First Nesting Record of the Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore.

First documented records of the Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis breeding in Singapore.

BING WEN LOW, ALFRED CHIA, GIM CHEONG TAN, WEE JIN YAP & KIM KEANG LIM

(This article was first published in BirdingASIA 26 (2016) under Important Breeding Record)

Introduction:

The Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis is a widespread non-breeding visitor to the Malay Peninsula, with breeding previously considered to be confined to the Malaysian states of Perlis and Kedah, including Langkawi island (Wells 2007). However, in 2005 breeding was recorded at Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara National Park, significantly increasing the species’s known breeding range on the Malay Peninsula (Hutchinson & Mears 2006). In Singapore, the Blue-winged Pitta is classified as an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant that is recorded annually with an earliest date of 7 October and latest of 12 April (Lim 2009). However, since 2008 there has been an increasing number of reports of Blue-winged Pittas calling between late April and July. Most of these reports emanate from western Singapore, around the periphery of a military training area, but similar reports have also been received from northern Singapore and Pulau Ubin, an island off the main island’s north-east coast in the channel separating Singapore and Malaysia. Here we document the first confirmed breeding records of Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore, based on observations at two nest sites on Pulau Ubin in July and August 2016.

Observations in the field

On 9 July 2016, WJY observed two adult Blue-winged Pittas carrying earthworms, apparently to an unseen nest in an area of regenerating secondary forest on the eastern end of Pulau Ubin near the Chek Jawa headland (Plate 1).

AC7Plate 1. The first Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis nest (arrowed) at Chek Jawa, Singapore, among the dead fronds of a rattan grove, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

On 14 July GCT and a small team of helpers searched for and located an active nest. The area is an abandoned rubber plantation; consequently most of the bigger trees are rubber Hevea brasiliensis. The understorey is, however, floristically diverse and features a variety of shrubs and climbers. The nest was at ground level amongst the dead fronds of rattans Calamus erinaceus, and comprised a roughly spherical mound of dried leaves and twigs bound together with mud (Plate 2). The mould measured 22 × 20 cm with a depth of 17 cm and an entrance hole 11 × 9 cm. It was located a mere 4.3 m from an unpaved track popular with recreational hikers and cyclists, particularly at weekends.

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Plate 2. The nest, a roughly spherical mound, was constructed using sticks and vegetation bound together with mud, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

When the nest was first found on 14 July, four chicks were present. They were estimated to be at least a week old, given the presence of pin feathers and that the parents were already feeding them on 9 July. In order to document feeding behaviour without undue disturbance, cameras switched to video mode were left to record nest visits when observers were in the general area. It was observed that both parents returned as frequently as every two minutes to tend to the chicks. The parents could be differentiated from behind, based on the width of their dark crown stripe, with one individual having a noticeably broader stripe than its partner (Plate 3). It was not clear whether this was due to differences in feather wear or individual variation.

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Plate 3. The parent birds could be distinguished by the difference in the width of their crown stripe, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

Nest visits generally lasted between 16 and 40 seconds, with longer visits associated with the feeding of young and removal of faecal sacs. The parents also made short visits to the nest for the sole purpose of faecal sac removal. The primary food for the chicks was earthworms, which were collected by the parents in areas of bare earth and small gullies close to the nest (Plate 4). It was surprising that while one parent incessantly uttered alarm calls whenever humans were within 15 m of the nest, the other parent (with the narrower crown stripe) continued visiting the nest silently to feed the young. At other times, one parent uttered the loud alarm call from a hidden position while the other gave a slightly longer, lower-pitched whirrr at intervals of between one and three seconds. This alternative warning call was often accompanied by ‘wing-flicking’—the rapid opening and closing of the wings.

9.7.16 YWJ Pair with Earthworms and LizardPlate 4. The parent birds returned to the nest frequently with copious quantities of earthworms, 9 July 2016. Yap Wee Jin.

Although the brood comprised four chicks, it was apparent that the bulk of the food was fed to the three chicks closest to the entrance of the mound. On 19 July, all four chicks left the nest between 12h42 and 17h01 (Plate 5); they left progressively, in their own time, even though the fourth chick appeared underdeveloped compared with its siblings (Plate 6). The three stronger chicks were already capable of short flights to perches 3 m above the ground, whilst the fourth could only hop on the forest floor. Assuming the chicks were around a week old on 14 July, the estimated fledging period was about 14 days.

 

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Plate 5. One of the three stronger chicks during its first foray out of the nest, 19 July 2016Tan Gim Cheong.

BWP last chick 1701H snip
Plate 6. Compared to its three siblings, the fourth chick was noticeably weaker and less well-developed when the family fledged, 19 July 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

During subsequent visits on 21 and 23 July, we observed a single fledgling about 50 m from the nest site; by this time it was already independent, capable of foraging alone and undertaking flights between trees (Plate 7). While the fate of the rest of the clutch is unclear, the observation of the lone juvenile foraging independently three days after leaving the nest suggests that the fledglings become independent very quickly. However, the parent birds were still very protective and one of them continued to utter alarm calls incessantly whenever observers approached within 15 m of the fledgling. The parents were also observed to make short circular flights and hops around observers, flicking their wings frequently to show their white wing patches, presumably to act as a distraction and on at least one occasion both parents were observed to make alarm calls, alternating with wing-flicking.

