Singapore Raptor Report – December 2018

Common Buzzard, Art Toh

Common Buzzard, adult pale morph with lizard tail protuding from its bill, on 1 Dec 2018, at the junction of Holland Road and North Buona Vista Road, by Art Toh.

Summary for migrant species:

A rare Short-toed Snake Eagle surprised and delighted a small group of birders who managed to get crisp photographs of the raptor as it flew over Changi Business Park on 5th December, and disappeared – a one-day wonder as it usually is for this species in Singapore. On the other side of the island, at the junction of Holland Road and North Buona Vista Road on 1st December, an uncommon Common Buzzard feeding on a lizard gave Art Toh many photo opportunities. A rare Imperial Eagle was reportedly seen at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on the 15th.

A rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl was found on 5th December at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Then, a grey morph Oriental Scops Owl showed up in the same vicinity on the 9th, the same date as the year before! Both morphs were present on 9th and 10th December. Thereafter only the rufous morph was reported to be around until the 15th. These two birds display amazing site fidelity, returning to the same spot for the 3rd season in a row!

Eight Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded: four wintering at Changi Business Park, three at Lorong Halus on the 25th and one at Pulau Ubin on the 30th. Five Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded: singles at Pulau Ubin, Henderson Waves & Coney Island, and two at Lorong Halus. Five Peregrine Falcons were recorded: singles at Kranji Marshes, Coney Island, Changi Business Park, Seletar Aerospace and West Coast Drive. Three Western Ospreys were recorded: one at Simpang grasslands, one at Kranji Marshes, and another at MacRitchie Reservoir.

Finally, we come to the most abundant migrant raptors. 15 Japanese Sparrowhawks and 49 Black Bazas were recorded, including 27 bazas at Lorong Halus on the 29th. The Oriental Honey Buzzard is tops again with 85 birds, including 33 birds at Tuas on the 1st.

STSE, 051219, CBP, Feroz, crop

Short-toed Snake Eagle, in flight over Changi Business Park, on 5 Dec 2018, by Feroz N Fizah.

Highlights for sedentary species:

The notable sightings for resident raptors include that of the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle which was recorded three times: an immature at Henderson Waves on the 8th, and two sightings at Pulau Ubin, on the 7th & 31st, probably of the same bird. Another was the nesting of the Crested Goshawks at West Coast, with 2 chicks that were reported to have fledged by the time of this report. And also, a Brahminy Kite at Neo Tiew Lane 2 flying with nesting materials on the 29th.

The torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard was recorded at Jelutong Tower on the 20th (tweeddale morph), Springside Link on the 25th, and an immature at Pasir Ris starting from the 27th (and is still around). The other resident raptors recorded were the Black-winged Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagles and Changeable Hawk Eagle.

table

For more details, please see the pdf Singapore Raptor Report – December 2018

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Art Toh and Feroz N Fizah for the use of their photos.

 

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Singapore Bird Report – December 2018

The Eurasian Wigeon reappears in Singapore after 31 years! December marks the end of peak annual migration season, and the year-end holidays. As holiday makers make their way to colder climes, birds continue to stream into Singapore, yielding surprises like the Eurasian Wigeon, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, and the Oriental Scops Owl duo.

wigeon

Photograph of the Eurasian Wigeon at Kranji Marshes on 23 December 2018 by Alan Ng.

Eurasian Wigeon 

On the morning of 23 December 2018, an Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope was spotted within the confines of Kranji Marsh by Martin Kennewell. This remarkable sighting represents one of only two records of the Wigeon in Singapore; the last being an immature female associating with Whimbrel flocks in the ponds, mudflats and mangroves around Sungei Buloh between December 1986 and February 1987. It also underscores the importance of the Kranji freshwater habitat in supporting wetland species sensitive to human activity.  The closest known breeding territory for the bird is in Mongolia, although the species occurs throughout Asia and southeast Asia. Although listed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, this species is sensitive to human activity and faces pressure from habitat loss and hunting (Birdlife 2017).

4

Eurasian Wigeon at Kranji Marshes on 23 December 2018 by Martin Kennewell showing the duck in the natural environment.

Cotton Pygmy Goose

While many were still reeling from the appearance of the mega-rare Eurasian Wigeon, news of a scarce Cotton Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelianus arriving at Lorong Halus on Christmas Eve rippled across social media. The last known appearance of the dimunitive duck in Singapore took place on 15 February 2016 at Satay by the Bay’s main pond; as the 2016 occurrence turned out to be a one-day bird, many birders and photographers abandoned their Christmas Eve plans for the afternoon to descend on the ponds of Lorong Halus. They were not disappointed as the bird continued to stay through Christmas till the end of 2018.

6

Photograph of the Cotton Pygmy Goose at Lorong Halus on 29 December 2018 by Lim Swee Kin.

The Cotton Pygmy Goose is found across India, southern China, southeast Asia, parts of Papua New Guinea and northern Australia. Listed on IUCN’s Red List as being of Least Concern, research is still needed to better understand threats and conservation issues regarding the bird (Birdlife 2016).

Oriental Scops Owl

1

The rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 10 December 2018. Photo taken by Lee Chin Pong

To the delight of many birders, the grey and rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus surnia returned to the trees adjacent to Wallace Centre at Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP). On 5 December 2018, Lim Kim Keang spotted the rufous morph, which was joined by the grey morph on 9 December 2018. On 19 December 2018, David Tan reported the collection of a dead rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl from the vicinity of Eng Neo Avenue, an area abutting the CCNR. The bird may have crashed into a window before landing into a water feature, where it was subsequently retrieved from.

2

A portrait of the grey morph Oriental Scops Owl at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Taken on 13 December 2018 by David Fur.

3

A dead rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl obtained from the vicinity of Eng Neo Avenue on 19 December 2018. Photograph by David Tan.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve

As expected, reports of migrants dominate in the month of December. Apart from the reports of the Oriental Scops Owl and Sakhalin Leaf Warblers Phylloscopus borealoides, a Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae was observed just before Jelutong Tower on 17 December 2018 by Oliver Tan. Just before the year ended, a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida appeared at the foot of Bukit Timah hill on 30 December 2018, as reported by Chin Yee Hong.

Central Singapore

A Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was sighted at Bishan Park on 10 December 2018 by Ng Kian Chye. An unhappy report on 30 December 2018 was made by Nicholas Chiam, who found a Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor that had expired at the base of Cathay Building along Dhoby Ghaut; a casualty from possibly colliding with the building while in flight. An uncommon Brown-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa williamsoni was photographed at Gardens by the Bay on 26 December 2018 by Ng Wei Khim.

Northern Singapore 

Apart from the Cotton Pygmy Goose reported on Christmas Eve and described above, Halus Wetland Centre also yielded a Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla, which was spotted on 27 December 2018 by Alfred Chia, and subsequently photographed over the next few days by an assembly of photographers searching for the goose. A Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida was reported from Rivervale Cresent on 4 December 2018 by Jeff Long.

7

Photograph of the Baillon’s Crake at Lorong Halus on 30 December 2018 by Lim Swee Kin.

Eastern Singapore

A rare Slaty-legged Crake Rallina eurizonoides was reported to be in a basement carpark at Haig Road area on 29 December 2018, by Martin Kennewell. Another Hooded Pitta was reported from Simei Block 147 on 6 December 2018 by David Tan. Arising from the Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus reported in November, several interesting species were reported from the vicinity of Changi Business Park. These include a Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus reported on 5 December 2018 by Melinda Chan, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus on 8 December 2018 by Lim Kim Keang, a White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis on 11 December 2018 by Joseph Lim, and a Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni on 13 December 2018 by Stuart Campbell.

Further afield, a Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola and Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus were seen on Pulau Tekong on 19 December 2018 by Frankie Cheong, while a pair of Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeons Treron fulvicollis and another Jerdon’s Baza were spotted on Pulau Ubin on 30 December 2018 by Diane Campbell.

8

Photograph of the Short-toed Snake Eagle at Changi Business Park on 8 December 2018 by Chan Yoke Meng.

Southern Singapore

A Common Buzzard Buteo buteo was seen at Holland Road on 1 December 2018 by Art Toh, a first for the location. Arising from a fruiting fig tree at Telok Blangah Hill Park, several species of birds were reported from the location, including a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea on 5 December 2018 and a Zappey’s or Blue-and-White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cumatilis or C. cyanomelana on 12 December 2018 by Anthony Nik and Jeremiah Loei, respectively. These were first for the location as well. A House Sparrow Passer domesticus was spotted at Gardens by the Bay on 23 December 2018 by Anthony Nik.

Western Singapore

A juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus spotted at Chinese Garden on 8 December 2018 by Loke Peng Fai. An Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca was reportedly seen on 15 December 2018 at Harvest Lane by Lim Kim Seng. The Eurasian Wigeon described above was seen at Kranji Marsh on 23 December 2018 by Martin Kennewell, while a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea was spotted at the same Marsh on Christmas Day (25 December 2018) by Art Toh. Boxing Day (26 December 2018) birding yielded a Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves for Feroz, while an Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus was seen at West Coast Drive on 28 December 2018 by Tay Kian Guan. Finally, we received delightful news of a male Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis with three chicks at Kranji Marsh on 30 December 2018 by Hongxun.

9

Watercock on Christmas Day (25 December 2018) at Kranji Marshes. Photo by Art Toh.

