Monthly Archives: January 2020

Singapore Raptor Report – December 2019

PF, posted 121219, SBWR, Ang T H, japonensis and calidus,, levelled

A fortuitous photo of 2 Peregrine Falcons of different subspecies: Left – juvenile japonensis, Right – juvenile calidus (thinner moustachial stripe & paler), at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 12 Dec 2019, by Ang T. H.

Summary for migrant species:

Two Peregrine Falcons interacting with each other at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on the 12th were captured on camera by Ang T. H., providing an excellent opportunity for plumage comparison between the two similar-looking subspecies. For the month, we had 11 migrant type (japonensis/calidus) Peregrine Falcons. Interestingly, two adult japonensis were perched within meters of each other at Jurong East, on the 11th.

PF, 111219, Jurong East, Johnny Chew, 2 birds, crop

Two adult Peregrine Falcons together, at Jurong East, on 11 Dec 2019, by Johnny Chew

Just a few days before the year came to a close, on the afternoon of the 28th, two huge Himalayan Vultures flew over Hindhede Quarry, surprising birders who were there looking for a waterbird, the vultures eventually settled on the cliff edge for the night. The next morning, birders were out in force to marvel at these two rare vagrants, which took flight at mid-morning and were mobbed by the resident White-bellied Sea Eagles. They were seen shortly after at Jelutong Tower, thermalling high up.

Himalayan Vulture, 281219, Hindhede, Lee Van Hien 2

Himalayan Vultures, at Hindhede Nature Park, on 28 Dec 2019, by Lee Van Hien

The single wintering immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle was photographed twice at Dairy Farm Nature Park, on the 4th & 6th. The only Common Kestrel, a female/juvenile type, was recorded at Tuas South on the 22nd & 23rd. Only one Common Buzzard, an adult, was seen/photographed at Holland Village Car Park on the 25th & 26th.

An adult female Chinese Sparrowhawk, probably the same individual from previous years, and which returned on October 2019, was still wintering at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West. Elsewhere, there were three other individuals, one each at Dairy Farm Nature Park (juvenile), Pasir Ris Park (adult female), and Changi Business Park.

Three Western Ospreys were recorded: two at Kranji Marshes, and another at Yishun Pond. Five Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded: three at the Pasir Ris – Lorong Halus – Coney Island area, and two at Changi Business Park.

BB, 021219, PRP CP C, Sim Chip Chye 2

Black Baza, at Pasir Ris Park on 2 Dec 2019, by Sim Chip Chye

Finally, we come to the most abundant migrant raptors. 15 Japanese Sparrowhawks and 33 Black Bazas were recorded, including 13 bazas at the Botanic Gardens on the 25th. The Oriental Honey Buzzard is tops again with 84 birds, including many juveniles and a small number of dark morphs.

CG, 221219, PRP, Chan Yoke Meng, with prey

Crested Goshawk, with prey (Yellow Bittern), at Pasir Ris Park, on 22 Dec 2019, by Chan Yoke Meng

Highlights for sedentary species:

The notable sightings for resident raptors include that of the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle, which was recorded three times: one at Pulau Ubin on the 1st, one at Malcolm Road on the 3rd, and an adult at Dairy Farm Nature Park on the 16th.

CG, posted 311219, PRP CP B, Dennis Lim, discarding innards 3

Crested Goshawk, eating a rat, at Pasir Ris Park, on 31 Dec 2019, by Dennis Lim

Nesting-related records were reported for four species. There was a nest of a pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles, with one chick, high up a tall tree at Little Guilin. Nest-building activity was observed for the Brahminy Kite at Lim Chu Kang area, and for the Crested Goshawk at Pasir Ris. At Bishan, the chick of a pair of Spotted Wood Owls had already fledged.

CG, 281219, Southern Ridges, Tay Kian Guan 2, edit

Crested Goshawk, with prey (Javan Myna), at the Southern Ridges, on 28 Dec 2019, by Tay Kian Guan

At Dairy Farm Nature Park, a juvenile ernesti Peregrine Falcon was photographed in flight on the 8th. The other resident raptors recorded were the Black-winged Kite, Changeable Hawk Eagle, and the common White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Table 1

For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – December 2019

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Ang T H, Lee Van Hien, Chan Yoke Meng, Sim Chip Chye, Johnny Chew, Dennis Lim, and Tay Kian Guan for the use of their photos.