 

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Plate 7. Soon after leaving the nest, one of the fledglings was already a confident flier that frequently perched in the mid-storey, 21 July 2016.
Alfred Chia

 

 

On 23 July, a second nest was discovered by KKL deeper in the forest, about 50 m from the original nest; it was similar in construction to the first nest. On 28 July, a single egg was found in the new nest and thereafter one egg was laid every day until 1 August—a clutch of five eggs (Plate 8).

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Plate 8. The second Blue-winged Pitta nest found at Chek Jawa showing the clutch of five eggs, 2 August 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

 

 

 

The parents only started brooding on 2 August after all five eggs had been laid. During the incubation period, the parents took turns incubating and were occasionally observed to turn the eggs. On 14 August, 18 days after the discovery of the first egg, three chicks hatched and the remaining two eggs hatched the following day (Plate 9). During the period when there were both eggs and chicks to care for, the parents were observed to take turns feeding chicks and incubating. They also consumed the egg shells once the chicks had hatched.

AC10Plate 9. All five eggs in the second nest hatched successfully by 15 August 2016. Low Choon How.

During observations on 17 August, it was noted that nest visits lasted between 33 and 255 seconds, with intervals of from 1 to 19 minutes between visits. Parents were observed to either remove or consume faecal sacs and, in contrast to the first nest, alarm-calling was minimal, possibly due to the greater distance of the second nest from the trail. Unfortunately, this nesting attempt may not have had a positive outcome. On 18 August, the parents were seen to remove a dead chick from the nest and on 21 August we found that all the chicks had disappeared. As the chicks were only seven days old, unable to fly and completely dependent on their parents, it is most likely that they were predated.

Discussion:

The discovery of Blue-winged Pitta breeding in Singapore is significant both as an extension of the breeding range by about 400 km to the south-east but also because it may change our understanding of the status and movements of the species on the Malay Peninsula. The first reports of Blue-winged Pitta from Singapore outside the established wintering/migration period were in July 2008 when two individuals were heard calling vociferously on the Kranji Nature Trail (Low 2008, Lok et al. 2009); the species could already have bred in Singapore when the Taman Negara NP record was documented. We can now confirm that the breeding range of this species extends to the most southerly point of the Malay Peninsula, also raising the possibility of breeding on the islands of the Greater Sundas. The forest near Chek Jawa is regenerating on abandoned rubber plantations. Similarly, most of the Blue-winged Pittas heard calling have been reported from western Singapore, where the forest has regenerated from land that was previously used for plantations or village agriculture (Yee et al. 2016). This is in line with published literature which notes the species’ preference for secondary growth as breeding habitat (Wells 2007). This habitat preference may also explain why the species has not been recorded breeding in southern Peninsular Malaysia, where there is little observer effort because the majority of visiting birdwatchers opt to visit remnant tracts of rainforest instead of secondary growth. There is no confirmatory evidence that the birds breeding in Singapore are resident—they may winter in Sumatra or elsewhere. In Singapore, anecdotal evidence such as birds colliding with windows shows that good numbers of Blue-winged Pittas move through the city-state on migration (BWL pers. obs.).

Acknowledgements:

We thank Low Choon How and Alan Owyong for their active involvement in documenting the nesting record and for useful discussion.

References:

Hutchinson, R. & Mears, A. (2006). Extension of the breeding range of Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis in peninsular Malaysia. Forktail 22: 119–120.

Lim K. S. (2009) The avifauna of Singapore. Singapore: Nature Society (Singapore).

Lok A. F. S. L., Khor K. T. N., Lim K. C. & Subaraj, R. (2009) Pittas (Pittidae) of Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 155–165.

Low, A. (2008) Bird Report. Singapore Avifauna 22(7): 1–25.

Wells, D. R. (2007) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Yee A. T. K., Chong K. Y., Neo L. & Tan H. T. W. (2016) Updating the classification system for the secondary forests of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. 32: 11–21.

Birding in just one tree

Contributed by Morten Strange, retired photographer, author and publisher, now an independent financial analyst. 

The African Tulip Tree Spathodea campanulata is widely used in Singapore as an introduced ornamental tree, locally known as Flame of the Forest. We have one of those right outside our apartment on the fourth floor off lower Sembawang Road. Over the years the tree has grown up, so it is now right outside our windows, ideal for armchair birding! You get stunning point-blank eye-level views of all the common stuff, and now and then a few more difficult-to-see-well species.

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The whole African Tulip Tree seen tree from our window.

