Extinct from Singapore since the 1940s, the Large Woodshrike re-appears after 70 years. October also marks the arrival of the charismatic, migratory black-backed race of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, and migrant raptors. In concert with the World Migratory Bird Day celebrated in October, we will examine the importance of Singapore as part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, as well as the issue of bird collisions into building structures.
Large Woodshrike : re-appears after 70 years
Extinct from Singapore since the 1940s, a Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus made an amazing appearance at Jelutong Tower on 22 October 2018 for a few seconds, long enough for Francis Yap to capture a clear photo, before it flew and disappeared into the canopy of the trees. The lucky observers, including Oliver Tan, also noted that its loud calls in flight matched the recordings of this species.
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher
The northern black-backed race of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca started to trickle into Singapore in October. The first of the season report of the kingfisher was made on 4 October 2018 at Gardens by the Bay by Goh Bak Seng, and the bird remained there for several days, allowing many birders and photographers to view it. Another bird was spotted on Pulau Ubin on 6 October 2018 by Lim Kim Seng. On 18 October 2018, the species was reported at Satay by the Bay by Billy Tey and at Kallang Sector 2 by Richard Ngo.
The Gardens by the Bay kingfisher subsequently found itself in the local news after it was attacked by a White-breasted Waterhen while drying out on the floor of the reed bed on 6 October 2018, and was rescued by the Gardens staff and two NSS Bird Group members. The bird was subsequently released back to the Gardens by one of the Bird Group members on 7 October 2018.
Wells (1997:518-521) noted that the species migrates nocturnally, and that about 65 per cent of birds surveyed at lighthouses were first winter birds. This suggested that the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (black-backed race) has a relatively low rate of survival.
Central Catchment Nature Reserve
The first Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica of the season was spotted at Bukit Timah on 6 October 2018 by Richard White, who also spotted a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus on Bukit Timah Hill on 15 October 2018, along with a flock of about 11 Pacific Swift Apus pacificus; another flock of about 210 birds were subsequently spotted on 22 October 2018 over Jelutong Tower by Martin Kennewell. Six Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis, possibly passage migrants, were seen flying high and southwards on 20 October 2018 from Bukit Timah Hill by Richard White. Another first of the season was an Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus seen at Jelutong Tower on 19 October 2018 by Francis Yap, who also spotted a first-of-the-season Silver-backed Needletail Hirundapus cochinchinensis on 26 October 2018 from the same tower.
Residents spotted during October were a Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu at Singapore Quarry on 6 October 2018 by Yap Wee Jin, a flock of about 40 Plume-toed Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta from Bukit Timah Hill on 16 October 2018 by Richard White, and the rediscovery of the Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus, a former resident, as mentioned earlier.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
A solitary and skulking Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus was spotted within the Evolution Garden on 28 October 2018, along with a female Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis at Symphony Lake by Geoff Lim.
A Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda, first for the season, was spotted at Bidadari on 12 October 2018 by Kozi Ichiyama, and continued to be seen till 27 October 2018 by many observers. Also spotted on 12 October 2018 at Bidadari was a first winter Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus by Art Toh and Steven Cheong; three more of the same species of Flycatcher were also seen along the former cemetery’s perimeter on 27 October 2018 by Tuck Loong and others. In addition, a Cinereous Bulbul Hemixos cinereus, a non-breeding visitor, was recorded at Bidadari on 29 October 2018 by Terry Chen.
About 1,000 Barn Swallow Hirunda rustica were reported to be roosting at the HDB estate located within Yishun Avenue 7 on 10 October 2018 by Esther Ong, while about 200-plus Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, along with a White Wagtail Motacilla alba of the rare lugens subspecies and a number of Forest Wagtail Dendroanthus indicus were spotted at Yishun Street 11 on 12 October 2018 by Veronica Foo and Henrietta Woo.
Several rare and uncommon birds were spotted on Pulau Tekong. These include an Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus (3 October 2018), Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus (6 October 2018), the rare and endangered Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes (10 October 2018), and a single Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata (13 October 2018), all by Frankie Cheong.
