Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul.

Annual bird census data reveals Singapore as the global stronghold of endangered songbird. 

Straw-headed Bulbul at Zoo

Wild populations of many bird species are in rapid decline across Southeast Asia as a result of unsustainable hunting for the pet-bird trade, especially in Indonesia. Sought by bird hobbyists for its powerful and rich song, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) is one of the world’s most threatened songbirds due to soaring demand for the pet trade.  Across much of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul has been relentlessly trapped from the wild to be later sold in the bird markets of Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. The species has now gone extinct from Thailand and most parts of Indonesia where it used to be found, including the whole island of Java. There are also no recent records from Sumatra.

In a recent study published in the journal Bird Conservation International led by members of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, wild populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore was found to have steadily risen over the last 15 years, and may now be the largest in its entire distribution. Using data gathered from more than 15 years of the Annual Bird Census, the study found that populations on the island of Pulau Ubin have increased at nearly 4% per year. It is estimated that at least 110 individuals of the Straw-headed Bulbul now survives on Ubin, making the island a global stronghold for the species. On the other hand, trends in mainland Singapore were less clear, appearing to remain unchanged over the study period.

The population of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore is estimated to be at least 202 individuals based on existing data. However this estimate is likely to be conservative since the Western Catchment area was not comprehensively surveyed. Moreover, new sites for the bulbul, including remnant pockets of woodland like Burgundy woods has been discovered very recently and these were not captured in the Annual Bird Census. Given that the global population of the species is now estimated at 600-1,700 individuals, Singapore may easily hold 12-34% of the world’s remaining wild Straw-headed Bulbuls.

To effectively conserve the Straw-headed Bulbul, there will be a need to conserve small pockets of woodland such as Bukit Brown and Khatib Bongsu outside the nature reserves. It is also hoped that the authorities will review plans to gazette at least some parts of Pulau Ubin as a nature reserve. Other biodiversity can be expected benefit from the conservation actions targeting the bulbul.

Studies on the long-term population trends of birds in Singapore would not be possible without the citizen science surveys carried out by the Nature Society and supported by a large team of volunteers since 1986. These surveys include the Mid-year, Fall, and most importantly, the Annual Bird Censuses. Additionally, there are also dedicated censuses focused on monitoring raptor migration and parrots in urban areas. During these censuses, as many as 50 volunteers may be surveying birds across the country concurrently. Over the last two decades, these censuses have allowed us to track population trends of threatened species such as the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.”

By Yong Ding Li.

Singapore Bird Report-January 2017

 

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Our second record after 25 years, a rare vagrant Grey-streaked Flycatcher brilliantly captured at Pasir Ris Park by Aldwin Recinto. 

We kick-started the Year of the Rooster with a very rare vagrant, a Grey Streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta photographed by Aldwin Recinto at Pasir Ris Park on 13th. This is only our second record. Our first record was on 21 April 1991 at Poyan (IORA 1), more than 25 years ago. It winters in Borneo and the Philippines. Unfortunately it did not stay more than a day.

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This photo of a young Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon moulting into adult male plumage, by Loke Peng Fai, got us heading to Ubin on the second day of the New Year.

On the first day, Low Choon How photographed a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus flying over the Straits of Johor and Loke Peng Fai had an exciting find, a Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon Treron fulvicollis at Ubin near Ketam Quarry. The next day Con Foley and See Toh Yew Wai counted no less than 12 Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeons there. This is the largest flock of these rare pigeons ever recorded in Singapore and most probably in Johor as well.

Staying in Ubin, a rare Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides was seen by See Toh Yew Wai on 2nd.  Daniel Ong found a pair of Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana sitting on a stick nest inside the mangroves near Chek Jawa on 3rd.  If nesting is confirmed this will be our first nesting record since 2005 at Pulau Bukom Kechil. A Jambu Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus jambu photographed by Tan Gim Cheong on the 5th near Ketam Quarry. Two Jerdon’s Bazas Aviceda jerdoni were photographed by Khaleb Yordan with Lim Kim Chuah on the 14th. Nearby at Chek Jawa, 3 globally near-threatened Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica were reported by Wing Chong on the same day while Andrew Chow came in with reports of Lesser Crested Terns Thalasseus bengalensis roosting at Pulau Seduku on 2nd.

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A handsome male Little Ringed Plover in full breeding plumage taken at P. Tekong by Frankie Cheong.

Nearby at Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong sent in reports of Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius, Red-necked Stints Calidris rufficollis and an endangered Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes on 21st. It would seem that Pulau Tekong has become the favourite stop over for the Chinese Egrets. During the Asian Waterbird Census, Lim Kim Keang counted 67 Red-necked Stints at Mandai Mudflats. A sizable flock for this globally near-threatened shorebird under the IUCN listing mainly due to the loss of wetlands in the Yellow Sea.

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Wang Bin’s clever seamless two-in-one photo montage of both morphs of the Oriental Scops Owl taken on different days from Dairy Farm NP 

On the mainland, the most intriguing find was a pair of Oriental Scops Owls Otus Sunia at DFNP by Keita Sin on the 10th. One was a grey morph and the other was rufous, both roosting on the same tree. Did they meet on migration or flew in together? We may have to wait for further sightings for the answer.