Every morning we wake up to the fluty whistle of the Black-naped Oriole, it seems to call all year. When I grew up in Europe I hardly ever saw an oriole, the European species O. oriolus is really hard to find in the north; here we are lucky to have the stunning O. chinensis so easy to see. The call from the Asian Koel appears to be more seasonal; how that exciting cry can be a bother to anyone is a puzzle to me! Occasionally we get the sweet song from the Oriental Magpie-Robin.

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The hidden cry from the male Asian Koel.

When the tree is in flower, the nectar-feeders come swarming in and flutter in and out of the tree all day. We get the two common species of sunbirds as you can imagine, as well as Oriental White-eye, Yellow-vented Bulbul and of course the every-where present Javan Myna.

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Our environmental refugee the Javan Myna is just so amazingly omnivorous, you cannot help but feeling some sympathy for this adaptable foreign worker.

We used to regard this species as a pest here, and it is one of only six bird species that you are allowed to kill according to Singapore legislation. But since it was uplisted to globally Vulnerable to extinction last year, we might have to view it in a slightly different light: As an environmental refugee from its native range in Java and Bali, where it is widely persecuted with capture and imprisonment (I mean caging …), a species worthy of our protection in exile!?

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Flowering season – male Brown-throated Sunbird.

Scarlet-rumped Flowerpecker visits the tree but does not seem to use the flowers. However, many insects do, and they in turn attract the Blue-tailed Bee-eater which is also a prolific and attractive visitor during flowering.

When the flowers turn into fruits, the parrots arrive and chew on them to get to the seeds. Rose-ringed Parakeet is most regular, but we also get Red-breasted and Long-tailed and the occasional Tanimbar Corella. My favorite however, is the diminutive and acrobatic Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, they come in late in the afternoon; you always know when they are there from their ringing whistle.

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When the flowers turn into fruits, the parrots arrive, here the attractive and acrobatic Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot.  

I have never seen a bird nest in the tree, although we have Pink-necked Green Pigeon nesting other places in the estate. We did have a nest of Plantain Squirrel right outside our window one year. The Philippine Glossy Starling collects nesting material from the tree, and couples use it as a spring-board when they fly into their nests under the roof of our building. In the migratory season Asian Brown Flycatcher and occasionally Oriental Honey-Buzzard perch for a while.

A T Tree 2

My son Mark took this great shot of a Common Flameback male one day. I didn’t even know it had white dots in the primaries!?

Although we are at least a kilometer from the nearest proper secondary forest, we get some forest edge species visiting such as Hill Myna, Banded Woodpecker and occasionally Oriental Pied Hornbill and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. In total more than 30 species of birds use that tree.

I sold all my camera equipment many years ago. But now and then I pick up a compact camera belonging to my son or wife and snap a few pictures of the birds in the tree for fun. Not because I think we need any more images like these, but to send the message out that you don’t have to travel to remote and exotic places to study and enjoy nature.

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The ubiquitous Yellow-vented Bulbul very at home at every “local patch”

It was the British comedian and birder Bill Oddie who popularized the concept of the ‘local patch’. Our local patch is Springleaf Nature Park near our place; but in fact we don’t really even have to go anywhere to watch birds these days, they are right outside our window. We have already lost a few large branches in the tree, and one day I expect that a storm will snap off the crown completely. But until then we will enjoy it every day.

Morten Strange

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morten_Strange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore Bird Report- February 2017

BRT Seng Alvin

The return of the Blue Rock Thrush to the Pinnacle@Duxton. Photo: Seng Alvin

The buzz of the month had to be the return of the Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius to the Pinnacle@Duxton on 19th. This time two males, thanks to Seng Alvin’s vigilance during his temporary stay. It stayed around into the end of the month giving many birders their lifers. The next excitement was another returnee to the fig tree at DFNP, a male adult Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanonmelana on 10th ( Alan OwYong). The main interest was whether this could be a recently split Zappey’s. It was last seen on 20th by Vernoica Foo.

BWFC Con Foley

Con’s photo of the Blue and White Flycatcher taken at DFNP clinched its identification.

Besides these two most wanted winter visitors,  there were other less rare visitors like Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus from SBWR photographed by James Tann on the 2nd. Another Forest Wagtail was seen along Venus Loop by Veronica Foo on 8th and Thio Hb on 12th. Marcel Finlay had one more along the Lower Pierce Boardwalk on 13th.

Siberian Blue Robins Luscinia cyane were showing well this month especially inside the CCNR. Marcel Finlay alone counted 4 birds (2 males, 1 adult female, and 1 immature female) along the Petai Trail on 2nd, 15th, 27th and 28th. A family group wintering together? Earlier Terence Tan reported one along Venus Loop on 7th.

Black Drongo at PB by Danny Lau

A rare visiting Black Drongo taken at Punggol Barat by Danny Lau. 

