Author Archives: Alan OwYong

About Alan OwYong

Retiree birder and photographer.

Black-crowned Night Herons – Stages of Growth.

Black-crowned Night Herons – Stages of Growth by Seng Alvin.

Black-crowned Night Herons, Nycticorax nycticorax, as the name suggests are nocturnal birds. They rest in the day and hunt at dusk. As such they do not need bright plumages like other birds. Both sexes have the same grey and white plumage. None of the guidebooks and images in Oriental Bird Club have captioned the sexes and separate them.

I was lucky that a small colony of these herons took up residence at the mangroves at my backyard, Pasir Ris Park and nested. This allows me to photograph them at various stages of growth.

These are my observations and humble assumptions:

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Juvenile birds have dull grey-brown plumage on their heads, wings, and backs, with numerous pale spots. Their underparts are paler and streaked with brown. The juvenile birds have orange eyes and duller yellowish-green legs (above). However, the eyes will begin to change to red before it grows into sub-adult stage ( below)

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From the sub-adult stage onward, I noticed that there were differences in the color of the bills.

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This is a sub-adult based on the duller greys and whites. It has a black upper mandible and a pale yellow lower mandible. Could this be a feature of a female?

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This is another sub-adult but it has an all black bill. Could this be a male bird?

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I found the same difference in bill color for the adults too. This one has a bi-colored bill.

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And this adult has a totally black bill. Is this a male bird? My next project is to try to find out if and when do the color of the lower mandible change from greenish-yellow to black for both sexes or only the males.

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During the breeding season, only the male Night Heron’s legs turns from greenish-yellow to pinky-orange (above). Their bills are all black.  It this part of color change during breeding or a feature to separate the sexes?  Your views and comments are most welcome.

 

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2017 Year in Review – Residents and Non-breeding Visitors.

2017 Year in Review- Part 3. Residents and Non-breeding Visitors.

We had several important breeding records for 2017 but the most significant was the first documented record of the successful nesting of the Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 3rd November by Mike Smith. Prior to this, all we had were sightings of juveniles being fed by their parents.

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Mike Smith’s timely photo of the hatching of the first Red-legged Crake chick at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The other notable breeding record was the sighting of a pair of Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana sitting on a nest inside a row of Mangroves at Pulau Ubin near Chek Java on 2nd January by Daniel Ong. This was our first breeding record from the north of Singapore. On 30th August, Chua Yen Kheng of Sungei Buloh proudly announced the sightings of a pair of chicks with the adult Black-backed Swamphens Porphyrio indicus at Kranji Marshes, a first since its opening and an indication of the success of the enhancement of the Marshes.

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Pair of Black-backed Swamphens with youngs at Kranji Marshes. Photo: Bari Mohamed and NParks.

A juvenile Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus was photographed at Pulau Ubin by Serin Subaraj on 18th September during an NParks survey. The adults were heard calling (Jonathan Tan of NParks). Breeding evidence of this rare owl at Ubin?

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Juvenile Barred Eagle Owl photographed by Serin Subaraj at Pulau Ubin.

The nesting of the introduced Monk Parakeets Myiopsitta monachus at Pasir Ris Park was however a little worrying as these aggressive parakeets may impact negatively on our native parrots. (Lim Kim Keang on 24th February)

Staying in Ubin, David Tan retrieved the carcass of a Black-and-Red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos on 24 August, after it crashed into a building at the Outward Bound School there. This was our third record. A female Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus was reported at Ubin on 21st September by Alan OwYong with another sighting by Martin Kennewell at Sentosa, sex unknown.

Black Hornbill Rob Arnold

The female Black Hornbill was one of the latest addition to the Checklist. Taken at Ubin by Rob Arnold.

The nationally threatened Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra was heard calling at the eastern end of the island by Lim Kim Keang and Low Choon How on 1st September. Sharinder Singh also reported seeing one across Lorong Halus on 13th May. Another rare resident seen at Pulau Ubin was the Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea, once on 1st April by Lim Kim Keang and again on 16th September by James Tann. Mike Hooper reported seeing another at Marina East on 30th July. This is the only Whistler here.