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler

Birders and scientists acknowledge that Phylloscopus warblers represent one of the most difficult species to identify. The Pale-legged and Sakhalin Leaf Warblers are cases in point as both are remarkably similar, in fact they were previously considered conspecific, i.e. same species.

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Sakhalin Leaf Warbler at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, 14 Janaury 2019, photo by Koh Lian Heng.

Pale-legged Leaf Warblers largely come from northeast Asia, and spend their winter months in southeast Asia. Sakhalin Leaf Warblers are found from the Sakhalin Island, down large swathes of Japan, as well as along coastal China from Weihai to an area the south of Xiamen. Wintering records of the species sparsely dot places in Vietnam, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia. As it stands, only the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler is in the NSS bird checklist, the Pale-legged has yet to be recorded.

In 2014, a team of Singapore birders comprising Lim Kim Keang, Francis Yap, Yong Ding Li, Albert Low and Con Foley worked with NUS scientists to firmly establish the species as a rare accidental visitor to Singapore (Yap, et al, 2014). Then, Lim Kim Keang heard a Leaf Warbler calling in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve; conventional wisdom suggested that this was probably a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. However, analysis of the recorded calls and comparisons with the known calls of the two species in question showed that the bird was a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, as the calls were at a frequency lower than that of the Pale-legged Leaf Warbler.

10

Detective work by our Singaporean birders. Extract of sonographic records from Yap et al, (2014) showing how the calls of the Pale-legged Leaf Warbler may be distinguished from the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler by distinct differences in their frequencies.

On 27 December 2018, when several high-frequency calls were heard by Lim Kim Chuah while jogging around MacRitchie Reservoir Park, several birders ventured to determine which Leaf Warbler species that was. Their effort revealed that up to three birds were calling within an area measuring about 500m by 250m. Detailed examination by Yong Ding Li of one of the calling birds revealed that it was a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler.

11

Sonogram of the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 31 December 2018 (Yong, 2018).

Photographing the birds proved harder as they tended to be more furtive and often skulked in the darker sections below the canopies of trees, as well as descending to the darkened forest floor to forage. Several photographers managed to obtain decent photos, to reveal a bird that superficially resembles the common Arctic Warbler, but has distinguishing marks such as pinkish legs and a conspicuously long buffy eye-stripe that extends almost to the nape. The bird’s skulking behaviour, as well as its propensity to descend to the ground level, contrasts greatly with the canopy-loving Arctic Warbler.

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Sakhalin Leaf Warbler at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, 15 January 2019, demonstrating that the warbler’s propensity for the cover of the canopy. Photo by Koh Lian Heng.

References

BirdLife International 2017. Mareca penelope (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22680157A111892532.  http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-1.RLTS.T22680157A111892532.en. Downloaded on 23 January 2019.

BirdLife International (2016a). Nettapus coromandelianusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22680090A92842427. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22680090A92842427.en. Downloaded on 23 January 2019.

BirdLife International (2016b). Phylloscopus tenellipesThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22715324A94448249. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22715324A94448249.en. Downloaded on 23 January 2019.

BirdLife International (2016c). Phylloscopus borealoidesThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22715329A94448458. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22715329A94448458.en. Downloaded on 23 January 2019.

Robson, C. (2005) A field guide to the birds of South-East Asia. London: New Holland.

Wells, D. R. (2007) The birds of the Thai-Malay peninsula, 2. London: Academic Press.

Yap, Francis & Yong, D. L., Low, W. B., Cros, E., Foley, C., Lim, K. K.  & Rheindt, E. F. (2014). “First wintering record of the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler.” Phylloscopus borealoides in South- East Asia, with notes on vocalisations. BirdingAsia. 21. 76-81.

Yong, D.L. (2018)  Audio Recording XC448228 of Sakhalin Leaf Warbler on 31 December 2018. Accessible at http://www.xeno-canto.org/448228.

Abbreviations:
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green

This report is compiled by Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. It is based on 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 Lee Chin Poh, David Fur, David Tan, Martin Kennewell, Ng Alan, Lim Swee Kin, Koh Lian Heng and Art Toh for the use of their photos. 

 List of bird sightings in report

Family Species Date
Anatidae Cotton Pygmy Goose 24 Dec 2018
Eurasian Wigeon 23 Dec 2018
Ardeidae Cinnamon Bittern 10 Dec 2018
Great Egret 2 Dec 2018
Accipitridae Jerdon’s Baza 13 Dec 2018
Jerdon’s Baza 30 Dec 2018
Short-toed Snake Eagle 5 Dec 2018
Imperial Eagle 15 Dec 2018
Grey headed Fish Eagle 8 Dec 2018
Common  Buzzard 1 Dec 2018
Rallidae Slaty-legged Crake 29 Dec 2018
Ballion’s Crake 27 Dec 2018
Watercock 25 Dec 2018
Charadriidae Grey Plover 19 Dec 2018
Rostratulidae Greater Painted Snipe 30 Dec 2018
Scolopacidae Terek Sandpiper 19 Dec 2018
Strigidae Oriental Scops owl 5 Dec 2018
Oriental Scops owl 19 Dec 2018
Columbidae Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon 30 Dec 2018
Cuculidae Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 8 Dec 2018
Hodgson’s Hawk cuckoo 30 Dec 2018
Pittidae Hooded Pitta 4 Dec 2018
Hooded Pitta 6 Dec 2018
Hooded Pitta 30 Dec 2018
Dicruridae Ashy Drongo 2 Dec 2018
Phylloscopidae Sakhalin Leaf Warbler 27 Dec 2018
Sturnidae White-shouldered Starling 11 Dec 2018
Turdidae Eye-browed Thrush 28 Dec 2018
Muscicapidae Brown-streaked FC 26 Dec 2018
Ferruginous Flycatcher 5 Dec 2018
B&W/Zappey’s FC 12 Dec 2018
Green-backed Flycatcher 17 Dec 2018
Passeridae House Sparrow 23 Dec 2018
Motacillidae Forest Wagtail 26 Dec 2018

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2018

PF, 181118, Harvest Link, Khoo Meilin

Peregrine Falcon, juvenile, 18 Nov 2018, Neo Tiew Harvest Link, photo by Khoo Meilin

Summary for migrant species:

November is the peak month for migrant raptor diversity and this month matched last year’s record of 18 migrant species, while the numbers – 2666 migrant raptors – more than doubled that of last year’s 1090. The Southern Ridges continued to attract raptor watchers, with Henderson Waves being the favoured spot. On 12 November, a largish accipiter showed up west of Telok Blangah Hill Park, circled a few times and headed back west. Sensing something promising, Tan Gim Cheong snapped a few pics to confirm its identity – a rare Eurasian Sparrowhawk – the 5th record for this species in Singapore. On 20 November, Oliver Tan was well rewarded for his time spent at Henderson Waves with another rare raptor – a Short-toed Snake Eagle.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 121118, 1117h, TBH

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 12 Nov 2018, Telok Blangah Hill Park, by Tan Gim Cheong

After last month’s single record at Kent Ridge, we had three records of the rare Greater Spotted Eagle, all juveniles: one on the 3rd flying high over Changi Business Park, photographed by Zacc HD; one on the 4th at Henderson Waves, photographed by See Toh Yew Wai; and another one on the 10th, also at Henderson Waves, photographed by Tan Kok Hui. On the 6th, Low Choon How located a Northern Boobook at Tuas and another was found dead at a condo on the 10th, collected by David Tan. Two juvenile Black Kites were recorded: one on the 3rd at Tuas and another on the 8th at Hindhede Nature Park, both photographed in flight.

There were two flybys of the uncommon Eastern Marsh Harrier at Turut Track, an adult male on the 4th, photographed by Low Choon How; and a juvenile on the 5th, photographed by Francis Yap. On the 11th, while guiding a student group during the bird race, Adrian Silas Tay photographed a rare Pied Harrier, a juvenile, at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

STSE, 201118, HW, Oliver Tan 2

Short-toed Snake Eagle, 20 Nov 2018, Henderson Waves, by Oliver Tan

An uncommon Common Buzzard was photographed at Pasir Ris on the 2nd, and Dr Chaiyan remarked that it was a refectus juvenile. This month’s 11 Grey-faced Buzzards exceeded last month’s six. On the 3rd, five were recorded at Henderson Waves, two at Lorong Halus; on the 6th, two at Henderson Waves; and on the 10th, two at Lazarus Island; all being recorded between 10am to 1pm.

The uncommon Jerdon’s Baza was recorded twice, on the 19th at Preston Road perched on a tree, and on the 23rd flying over Henderson Waves. As Preston Road is near Henderson Waves, it may have been the same individual on both dates. Another uncommon raptor, the Common Kestrel was photographed at Neo Tiew Lane on the 29th.

OHB, 191118, KM, Feroz N Fizah

Oriental Honey Buzzard, orientalis juvenile, 19 Nov 2018, Kranji Marshes, by Feroz and Fizah

Fifty nine Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them over Henderson Waves, while one adult female seemingly returned to winter at Ang Mo Kio. Eight Peregrine Falcons and five Western Ospreys were also recorded. There was a report of an immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle (which is often confused with the resident Changeable Hawk-Eagle) rescued on the 4th at Pasir Ris and subsequently released.

