Author Archives: Alan OwYong

About Alan OwYong

Retiree birder and photographer.

Scaly-breasted Munia enjoying Algae.

Scaly-breasted Munia enjoying algae
 
by T.Ramesh 

Scaly-breasted Munias ( Lonchura punctulata) are common residents in Singapore and have two races  – the local fretensis with paler upper parts and the introduced topela with distinctive brownish upper parts.   The introduced species of topela are common along the grass patches of Changi Business Park (CBP) canal which is behind the CBP bus depot.

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During one of my regular birding walk along this  canal recently,  I noticed a thick layer of green algae had bloomed on the canal.   Algae are plants lacking roots, stems and leaves and they are widespread in terms of habitats.  Singapore with equatorial climate has algal abundance and richness with 1054 species recorded .
I observed a Scaly-breasted Munia  landed on the algae.  Generally they are gregarious in groups but foraging can be individual or in group .  Studies have established the economic consequences of joining other munias in two models :  i) Information sharing model and ii) producer-scourger model .
However,  here it was alone . It poked the slimy algae and pulled the strands out to munch.  It kept hopping on different parts of the algae and continued to feed while alertly looking around for any threat . I quote below Avery, ML ‘s observation in his research paper in 1975 on White-rumped Munia’s feeding behaviour  in Malaysia:
 “Field observations and stomach analyses showed that the munias ate rice and the green filamentous alga, Spirogyra, almost exclusively. The primary periods of algae eating occurred in January and June-August, coinciding with the munias’ two peak periods of reproductive activity, as determined by gonadal examination. Apparently munias on the study area ate Spirogyra as a source of protein to enable them to become physiologically ready for breeding, much as other tropical bird species eat insects .”
Ref: Diet and breeding seasonality among population of White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, in Malaysia by Michael L. Avery.
 Though this behaviour is observed in other countries, glad to video record this in Singapore .
Click on the link below for the video.
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Nesting of Rufescent Prinias in Peninsular Malaysia.

Nesting of Rufescent Prinias in Peninsular Malaysia.

By Connie Khoo.

The Rufescent Prinia Prinia rufescens is a common breeding resident in Malaysia. The subspecies found in Peninsular Malaysia is extrema. It is one of the three Prinia species listed in Malaysia. It can be found in open scrub and dry grasslands next to forest edges. It is also a common resident across South East Asia except Central Thailand and Singapore. Its range include North and North East India, Bhutan and SW China.

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The fledgling staying close to the nest just below it while the parent kept watch from above.

On 3rd June 2019 I came across a low nest by the side of a forest outside Ipoh, Perak. The nest was built by stitching up the sides of a large leaf into a conical shaped cup just like a tailorbird’s nest. The one meter tall plant is identified as the Terung Asam, Solanum lasiocarpum, by my friend Amar-Singh HSS. It was lined with fine dried grasses inside and hung about a half meter above ground.

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The nest is very similar to that of the tailorbird’s nest, leaf sewn together, cup shaped and filled with fine grasses inside.

Three hatchlings with pin feathers and exposed naked skin were seen inside the nest. Their eyes were closed. I estimated that they hatched no more than 2 to 3 day before.

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A wide angle view of the surrounding habitat and forest edge of the nesting area with the Terung Asam on the left.

When I visited the nest again on the 6th June, the parents were more relaxed and were feeding the chicks regularly. During the monitoring over the next few days, I saw the parents bringing back a variety of insects for the chicks with caterpillars as the main diet. Other insects include grasshoppers, small moths and butterflies, termites, spiders, black ants and insect eggs. However no dragonflies or damselflies were brought back.

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Parent checking on the hatchlings inside the sewn leaf of the Terung Asam plant.

On 8th June, the chicks were fully covered by feathers and their eyes were open. By now they were about 7-8 days old.

The first chick fledged on the morning of the 12th June at 8.38 am, 11-13 days after hatching. It jumped out of the nest and then flew to a thin branch 3 meters away. This caused much anxiety and excitement with the parents. The second and third chick followed suit at 8.46 am and 9.18 am. They flew straight to the nearest branch much to the relief of the parents. The feeding continued that morning but I was surprised to find two more adults coming by to help feed the chicks. This communal feeding was recorded in other species but this is the first time I have seen it with this prinia.

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The first fledgling came out of the nest after 11-13 days after hatching.

The parents led the chicks out to the forest edges to feed the next day. By now it was hard to monitor them as the chicks moved deeper into the denser part of the forest.

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The parents staying close to the fledglings at the edge of the forest on the second day after they fledged.

I was glad to be able to document this nesting as past nesting failed either due to predation or inclement weather.

Thanks to Alan OwYong for editing and additional notes on its distribution.

Reference: Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Company 2000.

