Singapore Bird Report – February 2020

By Geoff Lim & Isabelle Lee,
&
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

February continues with unusual species – the first occurrence of the Chinese Blackbird in Singapore, the first occurrence of the nominate subspecies of the White Wagtail, and our third sighting of the very rare Chinese Blue Flycatcher.

1. CBFC

Chinese Blue Flycatcher, photographed by a casual birder on 25 February 2020 at the CCNR.

The third sighting of the very rare Chinese Blue Flycatcher, Cyornis glaucicomans, was made by a casual birder on 25 February 2020 inside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR).  On 29 February 2020, the bird was spotted again and heard in the early morning by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, and subsequently seen by several others in the late morning. Previous occurrences for the species included a sighting in November 1997 at Sungei Buloh, and a male bird photographed at Bidadari in November 2013 (the supposed occurrence in December 2015 was a mis-identification).

The Chinese Blue Flycatcher was previously lumped together as a subspecies of the Blue-throated Flycatcher, Cyornis rubeculoides, (for more taxonomic info, see Zhang, et al., 2016). Although classified as Least Concern, the bird is generally uncommon and widespread across its breeding range, which extends from southern Shaanxi and western Hubei to Yunnan, and its non-breeding range in west, central and southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia (del Hoyo, Collar and Christie, 2020), and Singapore.

This species prefers dense thickets, and the low and shady understorey, rarely 3m above the ground (del Hoyo, Collar and Christie, 2020); though observations by volunteers have shown that the species does visit the mid to upper canopy levels of the rainforest. In view of its preferred habitat and skulking habits, and possibility of appearances by non-breeding juvenile or female plumages, this species may be under-observed and may overwinter in Singapore.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

2, OHT

The Orange-headed Thrush at Dairy Farm Nature Park photographed on 22 February 2020 by Alan Owyong.

The core CCNR forests yielded several good species. Apart from the Chinese Blue Flycatcher, other birds spotted include two Black-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus atriceps, seen on 2 February 2020 at Jelutong Tower by Sandra Chia, a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 22 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell, four Chestnut-winged Babbler, Stachyris erythroptera, seen on 23 February 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy, and a Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, on 28 February 2020 by Richard Davis.

The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) yielded a Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, on 15 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell, a Black-crested Bulbul, Pycnonotus flaviventris, on 21 February 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy, who also saw two Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus, on the same day, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, on 23 Feb 2020, by Ryan Bruce, two Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, and one Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Phylloscopus borealoides, on 23 February 2020 by Lim Kim Chuah.

Over at the nearby Hindhede Nature Park, two Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, were reported by Norhafiani Majid at the quarry pool, as was a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 25 February 2020 by Richard Davis. On the same day, one Orange-headed Thrush, Geokichla citrina, was seen by Lu Kiat.

Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) yielded a Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, which was spotted on 11 February 2020 by Art Toh, and on 25 February 2020 by Richard Davis. An Orange-headed Thrush, Geokichla citrina, in partial moult was observed on 15 and 23 February 2020 by Geoff Lim, who also spotted another Green-backed Flycatcher together with Yong Ding Li on the latter date. On 12 February 2020, a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, was seen by Keita Sin.

3, RLC

Red-legged Crake with its chick at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 7 February 2020 and photographed by Herman Phua.

The month’s record at the gardens began with the sighting of a Blue-winged Pitta, on 1 February 2020 by James Tann. A report of a Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, was made six days later on 7 February 2020 by Peter Bijlmakers, who saw the bird in the rainforest section of the gardens. On the same day, a Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, with a chick, was spotted by Herman Phua.

4a, apfc

A white-morph Amur/Blyth’s paradise flycatcher, on 28 February 2020, photographed by Isabelle Lee

The month’s end saw reports of an Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, on 25 February 2020 by Sandra Chia; a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, on 26 February 2020 by Choong YT; and the re-appearance of the Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, also on 26 February 2020 by Josh Spiler. The appearance of a white morph Blyth’s / Amur Paradise Flycatcher, on 28 February 2020, delighted many birders, such as Norhafiani A Majid who provided the report in social media. Interestingly, one of the long tail streamers of the paradise flycatcher was half-brown half-white! On 29 February 2020, a Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, was reported by Felicia Tay; and Cheong Khan Hoong observed a pair of Banded Woodpeckers Chrysophlegma miniaceum mating.

4, TF

Taiga Flycatcher at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 26 February 2020 photographed by Vincent Lao

Central Singapore

A Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, was spotted under the hedgerow near the CHIJ Toa Payoh playground on 6 February 2020 by Richard Davis, who subsequently also spotted a Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, and an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla tschutschensis, at Toa Payoh on 12 February 2020. (Note: the Chinese Hwamei appears to be a recently escaped pet).

Northern Singapore

5, HHC

A Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo spotted on 4 February 2020 on Coney Island by Oliver Tan.

A Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, was spotted on 4 and 7 February 2020 on Coney Island by Oliver Tan, and again on 22 February 2020 on the same isalnd by Tan Kok Hui. A Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, was seen at Lorong Halus Wetland on 11 February 2020 by Peter Bijlmakers. On 22 February 2020, a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, and five White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, were spotted at Lorong Halus Wetland by Lu Kiat, while a solitary Little Grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis, was spotted on 26 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell. Other birds spotted in the north included one Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, on 24 February 2020 at Seletar Dam by Martin Kennewell, as well as up to 80 Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, seen at Yishun St 11 in a communal roost by Oliver Tan.

Eastern Singapore

The woods at Changi Business Park proved to be a cuckoo magnet, given the sighting of a Himalayan Cuckoo, Cuculus saturatus, on 4 February 2020 photographed by Choong YT, and a Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, on 22 February 2020 by Yeo Seng Beng. A distance away, a single White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, was spotted at Sungei Bedok on 26 February 2020 by Choong YT, while two Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, were seen at Pasir Ris Park on 29 February 2020 by William Mahoney.

