Monthly Archives: February 2016

Nesting of the White-breasted Waterhen

Contributed by Millie Cher 27 Feb 2016
I spotted the White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus, nesting and feeding on 23 February 2016 at Japanese Garden.
It was my first time seeing an adult waterhen climb a tree.  Out of curiosity,
I followed its movement.   To my surprised I found a nest and another waterhen was resting on the nest. I captured it on video and saw one of the adult waterhen feeding the chicks. I am very surprised to find out that the White-breasted Waterhen’s nest was on a tree and not on ground level.
Next day, 24 February 2016 I came back to check on them.   I witnessed the chicks were jumping off from the tree while the parents were waiting for them on the ground. Sad to say,  one chick died from jumping off the tree. Out of a total of four chicks, three survived. I am glad that they were successfully fledged and doing well.
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A Cinnamon Ang Pow

Cinnamon-headed Pigeon

Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon

Our New Year Ang Pow arrived a little late, but we are not complaining. Terry Chen posted a photo of a male Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, on 24 Feb 2016. It was feeding on the red berries along the forest trail at the Tampines Eco Green.

We had less than 10 records of this rare non-breeding visitor in Singapore. Our last record was on 3rd September 2011 when Con Foley photographed a pair at Pulau Ubin. Most of our sightings were at Pulau Ubin and Sungei Buloh. They must have come over from across the Causeway, most likely due to forest disturbance in Johor. They are good long distance flyers.

Cinnamn-headed Pigeon

By mid day the pigeon was contented to stay in the shade and preen.

It was full house this Saturday morning, when the who’s who of the birding community gathered around a small tree along the trail at TEG hoping to get a shot of this pigeon. For most this was their lifer. Francis Yap confirmed that there were two male birds there this morning after looking through his photos. One appeared to be a sub-adult based on the incomplete maroon upperwing according to See Toh Yew Wai. Those who came early were rewarded with eye-level shots when the pigeon came down to feed on the red berries. There were even the mandatory FIM shots of the pigeon with the berry in its mouth. But most of us went home happy with some great open shots of this cinnamon ang pow. Dare we dream of the appearance of another rare returning resident, the Little Green Pigeon, Treron olax, missing since 2004.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore).

 

 

A Ballet in the Air

Lianhe+Zaobao+20160212The above article by Wing Chong, past chairman of the Bird Group, was first published in Lianhe Zaobao on 12 Feb 2016. Below is a translation of the article.

‘It rained for more than three hours that Sunday afternoon.  The sky was still gloomy when the rain finally stopped. It was breezeless and humid and very uncomfortable to stay indoors. So, I picked up my camera and decided to go for a walk at the nearby Japanese Garden.

The fresher, post-rain air lifted my spirits. Just as I entered the gardens, I was drawn to movement in the Ixola (Ixola coccinea) bush. A Yellow-vented Bulbul was busy feeding around the bush. I stopped to take a second look. She would first perch motionlessly on the ixola, before suddenly springing vertically upwards, catching the insect in midair, and making a beautiful twist before dropping back to the bush. These motions were repeated many times in seemingly erratic directions, and reminded me of a graceful ballet dancer. I suppose I was a little late to the show, as this performance didn’t last long.

Happy that I had managed to click a few shots, I proceeded towards the lotus pond to check out the lotus flowers. As I was passing a small pond I was attracted by another set of actions. On a Lagerstromia speciose, two Yellow-vented Bulbuls were also busy feeding. I sat on a rock to watch the show with the grayish sky as the backdrop. The rhythm was a bit erratic but the movements were quite similar.  The bulbuls would first perch motionless on the tree, looking into the air, like dancer waiting for their musical cue. The insect that flew up was like a music note that triggers the dancers’ action. Suddenly one of them would take off followed by the other. Sometimes both of them might take off almost simultaneously. The beautiful moves comprised of take offs, twists, mid-air freezes and graceful landings. It looked just like a ballet duet except each star had his own routine, without coordination with the other. The show went on and on for 15 minutes.

As the sky got darker the dance came to an end. The dancers were tidying up their ‘dance costume’ on the tree top when I decided to leave them. As I turn, I realized that I was not the only audience of the show. An elderly couple stood right behind me. Judging from the expressions on their faces I presumed they had also enjoyed the show. We exchanged smiles as I walked by.’

