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.

CK Soh Hoon

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.

CWC Sarah Chin-001

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.

BEKF Gerals Chua

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.

 

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Ubin.

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Pulau Ubin, 4 June 2017.
SHB Ted Ng
Pulau Ubin is without doubt the most important site for the Straw-headed Bulbuls. This photo of three birds taken at by Ted Ng at Hindhede NP will be hard to get elsewhere in the region. 
Few of the World’s endangered species have been more strongly associated with Singapore than the charismatic Straw-headed Bulbul. Wiped out from most of its Southeast Asian distribution by indiscriminate poaching, some of most significant populations of this largest of the world’s bulbuls have fortunately, found a safe home in Singapore. Pulau Ubin is without a doubt the most important site for the species.
 
To determine the size of its population on Pulau Ubin,  the Bird Group conducted a pan-island survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul in conjunction with Pesta Ubin. Led by an experienced leader, teams of 3-4 surveyors covered 9 different transects totalling over 18 km across Ubin. This was the first time a targeted survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul has be carried out in Singapore, and attracted over 35 volunteer surveyors, including a large contingent of enthusiastic students from the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College.
 
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Yong Ding Li back to camera briefing the surveyors at Pulau Ubin on the census. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.
Along each transect, the teams stopped to record Straw-headed Bulbuls at defined points for five minutes. At the end of each ‘point count’ teams moved at least 250 metres from the previous point before conducted the next count. Datasheets were provided so that all surveyors could record their observations immediately.
 
So how many Straw-headed Bulbuls are there on Ubin? In total, the teams reported 68 individuals within a band of 100 m from their counting transects. Because some parts of Ubin were not surveyed, we expect the actual population to be even larger. The organising team is currently conducted statistical analysis on the dataset to calculate the densities of the bulbuls of the island. Building on the pioneering studies on the species carried out by veteran birdwatchers Ho Hua Chew and Trixie Tan, this survey confirms that Ubin remains a critical stronghold for the Straw-headed Bulbul and needs to be well-protected from poachers by regular ranger patrols. 
 
Once again, we are grateful to all the survey leaders for leading the surveys along their transects. They include Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Movin Nyanasengeran, Sandra Chia, Trixie Tan, Wong Chung Cheong and Yong Ding Li.  We also thank Robert Teo and Germaine Leng from the National Parks Board for supporting our work.
__________________________

Ding Li YONG
PhD Candidate
Fenner School of Environment and Society
Forestry Building, Linnaeus Way
The Australian National University

Canberra ACT 0200
Thanks to Ted Ng and Lim Kim Chuah for the use of the photos.

Red-Legged Crakes in Singapore.

A Note on Red-Legged Crakes (Rallina fasciata) in Singapore

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Image 1.  Adult at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 20th May 2012.  By Francis Yap

This elegant, usually secretive rail is found year-round in Singapore’s forests and parks and is known to breed here.

It has a wide range and is understood to be present as a resident or breeding visitor or passage migrant or combination thereof in North-East India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo and the Philippines.  It has recently also been found in Cambodia.

As a result of this large range the Red-Legged Crake’s current IUCN Red List Category is LC (of Least Concern)

A review of the available printed and online resources for this species tells us two things

  • Compared with similar species present in Singapore such as Ruddy-Breasted Crake (Zapornia fusca) and Slaty-Breasted Rail (Lewinia striata) relatively little is known about it.
  • There are only two places in its range where it is relatively easy to locate and see this bird – Singapore (numerous locations) and Thailand (Kaeng Krachan National Park, Western Thailand).

In this article, I will try to summarise the current gaps in our knowledge, put forward some new information from recent observations in Singapore and suggest how birders in Singapore might provide valuable information to further complete our understanding of this species.

The fullest account of the species is in, ‘Rails – A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World’ by Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo (1998) which highlights the following gaps in our knowledge:

Juvenile:  Not properly described, probably similar to immature but duller, and more extensively white on underparts.

Movements:  These are not properly understood, but the species is both resident and migratory in its normal range.

Food and Feeding:  No information available.

Breeding:  Nest undescribed.  Eggs 3-6.  Both sexes incubate.  No further information available.

Habits:  Shy, retiring and difficult to flush. (…) Claims that the species is nocturnal may refer primarily to calling activity.

Social Organisation:  Assumed to be monogamous.

Social and Sexual Behaviour:  No information available.

The species description in ‘Handbook of the Birds of the World’ (now available online as http://www.HBWAlive.com) appears to derive directly from Taylor and van Perlo and does not add any significant new information.

From the species description in ‘A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore’ by Morten Strange we read ‘Diet unknown. Nest has never been described.  May disperse outside breeding season but this has not been studied.’

The species data sheet from the Data Zone at http://www.Birdlife.org states:

Population size:  Unknown

Population trend:  Unknown

Vocalizations: The calls of the Red-Legged Crake are variously described as follows:

‘In breeding season calls at dawn and dusk, either a slow descending trill or nasal pek pek pek or clucking kunkunkunkunk..; advertising calls gogogogok at night.  (Birds of East Asia by Mark Brazil)

‘Territorial call (often at night) is loud, hard, rapid UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH…, every 1.5-3s.  Also, quacking nasal brrr, brr’ay or grr’erh. –  (Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson)

‘Male territorial all is a loud rapid hard (6-9) note UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH…, repeated every 1.5-3s.  Females sometimes join in with sudden quacking nasal brrr, brr’ay or grr’erh notes. Often call during night.’  (A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson)

‘The territorial call is a loud series of nasal pek calls, repeated every half second at dawn and dusk in the breeding season (Robson).  A series of loud ehh calls followed by a loud trill most frequent at dawn and dusk (Jeyarajasingam).  (Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Quentin Phillipps and Karen Phillipps)

‘Calls at night.’ – (A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore by Morten Strange)

‘Details are from Coates & Bishop (1997) unless otherwise specified.  The advertising call is described as a loud staccato series of gogogogo notes, usually given at night but also during the day in rainy weather.  Birds also give a series of “devilish-sounding” screams, and very sharp girrrr and R R R R call.  The territorial call is a loud series of nasal pek calls, repeated about every 0.5s and given at dawn and dusk in the breeding season; this is apparently given by the male, and the female sometimes joins in with nasal notes (C.R.Robson in litt.).  There is also a long, slow descending trill, reminiscent of the Ruddy-Breasted Crake (Lekagul & Round 1991).  When two birds meet, there is a cacophony of scolding sounds.’  (Rails A Guide to Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World by Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo).

