Monthly Archives: March 2015

Crows and Eagle fight over Heron’s Nestings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA28 March 2015. Grey Herons, Ardea cinerea, at Jurong Lake. Two nests with chicks. Parent flapping its wings and squawking away very loudly. A Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, perched on top of nest was eyeing its chicks. A Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynhos, kept watch on the next branch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Second crow flew in to harass the Changeable Hawk-Eagle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Changeable Hawk-Eagle stayed on its perch and tried to fend the crows off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But eventually gave up and flew away. This looked like one species defending another but……

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Crows then flew back and settled on one side of the tree after chasing away the Hawk-eagle. I did not stay long enough to see what happen next. I can only assume that the crows were waiting to strike once the parents leave the nest unguarded.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the prize that both were going after. The younger chick can just be seen behind the older chick. The Herons were not agitated with the crows perched nearby. It is because they are smaller than the Hawk-eagle? If any one of you come across any attacks by the crows on the Heron’s nestings, please drop us a line.

Advertisements

A look of the Top 20 birds of 1986 and 2015 By Lim Kim Seng

White-vented Myna LKS

Javan Myna, most abundant bird in 2015. Photo: Lim Kim Seng

It’s been thirty years since the Annual Bird Census kicked off in the morning of 20th April 1986. The data collected has been very valuable in terms of telling us about the changes in the ecology of Singapore in the intervening three decades.

Let’s look at the Top 20 Birds table for 1986. What were the most common or abundant bird in 1986. Well, it’s a surprise! Common Myna. This was Singapore’s most abundant bird in 1986 but where does it rank now? Looking at the 2015 data, it has since dropped to 52nd and only 28 birds were counted nation-wide. That is a tremendous decline for a species that was our most abundant bird only three decades ago. What happened? One can only speculate since field studies have not been done but it may have been out-competed by the ecologically similar Javan Myna, which is now Singapore’s most abundant bird.

# SPECIES 1986 TOTALS
1 COMMON MYNA 543
2 ASIAN GLOSSY STARLING 514
3 JAVAN MYNA 488
4 SPOTTED DOVE 335
5 HOUSE SWIFT 281
6 YELLOW-VENTED BULBUL 214
7 PINK-NECKED GREEN PIGEON 213
8 COMMON REDSHANK 186
9 HOUSE CROW 156
10 PACIFIC SWALLOW 151
11 BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE 141
12 WHITE-WINGED TERN 112
13 COLLARED KINGFISHER 110
14 PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER 97
15 COMMON SANDPIPER 91
16 BLACK-NEST SWIFTLET 85
17 STRIATED HERON 84
18 BARN SWALLOW 81
19 SCALY-BREASTED MUNIA 81
20 WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN 81

The Asian Glossy Starling remains at second place even after thirty years, so it’s still doing well in a more urbanized Singapore.  Next, we look at two members of the pigeon family. The Pink-necked Green Pigeon appears to be benefitting from the aggressive tree planting of new towns and regional centres, especially of trees with fruits such as palms, cinnamon and various Eugenia species, and has climbed above the ground feeding Spotted Dove.

# SPECIES 2015 TOTALS
1 JAVAN MYNA 911
2 ASIAN GLOSSY STARLING 567
3 PINK-NECKED GREEN PIGEON 464
4 YELLOW-VENTED BULBUL 361
5 WHIMBREL 345
6 PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER 274
7 COMMON REDSHANK 246
8 COMMON PIGEON 240
9 BLACK-NAPED ORIOLE 240
10 LITTLE EGRET 230
11 COMMON GREENSHANK 225
12 GREY HERON 187
13 SPOTTED DOVE 159
14 COMMON IORA 137
15 PACIFIC SWALLOW 137
16 OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD 128
17 COLLARED KINGFISHER 118
18 STRIPED TIT-BABBLER 104
19 HOUSE CROW 103
20 DARK-NECKED TAILORBIRD 101