Notable visitors passing through were a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea back at the Bulim Canal on 3rd (James Tann) and a rare visiting Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus at Punggol Barat on 4th ( Danny Lau, Tan Kok Hui et al). Two were later photographed at the Seletar side by Martin Kennewell on 24th. A Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was photographed at the Belayer Creek Mangroves by Kwek Jun Yi on the 8th. This is not its preferred habitat which is fresh water wetlands. It may have just made landfall.

Three sightings of the Crow-billed Drongos Dicrurus annectans were reported, one at CCNR by Lim Kim Seng on 8th, a first winter male at SBG on 15th by Richard White and another at Jelutong on 24th by Marcel Finlay.

Red rumped Swallow at KM Martin K.

A seldom seen perched photo of a Red-rumped Swallow taken at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell.

Smaller migrant passerines include Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica at Mandai on 10th by Lim Kim Seng and a very tame individual at the SBG on 6th (Richard White). A female Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae at Jelutong Tower was photographed by Laurence Eu on 22nd and a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Kranji Marshes of all the places on 25th (Martin Kennewell and Richard Carden). Martin was clocking 80-90 species at Kranji Marshes at this time of the year picking out uncommon species like the House Swifts Apus nipalensis (3 birds) on 18th and Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica on 19th and 26th.

DSFC Richard White

A very tame Dark-sided Flycatcher refueling at the Singapore Botanic Gardens before making its flight back north. Photo Richard White.

Eastern Crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus were singing their hearts out in our forests at this time of the year. That was how Tan Kok Hui found one at DFNP on 11th. A White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis was expertly picked out by Terence Tan among a flock of Daurian Starlings Agropsar sturninus at Seletar Crescent on 17th.

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Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo making a stop over at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Alan OwYong.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is getting its fair share of migrants stopping over like the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca that made a short stop at the SBG on 2nd (Serena Chew). A Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor distracted the photographers temporary from the released Lady Amherst’s Pheasant on the 19th (Andrew Tan) and a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus was photographed there by Lee Chuin Ming on 25th.

Swintail Snipe Marcel

A “Swintail” Snipe shot flying over the flooded grasslands at Seletar. Photo: Marcel Finlay

Much of Punggol Barat is now over grown but fortunately a nearby patch is more open and has short grasses as cover. With the recent wet weather, parts of it were water logged, an ideal habitat for snipes to roost. No less than 150 Gallinago snipes were counted with at least half of them identified as Common Snipes Gallinago gallinago on 22nd (Martin Kennewell).  He also managed to find a good number of resident Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis hiding among the taller sages. Visting Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea were also sighted with the most recent seen on 27th by Marcel Finlay.

Interesting shorebirds came from Frankie Cheong’s records at the reclaimed foreshore at Pulau Tekong. Two Chinese Egrets Egretta eulophotes, 10-12 Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis, 8 Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea, two Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinereus and 1 Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola. Most frustrating is that it is a restricted site.

Resident species that merit noting were an injured Barn Owl Tyto alba picked up near MBS on 6th ( Joe Lim). This could be from the family living under the Sheares Bridge. Two other owls, the Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji returning to the SBG to roost reported by Richard White on 14th and a surprise sighting of a Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo flying towards the buildings at Seletar Airport on 22nd evening (Martin Kennewell). Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra were photographed at the Chinese Gardens on 7th by Lee Chuin Ming, confirming their spread. Zacc HD picked up a House Swift Apus nipalensis flying over Seletar on 23rd. Keep a look out for these resident swifts to see if their numbers are increasing

The Oriental Pied Hornbills Anthracoceros albirostris at SBG successfully raised two chicks which fledged on 2nd (Millie Cher) and so did the Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus  on 19th at Bedok North. But the nesting of Oriental Pied Hornbills at Holland Drive somehow failed . The female was seen breaking out on 3rd by Lee Kia Chong but no chicks were seen feeding after that.

Legend: DFNP Dairy Farm National Park, SBWR Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, CCNR Central Catchment Nature 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 Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Seng Alvin, Con Foley, Danny Lau, Martin Kennewell, Richard White, Alan OwYong and Marcel Finlay for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

Migrant Raptors 2016 – the Year in Review

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Eastern Imperial Eagle being chased by House Crows, Pulau Ubin, 27 Dec 2016, by Tan Gim Cheong

A total of 1,623 records of migrant raptors spanning 21 species were obtained in the year 2016. The Oriental Honey Buzzard topped the chart with 1,200 records. The Black Baza was a distant second with 178 records, followed by the Japanese Sparrowhawk with 125 records.

Dropping down to double digits, there were 31 records of the Osprey, 27 for the Peregrine Falcon, and 22 for the Chinese Sparrowhawks. Do note that the Osprey comprise winter visitors and non-breeding visitors and the same few birds may have been recorded month after month. The Peregrine Falcon comprise a mix of winter visitors and passage migrants, while a greater percentage of Chinese Sparrowhawks are passage migrants.