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Male Orange-headed Thrush at the Singapore Botanic Gardens by Solomon Anthony.

Interesting passerine visitors include two Orange-headed Thrushes Geokichla citrina at the Rainforest at Singapore Botanic Gardens photographed by Solomon Anthony on 10th, a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Belayer Creek at Labrador on 12th, new for Labrador NR (Alan OwYong), a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans on the 15th at PRP by Tan Gim Cheong, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus at PRP on 16th by Tan Gim Cheong, a female Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae at Terangtang Trail by Keita Sin on 17th, a returning Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida flying into an apartment at Park East on 17th (Lee Li Er) and a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus at the BTNR summit on 18th by Francis Yap.

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Not often you get to see a Grey Nightjar roosting so low and open. Taken at Chinese Gardens by Looi Ang Soh Hoon.

Others were a Large Hawk Cuckoo at Bidadari on 20th by Tan Gim Cheong,  a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka back at the same tree as the previous season at Bidadari on 20th by Tan Gim Cheong and another at the Chinese Gardens on 23rd by Looi Ang Soh Hoon, a Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata at Kranji Marshes seen during a Bird Group trip on 22nd by Lee Ee Ling, a Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 25th by Laurence Eu and a juvenile Hodgon’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor from the Canopy Walk at Kent Ridge Park on 29th by Alan OwYong.

Of the water species, two Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus were reported, first a juvenile on 15th at the PRP boardwalk by Lim Kim Keang and the second an adult at Satay by the Bay on 31st by Alan OwYong. This is new for the Bay Gardens. James Tann reported the return of the snipe to the Cattail pond at Chinese Gardens on 18th. This could be the Pin-tailed Gallinago stenura that was identified roosting there the past few years. A secretive Watercock Gallicrex cinerea was photographed at Kranji Marshes by Adrian Silas Tay on 22nd.

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A hard to find Watercock taken at Kranji Marshes by Adrian Silas Tay. 

Notable residents for the month were 4-5 Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea feeding on red palm nuts at Changi Business Park reported on 1st by Ted Lee, Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps from Jelutong Tower by Keita Sin on 3rd and around 20 House Swifts Apus nipalensis flying over Kent Ridge Road reported by Keita Sin on 26th. This was by far the largest flock of this swift ever reported for a long while. We hope that this will signal a comeback.

Legend: DFNP Dairy Farm National Park, PRP Pasir Ris Park, BTNR Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

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. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Aldwin Recinto, Loke Peng Fai, Frankie Cheong, Wang Bin, Solomon Anthony, Looi Ang Soh Hoon and Adrian Silas Tay for the use of their photos. If you have any earlier records than those reported here and found some errors, please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

9th SINGAPORE RAPTOR WATCH REPORT

Autumn 2016 Migration – 6 Nov 2016

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Peregrine Falcon at Tuas South Avenue 16, 6 Nov 2016, by Tan Gim Cheong

The 9th Singapore raptor watch was held on Sunday, 6 November 2016 and involved 72 participants – the largest number of participants thus far. It had been raining the past few days prior and we were lucky that it did not rain during the count, although we had overcast conditions almost the whole day. We counted 343 raptors representing 7 migrant species and 92 raptors of 6 resident species. A further 41 raptors could not be identified to species level. There were 8 raptor watch sites and the numbers counted at each site varied from a high of 164 to a low of 4.

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Apart from the addition of Hindhede Quarry, the other seven sites were the same ones as previous years, thanks to all the site leaders for their faithful support!

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Most of the migrant raptors were recorded between 9am to 1pm, with the numbers trailing off later in the afternoon. Oriental Honey Buzzards migrating across Tuas South from 10-11am and 12-1pm contributed to the two ‘mini-peaks’ in the graph below.

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The Oriental Honey Buzzards (OHB) was the most numerous migrant raptor counted, with 289 birds. Being the most widespread, the OHB was recorded at all the 8 sites. Highest numbers for the OHB were at Tuas South Avenue 16 (139 birds), Japanese Garden (43 birds) and Kent Ridge Park (39 birds).

Usually, the Black Bazas would constitute the second highest count, but not this year. The second spot was claimed by the 38 Japanese Sparrowhawks, which was recorded at six out of 8 sites, with 16 birds at the Japanese Gardens alone. Only ten Black Bazas were counted at two sites – 9 at Lorong Halus Wetlands and 1 at Puaka Hill on Pulau Ubin.

Two Booted Eagles – one at Japanese Gardens and the other at Changi Business Park – were exceptional for this scarce passage migrant. Only two Peregrine Falcons and one Common Kestrel were counted, and all three birds were recorded at Tuas South. The one and only Chinese Sparrowhawk was recorded at Lorong Halus Wetlands.

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For the resident species, the total count was 92 birds of 6 species, one more species than the year before – the addition being the Crested Goshawk. The count for the resident raptors comprised 43 Brahminy Kites, 29 White-bellied Sea Eagles, 11 Changeable Hawk Eagles, 4 Grey-headed Fish Eagles, 3 Black-winged Kites, and 2 Crested Goshawks. The decrease in the count for the Black-winged Kites was notable.