Birds of Singapore Android App

 

2016-02-22 03.31.08

With the generous help from Vincent Lao, we have made the Birds of Singapore App compatible with Android versions 5.0-6.0. Newer phone users can now download the app from Playstore under ‘Birds of Singapore 2016′.   

This App was developed by the students at the School of Information Systems at the Singapore Management University in 2014 and sponsored by Carl Zeiss Pte Ltd with contributions from members, local and overseas photographers. The Nature Society (Singapore) and the  Bird Group thank all of them for their effort, help and contributions.

Splash page: Purple-throated Sunbird by Lee Tiah Khee.

Central Forest IBA at the Crossroads.

 

Marshes at MacRitchie Forest

Fresh Water Marshes at MacRitchie Forest

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) are places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other wildlife. Birdlife International’s IBA program identifies, monitors and protects these places with the help of their local partners.

How does a site qualify to be an IBA? They have to meet the following internationally accepted criteria:

A1. Globally Threatened Species:  Sites with species in the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable.

A2.  Restricted-range Species: Sites holding a significant component of a group of species whose breeding distributions define an Endemic Bird Area (EBA).

A3. Biome-restricted Species: Sites holding a significant component of group of species whose distributions are largely or wholly confined to a biome.

A4 (1). Congregations: Sites known to hold on a regularly basis > 1% of a biogeographic population of a congregatory waterbird species. There are three other sub criteria.

IBA Central Forest

 

Our neighbour Malaysia has 55 IBAs making up the 12,000 IBAs worldwide. Not many people knows that Singapore has our own IBAs. The Nature Society (Singapore) and the Bird Group had identified three Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in Singapore: a) Kranji-Mandai, b) Ubin-Khatib and c) Central Forest . The Central Forest IBA is made up of the Central Catchment Nature Reserves, Bukit Timah Nature Reserves, Bukit Batok Nature Park and Bukit Brown (Google map left ).

All three IBAs satisfy Criterion A1 due to the presence of the globally threatened species. Central Forest for the Straw-headed Bulbul and the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher and Ubin-Khatib for the Chinese Egret and Nordmann’s Greenshank. They also satisfy Criterion A3 – Biome as part of the Sundaic Lowland Forest bioregion.

If a tiny urban island nation like Singapore can have three IBAs, it makes sense to do our best not to lose them. If we allow any part of the Central Catchment Nature Reserves to be impacted with a loss of diversity and the endangered bird species, it will not qualify for IBA status anymore. Running the Cross Island Line through the southern part of the CCNR may lead to such loss and ultimately an IBA.

Reference: http://www.birdlife.org. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8th Singapore Raptor Watch Report

compiled by TAN Gim Cheong

CSC_1502,-OHB,-TSA18

Oriental Honey Buzzard at Tuas South Avenue 8, 15 Nov 15, by Tan Gim Cheong.

 

The 8th Singapore raptor watch was held on Sunday, 15 November 2015 and involved 61 participants – the largest number of participants thus far. The weather forecast was for rain throughout the island. By noon, showers had passed through most of the island, leaving the rest of the day overcast – not the best weather conditions to observe raptor movements! We counted 320 raptors representing 6 migrants species and had 143 sightings of 5 resident species; a further 70 raptors could not be identified. There were 10 raptor watch sites and the numbers counted at each site varied from a low of 9 to a high of 124.

SITE Tuas South Ave 16 Tuas South Ave 12 Tuas South Ave 8 Japan-ese Garden Kent Ridge Park Telok Blan-gah Hill Park Halus Wet-lands Ubin Puaka Hill Ubin Pekan Quarry Changi Busi-ness Park Grand Total
TOTAL 33 14 124 47 78 69 26 99 34 9 533
Figure 1 : Total count/sightings by Site

Of the 10 sites, all the eight sites from last year were maintained, a big thanks to all raptorphiles, especially the site leaders. Two sites were added – Tuas South Avenue 12 and Tuas South Avenue 8 – to supplement Tuas South Avenue 16 in order to cover as much ‘sky’ as possible in the west, knowing that the raptors migrate across a broad front at Tuas.

 

Figure 2

Figure 2 : 2015 Raptor Watch Sites. (source of basemap – maps.google.com.sg)

Raptor activity was ‘slow’ the whole day, the weather conditions a dampener no doubt. The small increase in the late morning was mainly due to a flock of Black Bazas at Telok Blangah Hill Park, while the jump in the afternoon was mainly due to the movement of 108 Oriental Honey Buzzards migrating across Tuas South Avenue 8.

