Pulau Ubin Nocturnal Bird Survey Report

Nocturnal Bird Survey Report at Pulau Ubin by Sandra Chia.

The nocturnal fauna of Singapore has long held the fascination of many nature-enthusiasts. From the inquisitive stare of the Buffy Fish Owl to the wide-eyed Sunda Scops Owl, nocturnal birds have been seen throughout the island, and garnered the attention of many. Several of us have seen owls on Pulau Ubin before, but how many are there exactly? And where?

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One of Ubin’s the Buffy Fish Owls. Photo: Sandra Chia.

To get a better understanding of the diversity and numbers of nocturnal birds present on Pulau Ubin, the Bird Group in collaboration with Nparks conducted its first ever Ubin night survey. On 22 July, while hordes of people were headed home after a long day at the beach, a group of us were headed towards Changi Point Ferry Terminal for a very different reason. Boarding a bumboat, 11 of us set off into the sunset for Pulau Ubin. Headed by an experienced leader, the group was further split into three teams of three to four surveyors each. Three survey routes were established, covering the east, west and central portions of Ubin.

Upon reaching the starting point of each survey route, the group embarked on a slow walk back to the kampong centre, that took about 2 hours. Whenever a nocturnal bird was encountered or heard, the species and coordinates of the encounter were jotted down and compiled into a datasheet thereafter. When nocturnal mammals were encountered, the species and location of the encounter were likewise noted down, on a separate datasheet.

In total, 16 individual birds were seen or heard. The most numerous were the Large-tailed Nightjar and Sunda Scops Owl, of which 6 individuals of each species were encountered throughout the survey. The Buffy Fish Owl and Black-crowned Night Heron were encountered once each, while the Savanna Nightjar was encountered twice. To our delight, Greater Mousedeer were seen by all three groups and one group even saw a herd of wild boar with 3 adults and 13 piglets!

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There is probably a much wider diversity and greater number of nocturnal birds on Ubin, based on historical sightings as well as the fact that there are many parts of Ubin our routes did not cover. For example, all species of owl known in Singapore are recorded on Ubin except for the Short-eared Owl. We hope to continue to conduct more nocturnal census and hopefully uncover more nocturnal birds on Ubin.

The Bird Group is grateful to all the survey leaders for leading the surveys and to all participants who assisted. The survey leaders included Lim Kim Keang, Willie Foo and Alfred Chia and participants included Sandra Chia, Emmanuel Goh, Dillen Ng, Lim Hong Yao and Tan Julin. We would also like to thank Robert Teo, Grace Ang, Joseph Lin and Jacky Soh from NParks for supporting our work.

Mobbing of a Collared Owlet at Fraser’s Hill

By Connie Khoo.

The Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei, is a small owl of montane forests of Malaya. Birders to Fraser’s Hill will be familiar with its toot-toot-toot call in the day time. I was birding there with Laurence Eu, a birder friend from Singapore last week when we came across a cacophony of excited bird calls by the roadside. It was early evening. We thought that it was a mini bird wave. But the tones of the calls were different. They sounded like more like alarm and distress calls.

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Streaked Spiderhunter is the most aggressive of the lot. Photo: Laurence Eu

When we got out of our car, we found a Collared Owlet perched on a small branch. A flock of smaller birds were mobbing it. A group of six Silver-eared Mesias took turns to harass it with pair of Black-throated Sunbirds. Five munias joined in. In the failing light I cannot make out if they were White-rumped or White-bellied as both species occur there.

But it was the pair of Streaked Spiderhunters that actually attacked the owlet, coming close to peck at it. The owlet tolerated the harassment for a while but moved to other perches when the “attacks’ continued. It eventually flew off after withstanding 30 minutes of this and peace resumed.

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Silver-eared Mesias were the most numerous, six were taking turns in the mobbing. 

Why do these different species gang up to attack the owlet? Could it be that they see it as a common “enemy’, a known predator of their nestings? We see this mobbing behaviour with the Oriental Whip Snake as well,

Apart from watching such a drama, we had a bonus of also seeing a rare White-browed Shrike-babbler that was attracted to the commotion and joined in the collective mobbing. This was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.

Contributed by Connie Khoo with edits by Alan OwYong.

