Monthly Archives: November 2017

Singapore Raptor Report – October 2017

Accipiter, 251017, Jelutong, Fryap

Japanese Sparrowhawk, juvenile, at Jelutong Tower on 25 Oct 2017, by Francis Yap. Interestingly, this individual has dark and pale tailbands that appear equal in width, the most commonly held criteria for Besra. However, other features such as short tail, long primary projection, weak mesial stripe and weak chest markings point to Japanese Sparrowhawk. A good reminder that identification cannot be based on a single feature alone.

Summary for migrant species:

October 2017 is probably the least remarkable October on record, with only 6 migrant species recorded (we usually record around 9 species in October). For the second year in a row, there were no records of the Black Baza in October, not that they no longer come to Singapore, just that they arrive only later in the year.

The bulk of the 70 migrants recorded were made up by the 33 Oriental Honey Buzzards, and 25 Japanese Sparrowhawks. There were 8 Chinese Sparrowhawks, including one female spotted regularly at Ang Mo Kio. Two Western Ospreys were recorded at the Kranji-Sungei Buloh area and one adult Peregrine Falcon was recorded at Kent Ridge on the 3rd. The single juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier at Mount Faber on the 3rd was a notable record.

Crested Goshawk mating, 271017, Ang Mo Kio, Seah Han Wah

A pair of Crested Goshawks mating, at Ang Mo Kio on 27 Oct 2017, by Seah Han Wah. Note the small dark droplet-shaped markings on a rather clean white breast of the female (below) versus the bigger rufous-brown patches on the breast of the male (above).

Highlights for sedentary species:

The locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle was recorded twice at Kent Ridge this month, on the third and the 12th. As for the uncommon Crested Goshawk, a pair was observed mating at Ang Mo Kio; another 4 adults were recorded at Kent Ridge and the Botanic Gardens; and a juvenile at Bidadari, honing its skills at hunting, using a Variable Squirrel as target. Amazingly, all the four records of the torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards were of the tweeddale form, with at least one female and one juvenile – one at Toa Payoh on 3rd, a female at Jelutong Tower on 7th, a juvenile at Jelutong Tower on 22nd, and a female at Old Upper Thomson on 29th. The other resident raptors recorded included the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Francis Yap and Seah Han Wah for the use of their photos.

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

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

 

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First documented record of the successful nesting of the Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata, in Singapore,

By Mike Smith.

Introduction:

The Red-legged Crake Raliina fasciata is an uncommon resident in NE India, across mainland South-East Asia, Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Sundas. Singapore and West Thailand are the two places in its range where they are more easily seen. The northern population migrates and winters to South East Asia. On 13 June 2003, a Thai birder Prapoj Rukruenreang posted a set of a nesting Red-legged Crake with at least 4 eggs in it which he took at Kaeng Krachan N.P. The nest is built on a grassy base on the ground with dry leaves and small twigs spread on top of it.

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Besides earthworms the Red-legged Crakes also take insects from the ground

In Singapore, they are an uncommon resident and winter visitor found in forest edges and nature parks away from swampy places. It was once considered rare until a family was seen bathing at the drain next to Tyersall Avenue and its vocalisation known.  The first breeding record was from Hume’s Heights where an adult was seen with three chicks on 16th January 1985. Families with chicks have since been seen in various parts of the Singapore Botanic Gardens and nearby Bukit Brown for the decade or so but not the actual nesting. The breeding season is in January, March, May to July and September based on sightings of the adults and chicks. In mid October, I chanced upon a nest at the Singapore Botanic Gardens with eggs in it. This is the first documentation of its nesting in Singapore.

14th October 2017.

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Four of the five off-white eggs that I chanced upon at the Helliconia Gardens when I was photographing the sunbirds.

I was photographing the sunbirds at the Helliconia Gardens at the Botanic Gardens when I chanced upon a nest with five off-white eggs in it. They must have been laid a day or two ago according the the workers there. The eggs were left unattended and no crakes were seen around the nest that day. So I was not sure if it belonged to the Red-legged Crakes. The bush is about 2 meters away from the concrete path where visitors to the park frequently used. Surrounding this bush are groves of various species of Helliconia plants.