It is always difficult to transcribe bird or animal vocalisations into words but it seems that the authors above are describing 5 or 6 different sounds:

  1. Advertising call (at dusk and during the day after rain) – gogogogo or gogogogok or ehh or UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH
  2. Territorial call (dawn and dusk during breeding season – male only?) – pek pek pek or kunkunkunkunk
  3. Female response to male territorial call (dawn and dusk during breeding season) – nasal notes or sudden quacking nasal brrr, brr’ay or grr’erh
  4. Other call – long, slow descending trill,
  5. Other call – girrr, R R R R, brrr, brr’ay, grr’eh, loud trill
  6. Other call – devilish-sounding screams, cacophony of scolding sounds

There are few recordings of this species available online:

The Internet Bird Collection has no recordings.

Xeno-canto.org has 7 recordings – 5 from Singapore and 2 from Indonesia.

The Macaulay Library has 4 recordings – 3 from Singapore (2 of these are also on xeno-canto) and 1 from Malaysia

AVoCet has 2 recordings – both from Indonesia

Of these 11 separate recordings we can note that 5 were made between 18.45 and 19.05, 1 was made at 09.30 and one at 21.30.  For the remaining 4 recordings no time information is available.

It is too small a sample to draw any conclusions on what time of year the birds most often call nor whether some calls may be associated with breeding periods but we can note that the calls were recorded in 8 months of the year from March through to November.

These recordings seem to cover two distinct types of vocalisation:

  1. A multi-note repeated call which could be described as gogogogok or UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH or perhaps pek pek pek or ehh ehh ehh depending on the listener.  This is heard in 8 recordings. The number of notes in each call varies from 5 to 9 notes.  Sometimes there is a constant number of notes per call e.g. xeno-canto recordings XC364136 and XC57232 both have 5-note calls.  Sometimes the number of notes varies between calls e.g. the call of the individual recorded in Macaulay Library recording ML30627461 varies between 6 and 9 notes and the call in XC352336 varies between 7 and 8 notes.  The call covers a range of frequencies from 500Hz to 7kHz but most of the sound is between 1 and 2kHz as you can see in the Sonogram below:

XC352336final

  1. A sharp single (squealing?) call followed by a descending growling/girrrr/trill. This is heard in six recordings.  In two cases this call comes before a series of gogogogok calls (XC364136 and AvoCet recording AV8465) and in one case after a series of gogogogok calls (XC366445).  I have also heard this call given on its own (pers ob).  This call is at a higher pitch than the advertising call and the main elements are between 3 and 4 kHz.

20170606_121433

The available recordings do not currently seem to cover all the descriptions in the literature.

It is likely that some calls have yet to be recorded and published (for example the single nasal ‘kek’ call described by Yong Ding Li op cit) but it is also possible that some of the different transcriptions in the literature are in fact referring to the same call.  Perhaps there are only 3 or 4 distinct vocalizations rather than 5 or 6?

Visual Media:

In the Internet Bird Collection there are 19 videos from 3 locations:  Kaeng Krachan National Park in Western Thailand, Singapore Botanic Gardens and Hindhede Nature Park Singapore.  They show adult and juvenile birds bathing, walking or preening.  There are also 6 photos – 3 from Singapore, 2 from Thailand and 1 from India.

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{Image 2: Adult and juvenile at Singapore Botanic Gardens 26th Feb 2014.  By Francis Yap}

On the Oriental Bird Images database of the Oriental Bird Club there are 25 photos – 14 from Singapore (of 3 to 4 different birds), 6 from Thailand and 4 from Malaysia.  One of the images from Singapore taken by Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong in February 2006 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens shows an adult bird with a fat worm in its beak.

The 4 images from Malaysia are a series of photos of a roadkill bird taken by Amar-Singh HSS in Ipoh, Perak.  They are probably the best available set of images showing plumage details and reproduced below with the kind permission of the photographer.

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Sightings:On the Singapore Birds Project website, there are 6 images and on the Singapore Birds website there are a further 2.  Of these 7 are from the Singapore Botanic Gardens and one from Lorong Halus.

A review of the records on eBird over the past 10 years shows the following number of sightings:

Vietnam – 1, Cambodia – 1, Thailand – 11, Peninsular Malaysia – 8, Malaysian Borneo – 8, Indonesia – 4, Myanmar- 0, Philippines – 0.

Such low numbers would indicate rarity (said to be the case in Vietnam and Cambodia) and/or difficulty of location and observation (inaccessibility of preferred habitat/shy and unobtrusive nature of the species) and/or lack of observers (although Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia have good numbers of contributors to eBird).

However, the situation in Singapore is very different – for the first four months of 2017 there are 25 eBird records of probably 15-18 different individuals from Sungei Buloh, Kranji Marshes, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Hindhede Nature Park (including a high count of 5 by Martin Kennewell), Macritchie Reservoir Park, Venus Loop and Singapore Botanic Gardens.  This would indicate that this species in Singapore is neither rare nor especially difficult to locate.

We can summarise the gaps in our knowledge of this species as follows:

  1. Appearance: Plumage and physical differences between male and female are not well described. It may be that there are insufficient consistent differences to make field identification of the sexes reliable.  There are now a number of good images of juvenile birds which were not available to Taylor and van Perlo but the plumage of immature birds is still not well understood – some images available show very grey adult-sized individuals – are these young birds?
  2. Movements: It is not fully understood to what extent they are migratory and dispersive.
  3. Habits: To what extent is this species nocturnal or crepuscular or diurnal?
  4. Social and Sexual Behaviour: No information.
  5. Breeding: – No information on nests or nesting habits
  6. Population Trend: No information
  7. Food and Feeding: No information
  8. Voice: Number of distinct vocalisations not clear in the literature. Insufficient number of published recordings to clarify this.