Ref: Craig Robson. A field Guide to Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd 2000.

 

Singapore Bird Report – July 2017

We have several very early migrant sightings this month. Is it due to global warming? Maybe the birds are more sensitive to the changes than us.

Wood Sandpipers Goh Cheng Teng

Composite photo of a Wood Sandpiper flying over Jurong West by Goh Cheng Teng. First migrant shorebird to arrive this season.

A Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus was photographed by Francis Yap with Keita Sin at Jelutong Tower on 19th, two weeks earlier than the previous early date. Keita Sin did better when he came across a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus flying across Punggol Barat on 22nd, more than a month from the last early date of 3rd Sept. On 16th, Goh Cheng Teng photographed a Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola flying over Jurong West. This is 2 days ahead of the previous early arrival date. Four days later Alan OwYong flushed another Wood Sandpiper from a wet patch at Bulim grasslands. On the same day and place, Ben Choo photographed a female leucopsis White Wagtail Motacilla alba at the canal there. The jury is out if this is over summering or early arrival as the previous early arrival date is 9th September 2016 (Richard White, Marina Barrage).

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Ben Choo’s shot of a female White Wagtail in breeding plumage at a canal at Bulim raise the question of its arrival or over-summering status.

The sighting of the Wood Sandpiper prompted Francis Yap to stake out Seletar Dam and he was rewarded with shots of Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta there on 24th. A day later, three Common Redshanks Tringa totanus were reported by Robin Tan and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by Lim Kim Seng, both at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

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The first passerine migrant spotted by Thio Hb at the Kampong Java Park on 20th. Photo: Thio Hb.

On 26th Francis returned to Seletar Dam and notched up two more new arrivals. Three Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus and a Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, normally the harbinger of the start of the migrant season. But it was beaten by an Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris photographed by Thio Hb at Kampong Java Park on 20th. Our previous early arrival date for this flycatcher was 9th August. Fadzrun A. shot a flock of 46 Lesser Sand Plovers at Kranji Dam on 31st. The migrating shorebirds have arrived!

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First Lesser Sand Plovers of the season from Seletar Dam captured by Francis Yap

We ended the month with a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea crashing into the Beach Villas at Resort World Sentosa on 31st. Tan Kok Yeang was kind enough to send us the photo. The injured bird was handed over to Nparks. This is a new addition to Sentosa but we had record of this migrant arriving as early as 8th of July. We can expect a busy month ahead as more migrants will be making landfall at various parts of the island.

 

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The injured Watercock that crashed into the Beach Villas at Sentosa. Photo: Tan Kok Yeang.

Our residents put up a good show as well. The most unexpected sighting was a rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea turning up at Marina East on 30th, a first for the south.  We had very few mainland records as this is a mangrove island dweller. We had to thank Mike Hooper for this record.  Koh Liang Heng followed up the next day and found it at the same place. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megrahyncha were reported at Pulau Ubin and Pasir Ris Park on 8th and 17th respectively ( Willie Foo and Lim Kim Keang). The Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis were heard calling at the Bulim Forest by Wing Chong and James Tann and at Choa Chu Kang Cemeteries by Martin Kennewell both during the Mid Year Bird Census on 8th. They may be nesting but no nests were found so far.

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The rare Mangrove Whistler photographed at Marina East by Mike Hooper on 30th. 

An Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris was seen at Gardens by the Bay by Veronica Foo on 27th, a surprising first for GBTB. From one Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica to ten at the Lorong Halus ponds on 17th was the welcome news from Lim Kim Keang. We continue to receive records of House Swifts Apus nipalensis over the months. Three birds were seen at the East Coast Parkway near Fort Road by Lim Kim Chuah on 14th. Signs that this species maybe making a comeback.

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The juvenile Greater Green Leafbird at Dairy Farm is a good indication of the successful breeding of this uncommon species.

The other good news were sightings of juveniles of some of the uncommon species, confirming their breeding success. A Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati juvenile was photographed feeding on a White Mulberry Tree at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 15th. We do not have any breeding records for this leafbird and this is only the second record of a juvenile.