Finally, we come to the most abundant migrant raptors. 209 Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them at Henderson Waves. From 35 birds last month, we had 664 Black Bazas this month, with a flock of 200 birds on the 8th at Telok Blangah Hill Park. The Oriental Honey Buzzard is tops again with 1698 birds, with a day high of 488 birds, which included a stream of 200 birds at noontime, at Tuas on the 10th.

CHE, 101118, Mt Faber, Risk Koh, prey Yellow Bittern 2

Changeable Hawk-Eagle, adult with prey ( yellow bittern) at Mount Faber on 10 Nov 2018, by Risk Koh.

Highlights for sedentary species:

Both records of the torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards were of the non-tweeddale form; one perched at Mandai on the 14th, and another in flight at Telok Blangah Hill Park on the 28th.

OHB tor

Oriental Honey Buzzard, torquatus juvenile, 2 views of the same bird, the crest is visible in the photo on the right, 28 Nov 2018, Telok Blangah Hill Park, by Pary Sivaraman

At Bukit Timah on the 8th, Richard White photographed an immature White-bellied Sea Eagle that had lost all its secondaries and half of its primaries on its right wing, and most of its tail feathers. Amazingly, it could still fly!

wbse, 081118, bukit timah, richard white

White-bellied Sea Eagle, still flying despite the loss of many flight feathers! Bukit Timah, 8 Nov 2018, by Richard White.

Nesting activities were observed for three resident species. A White-bellied Sea Eagle flying with a 2m long stick at West Coast, a Brahminy Kite flying with a smaller stick on the 22nd, a Grey-headed Fish Eagle perched near a nest at Punggol and a pair of Changeable Hawk-Eagles at their nest at Mount Faber. The other resident raptors recorded included the Crested Goshawk and Black-winged Kite.

WBSE, 061118, WCP, Zhang Licong

White-bellied Sea Eagle, carrying a stick in flight, 6 Nov 2018, West Coast Park, by Zhang Licong

Table 1

CGH, posted 281118, Ted Ng

Crested Goshawk, adult male, with a prey (a lizard), Nov 2018, Pasir Ris Park, by Ted Ng

For more details, please see the pdf singapore raptor report – nov 2018

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Khoo Meilin, Oliver Tan, Feroz and Fizah, Risk Koh, Pary Sivaraman, Richard White, Zhang Licong, and Ted Ng for the use of their photos.

Singapore Bird Report – November 2018

November 2018 sprang a number of surprises, with the first record of an Eurasian Skylark, followed by many other rarities. As migration continued in earnest, news of surprise visits by rare species with patchy records such as the Citrine Wagtail, Green Sandpiper, Stejneger’s Stonechat, etc, made for an exciting time. This season also marks the return of the Indian Paradise Flycatcher at Sungei Buloh. Will the later months bring back the Booted Warbler and Band-bellied Crake? Birders, keep your eyes peeled!

Eurasian Skylark, Angela Chua, 031118, Pandan Res 2, crop

Eurasian Skylark in a classic pose showing a structure that is quite different from pipits, 3 November 2018 at Pandan Reservoir, photo by Angela Chua.

Passerine Surprises in the West

On 3 November 2018 at Pandan Reservoir, Angela Chua photographed a brown bird that looked like the common Paddyfield Pipit, however Martin Kennewell recognised it as an Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis, a first for Singapore. The bird was present till 17 November 2018. This species has a wide range that stretches from Europe, across North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia, through the Indian subcontinent to China and Korea (Birdlife, 2018a), and is vagrant to Borneo.

2. Eurasian Skylark

Another view of the Eurasian Skylark photographed on 11 November 2018 at Pandan Reservoir by Chan Kum Chun.

On Bird Race Day, 11 November 2018, Team “Friends of Buloh” saw a Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri at Harvest Lane and subsequently some other teams were fortunate to catch up to it. This species is a rare passage migrant and winter visitor. The last records of the stonechat’s occurrence in Singapore were in February 2015 and February 2012.

3. Stejneger Stoneshat

Stejneger’s Stonechat photographed on 18 November 2018 by Lee Van Hien.

A week later on 18 November 2018, an early morning post on social media by Martin Kennewell and Adrian Silas Tay on a Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala found at Harvest Lane galvanised many birders who flocked to the waterlogged fields overgrown with Neptunia shrubs to see it. Essentially a Central Asian bird, this species is more usually encountered in south-eastern Europe through the Balkans to Iran and western India, though there have been reports of vagrants appearing in China, Taiwan, Japan and Sabah (Copete, 2018). In the overgrown fields, the bird concealed its origins well. However, a few birders managed to get exceptionally clear photos, which showed that the bird suffered from unusual feather wear of the type commonly seen in captive birds.

4. Black-headed Bunting

A typical, beguiling view of the Black-headed Bunting in the vegetation, photographed on 18 November 2018 by Thio Hui Bing.

Black-headed Bunting, Pary Sivaraman, 181118, Harvest Lane

A clearer view of the Black-headed Bunting showing feather wear that captive birds often suffer from, photo by Pary Sivaraman, 18 November 2018.

Also on the same day, 18 November 2018, we were greeted by the surprising news of an Indian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi, our second record for this species. Spotted by Kozi Ichiyama at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), this species made waves in local birding circles when it was first reported at the same location around 25 March 2018, during the spring migration period.

5. IPFC

Indian Paradise Flycatcher photographed on 26 November 2018 by Daniel Tan.

There must be something about 18 November 2018, for Tiak Lee photographed an unusual looking wagtail amongst the many Yellow Wagtails at the National Service Resort and Country Club’s Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course. When the photos were processed several days later, Alfred Chia identified it as a very rare first winter Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola! On reviewing his photos, Lim Kim Keang discovered that he had photographed the same bird at the same locality four days earlier, on 14 November 2018. The last record of the species in Singapore was in December 1994, making this a 24-year gap until its latest appearance.

6ab

Citrine Wagtail photographed in Singapore. The photograph on the left was taken in December 1994 at Tuas South Avenue 1 by Alan Owyong, while the one of the right was taken on 18 November 2018 at NSRCC by Tiak Lee.

Shorebird Surprise

Local birders were surprised when a photograph of a rare Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus taken on 2 November 2018 by Daniel Loh at Hide 1C Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) surfaced on social media several days later, identified by Martin Kennewell. The species breeds in the northern latitudes across Scandinavia to Siberia and winters in the Mediterranean, Africa, Middle East, Indian subcontinent, south Japan, east China, the Philippines and northern Borneo (Van Gils, Wiersma & Kirwan, 2018) and is listed as being of Least Concern by IUCN (Birdlife, 2018c).

1. Green Sandpiper

A Green Sandpiper was spotted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 2 November 2018 and photographed by Daniel Loh.

Chinese Egrets

Singapore continued to host the vulnerable Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes. Two birds were seen on 7 November 2018, and another was spotted on 24 November 2018 on Pulau Tekong by Frankie Cheong.  Preferring marine coastal and intertidal habitats, this species is known to breed in China, both Koreas, and Far Eastern Russia. However, key threats come from habitat loss from reclamation of tidal flats, estuarine habitats and other human developmental activities.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR), BTNR & DFNP

Migrants seen within these boundaries include a Black Kite Milvus migrans photographed on 8 November 2018 at Hindhede Nature Park (James Mustafa), a Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis and a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka on the same day at the same locality (Richard White), the latter being the first-for-the-season. A Blue-and-White/Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana/cumatilis was seen at Mandai Zoo on 12 November 2018 (CK Tang). Two Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica were spotted on 17 November 2018 (Lim Kim Chuah & Art Toh) at Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP). DFNP proved to be productive towards the end of the month, with an Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus spotted on 24 November 2018 (Yeo Seng Beng), and three groups of Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus, numbering 31 in total, on 26 November 2018 (Martin Kennewell).

7. GNJ

A Grey Nightjar photographed at Hindhede Park on 8 November 2018 by Richard White.

8. Siberian Thrush

Siberian Thrush photographed on 17 November 2018 at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Art Toh.

Resident species spotted here included a Thick-billed Pigeon Treron curvirostra on 2 November 2018 at Jelutong Tower (Francis Yap), three to six Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus moving south-west together on 8 November 2018 at Bukit Timah Hill (Richard White) and a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting on 8 November 2018 at Hindhede Nature Park (Richard White & Alan Owyong). An Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster was spotted in CCNR on 9 November 2018 (Lim Kim Seng), while a flock of eight Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus was seen on 15 November 2018 flying over the entrance of Venus Park (Shirley Ng). Mandai Zoo proved to be fruitful also for residents, with a Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps, being spotted on 16 November 2018 (Thio Hui Bing).

9. BH Bulbul

Black-headed Bulbul photographed in the leafy compounds of the Zoo on 16 November 2018 by Thio Hui Bing.

Central Singapore

Sightings of migratory species dominated the records for locations within Central Singapore. A Blue-and-White/Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana/ cumatilis was spotted on 18 November 2018 at Ang Mo Kio Town Park by Loke Peng Fai, while Bidadari continued to attract interesting species, such as a female hepatic Himalayan Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus on 22 November 2018 by Con Foley and Pary Sivaraman, a rare Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae on 24 November 2018 by Goh Cheng Teng, and a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka on 26 November 2018 (T. Ramesh).

10. GB FC

A Green-backed Flycatcher photographed on 24 November 2018 at Bidadari by Goh Cheng Teng.