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A rare photo of the Mangrove Whistler taken at P. Ubin by James Tann in September

The Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster was reported at the Pekan Quarry on 22nd March, 4th June and 26th December. The surprise find by Thio Hui Bing at the Singapore Quarry on the same day 26th December could mean that there could be two darters around?  Seetoh Yew Wai and friends reported a skittish Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda at the southern mangrove area on 23rd September. Could this be our resident minor sub species extending its territory from Pulau Tekong? Rounding up at Ubin, a total of 68 Straw-headed Bulbuls Pycnonotus zeylanicus were recorded during a census on 4th June coordinated by Yong Ding Li. Pulau Ubin is the most important site for this globally threatened species.

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Pulau Ubin is the most important site for this globally threatened species. Photo like this by Ted Ng will be difficult to get elsewhere.

Over at the resort island of Sentosa, Lim Kim Seng had our only record of the rare introduced Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea for the year on 30th September. He also reported a White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata there on 18th September. Two other records of the White-rumped Munias came from Chinese Gardens on 3rd Aug and Kent Ridge Park Forest Walk on 16th December. Their status and origin are not too clear as recent escapees cannot be fully ruled out.

Francis Yap had the only record of the rare Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon from our Central Forest for the year with a sighting at Jelutong Tower on 17th May.

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This is the only record and photo of the nationally threatened Lesser Green Leafbird taken by Francis Yap this year inside our Central Forest.

But the secretive King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis was more cooperative with multiple sightings from Kranji Marshes on 10th February, 5th November and Seletar end on 20th February all by Martin Kennewell.

The large Lesser Adjutants Leptoptilos javanicus had been making rounds over the Kranji Marshes and Sungei Buloh areas during the last quarter of the year. Again Martin Kennewell and Con Foley were there to record the sightings on 30th September, 8th October where four birds were seen, and 4th December.

The forest loving Blue-eared Kingfishers Alcedo meninting continued with their location expansion with records coming in from Hindhede, Bukit Batok and Dairy Farm Nature Parks between 15th May and 24th June. Good news for our nationally threatened kingfisher.

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Gerals Chua’s photo of the spreading Blue-eared Kingfisher with its catch at Kranji Marshes.

This final part concludes the Bird Review for 2017. We want to thank all of you for your timely posts in the various facebook groups, e-forum and alerts. Let us look forward to another impressive year ahead with more lifers for all.

Compiled from the monthly Bird Reports for 2017 by Alan OwYong, edited by Tan Gim Cheong. Reference: Lim Kim Seng, The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009. Many thanks to Mike Smith, Bari Mohamed/NParks, Serin Subaraj, Rob Arnold, James Tann, Ted Ng, Francis Yap and Gerals Chua for the use of their photos. 

Nesting of Long-tailed Parakeets in Singapore – A 11 weeks Monitoring Report

11 Weeks Monitoring of the nesting Long-Tailed Parakeets in Singapore – by Mike Smith

Introduction

The Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda is a social bird found in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Sumatra, Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. It is globally near threatened.

In Singapore it a common parakeet, easily recognised by its long tail and loud screeching but have been photographed on numerous occasions but little was known of their nesting behaviour. This is the first full documentation of its successful nesting in Singapore.

A nest is spotted.

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I heard from a friend that Liu Zhongren had discovered a Long-tailed Parakeet nest. It was off the beaten track in Hort Park and I decided to take a look. In the 11 weeks, I had visited the area on 29 days and spent over 90 hours monitoring and observing its nesting behaviour. This has increased the knowledge base of how a male parakeet and at least four females raise a healthy fledgling.

Information from Liu Zhongren and a photo on the internet from ebird.org suggest that a male and female parakeet cleaned up a lineated barbet nest hole 6 metres from the ground in a Rainbow Gum tree (left) and took it over during the last week of April 2018. After the first week of May the male disappeared and females incubated the nest.