Figure 3

Figure 3 : Raptor numbers by 1-hour time periods (migrant raptors only)

 

The six migrant species recorded included, in descending order, 181 Oriental Honey Buzzards, 96 Black Bazas, 31 Japanese Sparrowhawks, 9 Chinese Sparrowhawks, 2 Peregrine Falcons and 1 Common Kestrel. The 34 unidentified Accipiters were most likely migrants as well. The 36 unidentified raptors on the other hand, could be migrants or residents. The migrant raptor of the day would be the Common Kestrel – formerly considered a rare migrant, recently upgraded to ‘uncommon’ – photographed at Tuas South Avenue 12.

The main bulk of the Oriental Honey Buzzards (OHB) were recorded at Tuas South Avenue 8, which had 114 birds. Nearby Tuas South Avenue 12 only had 9 OHB while Tuas South Avenue 16 had 4 OHB. Japanese Garden had 23 OHB and Kent Ridge Park 13 OHB. Small numbers were recorded at another 3 sites, whereas none were recorded at Pekan Quarry (Pulau Ubin) and Changi Business Park.

As for the Black Bazas, 39 were at Telok Blangah Hill Park, 34 at Puaka Hill (Pulau Ubin), 18 at Kent Ridge Park and 5 at Pekan Quarry. The Japanese Sparrowhawk was recorded in single digits at eight sites, but none at Tuas South Avenue 16 and Pekan Quarry. The uncommon Chinese Sparrowhawk was recorded from three sites only – Puaka Hill (5 birds), Kent Ridge Park (3 birds) and Telok Blangah Hill Park (1 bird). The Peregrine Falcon, another uncommon migrant, was only recorded from Tuas South Avenue 12 and Japanese Garden.

S/N Species (Migrants) Count
1 Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus 181
2 Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes 96
3 Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 31
4 Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis 9
5 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 2
6 Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Total Migrant Raptors 320
   
1 Unid. Raptor 36
2 Unid. Accipiter 34
Total Unidentified Raptors   70
Figure 4 : Migrant and Unidentified Raptors Counted

For the resident species, the counts should be considered as ‘sightings’ rather than as individual birds as the same birds may visit the same site more than once. This is especially so for the more common resident raptors and less so for the rest. There were 68 sightings of the Brahminy Kite, 46 sightings of the White-bellied Sea Eagle, 15 sightings of the Black-winged Kite, 11 sightings of the Changeable Hawk Eagle and 3 sightings of the Grey-headed Fish Eagle. Similar to the year before, the Grey-headed Fish Eagles were only seen at Pekan Quarry (Pulau Ubin).

S/N Species (Residents) Sightings
1 Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus 68
2 White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 46
3 Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus 11
4 Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus 15
5 Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus 3
Total Sightings of Resident Raptors 143
Figure 5 : Resident Raptors Counted
Figure 6

Figure 6 : Raptor Sub-totals by Category (migrant /unidentified /resident) by Site

Summary

Number of raptors
– 320 migrant raptors counted.
– 70 unidentified raptors.
– 143 sightings of resident raptors.

Number of species
11 species counted, including:
– 6 migrant species.
– 5 resident species.

A complete breakdown of the species counted at each site is shown in the table below:

Figure 7

Figure 7 : Raptor numbers by Site and break down of Species

Thanks to all the 61 wonderful people, both leaders and participants, for spending their Sunday sitting out the rain and bearing with the gloomy weather to count the raptors that were willing to show themselves. National Parks Board staff and NParks volunteers also participated.  The following fantastic people led or assisted in the raptor count:

Figure 8

For a pdf version of the report, please click 8th Singapore Raptor Watch – 2015.

Nesting of the Oriental White-eyes

A pair of Oriental White-eyes, Zosterops palpebrosus, chose to build a nest among the climbers at one end of our fifth floor landing. The nest is a small round cup about the size of a tomato. My neighbors first noticed the nest in late January.

There were already three little white eggs in it. Both parents took turn to sit on the eggs round the clock to incubate them. The Oriental White-eye was a common resident but disappeared due to the loss of mangroves in the 1970s. The present population may have come  from the small remnant group but most likely from mass introduction in the 90s.