11. Himalayan Cuckoo

A Himalayan Cuckoo photographed on 23 November 2018 at Bidadari by Con Foley.

Northern Singapore

A sub-adult Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was spotted on 6 November 2018 at Serangoon Reservoir by Jack Lai, while a juvenile Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus was seen on 9 November 2018 at Seletar Aerospace Drive by Dean Tan.

12. Moorhen juv

A juvenile Common Moorhen photographed on 8 November 2018 by Dean Tan

Eastern Singapore

Five to six Daurian Starling Agropsar sturninus were seen on 3 November 2018 at Pasir Ris Park (Alvin Seng). A Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga was photographed on 4 November 2018 around Changi Business Park (Zacc HD), while a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax was seen at Pasir Ris Park on 17 November 2018 (Alvin Seng); a few days later on 23 November 2018, at nearby Tampines Eco-Green, a female Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki was spotted (Alvin Seng). Further afield, two Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres were seen on 24 November 2018 on Pulau Tekong (Frankie Cheong), while a Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni was photographed on 30 November 2018 at Changi Business Park (James Gan).

Notable residents recorded in the east was a Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu spotted feeding with a mixed flock comprising Thick-billed Pigeon Treron curvirostra and Pink-necked Pigeon Treron vernans on 15 November 2018 at Pasir Ris Park by Alvin Seng.

13. Jambu

A juvenile Jambu Fruit Dove photographed on 16 November 2018 at Pasir Ris Park by Alvin Seng.

Southern Singapore

The southern-most hills attracted many observers as raptors and other migrants arrived in or passed through Singapore. An uncommon Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus was spotted on 2 November 2018 at Henderson Wave (See Toh Yew Wai), while five rare White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus were seen on 3 November 2018 at Telok Blangah Hill Park (Francis Yap).

15. GSE

A Greater Spotted Eagle photographed on 5 November 2018 at Henderson Wave by See Toh Yew Wai.

A Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was seen on 4 November 2018 at the same park (Daniel Ong). The next day, a Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga was photographed at Henderson Wave after a rainy and slow start (See Toh Yew Wai, George Presanis and Geoff Lim). A Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor was spotted on 8 November 2018 at Gardens by the Bay (David Fur), while another was seen on 13 November 2018 at Jurong Island (Lim Kim Chuah). Again, on Jurong Island, an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca (black-backed subspecies) had the misfortune of crashing into a glass window on 22 November 2018. Fortunately, it survived and the bird was subsequently released somewhere safer by Lim Kim Chuah.

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The Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher that survived a crash into a window on Jurong Island on 23 November 2018. Photographed by Lim Kim Chuah.

Raptors continued to ply along the ridge line through the month; notable sightings included about 200 Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes on 8 November 2018 and an Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus on 12 November 2018 at Telok Blangah Hill Park (Tan Gim Cheong); a Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni on 19 November 2018 at Preston Road (Mag Pie); a rare Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus on 20 November 2018 (Oliver Tan) and another Jerdon’s Baza on 23 November 2018, both at Henderson Wave (See Toh Yew Wai).

16. STSE

A Short-toed Snake Eagle taken on 20 November 2018 from Henderson Wave by Oliver Tan.

Passerine migrants encountered during this season included a Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica found dead on 13 November 2018 at Tanglin Trust School (David Tan), a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata on 24 November 2018 at Telok Blangah Hill Park (Tay Kian Guan), and an Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus on 27 November 2018 at the same locality (Zacc HD). Possibly a first for Telok Blangah Hill Park was the sighting of a female Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena puella on 25 November 2018 (See Toh Yew Wai).

17. AFBB

See Toh Yew Wai’s photograph of a female Asian Fairy Bluebird at Telok Blangah Hill Park on 25 November 2018.

Western Singapore

Apart from the spectacular western discoveries described at the beginning of this report, this region also yielded a long list of observations. A Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was spotted on 2 November 2018 at West Coast Park (Angie Cheong, confirmed by Martin Kennewell), while the same park yielded a Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana on 6 November 2018 in the Marsh Garden (Zhang Licong); a female, first-for-the-season Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki on 10 November 2018 (Nicholas Lim), followed by a male on 20 November 2018 (Lawrence Eu).

18. GBH

The Marsh Garden yielded a surprise in the form of a Great-billed Heron on 6 November 2018. Photographed by Zhang Licong.

A first-for-the-season Black Kite Milvus migrans was seen during Raptor Watch 2018 on 3 November 2018 at Tuas South (Tan Gim Cheong), as was a Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus on 4 November 2018 at the same locality (Low Choon How). This western-most region of Singapore also yielded a rare Rosy Starling Pastor roseus on 23 November 2018 (Martin Kennewell), as well as a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata on 24 November 2018 (Angie Cheong).

The area around Kranji Marshes, including Turut Track and Neo Tiew Lane, yielded several delights. At Turut Track on 4 November 2018, an adult male Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus that flew high up was photographed by Low Choon How, while a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago was spotted by Pary Sivaraman. On 5 November 2018, a juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus was photographed at Turut Track (Francis Yap), a first-for-the-season Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus recorded at Kranji Marshes (Martin Kennewell) and an exhausted Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus found along the road at Ama Keng (Low Choon How).  A Watercock Gallicrex cinerea was seen on 17 November 2018 at Harvest Lane (Khoo Mei Lin), as was a first-for-the-season Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus on 18 November 2018 at Kranji Marshes (Andy Burns & Lim Kim Seng). Several sightings of the elusive Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata were made on 21 November 2018 at Turut Track (Lim Ser Chai) and Kranji Marshes (See Toh Yew Wai). An uncommon Sand Martin Riparia riparia was seen on 28 November 2018 at Turut Track (Fadzrun Adnan), as was a Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus on 29 November 2018 at the nearby Neo Tiew Lane (Zacc HD).

19. EMH

Eastern Marsh Harrier at Turut Track on 5 November 2018 photographed by Francis Yap.

20. Lanceolated

The elusive and difficult to photograph Lanceolated Warbler taken on 23 November 2018 at Turut Track by Lim Ser Chai

Other westerly sightings included a juvenile Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos on 11 November 2018 (Adrian Silas Tay), two Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus on 13 November 2018 (Henrietta Woo) and a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis on 16 November 2018 (Siew Mun) at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve; a rare juvenile Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus on 11 November 2018 at Chinese Gardens (Kwek Swee Meng) and five Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola on 18 November 2018 at Bulim (Alan Owyong).

21. PH

A juvenile Pied Harrier taken on Bird Race Day (11 November 2018) at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve by Adrian Silas Tay.

Notable residents included a Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo on 5 November 2018 at Japanese Garden (Kok M Lee) and a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax on 9 November 2018 at West Coast Park (Lim Khoon Hin).

22. B Bittern

Black Bittern taken on 18 November 2018 at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve by Josh Wong.

Other records

There was a report of an immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii found by NParks on 4 November 2018 at an HDB estate (it would be interesting to examine the photo, if any, as this species is often confused with the Changeable Hawk Eagle), and a report of a Northern Boobook Ninox japonica collected on 10 November 2018 at a private residential estate (David Tan).

Abbreviations:
BTNR – Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
DFNP – Dairy Farm Nature Park

This report is compiled by Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong based on 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 Angela Chua, Daniel Loh, Chan Kum Chun, Lee Van Hien, Thio Hui Bing, Pary Sivaraman, Daniel Tan, Alan OwYong, Tiak Lee, Richard White, Art Toh, Goh Cheng Teng, Con Foley, Dean Tan, Alvin Seng, Francis Yap, Lim Kim Chuah, See Toh Yew Wai, Oliver Tan, Zhang Licong, Lim Ser Chai, Adrian Silas Tay and Josh Wong for the use of their photos. 

 

References

BirdLife International. (2018a). Alauda arvensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T102998555A132039889. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T102998555A132039889.en. Downloaded on 12 December 2018.

BirdLife International. (2018b). Egretta eulophotes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22696977A93596047. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22696977A93596047.en. Downloaded on 12 December 2018.

BirdLife International. (2018c). Tringa ochropus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22693243A86680632. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22693243A86680632.en. Downloaded on 12 December 2018.

Copete, J.L. (2018). Black-headed Bunting (Emberiza melanocephala). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/61893 on 12 December 2018).

Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53908 on 12 December 2018).

