Text and Photos by Raghav Narayanswamy.

I stumbled upon Hindhede Nature Park last spring when an Orange-headed Thrush popped up there. I had two hours to spare for birding that day and I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Before this not many people have heard about this corner of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The reserve now is only opened on weekends.

In just a couple of months, this rather small plot of land with nothing more than a flooded quarry and a short loop has offered me some great birding.

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Male Jambu Fruit Dove

There’s always something happening here. Calls of the loud Greater Racquet-tailed Drongos, Red-breasted Parakeets, and Common Hill Mynas greet you when you walk in. Other uncommon birds like the Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Western Osprey, and the Emerald Dove, will keep you busy for long periods of time.

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Brown Hawk Owl. 

Compared with other more popular birding spots, this park is compact and you can expect to be amazed by the proximity of the birds to each other. It sometimes seems overwhelming to deal with so many birds at once, especially when they are meters from each other. At one particular spot in the park, a pair of Red-legged Crakes, four Sunda Scops Owls, and a pair of Brown Hawk Owls converge each evening, with me right in the middle of it all, struggling to pick one to shoot over the rest.

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This family of Sunda Scops Owl is doing well at the Park.

What’s the first place you think of when asked, “Where can you find the Blue-winged Leafbird?” Chances are it was probably the Central Catchment, or Dairy Farm Nature Park, or Bukit Timah Hill. And I’d bet a large — avery large — sum of money that it was not Hindhede Nature Park. But when there’s a tree fruiting at Hindhede, you’re bound to catch sight of it, and good views are the standard here.

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The Blue-winged Leafbirds making their appearance at Hindhede NP.

We all hear about fruiting trees at Dairy Farm, Bukit Timah, and Upper Seletar. But again, there’s a surprise coming from the Hindhede camp. With a pair of Jambu Fruit Doves, Cream-vented, Olive-winged, Red-eyed, and Black-crested Bulbuls, and at least two Blue-winged Leafbirds, you can’t go wrong with a quick visit.

Singapore is known across Southeast Asia as one of the best places for the globally-vulnerable Straw-headed Bulbul. After all, Noah Strycker came specifically here for it in his 2015 World Big Year at a point when he had already seen 90% of Singapore’s checklist outside of Singapore. But out of all the places I have seen this bird, Hindhede really stands out. It is nearly always around, calling, and offering great views.

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The fruiting trees attracted this uncommon introduced Black-crested Bulbul 

Even birds that are traditionally seen around or past dusk, like owls, show up early here. Often, I don’t even need a flashlight for a decent photo, and the views, again, are guaranteed to be fantastic. Where else can you get to see three species of owls making their appearance almost daily. Other noteworthy sightings include the Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, which was fairly active in the month of June, during which it was presumably breeding, and a pair of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds. And all this was just in the last three months!

I cannot wait to see what the migratory season will bring, now that the breeding season is coming to a close and the trees are no longer fruiting. Will the thrushes stop over? I am sure the Asian Brown and Mugimaki Flycatchers will pass by. What about the visiting cuckoos?

The Survivors of Pasir Ris Park.

Contributed by Seng Alvin. Photos Credit: Seng Alvin.

Pasir Ris Park at the north-eastern end of Singapore with its riverine mangroves and wooded parklands  has long been a favourite place to bringing up babies, baby birds to be exact. Malaysian Pied Fantails, resident cuckoos, sunbirds and of course the star of Pasir Ris, the Spotted Wood Owls are some of the species that breed at the park. Raiding parties of Oriental Pied Hornbills from across Pulau Ubin made foraging sweeps now and then for nesting chicks to feed their young during the breeding season.

BFO Seng AlvinLong time rehab resident at PRP, our darling Buffy Fish Owl.

But the park may be  turning into an infirmary and home for injured birds. Long time resident “one-eye Jack” our darling Buffy Fish Owl have been rehabilitating  in the mangroves for some time now.

Pacific Swallow Senf AlvinSo is this Pacific Swallow with a skin injection around the eyes. It has been around since the middle of last year.

OWB 2 Seg Alvin

30th April. First photo of the one-legged Olive-winged Bulbul inside the Mangroves at PRP.

Early this year, on 30th April, I photographed an Olive-winged Bulbul, Pycnonoyus plumosus, inside the mangrove area but did not think much about the photo. Then a month later I came across another Olive-winged Bulbul at the mangroves and realised that it also had only one leg. Digging out the photo of the bulbul I shot in April, I realised that it was the same bulbul. Was it crippled at birth or did it suffered some mishap later on? I have no way to know but was happy to see that it was surviving.

OWB 3 Seng Alvin29th May, second shot of this bulbul inside the mangroves.

I was out on the evening of August 2nd at the bridge waiting for the Stock-billed Kingfisher to start fishing for dinner. A bulbul distracted me and I fired a few shots ( with the wrong settings). Later as I was about to delete it I found something strange with it. Just to make sure I was not seeing things, I posted it on Bird Sightings FB Group and asked if anyone sees any thing different with this bulbul. Keen eyed Benny Lim responsed that it was one legged!

OWB Seng Alvin

August 2nd shot near to the bridge while waiting for the Stork-billed Kingfisher. Can you see the missing leg?

