Author Archives: Alan OwYong

About Alan OwYong

Retiree birder and photographer.

Personal Observations of the Plovers at Marina East Drive.

By Dr. Pary Sivaraman.

These are my own personal observations on the 17th and 18th January 2018 at Marina East Drive. Similar observations on both dates and I was the only birder on both dates.

There was a group of about 10 to 12 Swinhoe’s or White faced Plovers, ssp. dealbatus. Some were in breeding plumage. Just beside them but as a separate group there were about 15 to 16 Kentish Plovers, Charadrius alexandrinus. Some were in breeding plumage. On the first date, the Kentish Plovers were closer to me. On the second date the White faced Plovers were closer to me.

0I0A2862

Kentish Plover in breeding plumage.

The groups tolerated a certain distance between me and them.
When I moved closer they would start walking a few feet.
If I continued, they would fly but interestingly the group closer to me would fly off first.
On the first date, the Kentish Plovers flew off first but the White faced Plovers moved a couple steps further from me and stayed.

On the second date, the White faced Plovers behaved similarly. They were closer and flew off first. The Kentish Plovers didn’t fly off but moved a couple of steps further from me and stayed.

0I0A3144

Swinhoe’s or White-faced Plover in breeding plumage.

I thought it was interesting since the White faced Plovers or Kentish Plovers seemed to stick together as a group. I must emphasize I didn’t move too quickly to them. I presume if I did all of them would have flown away.

I have attached the photos of the Kentish and White faced Plovers in breeding plumage.
I have taken more photos for my own understanding how the birds.

Advertisements

Singapore Bird Report – December 2017

Singapore Bird Report-December 2017

The birding community could not ask for a better ending for the year. A national first (pending review by Record’s Committee), a second record after 11 years and several rare winter visitors gave many of us our year end lifers.

BW Fadhil

First photo of the “Booted Warbler” taken on 4th by Muhd Fadhil of NParks. 

Martin Kennewell was quick to alert us on an odd looking tree warbler at Kranji Marshes on 9th. After much consultation with overseas friends, the consensus is a Booted Warbler Iduna caligata, a long way from its wintering grounds in India and Sri Lanka. Muhd. Fadhil, an Nparks staff first photographed it on 4th. It is still there during the first week of January. Our thanks to Martin and Fadhil. 

Esther Ong

The photo that started the frenzy. Esther Ong’s photo of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo taken on 23rd December. 

While looking for the Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus, at Sentosa’s Siloso Park on 23th, Tuck Loong, Esther Ong and friends spotted a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus, feeding on the caterpillars on a bare Ficus superba there. Our first record for this non-breeding visitor was on 31 May 2006 at Seletar Reservoir Park. Incredibly a second female was reported six days later at the same tree feeding together. It stayed until 3rd January when all the caterpillars were gone, long enough for all of us to add a national tick to our list. A rare Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was also spotted there on 23rd (Lim Kim Chuah & Seng Beng) and along the Skywalk in following days.

Choon How

The rare Yellow-browed Warbler spent a week wintering along the Skywalk at Sentosa, giving many photographers a great chance to shoot this at eye level. Photo: Low Choon How.

The month started with a rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia returning to the same tree at DFNP on 1st. Another, a grey morph also returned on the 9th (Luke Milo Teo). Earlier in the year, on 10th Jan 2017, both of them were seen on the same tree there, a case of site fidelity assuming they were the same owls. Lena Chow got a first for Bukit Brown with a sighting of a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka, there on 2nd. Another Grey Nightjar was back at Bidadari on 17th (Tan Kok Hui). At least 5 Eastern-crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus, were counted at Upper Peirce Reservoir on 14th by Veronica Foo. An uncommon Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus, was videoed at PRP on 20th by Marc Ng.

24131600_1777599425603968_3107940344420717295_n

Portrait of a rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl taken at DFNP by Luke Milo Teo.

Several rare flycatchers were still stopping over this month. Two Ferruginous Flycatchers Muscicapa ferruginea at DFNP on 1st (Oliver Tan), with another on 28th at RRL (Goh Cheng Teng and Lester Tan), our third of the season, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata at Lower Peirce Reservoir on 5th (Basil Chia), a dead Blue and White/ Zappey’s from SGH on 13th (David Tan) and another 1st winter Blue and White Cyanoptila cyanomelana, male at Siloso on 30th (Tan Kok Hui and Co), the rare Green-backed Ficedula elisae, at CCNR on 5th (David Gibson) and a female at RRL on 23th (Alan OwYong and Lim Kim Keang), ending with a Mugimaki Ficedula mugimaki, at Siloso on 27th by Martin Kennewell.

Green-backed Flycatcher

The rare Green-backed Flycatcher resting at the Central Catchment Forest. Photo by Alan OwYong taken at Rifle Range Link. 

The cuckoos made a great showing this month in part due to the caterpillars on the bare ficus at Sentosa. Spotted there were 2 Chestnut-winged Cuckoos Clamator coromandus, one adult and one juvenile Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus, one juvenile and one adult Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides, a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax and a Hodgson’s Hawk-cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor. A Hodgon’s was also photographed at Bishan Park on 8th by Terence Tan, a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo at Healing Gardens on 14th by Laurence Eu, a dead Indian Cuckoo at NUS on 29th found by Yong Ding Li and a wintering Chestnut-winged Cuckoo at the SBG. 

Mark Itol

Mark Itol’s eye level shot of the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo wintering at the SBG.

Migrant thrushes, a favourite with the birders and photographers, showed up at Hindhede NP with the rare Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica on 5th (Oliver Tan), an Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus, at Bukit Brown on 14th (Marcel Finlay) and the Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina returning to the SBG on 26th (Goh Cheng Teng and Lester Tan).

Siew Mun

Siew Mun’s Baillon’s Crake taken at Satay by the Bay, a first for the gardens.

The visiting waterbirds reported this month include a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis at Hampstead Gardens (Veronica Foo) and SBTB (Heather Gossels) both on 8th, Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus at SBG on 9th (Martin Kennewell and Richard Carden), a Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus, photographed flying over Changi Coastal Road by Goh Cheng Teng also on the 9th, a Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla, at the SBTB on 17th (Siew Mun), 2 Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea on 18th, one at Japanese Gardens (Philip Toh) and the other found injured at Pasir Laba Camp by Daniel Ng. One of the largest flock of Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum, over 200 was seen flying over Turuk Track on 17th by Yong Ding Li.

MNH Goh Cheng Teng

Is this the first photograph of a Malayan Night Heron in flight taken in Singapore?. Photo: Goh Cheng Teng.