Nest monitoring starts

My first visit was on 8th May 2018.  I was lucky to see a female because as I soon discovered, when she sits on the eggs she rarely makes an appearance and never left the nest during my normal viewing hours of 10 am – 4 pm. It just poked her head out of the nest a few times for a few minutes and occasionally hung out upside down. Not a sound was heard; complete silence! No male parakeet was observed during the first month!

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Parakeets like to hang around with me but they do it upside down. My photographs showed that more than one female was doing the incubation. My records show at least four over the 11 weeks! Communal breeding my “go to” expert explained! Apparently it’s not uncommon in the birding world.

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On 25th May at 8.30 am a female hanging upside down outside the nest suddenly gave a soft screech and from that position flew rapidly from the nest to feed in the forest, 0.5 km away. A different female returned after 10 minutes. This was repeated 10 minutes later. Then nothing else happened so I left at 10 am.

Monitoring the nest was rather boring as there were long periods of inactivity and apart from park staff I was usually on my own under a harsh sun and humid conditions. However, I did get to practice trying to capture female parakeets in flight but opportunities were few and far between. Most of the action took place between 7 and 9 am and 5 to 7 pm. After landing at the nest the female parakeet would disappear inside within a couple of seconds.

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The National Parks Board made both me and the mummy parakeet in the nest nervous when they started boring into the tree to check it was “safe”. The bird flew off in anger, I watched in frustration but all was all well 30 minutes later and the female returned.

Even more disturbing was a Lineated Barbet coming back to inspect its former nest hole. I feared there would be a turf war but I guess the parakeet signed a lease and stayed put.

A change in behaviour.

Initial flights I witnessed were only for a few minutes, I assumed this was because the eggs were being incubated. After feeding the female would rest and watch the nest from a tall trumpet tree some 50 metres away, for a few minutes before giving a small screech and heading into the nest.

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On 13th June I noticed a change in behaviour, the absence of the female was getting longer, up to an hour and a week later up to 3 hours. For the first time the male appeared on the trumpet tree and fed the female by regurgitating food. The female then flew to the nest and the male back to the forest. Clearly there were chick(s) deep in the nest hole. Flights increased in number with an extra flight during the 10 am – 4 pm period.

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Occasionally the male would feed the female on a different tree a few hundred metres away. The female sometimes went to a nearby rain tree to feed and sharpen her claws.

The Baby Appears!!

My first sight of a chick was not until 8th July. Even then it was impossible to get a good photo. I think I saw two dark, scrawny, ugly babies but the photo isn’t very clear but for sure only one hatched. My first clear sight of one chick, which had grown significantly and was now a colourful bird was on 17th July.

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Watching the nest was now much more interesting. The baby was growing fast and there were regular photo opportunities. The female stayed away from the nest for longer periods and would watch from the trumpet tree for up to an hour. The baby appeared at the hole entrance regularly.

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Another behavioural change – Females spend more time close to but not in the nest.

On 19th July the females spent time on the nest tree but not in the hole which was presumably now a tight fit for two birds.

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The Male Returns to the Nest Vicinity.

On 20th July at 9 am the male bird posed much closer to the nest on nearby trees. Suddenly the baby stretched its neck out of the hole and started screeching at the top of its voice, both the male and female flew near to it (the first time I had seen the male anywhere near the nest). The male fed the female before flying off, the female flew into the nest and fed the baby out of sight.

Fledgling.

At 8.00 am on July 21st the young baby stretched its neck out of the nest and at 8.10 am a female parakeet landed on top of the trumpet tree some 50 metres away. 30 minutes later with a loud screech the male joined the female but did not feed her. At 8.50 am the female flew to the nest.  At 8.55 there was a terrific amount of screeching from the male on the distant tree and the female at the nest. Without warning the female flew towards the male and the baby followed. The male took off and all three headed for the jungle.