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The figure below provides a snapshot of the number of raptors according to the three categories – migrant, un-identified & resident raptors, at the 8 sites.

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Summary:    

Number of raptors
– 343 migrant raptors.
– 41 un-identified raptors.
– 92 resident raptors.

 Number of species
13 species counted, including:
– 7 migrant species.
– 6 resident species.

A complete breakdown of the species counted at each site is shown in the table below:

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Thanks to all the 72 wonderful birders, both leaders and participants, for spending their Sunday out in the open to count raptors. National Parks Board staff and NParks volunteers also participated.  The following fantastic people led or assisted in the raptor count:

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This report was compiled by TAN Gim Cheong

Please click on the link for a pdf version of the report 9th-singapore-raptor-watch-2016

Year of the Red Jungle Rooster

Contributed by Seng Alvin.

As we will be welcoming the Year of the Rooster in a few days time, there is no better time to write something about our Red Jungle Fowl, Galus galus, without which we will not have our Hainanese  Chicken Rice.

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They are now seen all over the island from parks and gardens to our housing estates. But they were not recorded by our earlier authors up to the late 70s. The first record was from Pulau Ubin in 1985/86 from observations  by Lim Kim Keang, other birders and residents. This population, likely from Johor, had since established itself. Pulau Ubin is still considered the stronghold for this species. The first mainland record were two females seen at Poyan on 29 January 1998. (SINAV 12.1).

The spread of this species together with introduced stock and escapees to the rest of the island have resulted in hybrid birds roaming all over our parks and gardens. The danger will be a dilution of the original species in Ubin if it has not happened yet. Another concern is the spread of bird flu if it surfaces in Singapore again.

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Pasir Ris Park has a few families of the Red Jungle Fowls, with 30-40 birds, thriving in this mangrove parkland. The most recent was this hybrid family where the mother was a domestic hen with a complete white plumage. The father seems to be a Red Jungle Fowl. Why did it choose to mate with a domestic hen instead one of the wilder birds around?

It was seen hanging around at a distant to the mother and her seven chicks but did not feed with them. This strange behavior may be of rejection by the hen and the reluctance of the father to abandon the family or normal for the mother bird to bring up the chicks alone. What do you think? Interestingly the chicks are both white and brown taking the genes from each parent. I will monitor this family and seen how the chicks will turn out when they become adults.

Gong Xi Fa Cai to all.

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

Singapore Raptor Report – December 2016

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Eastern Imperial Eagle, juvenile, Pulau Ubin, 28 Dec 2016, by Robin Tan

Summary for migrant species:

An uncommon Grey-faced Buzzard (adult) photographed by Thio Hui Bing on the 1st on Pulau Ubin after rain was a good start for the month. The next day, on the 2nd, two rare raptors showed up: a grey morph Oriental Scops Owl photographed by Gavan Leong in the daytime, also on Pulau Ubin and a juvenile Black Kite photographed by Francis Yap at Jelutong Tower.

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Grey-faced Buzzard, Pulau Ubin, 1 Dec 2016, by Thio Hui Bing

Not to be outdone, a very rare Amur Falcon was photographed by Yip Peng Sun at Yishun Dam on the morning of the 16th – this being the second record for Singapore since the first occurrence on 21 Nov 2007.

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Amur Falcon, Yishun Dam, 16 Dec 2016, by Yip Peng Sun

The streak of rarities culminated with a juvenile Imperial Eagle, again on Pulau Ubin. The last record being on 18 Nov 2001, 15 years ago. First photographed on the 19th, the Imperial Eagle was relocated on the 27th at the same spot and appeared there everyday till the 31st, giving birders here a great opportunity to see this rarity. A juvenile Imperial Eagle photographed on the 24th at the eastern part of Singapore main island was most likely the same individual. As is the case with migrant eagles, this individual was occasionally mobbed by resident House Crows and Brahminy Kites.

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Eastern Imperial Eagle, juvenile, Pulau Ubin, 28 Dec 2016, by Frankie Cheong

A dark morph Booted Eagle was still wintering at Pulau Punggol Barat and the nearby areas, being recorded on the 3rd, 10th, 17th and 26th. Two Ospreys were recorded around the usual areas near the northern coast of Singapore. For the Accipiters, six Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, but none for the Chinese Sparrowhawk. Five Peregrine Falcons (3 juveniles, 1 adult, 1 un-aged) were recorded around the island, quite a good number for this uncommon species.

A total of 36 Black Bazas were recorded on the northern areas from Sungei Buloh to Pasir Ris, the largest flock being 15-strong at Punggol Barat. For the Oriental Honey Buzzard, 45 were recorded, the largest flock comprised 11 birds at Sungei Buloh on the 3rd, probably on migration. On the 15th, there was a sight report of a juvenile Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, which cannot be verified due to the possibility of confusion with other similar-looking species.