Singapore Bird Report – December 2019

by Geoff Lim.
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

Decembers are generally slow months with relatively fewer sightings as many birders are out of town with their families, and the wet weather doesn’t help. The last month of the year turned out to be an exciting one, with a possible first record of the Taiga Flycatcher, the spectacular irruption of Asian Openbills, mysterious appearances by the Japanese Tit and Blue Whistling Thrush, and the visitation at the end of the month by Himalayan Griffons.

Taiga Flycatcher at Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, is a dimunitive flycatcher which habitually feeds from low perches at the forest edge or thickets. It breeds in temperate Siberia and winters in Southeast Asia, Thai-Malay Peninsula and NW Borneo, among other places (Wells, 2007: 522-523). Largely uniform ash brown with dark upper tail coverts and flight feathers, the bird could be overlooked as an Asian Brown Flycatcher if it did not perch “cocked”, with its tail held at an angle from its body, showing off the conspicuous white on the outer edge of the tail feathers.

1. Taiga

Taiga Flycatcher photographed on 9 December 2019 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens by David Fur.

On 1 December 2019, news broke that a Taiga Flycatcher had been seen & photographed by a few birders / photographers (Lim Kim Seng, Roy Toh, & others) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens eco-lake the day prior. They had been looking for the Daurian Redstart, which failed to show, but were treated to a bird that had never been recorded in Singapore. On the afternoon of 1 December 2019, Mike Hooper spotted the bird at the same vicinity, and the bird was seen by many birders during the subsequent days. It was last seen on 13 December 2019 by Yang Chee Meng.

Local birders quickly realised that the bird could be Singapore’s first ever record, though Wells noted that the species is known to be a migrant to West Malaysia. Usually solitary, the bird is known to take insects by sallying from perches in habitats ranging from mangrove forests, coastal scrub, lowland forest clearings, and overgrown rubber gardens, though there have been instances of birds dropping to the open ground. Photographers affirmed these observations as the solitary flycatcher often remained close to the ground and within thickets. During my observation of the bird on 1 December 2019, I also noted that the bird dropped to the ground on several occasions, appearing to be feeding.

Asian Openbills over Singapore

On 6 December 2019, Oliver Tan found two Asian Openbills, Anastomus oscitans, at Jurong Lake Gardens, and on the next day, 7 December 2019, an airborne invasion of hundreds of Asian Openbills into Singapore’s airspace took everyone by surprise. Veronica Foo and Betty Shaw were at Kranji Marshes for the monthly opening of the Kranji Marshes’ core areas when they were stunned by the sheer number of birds that took to the air around 7:15am that morning.  A rough count suggested an estimated 300 to 400 birds were present. Based on records compiled by Martin Kennewell from eBird submissions by many observers, flocks of the Asian Openbill continued to be spotted all over Singapore, from Tuas to Sentosa, to Changi, to Yishun, throughout the month. On 12 December, Oliver Tan counted 1,500 birds over NSRCC Changi. The birds were reliably seen around the fields near Kranji Marshes, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane and Turut Track, given the abundance of apple snails in the waterlogged fields.  Subsequently, several larger flocks were seen, the largest being a flock of 5,000 birds flying over Eastwood Estate / Sungei Bedok, on 25 December 2019, recorded by  Oliver Tan.

aob

An Asian Openbill, showing its ‘open bill’, at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, 23 Dec 2019, by Tan Gim Cheong

2. AOB

Asian Openbills in flight over Kranji Marsh on 7 December 2019. Photographed by Darren Leow.

3. AOB eclipse

Asian Openbills over Marina Barrage during the annular solar eclipse on 26 December 2019. by Kwok Tuck Loong.

Prior to this irruption, Asian Openbills were a rarity. The earliest record was in January 2013 near Seletar Airport; Francis Yap’s account of his search for the birds when they were first reported on our shores. The second was of a solitary bird in March 2019.

According to Dr Yong Ding Li, an ornithologist with the conservation group BirdLife International, the birds may have been driven south into Singapore by unseasonably dry weather in the Mekong basin (Straits Times, 8 December 2019).