 

List of bird sightings in report 

Family Species Date
Ardeidae Cinnamon Bittern 5-Nov
Black Bittern 16-Nov
Malayan Night Heron 4-Nov
Malayan Night Heron 11-Nov
Black-crowned Night Heron 9-Nov
Great-billed Heron 6-Nov
Chinese Egret 7-Nov
Chinese Egret 24-Nov
Anhingidae Oriental Darter 9-Nov
Accipitridae Jerdon’s Baza 19-Nov
Jerdon’s Baza 23-Nov
Jerdon’s Baza 30-Nov
Black Baza 8-Nov
Crested Serpent Eagle 6-Nov
Short-toed Snake Eagle 20-Nov
Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle 4-Nov
Greater Spotted Eagle 4-Nov
Greater Spotted Eagle 5-Nov
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 12-Nov
Eastern Marsh Harrier 4-Nov
Eastern Marsh Harrier 5-Nov
Pied Harrier 11-Nov
Black Kite 3-Nov
Black Kite 8-Nov
Grey-headed Fish Eagle 8-Nov
Rallidae

 

Watercock 17-Nov
Common Moorhen 9-Nov
Scolopacidae Common Snipe 4-Nov
Green Sandpiper 2-Nov
Wood Sandpiper 18-Nov
Ruddy Turnstone 24-Nov
Columbidae Pink-necked Pigeon 15-Nov
Thick-billed Pigeon 2-Nov
Thick-billed Pigeon 15-Nov
Jambu Fruit Dove 15-Nov
Cuculidae Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 13-Nov
Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo 17-Nov
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo 8-Nov
Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo 13-Nov
Himalayan Cuckoo 22-Nov
Strigidae Spotted Wood Owl 5-Nov
Northern Boobook 10-Nov
Caprimulgidae

 

Grey Nightjar 8-Nov
Grey Nightjar 28-Nov
Apodidae

 

White-throated Needletail 3-Nov
Brown-backed Needletail 2-Nov
Alcedinidae Blue-eared Kingfisher 8-Nov
Falconidae Common Kestrel 29-Nov
Psittacidae Blue-rumped Parrot 15-Nov
Pittidae Blue-winged Pitta 8-Nov
Dicruridae Black Drongo 5-Nov
Ashy Drongo 18-Nov
Ashy Drongo 24-Nov
Monarchidae Japanese Paradise Flycatcher 24-Nov
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher 24-Nov
Indian Paradise Flycatcher 18-Nov
Pycnonotidae Black-headed Bulbul 16-Nov
Alaudidae Eurasian Skylark 6-Nov to 17-Nov
Hirundinidae Sand Martin 28-Nov
Phylloscopidae

 

Yellow-browed Warbler 3-Nov
Yellow-browed Warbler 4-Nov
Locustellidae

 

Lanceolated Warbler 21-Nov
Lanceolated Warbler 21-Nov
Irenidae Asian Fairy Bluebird 25-Nov
Sturnidae

 

Daurian Starling 3-Nov
Rosy Starling 23-Nov
Turdidae Siberian Thrush 13-Nov
Siberian Thrush 17-Nov
Eye-browed Thrush 26-Nov
Eye-browed Thrush 27-Nov
Muscicapidae Blue and White/Zappey’s Flycatcher 18-Nov
Blue and White/Zappey’s Flycatcher 12-Nov
Blue and White/Zappey’s Flycatcher 28-Nov
Green-backed Flycatcher 24-Nov
Mugimaki Flycatcher 10-Nov
Mugimaki Flycatcher 20-Nov
Mugimaki Flycatcher 23-Nov
Stejneger’s Stonechat 11-Nov
Motacillidae Citrine Wagtail 18-Nov
Emberizidae Black-headed Bunting
(likely escapee)
18-Nov

 

Leica’s Birdwalk with Noah Strycker.

Leica’s Birdwalk with Noah Strycker.

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Happy birders enjoying a great morning with Noah Strycker at the Gardens by the Bay. Photo courtesy of Chen Zhi Lin of Leica Camera Asia Pacific. 

Leica Cameras Asia Pacific flew Noah Strycker all the way from Antarctica where he was leading a trip to Singapore on 28 November to attend the Birdlife International’s Gala Dinner. It was only a “48 hours trip”, something Noah was used to when he did his Global Big Year in 2015. He set a new record of 6,042 species in a calendar year. Besides being one of the celebrity guests at the Gala Dinner, he also exhibited his bird photos taken with the Leica V-lux during his Big Year, the sale proceeds going to Birdlife International Conservation Fund.

WhatsApp Image 2018-12-01 at 10.09.50

Geoff Lim’s low angle shot offering a different perspective of Noah Strycker with Con Foley at GBTB with Ee Ling, Veronica and Alan leading the way.

The marketing team at Leica Cameras Asia Pacific arranged a birdwalk with Noah for their clients and invited members of the Singapore Bird Group who helped Noah ticked the three species when he was in transit in Singapore on December 2015 (Link). They were the Straw-headed Bulbul, Grey Nightjar and the Tanimbar Corella.

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The visiting Common Kingfisher put on a great show for us that morning. Ping Ling crouching for a better shot. Photo: Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong.

We knew that Noah had birded in many wild and exotic places around the world but we doubt if he had ever birded at a man made garden on a reclaimed land right in the middle of a financial hub. So we decided to take him to the Gardens by the Bay on the morning of Saturday 1 December. Con Foley his “go-to-birder” here promised him his lifer, the Ruddy-breasted Crake which had been loitering around the gardens for the past weeks. But he forgot to let the crake know that a celeb birder was coming to see him. So Noah had to settle for the Yellow Bittern as his best bird of the day because of the excellent close up views.

Actually Noah was quite impressed with the bird life at the gardens this morning. We had a good variety of resident birds and a few migrants to show him. They may be common to us like the Asian Koel but they were a treat for Noah.

WhatsApp Image 2018-12-01 at 10.09.54

I cannot remembered what we were looking at but it was a lup sup bird as far as Con is concerned. Photo: Wong Chung Cheong.

The last species we saw were two displaying Oriental Honey Buzzards before ending up at Leica’s Shop at Marina Bay Sands where Noah regaled us with a slide talk on his adventures of his Big Year. Noah turned out to be a great storyteller and a funny one too.  This was the highlight of the day for most of us listening to why and how he went birding for 365 days almost non-stop often without sleep.

WhatsApp Image 2018-12-02 at 16.57.13

Noah’s slide talk showing the many friends he made during his Big Year. Photo: Yeo Seng Beng.

Starting on board a ship at one end of the world on New Year’s day looking for penguins to spending Christmas in Australia with the Cassowary before returning to India to mop up 40 odd more species for his record. It was a journey of making friends across the world as much as a personal achievement. The ups and downs were a plenty. Missed flights and being stranded in the middle of nowhere were par for the course. So too were the enthusiastic birders in every continent who never once let him down.

WhatsApp Image 2018-12-01 at 14.32.01

Seng Beng, Kim Chuah, Ee Ling, Jimmy Chew and Jimmy Lee and Con standing, Fance and Kim Keang seated, having a lunch chat with Noah. Photo: Alan OwYong.

Many thanks to Leica for arranging this special bird walk and Noah for his company and talk. Thanks to Ray Tan and Chen Zhi Lin for making sure we all had a great morning. The sandwich and juice breakfast, bento lunches and Spoonie pins put together by Ginny Pang were much appreciated.

P.S. Noah has written a book “Birding without Borders” about his exploits doing his Big Year. It is a fascinating must read for every birder.  

 

 

 

Successful fledgling of pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles.

Successful fledgling  of a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles

by Christina See.

My family and I go over to Johor Bahru quite often for some shopping, meals and jalan jalan. On 23rd October 2018, I noticed for the first time a large stick nest on an Albizia tree as we drove up to the Woodlands ICQ checkpoint. It turned out to be a White-bellied Sea-eagle’s Haliaeetus leucogaster nest as both adults were seen coming back to the nest.

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Sea-eagles reuse their nests year after year, adding more sticks and branches to it. 

I was told that this pair had been using this nest for some time now. The location is well protected and close to the Straits of Johor where they can hunt for fish for their youngs. The perennial jam to clear immigration gave me a chance to photograph them from the car. It was also a great way to destress.

On the next trip out a week later, I can see two chicks in the nest. They looked rather big, so they must have hatched some weeks back.

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On the 19th of November, we went to JB again. This time I found both of the chicks outside the nest. It seemed that they are ready to fledge. They were jumping from branch to branch and kept flapping their wings. This had to be their way of strengthening their flight muscles for their first flight.

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The juveniles look very different from the adults. They have dark brown wings and buffy belly instead of grey wings and white belly of the adults.

Last Thursday on our drive in, I could not see any sea-eagles near the nest. I can only assumed that they have fledged. And just as we were about to enter the ICQ complex, I caught sight of one of the juveniles flying back to the nest. What a happy sight for me to see that they have successfully fledged and ready to join their parents to grace our skies with their majestic and soaring flights over our sea coasts and reservoirs. The next time you drive into Johor, do keep a lookout for them among the Albizias near to the ICQ complex.

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White-bellied Sea-eagles are common residents that can be found in most open country habitats both inland and near the coast. They are also recorded in our outer islands at Pulau Ubin in the north and the southern islands. The tall Albizia trees are their favourite trees to build their nest but they also use man made structures like telecom towers and even flag masts for nest building. The same pair will reuse their old nest by adding new branches and twigs to it. May they continue to thrive in our forests and seas for years to come.

Singapore Bird Report – October 2018

Extinct from Singapore since the 1940s, the Large Woodshrike re-appears after 70 years. October also marks the arrival of the charismatic, migratory black-backed race of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, and migrant raptors. In concert with the World Migratory Bird Day celebrated in October, we will examine the importance of Singapore as part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, as well as the issue of bird collisions into building structures.

Large Woodshrike, 22 Oct 2018, Jelutong, Fryap, crop

Large Woodshrike at Jelutong Tower on 22 October 2018, moments before it disappeared as quickly as it appeared, by Francis Yap.

Large Woodshrike : re-appears after 70 years

Extinct from Singapore since the 1940s, a Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus  made an amazing appearance at Jelutong Tower on 22 October 2018 for a few seconds, long enough for Francis Yap to capture a clear photo, before it flew and disappeared into the canopy of the trees. The lucky observers, including Oliver Tan, also noted that its loud calls in flight matched the recordings of this species.

