Monthly Archives: February 2017

Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul.

Annual bird census data reveals Singapore as the global stronghold of endangered songbird. 

Straw-headed Bulbul at Zoo

Wild populations of many bird species are in rapid decline across Southeast Asia as a result of unsustainable hunting for the pet-bird trade, especially in Indonesia. Sought by bird hobbyists for its powerful and rich song, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) is one of the world’s most threatened songbirds due to soaring demand for the pet trade.  Across much of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul has been relentlessly trapped from the wild to be later sold in the bird markets of Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. The species has now gone extinct from Thailand and most parts of Indonesia where it used to be found, including the whole island of Java. There are also no recent records from Sumatra.

In a recent study published in the journal Bird Conservation International led by members of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, wild populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore was found to have steadily risen over the last 15 years, and may now be the largest in its entire distribution. Using data gathered from more than 15 years of the Annual Bird Census, the study found that populations on the island of Pulau Ubin have increased at nearly 4% per year. It is estimated that at least 110 individuals of the Straw-headed Bulbul now survives on Ubin, making the island a global stronghold for the species. On the other hand, trends in mainland Singapore were less clear, appearing to remain unchanged over the study period.

The population of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore is estimated to be at least 202 individuals based on existing data. However this estimate is likely to be conservative since the Western Catchment area was not comprehensively surveyed. Moreover, new sites for the bulbul, including remnant pockets of woodland like Burgundy woods has been discovered very recently and these were not captured in the Annual Bird Census. Given that the global population of the species is now estimated at 600-1,700 individuals, Singapore may easily hold 12-34% of the world’s remaining wild Straw-headed Bulbuls.

To effectively conserve the Straw-headed Bulbul, there will be a need to conserve small pockets of woodland such as Bukit Brown and Khatib Bongsu outside the nature reserves. It is also hoped that the authorities will review plans to gazette at least some parts of Pulau Ubin as a nature reserve. Other biodiversity can be expected benefit from the conservation actions targeting the bulbul.

Studies on the long-term population trends of birds in Singapore would not be possible without the citizen science surveys carried out by the Nature Society and supported by a large team of volunteers since 1986. These surveys include the Mid-year, Fall, and most importantly, the Annual Bird Censuses. Additionally, there are also dedicated censuses focused on monitoring raptor migration and parrots in urban areas. During these censuses, as many as 50 volunteers may be surveying birds across the country concurrently. Over the last two decades, these censuses have allowed us to track population trends of threatened species such as the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.”

By Yong Ding Li.

Advertisements

Singapore Bird Report-January 2017

 

grey-streaked-fc-by-aldwin-recinto-001

Our second record after 25 years, a rare vagrant Grey-streaked Flycatcher brilliantly captured at Pasir Ris Park by Aldwin Recinto. 

We kick-started the Year of the Rooster with a very rare vagrant, a Grey Streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta photographed by Aldwin Recinto at Pasir Ris Park on 13th. This is only our second record. Our first record was on 21 April 1991 at Poyan (IORA 1), more than 25 years ago. It winters in Borneo and the Philippines. Unfortunately it did not stay more than a day.

cinnamon-headed-pigeon-1st-jan-loke-peng-fai

This photo of a young Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon moulting into adult male plumage, by Loke Peng Fai, got us heading to Ubin on the second day of the New Year.

On the first day, Low Choon How photographed a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus flying over the Straits of Johor and Loke Peng Fai had an exciting find, a Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon Treron fulvicollis at Ubin near Ketam Quarry. The next day Con Foley and See Toh Yew Wai counted no less than 12 Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeons there. This is the largest flock of these rare pigeons ever recorded in Singapore and most probably in Johor as well.