Three hatched about 5 days of incubation.

Three hatched about a week of incubation.

On the morning of 3rd February, two chicks hatched. The third chick hatched the next day. They were all naked without any feathers. Their huge eyes were closed. The parents did not feed them during the first two days. They just sat on them to keep them warm and safe from harm. The parents started bringing back food on the third day. The feeding was not intensive with the parents spending time sitting on and protecting the chicks.

 

Only two 4 days old chicks survived.  Eyes are still closed.

Only two chicks survived 5 days after hatch. Eyes are still closed.

The five days old chicks looked big but still featherless. But only two survived. What happened  to the third chick? Has it been predated, fallen out or died? I went to the lower floor but could not find it.

The two chicks tripled their size after nine days. Their eyes are fully opened now. Spiky feathers covered their bodies. The parents now did not have to sit on them to keep them warm. But instead they were busy out looking for insects like grasshoppers to feed them.

The spiky feathers turned into soft greenish feathers on the 11th day. Both parents are now feeding them every few minute. The parent would give a short cheep to let the chicks know it was back. Both would quickly open their mouths and stuck out their necks to get fed. The chick that stuck its mouth higher would get fed. Survival of the fittest. To save energy they kept still in between the feeding sessions.

The two twelve days old chicks now filled the nest. In the afternoon we were surprised to find both chicks out of the nest. They were sitting side by side on a vine next to the nest. They returned to the nest to roost later in the evening.

2016-02-15 09.16.45

Jail birds. The metal mesh on the inside gave them extra protestion. One day before fledging.

It is now 13 days after hatch. The parents were still busy feeding them this morning. It was bringing back what looks like buah cherries for the chicks who swallow it whole. When I check around lunch the nest was empty. I went down to the lower floors to see if they have fallen but could not find them. Later in the day, I saw one of the parent coming back to look for the chicks. I like to think that they had fledged but not sure why they don’t hang around to be fed.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore)

 

Singapore Bird Report-January 2016

Lesser Adjutant in flight Pix Lee Tiah Khee

Lesser Adjutant flying over Straits of Johor. Photo: Lee Tiah Khee

The star sighting came on the last day of the month. Those who went on the Raffles Marina-NSS Bird Group’s maiden cruise to the North West of Singapore was rewarded by the fly past of the Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus.(Link). This rare resident was only added to the checklist two years ago.The dreaded news of a grounded Himalayan Vulture, Gyps himalayensis, found at Toa Payoh by Wandee Sofae on the 5th meant another loss of this species in the wild. As with most vultures found here this one was exhausted and collapsed on the roof of the flats there. ACRES retrieved it and it may end up in the Singapore Zoo if it survived. On a brighter note, two rare Cotton Pygmy Goose, Nettapus coromandelianus, made a surprised visit to the Lotus Pond at Satay by the Bay on 15th.(Hio John and Lilian Tay) Link. Unfortunately it stayed only a day. That was enough to draw birders and photographers to the Bay Gardens. Those that came were rewarded with some new and rare finds in the days that followed.

HGV by Wandee Sofea

The Himalayan Vulture collapsing on to the roof of a flat in Toa Payoh. Photo Wandee Sofae.

Chai Lee Fung shot a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, an uncommon winter visitor there on 11th. A family of Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata, was photographed by James Tann on 18th. This uncommon resident must have been making their home here for sometime. Then another uncommon resident crake, the Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca, was photographed by Millie Cher two days later. She later posted a photo of the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus zeylanicus,on 27th. An excellent find that provides evidence for the dispersal of this uncommon resident through Singapore. Another bulbul, the Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, a non- breeding visitor, was also recorded on the 30th by Mark J. Oei at the Meadows by the Bay. The last four species are new to the gardens. These finds just shows how efforts to make the gardens attractive to birds and wildlife are paying off.

