Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Return of the Indian Pond Heron to Bidadari?

The return of the Indian Pond Heron to Bidadari?

We have our 4th record of this vagrant and maybe now a rare winter visitor to Bidadari early this April when TT Koh showed me his photo of a summer Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, he shot on the 4th. He was not sure of its id and did not send out the alert. It was a post by Phua Joo Yang on 25th in Singapore Birders that got us down to look for it at Bidadari the next day.

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TT Koh’s shot of the Indian Pond Heron at Bidadari on 4 April 2018

Coincidently, Terence Tan posted a non-breeding lighter plumage of another Pond Heron from Bishan Park on 23rd, which Martin Kennewell and Dave Bakewell commented that it was a good candidate for an Indian. Unfortunately this particular Pond Heron could not be found since.

Terence Tan

Terence Tan’s photo of an “unriped” Pond Heron at Bishan Park on 23 April 2018.

The question now is whether this is the same Indian Pond Heron that visited Bidadari in the past two years. On 11 April 2015 Joseph Tan shot one at Bidadari. He did not expect it to be an Indian and did not post it. Good thing that Er Bong Siong did six days later on Bird Sightings. Its admin Francis Yap was quick to realised what he was looking at and alerted its members. All of us got our lifers when we rushed down to tick it in the next two days.

Indian Pond Heron

Taken on 26 April 2018 when it was flying from tree to tree.

This record was enough to move the first record of a summer Indian Pond Heron seen on 20 March 1994 at Senoko by Lim Kim Seng and Lim Kim Chuah from Category D to A. This now constitutes the first national record for this Pond Heron. Cat D are for species which are wild but the possibility of an escapee or released bird cannot be satisfactorily excluded. Myanmar is the nearest range for this Pond Heron and the first record for this Pond Heron for Malaysia was on 12 April 1999 at Penaga district, Penang (SuaraEng 1999). So the exercise of prudence to leave it in Cat D in 1994 was the right call.

To establish its status further, another Indian Pond Heron was sighted at Bidadari again by See Swee Leng on 9 March 2016 and Keita Sin on 6 April 2016. This one wintered there until 19 April 2016. But it may be have flown to Farmway 3 as Lim Kim Keang reported one there on 8 May 2016, making this it latest departure date.

Indian Pond Heron

Shot from the roadside on our way back to the carpark as it flew down to the slope inside the parlour to feed.

From the arrival dates of this Pond Heron to Bidadari, the probability of it being the same bird is high. We can only be sure if we are able to tag this heron which will not be an easy task. In the meantime, let’s enjoy its presence here and try to give it room to forage and feed before it makes it way back. With our long telephoto lenses, there is no need to go close to take that spectacular shot.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009 Nature Society (Singapore). Thanks to TT Koh, Terence Tan and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos. 

 

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8th Annual Parrot Count 2018

8th Annual Parrot Count 2018

Authors: Albert Low and Alan OwYong

Introduction

The World Parrot Count was initiated eight 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.

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Results and Conclusions

Coordinated annually by the Bird Group since 2011, this year’s Parrot Count took place on 24 February 2018. 11 sites across mainland Singapore were counted this year. This year’s total of 1,770 parrots of 9 species was much lower than the 2,621 parrots of 9 species recorded last year.

This year, the site with the highest species richness was Bukit Brown Cemetery with a total of six species of parrot recorded including an escapee Red Lory (Eos bornea). The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) was the most numerous parrot recorded during the count, with a total of 899 individuals seen, making up 50.8% of all parrots recorded during the count. However, this was a significant decrease from 2017’s total of 1,521 individuals, the 1,837 individuals in 2016 and the high count of 2,059 observed in 2015. 738 Red-breasted Parakeets were also recorded, making up the bulk (41.7%) 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).

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During the census, parrot numbers peaked between 7 pm and 7.30 pm where 965 parrots were counted.  The largest parakeet flocks mainly arrive 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 significant decline in the total number of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded during this year’s count. Despite similar weather conditions to last year and no visible changes to existing counting sites, the large flocks of Long-tailed Parakeets that stage and roost around Yishun appear to have disappeared from the area. While this is undoubtedly a cause for concern, equally unusual was the unexpected appearance of large numbers of Long-tailed Parakeets at counting sites in western Singapore. Counters at Clementi and Jurong West, roosting sites that traditionally supported only Red-breasted Parakeets, reported more than a hundred (in the case of Jurong West 462!) Long-tailed Parakeets roosting alongside their Red-breasted counterparts (Table 1).

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This is the first time in the count’s eight year history that large flocks of both parakeet species have been recorded roosting together at certain urban roost sites, seemingly disproving the hypothesis that urban parakeet roosts in Singapore were segregated by species. It is unclear whether the decline in Long-tailed Parakeet numbers around Yishun and their appearance at previously unused roosting sites in Western Singapore are linked. However, it shows that the roosting behaviour of Singapore’s urban-adapted parakeets are potentially very fluid in a constantly changing urban landscape. As such, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that Yishun’s parakeet flocks may also have shifted to new staging and roosting sites, potentially in adjacent areas such as Sembawang. It is hoped that birdwatchers will continue to report parakeet roosts within their neighbourhoods, so that a more complete picture of Singapore’s urban parakeet population can be obtained and unusual observations in roosting ecology documented through regular surveys such as this count.