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The finale happened so quickly I only got a blurred picture of the male and female with the fledgling flying below them to Kent Ridge Park. I wondered if the chick would return to the nest but it did not and presumably is being looked after communally at Kent Ridge Park. The female did return to the nest and stayed in it overnight before flying off next morning. The male and female returned to the trumpet tree the next day (I speculate that they cleaned up the nest or were checking that the fledgling didn’t try and return) but not thereafter.

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It was rather disappointing that the chick didn’t pose outside the nest or put or feed at the entrance (unless it did so in the dark) but at least it successfully left the nest aged at an estimated 7 weeks. From these observations I learned a significant amount about the nesting of the Long-tailed Parakeets.

Observations and My Conclusions:

Nest Prepared: Last week of April by male and female

Eggs Laid: Ist week of May after which the male left the nest area. Incubated by 4 females (male not involved)

Egg(s) Hatch: End of May (approx 3-3.5 weeks)

Feeding of Baby: Is done by females deep in the nest hole.

Baby: Chick does not appear regularly at nest entrance in daylight until it is 6 weeks old.

Fledge: I chick fledged on 21st July (approx 7 weeks old)

Male does not go inside nest once eggs have been laid

Male feeds in Kent Ridge Park and trees above Hort Park. Females feed on their own food plus get additional food from the male, by regurgitation, on a lookout tree away from the nest.

Brood Parasite: Golden-bellied Gerygones hosting a Little Bronze Cuckoo.

Brood Parasite: Golden-bellied Gerygones hosting a Little Bronze Cuckoo.

By Lee Kai Chong.

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The Golden-bellied Gerygone, the smallest bird in Singapore, has known to nest in urban parks here. I did not see the nesting but I spotted a pair feeding a juvenile Little Bronze Cuckoo on the 23 July 2018 at our HDB neighbourhood park at Jurong West. I find this interesting that this is taking place right in the busy heartland park.

Both foster parents took turns to feed the juvenile cuckoo. Their favourite tree was the Mango tree because of the many tiny insects present. They had to do many rounds of feeding as the insects were too puny for such a large bird, stopping only for 5-10 minutes for the cuckoo to digest the food. Feeding started at the first light and continued throughout the day. I last saw them feed on the 27 July.

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Many park goers were aware of the sound and sight of Little Bronze Cuckoo being fed by Golden-bellied Gerygone but don’t know what was going on. It may be because of their relatively small size, non stop movement during feeding under the canopy. When I showed them the photos, they were very surprised to see a such large young bird being fed by a smaller bird of a different species. I told them that this is ” Brood Parasite” an unusual breeding behaviour in our natural world. I am glad to show a bit of nature at our neighbourhood park to the residents there.

 

Feeding “Fluffy” the Juvenile Albino Collared Kingfisher.

Feeding “Fluffy” the Juvenile Albino Collared Kingfisher.

The rare juvenile albino Collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris, at the East Coast Park was affectionately nicknamed “Fluffy” by Tuck Loong for its all white fluffed up plumage. It had become the darling and center of attention of the birding community here since its discovery by a group of otter watchers on 28 June. There were some drama early this month too. Micky Lim recounted how an overprotective lady wanted to keep the distressed kingfisher and how ACRES were called in to “rescue” it from the waters of the canal.

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Praying Mantis “praying” for its life. An excellent moment capture by Lim Swee Kin.

With so many “food-in-mouth” photos on social media, Art Toh saw a great opportunity to compile and study the different types of prey that the parents brought back to feed the chick. Clarinda Yap’s all action BIF with FIM ( beetle larvae) cover photo summed up this story best. Many of the love, bonding and tender moments between the parents and their fledgling were captured in the photographs.  This study is a great example of citizen science at work, sharing collective knowledge of our avian world.

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This Sun Skink made a fulfilling meal for “Fluffy”. Photo: Michael Thura

Both the parents were resourceful hunters. It seemed that everything is on the menu. They brought back no less than a dozen different types of food for the fledgling. Some were a little surprising like the swimmer crab and a centipede. Others were weird looking insects, larvae and beetles. There were photos of a long thin “snake’, caterpillars, dragonflies, a skink and a few praying mantises. Many cannot be identified.