The uncommon Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata, was reported at Neo Tiew Lane 3 on 17th by Francis Yap and another back wintering at WCP on 21st. On the same day a dead Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca was found dead along Allenbrooke Road at Sentosa by Wahidah Dayanara.

Francis Yap 2

A much sought-after and very skittish Black-capped Kingfisher well hidden at Neo Tiew Lane 3.  Photo: Francis Yap. 

Notable shorebirds for the month include 2 globally threatened Great  Knot Calidris tenuirostris, at Chek Jawa on 6th (Lim Kim Keang) and Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta, at Tekong on 23rd (Frankie Cheong).

Resident species of interest include Plume-toed Swiftets Collocalia affinis and Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis, at SBG on 5th by See Toh Yew Wai and 8th by Zacc respectively, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax at Eco Lake on 9th by Martin Kennewell, Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at Telok Blangah Walkway on 12th by James Tann and a White-rumped Munia Lonchura striatabelow KRP canopy walk on 15th by Marc Ng. Its wild status is in question.

1-zacc

Not an easy swift to see over our skies. an Asian Palm Swift shot over Eco Lake by Mohamad Zahidi (Zacc HD).

An uncommon Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was spotted at SBTB by Tan Eng Boo on 19th. On the same day, Lim Kim Seng came across the long introduced Chinese Hwamei at Sentosa. It went missing for a large part of the year. The Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster at Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin picked out by Deborah Friets on 26th ends this report. Happy New Year and Good Birding 2018!

Location Abbreviations: DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, PRP Pasir Ris Park, NUS National University of Singapore, SBTB Satay by The Bay, WCP West Coast Park, KRP Kent Ridge Park and RRL Rifle Range Link.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited.

Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from 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 Muhd Fadhil, Esther Ong, Low Choon How, Luke Milo Teo, Alan OwYong, Mark Itol, Siew Mun, Goh Cheng Teng, Francis Yap and Mohamad Zahidi for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

 

Raptor Migration ( Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Raptor Migration (Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Article and photos by Keita Sin

Autumn migration

Birdwatching in Singapore gets particularly exciting during the migratory season. One of the groups of birds that migrate through Singapore is what are generally referred to as “raptors” – birds of prey from the order Accipitriformes (eagles, hawks, harriers etc) and Falconiformes (falcon, kestrels etc).

The majority of raptors migrate through Singapore around October to November for the autumn migration, during which they head south to their wintering grounds. During the spring migration in mid-February to mid-April, they will head back north towards their breeding grounds.

There are several locations that have been known to be good spots for raptor watching in autumn. The annual Singapore Bird Group Raptor Count has been conducted at these locations, such as Pulau Ubin, Changi, Tuas and the Southern Ridges (Kent Ridge Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park).

Being a fan of raptors myself, I joined the Raptor Counts at Kent Ridge Park in 2015 and 2016 to watch the convoys of birds flying south-east along the ridge. During these counts, one particular question occurred to me: if the birds were filtering in at different points on the Southern Ridges before continuing to fly along the ridge, wouldn’t it be most productive to do a count as close as possible to its southernmost end?

The birds of Henderson Waves

On 17th November 2016, I made my way towards Mount Faber Park (the southernmost park along the ridge) to find out the answers to my question. However, the views offered there were rather disappointing, and I thus continued towards the Henderson Waves, which offered great views in all directions.

Photo 1 View from HWView from Henderson Waves (facing South)

I stood there from 9:20am to 1:00pm and was rewarded with 19 Crested Honey Buzzards; 9 Black Bazas; 1 Booted Eagle; 1 Chinese Sparrowhawk; 8 Japanese Sparrowhawks; and most importantly, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, which then became the second accepted record for Singapore.

Photo 2 Eurasian SparrowhawkEurasian Sparrowhawk at Henderson Waves, 17 November 2016. Note the 6 “fingers” and bulky body

Observations in 2016 and 2017 by many pairs of eyes led to observations of many other uncommon migratory raptors including the Greater Spotted Eagle, Grey-faced Buzzard, Common Buzzard and Jerdon’s Baza. Other migratory raptors such as the Pied Harrier and Eastern Marsh-harrier were recorded nearby too. Resident raptors such as the Crested Goshawk, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle and Grey-headed Fish-eagle were also seen regularly (detailed counts in the monthly raptor report).

Photo 3 CollageLeft to right, from top row onwards: Jerdon’s Baza, Grey-faced Buzzard, Black Baza, Crested Goshawk, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Eastern Marsh-harrier, Crested Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk.

Other migrants such as Oriental Pratincoles, Pacific Swifts, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Ashy Minivets, and Blue-throated and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters regularly flew over the bridge too.

Photo 4 Oriental PratincoleOriental Pratincoles at Henderson Waves, 15 November 2017

The highlights, however, were the Asian House Martin (solitary bird on 19 October) and Needletails. The second and fourth White-throated Needletails in Singapore were recorded (a solitary bird on 19 October, and another on 31 October flying together with 2 other unidentified needletails) and another single unidentified Needletail was photographed on 6 November (by Lawrence Cher).

Photo 5 White-throated NeedletailWhite-throated Needletail at Henderson Waves, 31 October 2017

The diversity of birds recorded at Henderson Waves is astonishing compared to the other sites along the Southern Ridges. It could be that many of the birds flew south through the Central Catchment and only entered the ridge halfway through, causing them to be unrecorded at the other locations. The better view offered at the bridge might also have contributed to the increased diversity observed.

The raptors (and other migrants) usually fly over the bridge from north-west to south-east (from Telok Blangah Hill Park towards Mount Faber Park). The collective observation of the large number of birders stationed at the bridge in 2017 seems to point to a rough trend of having better counts (in terms of both quantity and diversity) when the wind is blowing from the north-west direction.

Birding at Henderson Waves

On text, Henderson Waves sounds like the perfect place in Singapore to go raptor watching. It is, sadly, not as fantastic as it seems. This place offers no shelter from the scorching sun (and yet the hotter it is, the better for raptor migration) and the birds tend to fly very high along the ridge. For those whose main objective is bird photography, Henderson Waves will be a disappointment. However those who are prepared can be rewarded with beautiful sights of convoys of birds, and the occasional low-flying raptor. Those who keep local lists will no doubt be able to tick off a great number of uncommon species.

When birding at Henderson Waves, make sure you protect yourself against the sun – apply sunblock, wear a hat, and put on sunglasses. It will also be great to record the wind direction and share your sightings. A pair of binoculars is a must.

What about spring migration?