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: Anuj Jain, Yong Ding Li, Winston Chong, Lim Kim Keang, Lee Ee Ling, Jane Rogers, Nessie Khoo, Marcel Finlay, Ng Bee Choo, Morten Strange, Angus Lamont, and Richard White. Assisting Counters: Florence Ipert, Ernest Lee, Hui Choo, Alex Lim, Joyce Ang, Heather Pong, Kelly Ng, Yen Ting, Carmen Choong, Yanna Graham, Lee Whye Guan, and Tang Zhe. Finally we also thank Roelant and Michael for inviting us to be part of this study.

Common Goldenback Mating at SBWR

Common Goldenback mating at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. By Rob Arnold.

 

Unfortunately I was travelling outside Singapore when the Indian Paradise Flycatcher was spotted and identified, and missed all the excitement. By the time I returned, most people had seen it, and visiting Sungei Buloh there were many fewer eyes looking for it; most people were seeking the Buffy Fish Owls. On my third unsuccessful morning wandering around the entry and car park, I noticed a pair of Common Goldenbacks in a tree at the far end of the car park. They were in a flowering tree and flew off as I approached.

 

Woodpecker, Common Goldenback Pair SB 11Apr2018 2

The female Goldenback took up an erect position and waited for the male.

 

I worked my way back towards the entry, and heard a Plaintive Cuckoo loud and close. I tried to whistle it in, and amazingly it flew into a small tree and I was congratulating myself on my bird imitations. Must be rubbing off from spending time with Kim Chuah sifu. The bird flew off and I reviewed the pictures: something wrong here, it had a clear eye-ring and peachy buff up to the chin…a Rusty-Breasted. Oh well, good bird. Maybe not such good imitation.

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The male was busy looking for grubs and did not seem to notice its mate waiting above.

I looked up and saw the female Goldenback climbing the big tree just opposite the Assembly Point. She got to a large branch and started prospecting along it. Then the male flew up to the same branch. Immediately she assumed an erect position on the top of the branch, which I suppose was at least anticipatory and at most invitational. He didn’t notice she had done this and went on prospecting – to be fair, he was underneath the branch and could not see her.

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Once he noticed her erect position, the male moved along the look at her inquisitively.

As you can see, she maintained her erect position. Then he came to the top of the branch and noticed her, moved along and looked at her inquisitively, then hopped on. All this time she maintained the same position. Then he hopped off and she went off prospecting again. Seems clear from this that she instigated the mating – he did nothing and in fact did not notice until he was just along the branch from her, while she did not move from the time she assumed her position until they were done mating. Possibly of interest to others.

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Success at last!

In the meantime, still looking for the Indian Paradise Flycatcher….

Singapore Bird Report – March 2018

The month of March yielded some spectacular surprises – an amazing vagrant that looks good to become Singapore’s first record of the Indian Paradise Flycatcher, a nesting Chestnut-bellied Malkoha pair in Jurong Eco-Garden (JEG) and a young Jerdon’s Baza that stayed at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park over one weekend. Migrants continue to be reported throughout the month.

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Indian Paradise Flycatcher at SBWR on 23 March 2018, by Feroz Fizah.

A mixed report of resident and migratory species trickled into our consciousness during the first week of March. A Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus was spotted on 1 March 2018 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) by Nosherwan Sethna, while Alan Owyong was greeted by a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus when he crested the summit of Bukit Timah Hill; he earlier spotted a Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris while ascending the summit. Slightly further afield and on the same day, Martin Kennewell spotted an Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina, Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji and Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus along Dairy Farm Loop.

The first Saturday of the month (3 March) yielded a migratory Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus at Lower Pierce Reservoir (Vincent Lao), and a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus pair nesting along a public pathway at the Jurong Eco-Garden (Anthony Nik), where the chick fledged subsequently on the 14th (Esther Ong). A joint NParks-NSS Bird Group survey of Pulau Ubin on Sunday (4 March) yielded 6 Cinereous Bulbuls Hemixos cinereus, among other regular Ubin species, such as the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting, Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu, Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans and Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha. The survey team also counted 33 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea that flew in a south-easterly direction to Ubin. Roger Boey, who was with the survey, photographed a Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis, a report currently pending acceptance by the Records Committee, while a Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus was spotted by Adrian Silas Tay and Jerold Tan on the island. Back on mainland Singapore, a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea was reported by Heather Goessel at Mimosa Walk.

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One of the nesting pair of Chestnut-bellied Malkohas at Jurong Eco-Garden with a praying mantis on 8 March 2018, photo by Terence Tan.