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A nice juicy beetle caught floating in mid air by James Gan. Despite all the colorful diet this juvenile was not able to produce any color in its plumage.

Normal fledglings should be able to forage on its own by now. But due to its poor eyesight and weak flight, it was not able to do so. The parents had to do all the hunting. We don’t know when or if “Fluffy” will be able to survive on its own. Just hope that the parents will not abandon it and continue with the feeding until it is able to fend for itself.

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A tender moment of the parent bringing back a caterpillar for “Fluffy” captured by Tony Chua. 

All these photos tell a story but more importantly they expanded our knowledge of the diet of the Collared Kingfisher chick. Unfortunately we were not able to feature all the food here but we hope you can add it your photos of the food not covered here in the comments.

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An early photos taken by Terence Tan on 28 June showing “Fluffy” with what looks like a grasshopper.

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Its favourite seemed to be the Praying Mantis. Kelvin Ng’s well taken shot with the parent proudly showing off its catch.

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The parent tossing up a half eaten Blue Swimmer Crab was dramatically captured by Darren Leow at the perfect moment.

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Tan Chee Huat’s clear and open shot of the parent with what looks like a centipede, a stable prey for the  Long-tailed Shrike chicks.

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The love of the parent scarifying a juicy beetle larvae for its chick well captured in this photo by Khong Yew

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“Fluffy” stretching out to pick up a cicada from its parent. Photo by Dave Koh.

Many thanks to Clarinda Yap, Lim Swee Kin, Michael Thura, James Gan, Tony Chua, Terence Tan, Kelvin Ng, Darren Leow, Tan Chee Huat, Dave Koh and Khong Yew for the use of their photographs.

Thanks also to Lena Chow for helping to identify some of the insects and prey and Art Toh for his suggestion to document this.  Please leave a comment if you know any of the unidentified food that were brought in.

Complied by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong.

 

 

2017 Year in Review. Part 2. Other Visitors.

2017 Year in Review. Part 2. Other Visitors.

The discovery of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus at Sentosa by Tuck Loong and Esther Ong on 23 December had to be one of the birding highlights of the year. Another was the sighting of a female Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina that stopped over for 3 days at Dairy Farm NP on 28 November by Veronica Foo and Marcel Finlay. Two sightings of the vagrant White-throated Needletails Hirundapus caudacutus over the Henderson Wave on 19 and 31 Oct by Keita Sin and one over Jelutong Tower on 25 Oct by Francis Yap ( Cover photo). The cuckoo and flycatcher were only our second records for these species, while the needletails were our second, third and fourth records.

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Asian Emerald Cuckoo feeding on Tussock Moth caterpillars at Sentosa was                      only our second record.

Other rare visitors include the Asian House Martins Delichon dasypus, seen thrice, 11 March at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell, 19 October at Henderson Wave by Keita Sin and 24 November over Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap. Two Yellow-browed Warblers Phylloscopus inornatus, one at the Bukit Timah Hill summit on 18 January by Francis Yap and the other at Sentosa on 24 November by Lim Kim Chuah. A Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica was photographed by Khong Yew at Dairy Farm on 25 November and a Himalayan Cuckoo Cuculus saturatus on 3 January at Pulau Ubin’s Butterfly Hill by Keita Sin. A ‘summer visitor’, the Austral Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis duly arrived on 27 May at Seletar end when Francis Yap went to look for them.

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Siberian Thrush from Dairy Farm. Photo: Dean Tan

A good number of rare and endangered flycatchers were sighted during the year. The globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus was recorded at Jurong Island and even Sungei Buloh WR and its usual haunt Bidadari between 30 September and 7 November. The non-breeding Brown-streaked Flycatchers Muscicapa williamsoni came over between August 13-26 and were spotted at Pasir Ris Park, Jelutong Tower and Portsdown Road.

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Brown-streaked Flycatcher, a non-breeding visitor comes over usually in July and August. Photo: Francis Yap.

