Monthly Archives: December 2015

Summary of 2015 postings

View of the new Kranji Marshes from the tower

View of the new Kranji Marshes from the tower

The Singaporebirdgroup wish to thank you for your contributions and support for 2015. The blog posted a total of 94 articles in 2015 attracting 71,523 views from 122 countries (Singapore,Malaysia and USA being the top three).

The top post for the year was “World’s Most Destructive Bird Species now in Singaporehttp://wp.me/p4VGho-kJ by Francis Yap with 14,773 views followed by “Crimson Sunbird now the National Bird of Singapore” with 6,330 views. It showed our collective concern for the environment.

The numbers are modest in comparison with other more established nature blogs but had a wider reach (in the thousands for each post) when they were shared on the Singapore Bird Group and Singapore Birders facebook pages.

We hope to have more of your contribution for 2016 on any interesting topics on bird sightings, records, behavior, events, and trips. We will certainly do our best to keep you updated on what is happening in the birding scene in Singapore.

We may have lost a few birding sites in 2015 but come February, we will have a new fresh water wetland site at Kranji to bird. Happy Birding 2016!

 

 

 

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Noah Strycker’s Global Big Year stop in Singapore.

 

Pointing-Con Foley

Pointing to the Grey Nightjar tree at Bidadari. From left Low Choon How, Con Foley, Noah Strycker, Wong Chung Cheong and Yong Yik Shih. Not in the photo out looking for flycatchers were Lim Kim Keang, Alfred Chia, Tan Ping Ling and Tan Ju Lin

Singapore has the distinction of being the shortest birding stop for Noah Strycker in his Global Big Year quest on 27th December. He had a couple of hours layover enroute from Perth to New Delhi. Instead of relaxing in the airport, Noah checked out and ended up with four ticks here with the help of Con Foley and other members of the Bird Group. He now needs eleven more species to hit the 6,000 mark before the year end.

When he first contacted Con in early December, his target species included the Hodgon’s Hawk Cuckoo, Lanceolated Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Grey Nightjar, Straw-headed Bulbul and some rare flycatchers among others.

Con took up the challenge and enlisted the bird group members for help to locate some of the target species. Not leaving anything to chance, Con spent a few days checking out Bidadari Cemetery, Bukit Batok and Changi Village for the wanted species.

Straw-headed Bulbul fron Bukit Batok

Straw-headed Bulbul from Bukit Batok

On the day itself, the trip was executed with military precision. The first stop was Bukit Batok after picking up Noah from the airport. Low Choon How had already staked out the Straw-headed Bulbuls there. A quick stop and a great start for Noah. This is the most reliable place to see this globally threatened species. A third study on this bulbul will begin next year.

Grey Nightjar at Bidadari

Grey Nightjar at Bidadari

Our top migrant site Bidadari was next. Con had the roosting Grey Nightjar “tagged” but Wong Chung Cheong was on hand to make sure it did not moved to another tree. One more tick down. Another team led by Lim Kim Keang combed the rest of Bidadari for the Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, Green-backed, Narcissus and Japanese Paradise Flycatchers that were wintering there earlier this month. But they must have all moved on.

The Sengkang floating Wetlands is the most likely place to tick the Lanceolated Warbler but this super sulker did not give in so easily. All Noah got was a nice photo of our urban nature parks which he used as his cover photo in his blog “Birding without Borders”. Kim Keang suggested nearby Punggol Barat for the Ruddy-breasted Crake. Again it did not show, but at least it called, good enough for the tick.

The last stop was for the Tanimbar Corellas at Changi Village, which is close the the Changi airport. This feral species can be seen from the carpark compared to a long trek at its Tanimbar Island home in Indonesia.

We are glad that Singapore made a small contribution to Noah’s Global Big Year. All of us at the Bird Group wish Noah safe journeys and breaking the 6,000 species mark before the end of the year.

All photos: Con Foley. You can read about his trip here at https;//www.audubon.org/news/day-361-birding-singapore.

 

 

 

Narcissus Flycatcher, a New Flycatcher to Singapore.

