Monthly Archives: April 2017

Nesting of an Olive-winged Bulbul

Contributed by Andrew Tan

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On 8 April, I took a walk along the mangroves lined Belayer Creek. This connector is named after a historic rock Batu Belayer or “Sail Rock” at the entrance of the harbor. This is one of the only two remnant mangrove patches in the south of Singapore. 60 birds, 19 fish species and 14 true mangroves have been recorded here.

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I saw two Olive-winged Bulbuls, Pycnonotus plumosus, flying in and out of a palm tree. On checking I found one of them sitting on a cup nest wedged in between the fond stem and the trunk below eye level ( right). It was made of plant fiber, leaves and twigs. My joy was complete when I saw two chicks inside. They were tiny and bare and must have just hatched. The Olive-winged Bulbul is the most common forest bulbul in Singapore. They are also found in our woodlands, abandoned orchards and some nature parks.

 

                      Parent sitting on the two newly hatched chicks.

I left the nest alone for a few days and returned on 12th to check on the progress. Both chicks were doing well. They were still bare and their eyes were still closed. The parents were seen bringing back cicadas and orange berries to feed them. This varied diet was new to me as I thought that it will be mostly insects for proteins.

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Besides insects the parent bird brought back berries for the very young chicks as well.

Insects like Cicadas are an important source of protein for the growing chicks

On the 15th, about a week old, pin feathers can be seen on both the chicks. Their eyes were opened and calls for food were more frequent. The parents were perched nearby the nest to make sure that no predators are around. When I got too close for comfort they will warn me with loud calls and frantic wing flapping. However instinct took over and they continued with the feeding after a while when I stayed away.

                      Four days to a week old chicks showing different feather growth.

Debra who lived nearby came to helped me to check on the chicks on 17th and found the fitter one standing on the rim of the nest. It looked strong and was fully covered with feathers. She reckoned that it will be fledgling soon. The other chick was still resting inside the nest and less active.

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When I went there on the 19th to check, the bigger chick surprised me by flying away to the bushes nearby. I may have caused it to take its maiden flight but I am glad that it fledged. The parents were still around and were still feeding the younger chick. It took just 11 days for the first chick to fledged. Nature make sure that they do so as fast as possible to avoid being predated. Good to see another pair of our native bulbuls gracing our natural landscape. Family photo on right showing the 9 days old chick standing on the nest.                Video of chick preening

 

7th Parrot Count 2017

Authors: Albert Low and Alan OwYong

Introduction

Long-tailed Parakeet

Long-tailed Parakeets flying across CCNR photographed at Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap. They made up 58% of the total counted.

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The smaller Yellow-crested Cockatoo where 8 were counted. 

The World Parrot Count was initiated seven years ago by Michael Braun and Roelant Jonker from the parrot researchers’ group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU). A key objective of the study was to document the status and abundance of feral and non-native parrots in urban environments globally where populations are established. Being part of this study provides an excellent opportunity for us to also monitor native parrot abundance and diversity in Singapore beyond our nature reserves. Given that some species such as the non-native Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) have increased in abundance across Singapore, it is also timely to identify areas where these species are concentrated and their roost sites.

Results and Conclusions

Coordinated annually by the Bird Group since 2011, this year’s Parrot Count took place on 25 February 2017. 17 sites across mainland Singapore were counted this year. This year’s total of 2621 parrots of 9 identifiable species is higher than the 2,483 parrots of 8 species recorded last year.

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As was the case over the past 3 years, the well-wooded Mount Rosie was the most species-rich site, with six species of parrot recorded. Bottle Tree Park, a site first surveyed in 2015, was once again the top site in terms of total abundance, with 719 individuals from four parrot species recorded. The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) was the most numerous parrot recorded during the count, with a total of 1,521 individuals seen. However, this was a continued decrease from the 1,837 individuals last year and the high count of 2,059 observed in 2015. This constituted 58% of all parrots recorded during the count. 903 Red-breasted Parakeets were also recorded, making up the bulk (34.5%) of the remaining parrots recorded. Other species recorded include small numbers of Tanimbar Corellas (Cacatua goffiniana), Coconut Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots (Loriculus galgulus) and Yellow-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea).

Common Name Overall Species Totals %
Long-tailed Parakeet 1521 58.03
Red-breasted Parakeet 903 34.45
Rose-ringed Parakeet 33 1.26
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 41 1.56
Rainbow (Coconut) Lorikeet 16 0.61
Tanimbar Corella 70 2.67
Yellow-crested Cockatoo 8 0.31

 

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During the census, parrot numbers peaked between 7 pm and 7.30 pm where 1,669 parrots were counted.  As shown in recent counts, the largest parakeet flocks were mainly observed at last light, with counters at many sites managing to observe the noisy spectacle of flocks of parakeets returning to their roosting trees just before complete darkness.