Bingo, I now have a third photo of the same bulbul, which means that it has survived almost four months now. Wang Heng Mount proclaimed it as a winner and survivor. This guy is a mighty said Millie Cher and Jeffrey Long called it “a fighter”.

To me it is all the above and we should all be inspired by these survivors at Paris Ris and wish them a long and happy time at the park.

 

Singapore Bird Report-July 2016

All the excitement came during the last 10 days of July. On the 19th, a few days after its extreme date, Laurence Eu photographed a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, a rare non breeding visitor, at Lower Pierce Boardwalk.

BFC Laurence EuBrown-streaked Flycatcher, a rare non breeding visitor at Lower Pierce. Photo: Laurence Eu.

The record that we were waiting for came on the 26th when Lim Kim Seng spotted three Lesser Sand Plovers, Charadrius mongolus, at the Lower Seletar Dam. On the same day Danny Khoo photographed a Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, at the Marina Barrage. Three days later, Frankie Cheong reported three Whimbrels, Numenius phaeopus and 30-40 Lesser Sand Ploversat the southern part of Pulau Tekong. On 30th Francis Yap brought news of the arrival of our first passerine migrant, the Barn Swallows, Hirundo rustica, at Punggol Barat and two Common Greenshanks, Tringa nebularia, at Seletar Dam. This heralded the return of the wintering shorebirds to Singapore. Bring out your scopes, the migration season is going its way. Last year the first waders arrived on the 1st August. Another sign of climate change?

Mangrove Whistler Seng AlvinA rare appearance of the Mangrove Whistler at Pasir Ris Mangroves captured by Seng Alvin.

But the bird of the month had to be the sudden one day appearance of the rare resident Mangrove Whistler, Pachycephala cinerea, at Pasir Ris Mangroves on 29th (Eric Bronson & Seng Alvin). Most of our past records were from Tekong and Southern Islands. The last mainland record was at Changi Cove in 2014.

King Quail Family Millie Cher

The proud King Quail parents showing off their family of five chicks over at Punggol Barat. Photo: Millie Cher.

As expected during the tail end of the breeding season, records of fledglings came in from all over the island. The most welcomed was a family of rarely seen King Quails, Excalfactoria chinensis with five chicks over at Punggol Barat. Joseph Tan Kok Beng reported the fledgling of two Crested Goshawk chicks, Accipiter trivirgatus, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 3rd and 6th. This is the second family of Crested Goshawks to have successfully raise a family there in the same season. Over at Burgundy Drive, Doreen Ang reported two juvenile Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots, Loriculus galgulus, seen with two adults feasting on her neighbour’s mango tree on the 7th. On the same day, she also reported a juvenile Thick-billed Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, at Lorong Sesuai. Good to know that some of our uncommon residents are doing well.

BCHP Doreen AngTwo juvenile Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots feasting on the mango with their parent. Photo: Michael Toh.

Over at Pulau Ubin, Yap Wee Jin reported the fledgling of the White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus on 9th. Lim Kim Keang reported the  nesting of the Olive-winged Bulbul, Pycnonotus plumosus, on 14th and three dependent Abbott’s Babbler, Malacocincla abbotti, juveniles on 28th.

SWO Ria TanBoth parents with the newly fledged Spotted Wood Owls at Woodlands. Photo: Ria Tan

A second record of a successful nesting of the Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, this season came from the Woodlands area with Ria Tan’s posting on 26th. One fledgling was seen with both parents. Like the earlier nesting at Cashew they were also using the Bird Nest Fern as nest. On 26th Laurence Eu photographed a Little Spiderhunter, Arachnothera longirostris, looking after a juvenile at Dairy Farm Nature Park. We are have not documented an active nesting of this forest species yet.

Sunda Scops Owls

Parent with two juvenile Sunda Scops Owls at Lower Pierce. Photo: Alan OwYong

Following the sighting of the Sunda Scops Owl, Otus lempiji, at Lower Pierce last month by Vincent Lao, we found two juveniles with a parent there on the 5th (Alan OwYong). Two days later Johnny Chew came across three Sunda Scops Owls at Telok Blangah Hill. Lim Kim Keang photographed an adult with a juvenile at Mandai Track 7 while Subha and son Raghav reported one adult together with a Brown Hawk Owl, Ninox scutulata, at Hindhede Nature Park, on the 16th. This has to be the largest number of breeding Sunda Scops Owls in a month.

Square-tailed Drongo FYapThe drama of a Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo being chased by a Olive-winged Bulbul over the Central Forest captured by Francis Yap. This bulbul may have caught the cuckoo red-handed trying to replace its eggs.

Other notable sightings include an Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Dicaeum trigonostigma, at Burgundy Drive near Bukit Batok NP, on 4th (Doreen Ang), a resident Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, being chased by a Olive-winged Bulbul was superbly captured by Francis Yap from the Jelutong Tower, a male Greater Green Leafbird, Chloropsis sonnerati, a first for Sentosa on 8th (James Tann). We have yet to determine the status of this individual. Mark Nelson Valino photographed a Black-crowned Night-Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital pond on the 16th. Edwin Choy recalled seeing four adults and two juveniles there. Daniel Ong confirmed that they were there since the beginning of the year. Lets hope these choosy herons will make this place their permanent home as their numbers have not increased much over the years.