A young male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was seen being chased by an female Sunbird at Jurong Eco Garden on 18th. Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the same there a few weeks earlier. Over at the Lorong Halus ponds, a pair of Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis were seen feeding a juvenile on 25th. All the three above records came from Alan OwYong. The last young bird reported was a Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 31st by Seng Alvin, a first for the park.?

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This young Violet Cuckoo was being chased around Jurong Eco Garden by a female Sunbird.

Finally two non-breeding visitors were reported this month. A Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was seen perched at Science Park 2 on 13th by Francis Yap and a pair of Black Hornbills Anthracoceros malayanus at Sentosa flying towards Siloso on 30th seen by Colin Richardson, a visiting birder (posted in ebird, reported by Martin Kennewell). This hornbill was recently added to the checklist based on the records from Pulau Ubin, where one was seen by Adrian Silas Tay on 22nd.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited.

Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebird. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Goh Cheng Teng, Ben Choo, Thio Hb, Francis Yap, Tan Kok Yeang and Alan OwYong for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

Singapore Raptor Report – Late Spring Migration, April-June 2017

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Japanese Sparrowhawk, male, at Pasir Ris Park, 25 June 2017, a new and amazingly late date for the species, by Kozi Ichiyama.

Summary:

Four migrant raptor species were recorded in the April to June period. They were the Osprey, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon, all of which were also recorded during last year’s late spring migration.

The most amazing record must have been the Japanese Sparrowhawk photographed on 25th June at Pasir Ris Park by Kozi Ichiyama. This is a full month beyond the extreme date (25 May) in An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore and well beyond that in The Avifauna of Singapore (1 May). Elsewhere, singles of the Japanese Sparrowhawk were recorded at Bukit Timah and Kranji up to mid April, followed by 2 birds –  a male and a female – flying north at Punggol Barat on 16th April.

Of the 18 Oriental Honey Buzzards recorded, 1 was of the torquatus race and at least 12 were of the orientalis race. Of the orientalis race, 10 were juveniles or second calendar year birds – 4 of these young birds were recorded in April, 2 in May and 4 in June. There were also 2 adult orientalis in April. On 25 April, a young OHB was chased away from the tree where it had perched by a resident Grey-headed Fish Eagle. A single torquatus was recorded from April to June at the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio area.

A single Osprey was recorded at the Kranji-Sungei Buloh area from April to June, and another at Seletar in May. Two Peregrine Falcons were recorded, one at Church Street (migratory race) in April and another at Hindhede in May.

Sedentary Raptors

A Crested Serpent Eagle on 2nd April at Pulau Ubin was the only record of this rare raptor during this 3-month period. For the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, there were 3 at the Kranji-Sungei Buloh area, 2 at the Botanic Gardens, 2 at the Ubin-Changi area, 1 at Bukit Timah area and 1 at Jurong Lake. Small numbers (up to 3 together) of the Black-winged Kite were record at the Kranji-Sungei Buloh area and at the Punggol-Seletar area in all 3 months.

Two nestings of the White-bellied Sea Eagle were observed during this period, one at Pasir Ris (2 chicks) and another at West Coast Park (at least 1 chick). Elsewhere, this common raptor was observed in many areas, with up to 6 birds at any one time. For the Crested Goshawk, there was another successful nesting, with 2 chicks, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens during this 3-month period. Elsewhere, apart from 3 birds calling at West Coast Park on 1st June, all other records were mostly of single birds.

The common Brahminy Kite was recorded in all 3 months and a max of 18 was recorded at Kranji Marsh in April. For the uncommon Changeable Hawk Eagle, records were mostly singles, mainly from the Central Forest areas, Kranji-Sungei Buloh and Simpang Kiri-Punggol stretch. 

addendum to March Raptor Report
2 adults and 1 juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle, which was being fed, at Little Guilin was recorded on 27 March 2017 by Keita Sin.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, Apr-Jun 2017

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Kozi Ichiyama for the use of his photo.

Singapore’s last surviving Malkoha.

Contributed by Alan OwYong.