More reports of migratory species were reported between the week spanning 5 and 11 March. A White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis subspecies was spotted at Marina Barrage on 6 March by Dodotee Tee. A Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida was seen at SBG on 8 March by Geri Lim. Two different Ruddy Kingfishers Halcyon coromanda were spotted, one on 8 March at West Coast Park by Thio Hui Bing, and another on 10 March at Venus Loop by Lim Kim Chuah. Oliver Tan chanced upon a Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae on 9 March near Dillenia Hut in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. A juvenile Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni spent the weekend at Bishan, alternating between the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Parks 1 & 2 between 10 and 12 March. Known for its sporadic appearance at Tampines Eco Green (TEG) and Pasir Ris Park, this Baza has eluded many birders and photographers alike. Hence, its appearance in the heart of the island proved to be a boon to the community. Feroz Fizah photographed an accipiter on 11 March at Tampines Eco Green, which was subsequently identified by Adrian Silas Tay and Lau Jiasheng as an Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus.

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TThe juvenile Jerdon’s Baza that lingered at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park between 10 and 12 March 2018. Photo taken on 10 March 2018 by Arman AF.

Resident species encountered included Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) on 8 March by Francis Yap, and a Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus at JEG by Terence Tan, Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra at West Coast Park on 10 March by Kozi Ichiyama, while Felix Wong highlighted the fledging of a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum early in the morning from a HDB flat in Choa Chu Kang. This is the second known and documented record of the flowerpecker nesting in an urban environment. The second chick fledged around noon on 11 March.

Between 12 to 18 March, we continued to receive reports of migratory species across Singapore. A Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis and Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus were encountered by Alan Owyong at Venus Loop. Martin Kennewell chanced upon a Black-backed Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca in the CCNR on 13 March, while an Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina was seen by Luke Milo Teo at Ulu Sembawang on the same day. A Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus was spotted hawking over the skies of HortPark by Keita Sin on 15 March, while Tan Kok Hui chanced upon a Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides on Coney Island on the same day. Other notable migrants were a Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica seen by Fadzrun Adnan on 16 March over Seletar Aerospace, a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia in Pulau Ubin by Lena Chow on 16 March, a Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla in Kranji Marshes on 17 March by Martin Kennewell, and two Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis, one seen winging over Henderson Wave by Tay Kian Guan on 16 March and another at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 17 March by Francis Yap.

Resident species spotted during this week include a Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu along Ulu Pandan Canal on 16 March by Jason Humphries, Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis and Ruddy-breasted Crake at One-North Cresent, also on 16 March, by Alan Owyong, a Grey-headed Fish-eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus along Ulu Pandan Canal on 17 March by Mark Nelson Valino, a Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus during a night survey on Pulau Ubin, also on 17 March, by Francis Yap and Jacky Soh, and a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela at Malcolm Park on 18 March by Lena Chow.

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Barred Eagle Owl spotted during a night survey of Pulau Ubin on 17 March 2018. Photo by Francis Yap.

The week of 19 to 25 March proved to be fruitful in terms of bird reports in social media. KC Ling reported at least 20 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus feeding from a White Gutta or Nyatoh Tree at the Eco-Garden within SBG. Lim Kim Keang reported spotting two Mangrove Whistlers Pachycephala cinerea on Pulau Hantu on 21 March, while Alan Owyong reported a Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus at Bishan Park on 23 March. Also on 23 March, Lim Kim Chuah reported that a Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo chick had fallen out of its nest at Pasir Ris Park. The chick was subsequently rescued by ACRES and restored into a nearby tree in a makeshift nest. Keita Sin reported spotting two Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo adults with two chicks at Bidadari on 24 March.

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Male Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot on a White Gutta tree at the Eco-Garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 24 March 2018. Photo by Geoff Lim.

Reports of migratory species continued to filter in. A Black Kite Milvus migrans was photographed by Veronica Foo flying over Lorong Halus on 21 March, while two instances of Black-backed Kingfishers Ceyx erithaca entering residential areas were reported: an injured bird at Keppel Bay on 21 March, and another bird which spent the night in Kim Forrester’s kitchen after flying inside. It left on its own accord the next morning. Feroz Fizah sought ID help for a Paradise Flycatcher photographed on 23 March at SBWR and Dave Bakewell noticed that it looked different from the Amur & Blyth’s, identifying it as an out-of-range Indian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi, a first for Singapore! (Oliver Tan realised that he had photographed a similar-looking paradise flycatcher at SBWR on 2 Dec 2017). The bird was seen again on the 25th by many birders. On 23 March, Henrietta Woo and Ong Ruici reported seeing a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus at SBG, while a Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus was seen fishing at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) and another at Springleaf Nature Park by Thana Sinnarthamby and Cheah Chen Poh, respectively. On 24 March, Keita Sin spotted a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka at Bidadari, while Felix Wong spotted two Hooded Pittas standing metres apart in SBG. A Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni spotted by Luke Milo Teo on 24 March at Ulu Sembawang proved to be a new extreme date for the species. An NParks survey on Pulau Ubin on 25 March yielded Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola, a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica in breeding plumage and a Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris at Chek Jawa. Meanwhile, Doreen Ang, together with two friends, spotted a first winter Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus at Bulim on 25 March.