GG Leafbird James TannFirst record for Sentosa, a male Greater Green Leafbird may be an escapee. Photo: James Tann

We had two mainland records of the White-rumped Shama, the first at the Durian Trail on the 15th by Kerry Pereira and a calling bird at Upper Pierce Reservoir on the 23rd (Reuben Braddock).

Lim Kim Seng reported a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonnerati, and another Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo at the Central Catchment Forest on the 17th. This is our resident race that is quite vocal around this time of the year. A few uncommon Glossy Swiftlets, Collocalia esculenta, were seen flying over the Hindhede Quarry on the 19th by Alan OwYong. Zacc photographed a lone Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, at the Seletar Dam on the 23rd. As far as we know this is the first record for the area, indicating the spreading of this uncommon resident coastal heron. 

Reference:

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

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

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Laurence Eu, Seng Alvin, Millie Cher, Michael Toh, Ria Tan, Alan OwYong, Francis Yap and James Tann, for the use of their photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the lens of a rookie birdwatcher

A few months ago, Lim Kim Chuah, Chairperson of the Bird Group was asked to conduct a test for girl guides who aspire to have the Birdwatcher Badge. He took a student from MGS, Hao Yunrui under his wings, went over to her school one afternoon, pass her a pair of binoculars and also one of our field guide written by Ding Li and et al. He showed her the birds in her school, taught her a few things about birding and then gave her some assignments. The assignments were: 1) learn and write her observation on 6 species of birds that she can find in her school or around her home/park 2) to participate in one NSS Birdwatching activity 3) to write a reflection on her journey
Here is Hao Yunrui’s reflection:

After an eventful few weeks of dabbing into amateur bird watching, I’ve gathered some thoughts to share about this fascinating hobby. When I initially made the decision to take on the Bird watching Badge, I saw it as something to be done and then simply forgotten. Like ticking off the goods on the grocery list, it was just one of those things that I needed to try out once to clear it off my bucket list. Mrs Tham then brought me under the guidance of Mr Lim Kim Chuah, who then carried me through the course of my one month Bird watching Journey. His tasks for me were:

First, to make a bird watching journal covering my observations of 6 different species of birds

Second, to go on a Bird watching trip with the Bird Group members of Nature Society (Singapore).

Hmmm, that sounded easy, was what I thought to myself when I first saw the tasks assigned to me, and that marked the start of my fascinating journey of unveiling a new realm of experience whose door had previously never been opened to me.

To achieve the tasks, I made it a point to go to various nature reserves and parks to watch birds every Saturday. My aim on each of my solo trip was to spot at least one species of bird that is new to me (a lifer in birdwatchers lingo). I also jotted down my observations in a field logbook (which would later become my bird watching journal) and if those tiny flickering feathered friends would allow me, I would try to snap a picture or two.

Female Koel from Bishan Park.

Female Asian Koel from Bishan Park.Photo: Hao Yunrui.

During my early morning sojourns to our parks and gardens, I spotted a variety of birds some of which made calls which I have heard previously e.g. the Asian Koel. It dawned on me that all of us do cross paths with many types of birds in our daily life. We hear their calls, catch their silhouettes among the trees but we are usually so caught up with our busy schedule that we choose to ignore such beautiful creatures in our midst. Throughout this one month, I sometimes wonder, if only people could spare a moment to look at the flowers and trees around them instead of staring into their phones. Only then will they discover the feathered wonders among our midst – those eye-catching and bright yellow Black-naped Oriole and the ubiquitous loud and noisy Asian Koel. And if you care to look closely at the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, you will realise that the patterns on its back are actually intricately beautiful. If you observe a Javan Myna, it is not all black but has white patches on its wings when it flies. These are some of tiny details that many of us fail to notice but which is really visible if we could only spend some time to observe them. On the hindsight, I was also like one of these people. I am glad taking on this bird watching badge has taught me to be more observant of the nature around us.

White-breasted Waterhen at Kranji Mashes.

White-breasted Waterhen at Kranji Mashes. Photo: Hao Yunrui

Through this experience, I have managed to see a lot of rare and interesting birds. Mr Lim took the extra step to encourage me to join the Nature Society on a birding walk to Kranji marsh. It was really an eye-opener and a wonderful experience which will certainly open up my eyes and taught me to see our natural world especially our avian friends through a different set of lens.

Common Moorhen at Kranji Marshes.

Common Moorhen at Kranji Marshes. Hao Yunrui

These are some of the shots I’ve captured over the weeks. However, I wasn’t able to capture most of the birds that I saw as they were either too far away or flying. The graceful physiques of these birds were instead captured by my eyes with binoculars.

The trip to Kranji Marshland was really eye-opening ( quite literally ). It’s the first time I am visiting a marshland. And I felt privileged to be able to visit the core area of this park which is yet to be opened to the public. I initially felt really awkward and out of place because everyone else around me were equipped with gigantic, state-of-the-art bird viewing equipment and most participants were in their 40s and 50s. However, it was evident that they were really passionate about what they were doing as they could call out the names of all the birds that came within our view. Some could even spot birds miles away with their sharp eyes and telescopes were also on hand to allow close views of distant birds. It was quite heartening to see a handful of young adults mixing in the crowd because it truly shows that this hobby is not just for the “old” but the young as well. It was the first time I ever felt so close and intimate with nature, as though I were a part of it and it a part of me. Watching our feathered friends in such a quiet place gave me a sense of connection. When the White-bellied Sea Eagle stared intensely into my eyes through the binoculars, I could almost feel it whispering to me. Seeing nature fully at work was very magical, because everything seemed to be in such perfect balance without the interference of man. We spotted a Purple Heron poking its head out of the water hyacinths in search of prey. It made me realised that nature can function by itself perfectly and does not need our help to survive, but rather we are the ones who constantly seek help from nature. We should treasure of whatever nature we have conserve it to the best of our ability.