Next, we look at the waders or shorebirds. The census is carried out a day when it is low tide in the morning, so that we can count them. Despite the loss and degradation of our coastal wetlands in the intervening years, Pacific Golden Plover and Common Redshank remains in the Top 20, with the addition of Whimbrel and Common Greenshank but the loss of Common Sandpiper. This generally positive outlook for waders can be attributed to the continued existence of the nationally important Mandai Mudflats.  It’s not clear why the Striated Heron numbers have declined but that of Little Egret and Grey Heron have increased dramatically due to a strong presence from the Mandai Mudflats and the expansion of the coastal reservoirs in recent years.

Perhaps the most spectacular decline is the House Swift, which was ranked fifth in 1986 with 281 birds. It has since declined spectacularly due to the boom of swiftlet farming in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia. In 2015, just two birds were counted in the whole of Singapore, with both birds coming from just one site.  This is illustrated by the increase of the swiftlet population in Singapore from just 85 birds in 1986 to 707 in 2015! Another species that has declined remarkably is the House Crow and this is most likely the result of active persecution by the authorities.

Numbers of both Collared Kingfisher and Pacific Swallow have remained constant but Yellow-vented Bulbul and Black-naped Oriole both increased in ranking and numbers.

Finally, Barn Swallow, Scaly-breasted Munia and White-breasted Waterhen have all dropped to the 20th to 50th positions. In their places, we have Common Iora, Olive-backed Sunbird, Pin-striped Tit-babbler and Dark-necked Tailorbird. The preceeding two are adaptable birds of the urban landscape while the latter two are both a reflection of better coverage of our forested interior and the expansion of their ranges due to the retention of green spaces and expansion of green corridors.

What will we see in 2045? Will we still see the Javan Myna as our most abundant bird? Stay tuned!

Woodpeckers feeding on a Oil Palm Fruit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Female Common Goldenback pecking at the fruit of the Oil Palm

Woodpeckers feed on ants, larvae, worms and other small insects. They will peck into dead wood and tree branches and use their long tongue to dig out the eggs or larvae inside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Female Laced Woodpecker digging in at the same tree. 

This morning 22nd March 2015, during a Annual Bird Census at Kent Ridge Park with Woo Lai Choo, we came across a female Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus,  at an oil palm tree Elaeis guineensis by the side of the pond. Two Plantain Squirrels were already there nibbling on the fruits. The Laced Woodpecker started pecking on the fruit in an upright position. It was doing this for about few minutes before another female woodpecker the Common Goldenback Dinopium javanense joined in.  In the video you can see it pecking to break up the fruit into pulp and then pressed the pulp of the fruit between its beak to get the juice out of the pulp. There is no sign of it actually eating the pulp. Could it be that it is the juice or oil of the fruit is what they are after. A food supplement perhaps. The juice or oil had to be palatable and nutritious to them. Long-tailed Parakeets have also been seen doing the same, chewing the pulp of the oil palm fruit at the Botanic Gardens in front of cafe. Video: https://youtu.be/7AtLJRKqhGQ

Which Honey Buzzard is this? Alan OwYong and Tan Gim Cheong.

OHB at PRP Seng Alvin

Juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard (orientalis) at Pasir Ris Park that prompted this blog. Photo: Seng Alvin.

Seng Alvin  posted a photo of a juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard on Bird Sightings FB page recently. After some discussion he asked “Can tell me the specific species of OHB?.  What he wanted to know is if there a difference between a Crested Honey Buzzard and an Oriental Honey Buzzard? What is a resident torquatus race? We will try to answer these questions in this blog.

OHB Seng Alvin

A maturing adult Oriental Honey Buzzard (orientalis), the most common sub species that passed through Singapore during the winter months. Photo: Seng Alvin.