Himalayan Vultures at Hindhede

Shirley Ng and her friends spotted two Himalayan Vultures, Gyps himalayensis, at around 6pm at Hindhede Park on 28 December 2019 while looking at the Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, in the pond. Birders and photographers venturing to the park were delighted to see the two birds the next morning, as the pair remained perched until the late morning, when they took off into the air, and were spotted at Jelutong Tower by Vincent Ng.

The Himalayan Vulture is the largest Asian Gyps vulture and is widespread in the mountains of China, South Asia and Central Asia (BirdLife 2013).  In a study conducted in 2008, two Asian ornithologists (Yong & Kasorndorkbua, 2008) noted that there had been over 30 records of the vulture’s occurrence in Southeast Asia between 1979 and 2008. The records for Singapore were clustered between the months of December, January and February, and were notably dominated by juveniles, including nine birds at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 12 January 1992. The authors opined that the dispersal could be attributable to climate change, deforestation and hunting, though natural patterns of post-fledging dispersal and navigational inexperience may have contributed to their appearance outside their regular range.

A compilation of Himalayan Vulture sightings since 1989 is appended below.

table

Table 1 – Himalayan Vulture Sightings in Singapore (adapted from Yong & Kasorndorkbua, 2008).

While the occurrence of the vultures in Singapore is interesting, their survival in Singapore is doubtful given the lack of carrion (see Latif & Osman, 2016, which reported that the bird discovered at Toa Payoh was found to be in a weakened state and the bones on its neck could be felt while the bird was covered with mites).

4. Capture HV

One of the two Himalayan Vultures taking off on 29 December 2019. Photographed by Danny Khoo.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Visitors to the CCNR and fringe areas spotted a variety of species. On 8 December 2019, a Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, was spotted on 8 December 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) by Russell Boyman.  A few days later on 13 December 2019, between 20 to 30 Eyebrowed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, were  flying in a southeasterly direction from the vantage of Jelutong Tower and was reported by Francis Yap,  who also spotted the locally rare Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Dicaeum agile, on 16 December 2019 at DFNP. Observers who subsequently looked for the canopy-dwelling flowerpecker reported about three birds, with at least one juvenile sighted.  Other than the two Himalayan Vulture first seen by Shirley Ng at Hindhede Park on 28 December 2019 and the Oriental Darter, there were two Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, seen on 29 December 2019 at DFNP by Oliver Tan.

5. TBFP

Thick-billed Flowerpecker at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Photographed on 21 December 2019 by Lee Van Hien.

Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)

Apart from the earlier mentioned Taiga Flycatcher, visitors also spotted a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 3 December 2019, which was reported by Kwok Tuck Loong, and a Christmas Eve sighting of a Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, on 24 December 2019 within the garden grounds by Art Toh.

6. HP

Hooded Pitta at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 24 December 2019 by Art Toh.

Central Singapore

The central region yielded reports of a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 14 December 2019, at Fort Canning, by William Mahoney, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, on Christmas Day, 25 December 2019, at Bidadari by Norhafiani A Majid, and a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, on 27 December 2019 at Duxton Pinnacles by Chen Boon Chong.

Northern Singapore

A very rare Dusky Warbler, Phylloscopus fuscatus, was photographed on 22 December 2019 along Yishun Pond and within the grounds of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital by Keith Hutton. The Dusky Warbler breeds in Siberia and China, and winters across a wide range, including the Himalayan foothills, the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, South China and SE Asia, including Peninsular Malaysia, where it prefers the understorey and floor of various forest types such as mangroves and regenerated growths following disturbance (Wells, 2007: 266-267).  Singapore’s records have been sparse, in 1994 and 1995 only. Both had been records from the Tuas reclaimed land.

7. Dusky Warbler, 251219, KTP, Kelvin Yoong

Dusky Warbler at the grounds of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on 25 December 2019 by Kelvin Yoong

8. DW

Dusky Warbler, ventral view, at the grounds of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on 25 December 2019 by Geoff Lim.

Other recorded sightings in the north were a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, and a dark morph Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhyncus, at Punggol Park on 28 December 2019 by Norhafiani A. Majid.

9. BWP

Blue-winged Pitta seen on 28 December 2019 at Punggol Park by Norhafiani A. Majid.

