by Geoff Lim & Isabelle Lee.
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)
The highlight of October 2020 was the discovery of a new species for Singapore – the Common Swift, plus the rare Chinese Blue Flycatcher and Red-footed Booby. Most of the action was centred around Henderson Waves, as many birders welcomed the arrival of migratory raptors, among other birds. More about the major sightings of raptors can be found here in the October Raptor Report.
Common Swift – new species for Singapore
The Common Swift, Apus apus, is a large swift with a long, deeply forked tail and sharply pointed wings, and a small off-white throat patch. There are two subspecies, the nominate A. apus apus which is distributed in Europe and winters from Congo, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in Africa, and A. apus pekinensis, which is found in Central Asia, through the Himalayas and North China, and wintering in South and East Africa, particularly in Botswana and Namibia (Chantler et al, 2020). The race pekinensis is found in the Himalayas at 1500–3300 m, foraging to 4000 m, and recorded migrating at 5700 m in Ladakh.
Incredibly, not one, but two sightings, with photographs, were reported – one on 9 October 2020 by Richard White, Francis Yap & Martin Kennewell from Jelutong Tower, which was the first record for Singapore; followed by another on 27 October 2020 by Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong & Deborah Friets from Henderson Waves. There were no prior records of the species in Singapore. A long-distance migrant, reports of vagrants have been noted in oceanic islands (Chantler et al, 2020). It remains to be seen if we would see more visits by this wandering species in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks
A Blue-rumped Parrot, Psittinus cyanurus, was reported from Venus Loop on 5 October 2020 by Khoo Meilin. Other reports included the already mentioned first record of the Common Swift, Apus apus, on 9 October 2020 at Jelutong Tower by Richard White, Francis Yap & Martin Kennewell; a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, on 13 October 2020 by Joseph Lim, a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, on 17 October 2020 by Desmond Yap, a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 20 October 2020 by Andy Teo, and a Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, on 30 October 2020, by Ho Siew Mun, at Dairy Farm Nature Park.
Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)
Migratory species were also reported at SBG, with the sighting of a Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, and a white-morph Terpsiphone by Hoi Yew Khong and an Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, by Geoff Lim on 10 October 2020. A Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, was spotted on 12 October 2020 by Alan Owyong, while an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was spotted on 28 October 2020 by Victor Tan.
A Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Merops philippinus, was reported from Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on 9 October 2020 by Terence Tan, while a Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, was reported from Ang Mo Kio on 30 October 2020 by Chew Serteck.
An Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, (Black-backed subspecies) was found at Kampong Admiralty on 4 October 2020 by Hazel Ling and subsequently released in Admiralty Park. At nearby Marsiling Drive on 1 October 2020, a pair of Golden-bellied Gerygones, Gerygone sulphurea, were feeding a Little Bronze Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx minutillus, (Loh Wei).
Over at Seletar Reservoir, a number of Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, and White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus, were spotted on 10 October 2020 from Seletar Club Road by Herman Phua, while during Global Birding Weekend on 17 October 2020, an estimated 152 Grey wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, were counted at Yishun St 11 by Isabelle Lee and her friends. A pair of Banded Woodpecker, Chrysophlegma miniaceum, was seen at Hampstead Wetlands on 27 October 2020 by Jimmy Lim, while the male Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Dendrocopus moluccensis, with long bill was seen again on 26 October 2020, by Paul Lee. On 31 October 2020, a Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, was spotted within the allotment gardens of Punggol Park by Andy Chew and this difficult to see skulker drew many other birders, but promptly disappeared the next day.
Among the waders arriving on Pulau Ubin, a Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, was reported on 5 October 2020 by Tay Kian Guan; while a rare Oriental Plover, Charadrius veredus, was photographed at Chek Jawa on 19 October 2020 by Oliver Tan and friends, and the plover was reported again on 20 October 2020 by T. Ramesh and others. The last record of this bird occurred in October 2012 at Seletar Dam. At Chek Jawa on 19 October 2020, Oliver Tan and friends also recorded approximately 800 Lesser Sand Plovers, Charadrius mongolus, two Greater Sand Plovers, Charadrius leschenaultii, one Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica, seven Curlew Sandpipers, Calidris ferruginea, one Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, and 46 Red-necked Stints, Calidris ruficollis.
Also discovered in the east during its peregrinations is a Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus, spotted at Bedok South on 19 October 2020 by Kwok Tuck Loong, while a rare Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, was spotted at Marine Parade on 24 October 2020 by Thio HB. A wandering juvenile Mangrove Pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, was reported on 28 October 2020 at Pasir Ris Park by Terence Tan.
Among the various birds seen at Henderson Waves, the sighting of the second Common Swift, Apus apus, for Singapore on 27 October 2020 by Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong & Deborah Friets was of significance. The raptor sightings from this location can be viewed here in the October Raptor report.
Other southern sightings included a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, at Telok Blangah Hill Park on 13 October 2020 by Veronica Foo, a rare Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, at Pinnacle@Duxton on 15 October 2020 by Chen Boon Chong, a Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, on Sentosa on 17 October 2020 by Ros Qian, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, at Berlayer Creek on 26 October 2020 by Khoo Meilin, and a Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus, at Lazarus Island on 30 October 2020 by Tan Gim Cheong.
Visitors to Tuas on 3 October 2020 reported seeing a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, at Tuas Bay (Khoo Meilin) and a Bridled Tern, Onychoprion anaethetus, at Tuas West (Tan Kok Hui).
Jurong Lake Gardens yielded a rare male Chinese Blue Flycatcher, Cyornis glaucicomans, on 11 October 2020 (a 1-day bird), as discovered by Keita Sin and Dillen Ng, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, on 12 October 2020 by Joseph Lim, and a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 22 October 2020 by Jimmy Lim.
Over at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, a Marsh Sandpiper, Tringa stagnatilis, was spotted among the regular waders on 18 October 2020 by Alfred Chia, while a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, was seen on 29 October 2020 by Ho Siew Mun. Further away at Kranji Marsh, an Asian Openbill, Anastomus oscitans, was reported on 31 October 2020 by Martti Siponen.
Two pelagic trips were made in October 2020, on the 4th & 18th, by Francis Yap with two different groups of birders. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these pelagic trips were kept within Singapore port limits. For the second month, practically all the seabirds recorded could be treated as Singapore records. The most significant find was an immature Red-footed Booby, Sula sula, spotted by Martin Kennewell, during the trip on 4 October 2020.
The Aleutian Tern, Onychoprion aleuticus, was recorded on both trips, with approximately 24 birds on the 4th, and between 22-28 birds on the 18th. At least 34 White-winged Terns, Chlidonias leucopterus, were recorded on the 4th, and 113 birds on the 18th when a flock of 40 were feeding around the boat and a second group of 64 were roosting on a buoy. One Common Tern, Sterna hirundo, was recorded on the 4th, and two on the 18th.
Approximately 19 Greater Crested Terns, Thalasseus bergii, were recorded on the 4th, and 14 birds on the 18th. At least three Little Terns, Sterna albifrons, were recorded on the 4th, and 16 birds on the 18th. The Lesser Crested Terns, Thalasseus bengalensis, were recorded only on the 18th (10 birds), as were the Black-naped Terns, Sterna sumatrana, (2 birds).
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, 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 Norhafiani A. Majid, Herman Phua, Andy Chew, Veronica Foo, Joseph Lim, Peh Chee Ee, and Angie Cheong for allowing us to use their photographs.
Chantler, P., P. F. D. Boesman, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Common Swift (Apus apus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.comswi.01