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

The northern black-backed race of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca started to trickle into Singapore in October. The first of the season report of the kingfisher was made on 4 October 2018 at Gardens by the Bay by Goh Bak Seng, and the bird remained there for several days, allowing many birders and photographers to view it. Another bird was spotted on Pulau Ubin on 6 October 2018 by Lim Kim Seng. On 18 October 2018, the species was reported at Satay by the Bay by Billy Tey and at Kallang Sector 2 by Richard Ngo.

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Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (black-backed race) at Gardens by the Bay. Photographed on 7 October 2018 by Angela Yeo.

The Gardens by the Bay kingfisher subsequently found itself in the local news after it was attacked by a White-breasted Waterhen while drying out on the floor of the reed bed on 6 October 2018, and was rescued by the Gardens staff and two NSS Bird Group members. The bird was subsequently released back to the Gardens by one of the Bird Group members on 7 October 2018.

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Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher rescued by staff at Gardens by the Bay. Photographed on 6 October 2018 by Geoff Lim.

Wells (1997:518-521) noted that the species migrates nocturnally, and that about 65 per cent of birds surveyed at lighthouses were first winter birds. This suggested that the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (black-backed race) has a relatively low rate of survival.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve

The first Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica of the season was spotted at Bukit Timah on 6 October 2018 by Richard White, who also spotted a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus on Bukit Timah Hill on 15 October 2018, along with a flock of about 11 Pacific Swift Apus pacificus; another flock of about 210 birds were subsequently spotted on 22 October 2018 over Jelutong Tower by Martin Kennewell.  Six Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis, possibly passage migrants, were seen flying high and southwards on 20 October 2018 from Bukit Timah Hill by Richard White. Another first of the season was an Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus seen at Jelutong Tower on 19 October 2018 by Francis Yap, who also spotted a first-of-the-season Silver-backed Needletail Hirundapus cochinchinensis on 26 October 2018 from the same tower.

Silver-backed Needletail, Fryap

A photo-montage of a Silver-backed Needletail taken from Jelutong Tower on 26 October 2018 by Francis Yap.

Residents spotted during October were a Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu at Singapore Quarry on 6 October 2018 by Yap Wee Jin, a flock of about 40 Plume-toed Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta from Bukit Timah Hill on 16 October 2018 by Richard White, and the rediscovery of the Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus, a former resident, as mentioned earlier.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

A solitary and skulking Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus was spotted within the Evolution Garden on 28 October 2018, along with a female Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at Symphony Lake by Geoff Lim.

BCJFC, posted 121018, Bida, Steven Cheong

Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, at Bidadari on 12 October 2018 by Steven Cheong.

Central Singapore

A Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda, first for the season, was spotted at Bidadari on 12 October 2018 by Kozi Ichiyama, and continued to be seen till 27 October 2018 by many observers. Also spotted on 12 October 2018 at Bidadari was a first winter Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus by Art Toh and Steven Cheong; three more of the same species of Flycatcher were also seen along the former cemetery’s perimeter on 27 October 2018 by Tuck Loong and others. In addition, a Cinereous Bulbul Hemixos cinereus, a non-breeding visitor, was recorded at Bidadari on 29 October 2018 by Terry Chen.

Ruddy KF, 191018, Bida, Terence Tan

Ruddy Kingfisher at Bidadari on 19 October 2018, showing a glimpse of its bright blue rump, by Terence Tan.

4

Cinereous Bulbul spotted at Bidadari and photographed on 29 October 2018 by Terry Chen.

Northern Singapore

About 1,000 Barn Swallow Hirunda rustica were reported to be roosting at the HDB estate located within Yishun Avenue 7 on 10 October 2018 by Esther Ong, while about 200-plus Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, along with a White Wagtail Motacilla alba of the rare lugens subspecies and a number of Forest Wagtail Dendroanthus indicus were spotted at Yishun Street 11 on 12 October 2018 by Veronica Foo and Henrietta Woo.

Eastern Singapore

Several rare and uncommon birds were spotted on Pulau Tekong. These include an Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus (3 October 2018), Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus (6 October 2018), the rare and endangered Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes (10 October 2018), and a single Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata (13 October 2018), all by Frankie Cheong.

5

A Broad-billed Sandpiper photographed by Frankie Cheong on 25 October 2018.

The neighbouring island of Pulau Ubin yielded several notable species as well. A good find was a Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus photographed at Jejawi Tower on 21 October 2018 by Diane Campbell. Since the first ever record of this species in Singapore in 2013, there are less than ten records of this rare non-breeding visitor. Participants of the joint NParks-NSS surveys noted a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea on 6 October 2018 (See Toh Yew Wai), a Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis on 6 October 2018, a Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes and two Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica on 28 October 2018 (Lim Kim Keang). Other observers spotted a Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica at Chek Jawa on 14 October 2018 (Martin Kennewell), and a resident Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis at Balai Quarry on 28 October 2018 (Diane Campbell).  Two Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus, the firsts for the season, were also seen at Pulau Ubin on 14 October by Pary Sivaraman and a few others.

Other birds spotted in eastern Singapore include a Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata at Pasir Ris Park on 17 October 2018 by Wang Wen; a juvenile Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus rescued on the grounds of Bedok Green Primary School on 19 October 2018 by school staff and subsequently released by Isabelle Lee; a first-for-the-season flock of seven White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis along Changi Coastal Road by Ramesh T.; and a Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata at Changi Point Ferry Terminal on 30 October 2018 by Lim Kim Seng.

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Black-capped Kingfisher at Pasir Ris Park. Photographed by Danny Khoo on 17 October 2018.

Southern Singapore

A rare Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius was spotted on 2 October 2018 at the Labrador Power Station by Art Toh, while two Daurian Starlings Agrospar sturninus were seen at Satay-by-the-Bay on 28 October 2018, and a Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus at the nearby Marina Barrage on 31 October 2018 by Martin Kennewell.

The southern ridges also yielded a rare Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus on 20 & 21 October 2018 (Adrian Silas Tay & See Toh Yew Wai, respectively), 23 Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum on 21 October 2018 by Low Choon How, and up to five White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus on 28 October 2018 by Daniel Ong and Martin Kennewell.

A notable resident species spotted in the south was the House Swift Apus nipalensis at Kent Ridge Park and Henderson Wave on 20 October 2018 by Alan Owyong and Zacc HD, respectively.

Western Singapore

SBWR remains an important bird area in Western Singapore, attracting and holding residents and migrants alike. Notable migrants include two Long-toed Stint Calidris submimuta on 8 October 2018 by Stuart Campbell, a first-of-the-season Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus on 9 October 2018 by Subha & Raghav, another first-of-the-season Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata by Feroz also on 9 October 2018, and a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica on 16 October 2018 by Stuart Campbell. Notable residents/NBV include the Abbott’s Babbler Malacocinla abbotii and Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, spotted on 2 October 2018 by Lawrence Eu.

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Long-toed Stints photographed by Stuart Campbell on 8 October 2018 at SBWR.

Kranji Marshes and the adjoining grasslands a stone’s throw away yielded several species, including a first-for-the-season Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps over the Marshes on 6 October 2018 by Tan Kok Hui, two Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus at the Marshes on 20 October 2018 by Martin Kennewell, 18 Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum on 28 October 2018 by Pary Sivaraman & Martin Kennewell, as well as Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus in the fields adjacent to the Marshes on 30 October 2018 by Martin Kennewell.

Oriental Pratincole, 271018, off Turut Track, Pary Sivaraman

An Oriental Pratincole in flight off Turut Track on 28 October 2018. Photographed by Pary Sivarman.

Other birds spotted in the west include White Wagtail Motacilla alba on 14 October 2018 by Felix Wong, Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea on 18 October 2018 by Art Toh, more than 300 roosting Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis at Eng Kong Terrace on 21 October 2018 by Richard White, a juvenile Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor on 22 October 2018 by Amin (Last Romeo) at West Coast Park, and a flock of first-of-the-season Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus seven strong at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) grounds on 31 October 2018 by James Lambert.

Bird Collisions into Buildings

The migratory Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis is a much sought after species by birders and photographers alike because of its strikingly beautiful plumage. Normally residing in wooded areas, the species could be found all over the country at the start of the migration season. It was unfortunate that the pitta, along with the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, attracted considerable attention in social media, as it is one of four ‘super colliders’, a term used for species whose fatalities exceeded 20 specimens collected during a period of study by Low, Yong, Tan, OwYong and Chia (2017) on migratory bird collisions in Singapore.

This season, one pitta was reported to have crashed but survived at Jurong West on 3 October 2018, by Serena Chew. Three others were not so fortunate on 13 October 2018. They were found dead at Bedok, Tampines and Joo Chiat, and collected by David Tan.

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One of the Blue-winged Pitta casualties collected by David Tan. Photographed on 14 October 2018 by David Tan.

Other collisions include a female Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane, which survived a collision at MacPherson on 25 October 2018, reported by Peng Ah Huay; an Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus which survived a collision at Chinatown on 29 October 2018, reported by Kenneth Koh and a Pallas’ Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola, which survived a collision on 29 October 2018 on Jurong Island, reported by Lim Kim Chuah.