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White-bellied Sea Eagle, immature, Pulau Ubin, 27 Dec 2016, by Tan Gim Cheong

Highlights for sedentary species:

By the 22nd, the Grey-headed Fish Eagle chick on the nest at Little Guilin had fledged – another successful nesting for the species at the same locality. Other records of this fish eagle came from Kranji Marshes (on 10th & 26th) and Pulau Ubin (on 15th & 29th).

The Crested Goshawk was recorded from the Botanic Gardens (adult on 3rd & 13th), West Coast Park (juvenile on 7th & 20th) and Sengkang Floating Wetlands (juvenile on 17th).  There were 2 torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzzards; the adult tweeddale morph recorded at Pasir Ris Park the previous month was still around on the 10th, 17th and 21st, while a juvenile tweeddale morph first recorded last month at Ang Mo Kio was photographed at the nearby Bishan Park on the 24th and 25th.

For the Changeable Hawk-Eagle, it was notable that nesting was observed at Mount Faber on the 20th. The White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, and Black-winged Kite completed the roundup for the month.

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Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Robin Tan, Yip Peng Sun, Thio Hui Bing and Frankie Cheong for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click singapore-raptor-report-dec16

 

 

Singapore Bird Report-December 2016

 

We cannot asked for a more exciting end to the year than having a rare montane species turning up at our forest. A Mountain Imperial Pigeon Ducula badia was spotted by Lim Kim Seng feeding on the figs next to NParks office at Pulau Ubin on new year’s eve. Being long distance flyers Ubin is probably within its range from the Central Highlands of Malaysia. Kim Seng was there to look for the Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus. The Mountain Imperial Pigeon is only our third record, the second for Ubin (previous sighting on 11.11.2012).

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Mountain Imperial Pigeon – A year end lifer for many birders here. Photo: Lee Tiah Khee.

Kim Seng had earlier reported an Aquila eagle being mobbed by our White-bellied Sea-eagles Haliaeetus leucogaster and House Crows Corvus splendens at the rocky Pulau Seduku on the 19th. It turned out to be a juvenile Asian Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, last recorded at Tanah Merah on 18.11.2001, 15 years back. These two rare sightings caused a stampede of birders and photographers to Ubin hoping to tick off their lifers. Most were successful. Staying at Ubin, a first of the season Himalayan Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus was photographed by Keita Sin at Butterfly Hill on 28th.

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A rare Himalayan Cuckoo, formerly known as Oriental Cuckoo, first for the season.                   Photographed by Keita Sin at Butterfly Hill Ubin.

Earlier in the month on the 2nd, Gavan Leong stumbled on an Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia in broad daylight near Pekan Quarry, another first for the season.

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Gavan Leong was fortunate to find this rare Oriental Scops Owl near Pekan Quarry.

At the same quarry, Atish Banerjee spotted the on-off Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster  on the 5th. It was seen again on the 10th by Francis Yap who went over to check on the Mangrove Pittas Pitta megarhyncha. He found a few individuals at their usual haunt. On the same day, Millie Cher spied a shy Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata wintering at the nearby mangroves. A Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus was seen flying over Ketam Quarry on the 20th by Birding Dawn. It must have come over from Danga Bay further west of Ubin. This is the most easterly record for this threatened species. Just showed how rich and attractive Pulau Ubin is for these rare species. The decision to keep as much of the island as it is cannot be more timely.

Not to be outdone, SBWR came up with a male non-breeding Ruff Philomachus pugnax photographed by Robin Tan on 2nd. Our last records were in 2001 at Tanah Merah.

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After a long absence of 15 years, this Ruff was photographed at SBWR by Robin Tan 

Another Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus, this time an adult, was also photographed at SBWR on 20th by Tan Chee Keon. It later flew over to Kranji Marshes and stayed for a few days (Lim Kim Chuah 25th).

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An adult Grey-headed Lapwing photographed at SBWR by Tan Chee Keon.                                         This is the second record for the year. 

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This rare winter visitor Slaty-legged Crake had an unfortunate ending at Sentosa. Photo credit: SDC and Tan Kok Yeang.

Other rarities include a dead Slaty-legged Crake Rallina eurizonoides that crashed into the fence at Pulau Selegu, now part of Sentosa, on the 5th. Tan Kok Yeang forwarded a photo of the dead crake taken by his staff.

A Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanophus at Tuas South on 9th was reported by Low Choon How, a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka at Bidadari on 10th (Lim Kim Keang), Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus at Kranji Marshes on 10th identified from a photo by Veronica Foo. This is the type of waterbirds that NParks hopes to attract back to the Marshes and this sighting is an indication that it is succeeding.

An Amur Falcon Falco amurensis on 16th at Seletar by Yip Peng Sun was an unexpected sighting, being only the second record for Singapore. Other interesting winter visitors reported include a Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor at Upper Pierce Reservoir on 2nd (Veroica Foo), Orange-headed Thrush Geokichia citrina, a first for the season, below Jelutong Tower on 3rd (Lim Kim Seng), another Orange-headed Thrush at BTNR Tabun Loop on 9th (Lim Kim Keang), an Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis at Jurong Eco Garden on 3rd (Veronica Foo), up to four White Wagtails Motacilla alba at Marina Barrage on 4th (Alan OwYong), an Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus (leucogenis) race at Bidadari on the 8th (Xu Weiting), 4 Chinese Egrets Egretta eulophotes at Tekong on 10th (Frankie Cheong) and a Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana at Dairy Farm seen from Hill View Station on 12th by George Presanis. More than 200 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters Merops philippinus were seen roosting at the Nassim area on 11th by Richard White.