Singapore has a lower number (in terms of both quantity and diversity) of raptors recorded during the spring migration. This could be due to the different flight paths taken by the raptors during their return journey, and it would be interesting to find out how Henderson Waves performs then. Could there be a different site in Singapore that hosts the main bulk of raptors flying through in spring? There’s only one way to find out.

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census by Lim Kim Chuah

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census (FMBC) took place in the morning of 22nd October 2017. 58 counters took part and 26 sites were counted. Weather was quite variable throughout the sites surveyed ranging from partly cloudy and overcast to sunny. It rained in some places towards the end of the count.

In all, 138 species totaling 5,306 birds were counted. The total number of birds counted was disappointing and the number was the lowest counted in the 14-year history of the FMBC.

On a brighter note, this census shows that Singapore remains an important stronghold for the vulnerable Straw-headed Bulbul. 49 birds were counted with more than half from Pulau Ubin. Pulau Ubin also proves to be an important site for another globally threatened species, the White-rumped Shama with most of the 16 birds counted coming from Pulau Ubin.

34 species of true migrants were counted totaling 1019 birds. This represents 35% of total species counted and 19% of total number of birds counted.

TOTAL BIRDS AND SPECIES COUNTED

In all, 138 species of birds were recorded consisting of 5,306 birds. If unidentified birds (including swiftlets) are added, the total was 5810 birds.

In terms of species, the total of 138 species was close to the 14-year average of 135. However, the total birds counted of 5,306 (compared to the average of 7,226) was the lowest recorded in the 14-year history of FMBC. Also noted was the disturbing decreasing trend of birds counted during the last two editions of the census – 5,416 in 2015 and 5,314 in 2016 (see chart).

1-26540525_1557845491002753_1887872684_o
One of the possible reasons for the low number counted this year could be the big drop in the number of birds counted in one of the key wader sites, Sungei Mandai. Only 316 birds were counted compared to the average of 1,138. One possible reason is that most of the mudflat at Sungei Mandai was covered by algae and this probably limit the amount of mudflat for the waders to forage.

1-26513643_1557845451002757_8373827_o
TOP 20 BIRDS

The top spot for the most number of birds counted went to the Asian Glossy Starling (663) and this was closely followed by the Javan Myna (645). Whimbrel was the most numerous migrant counted.

POS SPECIES 2017 SPECIES 2016
1 Asian Glossy Starling 663 Lesser Sand Plover 829
2 Javan Myna** 645 Javan Myna** 612
3 Whimbrel 299 Asian Glossy Starling 472
4 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 274 Pacific Golden Plover 364
5 Spotted Dove 158 Whimbrel 215
6 Yellow-vented Bulbul 156 Yellow-vented Bulbul 177
7 Common Redshank 139 Black-naped Oriole 166
8 Black-naped Oriole 137 Common Redshank 163
9 House Crow 128 Spotted Dove 155
10 Grey Heron## 126 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 121
11 Rock Dove 106 Rock Dove 114
12 Red-breasted Parakeet* 99 Long-tailed Parakeet* 88
13 Little Egret 91 Eurasian Tree Sparrow 87
14 Daurian Starling 83 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 86
15 Olive-backed Sunbird 83 House Crow 81
16 Long-tailed Parakeet* 80 Zebra Dove 75
17 Pacific Swallow 70 Olive-backed Sunbird 68
18 Pacific Golden Plover 63 Common Iora 63
19 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 60 Pacific Swallow 61
20 Collared Kingfisher 59 Common Greenshank 50

The top bird counted for 2016, the Lesser Sand Plover was conspicuously absent from the top 20 birds. Only 3 birds were counted during the census. Another observation is the notable decrease in the number of Pacific Golden Plover counted, falling from position 4 (364 birds) last year to 18 (63 birds). Pacific Golden Plover is typically featured among the top 10 birds in most years (see chart). The chart also shows a decreasing trend since 2004.

1-26510914_1557845464336089_344745675_o
SITE COUNTS

A total of 26 sites were surveyed. This is comparable to the 14-year average of 25 sites.

The site with the most number of birds counted was Pasir Ris Park with 406 birds counted. This is closely followed by Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Route 1 (394) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Route 2 (389).

1-26510800_1557845467669422_1844015155_o

The diversity of habitats at Kranji Marsh, Kranji Dam and Pasir Ris Park prove to be attractive for many species of birds and these three sites ended with the most number of bird species recorded. Kranji Marsh took top spot with a whopping 76 species, followed by Kranji Dam (51 species) and Pasir Ris Park (48 species).

1-26613007_1557845447669424_1132220185_o
Abbreviation for site:

 

SBG Singapore Botanic Garden KRM Kranji Marsh SIM Sime Track SER Serangoon
FAB Mount Faber KRD Kranji dam MCP Malcolm Park PRP Pasir Ris Park
TBH Telok Blangah Hill Park MAN Sg Mandai BSP Bishan Park UBW Ubin West
KRP Kent Ridge Park BBW Bkt Batok West USR Upper Seletar Reservoir Park UBC Ubin Central
POY Poyan BBP Bkt Batok Nature Park LSD Lower Seletar Dam UBE Ubin East
SB1 Sg Buloh Route 1 BTR Bkt Timah Nature Reserve SBP Sembawang Park
SB2 Sg Buloh Route 2 DFP Dairy Farm Nature Park HAL Lor Halus

This year’s census proved rather disappointing with low number of birds counted. Hopefully this is just a blip and not a continuing trend.

This census would not have been possible without the support and participation from many volunteers. We would like to thank and acknowledge the contributions from the following leaders and volunteers:

Bey Swee Hua, Richard Carden, Alfred Chia, Sandra Chia, Andrew Chow, Lena Chow, Fadzrun Adnan, Con Foley, Amuary Gassiot, Veronica Foo, Terry and Jane Heppell, Constance Huges-Treherne, Jian Wei, Atsuko Kawasaki, Kenneth Kee, Julienne Kee, Martin Kennerwell, Susan Knight, Nessie Khoo, Esther Kong, Eunice Kong, Danny Lau, Lee Chuin Ming, Lee Ee Ling, Jimmy Lee, Geraldine Lee, Lee Whye Gwan, David Li, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng, Lim Yan Ting, Lin Chee Wei, Patricia Lorenz, Melpa, Merrill, Alvin Seng, Steven Shields, Sng Bee Bee, Keita Sin, John Spencer, Tan Bee Lan, Tan Kok Hui, Teo Hui Min, George Presanis, Twang Fang Qi, Wai Jack Sin, Wan Xuan,, Wee Sau Cheng, Wing Ching How, Wing Chong, Wong Chun Cheong, Woo Lai Choo, Yang Pah Liang, Yan Jiejun, Yong Yik Shih, Yong Jun Zer

