Monthly Archives: May 2017

Singapore Raptor Report – March 2017

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Oriental Honey Buzzard, pale morph (left) at Alexandra Road on 9 Mar 2017 & dark morph (right) on at the Botanic Gardens on 18 Mar 2017, both by Laurence Eu.

Summary for migrant species:

In March, 176 raptors of 8 migrant species were recorded. The Black Baza was the most numerous with 70 birds, of which 39 were recorded at the Kranji Marshes on the 4th and another 20 at the National University of Singapore (NUS) on the 20th. The Oriental Honey Buzzard, with 54 birds, was the next in line and 11 were recorded at the NUS on the 21st, all heading north. Of the 32 Japanese Sparrowhawks recorded, 11 were seen at the NUS on the 22nd.

Ten Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded this month, good numbers for this uncommon migrant. Apart from one bird at Jelutong Tower, the other nine were all recorded at the NUS. Four Ospreys were recorded, at the Seletar Dam and Sungei Buloh – Kranji Marshes areas. On the 9th, one Osprey at Sungei Buloh had its catch stolen by a White-bellied Sea Eagle. Four Peregrine Falcons were recorded; none of the resident race.

A Grey-faced Buzzard at Kranji Marshes on the 19th was a very good record for this rather uncommon migrant.  Lastly, an Oriental Scops Owl, unfortunately, flew into a glass panel at the NUS on the 9th.

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Crested Goshawk, juvenile, feeding on a young Monitor Lizard, at Satay by the Bay, 18 Mar 2017, by Saravanan Krishnamurthy

Highlights for sedentary species:

A huge nest on a tall tree at Pasir Ris holding two young chicks of the White-bellied Sea Eagle was reported on the 3rd. At the Botanic Gardens, the Crested Goshawk pair was seen mating on the 7th and reinforcing their nest with sticks, around one month after their first brood of chicks had fledged. Over at Punggol, the Black-winged Kites were seen mating on the 18th, also about a month after their chick had fledged.

As for the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, there were records from Kranji Marshes (4th & 5th), Sungei Serangoon (5th) and Seletar (19th) but none from Little Guilin, where it was reported on the 7th that the nest tree had fallen. A rare Crested Serpent Eagle was recorded at Pulau Ubin on the 12th. At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the 17th, a juvenile pale morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle was seen raiding the nest of a Striated Heron and flying off with a chick in its talons. A loose flock of 17 Brahminy Kites was reported at Kranji Marshes on the 5th. Lastly, a torquatus tweeddale morph Oriental Honey Buzzard was recorded at Pasir Ris Park on the 2nd and another juvenile torquatus tweeddale moph at Jelutong Tower on the 26th.

Table 1

Addendum to February 2017 Singapore Raptor Report:

A rufous morph Oriental Scops Owls (OSO) was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park in a well concealed position on 10 Feb 2017, by Keita Sin (Note: two OSO – a grey and a rufous morph – were reported at the same locality from 10 to 22 Jan 2017). Additional records on 19 Feb 2017 at Kranji Marshes: 4 Black Bazas, 1 Brahminy Kite, 1 White-bellied Sea Eagle, 1 Grey-headed Fish Eagle, plus 4 un-identified raptors, suspected to be Oriental Honey Buzzards, all recorded by Henrietta Woo.  

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Mar 2017

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Laurence Eu and Saravanan Krishnamurthy for the use of their photos.

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Singapore Raptor Report – February 2017

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Chinese Sparrowhawk, adult female, Ang Mo Kio, 17 Feb 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong.

Summary for migrant species:

In February, 66 individuals of 7 migrant species were recorded. While the 26 Oriental Honey Buzzards were similar to last February’s numbers, the 19 Black Bazas represented a drop of more than half compared to last February. All the Black Bazas were recorded at the Punggol – Pasir Ris – Tampines area. Six Jerdon’s Baza were recorded, five at Punggol on the 4th and one at Pasir Ris Park on the 12th, good numbers for this species.

Jerdon's Baza, 040217, Punggol East, Danny Lau, another bird

Jerdon’s Baza, Punggol East, 4 Feb 2017, by Danny Lau.