The last surviving Malkoha, the Chestnut-bellied Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, that was once confined to the Singapore Central Forest and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has adapted well to the forest fringes and buffer nature parks since the start of the century. But our early specimens were collected from the mangroves along Kranji River, Jurong and Seletar, Sungei Sembawang and Ulu Pandan. It must be this adaptability that sees it surviving until today. Its closest relative here, the Black-bellied Malkoha P. Diardi, died out in the 1950s due to its dependence on denser forests in the interior that were logged ( per cons Yong Ding Li). So did the smaller Raffles’s and Red-billed Malkohas. We can learn from these extinctions and manage our forest to protect our last malkoha and other similiar species from meeting the same fate.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at JEG

Rare open view at the Jurong Eco Gardens, where nesting have been recorded.

Mainly arboreal, it hops from branch to branch looking for large insects and small vertebrates at the forest canopies.  Unlike cuckoos, it builds its own nest and care for its young on its own. This uncommon breeding resident is both globally and nationally near-threatened.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at Jelutong

Jelutong Tower is the best place to get eye-level shots of this canopy feeder. Its diet of large insects makes it vulnerable and is listed as nationally near-threatened.

I have seen them foraging along the Mandai Lake Road in the early 2000s. Those who remembered the Mandai Orchid Gardens will know of the few nesting records there. One of the nest was inside a low ficus tree right next to the souvenir stall at the Gardens close to the visitors path. Another nesting was outside the Bukit Timah Visitor Center at roof top level. The eggs on an open flimsy nest were at the mercy of the preying Long-tailed Macaques. The most recent nesting records however came from Jurong Eco Gardens. These Malkohas can still be seen there today.

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Eye-level nest at the Mandai Orchid Gardens right next to the visitor’s walkway. 

Besides keeping the Central Forest intact, the creation of buffer nature parks augurs well for the survival and well being of this jewel of our forest.

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. Asia Books Co. Ltd. A.F.S.L. Lok and T.K. Lee. Brood Care of the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha. Nature in Singapore 2008.1.85-92. 

 

 

 

Singapore Bird Report – June 2017

June may be a quieter month, but great to see so many postings on fledglings, rare and uncommon residents from across the island. We will try to cover some of the more interesting sightings including a few over stayers and unexpected locations of these sightings.

Yong Ding Li led a census for the Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus at Pulau Ubin on the morning of 4th as part of this year’s Pesta Ubin Festival. They counted a total of 68 birds, confirming that Pulau Ubin has the highest density for this globally endangered species anywhere in the world.

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The newly fledged Grey-rumped Treeswift chick at Ang Mo Kio by Gerald KC Lim

Danny Khoo reported the successful fledging of the Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis chick at Ang Mo Kio park on 10th and the Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii chick at the Mandai Track 7 on 16th. Great to see that this uncommon forest resident is doing fine. An adult White-headed Munia Lonchura maja was seen feeding three juveniles at a suburban estate at Mount Sinai on 15th by Gerald KC Lim. These may be released birds.

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White-headed Munia family photographed at a suburban estate by Gerald K.C. Lim

Aldwin Recinto chanced upon the lowly situated nest of the Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris at Lorong Halus on 17th. Two days later the chick fledged. A pair of over worked Common Ioras Aegithina tiphia were busy keeping up with the feeding of a Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonnerati chick over at Jurong Eco Garden on 20th (Lee Chuin Ming).

Lee Chuin Ming

Common Iora feeding a Banded Bay Cuckoo chick that is more than twice its size. (Lee Chuin Ming)

Alan OwYong and Ted Ng photographed an Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnontus brunneus feeding a juvenile at the White Mulberry tree at Dairy Farm NP on 26th. The eyes of the juvenile Red-eyed Bulbul is dark brown not red.

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Juvenile Asian Red-eyed Bulbul being fed by parent at Dairy Farm NP. Photo: Ted Ng

A cute looking juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus was nicely captured by Patricia Tiang over at Kent Ridge Park on 26th. This juvenile also don’t have the red ‘whiskers’.

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Juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul without any red ‘whiskers’ at Kent Ridge Park (Patricia Tiang)

The unwelcome breeding record came from the canal leading to Kranji Marshes where an adult Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild was feeding two youngs on 12th (Birding Dawn). This is the first record of these juveniles, which means that they have adapted to our weather. Our seed eaters will be impacted if they flourish.