Eastern Singapore

On 2 December 2019, the Jurong Bird Park received, for treatment, an injured Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, that was found at Tanah Merah. Unfortunately, the owl succumbed to its injuries. On 7 December 2019, an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, was spotted at the park connector from ECP to GBTB by Manju Gang. On the same day (7 December 2019), a Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, was seen at Pasir Ris Park by Michael Leong. While visiting the woods near Changi Business Park on 22 December 2019, T. Ramesh spotted a Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides.

Across the sea, a Chinese Egret, Egretta eulophotes, was spotted on 20 December on Pulau Tekong 2019 by Frankie Cheong, while a Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus, was seen on Pulau Ubin on 21 December 2019 by Martin Kennewell, who subsequently spotted two Lesser Crested Tern, Thalasseus bengalensis, along Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin on 28 December 2019.

Southern Singapore

An Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, was seen on 29 December 2019 at the Southern Ridges by Dhanushri Munasinghe.

Western Singapore

Kicking off bird sightings in western Singapore were two House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, an introduced species, spotted on 1 December 2019 at Tuas South by Gahya Arasu. On 6 December 2019, a rare Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, was photographed at the Jurong Lake Gardens by Nigel Tan. A rare Stejneger’s Stonechat, Saxicola stejnegeri, was photographed by Lester Tan at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 22 December 2019, and present for the remainder of the month.

10. CHGP

Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon at Jurong Lake Garden on 6 December 2019 by Nigel Tan.

Apart from the spectacular sighting of more than a thousand Asian Openbills at Kranji Marsh and Harvest Link on 7 December 2019 by Veronica Foo and other birdwatchers, other species reported included a Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, on 23 December 2019 at Tuas South by See Toh Yew Wai, and a Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, on 27 December 2019 at West Coast Park by Tay Kian Guan.  On 28 December 2019, a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, was seen along Turut Track by Art Toh.

Unusual Sightings

On 1 December 2019, Seng Beng posted a video of a Tit taken at Pasir Ris Park the day prior, asking if it was a Cinereous or Japanese Tit. Subsequently, good photographs obtained by Francis Yap and other birders showed that it was a Japanese Tit, Parus minor. It was seen by many on subsequent days, and the last report of it was on 14 December 2019, by Adrian Silas Tay. Most birders reported seeing only one bird, but Isabelle Lee reported seeing a second bird on 2 December 2019. Interestingly, the expected species is the Cinereous Tit, Parus cinerea, which is resident in the mangrove forests in Malaysia, while the Japanese Tit is known to be resident in northern Thailand and beyond.

11. JT

Japanese Tit photographed from Pasir Ris Park by Francis Yap, posted on 4 December 2019.

Another interesting bird sighted in December was the Blue Whistling Thrush, Myophonus caeruleus, spotted by Felix Wong on 7 December 2019 at Fort Canning Park. Interestingly, it was of the black-billed caeruleus subspecies, the nearest known wintering area being northern Thailand, with birds straying towards central Thailand. The whistling thrush, which had a broken upper mandible tip, remained in the same location for many days and was last reported on 24 December 2019 by Keita Sin. The crassirostris subspecies, which sports a yellow beak, is found in Peninsular Malaysia (Wells, 2007: 480-481); but they do not occur south of the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur.

12. BWT

Blue Whistling Thrush photographed on 8 December 2019 at Fort Canning Park by Francis Yap.

========================
Strait of Singapore

A pelagic trip along the Strait of Singapore (a multi-national stretch of water) on 14 December 2019 led by Martin Kennewell yielded three Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, Bridled Tern, Onychoprion anaethetus, Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana, and three White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus.

 

This report is compiled and by written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, and individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, Danny Khoo, Darren Leow, David Fur, Francis Yap, Geoff Lim, Kelvin Yoong, Kwok Tuck Loong, Lee Van Hien, Nigel Tan, and Norhafiani A. Majid  for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCES

BirdLife (2013). Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis. Archived 2014 Discussion. Accessed from the Internet at https://globally-threatened-bird-forums.birdlife.org/2013/09/himalayan-vulture-gyps-himalayensis-request-for-information/

Latif M. R., & Osman F. M. b. (2016). Himalayan Vulture at Toa Payoh. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2016:5. Obtained from the internet at https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/app/uploads/2017/04/sbr2016-005.pdf

Tan, A. (2019, December 8). “Hundreds of Asian Openbill storks spotted in Singapore.” Straits Times. Accessed from the Internet at https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/hundreds-of-asian-openbill-storks-in-singapore-in-rare-sighting-with-possible.