 

Contributed by Alan Ng, Robin Tan and Hio John. 24 Dec 2015.

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Browner upper parts and tinged upper tail coverts.

On the morning of 2nd of December 2015, Alan Ng went down to Bidadari Cemetery with his pals Robin Tan and Hio John to photograph the Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, last seen the day before at a ficus tree at the Maria Stella High School end of the cemetery. The first winter male Mugimaki was there and so was another flycatcher flying around at the lower branches. It looked very much like an Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa dauurica, But it had some rufous rump and the black bill did not fit the Asian Brown which they know so well. Good thing that they all took some shots and showed Robin’s photos to See Toh Yew Wai. See Toh knew straight away that this was a different flycatcher and asked for help. Ding Li and Albert Low then identified it as a female Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina, based on Hio John’s photo showing the rufous tinged wing coverts and rump. Albert Low got his global lifer when he rushed down after work. So did See Toh, Lim Kim Keang, Con Foley and others who went down that evening. By then the flycatcher was foraging much higher up.

Narcissus FC 2 John Hio

Whitish underparts with variable mottling on the breast.

Those of us who turned up the next morning were disappointed. Only the Mugimaki Flycatcher and a suspect Green-backed Flycatcher were seen. Another brownish flycatcher with a very similar looking upperparts was seen for a few seconds. Unfortunately Jimmy Lee and Alan OwYong could not see its wings and tail to identified it.  And that was the last of any trace of this flycatcher.

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The Narcissus Flycatcher was split into this nominate species and the Green-backed elisae ( King et al 1975). So far we have been getting the Green-backed Flycatcher confirmed and added into our checklist. The Records Committee has agreed and accepted this sighting as the Narcissus Flycatcher under Category A. It has been added to the 2015 Official Check List. This is the first record of a Narcissus Flycatcher in Singapore. Congratulations.

The Narcissus Flycatcher is native to Sakhalin through Japan, Korea and mainland China. Highly migratory it winters in South East Asia including the Philippines and Borneo ( Birdlife International 2012)

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. A field Guide to The Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Craig Robson. Asia Book Co. Ltd 2000. Photos: Hio John.

 

Nesting of a Long-tailed Shrike in a urban park.

Contributed by Lee Kai Chong 23rd Dec 2015

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Flying back with the centipede to feed the chicks.

Earlier this month I noticed a pair of Long-tailed Shrikes, Lanius schach, catching centipedes at an open field at the Jurong Central Gardens. In less than  one hour it caught ten of these centipedes. When it flew off to a tree near by, I knew it was bringing back food to feed its young.

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Well camouflaged nest inside the tree by a main walkway

The nest was inside a 3 meter tree next to a main walkway used frequently by pedestrians. But no one seem to noticed it as it was well hidden inside and camouflaged. I noticed two chicks with feathers in it.

Parents taking turns to feed the two chicks.

The parents were skittish and watchful. I can see that they feel harassed whenever someone comes close to their nest. I decided to stay a good distance away in order to document their nesting.

Centipedes were the main food for the chicks. But bugs and beetles were also given.

Their main diet were centipedes, supplement by bugs and beetles. An earlier report by Connie Khoo also mentioned that centipedes were the chick’s main diet as well. Once I saw the parent catching a lizard and smashing it on the ground before bringing back to the nest.

Like all parents, they still feed the juveniles while teaching them how to look for food themselves.

Both chicks successfully fledged two days later. When I visited the site early this week, I was happy to see both chicks were fully grown and flying around by themselves. One of them were seen trying to pick up food for itself though the parents were still seen feeding them, mostly on the trees and occasionally on the ground.

It is a wonder that birds like this Long-tailed Shrike was able to adapt and nest successfully in our urban parks and add to its diversity.

 

 

Smart and Deadly Killer Shrike.

Contributed by Low Choon How. 19.12.15

LT Shrike Low Choon How

The Long-tailed Shrike with its prey, a Black-browed Reed Warbler.