Con Foley and friends sighted a lone straggler Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica flying over the Kranji Marshes on 3rd. They have been recorded as late as 11th June. The Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was photographed at the Gardens by the Bay on 5th (Francis Yap). Over at Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong reported that up to 20 Red-necked Stints, Calidris ruficollis some in breeding plumage were still around on 5th. The previous late date for this shorebird was 28th May. Staying in Tekong, two white and one dark morph Pacific Reef Egrets Egretta sacra were seen together on the 12th as well. Frankie Cheong’s photo below.

Most of our recent records of the Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana came from Chek Jawa and Sungei Buloh, great to receive a record from Christina See of one at Pulau Hantu on 14th. The Southern Islands have always been their stronghold.

The summer visitor Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis seen last month was spotted again by Fadzrun A. at the same grasslands at Seletar end on 5th. It was also photographed at the Mangrove Arboretun at Pulau Ubin by Joseph Lin from NParks on 15th (per Robert Teo’s report). As far as we know this is the first record for Pulau Ubin. 

Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo Joseph Lin

Joseph Lin from NParks photo of a Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, a first for Pulau Ubin.

Staying in Ubin, the on-off Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster a non-breeding visitor, was seen again at the Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin on 4th by Alfred Chia.

Rare residents reported this month include three House Sparrows Passer domesticus over at Jurong Island on 2nd (Low Choon How), a Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus at Sentosa on 3rd by CT Goh and Sandra Chia, a Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps seen at Jelutong Tower on 18th by Martin Kennewell. An uncommon White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus  was recorded at Dairy Farm NP on 23rd by Alan OwYong.

Other interesting resident species reported were Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotii at Kranji Marshes on 3rd by Con Foley and friends and another Abbott’s Babbler at Chek Jawa on 17th by Atish Banerjee. A forest Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at Pasir Ris Park on 4th by Lim Kim Seng and a Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera heard calling at the Lakeview Estate on 18th by Marcel Finlay. He had seen three birds last month along the Petai Trail. It looks like the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus are doing well at the Kranji Marshes. Martin Kennewell counted 27 of them there on 17th.

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A Greater Coucal photographed at Pasir Ris Park by Lim Kim Seng. 

A few resident species were reported in unexpected locations this month. A Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo was seen twice at the Varsity Condo at Pasir Panjang  on 7th and 16th by Gan Cheong Wei. He also reported a leafbird there on 17th. Unfortunately it was not identified. The seldom visited Admiralty Park at Woodlands was the home of a pair of Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata spotted by Alan OwYong on 8th. Lioe Kim Swee reported seeing two unidentified crakes there in 2015.  A roosting Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis was photographed by Seng Alvin at Tampines Eco Green on 21st.

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Nicely camouflaged Savanna Nightjar at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin,

Good to hear that the Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica returning to the Lorong Halus ponds on 26th even though it was just one bird (Martin Kennewell). Our previous record was in 2013 (Ho Hua Chew). Lena Chow was excited to find the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting at the Dairy Farm NP on 26th. Lim Kim Chuah said that he had seen it along one of the streams there before. Another sign of this forest kingfisher spreading. Many thanks for all your records.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited.

Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebirds by Martin Kennewell. 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  Gerald KC Lim, Lee Chuin Ming, Ted Ng, Patricia Tiang, Frankie Cheong, Joseph Lin, Lim Kim Seng and Seng Alvin for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Oriental Pied Hornbills Nest Moving?

Contributed by Connie Khoo.

On 21st April 2017, I was birding around the limestone hills in Ipoh when I saw a pair of large birds, which I thought were eagles or owls, flying and landing on the cliff sides. But it turned out to be a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills instead. When I zoomed in with my scope, I was shocked to see that the male was carrying an egg in its beak. It then carried the egg into a big cavity after the female had inspected it. They both came out after a short while and flew off together. I was thinking that they may have stolen some other bird’s egg and hiding it there as I have seen this pair on this side of the cliff before.

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In less than 3 minutes, both flew back again with the male was carrying another egg in its beak. They are moving their nest! I was stunned! They were also surprised to find that someone was watching them moving their eggs to a “safer” place.

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A week later on 28th, I saw the male holding a feather outside the nest for a while before flying off. The female was no where to be seen. While both were away Rock Pigeons, Asian Glossy Starlings, Eurasian Tree-sparrows and Jungle Mynas were hanging outside their nest.