Some new information:

Three recent encounters with this species in Singapore can help to start filling in the gaps:

  1. On 24th March 2017 I came across 2 adult birds foraging in damp leaf litter amongst rotting logs in Hindhede Nature Park, Singapore at 17.30. I was able to observe them for approximately 10 minutes. During this time they remained silent and there was no significant physical interaction between the two birds.  One bird had slightly lighter patches on the crown and side of the head and seemed to have a slightly shorter bill than the other.  They walked very slowly amongst the leaf litter, they did not peck repeatedly or scratch with their feet.  From time-to-time each bird would lower their head, peer down between the leaves and come up with a thin grey worm about 8-10cm long which was quickly swallowed. During the period of observation each bird caught approximately 5 worms.  No other food was seen to be taken.  It is possible they were feeling vibrations through their feet.

This observation coupled with the photo of a bird feeding on a worm in Singapore Botanic Gardens in 2009 by Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong confirms that earthworms make up a part of the Red-Legged Crake’s diet.  Their activity also accords with the description given on the Singapore Birds Project website: “Forages by carefully walking through wet areas of secondary growth and forest, and picking up food items with its bill from the wet ground and leaf litter.”

  1. On 26th March 2017 I came across a Red-Legged Crake calling with the ‘advertising’ call at 19.00 on the Petai Trail in Macritchie Reservoir Park, Singapore. The bird was in damp undergrowth in an area of secondary forest about 3m from the boardwalk which runs along the edge of the reservoir.  I was able to locate the bird briefly by sight to confirm the identification.

I began recording and noticed that the call was being answered by another bird                 concealed in emergent vegetation at the water’s edge on the other side of the                        boardwalk. I was unable to locate the second bird by sight.

The reply call was one I had not heard before.  It might be described as a low-                     pitched sharp exhalation of breath – it does not seem to fit any of the descriptions in        the literature.

girr

This calling and answering continued for approximately two minutes after which the first bird continued calling alone.  After 3 minutes 24 seconds of recording the first bird made a loud sharp squealing note (describe as a ‘sharp hiccup’ by some observers) followed by a descending girrrrrr call lasting 4.5 seconds.  As this call finishes the second bird makes the same 2 calls of approximately the same duration but at a higher pitch (see extract from Sonogram page 5 above).

After this the birds were silent. From the increasing volume of the calls it was clear that the birds were gradually moving towards each other.  Owing to the lack of light and the density of the undergrowth I was unable to confirm by sight if they encountered each other.  The recording is available on xeno-canto.org No: XC366445 and can be listed to here. (double-click on icon) (There are some sudden changes of volume in the recording as I had to turn the microphone through 180-degrees to record each bird).

  • embedded mp3 file)
  • Link to xeno-canto recording with sonogram)

http://www.xeno-canto.org/366445/embed?simple=1

It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from this recording other than it adds a third distinct vocalization to the two already covered by the currently available recordings.  This third vocalization may or may not be one of those described by the authors cited above.

As there are distinct differences between the vocalizations made by each bird it is certainly possible that this was an encounter between a male and female and may be behaviour associated with the breeding season for this species.

  1. On 16th May 2017 nest-building was observed in Singapore (location not disclosed to avoid disturbance). The nest was constructed on the ground under a small plant.  The materials used seemed to be exclusively dried leaves collected from the ground.  One bird collected the materials and carried them to the nest location where the second bird (probably the female) tucked them under itself. A single white egg was seen.

Suggestions for further study:

It seems likely that Singapore is the best place to improve our knowledge of this species as there are several easily-accessible locations where they can found with a reasonable degree of certainty.

They have been recorded at: Bishan Park, Bukit Batok Nature Park, Bukit Brown, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Hindhede Nature Park, Kranji Marshes, Lorong Halus, Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, Gardens by the Bay, Mount Faber, Nee Soon Swamp Forest, Pulau Ubin, Punggol, Sembawang, Sime Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore Zoo, Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, Tyersall Woods and Venus Drive Trails.  This wide range of locations demonstrates that although considered primarily as a forest-dweller it is not restricted to old growth and does visit disturbed and newly-created habitats.

  1. Status: In Singapore the Red-Legged Crake is classified as an Uncommon Resident Breeder / Winter Visitor.  To what extent is the resident population in Singapore supplemented by migrants?  Annual censuses are not going to help establish this.  We need year-round recording of occurrence to see if the population significantly increases for a certain part of the year.  There are probably too few observers contributing to eBird in Singapore at the moment but increased use of this tool (even for simple one-off sightings) would be the quickest way of getting this data.  Over the long term this can also be used to establish population trends.
  2. Movements: To what extent do they range around Singapore?  It is my experience that some birds are to be regularly found in the same quite small area but is this true for the whole year?  This more accurate positional data can be recorded on and extracted from eBird.
  3. Habits: Is it mainly nocturnal or just crepuscular or is it often active during the day (perhaps when feeding young)?  Nearly all of my encounters have been between 5.30pm and 7.30pm (with only 2 early in the morning) but looking at the images available it is clear that many of them were taken during full daylight hours (for example Francis Yap’s photos above were taken at 11.52am and 10.24am respectively) and we also have a recording of a bird calling at 09.30am.  Perhaps the birds often seen in daylight at the Singapore Botanic Gardens are very much the exception?
  4. Appearance: New photos (especially of two birds together) and the study of the existing images available would help define any significant differences between the sexes and to better describe juvenile birds.  Singapore has a large bird photography community and there are no doubt many unpublished images which could be collated and studied.
  5. Food and Feeding: Descriptions of feeding behaviour and photos/videos of them feeding would be very valuable.
  6. Breeding Behaviour: Descriptions of courtship behaviour, dates of appearance of juveniles.  The breeding birds at Singapore Botanic Gardens provide us with a good opportunity to start collecting this information
  7. Vocalisations: The current dataset is small but can be studied in more detail to analyze frequencies and time intervals for the various calls.  This may lead to the ability to distinguish between male and female birds.