Wells, D. R. (2007). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol. 2, London: Christopher Helm.

Yong, D. L. and Kasorndorkbua, C. (2008). “The Status of the Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis in South-East Asia”, Forktail, 24:57-62.

 

The Thing with Starlings

The Thing with Starlings.

We have twelve species of starlings in our Checklist. Six are in Cat A, one in Cat C, five in Cat E.

20200122_130152

Cat A-Species recorded in a wild state during last 50 years.

Only the Asian Glossy Starling is a resident, the rest are either winter visitors, passage migrants or vagrants.

Cat C-Introduced species that may or may not be self sustaining.

Black-winged Starling. A small breeding population on St. John’s Island in the 1980s but had died out after 1995. There was a record from Queenstown (Chris Hails).

Cat E-Species that are suspected of being released or escapees.

Let’s take a look at some recent starling sightings and how they were treated.

  1. Red-billed Starling (Vagrant)

First recorded on 25 December 1993 at Lorong Halus. Listed in Cat D- Species which may be wild but possibility of escape and release cannot be ruled out. It was moved to Cat A in 2017 after a sighting at Gardens by the Bay on 30 November 2013 and another at Tampines Eco Green on 27 Dec 2015.

21-306 A Red-billed Starling.

Third record of the Red-billed Starling at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin.

  1. Chestnut-cheeked Starling ( Vagrant)

zacchd-04

The Bidadari Chestnut-cheeked Starling in 2014 by Zahidi Hamid..

First record at Loyang on December 1987. Accepted and listed in Cat A as their main wintering range is in the Philippines and a second bird was recorded in Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia eight weeks later. Our second record was at Bidadari on October 2014 followed by two sightings last year. One over at Henderson Wave on 16 November and the other at Pandan Canal in December.

3. Rosy Starling ( Vagrant )

Rosy Starling at GBTB

The pristine adult Rosy Starling at Gardens by the Bay on September 2016.

Several records during the winter months at Tuas grasslands and Changi Beach were convincing enough for it to be listed under Cat A. However the pristine adult that appeared at the Gardens by the Bay on September 2016 was more likely to be an escapee due to the early date and tame behaviour.

WhatsApp Image 2020-01-20 at 15.36.08

Frankie Cheong’s photo of the Brahminy Starling taken at Bidadari in 2013.

  1. Brahminy Starling. ( Escapee/released)

The first sighting at the grasslands at Marine East on February 2008 was assigned to Cat E for suspected escapee and released birds. In the past seven years we had three more sightings, Bidadari on 3 December 2013, GBTB on 13 September 2016 and Punggol Barat on 8 February 2016. No records were submitted for these sightings presumably of its popularity as cage bird due to its bright colorful plumage. So this species remained in Cat E. A good candidate for re-evaluation.

Francis Yap 2

Brahminy Starling photographed at Punggol Barat by Francis Yap in 2016.

Terry Heppel

A pristine Brahminy Starling shot at the Gardens by the Bay on 10 September 2016 by Terry Heppell. It was reported to be tame and very approachable. 

  1. Asian Pied Starling ( Escapee/released)

Small numbers seen at Choa Chu Kang, Saribum and Kranji Reservoir since 1982. A pair nested at the NSRCC Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course but no chicks were seen. An individual was photographed at Harvest Link this month.

Pary Sivaraman 2

This Asian Pied Starling made an appearance at Harvest Link. Photographed by Pary Sivaraman on 8 January 2020.

  1. White-cheeked Starling ( Status to be determined)

One was sighted at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 16 January 2020 for the first time ( Martin Kennewell). The wintering range for this starling is Southern China and had been recorded in Myanmar, Northern Thailand and Philippines as vagrants. There were no records in Malaysia. Their range do not favour the vagrancy of this starling here due to the vast geographic gap, but Dave Bakewell pointed out that this starling is a mid and long range migrant, navigation routes, population size of the species should be taken into consideration as well.