Staying in Ubin, a rare Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides was seen by See Toh Yew Wai on 2nd.  Daniel Ong found a pair of Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana sitting on a stick nest inside the mangroves near Chek Jawa on 3rd.  If nesting is confirmed this will be our first nesting record since 2005 at Pulau Bukom Kechil. A Jambu Fruit-Dove Ptilinopus jambu photographed by Tan Gim Cheong on the 5th near Ketam Quarry. Two Jerdon’s Bazas Aviceda jerdoni were photographed by Khaleb Yordan with Lim Kim Chuah on the 14th. Nearby at Chek Jawa, 3 globally near-threatened Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica were reported by Wing Chong on the same day while Andrew Chow came in with reports of Lesser Crested Terns Thalasseus bengalensis roosting at Pulau Seduku on 2nd.

little-ringed-pover-21-jantekong-frankie-cheong

A handsome male Little Ringed Plover in full breeding plumage taken at P. Tekong by Frankie Cheong.

Nearby at Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong sent in reports of Little Ringed Plovers Charadrius dubius, Red-necked Stints Calidris rufficollis and an endangered Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes on 21st. It would seem that Pulau Tekong has become the favourite stop over for the Chinese Egrets. During the Asian Waterbird Census, Lim Kim Keang counted 67 Red-necked Stints at Mandai Mudflats. A sizable flock for this globally near-threatened shorebird under the IUCN listing mainly due to the loss of wetlands in the Yellow Sea.

oso-wang-bin

Wang Bin’s clever seamless two-in-one photo montage of both morphs of the Oriental Scops Owl taken on different days from Dairy Farm NP 

On the mainland, the most intriguing find was a pair of Oriental Scops Owls Otus Sunia at DFNP by Keita Sin on the 10th. One was a grey morph and the other was rufous, both roosting on the same tree. Did they meet on migration or flew in together? We may have to wait for further sightings for the answer.

oht-solomon-anthony

Male Orange-headed Thrush at the Singapore Botanic Gardens by Solomon Anthony.

Interesting passerine visitors include two Orange-headed Thrushes Geokichla citrina at the Rainforest at Singapore Botanic Gardens photographed by Solomon Anthony on 10th, a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Belayer Creek at Labrador on 12th, new for Labrador NR (Alan OwYong), a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans on the 15th at PRP by Tan Gim Cheong, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus at PRP on 16th by Tan Gim Cheong, a female Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae at Terangtang Trail by Keita Sin on 17th, a returning Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida flying into an apartment at Park East on 17th (Lee Li Er) and a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus at the BTNR summit on 18th by Francis Yap.

grey-nj-at-cg-by-looi-ang-soh-hoon

Not often you get to see a Grey Nightjar roosting so low and open. Taken at Chinese Gardens by Looi Ang Soh Hoon.

Others were a Large Hawk Cuckoo at Bidadari on 20th by Tan Gim Cheong,  a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka back at the same tree as the previous season at Bidadari on 20th by Tan Gim Cheong and another at the Chinese Gardens on 23rd by Looi Ang Soh Hoon, a Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata at Kranji Marshes seen during a Bird Group trip on 22nd by Lee Ee Ling, a Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 25th by Laurence Eu and a juvenile Hodgon’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor from the Canopy Walk at Kent Ridge Park on 29th by Alan OwYong.

Of the water species, two Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus were reported, first a juvenile on 15th at the PRP boardwalk by Lim Kim Keang and the second an adult at Satay by the Bay on 31st by Alan OwYong. This is new for the Bay Gardens. James Tann reported the return of the snipe to the Cattail pond at Chinese Gardens on 18th. This could be the Pin-tailed Gallinago stenura that was identified roosting there the past few years. A secretive Watercock Gallicrex cinerea was photographed at Kranji Marshes by Adrian Silas Tay on 22nd.

watercock-adrian-silas-tay-22-jan-km

A hard to find Watercock taken at Kranji Marshes by Adrian Silas Tay. 

Notable residents for the month were 4-5 Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea feeding on red palm nuts at Changi Business Park reported on 1st by Ted Lee, Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps from Jelutong Tower by Keita Sin on 3rd and around 20 House Swifts Apus nipalensis flying over Kent Ridge Road reported by Keita Sin on 26th. This was by far the largest flock of this swift ever reported for a long while. We hope that this will signal a comeback.

