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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

tagged birds

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.

red shank reflection

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.

Z COUCAL

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.

Z L Egr

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.

ZOHB

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

CSH, 241018, HW, Fryap 2

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.

5, JSH

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).

Table 1

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.

DSC00175 - Copy-01

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.

IMG_19847

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!

 

34th Singapore Bird Race (2018) – Arbitrator’s Report

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The 34th Singapore Bird Race, held on 11 November 2018, saw the participation of 31 teams across three categories, including the first ever ‘School’ category. Some of the participants also took part in the inaugural Best Picture Contest.

Category Number of Teams
School 9
Photographer 10
Birder 12

School Category – Top 3 Teams

For this category, the enthusiastic students lead by volunteer guides, scoured the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, recording good numbers of species, most of which were ‘lifers’ (first time seeing a species of bird) for the students.

There were four primary school teams, two each from Shuqun Primary and Yumin Primary. The Eagles (Shuqun Primary) led the pack with 32 species. Team Champs A (Yumin Primary) was a very close second with 31 species, just 1 species behind. And the Vultures (Shuqun Primary) took the third place with 24 species.

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The “Eagles” (Shuqun Primary) – Champions for the Schools (Pri) Category. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

For secondary schools, there were four teams from Unity Secondary and one team from Chung Cheng High (Main). Again,  it was a close fight between the top two places. Unity 1 came in tops with 36 species, closely followed by Team Cool & Mysterious (Unity Secondary) with 35 species.  Team CCHM came in third with 32 species. As it turned out, there were winning teams from all the schools, congrats.

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Team “Unity 1” – Champions for the Schools (Sec) Category. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

Photography Category – Top 3 Teams

Ten teams took part in this category. Team In the Tree (Goh Cheng Teng & Lester Tan) topped the Photography category with 55 species caught on camera, successfully defending their title from last year. Team Alpha Dynamo (Kwok Tuck Loong & Tay Sia Ping) came in 2nd with 45 species. Right behind them was Wings of Johor (Belinda Wong & Chiang Lai Peng) with 44 species, another close fight! Great work.

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

Birder Category – Top 3 Teams

To minimise time spent travelling, most of the birder teams limited themselves to the Kranji-Sungei  Buloh areas. The Terns (Lim Kim Keang, Alfred Chia & Tan Ju Lin) turned in an amazing 78 species to clinch the top prize, successfully defending their title. Hot on their heels were the Drongoes (Danny Lau, Lau Jiasheng & Ang Bao Jun) who managed 77 species, just 1 species behind – another close fight. The Falconets (Benjamin Lee, Max Khoo & Bryan Lee) finished 3rd with 73 species. Well done.

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The “Terns” – Champions for the Birder Category. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

Best Picture with SONY RX10IV – Winner

Out of the ten best photos shortlisted from all the entries, Kwok Tuck Loong’s photo of a Blue-winged Pitta emerged as the winner of the Best Picture Contest.

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Kwok Tuck Loong – Winner of the Best Photo Contest with his winning image. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

Race highlights

Interesting species recorded during the race included a juvenile Pied Harrier, a rare migrant, in flight, near the Visitor Centre; a Stejneger’s Stonechat, another rare migrant, at Harvest Link; Blue-eared Kingfisher at Kranji Marshes; a Drongo Cuckoo that showed well near the Visitor Centre; Red-throated Pipit at Harvest Link; Black-capped Kingfisher at Kranji Marshes; Wood Sandpiper at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3; Black Drongo at Turut Track and the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul at Kranji Nature Trail.

Thanks to the panel of arbitrators for generating the results so quickly.

Tan Gim Cheong
Lead Arbitrator, 34th Singapore Bird Race

Bird Race Results

Position School Category (Primary) Score
1st Eagles – Shuqun Primary 32
2nd Champs A – Yumin Primary 31
3rd Vultures – Shuqun Primary 24
4th Champs One – Yumin Primary 21

 

Position School Category (Secondary) Score
1st Unity 1  – Unity Secondary 36
2nd Team Cool & Mysterious – Unity Secondary 35
3rd Team CCHM – Chung Cheng High (Main) 32
4th Unity 2 – Unity Secondary 31
5th Unity 3 – Unity Secondary 26
Position Photography Category Score
1st In the Tree 55
2nd Alpha Dynamo 45
3rd Wings of Johor 44
4th Skylark 43
5th Whimbrel 37
6th Jiak Hong Shooters 36
7th The JJ 25
8th Bird Seekers 24
9th Raptor 11
10th Pitta Pan
Position Birder Category Score
1st Terns 78
2nd Drongoes 77
3rd Falconets 73
4th King Albird Park 68
5th Distracted Novices 62
6th Pipipi 62
7th Friends of Buloh 61
8th Beebeebee 60
9th The Latebirds 58
10th Bibibi 54
11th The Nobirdies 50
12th Serendipity 27

The 34th Singapore Bird Race (2018) – Chairman’s Message

by Lim Kim Chuah 

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Participants of the inaugural School category. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

The 34th Singapore Bird Race took place on Sunday, 11 November 2018 at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. This year’s race saw 31 teams competing in three categories – Birder, Photographer and the first ever School category.

9 teams from 4 schools competed for the coveted championship trophy and shield donated by Minister Desmond Lee.

Also for the very first time, a Best Picture Contest was organized. This was made possible by the generous contributions from our main sponsor, Sony. Sony loaned out their RX10M4 to all participants who wanted to compete in this category.

This year’s race was organized in partnership with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Friends of Buloh, Birdlife International, East Asia Australian Flyway Partnership, Nature Photographic Society Singapore and PUB.

A BIG thank you to main sponsor Sony, venue sponsor Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and other sponsors including Swarovski, Vortex and John Beaufoy Publishing.

And another HUGE thank you to all volunteers for making this event possible.

Also many thanks to all participants for your support in making this another successful Singapore Bird Race and congratulations to all prize winners.

Stay tuned for the results to be published soon.

Lim Kim Chuah
Chairman, Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group

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Participants of the Birder & Photographer categories. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

Pacific Reef Egret fish sorting behaviour?

Pacific Reef Egret fish sorting behaviour?

By Yeo Seng Beng.

On Sunday 7th October 2018, at 5 pm in the evening, I observed a Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) dark morph catching fish at low tide off Singapore’s West Coast Park.  The egret was positioned where a large monsoon drain with a continuous flow of water connects to the sea.  I suspect small fish congregate here because the drain water carries food into the sea.

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As it was low tide, the sea was quite shallow, and the egret easily caught 4 fish during the 25 minutes that I was observing it.  What was interesting was how the bird handled the fish, depending on the size of the fish.

The smallest fish, the egret ate immediately.

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The largest fish, which the bird was unable to hold on to, escaped within a few seconds.

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But the 2 intermediate sized fish, the egret surprisingly did not eat straight away, but placed the fish on dry land up on the bank of the monsoon drain, presumably to wait until the fish became less active.

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In the meantime, the egret would return to the sea to catch more fish.  But if the fish it left on dry land, started to flip or jump too vigorously, the egret would return to the bank to check on, or watch over these fish.

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Unfortunately, I did not have time to wait to see what the egret finally did with the fish it left on the bank, but one assumes after all the hard work to catch and monitor the fish, the egret would eventually eat the fish as delayed gratification!

Here is a 3 min video demonstrating how the egret handled the 4 fish it caught.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/sucii0jd84rdiid/PRE%28eating-stabilised%20quiet%29.mts?dl=0