Birding Hotspot – Bidadari

Anyone headed in the direction of town along Upper Serangoon Road or Upper Aljunied Road may occasionally notice a little stretch of ‘jungle’ after passing the Woodleigh MRT station and some backdrop of flats. No more than just a patch of secondary woodland that has regenerated in an exhumed old Muslim cemetery (Goh, 2002), it is dominated by non-native Albizia (Falcataria moluccana) and Acacia (Acacia auriculiformis) trees.

Many local naturalists deem these species to be of minimal conservation value. Is this green patch not just one of the many botanically-similar ‘wastelands’ that dot Singapore’s landscape, its days perceptibly numbered and, who knows, awaiting impending transformation into spanking new blocks of condominiums? Certainly not, if you do bother to stop here and scrutinize the view. You will walk out amazed at nature’s diversity and resilience.” So began the article by Yong Ding Li (Nature Watch July-Sept 2013). It was itself an update and a continuation to a much older article by Goh Si Guim (2002). Bidadari’s history and its significance to birdwatchers and nature lovers goes back a long time. I remember having a chat with Leslie Fung, who birded in the place when it was still boarded up, and tall grasses hid snipes and other surprises.

Both the articles are hosted here (NatureWatch 2002) and here (Nature Watch 2013) for a more in depth look at the place, its history and its ecological significance. The Nature Society (Singapore) have also put in a conservation proposal here.

In 2013, when Ding Li’s piece came out, there were around 140 species of birds counted in the area. Two more seasons in, quite a number of new species have been sighted and photographed there. The newest species found there are as follows: Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Cinereous Bulbul, Oriental Scops Owl, Greater Coucal, Buff-rumped Woodpecker (2015), Buffy Fish Owl (2015), and Indian Pond Heron (2015). The Indian Pond Heron if accepted into our official checklist would bring the total to 153 bird species.

Since a lot of the activities these days have moved to Facebook, you may be interested in joining the Saving Bidadari for Birds and People Facebook Group, where you will find various postings of the wildlife in the area.

For the novice birdwatcher and nature enthusiast, the directions to Bidadari is simple. The embedded map shows the car park. The nearest MRT station is Woodleigh station. Bidadari is a wooded area, as such be prepared with proper footwear and drinking containers. There are no toilet facilities within the compound. The best time for birdwatching is anywhere between 7-12pm. As Bidadari is a migratory bird hotspot, the months between October to January are the best months to see the rarer migrants, but resident birds are around the whole year around. Go quickly, before another unique area disappear for good!

Let’s end this article by quoting Ding Li again in his article.

“Preservation of so-called degraded secondary habitats like Bidadari, Bukit Brown and Pasir Ris Greenbelt is a ‘tacky issue’ that has been hotly debated in our local conservation scene of recent times. We hope to persuade land-use planners to view such sites of apparently ‘low’ secondary value differently in a more holistic and robust approach to conservation.”

“Bidadari holds dear in the hearts of people who have perceived its uniqueness, one way or another. Future plans to replace the woodland with more concrete blocks and manicured lawns will mean the end of those precious Bidadari sights and sounds for jogging/strolling residents, photographers, birdwatchers and other nature-lovers. Are we happy to be left with fond memories and the mere name of a place? In the case of Bidadari’s wild denizens — a home vanished and gone forever?”

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