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A Green-backed Flycatcher in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 29 March 2018, by Oliver Tan. The bird was video-recorded while singing.

The final week of March (26 – 31 March) yielded several interesting records. Two Green-backed Flycatchers Ficedula elisae were spotted, a calling female by Fadzrun Adnan on 27 March at Venus Loop, and a singing male by Oliver Tan inside CCNR. A Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was spotted at Bidadari by Martin Kennewell on 28 March. A White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis was reported on Pulau Ubin on 29 March by Joseph Lin, a first for the island (correction: there was an earlier record on 8 Oct 2017 by Martin Kennewell). Migratory flycatchers continue to be reported – a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Kheam Hock Road on 29 March by Thana Sinnathamby, and a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea at Ulu Sembawang by Luke Milo Teo on 30 March.

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The highly prized Band-bellied Crake continued to be seen at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 31 March 2018. Photo taken by Geoff Lim.

Two Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus were recorded, one at SBWR on 30 March by Tan Kok Hui, and another at Fairway Golf Course on 31 March by Alan Owyong. A Northern Boobook Ninox japonica was reported at a Pasir Ris HDB block on 31 March by Ryan Lee, while an Eastern-crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus was seen inside CCNR by Martin Kennewell. Also spotted on 31 March was the Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykullii by Geoff Lim, Kozi Ichiyama and visiting Australian birder, Alastair White, at SBG. The highlight of the last day of March would be the Indian Paradise Flycatcher relocated at SBWR by Lim Kim Chuah.

Residents reported during this week include an injured Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula at Jurong West Street 91 by Hafinani on 28 March, an Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotti at West Coast Park on 29 March by Art Toh, a Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus at SBWR on 30 March by Tan Kok Hui, a Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana at Ulu Sembawang on the same day by Luke Milo Teo, and a Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii on 31 March inside CCNR by Martin Kennewell.

During their pelagic trip along the multi-national Straits of Singapore on 3 March, Francis Yap, Seetoh Yew Wai and friends spotted a Parasitic Jaegar Stercorarius parasiticus, as well as Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis, Swift Tern Thalasseus bergii, and a Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra. Note that some of these may not be in Singapore waters.

Parasitic Jaeger

Parasitic Jaegar in flight during the pelagic trip on 3 March 2018, by Francis Yap.

Abbreviations:
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green

This report is compiled by Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong, edited by Tan Gim Cheong, based on 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 Feroz Fizah, Terence Tan, Arman AF, Oliver Tan, Geoff Lim and Francis Yap for the use of their photos.

Singapore Raptor Report – February 2018

CSH,, 010218, Punggol Promenade, Felix Chan

Chinese Sparrowhawk moulting into adult (grey) feathers, at Punggol Promenade, on 1 Feb 2018, by Felix Chan

Summary for migrant species:

In February, 81 raptors of 11 migrant species were recorded. The raptor of the month is undoubtedly the vagrant Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis photographed by Francis Yap at Bukit Timah on the 8th. On the 12th, two scarce raptors were recorded: a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo photographed at Kent Ridge Park by Nathan Johnson and a Black Kite Milvus migrans (lineatus) photographed at Pulau Ubin by Wang HM. A grey morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia photographed at Mimosa Walk by Heather Goessel on the 14th was a good surprise.

Himalayan Vulture at Bukit Timah today (8 Feb 2018) at around 1110 am, Francis Yap

Himalayan Vulture, a composite image, Bukit Timah, on 8 Feb 2018, by Francis Yap.

Nine Jerdon’s Bazas Aviceda jerdoni continued to winter at the Lorong Halus area, three were spotted at Changi Business Park and one at Bishan Park. Of the 28 Black Bazas Aviceda leuphotes recorded in the month, 18 were fittingly seen on the 18th by Goh Cheng Teng at Kranji Marshes.

The female Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis at Ang Mo Kio is still wintering there, while single occurrences were recorded at Punggol Promenade (1st),  Upper Seletar (6th) and Lorong Halus (17th). There were also four Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis during the month: a female at Bukit Timah (9th), an immature at Jelutong Tower (21st), one at Pasir Ris Park (23rd) and another female at Tampines Eco Green (26th).

Among the five Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus recorded, one was the ernesti race recorded on the 17th at Jelutong Tower by Goh Cheng Teng and Lim Hong Yao. Four Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus and 19 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus rounded up the migrant raptors for the month.

CGH, 150218, AMK TGW, Michael Phua, adult

Crested Goshawk, Ang Mo Kio, on 15 Feb 2018, by Michael Phua.