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On the 30th morning I went back to check on them. I saw the male flying back to the cavity alone calling loudly, rested for two minutes and then perched on a branch nearby. It later flew back to the “nest”, stay inside for a minute or two and flew off to the Durian plantation across the road. I thought that it may be carrying the eggs back to its previous nest but I cannot see any eggs in its beak.

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I returned in May and June weekly to check on their progress, spending a few hours each time. Unfortunately they were not around anymore.  I cannot draw any conclusion from this observation except that they are removing its eggs from one nest to another place, which turned out to be a cliff cavity instead of a tree hole.

Alan Kemp’s commented:

How exciting!!! I have never heard of any hornbill removing its eggs from a nest and placing them in another cavity elsewhere, especially unexpected, except at the very start of incubation, since the female thereafter should begin her flight feather moult and so become flightless. I did received one unpublished report of this species very likely using a cavity in a limestone cliff in southern China for nesting (that I included in my 1995 book), and several other hornbill species, including Great Hornbill, have been reported nesting and sealing up cliff cavities. Obviously you will continue to watch your site to see if anything develops (although the cavity does to look a good one to try and seal), and it would be lucky if you could try and guess and/or find the original cavity from where the eggs were taken (and if it was in a tree or in another cliff site).

The eggs size and colour looks like it is their eggs, rather than from some other bird’s nest that they may have robbed. Even if they did rob it, I also know of no hornbill hiding food for later use (called ‘caching/ making a cache’ for raptors).

A third, even less likely, idea is that may be these two birds are helpers to a third that is in the cavity they visited, but that too seems unlikely if they both went in the hole together.

 

The Pasir Ris Pied Fantail Story

Contributed by Seng Alvin.

I have been watching the nesting of the Malayan Pied Fantails Rhipidura javanica at Pasir Ris Park since 2014. All have been successful and none were invaded by the cuckoos. There was single nesting in 2014 but two in 2015 and last year.

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In January this year, a pair was again seen building a nest. By March two chicks were brought up successfully to grace the park. On 17th April I was a little surprised when I saw an adult bird sitting on the same old nest. They must have just bought this “resale unit” and moved in. I knew that they will be nesting again.

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But just as they were about to settle down, they decided to move to a “BTO” nest nearby. The poor father must have thought that he could take it easy this time round by reusing the old nest. It was not to be. He built a new nest around April/May just like any daddy would to please the mummy.

The new nest which look rather precarious.

Maybe it is the neighborhood, but sometime in early June I found the pair back at the old nest. It could be that the old nest is at a more convenient neighborhood close to the foraging grounds? It is still location, location, location even for the birds.

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Back at the old nest in early June. 

After all the hard work, they raise only one chick this time round. This is for the better as they can bring this one chick up without much stress.

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Only one chick this time around, less stress for the parents.

On 29th June, the chick fledged. The decision to stop at one paid off. Unless we tagged the adult birds, we cannot be certain if this pair are the same as the earlier pair that make Pasir Ris Park their home. I am really glad that despite the number of park visitors roaming around, these fantails are able to adapt and thrive here.

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Parent feeding the newly fledged chick outside the nest. 

 

Successful Nesting of Yellow-bellied Prinia

Contributed and photos by Seng Alvin

I came across many nestings of the Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris at my backyard at Pasir Ris Park in the past but was not able to find the nest as they are always well hidden inside the grass thickets. That was until the 17 June when I saw Aldwin Recinto shooting a low nest at the Lorong Halus grasslands.

The Yellow-bellied Prinia is native to the Asian sub-continent and the Greater Sundas and a common resident in SEA including Singapore. It is the only Prinia species here often heard in open grasslands. Breeding had been recorded but not fully documented. Aldwin and I can consider ourselves lucky to be able to capture the final days of nesting of this confiding species.

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The round nest was made up of dried lalang leaves and root fibers bound loosely together. It was hanging from a small dried twig less than a foot off the ground among the tall lalangs and reed beds. Only one chick was inside. It was quite near from the foot path but still well hidden inside with just a small “window” to look in.

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This was the only photo of the parent bird feeding the young taken on 17 June. I did not know then that the chick was ready to leave the nest.