Legend: DFNP Dairy Farm National Park, PRP Pasir Ris Park, BTNR Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected 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 Aldwin Recinto, Loke Peng Fai, Frankie Cheong, Wang Bin, Solomon Anthony, Looi Ang Soh Hoon and Adrian Silas Tay for the use of their photos. If you have any earlier records than those reported here and found some errors, please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

9th SINGAPORE RAPTOR WATCH REPORT

Autumn 2016 Migration – 6 Nov 2016

tgc_9909-peregrine-falcon

Peregrine Falcon at Tuas South Avenue 16, 6 Nov 2016, by Tan Gim Cheong

The 9th Singapore raptor watch was held on Sunday, 6 November 2016 and involved 72 participants – the largest number of participants thus far. It had been raining the past few days prior and we were lucky that it did not rain during the count, although we had overcast conditions almost the whole day. We counted 343 raptors representing 7 migrant species and 92 raptors of 6 resident species. A further 41 raptors could not be identified to species level. There were 8 raptor watch sites and the numbers counted at each site varied from a high of 164 to a low of 4.

capture-fig-1

Apart from the addition of Hindhede Quarry, the other seven sites were the same ones as previous years, thanks to all the site leaders for their faithful support!

capture-fig-2

Most of the migrant raptors were recorded between 9am to 1pm, with the numbers trailing off later in the afternoon. Oriental Honey Buzzards migrating across Tuas South from 10-11am and 12-1pm contributed to the two ‘mini-peaks’ in the graph below.

capture-fig-3

The Oriental Honey Buzzards (OHB) was the most numerous migrant raptor counted, with 289 birds. Being the most widespread, the OHB was recorded at all the 8 sites. Highest numbers for the OHB were at Tuas South Avenue 16 (139 birds), Japanese Garden (43 birds) and Kent Ridge Park (39 birds).

Usually, the Black Bazas would constitute the second highest count, but not this year. The second spot was claimed by the 38 Japanese Sparrowhawks, which was recorded at six out of 8 sites, with 16 birds at the Japanese Gardens alone. Only ten Black Bazas were counted at two sites – 9 at Lorong Halus Wetlands and 1 at Puaka Hill on Pulau Ubin.

Two Booted Eagles – one at Japanese Gardens and the other at Changi Business Park – were exceptional for this scarce passage migrant. Only two Peregrine Falcons and one Common Kestrel were counted, and all three birds were recorded at Tuas South. The one and only Chinese Sparrowhawk was recorded at Lorong Halus Wetlands.

Capture, Fig 4.JPG

For the resident species, the total count was 92 birds of 6 species, one more species than the year before – the addition being the Crested Goshawk. The count for the resident raptors comprised 43 Brahminy Kites, 29 White-bellied Sea Eagles, 11 Changeable Hawk Eagles, 4 Grey-headed Fish Eagles, 3 Black-winged Kites, and 2 Crested Goshawks. The decrease in the count for the Black-winged Kites was notable.

capture-fig-5

The figure below provides a snapshot of the number of raptors according to the three categories – migrant, un-identified & resident raptors, at the 8 sites.

capture-fig-6

Summary:    

Number of raptors
– 343 migrant raptors.
– 41 un-identified raptors.
– 92 resident raptors.

 Number of species
13 species counted, including:
– 7 migrant species.
– 6 resident species.

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

Capture, Fig 7.JPG

Thanks to all the 72 wonderful birders, both leaders and participants, for spending their Sunday out in the open to count raptors. National Parks Board staff and NParks volunteers also participated.  The following fantastic people led or assisted in the raptor count:

Capture, people.JPG

This report was compiled by TAN Gim Cheong

Please click on the link for a pdf version of the report 9th-singapore-raptor-watch-2016