The South Simpang proposal is an expanded and updated proposal
which includes the heronry, and covers a larger area from Sungei Khatib Bongsu to the
eastern flank of Sungei Seletar estuary. The proposed area is mostly mangrove with some
wooded areas along its landward side included. It was designated in the Simpang
Development Guide Plan (1993) as a Nature Area to be integrated into the housing plan. Itis also mentioned in the budget speech in Parliament by Mr Lim Hng Kiang, the then MND Acting Minister, as a conservation site together with Sungei Buloh (refer Singapore
Parliament Report: 18 March 1994). The comment in BESG that “Sungei Khatib Bongsu was eventually canalized and the surrounding area reclaimed and developed into a reservoir” (BESG, 2017c) is incorrect. In 2004, on request from the PUB, the NSS Conservation Committee submitted a report on the important wildlife of the Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area (NSS, 2004). In response to the Committee’s report, PUB replied that there are no plans to develop SungeiSeletar Estuary, Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Sungei Simpang into a reservoir in the near future. Any reservoir development there will likely be in tandem with other developments in
the area (PUB’s letter, 5 April 2007). The lower reaches of the river are still uncanalised and the reservoir has been put on hold and only a slice of the forest at the landward area had to give way to a new road (Yishun Avenue 8) and an international college. Most of the mangrove and forest are still intact under MINDEF management (Lim, 2014). The
government will have to be reminded of their commitment here as planned in the 1993
Simpang DGP and declared by Mr Lim Hng Keang in Parliament.
i) Bukit Brown (NSS, 2011 & Ho, 2012): The position paper submitted was against the
development of the new 8-lane expressway through a part of Bukit Brown near Lornie Road.
Also built into NSS’s objection was that the expressway will overwhelm an important and
beautiful valley that has an interesting stream and birdlife — to which the government
responded by building a viaduct over the valley. According to a comment posted in BESG,
the trees at Bukit Brown “were common roadside species and the other plants were similarly common” (BESG, 2017d). However, the NSS Conservation Committee took an ecological view, regarding the wild vegetation proliferating there for decades as an extended habitat for forest wildlife. Over years of monitoring, the Bird Group and other birdwatchers have recorded at least 50 species of forest birdlife there, including 15 nationally threatened species such as the White-bellied Woodpecker, Violet Cuckoo, Black-headed Bulbul, Red-eyed Bulbul, etc. (NSS, 2011; Ho, 2012). Also, rare or nationally threatened forest butterfly species have appeared in the area like the Golden Royal and the Banded Line Blue, a new record for Singapore, (A. Jain, personal comm., Dec 2012) as well as the interesting Malayan Colugo (Flying Lemur).
To say that the area “had absolutely no conservation value” (BESG, 2017d) because there are no rare or nationally threatened plants is to take a one-sided perspective or dis-ecological view of nature conservation. The area provides sustenance for the many wildlife of the neighbouring MacRitchie forest of the Nature Reserve. To the question: “Does it mean that any areas or trees on which birds land regularly need to be preserved?” (BESG, 2017d), the answer is not obviously an outright “no”. Of course, they don’t have to be birds. If the area has many nationally threatened as well as uncommon wildlife, especially forest-affiliated species, the area is certainly worth conserving. Otherwise, it would be foolish to seek the preservation of Sungei Buloh for migratory birds three decades ago, when there was very little vegetation around the area at all, let alone any plants being rare or endangered.
D) Concluding Remarks
The above-mentioned efforts of NSS to save or to secure the long-term survival of
unprotected nature areas is only part of the work of the Conservation Committee under the Society’s auspices. That the Society, including of course the Conservation Committee, is committed seriously to defend the integrity of the Nature Reserves goes without saying. Recent evidence includes our position papers on the Cross Island MRT Line Project and also on the Mandai tourism project by Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH), the latter involving NSS’s effort to expand the boundary of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) at its north-western sector to provide a viable buffer and wildlife connectivity along the Reserve’s almost negligible territorial ground there.

Dated: 5th September 2017.
References:
BESG (2017a). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 8: Lower Peirce’. 2 April.
BESG (2017b). “Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 13: MacRitchie Forest. 20 April.
BESG (2017c). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 4: Khatib Bongsu’. 5 April.
BESG (2017d). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 11: Bukit Brown’. 16 April.
DNA (undated). “Wee Yeow Chin” in The DNA of Singapore, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research website.
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Hails, C. J. (1989), ‘Singapore’ in A Directory of Asian Wetland, edited by D.A. Scott. (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, World Conservation Union.
Ho, H. C. (2012). ‘Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown’. In Nature Watch Vol. 20, No 2, April – June 2012.
Lim, J. (2014). ‘A Paddle through the Magical Watery World Woods’ in the blog The Long and Winding Road: 30  July.
MNS (1991a). Conservation Proposal for Marina South. Malayan Nature Society ( Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
MNS (1991b). Kent Ridge Environs: A Proposal for Conserving Nature at the National University of Singapore  Campus. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990a). Conservation Proposal for Kranji Heronry and Marshes. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):  Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990b). Conservation Proposal for Senoko (Sungei Sembawang). Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):
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MNS (1990c). Conservation Proposal for Sentosa. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
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Branch): Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
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MNS (1985). Kranji Marshes: An Outline Proposal for a New Nature Reserve. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore):  Bird Group. Unpublished report.
MNS (undated/a). Conservation Proposal for Sungei Khatib Bongsu (Yishun Heronry). Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch): Bird Group. Unpublished Report.
NParks (2016). ‘NParks to be the Central Management Agency for Pulau Ubin’. National Parks Board, 4 June.
NSS (2011). Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
NSS (2004). Important Information on the Biodiversity of Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area. Nature Society
(Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report submitted specifically to PUB, ( June 11).
NSS (1993). Conservation Proposal for South Simpang (covering Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Kampong Kitin Area).
Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report
NSS (1992). Conservation Proposal for Pulau Ubin. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
URA (2003). URA Draft Master Plan 2003. Report of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Wee, Y. C. & Hale, R. (2008). “The Nature Society (Singapore) and the Struggle to Conserve Singapore Nature Areas’.  In Nature in Singapore 2008 Vol 1, 26 August.