The neighbouring island of Pulau Ubin yielded several notable species as well. A good find was a Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus photographed at Jejawi Tower on 21 October 2018 by Diane Campbell. Since the first ever record of this species in Singapore in 2013, there are less than ten records of this rare non-breeding visitor. Participants of the joint NParks-NSS surveys noted a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea on 6 October 2018 (See Toh Yew Wai), a Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis on 6 October 2018, a Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes and two Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica on 28 October 2018 (Lim Kim Keang). Other observers spotted a Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica at Chek Jawa on 14 October 2018 (Martin Kennewell), and a resident Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis at Balai Quarry on 28 October 2018 (Diane Campbell). Two Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus, the firsts for the season, were also seen at Pulau Ubin on 14 October by Pary Sivaraman and a few others.
Other birds spotted in eastern Singapore include a Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata at Pasir Ris Park on 17 October 2018 by Wang Wen; a juvenile Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus rescued on the grounds of Bedok Green Primary School on 19 October 2018 by school staff and subsequently released by Isabelle Lee; a first-for-the-season flock of seven White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis along Changi Coastal Road by Ramesh T.; and a Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata at Changi Point Ferry Terminal on 30 October 2018 by Lim Kim Seng.
A rare Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius was spotted on 2 October 2018 at the Labrador Power Station by Art Toh, while two Daurian Starlings Agrospar sturninus were seen at Satay-by-the-Bay on 28 October 2018, and a Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus at the nearby Marina Barrage on 31 October 2018 by Martin Kennewell.
The southern ridges also yielded a rare Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus on 20 & 21 October 2018 (Adrian Silas Tay & See Toh Yew Wai, respectively), 23 Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum on 21 October 2018 by Low Choon How, and up to five White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus on 28 October 2018 by Daniel Ong and Martin Kennewell.
A notable resident species spotted in the south was the House Swift Apus nipalensis at Kent Ridge Park and Henderson Wave on 20 October 2018 by Alan Owyong and Zacc HD, respectively.
SBWR remains an important bird area in Western Singapore, attracting and holding residents and migrants alike. Notable migrants include two Long-toed Stint Calidris submimuta on 8 October 2018 by Stuart Campbell, a first-of-the-season Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus on 9 October 2018 by Subha & Raghav, another first-of-the-season Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata by Feroz also on 9 October 2018, and a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica on 16 October 2018 by Stuart Campbell. Notable residents/NBV include the Abbott’s Babbler Malacocinla abbotii and Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, spotted on 2 October 2018 by Lawrence Eu.
Kranji Marshes and the adjoining grasslands a stone’s throw away yielded several species, including a first-for-the-season Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps over the Marshes on 6 October 2018 by Tan Kok Hui, two Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus at the Marshes on 20 October 2018 by Martin Kennewell, 18 Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum on 28 October 2018 by Pary Sivaraman & Martin Kennewell, as well as Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus in the fields adjacent to the Marshes on 30 October 2018 by Martin Kennewell.
Other birds spotted in the west include White Wagtail Motacilla alba on 14 October 2018 by Felix Wong, Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea on 18 October 2018 by Art Toh, more than 300 roosting Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis at Eng Kong Terrace on 21 October 2018 by Richard White, a juvenile Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor on 22 October 2018 by Amin (Last Romeo) at West Coast Park, and a flock of first-of-the-season Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus seven strong at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) grounds on 31 October 2018 by James Lambert.
Bird Collisions into Buildings
The migratory Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis is a much sought after species by birders and photographers alike because of its strikingly beautiful plumage. Normally residing in wooded areas, the species could be found all over the country at the start of the migration season. It was unfortunate that the pitta, along with the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, attracted considerable attention in social media, as it is one of four ‘super colliders’, a term used for species whose fatalities exceeded 20 specimens collected during a period of study by Low, Yong, Tan, OwYong and Chia (2017) on migratory bird collisions in Singapore.
This season, one pitta was reported to have crashed but survived at Jurong West on 3 October 2018, by Serena Chew. Three others were not so fortunate on 13 October 2018. They were found dead at Bedok, Tampines and Joo Chiat, and collected by David Tan.