Of the six Peregrine Falcons recorded, two adults were photographed fighting at Seletar Airport vicinity on the 27th. Three Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded; two of them, adult males, on the 6th at Changi Business Park and 10th at Bidadari, showed signs of moult, similar to what was observed last February, and had only 4 ‘fingers’ instead of the usual 5 ‘fingers’. Five Ospreys were recorded, including three over Bukit Timah Hill on the 20th. Two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, one at Kent Ridge Park on the 2nd and another, an adult female, at Ang Mo Kio on the 5th, 17th and 19th.

CSE,-100217,-Kent-Ridge,-Gavan-Leong-(3rd-yr-burmanicus,-Chaiyan),-DSC_2596,-original,-w

Crested Serpent Eagle, 3rd year burmanicus, Kent Ridge Park, 10 Feb 2017, by Gavan Leong

A Crested Serpent Eagle photographed at Kent Ridge Park on the 10th by Gavan Leong turned out to be a 3rd year burmanicus, thanks to Dr Chaiyan for his expertise. This is the second occurrence of the burmanicus form, a short distance migrant from Indo-China, to Singapore. The previous record was in September and November 2014 when an individual was photographed at the Japanese Gardens. Ferguson-Lees & Christie (2001) indicates that malayensis is distinctly smaller than adjacent burmanicus, cheeks and throat darker brown, underparts more clearly spotted and barred white. Birders are encouraged to photograph any Crested Serpent Eagle encountered and post them online for identification of subspecies.

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Crested Goshawk, fledgling, exercising its wings, Ang Mo Kio, 17 Feb 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong.

Highlights for sedentary species:

This month, there were significant developments for the Crested Goshawk, an uncommon resident. Not one, but four separate nestings were reported, with a total of 8 chicks fledging from the nests. Unfortunately, the Bedok North nesting suffered 2 misfortunes. First, the male was found dead on the roadside when the chicks were still on the nest. Fortunately, prey (mainly Javan Myna and rats) is plentiful in the area and the female was able to raise the 2 chicks on her own until they fledged. The second misfortune was the removal of one of the Bedok North chicks from the mother on the day of fledging, brought to a vet the next day, given a clean bill of health and released back into the wild on the same day at an unspecified location, to fend for itself. This was due to a series of well-intended human actions which may not have been appropriate. Considering that the remaining fledgling continued to be fed by its mother for another 2 weeks, it would probably be miraculas for the solitary fledgling to survive on its own. The four nestings, together with a few other sightings elsewhere, brought the tally of the Crested Goshawk to an all time high of 19 birds.

Other nesting records included the Black-winged Kite at Pulau Punggol on the 18th, with one chick seemingly ready to fledge; the White-bellied Sea Eagle at Pasir Ris on the 26th, with 2 young chicks still covered in white down feathers; and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle on its nest at Jurong. An adult torquatus tweeddale morph Oriental Honey Buzzzard was photographed at Pasir Ris Park on the 14th and 28th. The Brahminy Kite and Changeable Hawk-Eagle completed the roundup for the month.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Danny Lau and Gavan Leong for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version, please click here Singapore Raptor Report – Feb 2017

 

 

Singapore Bird Report-April 2017 Part II Residents

April is the breeding season for most of our resident species in Singapore. They were also more active and visible. We received a fair share of sightings from the forests to the wetlands and from parks to grasslands

Starting at Pulau Ubin, Lim Kim Chuah and Adrian Silas Tay both found the rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea on 1st and 2nd respectively. Excellent find as the population at P. Hantu had gone missing. Also on the 2nd, Keita Sin reported a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl near to the old resort. Good to know they are doing well in Ubin. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megarhyncha were particularly vocal at this time of the year. James Tan had a field day on 29th and came back with some great images.

Mangrove Pitta James Tann

Mangrove Pitta, our resident pitta photographed at Pulau Ubin by James Tann.

Kranji Marshes was also a good site for picking up some uncommon residents this month. A Plantive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus by Rob Arnold on 3rd, Little Terns Sternula albifrons  throughout the month and House Swifts Apus nipalensis on 29th (both by Martin Kennewell), an adult male Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus by Subha and Raghav on 14th.