A visit on 23 February 2020 by Oliver Tan to Pulau Ubin yielded several species of shorebirds, such as fifty Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, thirty Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus, three Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica, one Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, ten Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, and thirteen Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii. During another visit on 25 February 2020, Oliver also counted 15 White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, on the island.

Southern Singapore

A White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, was spotted on 19 February 2020 at Telok Blangah Heights by Oliver Tan. A report of the nesting activities of this rare munia, was made by Vincent Chiang. At Gardens by the Bay on 4 February 2020, Lam SG observed a pair of Zebra Doves, Geopelia striata mating.

Western Singapore

6, Brah St

Brahminy Starling at Jurong Lake Gardens photographed on 29 February 2020 by Alan Owyong.

Jurong Lake Gardens, with its aquatic and park setting, has shown to support various types of birds. A Brahminy Starling, Sturnia pagodarum, descended on the gardens on 1 February 2020, and was reported by Tan Kok Hui; the bird has remained till the end of the month. Another starling, a Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Agropsar philippensis, was spotted on 9 February 2020 by Sandra Chia. A single Large Hawk-Cuckoo, was spotted on 8 and 16 February 2020, by Thana Sinnathamby and Peter Bijlmakers, respectively. A Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, was also reported on 15 February 2020 by Tan Kok Hui.

7, BWS

Three Black-winged Stilt at Jurong Lake Gardens on 16 February 2020 photographed by Geoff Lim.

The next day on 16 February 2020, three Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus, were reported in the morning by Adrian Silas Tay. The birds, two adults and a juvenile, remained for the rest of the day. They were not seen on subsequent days. The grass fields of the gardens also supported a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, which was spotted on 20 February 2020 by Keita Sin.

The Kranji Marshes, Neo Tiew fields and Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 continued to provide delights. At Kranji Marshes, besides a Red-rumped Swallow, Cecropis daurica, spotted on 7 February 2020 by Keita Sin, there were also three Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus, spotted on 23 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell, who also spotted a Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius. Visitors to the monsoon drain at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 were delighted to see a Ruddy Kingfisher, Halcyon coromanda, which was reported on 1 February 2020 by Chan Tsan Tsai, and subsequently seen during the month by others. A  Pin-tailed Snipe, Gallinago stenura, was reported on 8 February 2020 by Fadzrun A.

8, WWT alba

White Wagtail, nominate species (M. alba alba) photographed at Neo Tiew on 9 February 2020 by Lee Van Hien.

The fields at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane harboured a White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, reported on 9 February 2020 by Lee Van Hien; the bird was a male of the nominate (alba) race, a rare find indeed. According to Alfred Chia, who posted a detailed note on the wagtail, he noted that “This is a summer plumage male Motacilla alba alba, another subspecies that will be new to Singapore…The black on breast of race leucopsis, whether in summer or winter plumage, do not extend to the throat, unlike this individual. The black on the throat also continues up on the neck-sides, a feature not found in leucopsis too. The two distinctive white wingbars formed by the white tips & edges to the median & greater coverts also rules out leucopsis. The lack of a black eye-stripe & the presence of the wingbars also rules out the lugens…”

Also seen was a Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca, which was reported on 22 February 2020 by Fadzrun A, two Long-toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, on 23 February 2020 by Pary Sivaraman, and a Red-throated Pipit, Anthus cervinus, on the same day by Martin Kennewell.

Nearby at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, a single Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, was reported on 5 February 2020 by Choong YT. Subsequently on 26 February 2020, a House Swift, Apus nipalensis, was reported by Richard Davis, while a Blue-winged Pitta, was spotted by John Paul Briones.

Down by the West Coast Park, a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Cacatua galerita, was seen on 14 February 2020 by Keita Sin, who also flagged out the existence of Singapore’s second Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, on 22 February 2020. On 28 February 2020, a Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, was reported by Peter Bijlmakers, who also saw a Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, winging over the park. Further east at the NUS Education Research Centre, the previously reported Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, continued to be seen on 8 February 2020 by Tan Kok Hui.

Unusual Sightings

9, blackbird

Chinese Blackbird spotted at Jurong Lake Garden on 11 February 2020 by Oliver Tan

A Chinese Blackbird, Turdus mandarinus, was photographed on 11 February 2020 at Jurong Lake Gardens by Oliver Tan and others – this is the first occurrence of this species in Singapore; while an Asian Pied Starling, Gracupica contra, was spotted on 23 February 2020 at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Pary Sivaraman. The starling was previously spotted at Neo Tiew on 10 January 2020.

This report is compiled and by written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, and individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Alan Owyong, Isabelle Lee, Herman Phua, Lee Van Hien, Oliver Tan, Vincent Lao, Geoff Lim and the casual birder for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCES

del Hoyo, J., N. Collar, and D.A. Christie (2020). Chinese Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis glaucicomans), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D.A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.butfly2.01

Zhang, Z., Wang, X., Huang, Y., Olsson, U., Martinez, J., Alström, P. & Lei, F. (2016) Unexpected divergence and lack of divergence revealed in continental Asian Cyornis flycatchers (Aves: Muscicapidae). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 94: 232–241.

Chinese Egret’s feeding behavior.

Chinese Egret’s feeding behaviour.
By T. Ramesh.
DSC06317
Chinese Egret ( Egretta eulophotes) is also known as Swinhoe’s egret & yellow-billed white heron.   It occurs along the coast of east Asia from east Russia, through China to Korea and winters in Southeast Asia.  This species is a rare migrant to Singapore and it is on globally vulnerable conservation status.
Upon hearing the sighting of this egret at Chek Jawa, I made two visits and was  happy to sight this rarity there on 20th March 2020,  two hours before the low-tide at 1.30 p.m.  It stayed at the tidal mudflats for 3 hours and I had an opportunity to observe and video record  its feeding  behaviour.  Chinese egret feeds mainly on fish, shrimps and small crustaceans. It follows tide-line to feed.
The Chinese egret is an active feeder and moves with lots of energy .  It moves quickly around its feeding site to find and chase fish .  It showed various feeding techniques as below:-
i)   Running  rapidly for short distance and stabbing with its bill
ii)  Making  sudden turns right , left and u-turn  and stabbing with its bill
ii)  Walking  slowly and standing  looking for food
iv) Running  with wings half-spread and flapped or flicked
I have captured  all of these actions in the attached video:
Their indecisive and sudden movements appeared comical and many of us started laughing.  Observing this peculiar behaviour of this global rarity was indeed ,  a rare opportunity !
Attachments area

