When is the best time to see Shorebirds at Sungei Buloh?

Shorebirds or waders start making their way south as early as July and most of them would have arrived at their wintering grounds by October. Ten species have so far arrived at Sungei Buloh, the rarest being the lone Asian Dowitcher on 30th August.

The shorebirds stopped over to refuel at the mud flats off the mangroves of Mandai and other shorelines like Seletar dam. Sungei Buloh is the place where they come in to roost when the mud flats at Mandai are covered up by the rising tides.

The Bird Group and Sungei Buloh did a six months monitoring of their movement in 2011/12. We found that they would normally fly in 2 to 3 hours before high tide depending on how high the tides are. They will then leave Sungei Buloh once the mudflats are exposed again for them to feed.  A wader watcher and photographer will have a window of 6 to 7 hours to see them in Sungei Buloh.

Yesterday the late afternoon high tides and the dry pond in front of the main hide brought them close up. The soft light from the setting sun was perfect for photography.

Here are some of the moments recorded at Sungei Buloh yesterday.

Common Redshank

This lone Common Redshank moving across the hide, creating the wake effect against the reflection of the setting sun.

Black-tailed Godwit

There is no disputes on the ID of this Godwit. We found six Godwits busy feeding in the shallow waters at the main pond. I think they can do this because of their longer bills. Sometimes they will stop and start to take a dip and preen. This is the time to keep them in your focus. You get lucky once in a while when they show your their tail with the right pose.


The 200+ Whimbrels were the most active and did several flypasts for us to get some flight shots much to the delight of David Li and Ron Chew at the hide. This is one of the most recognizable waders because of its size and long decurved bills. This could be the same flock that winters in Buloh year after year.

Common Redshank

Most of the waders started to have their evening bath round 6 pm. After vigorously shaking their feathers in the shallows they will stand up and flap their wings to dry themselves. This Common Redshank, still in its breeding plumage, adds color to the shot.

Common Redshanks

Sometimes group photos can be messy. But I think the low and soft light help to give each bird a focus. The Common Redshanks are the most numerous at Sungei Buloh at the moment close to 400. An interesting tract we found during our monitoring was that some of Common Redshanks do not fly out to Mandai to feed during the low tides. Instead they will stay at Buloh, roosting on the mangroves by the side of the ponds or along the Kranji coast. It could be that they can find what they need at Buloh?

We hope that you will be able to time your visit to Sungei Buloh for the best experience and get some great photos.


3 thoughts on “When is the best time to see Shorebirds at Sungei Buloh?

  1. Amy

    Hi, can I ask a simple question? What time of the day is it best to visit the reserve to see the migratory birds? If I use the nea tide times, should I go when it’s low or high tide? I’m planning to visit the place with my friends and I’m guiding them, but I never really understood the tide timings. Thank you for your help! (:



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