2017-Year in Review. Part 1: National Firsts, Raptors, Sea and Shorebirds.
We had another exciting year with four national firsts added to the Singapore Checklist and one in a new annex. There were also several rare second and third records. A new raptor site was discovered that contributed several rare records for the year and a mass roosting of several hundreds of wagtails at the northern parts of the island.
Long awaited Little Stint was finally photographed at Chel Java on 21 Sept by David Li
The long awaited Little Stint Calidris minuta was finally found at Chek Jawa by David Li during NParks Waders Survey on 21 September. Two birds were photographed beside the Rufous-necked Stints. George Presanis surprised us with a photo of a Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus he took at Dairy Farm NP on 9 October. This is a species found “principally in hilly country from low elevations up to 1200m” in Malaysia and did not reappear after this sighting. Then in December, two out-of-range birds turned up at Sungei Buloh and Kranji Marshes. On 2 December, Oliver Tan photographed a juvenile male Indian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi and Muhd Fadhil shot a Booted Warbler Iduna caligata on 4 December. Both are not known migrants to Singapore and must have strayed from their regular wintering grounds. On 29 April, See Toh Wai Yew, Lau Jiasheng and friends photographed a Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii at the Straits of Singapore during their pelagic trip. As it was not inside Singapore territory, the Records Committee decided to list it in Annex 1, a new category for such sightings.
Bulwer’s Petrel migrating through the Straits of Singapore on 29 April Photo: Lau Jiasheng.
Pelagic surveys had added several new species to the Singapore bird list before and it continues to help us understand the behaviour and movements of these seabirds passing through the Straits better. On 17 September, 25 Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus were counted, making this an early arrival date. Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus were seen nesting at Pedra Branca on 29 April in support of past records. Parasitic Jaegers Stercorarius parasiticus were recorded arriving on 14 October and departing on 29 April. 18 Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels Oceanodroma monorhis and 26 Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris were counted on this April day confirming that the Straits as their main migratory route. On the first day of the year, Low Choon How was quick enough to identify a Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus flying over Straits of Johor off Pulau Ubin, the only gull seen for the year. The last seabird recorded during the year was unfortunately a dead Red-footed Booby Sula sula when Adrian Silas Tay found its washed-up carcass at Marina East Drive.
Short-tailed Shearwater flying low by Wong Lee Hong. 28 counted during April.
Keita Sin’s passion for documenting migrating raptors led him to Henderson Wave where collectively several impressive rare arrivals were recorded. The list include a Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus on 13th, Common Buzzard Buteo buteo and Grey-faced Buzzard on 2nd, Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga on 11th, a first for the season Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni on 12th, a Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos on 15th and our 3rd record of a Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus on 26th by Francis Yap, all in November. Nearby over at Telok Blangah Hill, Leslie Fung shot a juvenile Besra Accipiter virgatus on 18 November.
Continuing with visiting raptors, two sightings of the Grey-faced Buzzards Butastur indicus were reported. One on 2 November at Hindhede NP (Martin Kennewell) and several over St John’s Island on 4 November by Francis Yap and Keita Sin. A 3rd record of the Amur Falcon Falco amurensis was reported at the Changi Coast Road on 26 November by See Toh Yew Wai another Common Buzzard at Seletar Aerospace on 21 February by Alfred Chia, our only Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus for the year over Kent Ridge Park on 3 October by Keita Sin and a second Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos at Kranji Marshes on 18 November by Martin Kennewell. The rare Northern Boobook Ninox japonica made a one day stop over at Satay by the Bay on 8 November, surprising Terence Tan who was birding there. Another migrant owl, the Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia returned to Dairy Farm NP on 1 December and stayed until 10 January 2018.
Terence Tan’s Northern Boobook on 8 November at the Satay by the Bay.
On 23 September, Shahrulbariah Arif-Sng posted on Facebook the mass roosting of hundreds of Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea at Yishun Street 11. On 8 October, Esther Ong was also seeing hundreds of Grey Wagtails returning every evening to roost at Sembawang. These mass roostings have never been seen before for this wagtail and it also attracted one or two Eastern Yellows Motacilla tschutschensis, a few Whites Motacilla alba and even the Forest Wagtails Dendronanthus indicus. This had to be the first record of roosting of all four species of wagtails at one place. The flock at Sembawang left by 9 January 2018 but Fadzrun Adnan was still reporting 350 Greys at Yishun on 13 January 2018. It will be interesting to see if they will return at the end of 2018?
Unexplained mass gathering of all four species of wagtails at Yishun.
For the migrant shore and waterbirds, there was the rare Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla seen on 26 March at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kenewell and one at Satay by the Bay on 17 December by Siew Mun, a first for the gardens. A globally threatened species, the Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes made six appearances at Pulau Tekong on 9 September, 10 October, between 21 January and 28 May, a late date, thanks to the watchful Frankie Cheong. The second globally threatened species, the Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, 2 birds, were picked up by Lim Kim Keang at Chek Jawa on 6 December. The large and elegant Eurasian Curlews Numenius arquata, a globally near threatened species, was wintering at Tekong on 9 March and recorded arriving at SBWR on 28 August by Robin Tan. Ten globally near threatened early arriving Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa were counted at Sungei Buloh WR on 28 August by David Li and Veronica Foo.
The globally threatened Chinese Egret prefered the reclaimed land at Pulau Tekong during all its visits. Photo: Frankie Cheong.
The only Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa for the year was spotted by Lim Kim Keang at Pasir Ris Farmway 3 on 6 April just before the start of the migration back north. A Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus was making a late one day stopover at the Hindhede Quarry on 15 May when Martin Kenewell was there. Lastly we had to thank Luke Teo for the Sanderling Calidris alba that stop over to feed along the breakwaters off Marina East Drive on 12 November.
Sanderling wintering over at the breakwaters at MED in November. Photo Luke Teo.
Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore).
Jeyarajasingam & Pearson. A Field Guide to the Bird of West Malaysia and Singapore. 1999. Oxford University Press.
This report is compiled by Alan OwYong from the monthly Bird Reports of 2017, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. Many thanks to David Li, Lau Jiasheng, Wong Lee Hong, Leslie Fung, Terence Tan, Alan OwYong, Frankie Cheong and Luke Teo for the use of the photographs.