Highlights for sedentary species:

February was a pretty good month for the Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela, with records from Pulau Ubin on the 4th, Kent Ridge Park on the 8th and the long-staying individual at Malcolm Park. Also good as a daytime record was an Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula photographed by Deborah Friets at Satay by the Bay on the 19th.

There were two breeding records for the Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus: a pair at the Botanic Gardens with a single chick that fledged on the 4th and another pair at Ang Mo Kio that had a more eventful time as the nest was reported to have been blown down by strong winds together with the chicks. Fortunately, ACRES was alerted and the chicks returned to the parents which continued to look after them till they fledged. Interestingly, a juvenile Crested Goshawk caught a young monitor lizard (probably a clouded monitor) at the Botanic Gardens on the 3rd.

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Crested Goshawk with a young monitor lizard, Botanic Gardens, on 3 Feb 2018, by Lian Yee Ming.

There were also two breeding records of the Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu: a fledgling at the Botanic Gardens late in the month, and another fledgling at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve with its parents on the 26th. The other sedentary raptors recorded included seven Grey-headed Fish Eagles, eight Black-winged Kites, seven Changeable Hawk-Eagles, and the common White-bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites.

Table 1

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – February 2018

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

 Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Felix Chan, Michael Phua, Francis Yap and Lian Yee Ming for the use of their photos.

A Brief Encounter with Buffy.

Our brief encounter with the Buffy Fish Owls at Singapore Botanic Gardens.  
by Henrietta Woo.

Observers: Goh Pei Shuan, Henrietta Woo, Ong Ruici

Date: 21 Mar 2018

Time: From 1918 hours till nightfall

Location: NParks HQ, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Pei Shuan and I had just left the office and were making our way to the Evolution Garden when two large-sized birds abruptly landed in the tree above us while calling. We thought it might be the Red Jungle Fowls, but turning the corner, the birds revealed themselves to be Buffy Fish Owls. Both continued to vocalise, one more so frequently than the other, uttering a relatively soft “yiiii” (like a squeaky chair, for lack of a better description) each time. The other owl answered sporadically with a louder and harsher “yiooorhhh”. I am guessing that the former is a subadult; the plumage differences seem rather minute, however. Both kept close to each other.

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While this was happening, Ruici who was at Botany Centre observing the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher immediately rushed over and joined me about 5 minutes after Pei Shuan left. At this time, the owls had become more active, flying across the path to another tree and calling more frequently. The pair thereafter flew across the carpark, to the trees directly in front of the HQ, where we observed was a third owl. Soon after, two of the owls flew across the carpark one after the other back to the Evolution Garden. One of them was carrying a small branch/large twig from the Araucaria tree it had been perching in. The two owls in the Evolution Garden started to vocalise, seemingly coaxing the third individual (subadult?) to join them.

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I had my camera (thankfully!) with me, and managed to squeeze off a few shots before night fell. We also were able to take a few recordings of the owls vocalising and will eventually upload onto xeno-canto. This brief encounter with these Buffy Fish Owls while unexpected was most exhilarating! 

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31st Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2018.

31st Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2018

The 31st Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race took place over the weekend of 31 March to 1 April 2018. It was flagged off at 1pm on Saturday and ended at 12pm on Sunday.

After a two-year absence (we last participated in the 28th Fraser’s Hill Bird Race in 2015 where we came in tops with 75 species then), my “Piculets” team-mates, Kim Keang and Ju Lin suggested we take part again this year. My wife, Bee Lan, came along as a supporting cast.

We left on 29 March and flew AirAsia into Kuala Lumpur International Airport where we picked up our rental car from Galaxy Cars – a quite new 2-litre Toyota Innova. After a good lunch break at Kuala Kubu Baru, we arrived at Silverpark in Fraser’s Hill at about 2pm. This was our Airbnb accommodation for the duration of our stay until Sunday – a clean and nicely furnished 3-bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen and a balcony that overlooked a valley.

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Over the remainder of the afternoon and the whole of Friday, we did our recce and birded the hill station, explored Hemmant Trail and parts of Bishop’s Trail, spending about an hour here observing a nesting Long-tailed Broadbill, which was still bringing in nesting material to her almost-completed nest that hung from the end of a spiky rattan vine. In close attendance were also a pair of the diminutive Little Pied Flycatchers bringing their own nesting material into the broadbill’s nest! This however will be the subject of another write-up that I will be writing in due course.

After a short opening ceremony on Saturday, the 54 teams from three categories, namely Student, Novice and Advanced, were flagged off. This year’s race came with a cardinal change in the rules – no form of motorised vehicles were allowed. Each team will have to bird from Point A to Point B on foot! If you are familiar with this hill station, this essentially means that planning is of utmost importance. Many places will have to be missed due to their distance from Fraser’s Hill. It will not be practical to bird at the bottom part of the Gap Road or the “New Road”. Walking the entire loop of Telecom Loop may not be advisable while walking all the way to Jeriau Waterfall may not be a good option either. Time is of the essence and returns are important for the effort that is to be expended.