Ashy Drongo at Mt Faber taken by Zacc on 31st Jan 2016

Ashy Drongo at Mt Faber taken by Zacc on 31st Jan 2016

Other passerine winter visitors of note include a male Siberian Thrush Geokichia sibirica, photographed by Tan Gim Cheong at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 7th, a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus, and a Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, at summit of BTNR on 9th by See Toh Yew Wai, a Black-browed Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus bistrigiceps,  at Jurong Eco Gardens on 9th by Doreen Ang, Ah Huay, Jane Rogers and Nessie, an immature male Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, at Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course on 10th by Dean Tan, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, at Bidadari on 12th, a Sand Martin Riparia riparia, at Chek Java on 18th by Lim Kim Keang, Dark-sided Flycatchers Muscicapa sibirica, at BTNR summit on 23rd (Zacc HD) and CCNR on 24th by Lim Kim Seng, two White-shouldered Starlings Sturnus sinensis, at Tampines Eco Green on 30th by Seng Alvin and an Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus of salangensis sub spp, at Mt. Faber on 31st by Zacc HD. Link

Watercock Chee Wei-lin.

The Watercock that crashed into St Margaret Primary School posted by Chee Wei-lin

The influx of the Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea, continued. One at the Japanese Gardens on 2nd (Loke Peng Fai), another at Tuas South on the 3rd (Francis Yap),  a dead bird at Pasir Ris Street 11 on 4th (reported by David Tan) and another crashed into St Margaret Primary School (reported by Chee Wei-Lin). Fortunately this Watercock survived thanks to the quick action of ACRES.

Grey Plovers caught in flight off Chek Java by See Toh Yew Wai

Grey Plovers (black armpits) caught in flight off Chek Java by See Toh Yew Wai

Most of the shorebird records came from offshore islands. Up to 6 Bar-tailed Godwits, Limosa lapponica, were seen wintering off Chek Java on 16th by See Toh Yew Wai, but only two Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea, were counted at Mandai Mudflats by Lim Kim Keang, a lone Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, at P. Semakau by Andy Dinesh both during AWC on 23rd. Andy also videoed 4 Grey Plovers, Pluvialis squatarola,at Semakau South on the 8th. This is the first record in the southern islands for this Plover. Another flock of 20 Grey Plovers and about 90 Great Crested Terns Thalasseus bergii, were seen off P. Sekudu on 25th by Lim Kim Keang.

Asian Palm Swift See Toh

Asian Palm Swift a rare resident swift captured by See Toh Yew Wai over Thompson Road

Some resident species reported during the month were: Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostris, at BBNP on 3rd, Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis, at PRP on 4th, both by Seng Alvin, a pair of rare resident Asian Palm Swifts Cypsiurus balasiensis, captured by See Toh Yew Wai over Thompson Road, the much sought-after Barred Eagle Owl, Bubo sumatranus, making its second appearance at BTNR carpark on 12th found by See Toh Yew Wai, Plantive Cuckoo, Cacomantis merulinus at TEG by Tan Gim Cheong, a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus,  at JEG (new?) by Chan Boon Heng both on 14th, a Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha,at Ketam Mountain Bike trail on 18th by Lim Kim Keang and Yong Yik Shih, a Barred Button Quail, Turnix suscitator at Kranji Marshes on 23rd by Lee Ee Ling, Greater Green Leafbird, Chloropsis sonnerati,  at DFNP on 25th by Andrew Chow, another Plantive Cuckoo, Cacomantis merulinus,  this time at Pasir Ris Park on 29th by Seng Alvin and a Golden-bellied Gerygone, Gerygone sulphurea, feeding a Little Bronze Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx minutillus, at Changi Business Park photographed by Saxon Liew.

Jerdon's Baza at TEG by Lim Kim Keang

Jerdon’s Baza at Tampines Eco Green by Lim Kim Keang

On the raptor front, a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, still chose to hang out at TEG on the 1st (Lim Kim Keang). They were also seen over at Lorong Halus the next day by Lau Jiasheng, Danny Lau and Tan Kok Hui. A Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, was photographed at Punggol Barat on 5th by Zacc HD and Gim Cheong on 25th. A Rufous-bellied Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, was photographed over at BTNR by Kieta Sin while a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, was also photographed at SBWR by Lim Kim Seng both on 9th. Con Foley had a sub-adult Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, over Bidadari and a Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, of the subspecies japonensis was photographed over at SBWR Eagle Point by Cindy Yeo both on 14th. Tan Gim Cheong reported a dark morphed Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, at Punggol Barat on 25th. And on the last day of the month, a possible Northern Boobook was reported at Pasir Ris Park by Goh Cheng Teng. Based on the photos of Jack Lau, the breast markings does not show the usual heart-shaped patterns that indicate the Brown-hawk Owl. This led to a rush of photographers and birdwatchers to the park to capture a potential lifer just in case it turned out to be the rare migratory Northern Boobook, Ninox japonica. (Note that current research suggests that the heart-shaped patterns is not necessarily a surefire way to distinguish the two owls, research on the separation of the two owls is still ongoing)