APPENDIX

Total species and number counted (2004-17)

Year # of species # of birds # of sites
2004 135 8035 25
2005 134 5825 18
2006 142 7386 25
2007 134 7159 25
2008 142 7343 26
2009 119 7381 23
2010 137 9556 30
2011 144 8486 25
2012 135 7846 30
2013 123 7837 25
2014 152 8280 25
2015 124 5416 22
2016 126 5314 20
2017 138 5306 26
Avg 135 7226 25
Std Dev 8.8 1259 3
Min 119 5306 18
Max 152 9556 30

List of birds counted on 22nd October 2017:

POS SPECIES SUM POS SPECIES SUM
1 Asian Glossy Starling 663 56 White-crested Laughingthrush 20
2 Javan Myna** 645 57 Crimson Sunbird 20
3 Whimbrel 299 58 Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker 19
4 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 274 59 Common Hill Myna# 19
5 Spotted Dove 158 60 Oriental Pied Hornbill## 17
6 Yellow-vented Bulbul 156 61 Malaysian Pied Fantail 17
7 Common Redshank 139 62 Pied Triller 16
8 Black-naped Oriole 137 63 White-rumped Shama## 16
9 House Crow 128 64 Baya Weaver 16
10 Grey Heron## 126 65 Red-wattled Lapwing## 15
11 Rock Dove 106 66 Laced Woodpecker 15
12 Red-breasted Parakeet* 99 67 Changeable Hawk-Eagle## 14
13 Little Egret 91 68 Grey Plover 13
14 Daurian Starling 83 69 Purple Heron## 12
15 Olive-backed Sunbird 83 70 Stork-billed Kingfisher 12
16 Long-tailed Parakeet* 80 71 Banded Woodpecker 12
17 Pacific Swallow 70 72 Brown Shrike 11
18 Pacific Golden Plover 63 73 Yellow-bellied Prinia 10
19 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 60 74 Common Kingfisher 9
20 Collared Kingfisher 59 75 Rufous Woodpecker 9
21 Common Greenshank 58 76 Red-rumped Swallow 8
22 Oriental White-eye 56 77 Oriental Magpie-Robin## 8
23 White-breasted Waterhen 54 78 Copper-throated Sunbird# 8
24 Barn Swallow 52 79 Japanese Sparrowhawk 7
25 Ashy Tailorbird 52 80 Golden-bellied Gerygone 7
26 Striated Heron 50 81 Asian Fairy-bluebird# 7
27 Zebra Dove 49 82 Paddyfield Pipit 7
28 Straw-headed Bulbul##** 49 83 Western Osprey 6
29 Red Junglefowl## 46 84 Crested Honey Buzzard 6
30 Common Flameback 46 85 Whiskered Tern 6
31 Common Sandpiper 44 86 Pied Imperial Pigeon 6
32 Blue-tailed Bee-eater 43 87 Large-billed Crow 6
33 Olive-winged Bulbul 43 88 Lesser Coucal 5
34 Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 42 89 Pacific Swift 5
35 Scaly-breasted Munia 42 90 Little Grebe## 4
36 Brahminy Kite 37 91 Intermediate Egret 4
37 Blue-throated Bee-eater 37 92 Oriental Reed Warbler 4
38 Dark-necked Tailorbird 37 93 Abbott’s Babbler 4
39 Common Iora 36 94 Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 4
40 Asian Koel 35 95 Orange-bellied Flowerpecker 4
41 Arctic Warbler 33 96 Chestnut Munia 4
42 Lineated Barbet 32 97 Grey Wagtail 4
43 Coppersmith Barbet 32 98 Black-winged Kite 3
44 Common Tailorbird 30 99 Slaty-breasted Rail 3
45 Brown-throated Sunbird 30 100 Lesser Sand Plover 3
46 Eurasian Tree Sparrow 30 101 Wood Sandpiper 3
47 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 27 102 Little Bronze Cuckoo 3
48 Lesser Whistling Duck## 26 103 Tanimbar Corella* 3
49 Oriental Dollarbird 23 104 Long-tailed Shrike 3
50 White-throated Kingfisher 23 105 Cream-vented Bulbul# 3
51 Rose-ringed Parakeet 22 106 Little Spiderhunter 3
52 Common Myna 22 107 Yellow Bittern 2
53 White-bellied Sea Eagle 21 108 Eastern Cattle Egret 2
54 Asian Brown Flycatcher 21 109 Great-billed Heron## 2
55 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot ## 20 110 Great Egret 2

 

 

A Christmas Cuckoo Present

A Christmas Cuckoo Present by Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

Lim Kim Seng reported the sighting of the Chinese Hwamei at Siloso on the 19th December.  There has been no reports of this naturalised laughingthrush for a good part of the year. This led to Tuck Loong, Esther Ong and others to go and look for it on 23rd December.

They not only got the Chinese Hwamei but hit the jackpot when Tuck Loong spotted a small cuckoo perched high up on a high bare tree. From some of the early photographs taken, it looked like a possible candidate for a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus.

1-PC253229

Our Christmas present the female Asian Emerald Cuckoo turning up at Sentosa on 23rd December. 

Subsequent photographs obtained the next day confirmed their finding, effectively giving the whole birding community a timely Christmas present. All those who made the trip to the Siloso Skywalk over the following week went home happy with their tick.

20171224_085428

Ticking our presents, all the happy birders and photographers at Siloso Skywalk on Christmas Eve.

The bare tree in question is the Deciduous Fig Ficus superba, a fig species known to shed its leaves periodically. When the new shoots and leaves started to sprout, the Tussock Moths presumably the Clearwing, Perina sunda took full advantage of this by laying thousands of eggs on the tree. The result was an outbreak of it’s caterpillars. There were so many caterpillars that large congregations of them were to be seen on the ground, railings and nearby structures.

20171225_082503

The caterpillars of the Tussock Moths on the Ficus Superba attracted five species of cuckoos, an occurrence we  not witnessed before. 

It was this massive supply of food in the form of tussock moth caterpillars that attracted the cuckoos. The Asian Emerald Cuckoo, a rare migrant to the Malay Peninsula, naturally caused the most excitement as this would otherwise be the second record of the species for Singapore.  Another female cuckoo was sighted on the 29th December, and concurrent observations of both individuals confirmed that there were at least two Asian Emerald Cuckoos around, which is unprecedented! Other cuckoos partaking in this caterpillar feast included at least two Large Hawk Cuckoos, two Indian Cuckoos, two Chestnut-winged Cuckoos, and one Hodgson’s and Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo each. Other uncommon migratory birds seen in the secondary forest around the site included a Crow-billed Drongo, at least two Yellow-browed Warblers and a first winter male Blue-and-white/Zappey’s Flycatcher (Cyanoptila sp.).