Cinnamon Bittern Subha and Raghav

Adult male Cinnamon Bittern photographed at Kranji Marshes by Raghav Narayanswamy.

But the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the buffer nature parks serve up the most resident sightings this month. At BTNR summit, Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta on 6th (Martin Kennewell). This species has been split and accepted by the IOC.  Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the forest specialists Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris and Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra there on 14th.  A Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivigatus was reported at the Lower Pierce Reservoir on 22nd by Marcel Finlay. Two juvenile Sunda Scops Owls Otus lempiji were roosting next to the playground at Hindhede Nature Park on 11th (Siew Mun), while Martin Kennewell had a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus there on 14th.  The pair of Brown Hawk Owls Ninox scutulata were still around Petai Trail on 20th according to Marcel Finlay. He also found a pair of Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata at Hindhede on 21st and 24th. Felix Wong and his wife while on a walk at the newly opened Windsor Nature Park, came across a family of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana with the adults feeding its young. A good record of this secretive sunbird feeding its young.

Red Wattled Lapwing James Tann

Red-wattled Lapwings are doing well and spreading across the island. Photo; James Tann

Our parks and gardens continued to attract many of the forest edge species. A pair of Brown Hawk Owls was discovered by Art Toh at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 6th, seen again on 13th by Richard White. This is the fourth resident owl species found at the SBG. Marcel Finlay found some Asian Palm Swifts Cypsiurus balasiensis over the Eco Lake at SBG on 23rd. Back to the owls, he reported the Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo returning to Bishan Park on 8th. He had seen them there in 2012 and 2015. Two males and one female Violet Cuckoos were present at the Jurong Eco Garden on 15th (Adrian Silas Tay). They stayed around for a few days much to the delight of many photographers.

Violet Cuckoo Terence Tan

Violet Cuckoo male at Jurong Eco Gardens. Photo: Terence Tan. Our resident population is supplemented by some wintering birds.

More House Swifts, this time about 6 birds flying over the canopy walk at Kent Ridge Park on 16th (Alan OwYong). This population may be roosting at the old bungalows along Kent Ridge Road. An interesting find was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax photographed by Art Toh at the Pond at Jurong Eco Garden on 23rd. Lee Kai Chong commented on facebook that this juvenile came from the Jurong Bird Bird which is close by.

BCNH Art Toh

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron at JEG. Photo: Art Toh.

Other notable sightings includes a dead Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus that crashed into Yew Tee Community Center on 2nd (Timothy Chua), three Javan Munias Lonchura leucogastroides  at downtown Parkview Square on 5th (Alan OwYong), more Glossy Swiftlets at Lakeview Estate on 14th and three Little Terns returning to the Sport Hub’s Marshes on 20th (both by Marcel Finlay). We had several nesting records but the only one we can report was James Tann’s report of the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus at a restricted site at Chua Chu Kang on 15th.

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. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to James Tann, Raghav Narayanswamy, Terence Tan and Art Toh for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Bird Report- April 2017. Part 1 Winter Visitors.

We are still getting lots of late migrants passing through this month like the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, that crashed into a block of flat at Simei Street 5 on 3rd (Low Choon How). This set a new late date for this rare flycatcher.

JPFC Choon How-001

Rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher that crashed into a flat at Simei. Photo: Low Choon How.

Another rare flycatcher was a female Green-backed Ficedula elisae photographed at the CCNR on 6th by Lim Kim Seng. An uncommon Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki was reported by Martin Kennewell at Hindhede NP on the 14th. Martin also had a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia from Kranji Marshes on 1st.

Kranji Marshes was again the top site for our winter visitors this month.

Other good finds include a Large-hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides on 1st (Richard White), another hawk cuckoo, a Hodgson’s H. niscolor on 2nd (Con Foley), both at Bidadari, a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda West Coast Park photographed by Johnson Chua on 4th. Lim Kim Keang found one there last November 6th. Could this be the same Kingfisher? Johnson also photographed a lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus there the next day. This sub species is rarely seen here as its normal wintering range is in Taiwan and the Philippines.