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I went back the next day and the nest was empty. The chick had fledged. The parents were feeding it outside the nest among the lalangs. I managed to shoot the parent bringing back an insect for the chicks but could not get shots of the actual feeding as the chicks stayed hidden. This parental feeding last only one day as the family was not around when I went back again on the 19th. So glad to be able to get these sets of photos of these hard to see prinias producing a new generation of these delightful grassland birds in nature parks. My thanks to Aldwin for sharing the find with me.

Reference: 

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

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

 

Singapore Bird Report-May 2017

May turned out to be pretty interesting month. Martin Kennewell was birding at the Hindhede Quarry on the 15th evening when he scoped a resting Pheasant-tailed Jacana  Hydrophasianus chirurgus.  This rare winter visitor must have been forced down by a thunderstorm earlier. This is one day earlier than the last recorded departure date. Francis Yap timed his visit to Seletar Grasslands to perfection when he found the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis, a summer migrant from Australia, perched among the scrubs on 27th. Lim Kim Keang saw it again the next day.  For an encore Francis photographed one of the few surviving Lesser Green Leafbirds Chloropsis cyanopogon, a male  from Jelutong Tower on 17th. This is the rarest of our three leafbird species.

Lesser Green Leafbird FYap

A rare photograph of a Lesser Green Leafbird taken from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap

Sharindar Singh and his friend Ramesh Nadarajan reported a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra at Lorong Halus on 13th. If accepted this rare resident will be our fifth mainland record. Their stronghold is at Pulau Tekong although we have been getting periodic records from Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin. Tony Greer was on his way to Batam when he saw a shearwater flying alongside his ferry near Sister’s Island. Unfortunately the gloomy weather hampered the identification.

Bulwer's Petrel Jiasheng

On the 6th, a third Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii was reported at the Straits of Singapore, a multi-national stretch of water, south of the Eastern Anchorage (pers com with Lau Jiasheng).

Left: Lau Jiasheng’s photo of Bulwer’s Petrel taken at the Straits of Singapore.

There were a host of over-stayers this month. Topping the list was a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis photographed on 13th by Piyong and Looi Ang Soh Hoon. Siew Mun heard it calling a week earlier. This is 40 days later than the previous late date of 3rd April.

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This Common Kingfisher was in no hurry to fly back. Photographed at Chinese Gardens by Looi Ang Soh Hoon. The deeper blue color almost had it misidentified.

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Another over stayer was this Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator Coromandus that crashed into the W Residences at Sentosa Cove on 2nd (Photo right provided by Sarah Chin). This is about week later than the previous late date. Richard White had been monitoring the Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida at the SBG. It was still around on the 13th. Yong Ding Li saw it there 2 days later. The previous late date was on 3rd May 2016 from Compass Vale Sec. School. An Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia was reported by Adrian Silas Tay at Seletar Grasslands on 27th over staying by a day. Over at Pulau Tekong, a late Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage was seen by Frankie Cheong on the same day.

As expected, we had a good number of breeding records this month. James Tann and Alan OwYong photographed a Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis carrying dead leaves to its nest at Chua Chu Kang grasslands on 1st. Wong Chung Cheong reported the nesting of the Grey-rumped Treeswifts Hemiprocne longipennis on a Angsana Tree at Ang Mo Kio on 7th. The next day Yong Ding Li also reported the nesting of the same species at Kay Siang Road. On 10 May, Lim Kim Keang came across a pair of Red-crowned Barbets Megalaima rafflesii going into a tree hole at Upper Seletar Reservoir. Over at the Chinese Gardens a pair of Coppersmith Barbets Megalaima haemacephala were feeding their chicks inside a nest hole in a Red Coral tree while a pair of Common Tailorbirds Orthotomus sutorius were going in and out of their nest by the lakeside (Piyong on 13th). Yeo Seng Beng reported a Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata passing nesting material to its mate at Hindhede Park on 17th. This would be the first nesting record for this secretive crake but unfortunately the nest cannot be found the next day. Atish Banerjee found a nest of a Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus at Dairy Farm NP on 18 May. Another Common Tailorbird nest with 2 chicks was found at the SBG on the 28th by Tan Gim Cheong and both parents were busy bringing insects to feed them. Most chicks reported above have fledged by now. Seng Alvin photographed a juvenile Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis sepulcralis at Tampines Eco Green on 25th. Earlier on the 5th, Aldwin Recinto had an adult Rusty-breasted Cuckoo as well at Pasir Ris Park.