Raptors

The month yielded a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela on 16 October 2018 at Kent Ridge Park, by Veronica Foo, and the second half saw the onset of migratory raptors drifting into Singapore. Raptor watchers keeping vigil at Henderson Wave spotted Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus on 21 October 2018 (2 birds), 26 October 2018 (2 birds) and 27 October 2018 (2 bird) by See Toh Yew Wai & friends, Sandra Chia & Oliver Tan, and Francis Yap, respectively. A first-for-the-season Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes was spotted on 22 October 2018 by Zacc HD, while a kettle of 29 birds were spotted from Hindhede Nature Park on 29 October 2018 by Richard White. Other raptors included a first-for-the-season Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga at Henderson Wave on 27 October 2018 by Alan Owyong, and a first-for-the-season Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii at Pang Sua Connector on 30 October 2018 photographed by Fadzrun Adnan, identified by James Eaton. For a more detailed report on raptors, please refer to the NSS Bird Group’s latest raptor report.

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A Black Baza flying over Henderson Wave on 22 October 2018. Photographed by Zacc HD.

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A Rufous-bellied Eagle (right) with an Oriental Honey Buzzard (left) flying over Pang Sua Park Connector on 30 October 2018. Photographed by Fadzrun Adnan.

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World Migratory Bird Day & the Conservation of the Mandai Mangroves & Mudflats

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Mr Richard Hale (right) discovered the ponds that was to become part of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in 1986. He is examining the Flyway Game developed by Dr Yong Ding Li of BirdLife International, together with Mr Lim Kim Chuah (left), Chairman and Mr Alfred Chia (middle), committee member of the NSS Bird Group on 7 Oct 2018. Photo by Geoff Lim.

The World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006. Originally held once a year, the campaign is now held twice a year, on the second Saturday of May and October. The WMBD was celebrated at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Saturday, 13 October 2018, with the participation of NSS Bird Group. There were daily programs during the week leading up to WMBD.

The East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF) is one of the world’s major flyways. Spanning 37 countries from Far Eastern Russia, China, Korea, Japan, South-east Asia and the western Pacific, used by about 50 million migratory waterbirds, and countless land bird species comprising 492 species (Birdlife, 2018). Singapore is used as a stopover for many species of land and water birds.

On 7 October 2018, which was the 25th anniversary of SBWR, NParks made an important announcement that the Mandai mangrove and mudflats would be conserved as a nature park as research has shown that shorebirds feed at these habitats during low tide, and return to roost at SBWR when the tides come in. The area will open as a nature park in 2022. You can read more about how these habitats were saved through the contribution of ordinary volunteers, in partnership with government authorities here.

Mandai Mudflats

Mandai Mudflats and Mangroves at low tide. It is part of the Kranji-Mandai IBA ( Important Bird and Biodiversity Area). Photo by NSS Bird Group.

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Pelagic Trip along Straits of Singapore

A pelagic trip organised by Martin Kennewell and friends on 13 Ocotber 2018 yielded a Common Tern Sterna hirundo and a Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus. Note that these may not have been in Singapore waters.

 

This report is compiled by Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong based on 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 Francis Yap, Angela Yeo, Geoff Lim, Steven Cheong, Terry Chen, Frankie Cheong, Terence Tan, Danny Khoo, Stuart Campbell, Pary Sivaraman, David Tan, Zacc HD, and Fadzrun Adnan for the use of their photos. 

References

Birdlife (2018) East Asia Australasian Factsheet. Accessed from the Internet on 11 Nov 2018 at https://www.birdlife.org/sites/default/files/attachments/8_East_Asia_Australasia_Factsheet.pdf.

Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of Thai-Malay Peninsula. Vol. 1. Non-passerines. London: Academic Press.

 

List of Bird Sightings in report:

Ciconiidae Lesser Adjutant 2-Oct
Ardeidae Von Schrenck’s Bittern 19-Oct
Chinese Egret 10-Oct
Accipitridae Black Baza 22-Oct
Black Baza 29-Oct
Crested Serpent Eagle 16-Oct
Rufous-bellied Eagle 30-Oct
Greater Spotted Eagle 27-Oct
Eastern Marsh Harrirer 21-Oct
Grey-faced Buzzard 21-Oct
Grey-faced Buzzard 26-Oct
Grey-faced Buzzard 27-Oct
Charadriidae Kentish Plover 31-Oct
Scolopacidae Asian Dowitcher 3-Oct
Bar-tailed Godwit 16-Oct
Bar-tailed Godwit 28-Oct
Eurasian Curlew 13-Oct
Grey-tailed Tattler 28-Oct
Long-toed Stint 8-Oct
Broadbilled Sandpiper 6-Oct
Glareolidae Oriental Pratincole 21-Oct
Oriental Pratincole 25-Oct
Laridae Gull-billed Tern 14-Oct
Cuculidae Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 15-Oct
Rusty-breasted Cuckoo 13-Oct
Indian Cuckoo 19-Oct
Strigidae Buffy Fish Owl 6-Oct
Apodidae Glossy Swiftlet 16-Oct
White-throated Needletail 28-Oct
Sliver-backed Needletail 26-Oct
Brown-backed Needletail 20-Oct
Pacific Swift 15-Oct
Pacific Swift 22-Oct
House Swift 19-Oct
House Swift 20-Oct
Coraciidae Asian Dolllarbird 20-Oct
Alcedinidae Ruddy Kingfisher 12-Oct
Black-capped Kingfisher 9-Oct
Black-capped Kingfisher 17-Oct
Common Kingfisher 28-Oct
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher 4-Oct
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher 6-Oct
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher 6-Oct
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher 18-Oct
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher 18-Oct
Meropidae Blue-throated Bee-eater 21-Oct
Pittidae Blue-winged Pitta 3-Oct
Blue-winged Pitta 13-Oct
Blue-winged Pitta 13-Oct
Blue-winged Pitta 13-Oct
Tephrodornithidae Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike 21-Oct
Campephagidae Large Woodshrike 22-Oct
Ashy Minivet 31-Oct
Pycnonotidae Cinereous Bulbul 29-Oct
Hirundinidae Barn Swallow 7-Oct
Asian House Martin 20-Oct
Asian House Martin 21-Oct
Red-rumped Swallow 6-Oct
Phylloscopidae Eastern Crowned Warbler 29-Oct
Acrocephalidae Black-browed Reed Warbler 6-Oct
Locustellidae Lanceolated Warbler 30-Oct
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler 29-Oct
Pellorneidae Abbott’s Babbler 2-Oct
Sturnidae Daurian Starling 28-Oct
White-shouldered Starling 21-Oct
Muscicapidae Ferrugious Flycatcher 6-Oct
Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher 9-Oct
Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher 10-Oct
Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher 12-Oct
Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher 15-Oct
Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher 28-Oct
Siberian Blue Robin 25-Oct
Blue Rock Thrush 2-Oct
Chloropseidae Lesser Green Leafbird 25-Oct
Motacillidae Forest Wagtail 12-Oct
Grey Wagtail 18-Oct
White Wagtail 12-Oct
White Wagtail 14-Oct
Red-throated Pipit 30-Oct

34th Singapore Bird Race with “Wings of Johor”

34th Singapore Bird Race with “Wings of Johor” by Belinda Wong.

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I am surprised to see at least 14 tagged Common Redshanks in this group.

This year’s Singapore Bird race has an additional category of “Best Bird Photo’ contest offered by main sponsor Sony Singapore.  A Sony RX10 Mark IV awaits the best photo.  The catch is the photo must be captured by a Sony RX10 Mark IV camera.  So for that we drove over to Sungei Buloh Visitor Centre (SBVC) Singapore for a brief camera familiarization on 10th November 2018, a day before the race. The Sony RX10M4 is a really amazing camera from what we learnt during the short training with lots of amazing features.

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Just loved how the Common Redshank is reflected in the water.

Our friend, YK Han had kindly offered to show us around the known birding spots around Sungei Buloh and Kranji areas before the training in the afternoon.  My team mate, Lai Peng and I gladly accepted the opportunity as we were unsure how to move around the area.  Last year we had taken part for the first time, also in the “photography category” and we found ourselves getting lost a few times, losing lots of precious time trying to find our way to and from Sg. Buloh and Kranji Marshes.

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Lesser Coucals are normally difficult to spot, glad I got a decent shot.

The next morning, 11th November 2018, we were all geared up for the actual day of the race.  As we had to register by 7.00am and flag off at 7.30am, we aimed to reach SBVC by 6.30am just to be on the safe side.  For this I was up by 4.30am, had a quick breakfast at home and picked up Lai Peng at around 5.30am.  There was no jam at the Causeway as it was really early and we reached SBVC just before 6.30am.  I thought we were the first to arrive but there were already quite a few people before us, probably the race organisers.

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Little Egret looking so elegant walking across the water.

We registered ourselves and were pleasantly surprised we were given a nice grey race tee-shirt.  After a short briefing by Lim Kim Chuah, the race was flagged off at 7.30am sharp.

We birded at the SBVC till about 8.15am and did not regret it as we ticked off 21 species here, including 2 cuckoos – a Drongo Cuckoo and a Little Bronze Cuckoo.   After that, we headed off to Neo Tiew, Turut Track and Kranji areas. First bird we had was the Long-tailed Shrike which I only managed to get one shot of it – taking off……phew.  It almost got away.