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The obliging Hooded Pitta at the Ginger Garden was the darling of many photographers               early in the month. Photo: Diamondo Sutjipto.

Hooded Pittas Pitta sordida made a strong showing at the Botanic Gardens this season starting with Lee Chuin Ming and James Tann’s sighting on the 7th. Three days later Atish Banerjee saw one at Symphony Lake and another at the Rain Forest while Richard White also reported another at the Dell. Richard confirmed that there were at least 3 Hooded Pittas and one Blue-wigned Pitta Pitta moluccensis at the gardens on the 12th. On the same day Daniel Ong reported another Blue-winged Pitta  at Tampines.

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Watercock found dead at Changi Business Park.   Photo: Mick Price.

Bird crashes were coming in fast and furious for the month. Three Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea, first at Riverdale alive on 1st, second at Changi Business Park on 2nd – dead (Mick Price) and the last at Hougang, which survived, on 8th.

Two dead Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata both at Ubin, first on 2nd and the other on 3rd. Two Blue-winged Pittas, at UWC SEA Tampines on 2nd and another at NUS Ridge View Residences on 3rd. An adult Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, probably a migrant at Sentosa Beach Station 0n 2nd (Sarah Chin).  A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka flew into a house at Changi but recovered and flew off on its own. A first winter male Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki found dead at Nepal Park and a dead Hooded Pitta at Kent View both on the 8th. A Thick-billed Pigeon Treton curvirostra crashed into an apartment at One-North on 9th (Alan OwYong). Fortunately it recovered the next day and was released. (All crash records from David Tan unless stated). (Received a late note from Joe Lim that a Hooded Pitta was found at Hospital Drive a little concussed. It was later released in the nearby forest.)

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This sub-adult male Thick-billed Pigeon survived the crash at One-North. Alan OwYong

Interesting resident sightings came from the Botanic Gardens as well. Richard White reported a Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis, a forest species there on 7th. It may have been pushed out of Bukit Brown where a new highway is being built. There were old records of this coucal at the gardens in the 90s. A confused Western Barn Owl Tyto alba was taking refuge at Temasek Poly on the 8th, much to the amusement of the students there (Wong Chung Cheong). A rare Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea was photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 11th by Alfred Chia. A small group frequented the Loyang area on a regular basis.

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Up to 8 House Swifts Apus nipalensis were seen flying over the Eco Lake at SBG by Keita Sin on 21st. A very good record as we normally get single bird sightings here and there. Signs of recovery for this species? An Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis was seen among them according to Keita. They used to nest at the Palm Valley nearby up to the 80s. A limping Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana flew onto the Marina Barrage on the 26th, a first for this location. Also first for the area were 4 Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus and a Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis seen on the open grassland there. This seafront is getting its fair share of uncommon species and waders.

Green Imperial Pigeon photographed at Pasir Ris Park by Alfred Chia.

Two early nesting records were from a male Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris seen regurgitating figs to feed the entombed female at SBG by Yang Pah Liang and a pair of Red-crowned Barbets Megalaima rafflesii at CCNR (Lim Kim Seng).

Legend: SBWR-Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. CCNR-Central Catchment Nature Reserve. SBG-Singapore Botanic Gardens. UWC-United World College. NUS-National University of Singapore.

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. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Lee Tiah Khee, Keita Sin, Gavan Leong, Robin Tan, Tan Chee Keon, Tan Kok Yeang, Diamondo Sutjipto, Mick Price, Alan OwYong and Alfred Chia for the use of their photos. If you have any earlier records than those reported here and found some errors, please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com. 

 

First observation of Necrophilia (sex with the dead) in the Red Turtle Dove

Early in January 2016, while driving along Lim Chu Kang Lane 1, I stopped the car to photograph a male Red Turtle Dove, Streptopelia tranquebarica, that was flushed by traffic up a lamp post.

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A male Red Turtle Dove on a lamp post

Moments later, the dove flew down to the road and started to puff itself up around a brownish clump lying motionless on the road.

Looking through my binoculars, i realised that it was displaying to a dead female Red Turtle Dove! I’ve never seen a live bird displaying to a dead one – interesting indeed.

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Male Red Turtle Dove displaying to a dead female

 

After a while, the male started to climb on top of the dead female.

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The male climbing on top of the dead female. (note the position of the female’s tail).

Then the male sat on the female and copulated, or attempted to copulate with the dead female, shifting her tail right-left-right a few times!

 

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The male on the female (note the female’s tail is shifted to the right).

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The male continues to copulate, or attempted to copulate with the dead female (note the female’s tail has shifted back).

 

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The male still copulating or attempting to copulate with the dead female (note the female’s tail is shifted to the right).