Bird watching is no longer something to be simply tick off my bucket list. I hope to be able to visit such places again and be acquainted with its many fascinating birds.

My thanks to Mr. Lim Kim Chuah for his guidance, time and sharing his knowledge with me, Mr. Wong Chung Cheong and members of the Bird Group for showing me the birds at Kranji Marshes.

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

Singapore Raptor Report – Late Spring Migration, April-June 2016

WBSE, 210616, Sentosa, James Tann

A rare photo of an adult and a young White-bellied Sea Eagle “cartwheeling” over Sentosa, 21 Jun 16, by James Tann.

Summary:

On 21st June, James Tann captured a rare series of photos of two talon-locked White-bellied Sea Eagles ‘cartwheeling’ through the air over Sentosa. Some books described this as ‘talon-grappling’ and ‘tumbling’. Interestingly, an adult and a young eagle was involved in this instance whereas this behaviour is usually attributed to mated pairs but only mature adults have been known to form breeding pairs.

Now, for the migrants. Five migrant raptor species were recorded in the April to June period. Four of them – the Osprey, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon were also recorded during last year’s late spring migration. The notable addition this year was the Rufous-bellied Eagle: a juvenile was photographed at Lorong Sesuai on 23 April enjoying a meal.

Of the 14 orientalis  Oriental Honey Buzzards recorded, 11 were juveniles (there were 10 in the same period last year), one was an adult female while the remaining two were not aged. Most of the juveniles were moulting their flight feathers (most were showing new P1 & P2, counting from the inside). It is worth mentioning again that juveniles are known to ‘over-summer’ in the tropics.

Only one Japanese Sparrowhawk, an adult female, was recorded on 2nd April. Two Ospreys were recorded at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Apr and May, but none in June; elsewhere, there was a record at Singapore Quarry in Apr and another record at Seletar Dam in May.

Two Peregrine Falcons were recorded in April – one at Pulau Ubin on 8th and another at Chinatown on 21st. An ernesti Peregrine Falcon returned to its usual haunt at the rooftop of buildings at Church Street on 26 May and a juvenile, likely also ernesti, flew over Punggol Barat on 15 June.

Back to the resident raptors. The usually encountered resident raptors were all present. Notable records included the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle which was recorded thrice in April (Kent Ridge Park, Ubin & Bidadari), twice in May (Sungei Tengah & Malcolm Road), and once in June (Chancery Lane).

Also, April to June was a good quarter for the Crested Goshawks – in April, two juveniles were photographed at the leafy compounds of the Singapore Zoo and an adult male was seen collecting twigs at the Southern Ridges where two nest structures were seen; in May, the species was recorded at the Botanic Gardens and Bishan; and in June, a total of four juveniles from two different nests were recorded at the Botanic Gardens.

Many thanks to everyone for sending in / sharing their records; and to  James Tann for the use of his photo.

For the full report in pdf, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, Apr-Jun 2016

Red-crowned Barbet and the Green Coffee Tree.

Contributed by Alan OwYong and Lim Kim Keang. Photos: Terence Tan, Foo Sai Khoon and Alan OwYong.

 

Green Coffee Tree

The endangered Green Coffee Tree at Seletar Reservoir Park. Photo: Alan OwYong.

On 30th May, Wendy Lin and her friends went to Seletar Reservoir Park to look for the uncommon  Chestnut-winged Babblers, Stachyris erythroptera, that Francis Yap shot days earlier. They did not see the Babblers but came across the Red-crowned Barbets  Magalaima rafflesii, feeding on large green berries on a tree by the roadside. The tree was identified by Albert Low as the Green Coffee Tree, Canthium glabrum . It is a native in Singapore and classified as endangered. The fruit is round to oval, green to dark purple when ripe but described in NParks Flora and Fauna Web as 4-ridged shape between 2.5 to 3.2 cm. There are two seeds in each fruit.

Red Crowned Barbet Terence Tan

Red-crowned Barbet having a hard time choosing which fruit to take. Photo: Terence Tan.

The Red-crowned Barbet was observed by Lim Kim Keang to squeeze the ripe fruit and eat the pulp, They will also swallow the fruit and later regurgitate and swallow  the fruit repeatedly  to get all the pulp.

The Red-crowned Barbet is an uncommon breeding resident confined to our central forests. They are hard to see at the Sime Forest nowadays but can be heard calling from the tree canopies in the mornings. So when word got out that they are feeding there, Selatar Reservoir Park became the latest hot spot for our birders and photographers. The fruits were enough to keep them coming back for more than a month.