Our first record of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo was a sub-adult female and juvenile observed at Seletar Reservoir Park on 31st May 2006. K.C. Tsang was the one who photographed them. Some of the diagnostic features were unclear in the photographs which resulted in conflicting identification answers from regional bird experts even after some consultation. The deliberations and discussions at the Records Committee went back and forth for two years before it was eventually included in the official NSS Checklist as a national first. There were two earlier records of females, both were turned out to be mis-identified Violet Cuckoos.

The Asian Emerald Cuckoo is widely distributed across the lower hills of the Himalayas (where it occurs as a summer visitor), eastward to southern China (Yunnan north to Sichuan) and much of continental Southeast Asia. There are few records in the Malay Peninsula and elsewhere in the Greater Sundas (e.g. Sumatra) where it probable occurs as a rare non-breeding visitor during the months of the northern winter. 

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

 

Invasion of Cuckoos at Sentosa

By Thio Hui Bing.

On 24th December 2017, I went down to Sentosa to see for myself this interesting phenomenon, after friends shared that a particular tree was attracting several species of migrant cuckoos that are usually hard to see. The reason for the attraction was the outbreak of Tussock Moth caterpillars, a favorite food of the cuckoos. The fig tree, Ficus Superba was bare as it had just shed its leaves. The caterpillars were feeding on the new young shoots. It also exposed the nest of resident Crested Goshawks. I am amazed and wonder how the birds know that there is plenty of food here. Is it by experience, by chance while en-route during its migration, by sight or by scent?

25626866_10156146549751694_4229627372098584779_o

The bare Ficus Superba sheds its leaves regularly. The new young shoots is less toxic for the caterpillars.

Many other birders also specially came to see this interesting gathering of cuckoos. It was a cloudy day even until noon. We managed to see the Large Hawk_Cuckoos, Indian Cuckoos and an Asian Emerald Cuckoo, a very rare non breeding visitor. This will be only our second sighting, the first record was in 2006 (Lim Kim Seng, Avifauna of Singapore).

25734365_10156146540561694_7966352803476466300_o

The Tussock moth caterpillars are the reasons why so much cuckoo species are seen here.

Based on my observations that morning, the Large Hawk-Cuckoo and Indian Cuckoo were able to ‘live’ peacefully with the Crested Goshawks but stayed at a distance to the left and right of the tree. We waited for an hour or so, while the elusive escapee Chinese Hwamei kept us entertained with it’s melodious song until a small size bird flew in. We looked among the branches and finally saw the Asian Emerald Cuckoo. And boy,  are we excited! Though the bird was high up and mostly blocked by twigs and branches, camera shutters started to click non stop. The cuckoo was seen feeding on the caterpillars, hopped around a little but eventually stay perched for some time.

Javan Mynas and Black-naped Orioles were also observed flying to this tree on and off. The orioles does not seem to be afraid of the goshawks often coming close to them.

The goshawks were not happy with the presence of the other birds on the tree. They would scoop down and chase the cuckoos and other birds away, especially the Large-hawk Cuckoos. Many of the birders left happy with a rare Singapore “tick”.

The second half of the morning was spent waiting for the cuckoos to come back now that the goshawks were away.  The Large Hawk-Cuckoo was the first to come back followed by the Indian Cuckoo. Only the Large Hawk-Cuckoo were seen feeding on the caterpillars.

25626135_10156146452161694_5018110599399526489_o

An adult and a juvenile Large Hawk-Cuckoo were among the cuckoos that were enjoying the caterpillar feast at the Ficus Superba.

A group of birders were trying to find the Chinese Hwamei in the thick undergrowth when they spotted the Asian Emerald Cuckoo on a nearby tree. Shutters started clicking once again.

25626079_10156146541281694_4702027200277699177_o

A most unexpected appearance of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo, last seen in 2006, was a most welcome X’mas present for both birders and photographers here.

The cuckoo stayed there for a few minutes before being distracted by a high pitch call, most probably by the Crested Goshawk.  It then flew off to an higher tree branch. This ended my observation of cuckoos for the day. Sadly both the Chestnut-winged and Malaysian Hawk Cuckoos, that were seen yesterday,  did not showed up this morning.

(All photos by Thio Hui Bing)

Reference: Yong Ding Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing.

 

The varied diet of the Brown-throated Sunbird.

Contributed by Seng Alvin.

The Brown-throated Sunbird, Anthreptes malacensis, is the largest sunbird among the six species in Singapore. I have been observing these beautiful birds for many years. They have been a joy to photograph and I never get tired of shooting them.

Looking back at my old photos, I realised that they feed on a variety of food and not just on nectar alone although this is their main source of energy.  This made them a generalist which may account for their presence in parks, gardens and disturbed woodlands.  This is a compilation of the photos I took over the years showing them taking fruit, seeds, caterpillars and nectar from a wide range of flowers. I hope that this will encourage others to document the feeding habits of these beautiful sunbirds so that we can learn more about them.

18403424_1355014431244017_7852204427706861035_n

Female taking nectar from a Red Button Ginger / Scarlet Spiral Flag flower. It uses its tubular long tongue to get to the nectar at the base of the flower and “sipped” it up by capillary action. 

18403487_1355014427910684_87507641798365204_n
The nectar is at the base of the Hibiscus flower and the Brown-throated Sunbird  had to use its sharp bill to pierce the bottom of the flower to get to the nectar.

18403677_1355014611243999_1863839806849413910_n
The male seen here picking up a fruit from the Simpoh Ayer flower before swallowing it. These seeds are also favorites of bulbuls and other furgivorous birds.

18491822_1355014471244013_1357118841242904644_o
The Red Tree-vine or Leea Rubra are normally visited by bees and butterflies as their flowers are small. This male Brown-throated Sunbird must be attracted to the color or for a change of taste.

18403544_1355014537910673_1156006108951238939_n
Hanging on a thin twig just to get to the sweetest flower of the Earleaf Acacia is not a problem for this juvenile female. 

18447064_1355014464577347_2289025174707863355_n
Sunbirds unlike the humming birds do not hover to feed. They can save precious energy by clinking on to the flower of the Gelam Tree/ Tee Tree to feed.

18485894_1355014457910681_1403940758473528576_n
This male is out looking for protein for its youngs. This juicy caterpillar is just it needs. 