Brown Shrike Johnson Chua

A lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike photographed at West Coast Park                              by Johnson Chua. Very similar to the adult Tiger Shrike.

A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka flew into a corridor at One-North Residences on 6th (Alan OwYong) and a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans from Jelutong Tower on 7th (Marcel Finlay) with another Crow-billed Drongo crashing into an office building at Jurong Island on 18th (Lim Kim Chuah). It managed to recover and flew off by itself. A Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported at the Petai Trail from 7th to 20th by Marcel Finlay. Hard to tell if this is our resident race or not.

Javan Pond Heron Choon How

Javan Pond Heron in early breeding plumage at Lorong Halus by Low Choon How.

Other notable visitors were three Ashy Minivets Pericocotus divaricatus and late Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica seen flying over Kranji Marshes on 1st by Martin Kennewell. Around the ponds, Martin reported that the Black-capped Kingfisher H. pileata was still enjoying the sun on 8th and 19th.  Wagtails were also reported at their respective habitats. Eastern Yellow Motacilla tschutschensis at Kranji Marshes until the 16th (Martin Kennewell) and Forest Dendronanthus indicus at Admiralty Park on 9th (Vincent Lao) and Lower Pierce on 15th and 16th (Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay).

Forest Wagtail Vincent Lao

Forest Wagtail on a tarmac walkway at Admiralty Park. Photo: Vincent Lao

Pittas were still coming through and crashing into our buildings. Three different Blue-wingeds Pitta moluccensis were reported on 14th from Kranji Marshes and a Hooded P. sordida from Hindhede both by Martin Kennewell. The one that crashed near to the Commonwealth MRT station on 21st was a Hooded as well (Adrian Silas Tay).

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A Grey Nightjar resting at a flower bed at One-North Residences. Alan OwYong.

Other interesting winter visitors reported were a white morph Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi along Dairy Farm Loop on 17th ( Tony James),  Siberian Blue Robin Luscina cyane along Petai Trail on 19th (Marcel Finlay) and two Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola at Kranji Marshes on 29th (Martin Kennewell).  A returning Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus was seen at DFNP on 14th (Martin Kennewell) and another adult at Jurong Eco Garden on 17th (Siew Mun).

Tiger Shrike Siew Mun

Adult Tiger Shrike photographed at Jurong Eco Garden by Siew Mun.

A few wader and waterbird sightings to report. A Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa at Lorong Halus on 4th (Low Choon How) and maybe the same bird at Farmway 3 on 6th (Lim Kim Seng). A Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola at Kranji Marshes on 8th (Martin Kennewell) and another at Marina Barrage on 16th by Keita Sin. This could be our first record of this fresh water wader at this breakwaters. Frankie Cheong reported a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage at Pulau Tekong on 8th. This is our most reliable site for this globally threatened species. Two Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea at the old Grebe pond at Lorong Halus on 7th (Lim Kim Seng). Johnson Chua photographed  an adult male Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus lurking at the Flamingo enclosure at the Jurong Bird Park on 12th. This is presumed to be a wild bird as it had no rings on its feet.

Chinese Egret Frankie Cheong

Chinese Egret at its favorite site at Pulau Tekong. Photo Frankie Cheong 

See Toh Yew Wai and friends took two boats out to the Straits of Singapore on 29th to check on the seabirds that were on their way back north. They came back with the second sighting of the Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, a record 26 Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris, two Jaegers, Long-tailed Stercorarius longicaudus and Parasitic S. parasiticus and a few Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus among others. A very productive outing. Some of these sightings may not be in Singapore waters.

Short-tailed Shearwater Wong Lee Hiong

A low flying Short-tailed Shearwater photographed at the Straits of Singapore by Wong Lee Hong. A record 26 of these shearwaters were seen on that day.

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.

A field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Bird Society of Japan

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. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and 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 LJohnson Chua, Low Choon How, Vincent Lao, Alan OwYong,  Siew Mun, Frankie Cheong and Wong Lee Hong for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

New Wetland at the Singapore Sports Hub

Text and photos by Marcel Finlay.