Laurence Eu gave us an early arriving Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae when he photographed one at Dempsey Hill on 7 September, 10 days ahead of the previous extreme date. There were five more sightings of this flycatcher all at the Central Catchment Forest up to 6 April. Low Choon How had a new late departure date for the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata on 3 April at Simei. Other sightings of this flycatcher was at Belayer Creek on 24 October by Laurence Eu and a female bird at Bidadari on 12 and 18 November. Rounding up was the Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cumatilis, a recent split from the Blue and White. A first-winter bird was photographed by Khong Yew at Dairy Farm NP on 21 November, with Dave Bakewell providing the identification.

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A first winter male Zappey’s Flycatcher from Dairy Farm NP. Photo: Khong Yew.

Other notable visitors for the year were the Black-capped Kingfishers Halcyon pileata, a photographers’ favourite, recorded at Kranji Marshes, Marina Barrage, Neo Tiew Lane 3 and West Coast Park between 20 October and 21 December; and Grey Nightjars Caprimulgus jotaka on 3 November at Satay by the Bay (Christina See), and one at Bukit Batok on 2 December by Lena Chow. Both were new for the sites. They were also recorded at Bidadari, Chinese Gardens, Rifle Range Link, One-north and AMK Park.

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A low roosting Grey Nightjar at the Chinese Gardens by Looi-Ang Soh Hoon. The species was seen at six other places. 

A dead Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida found at Toa Payoh on 20 November was the first for the season. Over at Seletar end, Goh Cheng Teng reported the Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus on 25 November. The confiding Lanceolated Warblers Locustella lanceolata were present at Seletar end on 10 March and Tuas South on 29 Oct as per entries in ebirds by Martin Kennewell and James Lambo respectively.

Complied from the monthly Bird Reports for 2017 by Alan OwYong, edited by Tan Gim Cheong. Reference: Lim Kim Seng, The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009. Many thanks to Alan OwYong, Dean Tan, Francis Yap, Khong Yew and Looi-Ang Soh Hoon for the use of their photos. 

 

 

The Varied Diet of the Yellow-vented Bulbul Chicks.

The Varied Diet of the Yellow-vented Bulbul Chicks. By Seng Alvin.

The ubiquitous Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier has to be the most common bird in our urban greenery. Its bubbly call is a welcome sound in our parks and gardens. If you listen carefully, they have different calls and alarms for different situations.

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With two hungry chicks to feed, the parent bulbuls were kept busy throughout the day

I was lucky to come across a nesting pair at Pasir Ris Park this June and decided to document the food that the parents brought back to feed the chicks, and it was very varied.

Insects formed the main source of proteins for the growing chicks. Wasps from a nearby nest, a green grasshopper and a spider showed the variety of the feed.

My monitoring started on the 17th. I spent one to two hours each day between 8.00 am and 10 am photographing the the feeding process. Both chicks successfully fledged on the 22nd after a week of feeding.

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Happy and well fed chicks about to fledge on the 22nd June.

For the first three days, the parents brought back soft and small insects that can be easily digested. Spiders and caterpillars were also a good source of proteins for the growing chicks. In the later stage, berries and figs supplemented larger insects like grasshoppers.

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Squashed figs and berries will form the main diet of these frugivorous species when they grow up. 

In first part of the day, the parents will usually feed the chicks with insects. As the day progressed, they would start bringing back figs and berries to the chicks, for desserts? As there was a wasp’s nest nearby, they took full advantage of this ready source of rich protein insects. I wonder how do they neutralise the venom if any inside these wasps?

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Sharing a fat caterpillar.

From my observations, their diet is not just varied but well balanced for the chicks to grow up as fast as possible to begin another generation.

 

 

2017 Year in Review. Part 1: National Firsts, Raptors, Sea and Shorebirds.

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.

Little Stint David Li

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 Jiasheng

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 Wong Lee Hiong

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.

Besra, 181117, posted 051217, Telok Blangah, Les Sail

Besra, juvenile, at Telok Blangah Hill on 18 Nov 2017, by Leslie Fung.

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 4

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?