 

 

 

Awesome Underwater Dive Catch of the Grey-headed Fish Eagle.

By Alan OwYong and Steven Wong.

This pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles, Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, are raising a family somewhere at the Toh Tuck area and have been fishing along the Pandan Canal for some time now. Both or one of them will perch in the mid canopy of the Albizia trees by the side of the canal either in the early morning hours or late afternoons looking out for any signs of life in the canal.

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Perched up in the mid canopy, looking down at the canal waiting for any movements in the water.

Many of the dives and catches have been well documented in a number of great action photos posted in various Facebook groups recently. All of them show them diving down from the perch and snatching a fish from the surface of the water before taking it back to the trees.

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Steven Wong’s photo of the Sea-eagle entering the water with both wings up. I had a photo of the eagle completely underwater with only the ripples to show on the surface. But deleted it off hand as it had nothing to show.

But on the morning of 21 March 2019, Steven Wong and I witnessed a dive catch we have not seen before. The eagle dived into the water and caught a catfish that was swimming beneath the water surface. At one stage the whole eagle was submerged under the water only to reappear out of the water like from out of nowhere.

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Struggling to get up after being fully submerged in the water.

To do this, the eagle must have an extremely sharp eyesight to see the catfish that was swimming well below the surface. Maybe the clearer water that day helped. Then it must continuously keep track the movement of fish as it was diving down from the perch.

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Relieved to have both wings clear of the water.

The hardest part must be when and where to plunge in as the fish was below the surface. It will first have to allow for the parallax as the fish was not where it is looking from above. It will also have to allow for the evasive action of the fish in the split second after it hit the water surface.

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It takes a lot of down force to lift off judging from the turbulence on the water surface, captured in this photo by Steven Wong.

After hitting the water the eagle will not be able to see the fish as its nictitating membrane will cover its eyes. It will depend on its speed, trajectory and self belief that it talons will somehow fall on to its target and grab it. It was interesting to see that it managed to grab hold of the catfish head instead of mid body. It must be aiming for its head right from the start so that it will still get the other parts of the body if it miscalculate the strike. This hunting technic must have been learnt from the many failures in the past.

 

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Determination written all over its face as it tried to drag it catch off the water.

Reversing its flight after the catch had to be another feat of power, using its wings to stop it going deeper and then pushing it back up to the surface. From the shots it took the eagle quite a few second to get airborne partly due to the size and weight of the catfish. We were happy to witness this hunting behaviour and add to the knowledge of these fish eagles in our midst.

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Success and food for the chicks today. It will eat the top half of the fish on the Albizia tree before taking the tail end back to the nest.

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Aiming for the head gave the fish eagle some margin of error.

Many thanks to Steven Wong for spotting the eagle that morning and generously sharing his local knowledge of the hunting behaviour of this pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles.

Asian Openbill-Singapore’s 2nd Record

On 17 March 2019, Beng Neo’s facebook post of an Open-billed Stork, Anastomus oscitans, taken at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve caused a stir among the birding community here. The next day birders and photographers lined up on the main bridge, hoping to tick off their lifers. They were not disappointed and all went home happy with great sightings and shots.

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Beng Neo’s shot of the Open-billed on the 17 March at SBWR.

Apparently Clare and Grant Morton, visiting birders from Australia first spotted this stork flying over the main hide on 14 March. They reported by email to the Nature Society (Singapore) and later confirmed it with a photo on the 19 March. Their sighting constituted only our second record of this stork in Singapore.

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Heavily cropped shot of the Openbill flying over SBWR on the 14th March by Clare and Grant Morton.

Our first record was on 23 January 2013 when six birds were spotted feeding in an open flooded field at Seletar North. They were part of a larger flock that made its way down south from Thailand along the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This movement may be due to the dry conditions back in Thailand and the lack of food sources.

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Mei Ling Khoo’s shot of the balancing stork taken from the main bridge. This month there were several postings of this stork on the Wild Bird Club Malaysia Facebook pages. 15th at Bota Kiri and Kinta NP on 3rd both in Perak and Tanjong Karang, Selangor on 11th. According to Tou Jing Yi they can be found in many parts of the West Coast and are still supplemented by migrants.

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Mahesh Krishnan caught it flying towards him at the main pond. The Asian Openbill is a common resident of India and parts of Indochina. Hundreds can be seen roosting in temples in Bangkok.

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The abundance of mollusc at the main ponds will hopefully prolong its stay here. This photo made it look like they are using the gap to crack the snails but they actually pick out the flesh with the curved tip of its mandible.

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A curious Monitor Lizard checking out the new arrival.

Reference: B.W. Low et al. First Record of the First Asian Openbill in Singapore. 2013.

Many thanks to Beng Neo, Clare and Grant Morton, Mahesh Krishnan, Khoo Mei Ling and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos and to Clare and Grant Morton for their record.