The Piculets took the decision after the flag-off to walk Hemmant Trail in its entirety from its trail-head near the mosque. This was a good decision as we emerged at the other end of the trail near Lady Maxwell Road with 10 species. Lady Maxwell Road itself was also birdy and we came off with another six species within 15 minutes.

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Orange-bellied Leafbird

Our plan was to head towards the “New Road” quickly and start birding downwards to as far as time and light allowed. The “New Road” is lower in elevation and a different set of birds can be expected. We turned in a respectable 27 species from here. Some special birds that were seen along this road but not easily found up in Fraser’s Hill were Blue-eared and Brown Barbets, Blue-winged and Lesser Green Leafbirds, Little and Grey-breasted Spiderhunters, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, White-bellied Erpornis, White-rumped Shama, Sultan Tit, Black-and-yellow and Silver-breasted Broadbills, Asian Fairy Bluebird and Grey-throated Babbler. Migrants like Mugimaki and Asian Brown Flycatchers as well as Yellow-browed Warbler were also encountered. By the time we reached Silver Park, it was already 7.15pm and dark. Our Day One score of 61 species was good and although tired, we were satisfied.

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Green Magpie

Day Two plan was to visit Hemmant Trail at first light to try to see the Lesser Shortwing and Orange-headed Thrush. Both were seen by Kim Keang when he visited on Saturday morning before the race proper. We reached the trail-head at Lady Maxwell Road but it was still dark and impractical to set foot on the trail. We rested opposite the trail-head and suddenly Ju Lin spotted the Orange-headed Thrush hopping just behind Kim Keang! This was Day Two first bird at 7.02am.

When the light was better, we went into the trail. Alas, the shortwing was not around and we left Hemmant Trail empty-handed.

After agreeing among ourselves that the possibility of seeing new species up at Fraser’s Hill was limited, we decided again to visit the “New Road”. In front of the Tamil school, just before the start of the road, we’d have our Yellow-vented Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Red-rumped Swallow and White-rumped Munia too. We walked downwards for about 1.5km and returned with seven species including the Red-headed Trogon, Buff-necked and Maroon Woodpeckers, Black-thighed Falconet, Drongo Cuckoo, Streaked Wren Babbler and a Large Hawk Cuckoo being chased by a Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo.

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Going down the “New Road”

Last ditch effort on reaching the top had us walking towards the Town Centre, where the race will end. The golf course in front of the Paddock gave us scoped views of Paddyfield Pipit while Barn Swallow and Brown Shrike also put in a late display for us. With some time left, we visited Singapore House, hoping to find the Blue Whistling Thrush. It was not around. We also heard a forktail along the stream but it refused to show itself. All was not lost however as finally, a Blue Nuthatch decided to show itself at 11.02am, followed by an easy Lesser Shortwing which decided to be very confiding by appearing very close to the road. This last species of the race, and our 81st species, made up for the missing shortwing we tried that same morning at Hemmant Trail. It needs to be put on record too that another Streaked Wren Babbler (we had that bird earlier) decided that it needs to be seen too by standing on an exposed branch and started singing for a full 3 to 4 minutes, taunting the three of us who were camera-less!

The Piculets were crowned champions in the Advanced Category when the results were announced. It would be nice to include the number of species seen by the winning teams in the announcement.

 

It was a short but fun few days of birding for all of us in Fraser’s Hill. Because of the new ruling, there was much, much walking done. Thoroughly good exercise and if the “Health” apps is a reliable apps that can be relied on, we walked a staggering 47,540 steps over the two race days. This is equivalent to about 36 kilometres of walking!

Thanks and appreciation are in order to the organisers, Pahang Tourism, Malaysian Nature Society, Fraser’s Hill Development Corporation and all who were involved for all the hospitality, care and friendship.

Till the next race!

Alfred Chia

4 April 2018

31st Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race 2018 – Team Piculets