25152026_1546343348777790_1478930770883144464_n
The Saraca tree at Bukit Batok NP is a magnet for the Crimson, Van Hasselt’s and of course our Brown-throated. 

18740586_1371995162879277_6123690897969694025_n
The Fire Bush / Scarlet Bush is an introduced ornamental plant to our gardens, but it seem that the bill of the Brown-throated Sunbird is perfectly suited to get to the nectar inside.

18838816_1374462825965844_796687924655387245_n
The red flower of the Teruntum Merah proves irresistible to this male sunbird.

18836059_1375424132536380_2148059231001375166_n
The dwarf Banana is planted to add color to a garden and its small flowers must have enough nectar to bring this female to it. It will also help to pollinate the flower.

18451363_1355014627910664_8068936529971869228_o

I am still trying to find out the name of this tree where this female managed to get to its seeds.

I would like to thank Ivan Kwan for helping me to ID all the trees/flowers/fruits in this album. A good start for me to learn the names of our plants and flowers that are great sources of food for our birds.

Singapore Bird Report-November 2017

 

Goh Cheng Teng 2

Only our second record, the female Narcissus Flycatcher taken at Dairy Farm NP on 29th by Goh Cheng Teng showing the mottled breast and the brownish upper-tailed coverts.

The star bird of the month was the Narcissus Flycatcher, Ficedula narcissina, a female, photographed on 28th at DFNP by Marcel Finlay and Veronica Foo. It stayed over for the next 2 days long enough for some great photos to confirm its ID. This will be our second record once the Records Committee completes its review. A second record for Sentosa was a female Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola solitarius, photographed by Jan Tan at Resorts World Sentosa on 2nd.

Terence Tan 4Another first for Gardens by the Bay when this rare Northern Boobook made an overnight stop over there on 8th. Photo: Terence Tan.

Other rarities for the month include a Northern Boobook, Ninox japonica, that stopped over at Satay by the Bay (SBTB) on 8th. Terence Tan was there to capture its one day stay. A very rare passage migrant, an Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, was very well captured by Francis Yap with Fadzrun Adnan from the Jelutong Tower on 24th.

francis yap 2

A composite flight shot of the Asian House Martin, a very rare passage migrant flying over Jelutong Tower well captured by Francis Yap 

Sadly pittas continued to collide into our buildings this month starting with a first for the season Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida on the 20th. Lee Tiah Khee found the carcass at Toa Payoh. Another was found dead on 23rd by David Tan at Raffles Institution. Mabel a resident at Novena found an injured Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, on 22nd. It survived. But not the one that Michael Leong found at Parry Road on 23rd. Lim Kim Chuah had a dead Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus, at his office on Jurong island on 7th. We can ill afford the loss of this globally threatened species. David Tan picked up a dead Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis, after it crashed into North Vista Primary School. A Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax, crashed into a service apartment at Wilkie Road on 2nd (Yvonne Tan). Even our resident was not spared. A dead Changeable Hawk Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus, was picked up at Clark Quay by Asri Hasri on 25th after it crashed into one of the high rise buildings there.

Grey NJ Christina See

Eye-level shot of the Grey Nightjar, a rare winter visitor at the Satay by the Bay by Christina See.  This is the first record for this location. 

Many of the rare winter visitors were recorded in different parts of the island during the month. The best way is to list them by species for easy reference.

  1. Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica : Kent Ridge Park on 1st by Mogany Thanagavelu, Admiralty Park on 2nd by Luke Milo Teo, PRP on 7th by Zhang Licong and Bidadari on 11th by Richard White.
  2. Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka : SBTB on 3rd by Christina See, AMK Park on 12th by Tey Boon Sim and Bidadari on 20th by Khong Yew. Most number recorded in a single month.
  3. Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea : Bidadari on 3rd by Frankie Lim and a juvenile at at Healing Gardens at SBG on 23rd by Laurence Eu. Richard White reported one at BTNR on 11th and another at RRL on 23rd.  
  4. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca : Lentor Ave on 6th by Katherine Yeo after colliding with a building, another at Sentosa found dead by David Tan  and one found dead at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music on 11th by Shawn Ingkiriwang (picked up by David Tan).
  5. Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata : Lower Peirce Boardwalk on 3rd by Basil Chia, a juvenile at Bidadari on 12th by Pary Sivaraman (identified by Dave Bakewell) and a third from Tuas South on 17th by Alfred Ng. 

 

Pary Sivaraman 2

A juvenile Japanese Paradise Flycatcher at Bidadari by Pary Sivaraman on 12th November. We may have overlook this plumage before. It stayed until 18th.

  1. White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis : All were reported around Seletar Crescent area. Francis Yap on 19th and Alfred Chia on 22nd with three birds.
  2. Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus: 5-6 birds over Jelutong Tower on 24th by Francis Yap and another at DFNP on the same day. Goh Cheng Teng had a flock of 20 birds circling over the northern part of Changi Coastal Road. The last for the month was at RRL on 29th by Stuart Birding.
  3. Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus : Bidadari on 3rd by Sam Ng and another at SBG on 25th by Gautham Krishnan.
  4. Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus : Bidadari on 2nd by Looi Ang Soh Hoon, Chinese Gardens on 3rd by Ben Choo and a dead bird at Pasir Ris on 26th by Lim Kim Chuah.
  5. Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus : Pulau Ubin on 4th by Yong Ding Li and Nigel Collar, and at SBTB on 5th by Kozi Ichiyama.
  6. Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor : Pulau Ubin on 4th (Yong Ding Li and Nigel Collar) and Pasir Ris Park on 25th by a friend of Deborah Friets.

Some of the single sightings of rare migrants reported for the month include a lugens White Wagtail Moticilla alba, at Sembawang on 6th (Fadzrun Adnan), Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina, at SBG on 7th by Lim Kim Chuah, a juvenile Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis, at Yishun on 8th by Khoo Meilin, Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, on 11th and a Siberian Blue Robin, Larvivora cyane, on 14th both at BTNR by Richard White, Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus, perched on the fence of Seletar Airport on 19th by Goh Cheng Teng, Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata at Kranji Marshes on 19th by See Wei An during a NSS Bird Group Walk and a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola, at Sengkang Wetlands on 21st by Francis Yap.

francis yap 5

Had to be the most open and clear shot of this sulker, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, taken at the Sengkang Wetlands by Francis Yap.

The Eastern Crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus, were still coming through. Thio Hui Bing reported one at Windsor Park on 22nd. Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki (Stuart Birding) and Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone affinis, (Marcel Finlay) were still visiting Bidadari on 20th. A Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus, was expertly picked up by Adrian Silas Tay on 25th at the Seletar end.