In the single digits (consider yourself very lucky if you had seen these !), there were the Booted Eagle & Jerdon’s Baza with 7 records; the Common Kestrel with 5 records; the Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle with 4 records; the Northern Boobook & Common Buzzard with 3 records; and the Eastern Marsh Harrier & Black Kite with 2 records.

Now for the single records (it’s like striking lottery, isn’t it?), there was the Amur Falcon, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Grey-faced Buzzard, Pied Harrier, Oriental Scops Owl, Eastern Imperial Eagle, and the huge Himalayan Vulture.

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The monthly distribution of the raptors is shown below:

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Monthly species diversity picks up in October and tapers off from March onward:

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Distribution of OHB in the year, they should be passing through in the opposite direction in the month of March (anyone out there now?) :

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Distribution of Black Baza in the year:

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Distribution of Japanese Sparrowhawk in the year:

JSH

Distribution of Osprey in the year:

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Distribution of Peregrine Falcon in the year:

Peregrine

Distribution of Chinese Sparrowhawk in the year:

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Rare records of 8 species, (start looking in October) :

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Single records of 7 species, December was the best month for the rarities:

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Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 19.2.17

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes on Sunday, 19 Feb 2017

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Members of Nature Society posing for a group photo at Kranji Marshes. Many thanks to Lee Ee Ling (squatting extreme right) for arranging and leading the walk, Yap Wee Jin ( squatting extreme left) and Wing Chong ( standing back left) for assisting. 

It was a cool and sunny Sunday morning when we arrived at the Kranji Marshes. A lush expense of greenery and cool waters greeted us when we stepped out of the bus. The hustle and bustle and noise of city life was replaced by the chipping sounds of birds all around. Everyone had their binoculars and cameras out ready for action when we started our walk at 8.15 am. This is one of the monthly walks to the core area of Kranji Marshes arranged by the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and National Parks Board. 

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The family of Red-wattled Lapwings have made Kranji Marshes their permanent home.

As we proceeded into the core area, less common birds such as the Red Wattled Lapwing and Daurian Starling were spotted. However, the highlight and top sighting for the day was the appearance of two Watercocks.  

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Highlight of the walk were the two Watercocks, a lifer for many of our members

Even though they only appeared for a brief moment, it was enough to make this trip worthwhile as they are uncommon winter visitor. A lifer for several members of the group who were obviously delighted with this sighting. ☺

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Bird watching in one of the many hides ensured that the birds were not disturbed.

Despite a brief moment of apprehension on seeing some black clouds in the sky towards the tail end of our walk, the good weather prevailed and our time passed quickly.

More pictures of birds sighted at the Kranji Marshes. 

Resident Ashy Tailorbird, Baya Weaver and a winter visitor Daurian Starling 

We ended our walk at 11 am with a good haul of 35 species much to the delight of all those who choose to spend the Sunday morning at the largest fresh water marsh in Singapore. 

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One of our many colorful Kingfishers, the White-throated poised for a catch.

Some additional information on our sightings:

Bird species sighted:                             Bird species heard:

1/ Purple Heron                                       1/ Yellow Bellied Prinia

2/ Javan Mynah                                        2/ Large Billed Crow

3/ Pink Necked Green Pigeon               3/ Collared Kingfisher

4/ Baya Weaver                                          4/ Common Iora

5/ Black Naped Oriole                              5/ Common Tailorbird

6/ Olive Backed Sunbird

7/ Common Flameback Woodpecker

8/ Red Breasted Parakeet

9/ Black Browed Reed Warbler

10/ Spotted Dove

11/ Red Wattled Lapwing

12/ Black Baza

13/ Lesser Coucal

14/ Blue Tailed Bee Eater

15/ Barn Swallow

16/ Long Tailed Parakeet

17/ Yellow Bittern

18/ Yellow Vented Bulbul

19/ Brahminy Kite

20/ Swifts

21/ Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

22/ Daurian Starling

23/ WaterCock

24/ Brown Shrike

25/ Asian Glossy Starling

26/ Pied Fantail

27/ Common Kingfisher

28/ Lesser Whistling Ducks

29/ Grey Headed Fish Eagle

30/ White Throated Kingfisher

31/ Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker

32/ White Breasted Waterhen

33/ Intermediate Egret

34/ Ashy Tailorbird

35/ Oriental Dollarbird

All Bird photos : Courtesy of Henrietta Woo

Birdwatching leader : Lee Ee Ling

Assisted by : Wing Chong, Yap Wee Jin

Report by : Yap Wee Jin

Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet.

Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus 
By Lim Kim Chuah.
I recalled often hearing the sweet, rapid and piercing whistles “weep-weep-weep-wit-wip” of the Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus during my walk around the forest of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the 90’s. However, seeing one usually entailed some neck breaking exercises as this species usually forages high in the canopy amidst the tall dipterocarp trees. But it’s worth the effort as the stunning red colors of the male bird is simply dazzling amidst the green canopy.
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Male Scarlet Minivet taken at Panti on 10 August 2014 by Lim Kim Chuah.
Besides Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, this species has also been recorded in our Central Catchment Nature reserve forests. Sadly, its sweet sounding call is now silent in Singapore and has not been heard since the early 2000’s. The last one reported was an unconfirmed report of a male at Jelutong Tower in August 2004.
I still recall rather vividly the last one I saw in Singapore. It was a lonely female perched high on a dead branch at MacRitchie Reservoir during the bird race in Dec 2000. It appeared to be looking forlornly in the distance as though sensing that its existence in Singapore was ending.
The Scarlet Minivet belongs to the cuckooshrike (Campephagidae) family. There are five members belonging to this family in Singapore – Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Pied Triller, Ashy Minivet and Scarlet Minivet. This species has a wide distribution and can be found from the Indian subcontinent to Southern China and many parts of SE Asia. Fortunately, it is a common bird in neighboring Johor and this is where I go to enjoy this delightful bird. Hopefully it will return to Singapore one day.
Reference: 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

Singapore Raptor Report – January 2017

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Oriental Scops Owl, rufous morph, roosting, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 10 Jan 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong

Summary for migrant species:

The highlight for January was the two Oriental Scops Owls at Dairy Farm Nature Park first seen on the 10th. Amazingly, both the grey and rufous morph of this rare migrant were present, roosting on the same tree next to the Wallace Education Centre!

All in, a total of 106 migrant raptors of 8 species were recorded. The Black Baza claimed the top spot with 43 birds, relegating the Oriental Honey Buzzard to the second place with 40 birds. There were 11 Japanese Sparrowhawks, including a juvenile feeding on a Zebra Dove at Pasir Ris Park on the 2nd.

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Oriental Scops Owl, grey morph, which was more alert and often opened its eyes, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 10 Jan 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong

Two Jerdon’s Bazas were first photographed at Chek Jawa on the 14th, and 2 birds photographed at Pasir Ris Park on the 18th were most likely the same individuals. The juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle was still at Pulau Sekudu on the 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately, there was an oil spill on the 3rd which affected the area and the eagle was not seen again until the 8th when it appeared briefly in the afternoon and was photographed. After that it was not seen again.

There were 4 Peregrine Falcons, including a juvenile in pursuit of a Grey Plover in level flight at Pulau Ubin. The young Peregrine failed to catch the agile Grey Plover. Of the 3 Ospreys, 1 was at Pulau Ubin and 2 at Kranji Marshes. The absence of the Chinese Sparrowhawk was notable.

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Crested Goshawk, male (left), female (right), Bedok North, 23 Jan 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong.

Highlights for sedentary species:

January was a good month for the rare Crested Serpent Eagle as 4 birds were recorded – one at Pulau Ubin, one at the Kent Ridge area and two at Sembawang. Amazingly, 12 Crested Goshawks were recorded, probably the highest number ever in a month! Two adults and 2 juveniles at West Coast Park, a chick on a nest near the top of a raintree at the Botanic Gardens and a pair with 2 young chicks on a nest among the thick foliage of a tree in the car park of an HDB estate in Bedok North bode well for the population of this uncommon resident.

A single adult male torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzzard was photographed at Jelutong Tower on the 6th, and a single Black-winged Kite was recorded at Pulau Punggol on the 14th. On the 26th, 8 White-bellied Sea Eagles comprising 3 adults and 5 immatures were present at the same time at Chek Jawa, with a number of them harassing a Great-billed Heron which had caught a catfish. The Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Brahminy Kite and Changeable Hawk-Eagle completed the roundup for the month.

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For the pdf version, please click singapore-raptor-report-jan-2017

Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul.

Annual bird census data reveals Singapore as the global stronghold of endangered songbird. 

Straw-headed Bulbul at Zoo

Wild populations of many bird species are in rapid decline across Southeast Asia as a result of unsustainable hunting for the pet-bird trade, especially in Indonesia. Sought by bird hobbyists for its powerful and rich song, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) is one of the world’s most threatened songbirds due to soaring demand for the pet trade.  Across much of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul has been relentlessly trapped from the wild to be later sold in the bird markets of Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. The species has now gone extinct from Thailand and most parts of Indonesia where it used to be found, including the whole island of Java. There are also no recent records from Sumatra.

In a recent study published in the journal Bird Conservation International led by members of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, wild populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore was found to have steadily risen over the last 15 years, and may now be the largest in its entire distribution. Using data gathered from more than 15 years of the Annual Bird Census, the study found that populations on the island of Pulau Ubin have increased at nearly 4% per year. It is estimated that at least 110 individuals of the Straw-headed Bulbul now survives on Ubin, making the island a global stronghold for the species. On the other hand, trends in mainland Singapore were less clear, appearing to remain unchanged over the study period.