Blue-winged Leafbird Terence Tan

A male Blue-winged Leafbird surrounded by the fruits of the Green Coffee Tree. Photo: Terence Tan

And like all fruit trees they invariably attract other frugivores like the Common Hill Mynas, Orange-breasted Flowerpeckers, Pink-necked Green Pigeons, Olive-winged and Cream-vented Bulbuls. Even the non breeding Jambu Friut-Dove was seen partaking the feast. A Blue-winged Leafbird was also photographed there but it maybe looking for worms that are eating the ripened fruits.

Palm King

The Common Palm King enjoying the ripe fruit of the Green Coffee Tree.

Besides birds the forest butterflies can be seen first feeding on the ripe fruits on the ground and later flying around the fruits on the tree. A Common Palm King was busy taking in the juices from the ripe fruits. Sailors and Lascars  joined in the feast. Other species seen by Kim Keang flying around the tree were Saturn, Malay Viscount and female Barons.

RC Barbet Sai Khoon Foo

An interesting capture of the Red-crowned Barbet surrounded by the Sailors, Lascar and the fruits of the Green Coffee Tree. Photo: Foo Sai Khoon.

The surprise was that the Long-tailed Macaques were not the least interested in these fruits. The only mammals seen eating them were the ever present Plantain Squirrels. This would be a good plant to propagate to attract birds and butterflies and increase the biodiversity in our parks and gardens.

Reference: National Parks Board Flora and Fauna Web.

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

A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Singapore. Gan Cheong Weei and Simon Chan Kee Mun. 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore Bird Report-June 2016

Blue-eared Kingfisher Mark Nelson Valino

The forest Blue-eared Kingfisher fishing at the canal at Kranji Marshes. Photo: Mark Nelson Valino.

There were less excitement this month compared to last June. Then we had the first record of a White-tailed Tropicbird at Tuas, an Oriental Darter at Ubin and the wintering Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoos at Punggol Barat to keep us busy. This June, we had to be contented with the King Quails, Excalfactoria chinensis, at Punggol Barat, Blue-eared Kingfishers, Alcedo meninting, at Kranji Marshes and Red-crowned Barbets, Megalaima rafflesii at Seletar to keep our shutters clicking. On the plus side we had many interesting nesting records including a first from all over the island.

Red Crowned Barbet Wendy Lin

Wendy Lin and friends Peter Okimi, Chai Lee Fung and Edwin Choy were at Seletar Revervoir Park on 30th May looking for the Chestnut-winged Babblers when they chanced upon the Red-crowned Barbets feeding on the fruits of the Green Coffee Tree. Photo: Wendy Lin showing the barbet squeezing the pulp out of the fruit.

The most surprising record came from Cashew area on 20th when a member of the public reported a baby owl at the foot of a rain tree on her way to work. NParks staff rescued the owlet and subsequently put it back into its Bird-nest Fern nest much to the relief of a pair of Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, parents. This is a rare nesting record for this uncommon owl and confirmed that they also use Bird-nest Ferns to nest just like the Buffy Fish Owls.

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Danny Khoo

A perfect shot of the Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker leaving the nest. Photo: Danny Khoo.

There were several important nesting records from Ubin. A pair of Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis was found nesting in an old termite nest on 4th. The nest was attached to a bamboo (Lim Kim Chuah). This could be the first confirmed nesting of this kingfisher in Singapore. A failed nesting of the Mangrove Pittas, Pitta megarhyncha, there, probably due to predation; and the nesting of the most common bird in Ubin the Olive-winged Bulbul, Pycnonotus plumosus, (12th Lim Kim Keang). Elsewhere another failed nesting of the Pied Triller, Lalage nigra, at Punggol Point on 15th (Seng Alvin); two Crested Goshawks, Accipiter trivirgatus, fledged at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 18th (Laurence Eu); Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Dendrocopus moluccensis, at Taman Jurong; Pacific Swallows, Hirundo tahitica, at Stagmont Park on 21st (Timothy Chua) and the Blue-throated Bee-eaters, Merops viridis, at Punggol end.

OHB at SBTB Andrew Tan

Second calendar year Oriental Honey Buzzard spending the summer in the region. Taken at Satay by the Bay by Andrew Tan.

Winter visitors recorded for the month include a Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, photographed off Pulau Pawai by Francis Yap and his friends during a mini pelagic trip to Raffles Lighthouse on 25th. This is a new extreme date (previous late date: 18 June 1990). Another winter visitor still present was the Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis. At least three were heard calling at the edge of the Western Catchment on the 19th (Alfred Chia). Will they spend the summer and even breed here? Time will tell. Egrets are known to over summer in our wetlands. All three species were recorded this month. Intermediate at Lorong Halus (Lim Kim Keang), Little and Great at SBWR (Lim Kim Seng) all on the 12th.

Great crested tern FYap

Greater Crested Tern photographed off Pulau Pawai on 25th June set a new late date for this visiting tern. Photo: Francis Yap.

We know that the second calendar year Oriental Honey Buzzards, Pernis ptilorhynchus, stay over during summer and do not migrate back north. Two were photographed, on 11th over SBTB by Andrew Tan and the other at Ubin by Lim Kim Chuah on 12th. Both were juveniles. A dead Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis at Aljunied Avenue on 10th was picked up by David Tan.

Peregrine Falcon LTK

Resident ernesti race Peregrine Falcon flying over Punggol Barat captured by Lee Tiah Khee.