As mentioned by some authors this species tends to call more frequently after rain and this is also my experience so visits after rain to look for recording opportunities are more likely to be fruitful.  It is clear that calls are frequently made at dusk and one recording by Yong Ding Li confirms they call at night but currently we lack any recordings to confirm that this species calls at dawn and, when they do, what calls they make.  Do they call all year-round?  Currently there are no recordings for December, January and February.  More recordings are needed.  It is easy to load these on to xeno-canto and make them publicly available.

The author would welcome any contributions of photos, audio recordings, sight records, behavioural descriptions and offers of collaboration from the Singapore birding community to help the further study of this species.

marcel finlay

 Singapore, May 2017

Email: marcorovetti@btinternet.com

Thanks to Francis Yap and Amar-Singh HSS for kind permission to use their photos, Seng Beng Yeo for the nesting information and to Lim Kim Chuah and Alan Owyong for their assistance.

References: 

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

‘Notes on the Distribution and Vocalizations of the Red-Legged Crake (Rallina fasciata) in Singapore’ – Singapore Avifauna Volume 23 No 4 (Nature Society Singapore Bird Group, 2009)

A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea – Sulawesi, The Moluccas and Lessa Sunda Islands, Indonesia by Brian J. Coates and K. David Bishop.  (Dove, 1997).

Birds of Myanmar by Kyaw Nyunt Lwin and Khin Ma Ma Thwin (Silkworm Books, 2003)

Rails – A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World’ by Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo (Pica Press, 1998)

Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore by Lim Kim Seng. (Nature Society (Singapore), 2007)

Birds of East Asia by Mark Brazil. (Christopher Helm, 2009)

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore by Morten Strange (Periplus, 2002)

Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson (New Holland, 2005)

A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson (Bloomsbury, 2016)

Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Quentin Phillipps and Karen Phillipps (John Beaufoy Publishing, 2011)

www.Birdlife.org – Species datasheets.

www.eBird.org – species distribution maps

www.xeno-canto.org – voice recordings

www.avibase.com – summary of available voice recordings

www.avocet.com     voice recordings

www.hbwalive.com – (online version of Handbook of the Birds of the World by Lynx Edicions) – general species data

www.nparks.gov.sg – (Singapore bird checklist)

https://singaporebirds.com – (species info page)

https://singaporebirds.blogspot.sg  – (species info page)

 

Singapore Raptor Report – March 2017

OHB cover

Oriental Honey Buzzard, pale morph (left) at Alexandra Road on 9 Mar 2017 & dark morph (right) on at the Botanic Gardens on 18 Mar 2017, both by Laurence Eu.

Summary for migrant species:

In March, 176 raptors of 8 migrant species were recorded. The Black Baza was the most numerous with 70 birds, of which 39 were recorded at the Kranji Marshes on the 4th and another 20 at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on the 20th. The Oriental Honey Buzzard, with 54 birds, was the next in line and 11 were recorded at the NUS on the 21st, all heading north. Of the 32 Japanese Sparrowhawks recorded, 11 were seen at the NUS on the 22nd.

Ten Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded this month, good numbers for this uncommon migrant. Apart from one bird at Jelutong Tower, the other nine were all recorded at the NUS. Four Ospreys were recorded, at the Seletar Dam and Sungei Buloh – Kranji Marshes areas. On the 9th, one Osprey at Sungei Buloh had its catch stolen by a White-bellied Sea Eagle. Four Peregrine Falcons were recorded; none of the resident race.

A Grey-faced Buzzard at Kranji Marshes on the 19th was a very good record for this rather uncommon migrant.  Lastly, an Oriental Scops Owl, unfortunately, flew into a glass panel at the NUS on the 9th.

CGH,-180317,-SBTB,-Saravanan,-w

Crested Goshawk, juvenile, feeding on a young Monitor Lizard, at Satay by the Bay, 18 Mar 2017, by Saravanan Krishnamurthy

Highlights for sedentary species:

A huge nest on a tall tree at Pasir Ris holding two young chicks of the White-bellied Sea Eagle was reported on the 3rd. At the Botanic Gardens, the Crested Goshawk pair was seen mating on the 7th and reinforcing their nest with sticks, around one month after their first brood of chicks had fledged. Over at Punggol, the Black-winged Kites were seen mating on the 18th, also about a month after their chick had fledged.

As for the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, there were records from Kranji Marshes (4th & 5th), Sungei Serangoon (5th) and Seletar (19th) but none from Little Guilin, where it was reported on the 7th that the nest tree had fallen. A rare Crested Serpent Eagle was recorded at Pulau Ubin on the 12th. At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the 17th, a juvenile pale morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle was seen raiding the nest of a Striated Heron and flying off with a chick in its talons. A loose flock of 17 Brahminy Kites was reported at Kranji Marshes on the 5th. Lastly, a torquatus tweeddale morph Oriental Honey Buzzard was recorded at Pasir Ris Park on the 2nd and another juvenile torquatus tweeddale moph at Jelutong Tower on the 26th.

Table 1

Addendum to February 2017 Singapore Raptor Report:

A rufous morph Oriental Scops Owls (OSO) was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park in a well concealed position on 10 Feb 2017, by Keita Sin (Note: two OSO – a grey and a rufous morph – were reported at the same locality from 10 to 22 Jan 2017). Additional records on 19 Feb 2017 at Kranji Marshes: 4 Black Bazas, 1 Brahminy Kite, 1 White-bellied Sea Eagle, 1 Grey-headed Fish Eagle, plus 4 un-identified raptors, suspected to be Oriental Honey Buzzards, all recorded by Henrietta Woo.  