The female is probably a roadkill, which is not uncommon on rural roads such as this one.

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The fresh body of a female Red Turtle Dove on the road.

 

A quick search on the internet revealed that necrophilia has been reported in some species of birds, but not the Red Turtle Dove. This incident could be the first instance of necrophilia observed for the Red Turtle Dove.

Nature surprises in unexpected manners!

 

 

 

Changeable Hawk-Eagles of Singapore

In 2010, the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) initiated a Small Bird Study Grant to encourage research on threatened birds species in Singapore. The grant of  up to $2,000 would provide financial support to successful applicant to carry out research projects on these species in Singapore. Since its inception, we had awarded three grants to the following projects:

Tan Kok Hui for “The Study and Distribution of the Changeable Hawk-eagles in Singapore” in 2011. Ng Wen Qing for “Ecology interaction of Birds and Figs in Singapore ” in 2012. Felix Wong for “ Impact of the Introduced species like the Lineated Barbet and White-crested Laughingthrush on our native Birds”

CHE Nesting at Faber Forest 9.4.15 Kleen Koh

This nest( left) taken at Faber Forest in April 2015 from across the road at Trade Hub by Klenn Koh. The Forest has since been cleared for a bus depot.

In this article, we provide a summary of Tan Kok  Hui’s study of our Changeable Hawk-eagles Nisaetus cirrhatus across Singapore. Raptors in Singapore are generally not well studied, and the Changeable Hawk-eagle is no exception.. It is listed in the Singapore Red Data Book as a nationally threatened, uncommon resident. Being an apex predator, the Changeable Hawk-eagle is an indicator species of the health of our ecosystems. A decline in the population of its prey species, which includes anything from Plaintain Squirrels and Monitor Lizards to young Long-tailed Macaques would thus have detrimental impacts on the population of this large raptor.

Prior to 1992 there were no documented records of nesting of the Changeable Hawk-eagle in the whole of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Our first confirmed nesting record of the species came in the early 2000s and it was regarded as a rare resident breeder then.

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The subspecies limnaeetus that occurs in Singapore is the only one in the region that is polymorphic

Kok Hui’s project was successful in locating many nesting sites over one season of field work and thus was able to establish a new estimate of the Changeable Hawk-eagle population. In all he found six active nesting sites outside the nature reserves, mostly at the north-western part of the island ( e.g. Poyan, Neo Tiew, Mandai West, Woodlands). One nest each was found in south ( Mount Faber) and east ( Changi). The large nests were usually built with sticks on Albizia trees in secondary woodland since these are often the tallest trees around.

Three pairs of Changeable Hawk-eagle were also recorded away from these nest sites. They were at Sarimbun, Seletar Camp and the Singapore Quarry. Additionally, a few inactive nests were seen at Pasir Ris, Dairy Farm, Temenggong Road and Bukit Batok.

Based on the study, it can be concluded that there were at least nine nesting pairs of Changeable Hawk-eagles distributed in Singapore outside of the Central nature reserves. The present evidence collected by Kok Hui suggests that the Changeable Hawk-eagle is adapting well to Singapore’s landscape, especially the remnant areas of tall secondary woodland. To ensure that large raptors such as the Changeable Hawk-eagle can continue to survive in the urban jungle of Singapore, it is important that our remnant woodlands, especially those with stands of Albizzia (Falcataria moluccana) trees be retained and conserved for their biodiversity value.

Compiled by Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li from Tan Kok Hui’s paper ”  The Study and Distribution of the Changeable Hawk-eagles in Singapore 2011″. Many thanks to Klenn Koh for the use of his photo.

 

 

 

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2016

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Jerdon’s Baza, at Jelutong Tower, 30 Nov 2016, by Francis Yap.

Summary for migrant species:

The highlight of the month was the very rare Eurasian Sparrowhawk over Henderson Waves on the 17th, photographed by Keita Sin. This is the second record of this species in Singapore.

November being the peak month for migrant raptors in Singapore, saw the arrival of the Jerdon’s Baza, Black Baza, Black Kite and Booted Eagle. The first Jerdon’s Baza was photographed at Punggol Barat on the 13th and the second at Jelutong Tower on the 30th. The first Black Baza was recorded on the 8th, a rather late date compared to previous years. The only Black Kite was photographed at Tuas South on the 27th; it was a juvenile, as with most records for this species. A dark morph Booted Eagle was first photographed at Punggol Barat on the 6th and recorded several times later in the month; it will probably winter there.

A juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier was recorded on video making many low passes over Kranji Marshes on the 19th. At Tuas South, a Common Kestrel was recorded on the 8th and the 16th, likely the same individual. Three Peregrine Falcons were recorded and the one at Millenia Tower right outside an office window presented a fantastic photo-opportunity.

Seven Ospreys were recorded, around the northern coast and Pulau Ubin. For the other accipiters, 23 Japanese Sparrowhawks and five Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded. At Potong Pasir on the 7th, a juvenile Japanese Sparrowhawk collided into a window pane, carrying food, luckily it recovered after 10 minutes and flew off. Lastly, the Oriental Honey Buzzard, our most common migrant raptor, was represented by 202 birds.