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The nest is built on the inside Fire Bush less than 2 meters from the walking path but well hidden from sight by the Helliconia groves.

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The nest is about knee high from the ground. You can just see the Crake sitting on the well hidden nest in the Fire Bush. 

These groves of Helliconias provide an ideal place for the adult crakes to forage safely under cover. From one of the videos, they were seen picking out earthworms from the ground in between the stems of the Helliconia plants.

The Nest:

The nest itself is an untidy collection of dead leaves from the plants nearby piled on top of each other forming a depressed center for the eggs. The Helliconia leaves made up the majority of the leaves. The stem of one of the leaves can be seen sticking out of the nest giving it an unfinished look. In between there were small twigs and other dry plant material. It is about 25 cm long and 25 cm wide and 4 cm thick. It is not built on the ground but about knee high on the branches of a Fire Bush Hamelia patens, a path side ornamental plant.. At the center of the nest a few very small twigs seem to be used to give support to the eggs.

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The nest is made of piles of dried leaves and small twigs on the Fire Bush, an low ornamental plant commonly used for edge landscaping.

The nest can only be seen if one steps a little inside the flower beds and not from the path. The Helliconia plants cover any line of sight from the other side. This is the first description of its nest in Singapore and very different from the one in Thailand. It would appear that they will use whatever nesting material that is available nearby and adapt the position of the nest to the location.

The nearest water is the Symphony Lake about 30 meters down the slope. On the upslope is the service and visitors road by the side of the Rain Forest.

On October 15th I saw a crake on the nest and knew it was active. I spent about 60 hours monitoring the nest over the next 19 days.  Another five hours were spent by a birder friend when I was away for a few days. (I later found out that another birder, Roberta Cheok was also monitoring this nest at around the same time on her own).

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First saw the Red-legged Crake on the nest on the 15th October and knew that it was active.

For the first couple of days the nest was sometimes left unattended but from October 18th there was always a parent incubating the eggs. Both parents were involved in the incubation, one would be on the nest and the other foraging nearby undisturbed by human traffic. They kept totally quiet facing either the path or into the undergrowth but were alert to what was going on around them. A monitor Lizard was seen sniffing around but left the eggs alone, as did a squirrel.

During this period I got a great video of an adult stamping up an earthworm from the ground near the nest. After letting it wriggle around it pecked at it and gobbled it down. Earthworms seem to be a major part of the diet but I also saw crakes eating insects and a video by Lena Chow shows a small snake being eaten. The choice of nesting around the Helloconia groves may be due to the availability of the earthworms under the soft soil. On 28th October, a very hot afternoon of 33 degrees my birder friend saw a parent standing in the nest over the eggs possibly fanning the eggs with its wings maybe to regulate the temperature. Its bill was open as it was also trying to cool itself. It did this for over half an hour and did not sit on the eggs during the whole time.

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3rd November. First saw a crack on one of the eggs on the 20th day of monitoring.

On the afternoon of November 3rd,  the 20th day since I first came across the nest and eggs I saw a crack on one of the eggs. The parent was pecking around the egg, I wasn’t sure if it was trying to assist. About an hour later the first chick hatched and popped up its head to greet the world before snuggling under the parent.

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Red-legged Crake nesting at SBG with the first chick just hatching.

I later found that a second chick hatched at 5 pm. The worker said that he found the first chick on the ground and put it back to the nest at approximately 3pm. My birder friend went by at around 6pm to take a look. At first there were no signs of the chicks but it appeared briefly as a small black furry ball. At around 7 pm in failing light, the parent bird was observed to be pecking frantically all round the nest. After a few minutes of pecking, it suddenly flew out of the nest in a hurry. On closer inspection, he saw a swarm of large black and brown ants had invaded the nest most likely attracted by the remains of the eggs. They were all over the nest and eggs. Three eggs remained unhatched with one empty shell.

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The nest was invaded by ants a few hours after the first two chicks hatched. Both parents and chicks escaped leaving three eggs unhatched.