# Species                              Location         Remarks
1 Pacific Swallow               Town Centre 31-Mar
2 White-bellied (Glossy) Swiftlet
3 Large-billed Crow           Golf Course
4 Long-tailed Sibia
5 House Swift
6 Little Cuckoo Dove
7 Oriental Magpie Robin
8 Silver-eared Mesia
9 Common Tailorbird      Town Centre
10 Mountain Fulvetta      Golf Course
11 Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo
12 Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
13 Large Niltava
14 Mountain Bulbul        Hemmant Trail
15 Buff-bellied Flowerpecker
16 Fire-tufted Barbet
17 Blyth’s Shrike-babbler
18 Golden Babbler
19 Streaked Spiderhunter
20 Rufous-browed Flycatcher
21 Blue-winged Minla
22 Black-throated Sunbird
23 Little Pied Flycatcher
24 Black-browed Barbet Bishop’s Trail
25 Orange-bellied Leafbird
26 Greater Yellownape Lady Maxwell Road
27 Long-tailed Broadbill
28 Buff-breasted Babbler
29 Green Magpie
30 Mountain Tailorbird
31 White-throated Fantail
32 Black-crested Bulbul      Road leading to New Road
33 Yellow-vented Bulbul
34 Verditer Flycatcher        New Road
35 Blue-winged Leafbird
36 Blue-eared Barbet
37 Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike
38 Grey-chinned Minivet
39 Asian Brown Flycatcher
40 Mountain Imperial Pigeon
41 Little Spiderhunter
42 White-bellied Erpornis
43 Yellow-bellied Warbler
44 White-rumped Shama
45 Sultan Tit
46 Everett’s White-eye
47 Mugimaki Flycatcher
48 Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
49 Lesser Green Leafbird
50 Black-and-yellow Broadbill
51 Asian Fairy Bluebird
52 Oriental Honey Buzzard
53 Brown Barbet
54 Pin-striped Tit-babbler
55 Dark-necked Tailorbird
56 Grey-breasted Spiderhunter
57 Grey-throated Babbler
58 Ochraceous Bulbul
59 Silver-breasted Broadbill
60 Yellow-browed Warbler
61 Yellow-bellied Prinia            In front of Tamil School
62 Orange-headed Thrush       Lady Maxwell Road 1-Apr
63 Black-and-crimson Oriole   Road to Glen Bungalow
64 Black-eared Shrike-babbler
65 Lesser Yellownape
66 Stripe-throated Bulbul        Glen Bungalow
67 Red-headed Trogon             New Road
68 Buff-necked Woodpecker
69 Maroon Woodpecker
70 Black-thighed Falconet
71 Asian Drongo Cuckoo
72 Streaked Wren Babbler
73 Large Hawk Cuckoo
74 Red-rumped Swallow        In front of Tamil School
75 White-rumped Munia
76 Malaysian Cuckooshrike Road to Glen Bungalow
77 Barn Swallow Golf Course
78 Paddyfield Pipit
79 Brown Shrike
80 Blue Nuthatch                  Road to Singapore House
81 Lesser Shortwing

Birds are recorded in order of seen sequence

 

First Autumn Raptor Migration Count in Singapore

by Tan Gim Cheong
This article was first published in BirdingASIA 28 (2017).
The write-up here is an expanded version with more figures and acknowledgements.
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Figure 1 – Part of a kettle of 82 OHB, Tuas South Avenue 16, Singapore, 8 October 2014. 

From 1 October to 16 November 2014 Singapore’s first autumn raptor migration count took place at Tuas South Avenue 16 (1.265ON 103.622OE), near the southwest tip of Singapore island, an area with many grassland plots that generate strong thermals during the day. The project was carried out by volunteer amateur birdwatchers but, due to a shortage of volunteers over the 47-day period, full coverage was unfortunately not achieved – observation times varied from two to eight hours per day while on seven days, no counts were made; overall, an average coverage of five hours per day was achieved. Nonetheless, the count was still useful in providing a baseline indication of the numbers and diversity of raptors that may be expected in Singapore during autumn migration.

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Figure 2. Daily total of all migrant raptors. Note: no birds were recorded on 3 October, and no counts made on 13, 14, 16, 20, 21 and 29 October and 11 November.

A total of 3,667 raptors of 11 migrant species were recorded. Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus (3,189 birds) accounted for 87% of the total. The Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis (252 birds) was a distant second, making up 7%, while the remaining 6% comprised small numbers of nine species, including 15 Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis. Those three species were recorded throughout the period. A total of 11 Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes was recorded – one on 30 October, two on 1 November and eight on 12 November; six Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus – one each on 4, 6 and 8 October and 1, 5 and 16 November; three Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus – one each on 1, 8 and 10 November; Booted Eagle Hieraeetus pennatus – singles on 18 and 24 October; Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga – singles on 23 October and 13 November; and Osprey Pandion haliaetus – singles on 10 and 16 November. There was just one Black Kite Milvus migrans on 23 October, and one Common Buzzard Buteo buteo on 30 October. A further 183 raptors were unidentified.

Figure-3

Figure 3. Individual species totals.

Although Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded throughout the period, there were two noticeable peaks: between 6-12 October (37% of the total) and between 7-15 November (40% of the total). Flocks of up to 80 birds migrated across the site by ‘kettling’ – circling together – in one thermal and gliding to the next, making this site one of the best places in Singapore to observe migrating raptors (eg. prior to the 2014 count, 745 Oriental Honey Buzzarsd were recorded on a single day, on 9 November 2013; an even higher number, 894, has subsequently been recorded, on 9 November 2015).

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Figure 4. Distribution of Oriental Honey Buzzards.

A count of 31 Japanese Sparrowhawks on 23 October 2014 was the highest one-day number of this species in Singapore. Most of these migrated singly, but up to three were observed kettling together. Chinese Sparrowhawk was encountered only in ones and twos; the largest group of Black Baza was a flock of eight, the remaining three comprised two together and a single. One notable record was a Northern Boobook Ninox japonica in flight on the afternoon of 1 November 2014 – it had probably been disturbed from its day-time roost.