For simplicity, let’s consider that the genus Pernis” broadly consists of Western Honey Buzzard (P. apivorus), Eastern Honey Buzzard (P. ptilorhynchus) and Barred Honey Buzzard (P. celebensis) belonging to the endemic races in The Philippines and Indonesia.

The Western Honey Buzzard is a summer migrant to Europe and West Asia, and it winters in Africa.

Due to the biodiversity in the Asia Continent, the Eastern Honey Buzzard has evolved into two groups. The migratory orientalis may be referred to as Oriental Honey Buzzard and the sedentary ptilorhynchus broadly classed under Indomalayan or Crested Honey Buzzard. (Note that most guidebooks treat them as one species, often using the name Oriental Honey Buzzard).

 000000010009

A typical migratory dark morph adult male Oriental Honey Buzzard (orientalis).

The migratory Oriental Honey Buzzard, orientalis, breeds across Eurasia, Central Siberia, Northern Japan, Korea and North East China. They migrate to continental South East Asia, Indonesia and The Philippines during the winter months. This is the most common subspecies of Honey Buzzard that passes through Singapore from September with the adults arriving early followed by juveniles in October. Some, mostly juveniles may winter here. In March, a smaller number can be observed passing through on their Spring migration back North.

There are five races of the non-migratory Crested Honey Buzzard, ptilorhynchus. They breed in the Indian subcontinent, southern China, IndoChina, The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. They are largely sedentary although local movement and dispersal have been recorded.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Non migratory Crested Honey Buzzard P. ptilorhyncus. This is the torquatus race that breeds in Malaysia and Southern Thailand and visits us mostly in the summer. Photo: Alan OwYong.

The P.p. torquatus is one of the five races of the Crested Honey Buzzard that breeds in Malaysia (Perak) and Southern Thailand.  This is the Honey Buzzard that visits us mostly in the summer. We may also be getting some from Indonesia during other times although we do not have any evidence of this movement. These are listed as non-breeding visitors until they decide to breed here.  All of them have drooping crests as they mimic hawk eagles some with rufous barrings on their underparts.

OHB Tweedale 2 Seng Alvin

Crested Honey Buzzard torquatus race, tweedale morph that is trying to mimic the Blyth’s Hawk Eagle.Photo: Seng Alvin at Pasir Ris Park.

There is also a Tweedale morph of the torquatus race that mimics the Blyth’s Hawk Eagle with their darker plumage. We hope that this short summary will help with the separation of the Honey Buzzards that you get to see in Singapore.

References: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. Field Guide to Raptors of Asia. Volume 1. ARRCN 2012. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Craig Robson. 2000. Wikipedia.

Singapore Bird Report – February 2015

We are seeing many of the returning migrants on their way back north this month. Some will stay for a while to fuel up, others will just past through.

The outstanding sighting for the month was a bird that we have been expecting but unfortunately was only seen by a visiting birder. Canadian Gareth Puth reported to Kenneth Kee that he saw a Himalayan Griffon Vulture Gyps himalayansis flying over Fort Canning on the 14th. No subsequent sightings of this vagrant were reported. We are waiting for his full report for verification.

White-shoulderd Starling See Toh at Halus

White-shouldered Starling caught in flight by the fast lens of See Toh Yew Wai at Lorong Halus.

Returning migrants reported were a uncommon Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea at its favourite wintering Bidadari by Adrian Hall on 1st, a uncommon White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis flying over Halus on 14th “captured” by See Toh Yew Wai and the rare Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda at the Sime Forest on 19th by Ng Chay Tuan while looking for the Green-backed/Chinese Flycatcher Ficedula elisae.

Chloe Tan had been reporting about a very rare passage migrant Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius up at the Pinnacle@Duxton since December. She sent us another photo taken on the 17th of this month. Could it be wintering there? The female Siberian Stonechat Saxicola torquata reported in January is certainly wintering at the waste land at Punggol Barat based on Zacc HD’s 23/2 photo posted on fb

Most of us missed the rare Malaysian Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus that was wintering at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden photographed by Craig Williams on 13th.  He also reported a Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccenis wintering there as well. Another Blue-winged Pitta was reported at the Rifle Range Link on the same day by George Presanis.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This Von Schrenck’s Bittern was delighting us at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves earlier this month.