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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.

Chinese Egret Frankie Cheong

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 Luke

Sanderling wintering over at the breakwaters at MED in November. Photo Luke Teo.

References:
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.

 

A nigrescens Ashy Drongo at Punggol Waterfront.

A nigrescens Ashy Drongo at Punggol Waterfront.

By Alan OwYong.

I was shooting the Austral migrant Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo with friends on 6 June morning along the Punggol Waterfront Promenade when a darkish drongo flew over our heads. The first thing I noticed was the forked tail without rackets. It later returned to perch high up on the dry twigs some distance away. Some of us took a few record shots.

Later, I managed to get a few heavily backlit shots when it came closer and perched on top of a Sea Almond tree. In the afternoon Terence Tan got some better side shots of it lower down from inside the forest.

Terence Tan Ashy Drongo

Terence Tan’s side profile shot of the Ashy Drongo from inside the forest.

From the photos, I posted it as a Black Drongo, Dicrurus macrocerus, a migrant which should have left last month. Thanks to Dave Bakewell’s ever vigilance, he corrected the ID to a nigrescens Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus, a resident race of Peninsular Malaysia and Southern Thailand. Tou Jing Yi agreed and was kind enough to elaborate on its distinguishing features “lack of white spot on base of bill, long forked tail, very slender base on tail, non-glossy plumage that is not jet black but somehow greyish, these were all signs of an Ashy Drongo, the resident subspecies for the region, primarily resides mangrove areas in Peninsular Malaysia.

Black Drongo Punggol Prominade

As we are more familiar with the lighter plumaged migratory Salagensis and Leucogenis races of Ashy Drongos here, it did not occur to us that this is an Ashy. The extreme dates for these two migrants are 15 October to 13 May.

The last record of a nigrescens was at West Coast Park on 17 January 2004 ( SINAV 18.1). It is not difficult to overlook this particular race as the Black or the Greater Racket-tailed since some field marks are a little similiar.  The movements of these three races of the Ashy Drongos need further studies and any records old or new are welcome. So now we have a new date for this non-breeding visitor to Singapore.

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

Many thanks to Dave Bakewell and Tou Jing Yi with the help on the ID and Terence Tan for the use of his photo.

Bird Records Committee Report ( May 2018)

Bird Records Committee Report (May 2018)

By Lim Kim Seng. Chairman, Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee.

20170624_165454

Booted Warbler Iduna caligata at Kranji Marshes, 10 Dec 2017, Singapore’s first record and the second for Southeast Asia. It stayed till March 2018. Photo by Adrian Silas Tay.

The Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities. This report updates the findings of the last 12 months up to May 2018.

 New Species

Six new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 403. The updated official NSS Singapore Checklist 2018 edition (2) here.

They include the following:

Little Stint Calidris minuta

An adult and an immature seen and photographed at Tg. Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin on 21 Sep 2017 by David Li was the first record for Singapore.

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Little Stint at Check Java by David Li.

Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassina

A lone bird seen and photographed at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 9 Oct 2017 by George Presanis was the first record of this sedentary species for Singapore. It was not seen subsequently despite some observer effort.

294A Verditer Flycatcher.

Verditer Flycatcher at Dairy Farm Nature Park by George Presanis.

Indian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi

A female seen and photographed at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 2 Dec 2017 by Oliver Tan was the first record for Singapore and Southeast Asia. It was last seen on 10 Apr 2018.

Gim Cheong

Indian Paradise Flycatcher at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve by Tan Gim Cheong.

Booted Warbler Iduna caligata

One was first photographed but not identified by Fadhil, an NParks staff, at Kranji Marshes on 4 Dec 2017. On 10 Dec 2017, several observers including Adrian Silas Tay, Richard Carden, Martin Kennewell, Francis Yap and Lim Kim Chuah also saw and photograph the mystery bird. Eventually, a close study of its features, habits and vocalization revealed this to be Singapore’s first and Southeast Asia’s second record of this species.  It was last seen on 23 Mar 2018.