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Of particular interest is the continued decline in the total number of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded during the Parrot Count since 2015. However, counts over the past three years at major staging and roosting sites around northern Singapore show no discernable trends, with numbers at the Bottle Tree Park showing an overall increase since 2015 while the staging areas at Springleaf Nature Park have been quite stable over the past two years following a decline between 2015 and 2016 (Figure 1). It is possible that instead of a genuine decline, changes in the foraging and roosting habits of parakeet flocks may be responsible for a lower number of individuals counted overall. Hopefully, continued data collection in the years ahead will provide a clearer perspective of these trends.

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Figure 1: Numbers of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded at three sites in northern Singapore over the past three years.

Conversely, preliminary analysis of two Red-breasted Parakeet roosting sites over the past three years show less variation in flock size year-on-year (Figure 2). Given that the species is now widespread and common in Singapore, it is clear that many other roosting sites are present throughout urban Singapore and are not being counted. This is evident from a new roost site counted for the first time at Jurong West that contained close to 500 individuals, effectively doubling this year’s count relative to the past two years. It is hoped that birdwatchers will continue to report parakeet roosts within their neighbourhoods, so that a more complete picture of Singapore’s Red-breasted Parakeet population can be obtained.

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Figure 2: Numbers of Red-breasted Parakeets recorded at Clementi Central and Changi Point over the past three years.

Acknowledgements

On behalf of the Bird Group, we would like to thank the following for their willingness to carry out parrot monitoring on a weekend evening – Site Leaders: Albert Low, Lim Kim Chuah, Alan Owyong, Lim Kim Keang, Debra Yeo, Lee Ee Ling, Nessie Khoo, Marcel Finlay, Shirley Ng, Ng Bee Choo, Morten Strange, Angus Lamont, Low Choon How, Van Wang Ye. Assisting Counters: Florence Ipert, Doris Owyong, Chi Yang, Christine, Ryan Tiew, See Wei An, Ching Chiew Lian, Yong Jun Zer, Scott Li Meng Aloysius. Francis Yap and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos. Finally we also thank Roelant and Michael for inviting us to be part of this study.

 

Singapore Bird Report-March 2017

Kranji Marshes was the top location for rarity sightings this month starting with a rare passage migrant, an Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus picked out by Martin Kennewell on 11th from among the high flying Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica and Aerodramus Swiftlets. This also sets a new late date for the few spring records we have.

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An unusual open shot of a Baillon’s Crake at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell.

Later in the month on 26th, Martin photographed an uncommon visiting Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla in the canal there. A rare Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, a former resident was counted during the Annual Bird Census on 4th by Martin and Con Foley, and Martin followed up with a sighting of the shy White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea the next day. The other rare find outside Kranji this month was the Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisea encountered by Lim Kim Seng on 22nd at Jelutong Tower.

Other migrants reported passing through were a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea at the Buona Vista MRT canal on 7th by Andrew Chow and another at Lower Peirce on 4th and 10th (Marcel Finlay) and Oriental Pratincoles Glarela maldivarum at Marina Barrage on 5th (Zacc HD). A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka was seen by Lim Kim Keang at the Rifle Range Link on 11th. The male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia spotted by Veronica Foo at Labrador Nature Reserve on 17th has a very nice orange flush across its chest unlike the autumn birds. While the male that Lim Kim Keang saw at Pulau Ubin on 22nd was in song, something we only hear during Spring. So were the Eastern-crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus that were wintering at DFNP this month (Martin Kennewell). Martin also came across a small group of Eye-browed Thrushes Turdus obscurus there. He counted six to seven birds from 21st to end of the month.

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One of the more colorful cuckoos, the Chestnut-winged photographed by Lim Kim Seng at Halus.

Several migrating cuckoos were reported this month starting with the Chest-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus at Lorong Halus on 4th by Lim Kim Seng, followed by another record at Pulau Ubin on 10th sent in by Jacky Soh.

Two Large Hawk-Cuckoos Hierococcyx sparverioides, first from SBG on 7th seen by Luce Sam and again on 18th at Healing Gardens by Laurence Eu, the other along the ECP near the Sailing Club on 16th by Roland Lim.

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Bidadari is still a favourite rest stop for visiting cuckoos.   This juvenile Large Hawk-Cuckoo (left) was photographed there recently by Richard White.  