Zappey's Khong Yew

Zappey’s Flycatcher identified by the blue patch on the breast, taken at Dairy Farm NP by Khong Yew.

The rush to Dairy Farm Nature Park was sparked off by Zhang Licong’s alert of a 1st winter male Blue and White/Zappey’s Flycatcher on 24th. This was followed by a 1st winter Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cumatilis two days later. Dave Bakewell pointed to the small blue patch on its breast. An Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus, together with a rarer Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica, a passage migrant were seen feeding on the fig tree behind the Wallace Center on 24th and 25th respectively. Both male and female Mugimaki Flycatchers Ficedula mugimaki, and a Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu, (Kozi Ichiyama) were also seen feeding there on 26th. Veronica Foo had the only adult Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana there on the 28th.

Dean Tan

The rarer Siberian Thrush making a short stop over at Dairy Farm NP. Photo by Dean Tan. 

In the air, more interesting migrants were seen passing through. Flocks of 20 Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica, on 1st (Alan OwYong), a Needletail spp on 6th (Frankie Cheong), both over Henderson Wave at Telok Blangah Hill. Keita Sin reported one of the largest flock of 70 Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum, flying over Kent Ridge Park on 15th.

As for our residents, Yong Ding Li showed Nigel Collar the Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha, at Pulau Ubin on 4th. A King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis, was reported by Martin Kennewell at Kranji Marshes on 5th. He also had a Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, there on 12th, two very good finds for Kranji Marshes. Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea,  were still foraging at Changi South, with reports from Tan Eng Boo on 21st and James Tann on 22nd. A not so common sight nowadays was a flock of hundreds of White-headed Munias Lonchura maja, seen flying at the Tuas Grasslands on 5th by Low Choon How. They used to be very common there in the 90s but most of the open grasslands have been developed.

The only shorebird of note to report is a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, seen flying to Chek Java on 30th by Tay Kian Guan. As for the raptors, we had an Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus and Amur Falcon Falco amurensis, two very rare vagrants during the last week of the month. These and other raptors will be in the full Raptor Report coming out soon.

Location abbreviations: SBG Singapore Botanic Gardens, DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, RRL Rifle Range Link, SBTB Satay by the Bay, AMK Ang Mo Kio and BTNR Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited.

Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. 2000.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from 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 Goh Cheng Teng, Terence Tan, Francis Yap, Christina See, Pary Sivaraman, Khong Yew and Dean Tan for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 29 October 2017.

By  Yew Yee Siang.

IMG_15183

Over the weekend, I finally managed to visit the core conservation area of the Kranji Marshes with the Nature Society. The morning was spent in relative tranquility, away from the bustle and stress of the city (which can still be seen in the distance). As a complete birdwatching beginner with no prior knowledge, I am extremely thankful to the avid birdwatchers from the Nature Society who shared their wealth of knowledge with me, pointing out the different birds we saw and other relevant tidbits of information. Within the small area of the Kranji Marshes (56.8-hectares), we counted 39 species of birds (37 seen and 2 heard) and spotted the migratory black-capped kingfisher in action. 20 odd ducks flew in formation, with the beauty and grace comparable to modern aerial displays. It was delightful to know that Singapore still has such rich natural biodiversity, even playing host to many migratory species. The harmony of nature and her natural inhabitants at the Kranji Marshes really struck me hard. It makes one wonder about the implications we humans have on the natural environment (even more so in development driven Singapore) and how we can possibly reconcile. We have touched on in school some of the challenges of nature conservation in Singapore; with examples such as the marina south duck ponds. Whilst we can always strive to do better, I was heartened to see this little piece of land being set aside in the outskirts of Singapore (for how long we do not know) for the protection and conservation of marsh birds. I left the Kranji marshes reminded that in the concrete jungle we live in, the human spirit needs places where nature has not been (or at least relatively) rearranged by the hand of man.  (Above article and Kranji Marsh photo were contributed by Yew Yee Siang, back row, in dark blue t-shirt)

Other photos taken during the morning walk are shown below:

IMG-20171029-WA0007

Sighted : Black-Capped Kingfisher, a regular visitor to KM. 

IMG-20171029-WA0009

A flock of Lesser Whistling Ducks flying in the morning

IMG_15188

IMG_15196

IMG-20171029-WA0006

Sighted: Snipe (centre) and Wood Sandpipers

IMG-20171029-WA0008

Little Egret in flight.

A special thank you to Yew Yee Siang who wrote and contributed to the main article.

All bird photographs were well taken and contributed by Mahesh Krishnan (front row, centre).

First documented record of the successful nesting of the Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata, in Singapore,

By Mike Smith.

Introduction:

The Red-legged Crake Raliina fasciata is an uncommon resident in NE India, across mainland South-East Asia, Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Sundas. Singapore and West Thailand are the two places in its range where they are more easily seen. The northern population migrates and winters to South East Asia. On 13 June 2003, a Thai birder Prapoj Rukruenreang posted a set of a nesting Red-legged Crake with at least 4 eggs in it which he took at Kaeng Krachan N.P. The nest is built on a grassy base on the ground with dry leaves and small twigs spread on top of it.

23550903_1728700530508336_4540341832247404567_o

Besides earthworms the Red-legged Crakes also take insects from the ground

In Singapore, they are an uncommon resident and winter visitor found in forest edges and nature parks away from swampy places. It was once considered rare until a family was seen bathing at the drain next to Tyersall Avenue and its vocalisation known.  The first breeding record was from Hume’s Heights where an adult was seen with three chicks on 16th January 1985. Families with chicks have since been seen in various parts of the Singapore Botanic Gardens and nearby Bukit Brown for the decade or so but not the actual nesting. The breeding season is in January, March, May to July and September based on sightings of the adults and chicks. In mid October, I chanced upon a nest at the Singapore Botanic Gardens with eggs in it. This is the first documentation of its nesting in Singapore.

14th October 2017.

3Red_legged_crake_eggs

Four of the five off-white eggs that I chanced upon at the Helliconia Gardens when I was photographing the sunbirds.

I was photographing the sunbirds at the Helliconia Gardens at the Botanic Gardens when I chanced upon a nest with five off-white eggs in it. They must have been laid a day or two ago according the the workers there. The eggs were left unattended and no crakes were seen around the nest that day. So I was not sure if it belonged to the Red-legged Crakes. The bush is about 2 meters away from the concrete path where visitors to the park frequently used. Surrounding this bush are groves of various species of Helliconia plants.