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Mar 2017

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Laurence Eu and Saravanan Krishnamurthy for the use of their photos.

Singapore Raptor Report – February 2017

TGC_4374,-Chinese-Sparrowhawk,-female

Chinese Sparrowhawk, adult female, Ang Mo Kio, 17 Feb 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong.

Summary for migrant species:

In February, 66 individuals of 7 migrant species were recorded. While the 26 Oriental Honey Buzzards were similar to last February’s numbers, the 19 Black Bazas represented a drop of more than half compared to last February. All the Black Bazas were recorded at the Punggol – Pasir Ris – Tampines area. Six Jerdon’s Baza were recorded, five at Punggol on the 4th and one at Pasir Ris Park on the 12th, good numbers for this species.

Jerdon's Baza, 040217, Punggol East, Danny Lau, another bird

Jerdon’s Baza, Punggol East, 4 Feb 2017, by Danny Lau.

Of the six Peregrine Falcons recorded, two adults were photographed fighting at Seletar Airport vicinity on the 27th. Three Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded; two of them, adult males, on the 6th at Changi Business Park and 10th at Bidadari, showed signs of moult, similar to what was observed last February, and had only 4 ‘fingers’ instead of the usual 5 ‘fingers’. Five Ospreys were recorded, including three over Bukit Timah Hill on the 20th. Two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, one at Kent Ridge Park on the 2nd and another, an adult female, at Ang Mo Kio on the 5th, 17th and 19th.

CSE,-100217,-Kent-Ridge,-Gavan-Leong-(3rd-yr-burmanicus,-Chaiyan),-DSC_2596,-original,-w

Crested Serpent Eagle, 3rd year burmanicus, Kent Ridge Park, 10 Feb 2017, by Gavan Leong

A Crested Serpent Eagle photographed at Kent Ridge Park on the 10th by Gavan Leong turned out to be a 3rd year burmanicus, thanks to Dr Chaiyan for his expertise. This is the second occurrence of the burmanicus form, a short distance migrant from Indo-China, to Singapore. The previous record was in September and November 2014 when an individual was photographed at the Japanese Gardens. Ferguson-Lees & Christie (2001) indicates that malayensis is distinctly smaller than adjacent burmanicus, cheeks and throat darker brown, underparts more clearly spotted and barred white. Birders are encouraged to photograph any Crested Serpent Eagle encountered and post them online for identification of subspecies.

TGC_3919,-Crested-Goshawk

Crested Goshawk, fledgling, exercising its wings, Ang Mo Kio, 17 Feb 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong.

Highlights for sedentary species:

This month, there were significant developments for the Crested Goshawk, an uncommon resident. Not one, but four separate nestings were reported, with a total of 8 chicks fledging from the nests. Unfortunately, the Bedok North nesting suffered 2 misfortunes. First, the male was found dead on the roadside when the chicks were still on the nest. Fortunately, prey (mainly Javan Myna and rats) is plentiful in the area and the female was able to raise the 2 chicks on her own until they fledged. The second misfortune was the removal of one of the Bedok North chicks from the mother on the day of fledging, brought to a vet the next day, given a clean bill of health and released back into the wild on the same day at an unspecified location, to fend for itself. This was due to a series of well-intended human actions which may not have been appropriate. Considering that the remaining fledgling continued to be fed by its mother for another 2 weeks, it would probably be miraculas for the solitary fledgling to survive on its own. The four nestings, together with a few other sightings elsewhere, brought the tally of the Crested Goshawk to an all time high of 19 birds.

Other nesting records included the Black-winged Kite at Pulau Punggol on the 18th, with one chick seemingly ready to fledge; the White-bellied Sea Eagle at Pasir Ris on the 26th, with 2 young chicks still covered in white down feathers; and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle on its nest at Jurong. An adult torquatus tweeddale morph Oriental Honey Buzzzard was photographed at Pasir Ris Park on the 14th and 28th. The Brahminy Kite and Changeable Hawk-Eagle completed the roundup for the month.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Danny Lau and Gavan Leong for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version, please click here Singapore Raptor Report – Feb 2017

 

 

Singapore Bird Report-April 2017 Part II Residents

April is the breeding season for most of our resident species in Singapore. They were also more active and visible. We received a fair share of sightings from the forests to the wetlands and from parks to grasslands

Starting at Pulau Ubin, Lim Kim Chuah and Adrian Silas Tay both found the rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea on 1st and 2nd respectively. Excellent find as the population at P. Hantu had gone missing. Also on the 2nd, Keita Sin reported a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl near to the old resort. Good to know they are doing well in Ubin. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megarhyncha were particularly vocal at this time of the year. James Tan had a field day on 29th and came back with some great images.

Mangrove Pitta James Tann

Mangrove Pitta, our resident pitta photographed at Pulau Ubin by James Tann.

Kranji Marshes was also a good site for picking up some uncommon residents this month. A Plantive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus by Rob Arnold on 3rd, Little Terns Sternula albifrons  throughout the month and House Swifts Apus nipalensis on 29th (both by Martin Kennewell), an adult male Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus by Subha and Raghav on 14th.

Cinnamon Bittern Subha and Raghav

Adult male Cinnamon Bittern photographed at Kranji Marshes by Raghav Narayanswamy.

But the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the buffer nature parks serve up the most resident sightings this month. At BTNR summit, Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta on 6th (Martin Kennewell). This species has been split and accepted by the IOC.  Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the forest specialists Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris and Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra there on 14th.  A Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivigatus was reported at the Lower Pierce Reservoir on 22nd by Marcel Finlay. Two juvenile Sunda Scops Owls Otus lempiji were roosting next to the playground at Hindhede Nature Park on 11th (Siew Mun), while Martin Kennewell had a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus there on 14th.  The pair of Brown Hawk Owls Ninox scutulata were still around Petai Trail on 20th according to Marcel Finlay. He also found a pair of Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata at Hindhede on 21st and 24th. Felix Wong and his wife while on a walk at the newly opened Windsor Nature Park, came across a family of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana with the adults feeding its young. A good record of this secretive sunbird feeding its young.