A male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was seen flying over Jelutong Tower on 12th by Adrian Silas Tay, another over Petai Trail on 3rd (Marcel Finlay) and two different Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoos Surniculus lugubris at Jurong Eco Garden on 25th (James Tann) and at Petai Trail on 12th (Marcel Finlay). These two may be winter visitors but we do have a resident population as well. Two resident cuckoos reported were a female Plantive Cacomantis merulinus from the Chinese Gardens on 4th (Siew Mun), another Plantive at the GBTB on 15th (Alan OwYong) and a Little Bronze Chrysococcyx minutillus at Kranji Marshes on 9th (Andrew Chow)

We had only one report of a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida from the CCNR by Marcel Finlay. This one was sighted along Petai Trail on 8th. A Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis was reported at DFNP on 30th by Martin Kennewell. Khong Yew photographed an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca at the SBG on 27th. It was passing through.

Scanning the open skies proofed profitable with some great finds. Francis Yap had a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus on migration flying over his favorite Jelutong Tower on 8th, while Alan OwYong picked out the smallish resident Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis hawking insects over the SBG on 11th.

Brown-backed Needletail Keita Sin

A really difficult species to photograph, the fast flying Brown-backed Needletail                 captured by Keita Sin from the BTNR summit on 21st.

Not to be outdone Keita Sin reported the passage of a fast flying Brown-backed Needtail Hirundapus giganteus across BTNR summit on 21st. This uncommon visitor was also recorded by Martin Kennewell over at DFNP on 23rd. Two birds were seen there. On the last day of the month Martin sent in a report of Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta flying over DFNP. He also reported a House Swift Apus nipalensis over at the SBG on 24th. Sightings of House Swifts are now getting more frequent which is a good sign.

Coming back to ground, two hard to see Lanceolated Warblers Locustella lanceolata were reported at Seletar End on 10th (Marin Kennewell), A Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola at the GBTB was spotted by John Spencer on 11th. This is a new record for GBTB. Several Black-browed Warblers Acrocephalus bistrigiceps were also hiding there on 15th (Alan OwYong). Another Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler was reported to be wintering at the small marsh garden at the Sport Hub for most of the month (Marcel Finlay).

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Two male Kentish Plovers in breeding plumage wintering at Marina Barrage. 

Shorebirds still wintering here include Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus (two males in breeding plumage and one female) at Marina Barrage on 10th (Alan OwYong), a male dealbatus subspecies of the Kentish Plover, sometimes known as White-faced Plover C. a. dealbatus on 11th (Robin Tan) and an Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata at Pulau Tekong on 9th (Frankie Cheong).

Red-legged Crake

Venus Loop is one of the few locations where the Red-legged Crake can be encountered. Photo by Lee Chuin Ming on 13th March at Venus Loop.

Resident species of note came from Sister’s Island where a Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana was reported by Timothy Chua on 11th, another at Seletar Dam on 11th (Marcel Finlay), two Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata  and three pairs of forest specialist Short-tailed Babblers Malcocincla malaccensis (22nd) at Petai Trail (Marcel Finlay) and Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji at Labrador NP on 26th (Abel Yeo). This could be a new record for Labrador.

Two nestings were reported. Black-winged Kites Elanus caeruleus at NTL 2 with three chicks that were about to fledge on 5th by Alfred Chia and Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis at PRP by Lim Kim Keang. Eggs belonging to Greater Painted Snipe Rostraula benghalensis at Seletar were unfortunately predated as per report on 10th (Martin Kennewell) robbing us the chance of documenting the breeding of this uncommon resident snipe for the first time.

Slaty-breasted Rail

Less common Slaty-breasted Rail are most at home among the marshy areas at Kranji. Siew Mun photographed this there on 13th March. 

The only crashed record was that of a rare migrant Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia hitting a glass panel at SDE Foyer at NUS on 9th (Cheryl Lee). A road kill identified as a Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus along Neo Tiew Road was reported by Chua Yen Kheng of NParks on 11th. This is compensated by the sightings at Kranji Marshes on 13th by Siew Mun and two juveniles rails at Bishan Park by Andrew Tan on 22nd.

Ending this month’s report were the Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster returning to Ketam Quarry at Ubin on 22nd and a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis seen at Bishan Park on 17th. At least one Black Drongos Dicrurus macrocercus that were wintering at Seletar last month was still around on 12th. All three records from Lim Kim Keang.

Legend. DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park, ECP: East Coast Parkway, GBTB: Gardens by the Bay, CCNR: Central Catchment 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. Not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records especially Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay for their personal lists. Many thanks to Martin Kennewell, Lim Kim Seng, Richard White, Keita Sin, Alan OwYong, Lee Chuin Ming and Siew Mun for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.