Narcissus Flycatcher Female, a national first from Bidadari. Photo: Robin Tan.
Our soon to be developed former Muslim Cemetery at Bidadari was the place to be in for the Singapore birder in December. It seemed that both migratory birds, especially flycatchers and the residents decided to pay their final homage to the place! We got a national first there on the 2nd Dec when Robin Tan, Hio John and Alan Ng photographed a female Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) (Link). Lawrence Cher photographed a blue-hued flycatcher which was initially identified as a Blue-and-white flycatcher. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a rare female resident Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, (Cyornis rufigastra), Lim Kim Keang and Low Choon How found and photographed a Savanna Nightjar, (Caprimulgus affinis) and two Red-wattled Lapwings, (Vanellus indicus) at Bidadari. Both were new additions to Bidadari’s rapidly increasing checklist, bringing its total species count to 157 species. A Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus) was seen wintering there on 9th Dec by Vincent Ng. It stayed long enough for Noah Strycker to see it on the 27th Dec during his Global Big Year stop here. (Link). The Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida), returned on the 9th Dec (Alan Ng). See Toh Yew Wai photographed a rare Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, on the 20th December while Leslie Fung added the rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher(Terpsiphone atrocaudata)on the 22ndDec. Danny Lau and Tan Kok Hui reported a confiding Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) on the 26th. Another wetland species, the Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) was recorded here on 23rd Dec by Lawrence Cher. One new national record, the third confirmed record of another species, two new locality records and the presence of several rare flycatchers and winter visitors shows just how important Bidadari is as a stopover site for migratory landbirds in the country.
Mangrove Blue Flycatcher out of place at Bidadari. Photo: Lawence Cher. .
The other exciting find of the month was the elusive Barred Eagle Owl (Bubo sumatranus), which was discovered at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve by Kennie Pan on the 8th Dec. We have had sporadic reports of sightings of this large owl at CCNR, Pulau Ubin and BTNR in the past years. But this time it stayed long enough for a few photographers to get our excellent daytime shots of this owl here. A day before the year ends, Lim Kim Seng was surprised to find not one but three female Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus) swimming at one end of the MacRitchie Reservoir. Noting how much this species has declined since the 1980s, it was great to see these ducks making a comeback. Dirk Tomsa reported a Large Hawk- Cuckoo (Hierococcyx sparveriodes) at Coney Island on the 13th Dec. This could be the first record of this rare cuckoo on the island. On the same day Lim Kim Chuah reported a total of three White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) at the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course. Not to be outdone, Vincent Lao photographed another three White Wagtails at the Bishan Canal on 20th. One of them turned out to be an individual of the distinctive subspecies lugens. Except for a lone record of a black-backed spring adult reported in March 1993 (Wells 2007), this possibly constitute the second record for Singapore and the region. M. a. lugens is also known as a vagrant to the Philippines. We have to thank Alfred Chia for noticing this and getting expert confirmation quickly. (Link ).
A Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), this time a neat-looking male bird was seen again at the Pinnacle @ Duxton on 20th Dec (Vinchel Budihardjo and later by Lawrence Cher). This obliging individual stayed long enough for many others to see it and proved to be a lifer for many. A resident of Toa Payoh photographed a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, wandering around the open field there on the 18th Dec (reported by David Tan). This migratory heron is usually a very shy bird, like the one reported at Tuas on the 18th Dec by Francis Yap, so this individual may have been disorientated after a crash. Millie Cher photographed the confiding Black-browed Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps) at Jurong Eco Gardens on the 26th, a new addition for the gardens.
Red-billed Starling at Tampines Eco Green Canal. Photo: Seng Alvin
Seng Alvin posted a photo of a starling foraging with a group of mynas at the canal at Tampines Eco Green. It was identified as a Red-billed Starling Sturnus sericeus. The most southernly part of its wintering range is in northern Vietnam although there has been odd records in peninsular Thailand. The Records Committee will soon be evaluating its status. One of the few notable records of resident forest species for the month was a male Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, photographed by Chan Kum Chun at Sentosa. Our only previous records of this species on Sentosa were in 1990 and 2007 at the remnant forest patches at Mount Serapong. Good to know that it was still around.
From the numerous reports, it appears that there was an influx of the winter- visiting Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea. The first was a dead bird found at Mountbatten on the 7th Dec and reported by Robert Zhao, followed by one on the 9th by Sandra Chia and another at Turut Track on the 13th Dec by Lim Kim Chuah. A Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) was a first for Jurong Eco Garden thanks to Andrew Tan’s record on 20th Dec. As many as eight Long-toed Stints (Calidris subminuta) were seen at the Kranji Golf Course on the 19th Dec by Lim Kim Keang. The stints were first reported by Lim Kim Seng on 8th Dec when he reported seeing one stint. Due to the rapid disappearance of freshwater wetlands, the records of Long-toed Stint had declined over the years. Other interesting waterbirds include a Grey-tailed Tattler, Tringa brevipes was observed and photographed by Ann Ang at SBWR on the 26th Dec.
Jerdon’s Baza at Tampines Eco Green. Photo: Seng Alvin.
Over at Punggol Barat, Lawrence Cher photographed six Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) flying over. Punggol Barat continues to deliver its open country specialties in spite of the disturbance caused by clearance works. Three White-shouldered Starlings (Sturnus sinensis) were photographed here by See Toh Yew Wai on 25th Dec and a Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica, was photographed in flight over Seletar North Link by KC Ling on the 27th Dec. Solomon Anthony was the first to record Black Kite, Milvus migrans, this season when he photographed one at SBWR on 18th Dec. Another individual was photographed by Lawrence Cher at Punggol Barat on the 29th Dec. Other interesting raptor records for the month include a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) at Tuas on the 8thDec by Muller Lugman, Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, at Tampines Eco Green on the 19th Dec by Seng Alvin and a juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle, (Lophotriorchis kienerii) over at Dairy Farm on the 22nd Dec by Lim Kim Keang. The year ended with a Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga), over at Pasir Ris Camp at Lorong Halus. Serin Subaraj got his lifer during his BMT there on the 31st December.
BTNR = Bukit Timah Nature Reserve RC = Records Committee.
CCNR = Central Catchment Nature Reserve
SBWR = Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
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 by Alan OwYong from the 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 RobinTan, Con Foley, Lawrence Cher and Seng Alvin for the use of your excellent photos and Yong Ding Li for editing this report.