Red Wattled Lapwing James Tann

Red-wattled Lapwings are doing well and spreading across the island. Photo; James Tann

Our parks and gardens continued to attract many of the forest edge species. A pair of Brown Hawk Owls was discovered by Art Toh at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 6th, seen again on 13th by Richard White. This is the fourth resident owl species found at the SBG. Marcel Finlay found some Asian Palm Swifts Cypsiurus balasiensis over the Eco Lake at SBG on 23rd. Back to the owls, he reported the Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo returning to Bishan Park on 8th. He had seen them there in 2012 and 2015. Two males and one female Violet Cuckoos were present at the Jurong Eco Garden on 15th (Adrian Silas Tay). They stayed around for a few days much to the delight of many photographers.

Violet Cuckoo Terence Tan

Violet Cuckoo male at Jurong Eco Gardens. Photo: Terence Tan. Our resident population is supplemented by some wintering birds.

More House Swifts, this time about 6 birds flying over the canopy walk at Kent Ridge Park on 16th (Alan OwYong). This population may be roosting at the old bungalows along Kent Ridge Road. An interesting find was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax photographed by Art Toh at the Pond at Jurong Eco Garden on 23rd. Lee Kai Chong commented on facebook that this juvenile came from the Jurong Bird Bird which is close by.

BCNH Art Toh

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron at JEG. Photo: Art Toh.

Other notable sightings includes a dead Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus that crashed into Yew Tee Community Center on 2nd (Timothy Chua), three Javan Munias Lonchura leucogastroides  at downtown Parkview Square on 5th (Alan OwYong), more Glossy Swiftlets at Lakeview Estate on 14th and three Little Terns returning to the Sport Hub’s Marshes on 20th (both by Marcel Finlay). We had several nesting records but the only one we can report was James Tann’s report of the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus at a restricted site at Chua Chu Kang on 15th.

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 and individual reports. 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 James Tann, Raghav Narayanswamy, Terence Tan and Art Toh for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Bird Report- April 2017. Part 1 Winter Visitors.

We are still getting lots of late migrants passing through this month like the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, that crashed into a block of flat at Simei Street 5 on 3rd (Low Choon How). This set a new late date for this rare flycatcher.

JPFC Choon How-001

Rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher that crashed into a flat at Simei. Photo: Low Choon How.

Another rare flycatcher was a female Green-backed Ficedula elisae photographed at the CCNR on 6th by Lim Kim Seng. An uncommon Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki was reported by Martin Kennewell at Hindhede NP on the 14th. Martin also had a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia from Kranji Marshes on 1st.

Kranji Marshes was again the top site for our winter visitors this month.

Other good finds include a Large-hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides on 1st (Richard White), another hawk cuckoo, a Hodgson’s H. niscolor on 2nd (Con Foley), both at Bidadari, a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda West Coast Park photographed by Johnson Chua on 4th. Lim Kim Keang found one there last November 6th. Could this be the same Kingfisher? Johnson also photographed a lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus there the next day. This sub species is rarely seen here as its normal wintering range is in Taiwan and the Philippines.

Brown Shrike Johnson Chua

A lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike photographed at West Coast Park                              by Johnson Chua. Very similar to the adult Tiger Shrike.

A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka flew into a corridor at One-North Residences on 6th (Alan OwYong) and a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans from Jelutong Tower on 7th (Marcel Finlay) with another Crow-billed Drongo crashing into an office building at Jurong Island on 18th (Lim Kim Chuah). It managed to recover and flew off by itself. A Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported at the Petai Trail from 7th to 20th by Marcel Finlay. Hard to tell if this is our resident race or not.

Javan Pond Heron Choon How

Javan Pond Heron in early breeding plumage at Lorong Halus by Low Choon How.

Other notable visitors were three Ashy Minivets Pericocotus divaricatus and late Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica seen flying over Kranji Marshes on 1st by Martin Kennewell. Around the ponds, Martin reported that the Black-capped Kingfisher H. pileata was still enjoying the sun on 8th and 19th.  Wagtails were also reported at their respective habitats. Eastern Yellow Motacilla tschutschensis at Kranji Marshes until the 16th (Martin Kennewell) and Forest Dendronanthus indicus at Admiralty Park on 9th (Vincent Lao) and Lower Pierce on 15th and 16th (Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay).

Forest Wagtail Vincent Lao

Forest Wagtail on a tarmac walkway at Admiralty Park. Photo: Vincent Lao

Pittas were still coming through and crashing into our buildings. Three different Blue-wingeds Pitta moluccensis were reported on 14th from Kranji Marshes and a Hooded P. sordida from Hindhede both by Martin Kennewell. The one that crashed near to the Commonwealth MRT station on 21st was a Hooded as well (Adrian Silas Tay).

_4060169

A Grey Nightjar resting at a flower bed at One-North Residences. Alan OwYong.

Other interesting winter visitors reported were a white morph Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi along Dairy Farm Loop on 17th ( Tony James),  Siberian Blue Robin Luscina cyane along Petai Trail on 19th (Marcel Finlay) and two Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola at Kranji Marshes on 29th (Martin Kennewell).  A returning Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus was seen at DFNP on 14th (Martin Kennewell) and another adult at Jurong Eco Garden on 17th (Siew Mun).

Tiger Shrike Siew Mun

Adult Tiger Shrike photographed at Jurong Eco Garden by Siew Mun.

A few wader and waterbird sightings to report. A Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa at Lorong Halus on 4th (Low Choon How) and maybe the same bird at Farmway 3 on 6th (Lim Kim Seng). A Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola at Kranji Marshes on 8th (Martin Kennewell) and another at Marina Barrage on 16th by Keita Sin. This could be our first record of this fresh water wader at this breakwaters. Frankie Cheong reported a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage at Pulau Tekong on 8th. This is our most reliable site for this globally threatened species. Two Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea at the old Grebe pond at Lorong Halus on 7th (Lim Kim Seng). Johnson Chua photographed  an adult male Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus lurking at the Flamingo enclosure at the Jurong Bird Park on 12th. This is presumed to be a wild bird as it had no rings on its feet.