Other notable sightings were three Black-naped Terns, Sterna sumatrana, flying across Keppel Harbour on 8th (Richard White) and three more near the southern island of Pulau Senang on 25th (Francis Yap). These resident terns were more common in the northern straits where they have been nesting at a rocky out crop since 1949.. Francis also recorded ten Pied Imperial Pigeons, Ducula bicolor, flying pass Pulau Sudong on the same day. These are the wild pigeons that spend most of their time around the southern islands. A Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupa, was photographed at Hindhede Quarry by Raghav Narayanswany on 19th confirming the further spreading of this uncommon owl. A second in two months of a resident ernesti race Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus  was photographed by Lee Tiah Khee on 15th over Punggol Barat. The locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, was photographed by Jan Roberts on the 4th at Chancery Lane.

Buffy-fish Owl at Hindhede Quarry. Photo Raghav.

Buffy Fish Owl at Hindhede Quarry. Photo: Raghav Narayanswany

Seng Alvin reported three to four Plaintive Cuckoos, Cocomantis merulinus, at Pasir Ris Park on 3rd. Could be that foster parents like the Malaysian Pied Fantails are plentiful there? The on-off Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus was seen flying around the Pekan Quarry at Ubin on the 4th (Lim Kim Chuah). It is still listed under Category E for suspected escapees and released birds.  The introduced Javan Munias, Lonchura leucogastroides were back at SBWR on 7th (How Sung Lee).

Over at the Hindhede Park, mother and son team, Subha and Raghav Narayanswany sent in records of Black-crested, Pycnonotus flaviventris, and Asian Red-eyed Bulbuls, Pycnonotus brunneus, Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis and a pair of Jambu Fruit Doves, Ptilinopus jambu feeding on a fruit tree. Due to the closure of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Hindhede Nature Park was also hardly visited. This may account for the increased bird activity there.

Reference:

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

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

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Mark Nelson Valino, Wendy Lin, Danny Khoo, Andrew Tan, Lee Tiah Khee and Raghav for the use of their photos.

 

 

 

 

Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest

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By Lim Kim Keang with contributions from Lim Kim Chuah and Yong Ding Li. Photos from Ria Tan and Alan OwYong.

The rustic Ubin that nature lovers love so much.

Pulau Ubin, the wild rustic corner of Singapore, view from the Jetty. Photo: Ria Tan.

INTRODUCTION

On 5 June 2016, the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group conducted a survey to find out which were the commonest bird species on Pulau Ubin. This survey was organized in conjunction with the month-long Pesta Ubin 2016 event. The Bird Group has been birding on Pulau Ubin since the 1970’s and 80’s and this survey to determine the commonest bird species on Pulau Ubin was also timely.

Willie Foo welcoming bird watchers to Pesta Ubin.

Willie Foo welcoming bird watchers to Ubin at the start of Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest. Photo: Ria Tan

METHOD

A total of six teams consisting of six leaders and six participants took part in the CBQ. Areas in the central and eastern part of Pulau Ubin were covered. The routes were carefully selected to cover as much of the island as possible within the allocated time from 8.00 to 10.00 am. The good weather helped and most teams completed their designated route in the allocated time except two which went on overtime.

The MacKinnon bird listing method was used to determine the commonest birds on Pulau Ubin. This method involved recording each new species of birds (seen or heard) until a pre-defined number of species is reached. Once this pre-defined number is reached, a new list is started. Any one species will only be recorded once in the first list but may be recorded again in subsequent lists. For our purpose, we decided counting up to 10 species before starting on a new list.

Willie Foo briefing the team on bird recording for the Commonest Bird Quest.

Willie Foo, Secretary of the Bird Group, briefing the team on how to record the birds based on the Mackinnon Bird Listing Method. Photo: Ria Tan

The relative abundance of each species is calculated by dividing the number of contacts by the maximum total number of contacts by all teams  (i.e. total number of lists).  A bird which is more common will have a higher relative abundance index than one which is less common.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION

Table 1 shows the top 20 commonest birds based on the relative abundance indices.

Table 1: Top 20 species of Birds of the Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest

Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund. Index Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund Index
1 Olive-winged Bulbul 33 0.65 11 Straw-headed Bulbul 17 0.33
2 Common Iora 27 0.53 12 Red Jungle Fowl 17 0.33
3 Oriental Magpie Robin 24 0.47 13 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 17 0.33
4 White-rumped  Shama 24 0.47 14 Van Hasselt’s Sunbird 16 0.31
5 Brown-throated Sunbird 23 0.45 15 Yellow-vented Bulbul 15 0.29
6 Swiftlets 22 0.43 16 Oriental Pied Hornbill 15 0.29
7 Javan Myna 21 0.41 17 Common Tailorbird 15 0.29
8 Collared Kingfisher 20 0.39 18 Crimson Sunbird 14 0.27
9 Olive-backed Sunbird 18 0.35 19 Asian Glossy Starling 12 0.24
10 Dark-necked Tailorbird 18 0.35 20 Ashy Tailorbird 11 0.22
Olive-winged Bulbul

Olive-winged Bulbul is Ubin’s most abundant species.

The survey by the six teams produced a total of 51 lists. The relative abundance index of the birds detected ranged from 0.02 to 0.65. A total of 63 species were recorded during the CBQ. The most abundant species is the Olive-winged Bulbul. It recorded the highest relative abundance index of 0.65 and was recorded in all the surveyed sites. This is interesting as other censuses conducted by the Bird Group have consistently found the Yellow-vented Bulbul to be the more common bird in most parts of Singapore. The habitat on Pulau Ubin which consists of a mosaic of orchards, old rubber plantations and secondary forest probably contributed to this result.