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{1. National Stadium with Wetland in Foreground]
The Sports Hub may seem an odd place to go birding – lots of buildings and paved areas are not usually conducive to finding many species.
But you may be surprised to learn that the site has nearly 1,000 trees of 39 species and thousands of square metres of shrubs and plants – with a good percentage of them being native to Singapore and South-East Asia.
Add to this some areas of grassland and the 750m long waterfront along the Kallang Basin (part of Marina Reservoir) which includes a 200m long stretch of newly-planted wetland and you have a good mosaic of habitats which support a surprisingly diverse range of resident and visiting bird life. You can see the wetland strip in front of the National Stadium in the photo above.
Over the past year, I have recorded 67 species at the site which is surprisingly good for such an urban location. This includes breeding Long-Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach), Olive-Backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia), Common Tailorbirds, (Orthotomus sutorius), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) and Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
Of these 67 species I have observed 22 using the new small wetland strip either for roosting, feeding or nesting which shows how productive this habitat can be.
In the Government-approved design for the waterfront area the zone between the new stone steps and the edge of the water was destined to be a (rather sterile) pebble beach.
As constructing the beach was not a critical activity the contractor levelled and cleared the area and left the final finishing for the end of project. (see photo below)

Photo2 levelling

{2: levelling and clearance of the ground. April 2014}  

As time went on a range of plants including casuarina, creepers, reeds and grasses started to self-generate and the strip soon became an informal wetland area (see photo below) which was regularly attracting Smooth-Coated Otters (or Hybrid Smooth-Coated x Small-Clawed?), Water Monitor Lizards (Varanus salvator), Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta), Striated Herons (Butorides striata), Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), Scaly-Breasted Munia (Longchura punctulata), Long-Tailed Shrike and Olive-Backed Sunbirds.

photo 3 regeneration

{3. Natural plant regeneration. March 2015}
Impressed by the amount of wildlife using the wetland area I decided to try and convince the various stakeholders that it should be retained permanently as a wetland area.
One of my roles as design manager for the Sports Hub’s builder Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd. was to prepare the project’s submission to the PUB for certification under the ABC Waters (active, clean and beautiful) scheme.
I proposed the wetland along with the large vegetated and bio-retention swales as the main elements of our submission. After a bit of negotiation we managed to get the support of the PUB and then, with their help, received the blessing of the other authorities. The condition was that we replanted the area with PUB-approved wetland species such as those used at Lorong Halus and Sengkang Floating Wetlands.
The replanting was completed in November 2015 (see images below) and by February 2016 it had filled out nicely and looked ready for the wildlife to return.


{4 & 5, Completion of new planting November 2015}

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{6. Maturing plants May 2016}

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{7. Maturing plants May 2016}
Within a week of the first stand of reeds being planted I was delighted to find a pair of Yellow Bitterns (Ixobrychus sinensis) had roosted there. They did not stay but perhaps remembered the site as two returned in March 2016 and stayed until 19th May. Two birds (the same?) returned on 20thOctober and have remained throughout the Winter and Spring.
A single White-Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) arrived in March and was joined by a second bird in July. I wasn’t sure they were a pair until I saw a single fluffy black chick on October 16th – the wetland’s first breeding success!

{8. Yellow Bittern, 9. Adult White-Breasted Waterhen, 10. juvenile White-Breasted Waterhen}

An Oriental Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis) also arrived in March and was so happy with his new quarters that he didn’t leave until May 31st. Word must have spread as in October 2016 three birds arrived and have been here throughout the Winter.
To my big surprise I found a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella certhiola) on October 18th, I managed to see it twice more in the following days and then couldn’t relocate it. I assumed it must have just been passing through but I have seen and heard it each week since the beginning of January 2017 so I assume it has been present all the time but was just silent early on. It is very skulking and elusive and although I have a couple of nice recordings of its song it is very hard to get a decent photo – all I have managed is the blurry shot below. (The bird is still present on May 4th)
To complete the set of probable warblers a Black-Browed Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps) appeared on the 24th April and is still present on 2nd May. No doubt just passing through for a feed before beginning its migration back to its breeding grounds but I can hope that one may choose to overwinter in the wetland when they return to Singapore in October.

{11. Oriental Reed Warbler, 12. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, 13. Black-Browed Reed Warbler}

One thing to note is that all of these species spend more time in Singapore than they do in their breeding ranges – for tax purposes they would be considered ‘ordinarily resident’ in Singapore!
Other birds which have made use of the wetland are: Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Brown Shrike (Lanius Cristatus), Yellow-Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica), Common Tailorbird, Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus), Olive-Backed Sunbird, Scaly-Breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata), White-Headed Munia (Lonchura maja), Crimson-Rumped Waxbill (Estrilda rhodopyga) and a rather lost looking Blue Waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis)

14 Brown Shrikw, 15 White-headed Munia, 16 Common Tailorbird.

I record all my sightings on eBird which enables me to easily summarize the comings and goings at each site I regularly visit. For the Sports Hub I have made 2 to 3 early morning visits to the wetland and 2 to 3 lunchtime visits elsewhere on the site each week since late 2015 so I have quite a lot of data for two winter seasons and a full summer. Although I am a single observer and the period is not long enough to draw any firm conclusions I have noted the following dates for a selection of migrating and resident species:
1-6 Chinese Pond Herons often present – earliest 29th Sept, latest 1st April
1-10 Little Egrets regularly visit – earliest 3rd Nov, latest 12th April
2-8 Cattle Egrets erratically present – earliest 1st December, latest 3rd March
Up to 17 Little Terns (Sterna hirundo) fishing and loafing on the water – earliest 20th April, latest 13th October (do they stay around Singapore’s coastline for the winter or do they go further afield?)
1 Brown Shrike present from 20th October to 9th February

{17. Little Terns resting on regatta course buoys and 18. Little Tern fishing}

What interests me the most about this small strip of wetland is not so much that it attracts lots of wildlife but that it is evidently sufficient to provide all the food and roosting requirements for at least 4 species of birds.
It seems that the Yellow Bitterns, White-Breasted Waterhen and especially the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and Oriental Reed Warblers do not need anything else. It is a small island of habitat which does not rely on connectivity to other transitional habitats for it to be useful.
It is also important to note that this habitat is only 18 months old.
We can compare this with the cleansing biotope at Gardens by the Bay and the small reed bed at Satay by the Bay.
These are also recently planted small areas of emergent plants and reeds, also surrounded by less ideal habitat but also home to several wintering Oriental Reed Warblers, Black-Browed Reed Warblers, one or two Yellow Bitterns and a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler.
Likewise, I have seen all four species in the small stands of reeds in the new ponds at the bottom of the viewing tower at Kranji Marshes and I understand that the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler has also wintered at the Sengkang floating wetlands in previous years.
Although planting isolated stands of native trees in Singapore is sadly not going to provide significant or sufficient habitat for wintering forest species it appears that isolated areas of wetland planting can provide sufficient and safe wintering habitat for some of Asia’s species of warblers and herons.
All four species are classified as being LC (of least concern) by IUCN at the moment and are not considered under threat of significant population loss. However, it is thought that Oriental Reed Warblers are declining in some parts of its range through habitat loss as reed beds are drained and streams are canalised. It is logical that this would apply to the other warblers.
Providing quality habitat for them in Singapore can only be a positive step in their conservation. Even better is the speed with which these habitats can be mature enough to be attractive to the target species.
The plants also provide a valuable service in taking nutrients out of storm water runoff which helps to reduce the amount of treatment needed later in the system to turn reservoir water into drinking water.
The PUB is encouraging developers to include ABC Waters features on each new development and at some stage this may become a requirement. This is good news for wildlife. These features are not so costly to install and mature very quickly.
The wetland at the Sports Hub is a good example of the public and private sectors working together for biodiversity. The contractor paid for the design, groundworks and planting, the PUB provides ongoing maintenance.
The recently-announced redevelopment of the Kallang Riverside north of the Merdeka Bridge is an ideal opportunity to increase the extent of this type of habitat in Singapore and provide more opportunities for migrating birds to find a winter home here.
marcel finlay
Singapore, May 2017
My thanks to the ABC Waters team at the PUB and Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd. for their assistance in creating this small but useful addition to Singapore’s habitats.
All photos by the author except for images 2, 4 and 5 by Hasan Mehedi of DSPL.