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Seng Alvin

A juvenile Rusty-breasted Cuckoo photographed at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin.

Most of the migrant reports were from Kranji Marshes. Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea (four on 20th), Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis on 6th and a Brown Shrike Lanis cristatus on 7th were reported by Martin Kennewell. Adrian Silas Tay had another Watercock at Seletar Grasslands on 27th as well. This species have been known to stay up to mid June. Another Blue-winged Pitta was also reported at Pasir Ris Park on 20th by Aldwin Recinto. Will we have another nesting of this Pitta this season? A known late stayer, the Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was seen on the last day of the month at Satay by the Bay by Ian Reid. We can expected this bittern to be staying there for a few more weeks.

Notable residents for the month: A female Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorthynchus was reported on 4th by Joe Lim from NParks at Butterfly Hill at Pulau Ubin and a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax at SBG by Laurence Eu.
White-headed Munia Pary Sivaraman

Pary Sivaraman reported ten White-headed Munias Lonchura maja (Pary’s Photo left) at Kranji Marshes on 7th. The numbers for this munia has dropped drastically over the years. Another uncommon munia, the introduced Javan Munia Lonchura leucogastroides was photographed at Lor. Halus by Aldwin Recinto on 30th.

 

The rare forest Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting seemed to be spreading which is good news. The latest location was at the Bukit Batok Quarry seen by Phyoe Aung Wai on 19th. Earlier on the 15th Martin Kennewell spotted another Blue-eared Kingfisher at the Hindhede Quarry. The third record for the month was at the Kranji Marshes where Wong Chung Cheong saw one on the canal railing on 27th. This is still one of the best location to see this resident kingfisher.

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A very expressive shot of the Blue-eared Kingfisher taken at Kranji Marshes by Gerals Chua.

A fruits of the White Mulberry tree at Dairy Farm NP attracted many of our resident furgivorous species like the Asian Fairy Bluebirds Irena puella, Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati, Blue-winged Leafbird C. cochinchinensis, Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul P. brunneus and Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers Dicaeum trigonostigma .

Orange-belled Flowerpecker Ted Ng

A lovely open photo of a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker feasting on the white mulberry at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Photo: Ted Ng

Other species reported from Dairy Farm were Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana on 10th by James Tann, Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris on 11th by Terence Tan, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus on 13th by James Tann, and Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus on 23rd by Alan OwYong.

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Strong legs needed by the Van Hasselt’s Sunbird to get to the nectar of a tapioca flower. Taken at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Alan OwYong

Notable residents for the month were two House Swifts Apus nipalensis along the AYE near Clementi by Kristie Yeong on 11th, Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea at Pasir Ris Park on 15th by Seng Alvin, another Violet Cuckoo at Hindhede NP on 16th by Andrew Chow, three more Chestnut-bellied Malkohas at Bukit Batok NP on 20th by James Tann, Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus flaviventris feeding on the figs at the summit Bukit Timah Hill on 20th (Ted Ng), the uncommon Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus at Windsor Park on 24th by Veronica Foo and up to 12 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus over the Satay by the Bay on 27th by Atish Banerjee. A good numbers record of this nationally threatened parrot.

BCB Chuin Ming Lee

Some leg work needed to get this Black-crested Bulbul at the summit of Bukit Timah Hill. Photo: Lee Chuin Ming.

Resident wetland species reported included a Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus at Tampines Eco Garden on 25th by Seng Alvin, a Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus at Kranji Marshes on 27th by Martin Kennewell and Kozi Ichiyama and a pair of Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis at Seletar Grasslands by Adrian Silas Tay on the same day.  The Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana were seen returning to SBWR with three birds sighted by Martin Kennewell on the 27th.

SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens; SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve; AYE: Ayer Rajah Expressway:

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebirds by Martin Kennewell. 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, Lau Jiasheng, Looi Ang Soh Hoon, Sarah Chin, Pary Sivaraman, Gerals Chua, Ted Ng, Alan OwYong and Lee Chuin Ming for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.