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Oriental Honey Buzzard, a young torquatus tweeddale morph, at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, 25 Nov 2016, by Ender Tey.

 

Highlights for sedentary species:

A smart-looking, young torquatus tweeddale morph Oriental Honey Buzzard was photographed at Ang Mo Kio on the 25th, while an adult was photographed at Pasir Ris Park on the 30th. The rare Crested Serpent Eagle was photographed at three localities this month, at Kent Ridge on the 10th, at Sembawang on the 14th and at Rifle Range Road on the 18th. The uncommon Crested Goshawk was photographed at the Botanic Gardens (adult male and female) and Pasir Ris Park (juvenile). A pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles are nesting high up on a tall tree at Little Guilin and we hope for a successful nesting. There was a sight report of a Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle, on the 14th at dawn, which cannot be verified due to the possibility of confusion with other similar-looking species. Other resident raptors recorded were Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.

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Eurasian Sparrowhawk, with 6 ‘fingers’ clearly visible, at Henderson Waves, 17 Nov 2016, by Keita Sin.

 

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Booted Eagle, at Punggol Barat, 13 Nov 2016, by Francis Yap.

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Peregrine Falcon, at Millenia Tower, 1 Nov 2016, by Zhang Licong.

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Crested Goshawk, at Botanic Gardens, feeding on a Peaceful Dove, 10 Nov 2016, by Laurence Eu.

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Francis Yap, Ender Tey, Keita Sin, Zhang Licong and Laurence Eu for the use of their photos.

Update (15 Feb 2017): Please note insertion of 9 OHB, 1 Jap Sparrowhawk, 2 Brahminy Kites, 2 WBSE, 1 CHE. These are highlighted in yellow in the updated pdf singapore-raptor-report-nov16-v2

 

Singapore Bird Report- November 2016

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Bulwer’s Petrel photographed by Lau Jiasheng on a pelagic trip to the Straits of Singapore.

The big new for November had to be the sighting of a Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii on 12th at the Straits of Singapore during a pelagic trip organised by Francis Yap and friends. This is the first encounter with this petrel and a very important find. It showed that they are using the Straits of Singapore to move from their breeding grounds at the islands off Japan and SE China to the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean.  (Note: the Singapore Straits is a multi-national stretch of water). The Records Committee is now assessing this record. During the same trip a rare Red-footed Booby Sula sula was photographed resting on flotsam. This is only the third record. Well done guys!

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Red-footed Booby, the third record of this species, at the Straits of Singapore photographed by Francis Yap.

With more and more observers, and people interested in birds, we are getting records of arriving thrushes, pittas, cuckoos and flycatchers from every corner of the island this month. This in turn gave us a very accurate picture of the movement of these migrants, data which is crucial for their conservation.

The Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida records for this month best illustrate this. Saket Sarupria posted a photo of one at the corner of a stair landing at Keppel Towers on 29th. It flew off later on its own. But the second sighting of the day at St. Andrew’s Cathedral survived the crash as well (David Tan). The next day, Sarah Chin’s dad found one at the PWC building at Chinatown. David Tan was kept busy going from Bedok North and then to King George’s Avenue to collect two more dead Hooded Pittas on the same day. The last Hooded Pitta for the month was at Tuas South, seen very much alive by Robin Tan. The five pittas found in that two days gave us a timing of its major movement. But it was the report of a Hooded Pitta that crashed into Patricia Lorenz’s house at Tanah Merah on 6th that sets a new extreme date (David Tan).

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Blue-winged Pitta looking lost in the grounds of Bowen Secondary School. Photo: Jimmy Lee.

The Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis continued to arrive this month. One found dead at Orchard Road on the 1st (David Tan), another casualty at Tuas on 3rd. Low Choon How reported one at Tuas South on 9th, another was photographed roosting at night at Hindhede NP by Vinchel Budihardjo on 11th. James Tann reported another crashing into Metropolis at One-North on 11th as well. This one survived. The last was seen wandering around Bowen Secondary School by Jimmy Lee on 18th. Pittas are one species that are very prone to crashing into buildings during night migration.

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Siberian Thrush feeding on the berries outside the BTNR Visitor Center. Photo: Lee Chuin Ming.

Up to three Siberian Thrushes Geokichla sibirica were first seen feeding on a fruiting tree near to the BTNR visitor center on 2nd by Lee Chuin Ming. This was followed by the appearance of the Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus at Bidadari spotted on the same day by Timothy Lim. More Eye-browed Thrushes were seen at Tuas South on 30th by Koh Lian Heng and Robin Tan.

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A surprise find at the Marina Barrage by Koh Lian Heng, a female Blue Rock Thrush.

The surprise find was a female Blue Rocked Thrush Moniticola solitarius at Marina Barrage by Koh Lian Heng on the 6th. This thrush normally prefers to perch at high buildings in Singapore. On the same day, Low Choon How recorded up another Siberian Thrush at Tuas South.

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First arrival of the season, a male Mugimaki Flycatcher photographed at Tuas South by Adrian Silas Tay.