The population of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore is estimated to be at least 202 individuals based on existing data. However this estimate is likely to be conservative since the Western Catchment area was not comprehensively surveyed. Moreover, new sites for the bulbul, including remnant pockets of woodland like Burgundy woods has been discovered very recently and these were not captured in the Annual Bird Census. Given that the global population of the species is now estimated at 600-1,700 individuals, Singapore may easily hold 12-34% of the world’s remaining wild Straw-headed Bulbuls.

To effectively conserve the Straw-headed Bulbul, there will be a need to conserve small pockets of woodland such as Bukit Brown and Khatib Bongsu outside the nature reserves. It is also hoped that the authorities will review plans to gazette at least some parts of Pulau Ubin as a nature reserve. Other biodiversity can be expected benefit from the conservation actions targeting the bulbul.

Studies on the long-term population trends of birds in Singapore would not be possible without the citizen science surveys carried out by the Nature Society and supported by a large team of volunteers since 1986. These surveys include the Mid-year, Fall, and most importantly, the Annual Bird Censuses. Additionally, there are also dedicated censuses focused on monitoring raptor migration and parrots in urban areas. During these censuses, as many as 50 volunteers may be surveying birds across the country concurrently. Over the last two decades, these censuses have allowed us to track population trends of threatened species such as the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.”

By Yong Ding Li.

Singapore Bird Report-January 2017

 

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Our second record after 25 years, a rare vagrant Grey-streaked Flycatcher brilliantly captured at Pasir Ris Park by Aldwin Recinto. 

We kick-started the Year of the Rooster with a very rare vagrant, a Grey Streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta photographed by Aldwin Recinto at Pasir Ris Park on 13th. This is only our second record. Our first record was on 21 April 1991 at Poyan (IORA 1), more than 25 years ago. It winters in Borneo and the Philippines. Unfortunately it did not stay more than a day.

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This photo of a young Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon moulting into adult male plumage, by Loke Peng Fai, got us heading to Ubin on the second day of the New Year.

On the first day, Low Choon How photographed a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus flying over the Straits of Johor and Loke Peng Fai had an exciting find, a Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon Treron fulvicollis at Ubin near Ketam Quarry. The next day Con Foley and See Toh Yew Wai counted no less than 12 Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeons there. This is the largest flock of these rare pigeons ever recorded in Singapore and most probably in Johor as well.

Staying in Ubin, a rare Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides was seen by See Toh Yew Wai on 2nd.  Daniel Ong found a pair of Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana sitting on a stick nest inside the mangroves near Chek Jawa on 3rd.  If nesting is confirmed this will be our first nesting record since 2005 at Pulau Bukom Kechil. A Jambu Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus jambu photographed by Tan Gim Cheong on the 5th near Ketam Quarry. Two Jerdon’s Bazas Aviceda jerdoni were photographed by Khaleb Yordan with Lim Kim Chuah on the 14th. Nearby at Chek Jawa, 3 globally near-threatened Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica were reported by Wing Chong on the same day while Andrew Chow came in with reports of Lesser Crested Terns Thalasseus bengalensis roosting at Pulau Seduku on 2nd.

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A handsome male Little Ringed Plover in full breeding plumage taken at P. Tekong by Frankie Cheong.

Nearby at Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong sent in reports of Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius, Red-necked Stints Calidris rufficollis and an endangered Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes on 21st. It would seem that Pulau Tekong has become the favourite stop over for the Chinese Egrets. During the Asian Waterbird Census, Lim Kim Keang counted 67 Red-necked Stints at Mandai Mudflats. A sizable flock for this globally near-threatened shorebird under the IUCN listing mainly due to the loss of wetlands in the Yellow Sea.

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Wang Bin’s clever seamless two-in-one photo montage of both morphs of the Oriental Scops Owl taken on different days from Dairy Farm NP 

On the mainland, the most intriguing find was a pair of Oriental Scops Owls Otus Sunia at DFNP by Keita Sin on the 10th. One was a grey morph and the other was rufous, both roosting on the same tree. Did they meet on migration or flew in together? We may have to wait for further sightings for the answer.

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Male Orange-headed Thrush at the Singapore Botanic Gardens by Solomon Anthony.

Interesting passerine visitors include two Orange-headed Thrushes Geokichla citrina at the Rainforest at Singapore Botanic Gardens photographed by Solomon Anthony on 10th, a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Belayer Creek at Labrador on 12th, new for Labrador NR (Alan OwYong), a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans on the 15th at PRP by Tan Gim Cheong, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus at PRP on 16th by Tan Gim Cheong, a female Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae at Terangtang Trail by Keita Sin on 17th, a returning Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida flying into an apartment at Park East on 17th (Lee Li Er) and a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus at the BTNR summit on 18th by Francis Yap.

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Not often you get to see a Grey Nightjar roosting so low and open. Taken at Chinese Gardens by Looi Ang Soh Hoon.