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis

A female seen and photographed at Chek Jawa Coastal Boardwalk, Pulau Ubin, on 4 Mar 2018 by Roger Boey was our first record for this species.

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Female Ruby-cheeked Sunbird taken by Roger Boey at Pulau Ubin.

Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus 

A female photographed near the summit of Bukit Timah on 2 May 2018 by Ted Lee and subsequently seen and photographed by several other observers on 4 and 5 May 2018 was the first recent record for Singapore. It was last seen near the Treetop Walk at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 12 May 2018. This species was previously assigned to Category B.

Kwong Yew

Great Slaty Woodpecker at Bukit Timah Hill by Kwong Yew.

 Rarities

The following eight rarities were accepted.

Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus

An individual photographed at Sungei Buloh on 18 Oct 2017 by Con Foley, Danny Lau and Tan Kok Hui was a noteworthy record of this rare non-breeding visitor to Singapore.

White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus

An individual photographed at Henderson Waves on 19 Oct 2017 by Keita Sin was our second record. Another photographed here on 31 Oct 2017 again by Keita Sin was the fourth while yet another photographed at Jelutong Tower on 25 Oct 2017 by Francis Yap was our third record.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

A bird photographed at Henderson Wave Bridge on 26 Nov 2017 by Francis Yap was our third record for Singapore. The only other records were from Tuas View Lane by Martti Siponen on 14 Nov 2010 and Keita Sin, also at Henderson Wave Bridge, on 17 Nov 2016.

Amur Falcon Falco amurensis

An individual photographed at Changi on 26 Nov 2017 by Adrian Silas Tay was our third record. Our only previous records were from Changi Coast by Tan Gim Cheong on 21 Nov 2007 and Lower Seletar Dam on 16 Dec 2016 by Yip Peng Sun.

Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina

A female photographed at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 28 Nov 2017 by Veronica Foo and Marcel Finlay was our second record. Another female photographed at West Coast Park on 3 Jan 2018 by Stuart Campbell was our third record.

Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx macutalus

A female photographed at Fort Siloso, Sentosa, on 23 Dec 2017 by Esther Ong was our second record. It stayed till the end of the year.

Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykulii

An adult photographed at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 19 Jan 2018 by Meena Vathyam was our second record. It was last seen on 28 April 2018.

Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster

An individual photographed at Singapore Quarry on 18 Feb 2018 by Richard White was the first from this locality and our fourth record overall of this rare non-breeding visitor.

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus

A female seen and photographed at Jelutong Tower on 20 Jan 2018 by HB Thio was our fourth record. Another seen and photographed by Lim Kim Seng at Chek Jawa Coastal Boardwalk, Pulau Ubin, on 6 May 2018 was our fifth record.

Annex 1

In addition to the above, we have also received further records of Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii in the Singapore Straits on 29 Apr 2017 and 6 May 2017 from Lau Jiasheng. These two records were confirmed to be outside Singapore waters and are assigned to Annex 1. To date, we have no records of Bulwer’s Petrel in Singapore. Annex 1 is for species occurring near to but outside Singapore, e.g. birds occurring in the Indonesian and/or Malaysian side of the Singapore Straits.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thanks the following observers for submitting their records for review: Roger Boey, Stuart Campbell, Marcel Finlay, Con Foley, Veronica Foo, Danny Lau, Lau Jiasheng, David Li, Geoff Lim, Lim Kim Seng, Esther Ong, Alan Owyong, George Presanis, Keita Sin, Tan Kok Hui, Oliver Tan, Adrian Silas Tay, Meena Vathyam, Richard White, Francis Yap and Yip Peng Sun. Special thanks go to Dave Bakewell for help in unravelling the identity of Little Stint and Indian Paradise Flycatcher based on submitted evidence. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Alan Owyong, Dr Frank Rheindt, Tan Gim Cheong and Dr Yong Ding Li.

Thanks to Adrian Silas Tay, David Li, George Persanis, Tan Gim Cheong, Roger Boey and Khong Yew for the use of their photographs.

Reference

Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.