BTNR Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, CCNR Central Catchment Nature Reserve, AWC Asian Waterbirds Count, BBNP Bukit Batok Nature Park, PRP Pasir Ris Park, TEG Tampines Eco Green, JEG Jurong Eco Garden, DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, SBWR Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. 2009 The Avifauna of Singapore NSS. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah. Lee Tiah Khee. 2013 The Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited.

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 Lee Tiah Khee, See Toh Yew Wai, Lim Kim Keang, Wandee Sofae and Zacc HD for the use of your excellent photos and Yong Ding Li for editing this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NSS-Raffles Marina North-West Cruise.

Contributed by Alfred Chia.

On 31 January 2016, some members of the Nature Society (Singapore), took a maiden cruise along the North-west coastline of Singapore. This trip was made possible through the support of the kind people at Raffles Marina who not only provided the vessels and crew support but breakfast, lunch and refreshments as well. A big thank you to Francis Lee, President of Raffles Marina, Edwin Tan and Ray Perry, CEO. Also accommpanying us on this trip to share & partake experiences were Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social & Family Development and Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for National Development & Home Affairs.

27 of us, allocated into 3 boats, left the marina in a convoy at 8.25am after a hearty breakfast. The route took us immediately under the Second Link viaduct, emerging quickly into the periphery of the restricted Western Catchment Reserve. We travelled gingerly to stay clear of the 75-metre navigable sea lane restriction that was adjacent to the Live Firing Area. We sailed passed Bridge Eins from afar and looked longingly at it for beyond this bridge lies the Tengeh Reservoir. This is where perhaps waterfowl may be found. But this is a restricted zone. I remembered looking down onto this reservoir from atop a small hill many years ago when Poyan was still accessible: at least up to where Bulim Cemetery was. The scenery was beautiful, serene & picturesque then. Birds fluttered from tree to tree and very often, you see raptors going in for the kill from where you are. But I digress. Ah, those were the days!

View of the Second Link. Pix Alfred Chia

View of the Second Link. Pix Alfred Chia

 

It was a hot day and raptors abound. There were Brahminy Kites, White-bellied Sea Eagles, singles of Changeable Hawk Eagle and a Western Osprey. A surprising find was a lone Grey-headed Fish Eagle perched atop a “Danger” sign very early on. At Pulau Sarimbun, where we slowed down to search for a long-lost fern, we heard the Olive-winged Bulbul and the Oriental Magpie Robin.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle perched atop "Danger sign" Pix Tan Chuan-Jin.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle perched atop “Danger sign” Pix Tan Chuan-Jin.

Osprey inflight Pix Tan Chuan-Jin

Osprey inflight Pix Tan Chuan-Jin

We were alerted before the trip by Dr Shawn Lum to search for the fern Dipteris conjugata at Pulau Sarimbun, a probable last stronghold. This primitive fern once abound on the coastal cliff surface of Labrador in the early years and Labrador was declared a Nature Reserve by virtue of its existence then. Sadly, it is now completely obliterated from Labrador. Happily however, we managed to locate the fern at Pulau Sarimbun, healthily sashaying with the breeze.

Pulau Saribun Pix Alfred Chia

Pulau Sarimbun Pix Alfred Chia

Dipteris conjugata, taken from Gap Road, Fraser's Hill.pix Alfred Chia

Dipteris conjugata, taken from Gap Road, Fraser’s Hill.pix Alfred Chia

By 10.15am, we had Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in our view. We saw the familiar main bridge and its sluice gates. Great & Little Egrets and Grey Herons were more obvious here. In the heat of the day, many were just resting atop the numerous fish farms that dotted the coastlines.

One of the many fisg farms along the way. Pix Alfred Chia

One of the many fisg farms along the way. Pix Alfred Chia

Great Egrets resting in the heat of the day. Pix Alfred Chia

Great Egrets resting in the heat of the day. Pix Desmond Lee.

We continued further to the Kranji mudflats. As the tide was about 1.1 metre, some mudflats were exposed. Distance do not permit us however to view any waders but the bigger egrets & herons were more obvious. We turned around from here to head back.