Chinese Egret Frankie Cheong

Chinese Egret at its favorite site at Pulau Tekong. Photo Frankie Cheong 

See Toh Yew Wai and friends took two boats out to the Straits of Singapore on 29th to check on the seabirds that were on their way back north. They came back with the second sighting of the Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, a record 26 Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris, two Jaegers, Long-tailed Stercorarius longicaudus and Parasitic S. parasiticus and a few Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus among others. A very productive outing. Some of these sightings may not be in Singapore waters.

Short-tailed Shearwater Wong Lee Hiong

A low flying Short-tailed Shearwater photographed at the Straits of Singapore by Wong Lee Hong. A record 26 of these shearwaters were seen on that day.

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.

A field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Bird Society of Japan

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. 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 especially Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay for their personal lists. Many thanks to LJohnson Chua, Low Choon How, Vincent Lao, Alan OwYong,  Siew Mun, Frankie Cheong and Wong Lee Hong for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

New Wetland at the Singapore Sports Hub

Text and photos by Marcel Finlay.

DSC_3911

{1. National Stadium with Wetland in Foreground]
The Sports Hub may seem an odd place to go birding – lots of buildings and paved areas are not usually conducive to finding many species.
But you may be surprised to learn that the site has nearly 1,000 trees of 39 species and thousands of square metres of shrubs and plants – with a good percentage of them being native to Singapore and South-East Asia.
Add to this some areas of grassland and the 750m long waterfront along the Kallang Basin (part of Marina Reservoir) which includes a 200m long stretch of newly-planted wetland and you have a good mosaic of habitats which support a surprisingly diverse range of resident and visiting bird life. You can see the wetland strip in front of the National Stadium in the photo above.
Over the past year, I have recorded 67 species at the site which is surprisingly good for such an urban location. This includes breeding Long-Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach), Olive-Backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia), Common Tailorbirds, (Orthotomus sutorius), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) and Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
Of these 67 species I have observed 22 using the new small wetland strip either for roosting, feeding or nesting which shows how productive this habitat can be.
In the Government-approved design for the waterfront area the zone between the new stone steps and the edge of the water was destined to be a (rather sterile) pebble beach.
As constructing the beach was not a critical activity the contractor levelled and cleared the area and left the final finishing for the end of project. (see photo below)

Photo2 levelling

{2: levelling and clearance of the ground. April 2014}  

As time went on a range of plants including casuarina, creepers, reeds and grasses started to self-generate and the strip soon became an informal wetland area (see photo below) which was regularly attracting Smooth-Coated Otters (or Hybrid Smooth-Coated x Small-Clawed?), Water Monitor Lizards (Varanus salvator), Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta), Striated Herons (Butorides striata), Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), Scaly-Breasted Munia (Longchura punctulata), Long-Tailed Shrike and Olive-Backed Sunbirds.

photo 3 regeneration

{3. Natural plant regeneration. March 2015}
Impressed by the amount of wildlife using the wetland area I decided to try and convince the various stakeholders that it should be retained permanently as a wetland area.
One of my roles as design manager for the Sports Hub’s builder Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd. was to prepare the project’s submission to the PUB for certification under the ABC Waters (active, clean and beautiful) scheme.
I proposed the wetland along with the large vegetated and bio-retention swales as the main elements of our submission. After a bit of negotiation we managed to get the support of the PUB and then, with their help, received the blessing of the other authorities. The condition was that we replanted the area with PUB-approved wetland species such as those used at Lorong Halus and Sengkang Floating Wetlands.
The replanting was completed in November 2015 (see images below) and by February 2016 it had filled out nicely and looked ready for the wildlife to return.


{4 & 5, Completion of new planting November 2015}

DSC_4150
{6. Maturing plants May 2016}

DSC_4160

{7. Maturing plants May 2016}
Within a week of the first stand of reeds being planted I was delighted to find a pair of Yellow Bitterns (Ixobrychus sinensis) had roosted there. They did not stay but perhaps remembered the site as two returned in March 2016 and stayed until 19th May. Two birds (the same?) returned on 20thOctober and have remained throughout the Winter and Spring.
A single White-Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) arrived in March and was joined by a second bird in July. I wasn’t sure they were a pair until I saw a single fluffy black chick on October 16th – the wetland’s first breeding success!

{8. Yellow Bittern, 9. Adult White-Breasted Waterhen, 10. juvenile White-Breasted Waterhen}

An Oriental Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis) also arrived in March and was so happy with his new quarters that he didn’t leave until May 31st. Word must have spread as in October 2016 three birds arrived and have been here throughout the Winter.
To my big surprise I found a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella certhiola) on October 18th, I managed to see it twice more in the following days and then couldn’t relocate it. I assumed it must have just been passing through but I have seen and heard it each week since the beginning of January 2017 so I assume it has been present all the time but was just silent early on. It is very skulking and elusive and although I have a couple of nice recordings of its song it is very hard to get a decent photo – all I have managed is the blurry shot below. (The bird is still present on May 4th)
To complete the set of probable warblers a Black-Browed Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps) appeared on the 24th April and is still present on 2nd May. No doubt just passing through for a feed before beginning its migration back to its breeding grounds but I can hope that one may choose to overwinter in the wetland when they return to Singapore in October.