My home patch at Jurong Central Park has a good mix of open grasslands, flowering scrubs, matured trees and fresh water marshy ponds. These diverse habitats have attracted a good number of both resident and migrant bird species that adapt well in such habitats. One such permanent resident is the Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach, that prefers to hunt in the open for lizards, small birds and mammals.

Long-tailed Shrike LCH

With the warbler’s head hanging from a Y branch, the shrike was able to pull the feathers off at ease to get to the flesh.

On 13th December, I was surprised to see a Long-tailed Shrike flying back to a bush with a brownish bird in its beak. Luckily it perched close enough for me to take these shots and document its smart feeding behavior. The prey was a Black-browed Warbler, Acrocephalus bistrigiceps, a migrant that forages inside the reed beds and sages around the ponds. Their confiding and active nature is a defense tactic against predators. But these tactics were no match for the Long-tailed Shrike. My guess is that it have been observing the behavior of the warbler for some time to be able to catch it. Or that the warbler was weak and tired after a long journey. A sad end of a long journey for this migrant from East Asia.

LT Shrike Low Choon How 2

Tearing off the flesh from the hanging Warbler.

What happened next showed the intelligence of the Shrike. It selected a Y branch and carried the dead warbler over before hanging it’s head on the fork. With the carcass secured, it then started pulling out its feathers. Using it sharp hooked beak it then tore into the flesh of the warbler before eating it. This is surely one of the smartest predators around. There were other documentations showing them impaling their live prey on to the thorns and spikes of trees and then tearing the flesh off.

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore Bird Monthly Report – November 2015

Slaty-legged Crake LKC

The very rare winter visitor and passage migrant, Slaty-legged Crake, made land fall at the restricted Jurong Island. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.

With many parts of Singapore receiving above average rainfall over the month of November, it was no surprise that sightings of many rare migrants followed suit as they sought shelter from inclement weather. Highlights for the month include an adult male Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cumatilis at Bidadari on 2nd (FYAP), at least two Northern Boobooks Ninox japonica at Tuas on 9th, a Besra Accipiter virgatus photographed flying over Sisters’ Island on 13th (JS), a Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus, and an Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus, both flying over the Botanic Gardens on 16th and 17th (RW), and a Slaty-legged Crake Rallina eurizonoides at Jurong Island on 21st (LKC).

Zappeys FC Zacc

Male Zappey’s Flycatcher (left) formally treated as a race of the Blue and White Flycatcher. Photo: Zacc HD.

Both the Zappey’s Flycatcher and the Northern Boobook are currently not in our Checklist. The Zappey’s Flycatcher is split from the Blue-and-White Flycatcher while the Northern Boobook is a migratory species from East Asia that was split from the Brown Hawk Owl. The Records Committee is reviewing these records for inclusion under Category A. There are less than five confirmed records of the Besra as it is difficult to separate from the Japanese Sparrowhawk in flight. In addition, this is only our 6th record of the Slaty-legged Crake in Singapore, with the last two individuals recorded at Bedok and Lower Pierce respectively.  We have only two previous records of the vagrant Grey-headed Lapwing, on 11 October 2007 and 5th Nov 2011 both from Sungei Buloh. The Asian House Martin is a rare passage migrant with sporadic records over the years. These records are now with the Records Committee for deliberation.

Northern Boobook LCHand the current record is under review by the Records Committee.

Ninox spp with its tear drop streaks photographed at Tuas is waiting for acceptance as the migrant Northern Boobook. Photo: Low Choon How.

Other noteworthy sightings for the month are lengthy and include a Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus at Turut Ponds on 1st (SRN), a Sand Martin Riparina ripanria and Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurthythmus at Tuas on the 1st (LKK & TJL), a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocauda at Bidadari on 2nd (FYAP), a breeding plumaged Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa flying over the Botanic Gardens on 2 November (RW),  a Greater Spotted Eagle, Aquila clanga over at Tuas South on 4th ( KLH) and 11th (FYAP), a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus, at Bidadari on 6th (JT), a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes at Pulau Tekong on 14th (FCh), a Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus over at Punggol Island on 14th (ZHD),  White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis at Tuas on 15th (STYW), Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus, at Tuas South (STYW) and Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata, at SBWR on 16th (LE), an Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus at Chinese Gardens on 17th (PT) and a White Wagtail Motacilla alba, at Punggol Barat on 29th (STYW).