Great Egret in flight Pix Desmond Lee

Great Egret in flight Pix Desmond Lee

En-route, we stopped for lunch at Fish Farm No 33, just off the end of Lim Chu Kang Road. This farm is owned by a Mr Cheung. We were warmly welcomed by the spritely 79-year old patriarch himself, together with his beautiful family. We were then brought around the farm by Mr Cheung and his son. We learned that the farm specialises more in the rearing of milk fish and mullets. We learned also of the different type of feeds for different species. We were also given an impromptu lesson on the challenges the fish farm faces: from the level of dissolved oxygen to planktons, to red tide and to aeration needs. A scrumptious lunch, meticulously arranged by Raffles Marina and its hardworking support staff, then followed. A big thank you to them and also to Mr Cheung and his family for so kindly hosting the group.

Mr. Cheung from Fish Farm No. 33. Pix Leong Kok Peng.

Mr. Cheung from Fish Farm No. 33. Pix Leong Kok Peng.

It was also at the fish farm that we had the highlight of the trip. While we were standing at one end of the farm, Ju Lin suddenly looked skywards and shouted “Adjutant Stock”! In a jiffy, all eyes, bins and cameras were pointed at the stock flying overhead us. It flew in from the direction of Lim Chu Kang towards Johore. When it was confirmed as a Lesser Adjutant, there were smiles and a sense of accomplishment all around. Both ministers also revelled in our joy, knowing that we had finally seen what we had set out to look for, a great rarity indeed!

Lesser Adjutant in flight Pix Lee Tiah Khee

Lesser Adjutant in flight Pix Lee Tiah Khee

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A view of Cashin House, viewed from the sea. This colonial-era bungalow will be restored by NParks soon & will be linked to Sg Buloh Wetland Reserve by trails (Pix: Desmond Lee)

We returned to Raffles Marina at 1.20pm and gathered for some refreshments and tete-a-tete before calling it a day: a day very well-spent indeed.

Customary group photo. Pix Lim Kim Chuah.

Customary group photo. Pix Lim Kim Chuah.

In total, we saw 23 species of birds on the trip, confirmed that Dipteris conjugata is thriving in Pulau Sarimbun, saw the rare Lesser Adjutant and renewed friendship and made new ones.

Many thanks to Tan Chuan-Jin, Desmond Lee, Leong Kwok Peng, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee for the use of their photos.

Northern Pintail-Our Past Records.

Northern Pintails

A female (left) and an eclipse male Northern Pintails at Sungei Sembawang taken in Nov 1992.

6th February 2016

The Straits Times yesterday carried an article on the sighting of a male Northern Pintail, Anas acuta, at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 3rd February 2016. NParks’ Mendis Tan saw a duck with a greenish throat flying across the reserve in the morning but his colleague David Li found the Pintail among the egrets in the evening. This is the first time for the reserve and only our fifth record of this very rare winter visitor. They migrate from North Asia to South and East Asia making rare visits to Malaysia and Singapore

According to “Madge Waterfowl of the World”, Northern Pintails prefer open wetlands avoiding forested areas. They spend the winter at estuarine mudflats, brackish marshes and lagoons. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is an ideal habitat for its stop over. It feeds by dabbling in shallow water mainly in the evening or at night, spending the day loafing on shores and mudflats. Generally shy and wary.

I dug into my slide collection and scanned the above photo of two Northern Pintails taken at the Sungei Sembawang in November 1992. Two males and a female were seen then. This was our fourth and last record. They stayed from 22nd-29th November 1992 and was last seen on 13th December 1992 (SINAV 6.2). Sungei Sembawang was an integral part of Senoko, one of our premier birding sites in the 90s, where over 200 species were recorded.

Our first record was a male seen at Jurong River from 30th December 1967 to 29th January 1968 (MBR 1967-68). The second was a dead bird shot by a local farmer (RAFOS 1970). The third was a small flock seen at Poyang Reservoir in November 1983 (MBR 1982-83).

The sighting at Sungei Buloh also extends the extreme date from 29 January to 3rd February. Lets hope that the newly opened Kranji Marshes will attract more migratory water fowls to stop over here.

Compiled by Alan OwYong with edits from Tan Gim Cheong. Ref: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore 2009. Craig Robson. The Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd.