Asian Waterbirds Census 2016


Group photo of some of the volunteers from NSS, NParks and the public  at Sungei Buloh Wetand Reserve at the start of the 2016 Asian Waterbird Census, which is celebrating its 30th year and the IWC  its 50th year.  Photo: Lim Kim Keang.

The Bird Group kicked off the year with the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) on 23 January 2016. This year is also the 50th anniversary of International Waterbird Census and the  30th anniversary for the Asian Waterbird Census. Eleven teams fanned across the island to coastal, wetland and marshy sites to count all the waterbirds there including kingfishers and raptors that depend on these habitats for food, shelter and nesting sites.

The members of the then Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) held the first AWC in 1990 by joining regional bird organisations in the count coordinated by the International Wetland Bureau. Today this annual event coordinated Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group in Singapore  is still going strong under Wetlands International after more than 25 years. Such censuses will help to monitor the trend of  migrating shorebirds and resident waterfowls all over Asia and provide an invaluable tool in alerting conservation organisations and agencies to take necessary actions of declining trends of a particular species or site.

Mandai Mudflats and Waders LKK 2016

Mandai Mudflats at low tide looking towards the Causeway. Whimbrel flock one of the shorebird species that feeds here. Photo Lim Kim Keang.

The sites covered by the teams were Lower Seletar Dam,  Mandai  Mudflats, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves (Route 1 and 2), Kranji Marshes, Kranji Dam, Pulau Ubin (Central and Chek Jawa), Lorong Halus, Pasir Ris and Khatib Bongsu.

It turned out to be a wet afternoon for many of the participants especially those sites  in the NW of Singapore and some of the counters had time-outs to wait out the heavy showers and strong wind. But overall, the shorebirds were not affected and continued to be active at the major feeding grounds.

Chek Java WF

Chek Java at low tide, looking towards Johor. Photo: Willie Foo.

The Mandai Mudflats as with previous census recorded the highest count of 1,619 shorebirds from 11 species with the Lesser Sand Plovers being the most numerous at 630 birds.  There were good counts of Common Redshanks (280), Pacific Golden Plovers (330) and Common Whimbrel (240) and Common Greenshanks (93). Other notable species were Rufous-necked Stints (15), Marsh Sandpipers (2) and Curlew Sandpipers (2). Both  Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers are rarely seen in Singapore in recent years. The latter is in sharp decline globally and need concerted effort to find the right solutions to arrest the trend.

AWC Mandai 2016

David Li (with cap) from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves with Lim Kim Keang, main co-ordinator for the AWC 2016 at Mandai Mudflats. Photo: SBWR

Over at Sungei Buloh it was egrets galore, all three migratory species were counted with the Little Egrets as expected topping at 75 birds. A single wintering Terek Sandpiper and  Grey-tailed Tattler were also picked out. Many of the migrating waterbirds were at the Mandai Mudflats as the favourable low tides provided extensive exposed mudflats for feeding.

Khatib Bonsu HHC

From left Jacky Soh, Jimmy Lee and Angus Lamont at the bund at Khatib Bonsu  helping with the count there. A pair of Red-wattled Lapwings appeared be nesting nearby.  Photo Ho Hua Chew.

Over at Chek Java, a flock of Great Crested Terns numbering 120 were counted. Other species of note were 26 Grey Plovers, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits and 2 Great-billed Herons.

Five species of Kingfishers including the rare Black-capped were recorded at Kranji Marshes. The resident Red-wattled Lapwings seem to have taken to the newly created mud banks there. A high count of 16 were recorded. Unfortunately there were no signs of the Black-backed Swamphens. We hope they will make a comeback soon.


Marcel Finley counting herons at Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin. A total of 31 Grey Herons were counted here. Photo Willie Foo.

At Lorong Halus ponds, the Little Grebe was a no show but there were 9 Pond Herons in their non breeding plumage. There were 40 Grey Herons and at least 31 active nests at Pasir Ris Park although counts of other waterbirds were as usual quite low.

Khatib Bonsu HHC.jpg2

One of the tidal ponds at Khatib Bonsu, a restricted area. Three Stork-billed Kingfishers and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle sighted. They need such ponds for survival. Photo Ho Hua Chew.

On behalf of Wetlands International  the Nature Society (Singapore)  wishes to thank  all the site leaders, NSS members , staff of Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserves and volunteers  for helping out with this IWC 50 census. A full report will be published once all the data have been collated.

Report compiled from selected results from various site leaders with editorial help from Lim Kim Keang. Many thanks to Lim Kim Keang, Ho Hua Chew, Willie Foo and SBWR for the use of the photos. 


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