We birded around the area and decided to make a rush to Kranji for a very quick walk up to the watch tower to try to get some raptors, and also that Scaly-breasted Munia which we hoped to get since it was building a nest the day before.  It was already getting very late, almost 10.00am and it was a really long walk in. After checking off the Dark-morph Changeable Hawk-eagle, and as it was really quiet with hardly any birds at this time of the day, we decided to move off to SBWR even though the scaly-breasted did not show up. We were hoping for the Black-naped Oriole but even that was not there.  As we reached the exit, I was lucky to get a shot of the Ashy Minivet.  We then quickly left for SBWR to look for our waders.

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One of the two Brahminy Kites that looked like they may be building a nest.

It was already past 11.00am when we finally reached SBWR and started chasing after the crows for a shot of them at the car park (can’t believe I was chasing for shots of crows !).  We stayed for about 15 minutes at SBWR and got all the usual wader suspects. As we reached the exit, I looked up to see 2 smallish birds on a bare branch some distance away and quickly took a shot.  I thought they were Lineated Barbets but was really excited when upon closer look they were Coppersmiths.

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Juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard dark morph flying over Kranji Marshes.

Soon it was already 11.30am and we quickly rushed back to SBVC.  We had planned to reach SBVC by 11.30am but we were running a little late.  We had learned from last year’s experiences that we need at least an hour to sort out the photos, unlike last year when we gave ourselves only 30 minutes.

After parking the car, we rushed in to try to find a spot to plug in our lap-tops and realised, to my horror, that I was using CF card for my photographs. Our laptops do not have slots to read CF cards and I had forgotten to bring my card reader!

After asking around to see who has a card-reader, I finally decided to check with Han, who was actually so busy himself trying to sort out his team’s photos with his partner Francis.  As luck would have it, he did have a card reader. Thank you Han!

well camouflaged

The waders are so well camouflaged at the ponds at SBWR

Then we realised we had another problem – the image number I see from the camera is different from the image viewed on the computer.  Luckily I had learned from our mistakes from last year – i.e. delete unwanted photos straight from the camera.  Thus I did not have too many photos to go through.  We managed to complete and handed in our paper and SD card, with only 1 minute to spare!  Phew! That was so stressful!  We will have to be better prepared if we do come back next year to avoid the stress!

We were delighted and surprised to walk away as second runners up with 44 species. The book prizes were much appreciated.

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Receiving our prizes from GOH Professor Leo Tan.

We would like to congratulate NSS Bird Group for a very well organised and successful event and also to Sony for their generosity in sponsoring 3 awesome cameras as prizes.  Well done guys!

 

 

Singapore Raptor Report – October 2018

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Chinese Sparrowhawk, female, at Henderson Waves, 24 Oct 2018, by Francis Yap. Two generations of feathers can be seen, the older (brownish) and the newer (grey) feathers.

Summary for migrant species:

October 2018 is probably the most remarkable October on record, with 11 migrant species recorded. This is in stark contrast to last October when only 6 migrant species were recorded (we usually record around 9 species in October). A big thank you to the burgeoning number of raptor watchers, especially at Henderson Waves.

CSH, 211018, HW, Pary Sivaraman

Chinese Sparrowhawk, female, at Henderson Waves, 21 Oct 2018, by Pary Sivaraman.

453  migrant raptors were recorded, many times the 70 recorded last year. The most numerous were the 219 Oriental Honey Buzzards, followed by 123 Japanese Sparrowhawks, and 57 Chinese Sparrowhawks. In addition, more than 100 unidentified Accipiters were spotted this month and these were likely to have been either Chinese or Japanese Sparrowhawks. The first of the 35 Black Bazas appeared on 22 Oct, more than a week earlier than last year.

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Japanese Sparrowhawk, male (left), at Jelutong Tower on 22 Oct 2018 by Francis Yap, female (middle), at Henderson Waves, 2 Oct 2018, by Zacc HD, & juvenile (right) at Henderson Waves, 20 Oct 2018, by Zacc HD.

Birders at Henderson Waves were rewarded with three sought-after species. The first was the appearance of two Grey-faced Buzzards on 21 Oct, followed by a juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier on the same morning. Another four Grey-faced Buzzards were spotted over Henderson Waves days later: two on 26 Oct and two on 27 Oct, around mid-day on both dates. In addition, birders on 27 Oct also spotted a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo before noon (note: the various subspecies are ‘lumped’ as Buteo buteo in the NSS bird checklist).

EMH, 211018, HW, Adrian Silas Tay

Eastern Marsh Harrier, juvenile, at Henderson Waves, 21 Oct 2018, by Adrian Silas Tay

Later the same day, 27 Oct, around noontime, a rare Greater Spotted Eagle made an appearance at Kent Ridge Park, delighting Alan OwYong. Before the month ended, Fadzrun Adnan photographed an immature Rufous-bellied Eagle, another rare visitor, at Pang Sua park connector on 30 Oct, flying about in the company of an Oriental Honey Buzzard.

CB, 271018, HW, Fryap

Common Buzzard, at Henderson Waves, on 27 Oct 2018, by Francis Yap. Comment from Dr. Chaiyan – looks like refectus/burmanicus juvenile.

Two Western Ospreys were recorded, one at the Kranji-Sungei Buloh area and one at Henderson Waves. Six migrant Peregrine Falcons were recorded.

Highlights for sedentary species:

October was a good month for the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle, with records from four different areas, from Nanyang Technological University (west) on 8th, Pulau Tekong (offshore) on 8th, Jelutong Tower (centre) on 24th and the Southern Ridges (south) on 16th, 21st & 30th.

CSE, 241018, Jelutong, Fryap

A Crested Serpent Eagle over Jelutong Tower, on 24 Oct 2018, by Francis Yap.

On 6 Oct, a pair of Crested Goshawks were observed mating at West Coast Park. Then on 23 Oct, 2 chicks of the White-bellied Sea Eagle were seen on a nest at Woodlands. These  are good signs for our resident raptors.

Peregrine, 091018, Ubin, STYW

Peregrine Falcon, ernesti juvenile, at Pulau Ubin, 9 Oct 2018, by See Toh Yew Wai.

On 6 Oct, at Pulau Ubin near the main jetty, a juvenile Peregrine Falcon of the resident ernesti subspecies was photographed. This form bears some resemblance to, and may be mistaken for, the Oriental Hobby. The other resident raptors recorded included the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.

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Pale morph Changeable Hawk Eagle, at Henderson Waves on 8 Oct 2018, by Feroz & Fizah (left), and on 13 Oct 2018 by See Toh Yew Wai (right).

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For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Oct 2018

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Francis Yap, Feroz & Fizah, See Toh Yew Wai, Adrian Silas Tay, Pary Sivaraman, and Zacc HD for the use of their photos.

34th Singapore Bird Race Winners

The 34th edition of the Singapore Bird Race 2018 ended on a high with three teams walking away with a priced Sony RX10M4 camera each. This is also the first time we have a “Best Photo Contest” for the photography teams using the on-loan Sony RX10M4. We would to thank Sony Singapore for their sponsorship and generous donation.

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Tuck Loong and Sia Ping’s winning photo of the Blue-winged Pitta with kind permission from Sony Singapore. 

Team Alpha Dynamic led by Kwok Tuck Loong with Tay Sia Ping took the initiative to go all the way to the Chinese Gardens to shoot the colorful Blue-winged Pitta at its well known hideout. The image wowed the judges, clinched the “best photo” contest and won them a Sony RX10M4 camera. Congrats to Tuck Loong and Sia Ping.

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Beaming Tuck Loong and Sia Ping receiving the Sony RX10M4 from Rubin Zheng, Product Manager (Singapore) Digital Still Camera. Sony Singapore. Photo Yap Wee Jin.

Team Terns led by veteran birder and former Bird Group Chairperson Lim Kim Keang with Alfred Chia and Tan JuLin pipped the Lau family team Drongoes by one species to win the Birders Category. They returned with 78 species and lugged home a Sony RX10M4 as well. They got the last two species just as they were on the way back to hand in their scores. Congratulations to Team Terns!

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The “Terns” – Champions for the Birder Category with Guest of Honour Professor Leo Tan. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

It was no contest in the photography category when the sharpshooters team “In the Tree” led by Goh Cheng Teng with Lester Tan came back with 55 photos of different species. They were also winners of last year’s photography category. Congratulations to Cheng Teng and Lester who were all smiles hugging the new Sony RX10M4.

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Team “In The Tree” – Champions for the Photography Category. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

A total of 31 teams took part in this year’s race, the highest to date. We are heartened by the turn out of 9 teams from 4 schools when we opened up this year’s race to both primary and secondary students. The excitement and smiles on their faces when they received their prices were reward enough for the organisers. Many thanks to Minister Desmond Lee for the donation of the Schools Champions trophy and Challenged Shield which went to team ‘Unity 1″ from Unity Secondary with an impressive 36 species.

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Team Unity 1 – Champions for the Schools (Sec) Category being presented the Challenge Shield by GOH Joseph Koh. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

Team Eagles from Shuqun Primary came back with a score of 32 species to win the Primary Schools category. We wish to thank John Beaufoy Publishing Company for the book prizes for the schools teams.

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We also wish to thank our partners Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve for the use of the venue, Friend of Buloh, Birdlife International, East Asia Australasia Flyway Partnership, PUB and Nature Photography Society of Singapore for their support.

See you all again next year!