Just missing a catch. The first few photos taken on 21st March 2016. Photo: Choo Tiong Whee.
A most unexpected rare pelagic Brown Booby, Sula lecuogaster, turned up at the Johor Straits on the morning of 21 March 2016. Choo Tiong Whee and friends Lee Van Hien and Benny Lim were at SBWR Platform 1 photographing the Ospreys when they saw the booby flying around the fish farms diving for fish. Apart from some great photos, Van Hien even had the time to video the fishing. He said that the booby was fishing there for around 15 minutes or so. This was a prized SG lifer for them.
Lee Van Hien’s diving shot of the booby taken on 21st March.
We had only four records of this non-breeding visitor. Two were specimens dating back to 1878 ( Hume and Davison collection in Gibson-Hill 1950) from open seas and the other from Horsburgh Lighthouse in 1935 ( now in RMBR). Gibson-Hill (1950) mentioned a sighting in 1948 and the most recent was off Changi in 1982 (Paul Bristowe).
This latest sighting caused great excitement among the birding community here as this will be a SG lifer of all of us. Platform 1 was packed to capacity the following days with hopes of getting a sight of it.
Great overhead shot. It was so close that David could not get the whole bird in the frame.
But the lucky birder was David Li who was out on a boat on the 24th doing shorebirds tracking. The booby flew right over his head around noon just missing him with its bombing. Luckily he was fast enough to click this great overhead shot as it passed over. He also reported seeing the booby from Sungei Buloh the day before at 9.15 am.
Bird’s eye view of SBWR Platform 1 with Choo Tiong Whee waving to the boat group. Photo: Solomon Anthony.
This prompted See Toh Yew Wai and friends to charter a boat from Raffles Marina to go in search of this prize catch on 26th. Alas the booby did not make an appearance and they had to be satisfied with ticking the rare resident Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, off the shore of the Western Catchment.
A long shot of the booby near to Johor by Francis Yap. It went missing after this shot was taken.
Francis Yap decided to try his luck at SBWR Eagle’s Point on Sunday 27th and was duly rewarded with a sighting and record shots of the booby at 10 am. Just how lucky can you get? This is the last reported sighting so far and a great end to one of the most exciting finds in local birding history after the sightings of the Mask Finfoot in 1999.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. A field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Bird Society of Japan. 1993.
Many thanks to the use of photographs from Choo Tiong Whee, Lee Van Hien, David Li, Solomon Anthony and Francis Yap.