Preview YouTube video Chinese Egret’s feeding behaviour

Singapore Raptor Report – January 2020

 

Himalayan Vulture, 090120, Pinnacle, Bp Chua, crop

Himalayan Vulture, near the Pinnacle@Duxton, 9 Jan 2020, by Bp Chua

Summary for migrant species:

The Himalayan Vultures stole the show in January. Amazingly, a total of 12 immature vultures showed up, besting the previous high of 9 immature birds in January 1992. On the 8th, one vulture was photographed at The Pinnacle@Duxton at 2:24pm, flying east, and another two were photographed at Cashew Road at 2:45pm. At 6:25pm, a flock of ten vultures, initially mistaken for Asian Openbills, were photographed at Bedok, flying towards Siglap. Shortly after 7pm, up to 11 vultures were captured on video flying at the Tanjong Pagar area around Amara Hotel and The Pinnacle@Duxton. One vulture even landed on the roads – Peck Seah Street & Maxwell Road, causing vehicles to slow down and avoid the bird. Members of the public expressed shock in seeing such a huge bird, which eventually flew off to safety.

The vultures must have roosted on the tall building in the Tanjong Pagar area as they were spotted on top of the buildings on the morning of the 9th. Twelve vultures were spotted and after 9am, they took flight, heading south towards Sentosa, but then turned back, probably dreading to fly over the open sea. By around 11am, eleven vultures were spotted flying over Fort Canning Park and by noon time, twelve vultures were spotted at Dairy Farm Nature Park – they were heading north.

There were no sightings of the vultures on the 10th. Then on the 11th, nine vultures were spotted at West Coast Park in the afternoon, flying west.

HV, 090120, DFNP, Siew Mun, around noon (managed 7 out of 10)

Himalayan Vultures at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 9 Jan 2020, by Siew Mun

A total of 137 raptors of 14 migrant species were recorded in January 2020. This is in great contrast to 7 migrants species recorded in January 2019! Only one Grey-faced Buzzard, a juvenile, was photographed at St John’s Island on the 3rd. Also, a single Eastern Marsh Harrier was recorded, a juvenile on the 19th at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane. The wintering immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park–Hindhede Nature Park area on the 15th, and at Bukit Timah Hill vicinity on the 17th.

Two Booted Eagles were reported – one at Pasir Ris Park on the 7th, and another at Pulau Ubin on the 9th. Also, two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded – one at the Botanic Gardens on the 15th and the wintering female at Ang Mo Kio on the 25th.

Five Western Ospreys were recorded along the northern coast from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) to Yishun Dam to Pulau Ubin. Six Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded – two at Changi Business Park, three at Coney Island, and one at Pasir Ris–Tampines Eco Green area. Ten Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, mostly singles at various location in the western half of Singapore.

GFB, 030120, St John's Island, Dillen Ng

Grey-faced Buzzard, juvenile, at St John’s Island, on 3 Jan 2020, by Dillen Ng

Thirteen Peregrine Falcons were recorded, probably the highest monthly number for the species, comprising both adults and juveniles; they were recorded singly, with some individuals regularly perching near the top of apartment blocks at Jurong and Punggol. Twenty Black Bazas were recorded, mostly in the Lim Chu Kang area (including SBWR & Kranji Marshes) and Pasir Ris Park. 61 Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded – apart form 12 recorded at Kranji Marshes on the 1st, the others were mostly singles from various localities.

A Buteo photographed at a distance at Tuas South on the 5th by Martin Kennewell and Zacc HD was initially thought to be a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, but may potentially be a Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus – stay tuned! Lastly, two Oriental Scops Owls, a nocturnal raptor, were photographed during the daytime at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on the 23rd.

Brahminy with Red-legged Crake, posted 140120, SBTB, Andrew Seah

Brahminy Kite, flying with a dead Red-legged Crake in its talons, at Satay by the Bay, on 14 Jan 2020, by Andrew Seah

Highlights for sedentary species: 

Three Crested Serpent Eagles were recorded, one at Malcolm Road on the 10th and probably the same bird at Stevens MRT on the 12th; one at Seletar on the 12th; and one at Pulau Ubin on the 19th and 22nd.

Up to nine Grey-headed Fish Eagles were recorded, localities included SBWR, Kranji Marshes, Little Guilin, Sungei Ulu Pandan, Botanic Gardens, Central Catchment forest, Springleaf Nature Park, Yishun Dam, Lorong Halus and Pulau Ubin.

Breeding-related activities were observed for four species. Mating was observed for the Black-winged Kite at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on the 4th and at Kranji Marshes on the 26th. For the Crested Goshawk, a nest with chicks was observed at West Coast Park on the 3rd, and at Pasir Ris Park, nest building was observed on the 30th, followed by mating on the 31st. Interestingly, the nest at West Coast Park was only about 20m away from the nest of a pair of Brahminy Kites.

There were two nesting records for the Brahminy Kite, the nest at West Coast Park had two chicks, with one fledging on the 17th, and amazingly the adults were observed mating! By the 21st, the second chick had also fledged. The second nest was found at the Lim Chu Kang area on the 12th. On the 14th, an adult Brahminy Kite at Satay by the Bay was captured on camera flying with a dead Red-legged crake in its talons. For the White-bellied Sea Eagle, a pair was building a nest at SBWR on the 26th.

There was one ernesti Peregrine Falcon, an adult, on the 29th, in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens, eating a bird. No torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzzards were recorded in January. The other sedentary raptors recorded were five Changeable Hawk-Eagles, and one Barred Eagle Owl at the Singapore Quarry, its usual location, on the 23rd.

Table 1

For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – January 2020

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Siew Mun, Bp Chua, Dillen Ng, and Andrew Seah for the use of their photos.

Nesting of White-rumped Munia at Telok Blangah.

Nesting of White-rumped Munias at Telok Blangah.

By Vincent Chiang.

85167400_631077910792387_950332063372804096_n

An adult White-rumped Munia guarding over its nest over at Telok Blangah Estate.

Late last December I came across some munias hopping in and out of an old nest at the hanging foliage at a housing block at Telok Blangah Estate. It was in early January that I identified the pair as the White-rumped Munias. They have taken over an abandoned cup shaped nest ( Bulbul?) and started building over it by adding bits of thin dry grasses to it. Over the next few days there were not much activities but the nest seemed complete. On one occasion, I found a mixed flock of about a dozen White-rumped and Javan Munias hanging around.  Only three curious adult White-rumped Munias came and perched near the nest. Not sure if they are the parents with a helper or not. They did not go into the nest.

82005407_538694636719662_5439158454944006144_n

The White-rumped Munia’s nest in red on the hanging foliage at an apartment block above an active Olive-backed Sunbird’s nest in blue. 

The White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, is a rare resident of Singapore, occurring in forest edges, open vegetation and secondary growth. The wild mainland population most probably died out leaving few surviving birds at the offshore islands of Ubin and Tekong. The birds seen now a days on the mainland are likely to have been released or escapees. The documented nesting season is May and July to August ( Kelham 1883 and SINAV 6.2, 6.3). This March nesting record now sets an earlier date for this species in Singapore.

84023905_1173368182994281_8002783979629445120_n24th January photo of its completed elongated round nest made up of fine dried grasses.

Not much activity was observed in February. The pair were seen flying in and out of the nest and may be roosting there. Sometimes one would stay back to guard the nest. It was only in early March that I heard chirping sounds coming out of the nest and the parent birds coming back very often with traces of grass seeds in their mouths. It was either whole seeds or chewed up puree. I did not see them bringing back insects and other prey. Maybe I was not there when they did so.

Vincent Chiang

Parent bird sitting on top of its nest. 

Finally on 8 March, I spotted one of the parent birds feeding a juvenile on the roof top, confirming a successful nesting. I was glad to be able to document this nesting even though I was not able to find out what is happening inside the nest and record the dates when the eggs were laid, chicks hatched and fledged.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore.

All Photos: Vincent Chiang.

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

By Records Committee, Bird Group.

The committee was able to accept and assign the Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia oreintalis, found at Sister’s Island to Category A for wild birds by identifying it to subspecies level.

Oriental Dove

This dove is very likely a nominate orientalis from Northeast Asia (wintering as far south as Cambodia and southern Vietnam), chiefly because it’s less vinaceous on the head and has a buff belly contrasting with a more vinaceous breast band than agricola from Southeast Asia and Northeast India.

Other subspecies (e.g. from peninsular India or western Asia) can also be ruled out.

This subspecific identity gives us important hints.

There are several reasons for natural vagrancy against the burden of proof for escaped status:

  1. Late November – right timing for a northern vagrant
  2. It’s the subspecies we would expect to show up as a vagrant here.
  3. Odd small-island occurrence. Sister’s Island acting as the “land’s end” of Asia continent.
  4. Not reported being seen in Indonesian and Malaysian bird markets or shops during many market surveys. Not seen in birds shops in Singapore as well.
  5. o.orientalis is a known wintering migrant. There are many instances of straying to various parts of the flyway.
  6. No signs of tags or rings, feather abrasions or body abnormalities and unusual behaviour.

 

Bird Records Committee Report (Feb 2020)

Bird Records Committee Report (Feb 2020)

By Lim Kim Seng

Chairman, Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee.

Large Woodshrike at Jelutong Tower

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis at Jelutong Tower, 22 Oct 2018. Photo by Francis Yap.

The Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities. This report updates the findings of the period, October 2018 – January 2020.

New Species

Eleven new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 414. The 2020 edition can be downlink here NSS Singapore Checklist 2020 edition.  NSS-Singapore Checklist-2020-edition

They include the following:

Shikra Accipiter badius

An immature photographed flying over Jelutong Tower on 21 Nov 2019 by Alex Fok was the first record for Singapore since a specimen was collected in 1891.

Shikra, 211119, Jelutong, Alex Fok, crop

Shikra Accipiter badius at Jelutong Tower on 21 Nov 2019. Photo by Alex Fok.

Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus

Up to five birds photographed on Pulau Tekong on 17 Jul 2019 by Frankie Cheong was the first record for Singapore.

Pied Stilt

Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus at Pulau Tekong on 17 July 2019. Photo: Frankie Cheong.

Oriental Turtle-dove Streptopelia orientalis

An adult of the nominate subspecies orientalis recorded on Sisters’ Island during an island survey by Camphora Pte Ltd on 28 Nov 2018 for SDC. This was the first record for Singapore.

Oriental Dove

Oriental Turtle-dove Streptopelia orientalis at Sisters’ Island on 28 Nov 2018. Photo: Camphora Pte Ltd.

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha

A bird seen and photographed near Dillenia Hut in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 8 Nov 2019 by Francis Yap and Richard White was the first record for Singapore.

Fairy Pitta

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha at Central Catchment Forest on 8 Nov 2019. Photo: Francis Yap.

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis

A female seen at Jelutong Tower on 22 Oct 2018 by Oliver Tan, Francis Yap and Pary Sivaraman. This was the first record for Singapore since the 1950s.

Large Woodshrike at Jelutong Tower

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis at Jelutong Towers on 22 Oct 2019. Photo: Francis Yap.

Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis

One photographed at Pandan Reservoir on 3 Nov 2018 by Angela Chua was the first record for Singapore.

Skylark

Eurasian Skylark, Alauda arvensis, at Pandan Reservoir on 3 Nov 2018. Photo by Angela Chua.

Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus

A male photographed at the Ecolake, Singapore Botanic Gardens, on 12 Nov 2019 by Dennis Lim and Arman Nacionales and confirmed by Geoff Lim on 15 November 2019 was our third record for Singapore. A female seen at Satay by the Bay on 9 Feb 2013 by Laurence Eu was the first record. A male seen at Cashew Heights by Subha on 20 Jan 2014 was the second record while a female seen at Tg Rhu on 14 and 15 Jan 2020 by Manju Gang was our fourth record. Lastly, a male seen at National University of Singapore on 30 Jan 2020 by Lynette Chia was our fifth.  Previously assigned to Cat E, recent studies have shown that this species occur on a regular basis in Southeast Asia during the winter months, and should be rightly considered as wild birds.

Redstart

Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 15 Nov 2019. Photo: Geoff Lim.

Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla

A non-breeding male/female seen and photographed at the Ecolake, Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Nov 2019 by Lim Kim Seng, Wayne Merritt and Roy Toh was the first record for Singapore.

Tiaga FC

Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Nov 2019. Photo: Lim Kim Seng.

Japanese Tit Parus minor

A bird photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 30 Nov 2019 by Yeo Seng Beng was our third record of this species in Singapore. The first record came from a bird observed at Chinese Garden on 27 Oct 2012 by Choo Teik Ju and photographed by Frankie Lim and Wong Lee Hong.  The second was another individual photographed at Tuas on 5 November by Yong Ding Li.

Jap Tit

Japanese Tit Parus minor at Pasir Ris Park on 30 Nov 2019. Photo: Yeo Seng Beng.

White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus

A subadult male was found at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 16 Jan 2020 by Martin Kennewell. This was our first record. It was seen again later by Alan OwYong and Alfred Chia who submitted a formal report for it to be accepted into Cat A.

White-cheeked Starling

White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 16 Jan 2019. Photo: Alan OwYong.

Brahminy Starling Sturnia pagodarum

A bird photographed at Jurong Lake Gardens on 30 Jan 2020 by Deborah Friets was our sixth record. The other records were singles at Marina East on 2 Feb 2008 and 5 Oct 2008 by Mike Hooper, Bidadari on 3 Dec 2013 by Frankie Cheong, Punggol Barat on 8 Feb 2016 by Francis Yap and 12 Sep 2016 at Gardens by the Bay by Mike Hooper.  Terry Heppell also photographed one at Gardens by the Bay on 13 Sept 2016 and should be the same bird as Mike Hooper’s. Previously assigned to Category E, recent studies have shown that this species occur on a regular basis in Southeast Asia during the winter months, and should be rightly considered as wild birds.

Brahminy Starling

Brahminy Starling Sturnia pagodarum at Jurong Lake Gardens on 30 Jan 2020. Photo: Deborah Friets.

In addition, a record of Black-headed Bunting in difficult juvenile plumage reported from Kranji on 18 Nov 2018 remains as “pending” as its identification (from the similar Red-headed Bunting) was not conclusive. Another record of Blue Whistling Thrush reported from Fort Canning Park on 7 Dec 2019 was assigned to category E.

Rarities

The following eight rarities were accepted.

Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala

An adult photographed at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 on 18 Jan 2020 by Dillen Ng was our second confirmed record from the field. Its similarity to Pintail Snipe means that a close look at its outermost tail feathers is essential to confirm its identification.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

A bird seen and photographed at Kranji Marshes on 15 Jan 2020 by Veronica Foo and Lim Kim Keang was our fourth record. This individual was photographed at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 earlier on 11 Jan 2020 by Art Toh.

Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis

A male photographed at Jurong Lake Gardens on 9 Feb 2020 by Sandra Chia was our fifth record.  Previous records include singles at Loyang on 8 Dec 1987 by R. Subaraj, Bidadari on 11 Oct 2014 by Zahidi Hamid, Pandan River on 1 Nov 2019 by Mai Rong Wen and at Henderson Waves on 16 Nov 2019 by See Toh Yew Wai.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thanks the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report:  Frankie Cheong, Alfred Chia, Lynette Chia, Sandra Chia, Angela Chua, Veronica Foo, Alex Fok, Deborah Friets, Geoff Lim, Lim Kim Seng, Dillen Ng, Alan Owyong, Oliver Tan, Felix Wong, Francis Yap and Yeo Seng Beng. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Alan Owyong, Dr Frank Rheindt, Tan Gim Cheong and Dr Yong Ding Li.

Reference

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

Interbreeding between a Northern and a Southern Oriental Pied Hornbill at Pasir Ris Park.

Interbreeding between a Northern and a Southern Oriental Pied Hornbill at Pasir Ris Park.

By Seng Alvin.

This may be the first record of  a successful breeding of two races of Oriental Pied Hornbills in Singapore. In 1996, a pair of the northern race bred successfully in Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. These together with a small population of Southern Pieds were introduced after they went extinct in the last century. Our first pair of wild hornbills was sighted at Pulau Ubin on 14 March 1994 during a round the island survey by the NSS Bird Group.

In early November 2019, a park visitor told me that a pair of Pied Hornbills were seen at an old nest in an Angsana tree. On 11 November I went to check and found a pair of Pied Hornbills tidying the same nest hole that was previously used by another pair of hornbills. What was unusual was that the male was a northern race (A.a albirostris) and the female was our southern race (A.a. convexus). The southern race is found throughout extreme South Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia.  This could be the same pair that nested there earlier this year from February to May.

I continued to monitor and document the nesting from the time when the mummy bird moved in around late November until the fledgling of both chicks on 20 February, a period spanning eleven weeks. The biggest excitement for me is to see which parent’s genes would the chicks take after.  From the photos you can see that the chick has a black and white undertail pattern of the daddy instead of a all white undertail of the mummy southern pied. So if you visit the park, do keep a lookout for these hornbills to see which race are they.

( I received information from experience birders that both adults are Southern Pied Hornbills. Younger birds do have some blacks at the upper tail that will fade away as it aged. The Northern Pied race has two third of the under tail black.)

87642151_2766336430111803_401313437671489536_o

11.11.2019. Mrs OPH ( a southern race) checking out the nest hole. The male OPH, a northern race A.a. albirostris was watching nearby.

87902834_2766336566778456_2821341682912460800_o

23.11.2019. Mrs. OPH decided to move into the nest to lay eggs. Mr. OPH started to bring back food like this lizard to feed her. The nest hole entrance was sealed in the next few days.

87859663_2766336233445156_6340066590179983360_o

31.01.2020. Daddy bird working hard to bring back food for the Mummy bird and two chicks.

87866957_2766336276778485_2628183079327367168_o

The black and white tail pattern of the northern race of the male can be seen in this photo.

88100437_2766336373445142_5422128299730010112_o

20.2.2020. Taking its first flight but landed on the ground instead. Managed to regain its strength and confidence after 15 minutes and flew off to join the parents over at the toilet area. The encouraging calls by the parent did the trick.

87365682_2766336256778487_2546177138441060352_o

20.2.2020. Mama OPH continued to feed her chick. From this photo you can see this fledgling taking the genes of the papa bird.

Reference:

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

Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. 

Boonsong and Round. A Guide to the Birds of Thailand.

Singapore Bird Report – January 2020

by Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compilation), & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

The turn of the new year yielded several amazing sightings, such as twelve Himalayan Vultures gathering at the Central Business District, a rare Slaty-legged Crake feeding regularly over several days at Punggol, Black-headed Gulls at Yishun Dam, a splendid male von Schrenck’s Bittern at SBWR, an appearance by a very rare Green Sandpiper at Lim Chu Kang, and the first sighting of a White-cheeked Starling in Singapore!

Himalayan Vultures

HV, 090120, CBD, Zacc HD

Himalayan Vulture over Peck Seah Street on 9 January 2020, photo by Zacc HD.

Following the report of two Himalayan Vultures, Gyps himalayensis, at Hindhede on 28 December 2019, a flock of vultures were reported on 8 and 9 January 2020 over the Central Business District by the news and birders like T. Ramesh. On the morning of 9 January 2020, Lee Chuin Ming reported 12 vultures at the CBD area, and on the afternoon of the same day, Raghav Narayanswamy had a sighting of ten vultures at Cashew Road. On 11 January 2020, a flock of nine birds were photographed at West Coast Park (Tan Chuan Yean).

HV, 110120, WCP, Tan Chuan Yean

A Himalayan Vulture being mobbed by a Brahminy Kite on 11 January 2020 over West Coast Park, photo by Tan Chuan Yean.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Jambu,120120, DFNP, Gan Lee Hsia

Juvenile Jambu Fruit Dove spotted on 12 January 2020 at DFNP, photo by Gan Lee Hsia.

The CCNR core yielded one Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, two Black-headed Bulbuls, Pycnonotus atriceps, and five Cinereous Bulbuls, Hemixos cinereus, on 4 January 2020 by Adrian Silas Tay at Jelutong Tower, as well as a single female Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, seen between Dillenia Hut and the stream. Several days later, two Eyebrowed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, and one Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, was spotted on 7 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, while an Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, in breeding plumage was photographed on 15 January 2020 by Millie Cher. Other notable migrants included a Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, on 17 January 2020 by Richard Davies, an Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, on 18 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, and a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Phylloscopus borealoides, on 24 January 2020 by YT Choong. Resident species spotted included a Chestnut-winged Babbler, Stachyris erythroptera, on 26 January 2020 by Marcel Finlay, a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 28 January 2020 by Oliver Tan, who also spotted three Red-crowned Barbets, Megalaima rafflesii, on the same day.

Two Black-crested Bulbul, Pycnonotus flaviventris, were reported on 16 January 2020 by Keita Sin who surmounted the steep incline that snaked its way up Bukit Timah Hill, while three Cream-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, were spotted on 19 Jan 2020 along Rifle Range Link by Fadzrun A. .

Hindhede Park, which buffers the old growth Bukit Timah forest core, yielded a Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, and one Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, on 15 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, who also saw an Asian House Martin again on 18 January 2020. The park also hosted a Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, which was reported on 26 January 2020 by Francis Yap, followed by two Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata, on the same day by Geoff Lim, who noted that the crakes flushed the pitta from the undergrowth. On 28 January 2020, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, in full adult regalia was spotted and reported by Leslie Loh, while a Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, was seen on 28 January 2020 by Lim Kim Chuah.

OHT, 100120, DFNP, Danny Khoo

Orange-headed Thrush at DFNP on 10 January 2020; photo taken by Danny Khoo.

Dairy Farm Nature Park, another excellent buffer park abutting the Bukit Timah forest core in the west, continued to yield exciting species, which included a Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, on 1 January 2020 by John Ascher, an Orange-headed Thrush, Geokichla citrina, on 10 January 2020 by Danny Khoo, a juvenile Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, 11 January 2020 by Gan Lee Hsia, a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, on 12 January 2020 by Jackie Yeo, a Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, on 21 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, and a Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, on 26 January 2020 by Karyne Wee.

Further afield at the Singapore Quarry, a Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, and a Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, were spotted on 23 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell.

Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)

The garden grounds received three White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, spotted on 16 Janaury 2020 by Dillen Ng, as well as two Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, seen on 24 January 2020 by Mike Hooper, as was a Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on 30 January 2020 by Samuel Ng.

Central Singapore

At Ang Mo Kio, a single Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, was reported on 25 January 2020 by Norhafiani A Majid, while a Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, a recent escapee, and a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, were spotted at Toa Payoh Town Park on 30 January 2020 by Richard Davis.

Northern Singapore

The northern region yielded a rare Slaty-Legged Crake, Rallina eurizonoides, which was reported on 6 January 2020 at the HDB carpark at Block 305D, Punggol Road by Oliver Tan and Kwok Tuck Loong, and remained until 12 January 2020. On 8 January 2020, George Presanis and Geoff Lim noticed that the bird was actively foraging in a planter at the basement carpark from about 10:15pm to 11:10pm. At one stage, the crake managed to find an earthworm in the soil and tugged at it until the worm came free from the soil. (Note: the Slaty-legged Crake was first photographed at nearby Block 299 Punggol Central by Stephen Cheok, who posted his pic for ID on 30 December 2019).

Slaty-legged Crake, 100120, Punggol 305D, TGC

Slaty-legged Crake at Punggol on 11 January 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

Between 5 and 14 January 2020, there were up to two Black-headed Gulls, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, at Yishun Dam, first spotted by Ng Wei Khim, followed by many other birders.

BH Gull, 110120, Seletar, Zacc HD

Black-headed Gull over Seletar Dam on 10 January 2020, photo by Zacc HD.

Other sightings included one White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 15 January 2020 by Wang Wee Woan, one Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, on 16 January 2020, at Picadilly by Martin Kennewell, and a potential national first White-cheeked Starling, Spodiopsar cineraceus, spotted on 16 January 2020 at Seletar Aerospace Drive by Martin Kennewell. The White-cheeked Starling was last seen on 24 January 2020 (Norhafiani A. Majid).

WCS, 240120, Seletar Aerospace, Norhafiani A Majid

A White-cheeked Starling at Seletar on 24 January 2020, photo by Norhafiani A Majid

A Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, was discovered at Woodlands Park on 24 January 2020 by  Loh Wei, Norhafiani A Majid and others, a first for the location. On 25 January 2020, Geoff Lim found it unresponsive and unmoving despite having passers-by barely 2 metres away. At one point in time, a White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus, rushed at the pitta, forcing it to hop about 10 metres from where it was first found. There, it remained quiet and closed its eyes for long periods of time. It was subsequently rescued by NParks, with assistance from Clarinda Yap, Vincent Lao and Kwok Tuck Loong, who stayed around to ensure that the rescuers could locate it. The bird subsequently died, possibly from swelling and possible internal bleeding.

MP, 250120, Woodlands, Geoff Lim

Mangrove Pitta found at Woodlands Park on 25 January 2020, photo by Geoff Lim

Eastern Singapore

Visitors to Pulau Ubin reported spotting one Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, on 11 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 19 January 2020, by Vicki Stokes, two White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, along with 45 Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, one Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus, three Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica, two Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, and 23 Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, reported on 23 January 2020 by Oliver Tan, as well as one Chestnut-Winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, spotted on 27 January 2020, by Hannu Kemola.

Other birds spotted in the east included the report of one Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, on 7 January 2020 at Pasir Ris Park by Oliver Tan, three Jerdons Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, on 11 January 2020 at Coney Island by Ng Wei Khim, a Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, on 27 January 2020 at the broadwalk in Pasir Ris Park by Serin, two Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus, on 29 January 2020 at Changi Business Park by Oliver Tan, and an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, on 31 January 2020 by Peter Bijlmakers.

Southern Singapore

Nest building by White-Rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, on New Year’s Day was reported at Telok Blangah Heights by Vincent Chiang, while a Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus, was spotted on 3 January 2020 on St John Island by Dillen Ng. On 8 January 2020, about 150 Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were spotted overflying Ayer Rajah by Lillian Sng, while a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, was seen on 9 January 2020 from atop Pinnacle@ Duxton by Oliver Tan.

A female Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, the second record for the season, was reported on 14 and 15 January 2020 at Tanjong Rhu by Manju Gang, while two Asian Fairy-bluebird, Irena puella, were reported on 11 January 2020 at Hort Park by Millie Cher. Previously restricted to the central forests, the Asian Fairy Bluebird may be using park connectors or other patches of greenery to slowly disperse from the central forests.

Daurian Redstart, 140120, Tg Rhu condo, Manju Gang

Female Daurian Redstart spotted on 14 January 2020 at Tanjong Rhu by Manju Gang

Western Singapore

The marshes and fields around Kranji Marsh proved to be a fruitful venue for birding. The turn of the new year and the ensuing days saw reports of a Baillons Crake, Porzana pusilla, on 1 January 2020, a King Quail, Excalfactoria chinensis, and a White-browed Crake, Porzana cinerea, on 4 January 2020, and two Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, on 12 January 2020 at Kranji Marsh by Martin Kennewell. This was followed by the sighting of two Asian Pied Starling, Gracupica contra, a Cat E-Introduced species, on 19 January 2020 by Martin Kennewell, and a Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea, on 26 Janaury 2020 by Peng Ah Huay.

RT Pipit, 150120, NTHL, Luke Milo Teo

A Red-throated Pipit spotted at Neo Tiew on 15 January 2020 by Luke Teo.

The fields encompassed by Neo Tiew Harvest Lane yielded a Red-Throated Pipit, Anthus cervinus, which was seen on 7 January 2020 by CL Lau, while a Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, was spotted on 11 January 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy, who also spotted an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, several days later on 19 January 2020. On 20 January 2020, a Savanna Nightjar, Caprimulgus affinis, was seen by Peter Bijlmakers, while two Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were spotted on 22 January 2020 by Choong YT, while a Stejnegers Stonechat, Saxicola stejnegeri, was seen on 28 January 2020 by Lu Kiat.

A distance away, birders at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 spotted various species, including a Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, and a Swinhoes Snipe, Gallinago megala, on 18 January 2020 by Dillen Ng, while a very rare Green Sandpiper, Tringa ochropus, was photographed on 18 January 2020 by Fadzrun Adnan, and recorded again on 19 & 20 January 2020 by other birders; upon checking his photos, Art Toh realised that he had unknowingly photographed the Green Sandpiper on 11 January 2020. Visitors seeking out the Green Sandpiper also saw a Greater Coucal, Centropus sinensis, on 22 January 2020, and a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, on 23 January 2020, both spotted by Luke Teo.

Green Sandpiper, 110120, LCK3, Art Toh

Green Sandpiper at Lim Chua Kang Avenue 3 on 11 January 2020 by Art Toh.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) yielded a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, on 11 January 2020 (Adrian Silas Tay), which stayed through the Chinese New Year holidays and was last reported on 30 January 2020 (John Spiler). The reserve also held a Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, on 14 Jan 2020 by Richard Lim, five Lesser Adjutants, Leptoptilos javanicus, on 22 January 2020 (Hannu Klemola), a Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, and a White-headed Munia, Lonchura maja, on 25 January 2020 (Fadzrun A), another Lesser Adjutant on 26 January 2020 (Geri Lim), and a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 27 January 2020 (Mike Hooper). Shorebirds reported included one Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, spotted on 14 Jan 2020 (Martin Kennewell), thirty Pacific Golden Plover, Pluvialis fulva, on 27 January 2020 (Mike Hooper) and one Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia, on 28 January 2020 by YK Han.

Schrenck's Bittern, 250120, SBWR, Geoff Lim

Von Schrenck’s Bittern at SBWR on 25 January 2020 by Geoff Lim.

Other notable sightings in the west included a Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea, on 22 January 2020 by Kaikee Leong at Jurong Lake Gardens, a male Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, at U-Town, Kent Ridge on 29 January 2020 by Lynette Chia, two White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, by Oliver Tan, a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, by Choong YT, both on 30 January 2020 at Jurong Lake Gardens.

Abbreviations:
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

This report is compiled and by written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, and individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, Danny Khoo, Zacc HD, Gan Lee Hsia, Tan Chuan Yean, Manju Gang, Luke Teo, T. Ramesh, Norhafiani A. Majid and Geoff Lim for allowing us to use their photographs.

Motacilla alba alba: A new subspecies of White Wagtail for Singapore?

Motacilla alba alba: A new subspecies of White Wagtail for Singapore?

By Alfred Chia.

I write further on my recent note on 10 February in the “Singapore Birders” FB group of a White Wagtail Motacilla alba of subspecies alba occurring in Singapore. The bird was seen & photographed by Lee Van Hien on 9 February at Neo Tiew Harvest Link. This subspecies is new to Singapore. Currently, we have three subspecies: the commoner leucopsis, followed by ocularis and the rarer lugens.

There has been suggestions that this is not an alba but a baicalensis subspecies instead.

image1

Baicalensis was suggested because “the wing panel doesn’t have to be completely white early in the season  and the two white wing bars usually show as a starting point” while “the shape of the bib leaves no doubt, especially the two lateral extensions”. This subspecies “would also not be unexpected” (in terms of range).

image2

Allow me to clarify and justify why this is an alba and not a baicalensis.

  1. Alba is a known migratory race. The features of the wagtail that was seen & photographed fits a male summer adult alba: i) the large black gorget extending all the way to the upper throat (perhaps the primary diagnostic feature to differentiate between an alba & baicalensis) and neck-sides, including the lateral extension ii) two prominent white wing bars formed by the white edges to the median & greater coverts (contra “starting point” towards a “white wing panel”) iii) the black centres on the greater coverts iv) the “clean” white face and grey upperparts etc.
  2. Baicalensis, in all plumages do NOT have a black upper throat but a white upper & central throat instead. Searches through Macaulay Library and the Internet reveal all baicalensis with white upper throat. This salient feature was unfortunately overlooked when suggesting the bird as a baicalensis.image3
  1. Intergradation in its breeding range exist between alba and baicalensis, alba and ocularis and between alba and personata but there is no evidence as yet that such intergrades (especially with baicalensis) result in a black upper throat. Indeed, Alstrom & Mild (2003) indicated several times in the monograph that baicalensis can be separated from alba by its white upper throat.
  2. On current knowledge, the nearest wintering range of alba is in the Indian subcontinent. It would thus be a very long-distance vagrant for an alba to be found in Singapore. However, such long-distance vagrancy cannot be ruled out entirely. Recent years’ long-distance vagrancies resulting in new country records should be noted. Singapore’s Booted Warbler Iduna caligata in December of 2017 and West Malaysia’s most recent discovery of same warbler species in February 2020 are cases in point. Co-incidentally, Booted Warbler’s hitherto wintering range was also in the Indian subcontinent!

image4

In summary, perhaps the most important reason for an alba is the overwhelming features this bird has that distinguishes it as an alba. It is identifiable and should not be treated as an unidentified taxa. Baicalensis can be ruled out because they do not have a black upper throat in all plumages.

image0

Acknowledgement:

Thanks to Lee Van Hien for sharing his sighting and allowing the use of his photographs.

References:

Alstrom, P., Mild, K. & Zetterstrom, B. (2003) Pipits & Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America. London: Christopher Helm.

Kennewell, M. (11 February 2020) Facebook “Global Rare Bird Alert”.

Rasmussen, P.C. & Anderton, J.C. (2005) Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Vols 1 and 2. Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions, Washington, D.C. and Barcelona.

Robson, C. (2000) A field guide to the birds of South-east Asia. London: New Holland.

Note: This record of White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba is pending acceptance by the Records Committee.

 

 

Feeding behaviour of Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Hydrophasianus chirurgus.

Feeding behaviour of Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Hydrophasianus chirurgus.

By Amar-Singh HSS.

Location: Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Extensive ex-tin mining area with pond/lakes, wetlands

Date: 17th February 2020.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana-2a-Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia-17th February 2020

Some colleagues mentioned a group of Pheasant-tailed Jacana at a wetlands site (at least 5 birds present) and I visited to observe feeding behaviour. One common feeding method is to swim in open water and pick prey from the water surface, especially from floating vegetation; what is actually taken is uncertain. Most sources say their diet consists of insects, molluscs, other invertebrates. I observed them for a 1.5 hours and saw (with video) many such feeding episodes but all I could see taken (even with video grab images) was plant material – the opinion is that aquatic vegetation is ingested accidentally/incidentally while feeding on animal prey (see HBW 2020). It is possible that they feed on a large number of small insects and invertebrates on the water surface. I saw some competitive feeding between the birds (defending their stretch of water) but this was not common; they could also feed communally. A video of feeding behaviour is here: https://youtu.be/dVTE0MfrHgk

Jenni, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus). 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.