1-20171026_100445-001

The nest is built on the inside Fire Bush less than 2 meters from the walking path but well hidden from sight by the Helliconia groves.

1-20171026_100219

The nest is about knee high from the ground. You can just see the Crake sitting on the well hidden nest in the Fire Bush. 

These groves of Helliconias provide an ideal place for the adult crakes to forage safely under cover. From one of the videos, they were seen picking out earthworms from the ground in between the stems of the Helliconia plants.

The Nest:

The nest itself is an untidy collection of dead leaves from the plants nearby piled on top of each other forming a depressed center for the eggs. The Helliconia leaves made up the majority of the leaves. The stem of one of the leaves can be seen sticking out of the nest giving it an unfinished look. In between there were small twigs and other dry plant material. It is about 25 cm long and 25 cm wide and 4 cm thick. It is not built on the ground but about knee high on the branches of a Fire Bush Hamelia patens, a path side ornamental plant.. At the center of the nest a few very small twigs seem to be used to give support to the eggs.

1-20171104_153510

The nest is made of piles of dried leaves and small twigs on the Fire Bush, an low ornamental plant commonly used for edge landscaping.

The nest can only be seen if one steps a little inside the flower beds and not from the path. The Helliconia plants cover any line of sight from the other side. This is the first description of its nest in Singapore and very different from the one in Thailand. It would appear that they will use whatever nesting material that is available nearby and adapt the position of the nest to the location.

The nearest water is the Symphony Lake about 30 meters down the slope. On the upslope is the service and visitors road by the side of the Rain Forest.

On October 15th I saw a crake on the nest and knew it was active. I spent about 60 hours monitoring the nest over the next 19 days.  Another five hours were spent by a birder friend when I was away for a few days. (I later found out that another birder, Roberta Cheok was also monitoring this nest at around the same time on her own).

9sitting_red_legged_crake

First saw the Red-legged Crake on the nest on the 15th October and knew that it was active.

For the first couple of days the nest was sometimes left unattended but from October 18th there was always a parent incubating the eggs. Both parents were involved in the incubation, one would be on the nest and the other foraging nearby undisturbed by human traffic. They kept totally quiet facing either the path or into the undergrowth but were alert to what was going on around them. A monitor Lizard was seen sniffing around but left the eggs alone, as did a squirrel.

During this period I got a great video of an adult stamping up an earthworm from the ground near the nest. After letting it wriggle around it pecked at it and gobbled it down. Earthworms seem to be a major part of the diet but I also saw crakes eating insects and a video by Lena Chow shows a small snake being eaten. The choice of nesting around the Helloconia groves may be due to the availability of the earthworms under the soft soil. On 28th October, a very hot afternoon of 33 degrees my birder friend saw a parent standing in the nest over the eggs possibly fanning the eggs with its wings maybe to regulate the temperature. Its bill was open as it was also trying to cool itself. It did this for over half an hour and did not sit on the eggs during the whole time.

23415248_1722842847760771_3463705769292967662_o

3rd November. First saw a crack on one of the eggs on the 20th day of monitoring.

On the afternoon of November 3rd,  the 20th day since I first came across the nest and eggs I saw a crack on one of the eggs. The parent was pecking around the egg, I wasn’t sure if it was trying to assist. About an hour later the first chick hatched and popped up its head to greet the world before snuggling under the parent.

17hatching_red_legged_crake

Red-legged Crake nesting at SBG with the first chick just hatching.

I later found that a second chick hatched at 5 pm. The worker said that he found the first chick on the ground and put it back to the nest at approximately 3pm. My birder friend went by at around 6pm to take a look. At first there were no signs of the chicks but it appeared briefly as a small black furry ball. At around 7 pm in failing light, the parent bird was observed to be pecking frantically all round the nest. After a few minutes of pecking, it suddenly flew out of the nest in a hurry. On closer inspection, he saw a swarm of large black and brown ants had invaded the nest most likely attracted by the remains of the eggs. They were all over the nest and eggs. Three eggs remained unhatched with one empty shell.

23456597_1724716627573393_8210164053902060199_o

The nest was invaded by ants a few hours after the first two chicks hatched. Both parents and chicks escaped leaving three eggs unhatched.

The chicks must have got out with the parent as none of them were in the nest. Past literature suggests that crake and hen chicks are precocial and were able to fend for themselves once hatched. This has to be nature’s way to save them from predation since they nest so close to the ground.  Soft calls presumably from the parent can be heard nearby. The parent maybe trying to gather the chicks together in the dark. Who would have thought that a small ant is the biggest threat to their nesting?
Next morning November 4th I found two hatched eggs in the nest and one egg on the ground. There were no chick carcasses. The parent were not in the nest but were scurrying around nearby. It would seem that the last three eggs hatched between 7 pm last night and 9 am this morning. I have no idea what happened to the chicks. I hope that their survival instincts got them to retreat to the deeper forest cover up the road and do their foraging there until they are big enough to fend for themselves.

Conclusion:

From this single nesting observation I was able to make a few interesting and perhaps new information about their nesting nesting behavior that may help with its conservation.

  1. Based on the information from the worker and the time I found the nest, it took at least 22 days for the first chick to hatch. As I cannot find any literature on the incubation period, this has to be the most accurate available.
  2. Our breeding period ends in September. This October/November nesting at best extends the period or may set a new “out of season” date for this crake. This then brings into question if this is a breeding visitor and not a resident?
  3. Crakes are known to build their nests on the ground, This one is about knee high. It could be that the surrounding ground is too exposed and the crakes adapted by building in on a low bush instead.
  4. We know that the chicks are precocial and that they were ready to be own their own a day or two after hatch. In other words they can be fully fledged in that short time. But from my observations the chicks were able to act within hours after hatching. For sure the first two chicks will not survive the ants attack if they do not jump off the nests barely few hours after hatching.

Photos: Mike Smith of AsiaPhotoStock.com

References:

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

A note on Red-legged Crakes (Rallina fasciate) in Singapore. May 2017 Marcel Finlay.

‘Notes on the Distribution and Vocalizations of the Red-Legged Crake (Rallina fasciata) in Singapore’ – Singapore Avifauna Volume 23 No 4 (Nature Society Singapore Bird Group, 2009)

Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore by Lim Kim Seng. (Nature Society (Singapore), 2007)

A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. John Beaufoy Publishing 2013.

Vanishing Birds of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. Nature Society (Singapore) 1992.

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore by Morten Strange (Periplus, 2002)

Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson Asia Book Co. Ltd 2000.

www.Birdlife.org

www.eBird.org

https://singaporebirds.com)

https://singaporebirds.blogspot.sg