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.
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’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.
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.
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.