Another interesting point is that more species were recorded in the  central routes than the eastern ones. It is possible that the more wooded nature and closed canopy along the eastern routes could have resulted in less birds been detected.

Teams of four setting out to different transacts  to record the bird life in Ubin.

Six teams fanned out across Central and Eastern Ubin to try to find the commonest birds on the island. Photo: Ria Tan.

A very significant observation from the survey is the relative abundance of both the Straw-headed Bulbul and White-rumped Shama. Both species are becoming scarce in many parts of Southeast Asia as a result of rampant trapping for the bird trade. It is critical that the authorities and the public remain vigilant against potential poaching here and other parts of Singapore where these species are thriving. If the current situation persists, Singapore could become the only place in the world where these species survive in the wild.

As in all rapid survey and census, it is inevitable that biases exist. The most obvious bias is that this is a rapid one day count lasting only 2 to 2.5 hours. It is conducted at a time where some species may be more vocal than others and most if not all migrants are absent. Another issue involves the detection bias towards species that are more vocal or active at the edges of habitats as the selected routes were along existing roads, trails or boardwalks. But in general this survey does provide a fairly good picture of which are that common resident birds that you can expect to see on a bird walk on the island in the middle of the year.

Table 2:  Summary of contacts(heard/sighted) and species of birds surveyed during the CBQ

Site W1 CT1 CT2 CJ1 CJ2 CJ3 Overall
Total In Top 20 Species List 19 17 19 18 16 13 20
Total species (heard/sighted) 39 33 37 31 25 27 63
Total contacts (heard/sighted) 108 79 87 110 57 60 501
 

Legend

W1 Siam Temple Route
CT1 Sensory Trail – Pekan Quarry Loop
CT2 Nordin Beach Route
CJ1 Chek Jawa Coastal Route
CJ2 Chek Jawa Balai Quarry Route
CJ3 Murai Hut – Mamam Beach Loop

COMMENTS

The Pesta Ubin Commonest Birds Quest provided an opportunity to involve and encourage the public to participate in a citizen science project. The data collected over an extended duration could be used to monitor changes to the avifauna of Pulau Ubin and ultimately the state of the environment here. A common bird today may become very rare or even become extinct tomorrow if its habitat is altered irreversibly or destroyed. One example is the House Swift which is no longer a common species. House Swifts used to build nests under the Pulau Ubin Jetty but have been absent for many years. Are the proliferation of swiftlet houses and the hordes of swiftlets the cause of decline? Or are there more serious environmental problems?

Ee Ling and Lim Kim Keang the organisers of the Pesta Ubin Commonest Bird Quest.

NSS Bird Group’s Lee Ee Ling and Lim Kim Keang the organisers for the Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest. Photo: Ria Tan.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We would like to thank the leaders, participants and organizers of Pesta Ubin especially Ria Tan. The Pesta Ubin CBQ 2016 participants were: Andrew Chow, Doreen Ang, Joseph Chan, Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Loh Wang Chiu, Ng Chay Tuan, Peng Ah Huay, Rob, Willie Foo, Rob Arnold and Yong Yik Shih.

REFERENCE

MacKinnon J. (1993), A field guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford University Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Nesting Pacific Swallows at a Housing Estate

Nesting of Pacific Swallows in a Housing Estate.

Contributed by Timothy Chua Jia Yao.

On the 21st of June, I came across a untidy nest built on the protruding sanitation pipes under a block of flats at Stagmont Park.

Pacific Swallows 3 Timothy Chua

The nest was made with dry leaves, grasses and fibers bind together with mud.

Pacific Swallows Timothy Chua

There were three chicks in the nest belonging to a pair of Pacific Swallows, Hrundo tahitica, a very common resident in Singapore.

They looked to have hatched about a week ago. The residents there told me that they have been using this site for the past few years.

This tally with the nesting report in The Avifauna of Singapore (Lim Kim Seng 2009) of a pair of Pacific Swallows using the same site at void deck at Woodlands for five years

Alan OwYong told me that we do not get many nesting records here and that I should monitor the nesting.

When I went back to check on them on the next day only one chick was in the nest. The other had fledged and was on the ground near to the nest.The parent was looking after and feeding it.

The remaining chick fledged last Sunday 26th. I also found the third chick on the floor below the nest, dead. It may have dropped out of the nest or maybe pushed out by its siblings before it can fly. Two out of three is not bad. Within days of fledgling, the family was not around anymore. The chicks must have grown up fast and learn to fend for themselves early, an instinctive survival strategy against would be predators.

Singapore Bird Report-May 2016

Most of the winter visitors have left our shores for their breeding grounds in North Asia. Only a few wetland species like the Black Bitterns, Dupetor flavicollis, were still at Gardens by the Bay and Seletar Ponds and Blue-winged Pittas, Pitta moluccenis, at Singapore Botanic Gardens are taking their time to move back. Good to monitor these Pittas during the coming months to see if they stay around.  A Hooded PittaPitta sordida, was released after it recovered from crashing into the Compassvale Secondary School in Sengkang on 3rd by Eugene Ng. Lim Kim Keang recorded a new late date for the Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, at Pasir Ris Farmway 3 on 8th. Lim Kim Seng reported over summering Little, Egretta garzetta, and 10 Great Egrets, Ardea alba, at Sungei Buloh on 26th.