1-DSC00357

White-cheeked Starling at Seletar Aerospace Drive by Alan OwYong. Status pending. 

The plumage of this individual did not show signs of recent captivity. Captive birds do show signs of feather wear and tear or presence of bird lime but birds that have escaped or released can moult to a new set of feathers if it survived in the wild for a time.

This individual was reported to be wary of people and skittish, a sign of a wild bird?

The Records Committee will have to decide on the status of this starling if and when they received the submission. Rightly or wrongly the decision will be made by a committee. Comments and insights from our regional friends will be considered. The status of birds do change over time and the Records Committee will need to re-evaluate them from time to time. Timely submissions will help with the evaluation.

Tou Jing Yi of Ipoh sums it up best “ Starling is super headache when it comes to national records”.

Many thanks to Alvin Seng, Zahidi Hamid, Francis Yap, Terry Heppell, Frankie Cheong, Pary Sivaraman and Alan OwYong for the use of their photographs

References:

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

Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia

Boonsong Lekaul & Philip D. Round.  A Guide to the Birds of Thailand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2019

Shikra, 211119, Jelutong, Alex Fok, crop

The first record of the Shikra, a juvenile on 21 Nov 2019, at Jelutong Tower, by Alex Fok. Note the long tail, uneven spotting of the underwing coverts, and belly heavily marked by thick streaks (the last is variable).

Summary for migrant species:

It’s another amazing November, with 21 migrant raptor species recorded, compared to last November’s already high count of 18 migrant raptor species. On the 21st, Alex Fok was at Jelutong Tower when he photographed an interesting looking accipiter that was to become the first Shikra for Singapore! Previously thought to be resident where it occurs, the Shikra is now known to be a short distance migrant, with thousands passing Chumphon, Thailand during autumn migration, though only a small number have been recorded in northern Peninsular Malaysia.

Another lucky birder was Pary Sivaraman, who was at Ulu Pandan park connector on the 6th when he photographed a distant raptor that turned out to be a rare Short-toed Snake Eagle. An immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle seemed to be wintering in Singapore, being photographed at Ulu Pandan on the 9th, seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on the 14th and photographed again at Bukit Timah Hill vicinity on the 30th.

STSE, 061119, Sg Ulu Pandan PCN, Pary Sivaraman, crop

Short-toed Snake Eagle, 6 Nov 2019, Sungei Ulu Pandan park connector, by Pary Sivaraman

The third Besra for the season (this rare raptor is seldom recorded, and if we are lucky, we usually get one in a season) was photographed at Singapore Quarry on third November, what a coincidence, and by three lucky observers – Keita Sin, Dillen Ng and Fang Twangqi. This Besra was an adult female, interestingly the only previous record of the Besra at Singapore Quarry was also an adult female on 23 Jan 2010.

Besra, 031119, Sg Quarry, Keita Sin 2

Besra, adult female, at Singapore Quarry, 3 Nov 2019, by Keita Sin

It was an exceptional month for the Greater Spotted Eagle, with 5 records just on one day – third November – Zacc HD photographed a very rare pale morph at Neo Tiew Harvest Link; Bryan Lim photographed two in flight at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve at 9:27am; Goh Cheng Teng photographed another at Tuas at around 11am; and Francis Yap photographed one at Ulu Pandan at 5:24pm, amazing. The next day, 4 Nov 2019, Sue Shuttleworth photographed a juvenile at the Botanic Gardens, perched on a bare branch. On the 6th, Choong YT photographed two eagles at Kent Ridge Park; on the 9th, Zacc HD photographed another eagle at Henderson Waves; and on the 10th, two eagles were recorded/photographed by Oliver Tan, Woo Jia Wei and See Toh Yew Wai. All in, up to 10 Greater Spotted Eagles were recorded over a period of eight days.

GSE, 031119, Neo Tiew Harvest Link, 1733h, pale form, Zacc HD, crop

Greater Spotted Eagle, the rare pale (fulvescens) morph, at Neo Tiew Harvest Link, 3 Nov 2019, by Zacc HD

The beginning of November proved to be a good time for raptors at the southern ridges, with a Pied Harrier each, on the 2nd (female at Henderson Waves), 3rd (juvenile at Kent Ridge Park) and 4th (juvenile at Henderson Waves); followed by a juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier on the 6th, and a juvenile Black Kite on the 7th, both at Henderson Waves. Elsewhere, single records included a Northern Boobook at Tuas on the 5th, an Oriental Scops Owl at Jurong on the 23rd, and a Common Kestrel at Tuas South on the 30th.