Other collisions include a female Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane, which survived a collision at MacPherson on 25 October 2018, reported by Peng Ah Huay; an Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus which survived a collision at Chinatown on 29 October 2018, reported by Kenneth Koh and a Pallas’ Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola, which survived a collision on 29 October 2018 on Jurong Island, reported by Lim Kim Chuah.
The month yielded a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela on 16 October 2018 at Kent Ridge Park, by Veronica Foo, and the second half saw the onset of migratory raptors drifting into Singapore. Raptor watchers keeping vigil at Henderson Wave spotted Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus on 21 October 2018 (2 birds), 26 October 2018 (2 birds) and 27 October 2018 (2 bird) by See Toh Yew Wai & friends, Sandra Chia & Oliver Tan, and Francis Yap, respectively. A first-for-the-season Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes was spotted on 22 October 2018 by Zacc HD, while a kettle of 29 birds were spotted from Hindhede Nature Park on 29 October 2018 by Richard White. Other raptors included a first-for-the-season Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga at Henderson Wave on 27 October 2018 by Alan Owyong, and a first-for-the-season Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii at Pang Sua Connector on 30 October 2018 photographed by Fadzrun Adnan, identified by James Eaton. For a more detailed report on raptors, please refer to the NSS Bird Group’s latest raptor report.
World Migratory Bird Day & the Conservation of the Mandai Mangroves & Mudflats
The World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was initiated in 2006. Originally held once a year, the campaign is now held twice a year, on the second Saturday of May and October. The WMBD was celebrated at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Saturday, 13 October 2018, with the participation of NSS Bird Group. There were daily programs during the week leading up to WMBD.
The East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF) is one of the world’s major flyways. Spanning 37 countries from Far Eastern Russia, China, Korea, Japan, South-east Asia and the western Pacific, used by about 50 million migratory waterbirds, and countless land bird species comprising 492 species (Birdlife, 2018). Singapore is used as a stopover for many species of land and water birds.
On 7 October 2018, which was the 25th anniversary of SBWR, NParks made an important announcement that the Mandai mangrove and mudflats would be conserved as a nature park as research has shown that shorebirds feed at these habitats during low tide, and return to roost at SBWR when the tides come in. The area will open as a nature park in 2022. You can read more about how these habitats were saved through the contribution of ordinary volunteers, in partnership with government authorities here.
Pelagic Trip along Straits of Singapore
A pelagic trip organised by Martin Kennewell and friends on 13 Ocotber 2018 yielded a Common Tern Sterna hirundo and a Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus. Note that these may not have been in Singapore waters.
This report is compiled by Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong, and 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 Francis Yap, Angela Yeo, Geoff Lim, Steven Cheong, Terry Chen, Frankie Cheong, Terence Tan, Danny Khoo, Stuart Campbell, Pary Sivaraman, David Tan, Zacc HD, and Fadzrun Adnan for the use of their photos.
Birdlife (2018) East Asia Australasian Factsheet. Accessed from the Internet on 11 Nov 2018 at https://www.birdlife.org/sites/default/files/attachments/8_East_Asia_Australasia_Factsheet.pdf.
Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of Thai-Malay Peninsula. Vol. 1. Non-passerines. London: Academic Press.
List of Bird Sightings in report:
|Ardeidae||Von Schrenck’s Bittern||19-Oct|
|Crested Serpent Eagle||16-Oct|
|Greater Spotted Eagle||27-Oct|
|Eastern Marsh Harrirer||21-Oct|
|Strigidae||Buffy Fish Owl||6-Oct|
|Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher||4-Oct|
|Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher||6-Oct|
|Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher||6-Oct|
|Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher||18-Oct|
|Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher||18-Oct|
|Asian House Martin||20-Oct|
|Asian House Martin||21-Oct|
|Phylloscopidae||Eastern Crowned Warbler||29-Oct|
|Acrocephalidae||Black-browed Reed Warbler||6-Oct|
|Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler||29-Oct|
|Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher||9-Oct|
|Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher||10-Oct|
|Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher||12-Oct|
|Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher||15-Oct|
|Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher||28-Oct|
|Siberian Blue Robin||25-Oct|
|Blue Rock Thrush||2-Oct|
|Chloropseidae||Lesser Green Leafbird||25-Oct|