The highest number of raptors recorded on a single day was 490 birds, on 8 October, with an average of 92 birds a day during the period. Notably, there was one day, 3 October, when no migrant raptors were recorded, even though the weather was fine. Reports of migrating raptors 4 km north of the count site, not seen by our recorders, suggest that migration occurred across a broad front, and some birds were not in visual range of the count site.

Figure-5

Figure 5. Distribution of Japanese Sparrowhawk.

The flight path also appeared to have shifted slightly compared with earlier years, when about half of the raptors flew south and the rest flew east-south-east. During the 2014 count, few raptors flew south; most flew east-south-east passing to the north of the observers. A survey of the wider area revealed that there was a new area of reclaimed land in the sea between Singapore and Malaysia, north-north-west of the count site, and birds were using the thermals it generated to cross the Straits of Johor; they passed further north of the count site than in previous years. The count site itself was reclaimed from the sea about 15 years ago, indicating that raptors adapt to the landscape altered by man to take advantage of available thermals.

Figure-6

Figure 6. Distribution of Chinese Sparrowhawk.

The peak hours for raptor movement were 12h00-16h00. Singapore is at the tip of continental South-East Asia, beyond which lie the Indonesian islands of the Riau Archipelago. Birds passing the site after 16h00 would find themselves flying over the sea as nightfall approaches, and might not have much time to find a suitable roosting site on the small islands scattered to the south.

The general direction of the flight path was from the north-west (Malaysia), then east-south-east towards Jurong Island (Singapore). By extrapolating the flight path, it would appear that most birds proceed directly to the Riau Islands without stopping in Singapore.

Other Migrants

Other migrants recorded during the count were: Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum (327), Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva (76), Pacific Swift Apus pacificus (25), Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus (11), White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis (10), Ashy Bulbul Hemixos flavala (9), Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica (5), Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus (2), Streaked Bulbul Ixos malaccensis (2), Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata (1), Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus (1) and Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus (1).

Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks go to all the volunteers who helped with the count: Alan Owyong, Alan Yeo, Alfred Chia, Alvin Yeo, Chong Boon Leong, Con Foley, Danny Lau, David Awcock, Diana Jackson, Doreen Ang, Francis Yap, Frankie Cheong, Frankie Lim, Han Yong Kwong, Horst Flotow, Jacky Soh, Jane & Terry Heppell, John Spencer, Lau Jia Sheng, Laurence Eu, Lawrence Cher, Lee Ee Ling, Lee How Sung, Leslie Fung, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Mui Soon, Low Choon How, Nicholas Tan, Ron Chew, See Toh Yew Wai, Subha & Raghav Narayanswamy, Tan Chee Keon, Tan Kok Hui, Timothy Lim, Wing Chong, Woo Jia Wei and Yap Euhian.

A Morning Birding at Bulim Grasslands.

By Doreen Ang.
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Birding at the Bulim Grasslands with Peng Ah Huay, Ian and Freda Rickwood. Photo: Michael Toh.
Large open grasslands are a premium in Singapore, especially those that are left wild and untouched. They are refuge for many of our grassland species like the Zitting Cisticolas and Paddyfield Pipits. Often during the raining season they are waterlogged, creating a haven for bitterns, crakes and snipes. One such grassland is by Bulim Avenue where both our resident Painted Snipes and the migratory Common and Swinhoe’s snipes have been seen.
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First winter Red-throated Pipit turned out to be our bird of the day. Photo: Michael Toh.
So on Sun, 25.3.2018, Ian & Freda Rickword, Peng Ah Huay, Tan Sock Ling, Michael Toh and I decided to venture to Bulim grasslands to do some sniping. We spent slightly more than 2 hours in the morning.  The grounds were wet as it had rained the night before.  We saw about 6-7 Red-wattled Lapwings, 1 Common Sandpiper, some Intermediate Egrets and many Pipits.  But zilch snipes! What a let down!
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Intermediate Egret coming in to land. Photo: Michael Toh.
In one particular flock, there were about 13 pipits on the ground.  One seen through the bins looked a bit darker and ‘fatter’.  I cannot confirm if Michael’s photo was taken from this flock but his photo does show a Red-throated Pipit (a first winter as Kim Keang and you indicated). At least this sighting save our morning birding.
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Good to see the Red-wattled Lapwings back foraging at the grasslands. Photo: Michael Toh.
We don’t know how long before the whole area will be developed. Already a bus depot has taken a good piece of land next to the PIE. Several buildings are under construction, parts of the grasslands are fenced off and other parts are cleared with a concrete road running through it. Best is to enjoy it while it is there, before such habitats become just a memory.
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No Black Kite, our resident Brahminy will do. Photo: Michael Toh.
Many thanks to Michael Toh for the use of his photos.