Others were a Large Hawk Cuckoo at Bidadari on 20th by Tan Gim Cheong,  a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka back at the same tree as the previous season at Bidadari on 20th by Tan Gim Cheong and another at the Chinese Gardens on 23rd by Looi Ang Soh Hoon, a Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata at Kranji Marshes seen during a Bird Group trip on 22nd by Lee Ee Ling, a Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 25th by Laurence Eu and a juvenile Hodgon’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor from the Canopy Walk at Kent Ridge Park on 29th by Alan OwYong.

Of the water species, two Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus were reported, first a juvenile on 15th at the PRP boardwalk by Lim Kim Keang and the second an adult at Satay by the Bay on 31st by Alan OwYong. This is new for the Bay Gardens. James Tann reported the return of the snipe to the Cattail pond at Chinese Gardens on 18th. This could be the Pin-tailed Gallinago stenura that was identified roosting there the past few years. A secretive Watercock Gallicrex cinerea was photographed at Kranji Marshes by Adrian Silas Tay on 22nd.

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A hard to find Watercock taken at Kranji Marshes by Adrian Silas Tay. 

Notable residents for the month were 4-5 Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea feeding on red palm nuts at Changi Business Park reported on 1st by Ted Lee, Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps from Jelutong Tower by Keita Sin on 3rd and around 20 House Swifts Apus nipalensis flying over Kent Ridge Road reported by Keita Sin on 26th. This was by far the largest flock of this swift ever reported for a long while. We hope that this will signal a comeback.

Legend: DFNP Dairy Farm National Park, PRP Pasir Ris Park, BTNR Bukit Timah Nature 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 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 Aldwin Recinto, Loke Peng Fai, Frankie Cheong, Wang Bin, Solomon Anthony, Looi Ang Soh Hoon and Adrian Silas Tay for the use of their photos. If you have any earlier records than those reported here and found some errors, please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

9th SINGAPORE RAPTOR WATCH REPORT

Autumn 2016 Migration – 6 Nov 2016

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Peregrine Falcon at Tuas South Avenue 16, 6 Nov 2016, by Tan Gim Cheong

The 9th Singapore raptor watch was held on Sunday, 6 November 2016 and involved 72 participants – the largest number of participants thus far. It had been raining the past few days prior and we were lucky that it did not rain during the count, although we had overcast conditions almost the whole day. We counted 343 raptors representing 7 migrant species and 92 raptors of 6 resident species. A further 41 raptors could not be identified to species level. There were 8 raptor watch sites and the numbers counted at each site varied from a high of 164 to a low of 4.

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Apart from the addition of Hindhede Quarry, the other seven sites were the same ones as previous years, thanks to all the site leaders for their faithful support!

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Most of the migrant raptors were recorded between 9am to 1pm, with the numbers trailing off later in the afternoon. Oriental Honey Buzzards migrating across Tuas South from 10-11am and 12-1pm contributed to the two ‘mini-peaks’ in the graph below.

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The Oriental Honey Buzzards (OHB) was the most numerous migrant raptor counted, with 289 birds. Being the most widespread, the OHB was recorded at all the 8 sites. Highest numbers for the OHB were at Tuas South Avenue 16 (139 birds), Japanese Garden (43 birds) and Kent Ridge Park (39 birds).

Usually, the Black Bazas would constitute the second highest count, but not this year. The second spot was claimed by the 38 Japanese Sparrowhawks, which was recorded at six out of 8 sites, with 16 birds at the Japanese Gardens alone. Only ten Black Bazas were counted at two sites – 9 at Lorong Halus Wetlands and 1 at Puaka Hill on Pulau Ubin.

Two Booted Eagles – one at Japanese Gardens and the other at Changi Business Park – were exceptional for this scarce passage migrant. Only two Peregrine Falcons and one Common Kestrel were counted, and all three birds were recorded at Tuas South. The one and only Chinese Sparrowhawk was recorded at Lorong Halus Wetlands.

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For the resident species, the total count was 92 birds of 6 species, one more species than the year before – the addition being the Crested Goshawk. The count for the resident raptors comprised 43 Brahminy Kites, 29 White-bellied Sea Eagles, 11 Changeable Hawk Eagles, 4 Grey-headed Fish Eagles, 3 Black-winged Kites, and 2 Crested Goshawks. The decrease in the count for the Black-winged Kites was notable.

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The figure below provides a snapshot of the number of raptors according to the three categories – migrant, un-identified & resident raptors, at the 8 sites.

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Summary:    

Number of raptors
– 343 migrant raptors.
– 41 un-identified raptors.
– 92 resident raptors.

 Number of species
13 species counted, including:
– 7 migrant species.
– 6 resident species.

A complete breakdown of the species counted at each site is shown in the table below:

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Thanks to all the 72 wonderful birders, both leaders and participants, for spending their Sunday out in the open to count raptors. National Parks Board staff and NParks volunteers also participated.  The following fantastic people led or assisted in the raptor count:

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This report was compiled by TAN Gim Cheong

Please click on the link for a pdf version of the report 9th-singapore-raptor-watch-2016