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First Winter male Mugimaki Flycatcher at Dairy Farm NP.

Additionally, a fruiting tree at Dairy Farm Nature Park was a magnet for many migratory birds. Reports indicate that at its peak there were at least 6 Siberian Thrushes, Geokicla sibirica (CKS), in various plumages present at the tree. An Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus was also photographed feeding at the tree with them on 25th (ANg) while a first winter male Blue-and-White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana was showing regularly towards the end of the month, having been first sighted on 23rd (FL). It was joined by a Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki, which was first reported at Dairy Farm on 21st (VNg).

Other regular winter visitors reported over the month include a subadult Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides, that crashed into Shuqun Primary School on 2nd ( SC), another Large Hawk Cuckoo, a juvenile, at Jurong Island on 20th (FW), Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccenis at Bidadari on 4th ( KY), the largest one day count of 894 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus over Tuas South on 9th (TGC), Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus at Bidadari on 14th (VL), Yellow-billed Egret Mesophoyx intermedia at SBWR on 16th (LE) and a Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis at Gardens by the Bay on 21st (JC).

We also had several reports of non-breeding visitors throughout the month. A Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos flavala was recorded at P. Hantu on 1st (RT & Co), an Osprey Pandion haliaetus over Punggol Island on 14th (ZHD), two Crested Serpent Eagles Spilornis cheela over at Kent Ridge Park on 21st (AOY & KS) and a Streaked Bulbul Ixos malaccensis at Dairy Farm on 28th (AC).

References: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng, 2009. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-east Asia. Craig Robson. 2000. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. 2013.

This report is compiled from the postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank the following contributors for their records. Francis Yap (FYAP), Jacky Soh (JS), Richard White (RW), Lim Kim Chuah (LKC), Subha and Raghav Narayenswany (SRN), Lim Kim Keang (LKK), Tan Julin (TJL), Frankie Cheong (FCh), See Toh Yew Wai (STYW), Chan Kai Soon (CKS), Philip Toh (PT), Vincent Ng (VNg), Alan Ng (ANg), Frankie Lim (FL), Zacc HD (ZHD), Laurence Eu (LE), Felix Wong (FW), Kwong Yew (KY), Tan Gim Cheong (TGC), Vincent Lao (VL), Johnson Chua (JC), Robin Tan (RT), Alan OwYong (AOY), Keita Sin (KS) and Alfred Chia (AC). We wish to thank Zacc HD, Lim Kim Chua, Low Choon How and Alan OwYong for the use of their photographs.

 

Marsh Hawk-Eagle?

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Can you see the head of the Changeable Hawk-eagle popping out above the water hyacinths.

We are used to seeing Marsh Harriers flying low over marshes and open grasslands looking for food. But earlier this week we saw a dark morphed Changeable Hawk Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, diving into a pond at the Kranji Marshes. The pond was covered by water hyacinths which would have look like dry land from above. It disappeared from view for some minutes. We thought that it may be in trouble  having mistaken the hyacinth carpet for a hard surface.

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We were relieved to see it jumped up and not stuck in the mud.

Finally it popped its head up above the water hyacinths and start flapping its wings. We were not sure if it was stuck in the soft mud at the bottom struggling to get out or looking for food among the water weeds.

Finally to our relief it jumped up and flew low over the surface of the pond. It then scoop down again as if to pick out something before flying off to a Rain Tree near by.

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It is hard to tell even from this zoom image what it is in its talons.

This frame showed that it had caught something. Does it looked like a small terrapin? It must have dropped it as there was nothing in its talons in the next frame. This is very possible as it cannot sink its talons into the harder shell of the terrapin.

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We think that it may have dropped whatever it caught as there is nothing in its talons.

The open Albizia and Scrubland behind the marshes have been cleared for agricultural farms. It may be that the Hawk-eagles main preys like changeble lizards, small mammals are gone. Are they now changing to aquatic animals to survive? Further observations will be needed to see if this is true.