So the focus was on our breeding residents for our birders and photographers. For a change we will list some of the important sightings on a week to week basis for this report.

Little Tern Seng Alvin

Little Tern in breeding plumage fishing at the Tampines Canal. Photo: Seng Alvin.

Week 1

A pair of Lesser Whistling Ducks, Dendrocygna javanica, found a nice resting place at Seletar Ponds, outside the usual places (Zacc HD 1st). The Little Terns, Sternula albifrons, are raising another brood and have returned to the Tampines Canal on 3rd for small fishes to feed their chicks (Seng Alvin). Lim Kim Chuah got a up close iphone  shot of a dead Western Barn Owl, Tyto alba, at Jurong Island on 4th. It must have crashed into one of the buildings there. Following Kieta Sin’s sigthing of a male Violet Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus, at Kent Ridge Park, he and Alan OwYong found a female Violet and a Banded Bay Cuckoo, Cacomantis sonnerati, at the same place on 6th. See Toh and friends went for a pelagic trip to the Straits of Singapore on 7th and recorded 2 rare Short-tailed Shearwaters, Puffinus ternuirostris, and several Aleutian Terns, Onychoprion anaethetus, and Lesser Crested Terns, Thalasseus bengalensis, on their way back north. A Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, was reported by Art Toh at Keppel Bay on 8th, a new location for this owl.

Short-tailed Shearwater See Toh

Rare Short-tailed Shearwater on migration at the Straits of Singapore. Photo: See Toh Yew Wai

Week 2

Richard White has been keeping a close watch on the birdlife at the Botanic Gardens. He reported the return of the Black-crowned Night Herons, Nycticorax nycticorax, at the Eco lake. They were in breeding plumage. Maybe they will nest there again. The Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pelargopsis capensis, that went missing from Kent Ridge Park for more than a decade was spotted again during a recce by Alan OwYong. (Keita Sin messaged me that he saw the Kingfisher in August last year right up to this April).  Paddyfield Pipits, Anthus rufulus, were seen nest building at the open field at the Marina Barrage on 14th ( Alan OwYong).

Abbottt's Babbler at the Marsh Gardens at West Coast Park. Photo: Geoff Lim

Abbott’s Babbler at West Coast Park. Photo: Geoff Lim

Week 3.

A family of 4-5  Abbott’s Babblers, Malacocincia abbotti, was very active at the Marsh Gardens West Coast Park when Francis Yap paid a visit there on 17th. These babblers are not that common in the south. Confirmation of the Sunda Scops Owl, Otus lempiji, breeding in Sentosa came when Sarah Chin found an immature at the Tanjong Beach Station on 19th. Another Sunda Scops Owl was reported from Lower Pierce Reservoir by Vincent Lao on 20th. A hard to see White-browed Crake, Ponzana cinerea, was spotted by Lim Kim Chuah during a Bird Group trip to the Kranji Marshes on 22nd.

White-browed Crake LKC

The shy White-browed Crake revealing itself at Kranji Marshes. Photo; Lim Kim Chuah.

Week 4

Atis Banerjee reported a new location for the Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupa, at Tanjong Rhu on 23th. A family of Red Legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata, have been seen at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 23rd (Richard White). They have been regulars there for some years now. The non breeding visitor Western Osprey, Pandian haliaetus, was still hanging around Sungei Buloh on 23rd,(Cindy Yeo). The Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, made its return to Berlayer Creek with sightings there on 24th by Shirley Ng. James Tann reported the fledging of two Oriental White-eye, Zosterops palpebrosus, chicks at Jurong Eco Gardens on 24th. The resident ernesti race Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, was back at Church Street on 26th May (Lee Ee Ling). Lucy Davis had a pair of Pin-striped Babbler, Macronous gularis, raising two chicks in her garden at Wessex on 26th. A forest specialist, Greater Green Leafbird, Chloropsis sonnerati, was seen at the MacRitchie Reservoir on 26th (Lim Kim Seng). A Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirollus striatus, at Tampines Eco Green on 27th (Seng Alvin). Four Green Imperial Pigeons, Ducula aenea, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, Great-billed Herons, and White-rumped Shamas, Copsychus malabaricus, were some of the uncommon birds seen during Pesta Ubin day on 29th (LIm Kim Chuah).  Francis Yap reported a pair of uncommon Chestnut-winged Babblers, Stachyris erythroptera, at Upper Seletar on 29th. A family of Ruddy-breasted Crakes, Ponzana fusca, with four fledged chicks were photographed by Paul Thong at Gardens by the Bay on 30th. An important breeding record for this uncommon rail spreading out to the south. Andrew Tann reported them there earlier on 21st.

A family of uncommon Ruddy Breasted Crakes at SBTB. Photo: Paul Thong.

An important record of a family of uncommon Ruddy-breasted Crakes at SBTB. Photo: Paul Thong.

Reference:

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

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

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Lim Kim Chuah, Geoff Lim, Seng Alvin, See Toh Yew Wai and Paul Thong  for the use of their photos.