{11. Oriental Reed Warbler, 12. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, 13. Black-Browed Reed Warbler}

One thing to note is that all of these species spend more time in Singapore than they do in their breeding ranges – for tax purposes they would be considered ‘ordinarily resident’ in Singapore!
Other birds which have made use of the wetland are: Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Brown Shrike (Lanius Cristatus), Yellow-Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica), Common Tailorbird, Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus), Olive-Backed Sunbird, Scaly-Breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata), White-Headed Munia (Lonchura maja), Crimson-Rumped Waxbill (Estrilda rhodopyga) and a rather lost looking Blue Waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis)

14 Brown Shrikw, 15 White-headed Munia, 16 Common Tailorbird.

I record all my sightings on eBird which enables me to easily summarize the comings and goings at each site I regularly visit. For the Sports Hub I have made 2 to 3 early morning visits to the wetland and 2 to 3 lunchtime visits elsewhere on the site each week since late 2015 so I have quite a lot of data for two winter seasons and a full summer. Although I am a single observer and the period is not long enough to draw any firm conclusions I have noted the following dates for a selection of migrating and resident species:
1-6 Chinese Pond Herons often present – earliest 29th Sept, latest 1st April
1-10 Little Egrets regularly visit – earliest 3rd Nov, latest 12th April
2-8 Cattle Egrets erratically present – earliest 1st December, latest 3rd March
Up to 17 Little Terns (Sterna hirundo) fishing and loafing on the water – earliest 20th April, latest 13th October (do they stay around Singapore’s coastline for the winter or do they go further afield?)
1 Brown Shrike present from 20th October to 9th February

{17. Little Terns resting on regatta course buoys and 18. Little Tern fishing}

What interests me the most about this small strip of wetland is not so much that it attracts lots of wildlife but that it is evidently sufficient to provide all the food and roosting requirements for at least 4 species of birds.
It seems that the Yellow Bitterns, White-Breasted Waterhen and especially the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and Oriental Reed Warblers do not need anything else. It is a small island of habitat which does not rely on connectivity to other transitional habitats for it to be useful.
It is also important to note that this habitat is only 18 months old.
We can compare this with the cleansing biotope at Gardens by the Bay and the small reed bed at Satay by the Bay.
These are also recently planted small areas of emergent plants and reeds, also surrounded by less ideal habitat but also home to several wintering Oriental Reed Warblers, Black-Browed Reed Warblers, one or two Yellow Bitterns and a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler.
Likewise, I have seen all four species in the small stands of reeds in the new ponds at the bottom of the viewing tower at Kranji Marshes and I understand that the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler has also wintered at the Sengkang floating wetlands in previous years.
Although planting isolated stands of native trees in Singapore is sadly not going to provide significant or sufficient habitat for wintering forest species it appears that isolated areas of wetland planting can provide sufficient and safe wintering habitat for some of Asia’s species of warblers and herons.
All four species are classified as being LC (of least concern) by IUCN at the moment and are not considered under threat of significant population loss. However, it is thought that Oriental Reed Warblers are declining in some parts of its range through habitat loss as reed beds are drained and streams are canalised. It is logical that this would apply to the other warblers.
Providing quality habitat for them in Singapore can only be a positive step in their conservation. Even better is the speed with which these habitats can be mature enough to be attractive to the target species.
The plants also provide a valuable service in taking nutrients out of storm water runoff which helps to reduce the amount of treatment needed later in the system to turn reservoir water into drinking water.
The PUB is encouraging developers to include ABC Waters features on each new development and at some stage this may become a requirement. This is good news for wildlife. These features are not so costly to install and mature very quickly.
The wetland at the Sports Hub is a good example of the public and private sectors working together for biodiversity. The contractor paid for the design, groundworks and planting, the PUB provides ongoing maintenance.
The recently-announced redevelopment of the Kallang Riverside north of the Merdeka Bridge is an ideal opportunity to increase the extent of this type of habitat in Singapore and provide more opportunities for migrating birds to find a winter home here.
marcel finlay
Singapore, May 2017
My thanks to the ABC Waters team at the PUB and Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd. for their assistance in creating this small but useful addition to Singapore’s habitats.
All photos by the author except for images 2, 4 and 5 by Hasan Mehedi of DSPL.

Nesting of an Olive-winged Bulbul

Contributed by Andrew Tan

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On 8 April, I took a walk along the mangroves lined Belayer Creek. This connector is named after a historic rock Batu Belayer or “Sail Rock” at the entrance of the harbor. This is one of the only two remnant mangrove patches in the south of Singapore. 60 birds, 19 fish species and 14 true mangroves have been recorded here.

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I saw two Olive-winged Bulbuls, Pycnonotus plumosus, flying in and out of a palm tree. On checking I found one of them sitting on a cup nest wedged in between the fond stem and the trunk below eye level ( right). It was made of plant fiber, leaves and twigs. My joy was complete when I saw two chicks inside. They were tiny and bare and must have just hatched. The Olive-winged Bulbul is the most common forest bulbul in Singapore. They are also found in our woodlands, abandoned orchards and some nature parks.

 

                      Parent sitting on the two newly hatched chicks.

I left the nest alone for a few days and returned on 12th to check on the progress. Both chicks were doing well. They were still bare and their eyes were still closed. The parents were seen bringing back cicadas and orange berries to feed them. This varied diet was new to me as I thought that it will be mostly insects for proteins.

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Besides insects the parent bird brought back berries for the very young chicks as well.

Insects like Cicadas are an important source of protein for the growing chicks

On the 15th, about a week old, pin feathers can be seen on both the chicks. Their eyes were opened and calls for food were more frequent. The parents were perched nearby the nest to make sure that no predators are around. When I got too close for comfort they will warn me with loud calls and frantic wing flapping. However instinct took over and they continued with the feeding after a while when I stayed away.

                      Four days to a week old chicks showing different feather growth.

Debra who lived nearby came to helped me to check on the chicks on 17th and found the fitter one standing on the rim of the nest. It looked strong and was fully covered with feathers. She reckoned that it will be fledgling soon. The other chick was still resting inside the nest and less active.

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When I went there on the 19th to check, the bigger chick surprised me by flying away to the bushes nearby. I may have caused it to take its maiden flight but I am glad that it fledged. The parents were still around and were still feeding the younger chick. It took just 11 days for the first chick to fledged. Nature make sure that they do so as fast as possible to avoid being predated. Good to see another pair of our native bulbuls gracing our natural landscape. Family photo on right showing the 9 days old chick standing on the nest.                Video of chick preening