On the 7th, Low Choon How was surprised to find a female Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurththmus feeding in the open at the pond behind the Visitor’s Center at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves. David Li at SBWR told us that they mist-netted and ringed it the day earlier. No matter, it was the main attraction during the first half of the month. (Matt Prior commented after the post that he saw this Bittern at the same pond on 2nd)

Orange-headed Thrush Frankie Lim

Uncommon Orange-headed Thrush performing well at Hindhede Nature Park, beautifully captured by Frankie Lim.

Just when we got tired of the Bittern, a pair of Orange-headed Thrushes Zoothera citrina innotata made its appearance at Hindhede Nature Park.  Choo Ju Tiek first spotted them on 21st competing for territory with our resident White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus He also came across a juvenile Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji nearby but it did not stay around unlike the Thrushes. Soon the facebook pages were flooded with beautiful photos of this uncommon ground thrush.

Pin-tailed Snipe at Chinese Gardens by Alan Ng

You can just about see the “pins” tail feathers of this snipe taken at the Chinese Gardens by Alan Ng.

A lone snipe returned to the Lily pond at the Japanese Gardens on the 26th. It was later identified as the uncommon Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura by photo of tail feather spread from Alan Ng. This could be the same snipe that winters here last two years. Other snipe sightings were at Bishan Park and the canal at Farmway 3 as per email from Laurence Eu. Two Savanna Nightjars Caprimulgus affinis found the dark brown roof tiles of the Guest House at Japanese Gardens perfect for roosting as it can blend in.

As for raptors, a japonensis Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus was shot over a Punggol Barat by Aldwin Recinto on 21st, a Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus at the same place the next day by Zacc HD. Two records of our once rare resident Crested Goshawks Accipiter Trivirgatus  were coming in. Yam Tee Yang reported one at Pasir Ris Park on 23rd and another at West Coast Park from Toriwomtai on the 27th. A Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus was seen perched on a dead tree at Dempsey Hill on 1st by Alan OwYong.

Purple Heron Nesting at Bishan Shirley Ng

Happy Purple Heron family at Bishan Park photographed by Shirley Ng. 

Breeding records were coming in and we were so happy to hear from Shirley Ng that the nationally near-threatened Purple Herons Ardea purpurea were feeding three grown-up chicks on top of an Angsana Tree at Bishan Park on 19th. On the 6th, Seng Alvin reported a Striated Heron Butorides striatus bringing back nesting material to the side of the river at his favourite stomping ground Pasir Ris Park. Robin Tan pointed out a Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis nesting at the Chinese Gardens on the 26th.

Zacc HD reported a Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Nectarnia sperata at Mount Faber, a first there, although there were previous records at Telok Blangah Hill and Sentosa. Good to see it spreading across the Ridge. Vincent Lao had an early arriving Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis, a breeding visitor at Venus Loop on the last day of the month.

Great to end this month’s report without any bird casualties except for a disoriented Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis found by Pamela Soh at the void deck of a HDB block at Jurong West on 26th.

Pied Cuckoo Micah Sixeight

We came across this late post in the Nature Society page in July of a sighting of the Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus, (left) by Mark Oei on the 18th between the Halus bridge and the Tampines Expressway. This is our second record ( first on 4th December 2013) and first for the year.

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Craig Robson. 2000. Edited by Francis Yap. All the records are taken from postings in various fb groups, pages and bird forums. Many thanks for your postings. Thanks to See Toh Yew Wai, Alan Ng, Shirley Ng, Mark Oei and Frankie Lim for the use of your photos. All rights belong to the respective photographers.