The chicks must have got out with the parent as none of them were in the nest. Past literature suggests that crake and hen chicks are precocial and were able to fend for themselves once hatched. This has to be nature’s way to save them from predation since they nest so close to the ground.  Soft calls presumably from the parent can be heard nearby. The parent maybe trying to gather the chicks together in the dark. Who would have thought that a small ant is the biggest threat to their nesting?
Next morning November 4th I found two hatched eggs in the nest and one egg on the ground. There were no chick carcasses. The parent were not in the nest but were scurrying around nearby. It would seem that the last three eggs hatched between 7 pm last night and 9 am this morning. I have no idea what happened to the chicks. I hope that their survival instincts got them to retreat to the deeper forest cover up the road and do their foraging there until they are big enough to fend for themselves.

Conclusion:

From this single nesting observation I was able to make a few interesting and perhaps new information about their nesting nesting behavior that may help with its conservation.

  1. Based on the information from the worker and the time I found the nest, it took at least 22 days for the first chick to hatch. As I cannot find any literature on the incubation period, this has to be the most accurate available.
  2. Our breeding period ends in September. This October/November nesting at best extends the period or may set a new “out of season” date for this crake. This then brings into question if this is a breeding visitor and not a resident?
  3. Crakes are known to build their nests on the ground, This one is about knee high. It could be that the surrounding ground is too exposed and the crakes adapted by building in on a low bush instead.
  4. We know that the chicks are precocial and that they were ready to be own their own a day or two after hatch. In other words they can be fully fledged in that short time. But from my observations the chicks were able to act within hours after hatching. For sure the first two chicks will not survive the ants attack if they do not jump off the nests barely few hours after hatching.

Photos: Mike Smith of AsiaPhotoStock.com

References:

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

A note on Red-legged Crakes (Rallina fasciate) in Singapore. May 2017 Marcel Finlay.

‘Notes on the Distribution and Vocalizations of the Red-Legged Crake (Rallina fasciata) in Singapore’ – Singapore Avifauna Volume 23 No 4 (Nature Society Singapore Bird Group, 2009)

Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore by Lim Kim Seng. (Nature Society (Singapore), 2007)

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

Vanishing Birds of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. Nature Society (Singapore) 1992.

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore by Morten Strange (Periplus, 2002)

Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson Asia Book Co. Ltd 2000.

www.Birdlife.org

www.eBird.org

https://singaporebirds.com)

https://singaporebirds.blogspot.sg  

 

Singapore Bird Report – October 2017

22179889_1472239912896645_8256191510998948950_oThe avian phenomenon at Yishun. Hundreds of Grey Wagtails roosting with Forest Wagtails. 

The avian phenomenon of the year had to be the congregation of wagtails at Yishun and Sembawang. On 23rd of September Shahrulbariah Arif-Sng alerted us to large flocks wagtails roosting on the palm trees at Yishun St 11 on Bird Sightings FB page. They were identified as Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea. Counts in early October exceeded 200. In the past we normally get to see one or two Grey Wagtails foraging at some quiet monsoon drains in the west. This large gathering has never happened here before. Another surprise was finding a small number of White Wagtails Motacilla alba and Forest Wagtails Dendronanthus indicus roosting with them. Alfred Chia managed to identify a rare lugens sub-species among the White Wagtails from photos posted. The Forest Wagtails forage at a different habitat from the other two, so how and why did they come to know about this roost was another mystery. On the 9th, Esther Ong reported another congregation of Grey Wagtails, this time at Sembawang a few kilometers away. The numbers here were just as impressive as those in Yishun. Efforts to find them in the day were not successful. We can only guess that they may be feeding somewhere in Johor. Another mystery was the absence of the Yellow Wagtails at both roosts.

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Red-legged Crake nesting at SBG with the first chick just hatching. Photo: Mike Smith of AsiaPhotoStock.com

On 14th, Mike Smith made avian history when he chanced upon a nest of the Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata with a clutch of 5 eggs, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. He monitored the nesting and found that some of the chicks hatched on 3rd and 4th Nov. This will be the first documented nesting of this uncommon and elusive crake in Singapore.

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Francis Yap’s photo of the year, a very rare vagrant, the White-throated Needletail flashing by over CCNR on 25th. 

The other excitement for the month were the sightings of the White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus a very rare vagrant first photographed over Bukit Timah Hill on 5 April 2008. There have been no records since then yet there are 3 records this month alone! Keita Sin managed to photographed one flying over Henderson Wave on 19th and another on 31st. In between Francis Yap posted an excellent photo of one he shot flying over Jelutong Tower on 25th. As a bonus, Keita also shot a very rare migrant, the Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus over Henderson Wave on 19th with Francis Yap following up with another over Jelutong Towers on 20th. Well done guys!

BCJFC Leslie Loh

Bidadari is still the favourite rest stop for the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher. Photo: Leslie Loh

This October, we welcomed back the Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis, the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers Cyornis brunneatus and the Siberian Blue Robins Larvivora cyane and other passerines to our forests and parklands. Bidadari is still a desirable stopover for many of our winter visitors, with the arrival of two Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers on 5th (TT Koh). Laurence Eu had one at Labrador NR on the 24th and another seen at Rifle Range Link the next day by Francis Yap and Richard White. Con Foley had another late arrival at Bidadari on 27th. Other records came from Jurong Central and Chinese Garden, Singapore Zoo and Botanic Garden. Singapore is the best place to see this globally threatened species in the winter.

As for the Blue-winged Pitta, the first one was picked up at Jurong Island although one was heard calling on the 10th at the Bulim Forest last month. Lim Kim Chuah found it on the floor of his office building on 22nd. He managed to nurse it back for release a few days later. The one found by Jayon P. Thomas at IMH on 23rd and another by Art Toh at Labrador old flats on 27th  were not so fortunate. But it was the one that ‘got lost’ and ended up at the playground at Hougang Central on 27th that became the star attraction of the month. Another one was reported at Potong Pasir by Choon Beng on 30th.

Lim Kim Chuah also found two Siberian Blue Robins, one a young male on the 22nd and the other on 23rd at his Jurong Island office. Both died as a result of window collision. Earlier on the 17th, David Tan retrieved the carcass of another dead Siberian Blue Robin from Bishan. It was killed by a cat after surviving a building collision there. Richard White reported a female at Hindhede NP on 21st.   

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Verditer Flycatcher, photographed by George Presanis at DFNP on 9th. Unfortunate it was not seen again. Status being reviewed by the Records Committee.

We also had three “out of range” sightings this month. A Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassini  was photographed by George Presanis at DFNP on 9th. Another species, the montane Little Pied Flycatcher Ficedula westermanni was reported by Dr. Niel Bruce at the downtown old Muslim Cemetery on 15th. Martin Kennewell and a few birders were at Hindhede NP looking for the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher when they saw a Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis flying across the park. All these were not seen again. The Records Committee will be reviewing these records for their status.

Francis Yap

Crow-billed Drongo arriving at Windsor Nature Park on 2nd. Photo: Francis Yap.

A Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans was photographed by Francis Yap at Windsor Park on 2nd. He later reported another on 25th at Rifle Range Link. A Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus was photographed by Hung Ting Wei off SBWR perched on the nettings. Pacific Swifts Apus pacificus were seen all over the Southern Ridges this month.  Zacc HD had one over KRP on 3rd and Alan OwYong came in with a report of five on 19th there. Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica were flying around the Kranji Marshes on 7th (Annual Bird Race) and photographed perched at Turuk Track on 28th by Fadzrun Adnan.  The first Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus  was reported by Goh Juan Hui at SBWR and as expected very skittish. Another early cuckoo, the Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus was reported on ebird by Martin Kennewell. It was seen at Bidadari on 17th. A third cuckoo, the Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported by Seng Beng on 29th at the SBTB. Martin Kennewell picked up a first White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis over at Pulau Ubin on 8th.

BCKF Wee Jin

Black-capped Kingfisher welcoming the birders during the NSS Bird Walk at Kranji Marshes. Photo: Mahesh Krishnan

The first Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca made a one day stop over at Hindhede NP on the 9th (Siew Mun and Francis Yap) much to the dismay of many birders and photographers. But the Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda did not make it. David Tan showed us the carcass after it collided with a building at NUS on 16th. The wait for the Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata ended with a sighing at Marina Barrage on 20th by Zan J. The regular at the Kranji Marshes was reported by Francis Yap four days later. It was still around on 29th during the NSS Bird Walk. A Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax was seen briefly at DFNP on the 10th by Alan OwYong and See Toh Yew Wai. Lee Van Hien had another at Bidadari on 25th. This non-breeding hawk-cuckoo always precedes the migratory Hodgson’s.

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Ferruginous Flycatcher “Iron Boy” from Pulau Ubin on 22nd by Veronica Foo.

A dead Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola was picked up at Changi T4 by Willie Foo on 10th. Another was reported at Kranji Marshes on 24th by Francis Yap. The rarer Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata was found by James Lambo on 29th at Tuas South. The first Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea was reported by Avinash Sharma at MacRitchie Park on 15th. Veronica Foo had a juvenile at Pulau Ubin on 22nd while conducting the Fall Migration Bird Census. An unconfirmed record came from Bidadari during the last week of the month.

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A very fortunate Laurence Eu was at the right place and time to snap this rare passage migrant, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, at Labrador Nature Reserve on 24th.

The rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata made a one day stop over at the Labrador NR on 24th. Laurence Eu was at the right place and time to captured it on his camera’s sensor. Last year he also found the one at the Zoo on 31st October. We ended the month with an Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus at Kranji Marshes (Veronica Foo) and a spectacular flypast of 66 Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum across Jelutong Tower was captured by Goh Cheng Teng. One was reported by Martin Kennewell earlier on 22nd at the Kranji Marshes.

 

Sanderling Luke

A lone Sanderling turned up at the Marina Barrage on 14th. Luke Milo Teo was there to snap it up. Another new species to add to this city waterfront.

The breakwaters next to Marina Barrage continue to attract interesting shorebirds like the juvenile Sanderling Calidris alba on 12th (Luke Milo Teo). This was where a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was reported two days earlier by TT Koh. The number of Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis at Marina Barrage went up to four on 17th (Alan OwYong).

LTS Frankie Cheong

A fresh water loving Long-toed Stint at Pulau Tekong. Photo: Frankie Cheong.

A rather greyish Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta and Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola were at Frankie Cheong’s restricted site at Pulau Tekong on 21st. Two more Wood Sandpipers were seen at the Kranji Marshes together with a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago on 29th during a Bird Group walk (Lee Ee Ling/ Yap Wee Jin). These fresh water shorebirds are the one that Nparks wants to bring in to the marshes. 

LRP Pary Sivaraman

A non-breeding Little Ringed Plover beautifully taken at the Marina Barrage by Pary Sivaraman

Larger waterbirds sighted include a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes at Pulau Tekong on 9th and 10th (Frankie Cheong), a Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra showing up at Marina Barrage on 16th (Siew Mun), a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis found dead at Jurong West on 23th by Ben Choo and another, very much alive was photographed at SBTB on 27th by Robin Tan.

Notable residents reported this month were the rare Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon at BTNR by James Lambert on 15th. A sizable flock of 10 Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea present at PRP on the 9th (Seng Alvin), up to 20 House Swifts Apus nipalensis over at KRP out hawking for insects in the evening of the 19th (Alan OwYong) and a large flock of 26 Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica being flushed out at Kranji Marshes on 22nd (Martin Kennewell). Good to see that they are returning to Kranji Marshes. Both the House Swift’s and Whistling Ducks numbers were the highest for some  time.

Francis Yap and company organised the only pelagic in the Singapore Strait (a multi-national stretch of water) for the month on 14th and returned with a Parasitic Jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticus, a few Aleutian Onychoprion aleuticus and Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus among others. 

P Jaeger See Toh

Parasitic Jaeger migrating through the Straits of Singapore by See Toh Yew Wai during this month’s Pelagic trip.

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Location abbreviations: SBG Singapore Botanic Gardens, IMH Institute of Mental Health, DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, KRP Kent Ridge Park, NUS National University of Singapore.

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, individual reports and extracts from ebird. 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 Alan OwYong, Mike Smith, Francis Yap, Leslie Loh, George Presanis, Mahesh Krishnan, Veronica Foo, Laurence Eu, Frankie Cheong, Luke Milo Teo, Pary Sivaraman and See Toh Yew Wai  for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.