Six Common Buzzards were recorded, one at Kent Ridge Park on 7th morning, one each at Henderson waves on 7th afternoon, 9th, 10th, one at Changi Business Park on 10th & 12th, and another at West Coast Park on the 26th. At least half (3 birds) were pale morph juveniles. Eleven Grey-faced Buzzards were recorded, same as last November – two at Tuas (one each on the 2nd & 30th), nine at Henderson Waves (one on 2nd, 3rd & 10th, and six on the 7th).

CB, 121119, CBP, James Gan 2

Common Buzzard, juvenile pale morph, at Changi Business Park, 12 Nov 2019, by James Gan

CB, 261119, WCP, Keita Sin 2

Common Buzzard, juvenile pale morph, at West Coast Park, 26 Nov 2019, by Keita Sin

Five Booted Eagles were recorded, a dark morph at Henderson Waves on the 3rd, a pale & a dark morph at Bukit Timah summit on the 10th, one at Pulau Ubin on the 18th, and another dark morph at the Botanic Gardens on the 21st. Eight Western Ospreys were recorded, with half probably on migration across the southern ridges. Of the eleven Peregrine Falcons recorded, a juvenile photographed at Neo Tiew Road by Pary Sivaraman on the 29th was identified as a calidus subspecies by Dr. Chaiyan.

Fourteen Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded, most of them (11) were on passage migration at Henderson Waves between the 1st and 16th, including a flock of 4 birds captured by Adrian Silas Tay on the 9th, and one with a damaged wing on the 16th; one was at Satay by the Bay on the 8th, another at the Botanic Gardens on the 23rd & 24th; and one wintering at Changi Business Park from 18th to the end of the month.

JB, 091119, HW, AST, crop

Jerdon’s Baza captured in formation! Henderson Waves, 9 Nov 2019, by Adrian Silas Tay.

JB, 161119, HW, STYW

Jerdon’s Baza, Henderson Waves, 16 Nov 2019, by See Toh Yew Wai.

Thirty nine Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them over Henderson Waves, while an adult female, likely the same individual, returned again to winter at Ang Mo Kio. 194 Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them also at Henderson Waves, with 47 birds on the 23rd; an adult female at Kent Ridge Park on the 6th was missing an inner primary flight feather, giving it the appearance of ‘6 fingers’, and it made also an appearance at Henderson waves on the 19th.

JSH, 061119, KRP, Zacc HD, crop

Japanese Sparrowhawk, appearing to have 6 fingers instead of 5 fingers due to moult, at Kent Ridge Park, 6 Nov 2019, by Zacc HD

We had 803 Black Bazas this month, with 100 birds passing Sentosa on the 6th and 180 birds passing Henderson Waves on the 10th. Numbers for the Oriental Honey Buzzard stood at 1339, with a day high of 259 birds over Tuas on the 2nd, and 160 birds passing Hindhede Nature Park on the 19th, ahead of rain.

Highlights for sedentary species:

There were four Crested Serpent Eagles, one each at Jelutong Tower on the 10th, Pasir Ris Park on the 19th, Kranji Marsh on the 27th, and one at Pulau Ubin on the 18th & 24th. We also had a single record of a juvenile torquatus tweeddale morph of the Oriental Honey Buzzard at Ang Mo Kio on the 6th, and an ernesti Peregrine Falcon at Hindhede Nature Park on the 11th.

Nesting-related activities were observed for two resident species. Two adult White-bellied Sea Eagles were flying together on the 10th at Kent Ridge, and one eagle was carrying nesting materials; two adult Brahminy Kites at Pasir Ris Park on the 27th, carrying sticks/branches. The other resident raptors recorded included the Black-winged Kite, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Goshawk and Changeable Hawk-Eagles.

Table 1

For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – November 2019

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Alex Fok, Adrian Silas Tay, See Toh Yew Wai, Pary Sivaraman, Zacc HD, Keita Sin and James Gan for the use of their photos.