The Ferruginous and Mugimaki Flycatchers were late by more than a month this season. First record of a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea came from the Zoo on 6th (Loke Peng Fai) and another at West Coast Park (Lim Kim Keang). This is the first record for West Coast Park. We managed to have three Mugimaki Flycatchers Ficedula mugimaki all arriving on the same day, 27th, at three different sites. Tuas South by Adrian Silas Tay, Pasir Ris Park by Lim Kim Seng and DFNP by Art Toh. These records almost nailed the date of the influx of this flycatcher.( Footnote: Received an update from Lim Zhong Yong that he photographed a Ferruginous Flycatcher on 29th October along the Rail Corridor near BTNR)

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This first winter male Blue and White Flycatcher came down to forage at the Acacia grove at Bidadari giving Lim Kim Keang this eye level side profile image. First seen by Er Bong Siong.

Another late arriving flycatcher was the rare Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana. We have yet to separate it in our checklist. Lee Van Hien photographed one at the favourite migrant stop over at Tuas South on 12th after a tip from his friends. Two days later Keita Sin had one flying over Jelutong Tower. Inevitably a first winter male was found at Bidadari foraging on the acacia groves on 15th (Er Bong Siong). The fourth record was another first winter male photographed at DFNP by James Tann on 27th. Four records for one month is not usual. Most stayed around for a few days.

The male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocauda at the Zoo entertained us for about a week. It was last seen on 6th. A week later on 13th Geoff Lim found another there, this time a female. One more female turned up at Bidadari on 18th (Lim Kim Keang) and could be the same female reported by Dawn Birding on 30th. We hope that this rare and beautiful flycatcher will return to our shores year after year.

Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos Hierococcyx nisicolor arrived only in November. First one was seen at Tuas South, where else, by Low Choon How on 9th ( rather early), the second at SBWR on 13th by Lim Kim Seng and the third on 26th at Tuas South again. A day later we had our first record of the Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides at Bidadari (Goh Cheng Teng).

West Coast Park seems to be a favorite stop over for kingfishers this season. Keita Sin flushed a Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceryx erithaca there on the 3rd. Alan OwYong photographed a returning Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata near the big drain on the 5th. Then Lim Kim Keang stumbled on a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda on the 6th while looking for the Black-capped. A Squared-tailed Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was also wintering there since the 5th (Alan OwYong). All these (except for the Black-capped King fisher) were new for West Coast Park.

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A rare shot of an Indian Cuckoo in flight captured by Lee Tiah Khee over Tanah Merah Grasslands on 12th.

Other notable visitors reported were a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka found at a Jurong warehouse on 9th (Lim Kim Chuah), an Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus at Tanah Merah Grasslands on 12th (Lee Tiah Khee), Ruddy Kingfisher at Bidadari on 14th (Simon Siow), Cinereous Bulbul Hemixos cinereus heard at BTNR on 23rd by Lim Kim Chuah, two White-shouldered Starlings Sturnus sinensis at SBTB on 26th by Koh Lian Heng and a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans at Tuas South on 26th by Lim Kim Keang.

Four resident species were recorded for the first time in their respective locations. A lone Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta over Telok Blangah Hill on 6th (Alan OwYong), Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus at Murnane Reservoir on 11th (Seng Beng), an adult  Javan Munia Lonchura leucogastroides with three juveniles at Kovan on 12th (Seng Beng) and Thick-billed Pigeon Treron curvirostra at GBTB on 26th( Kok Lian Heng). An indication of the spreading of these species from their usual habitats?

Shorebirds recorded this month included Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica, globally threatened Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris at SBWR 0n 3rd (David Li), two Sanderlings Calidris alba again at Pulau Tekong on 6th (Frankie Cheong), a Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis at Marina Barrage on 5th (Liz How) and a Common Snipe gallinago gallinago at NTL 3 on 14th (Lim Kim Seng). The numbers for snipes is poor this season.

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Black Bittern at pond at Kent Ridge Park, a first for this site. Photo: Veronica Foo.

Waterbirds included one dead and another live Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurthythmus . David Tan picked up the dead bittern at Jurong West on 5th and Seng Alvin shot a confiding bittern at PRP on the 7th. The first Black Bittern Dupetor flavicolis for the season was captured by Veronica Foo at the pond at Kent Ridge Park on 22nd. This is new for the park. A second Black Bittern was reported from Tuas South on 26th by Lim Kim Keang. The month ended with an exciting find, a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes at SBWR by Lee Kai Chong. It had a red ring attached to one of its leg. David Li is still trying to find out where it was ringed.

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The Chinese Egret in question shot at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve by Lee Kai Chong.

Legend: BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park. GBTB: gardens by the Bay. PRP Pasir Ris Park. NTL 3 Neo Tiew Lane 3.

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 Birds Society of Japan. 1993

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 Lau Jiasheng, Francis Yap, Lee Chuin Ming, Koh Lian Heng, Adrian Silas Tay, Lim Kim Keang, Lee Tiah Khee, Veronica Foo and Lee Kai Chong for the use of their photos. If you have any earlier records than those reported here and found some errors, please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com.