 

 

 

 

 

Leica’s Birdwalk with Noah Strycker.

Leica’s Birdwalk with Noah Strycker.

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Happy birders enjoying a great morning with Noah Strycker at the Gardens by the Bay. Photo courtesy of Chen Zhi Lin of Leica Camera Asia Pacific. 

Leica Cameras Asia Pacific flew Noah Strycker all the way from Antarctica where he was leading a trip to Singapore on 28 November to attend the Birdlife International’s Gala Dinner. It was only a “48 hours trip”, something Noah was used to when he did his Global Big Year in 2015. He set a new record of 6,042 species in a calendar year. Besides being one of the celebrity guests at the Gala Dinner, he also exhibited his bird photos taken with the Leica V-lux during his Big Year, the sale proceeds going to Birdlife International Conservation Fund.

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Geoff Lim’s low angle shot offering a different perspective of Noah Strycker with Con Foley at GBTB with Ee Ling, Veronica and Alan leading the way.

The marketing team at Leica Cameras Asia Pacific arranged a birdwalk with Noah for their clients and invited members of the Singapore Bird Group who helped Noah ticked the three species when he was in transit in Singapore on December 2015 (Link). They were the Straw-headed Bulbul, Grey Nightjar and the Tanimbar Corella.

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The visiting Common Kingfisher put on a great show for us that morning. Ping Ling crouching for a better shot. Photo: Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong.

We knew that Noah had birded in many wild and exotic places around the world but we doubt if he had ever birded at a man made garden on a reclaimed land right in the middle of a financial hub. So we decided to take him to the Gardens by the Bay on the morning of Saturday 1 December. Con Foley his “go-to-birder” here promised him his lifer, the Ruddy-breasted Crake which had been loitering around the gardens for the past weeks. But he forgot to let the crake know that a celeb birder was coming to see him. So Noah had to settle for the Yellow Bittern as his best bird of the day because of the excellent close up views.

Actually Noah was quite impressed with the bird life at the gardens this morning. We had a good variety of resident birds and a few migrants to show him. They may be common to us like the Asian Koel but they were a treat for Noah.

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I cannot remembered what we were looking at but it was a lup sup bird as far as Con is concerned. Photo: Wong Chung Cheong.

The last species we saw were two displaying Oriental Honey Buzzards before ending up at Leica’s Shop at Marina Bay Sands where Noah regaled us with a slide talk on his adventures of his Big Year. Noah turned out to be a great storyteller and a funny one too.  This was the highlight of the day for most of us listening to why and how he went birding for 365 days almost non-stop often without sleep.

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Noah’s slide talk showing the many friends he made during his Big Year. Photo: Yeo Seng Beng.

Starting on board a ship at one end of the world on New Year’s day looking for penguins to spending Christmas in Australia with the Cassowary before returning to India to mop up 40 odd more species for his record. It was a journey of making friends across the world as much as a personal achievement. The ups and downs were a plenty. Missed flights and being stranded in the middle of nowhere were par for the course. So too were the enthusiastic birders in every continent who never once let him down.

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Seng Beng, Kim Chuah, Ee Ling, Jimmy Chew and Jimmy Lee and Con standing, Fance and Kim Keang seated, having a lunch chat with Noah. Photo: Alan OwYong.

Many thanks to Leica for arranging this special bird walk and Noah for his company and talk. Thanks to Ray Tan and Chen Zhi Lin for making sure we all had a great morning. The sandwich and juice breakfast, bento lunches and Spoonie pins put together by Ginny Pang were much appreciated.

P.S. Noah has written a book “Birding without Borders” about his exploits doing his Big Year. It is a fascinating must read for every birder.  

 

 

 

Successful fledgling of pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles.

Successful fledgling  of a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles

by Christina See.

My family and I go over to Johor Bahru quite often for some shopping, meals and jalan jalan. On 23rd October 2018, I noticed for the first time a large stick nest on an Albizia tree as we drove up to the Woodlands ICQ checkpoint. It turned out to be a White-bellied Sea-eagle’s Haliaeetus leucogaster nest as both adults were seen coming back to the nest.

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Sea-eagles reuse their nests year after year, adding more sticks and branches to it. 

I was told that this pair had been using this nest for some time now. The location is well protected and close to the Straits of Johor where they can hunt for fish for their youngs. The perennial jam to clear immigration gave me a chance to photograph them from the car. It was also a great way to destress.

On the next trip out a week later, I can see two chicks in the nest. They looked rather big, so they must have hatched some weeks back.

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On the 19th of November, we went to JB again. This time I found both of the chicks outside the nest. It seemed that they are ready to fledge. They were jumping from branch to branch and kept flapping their wings. This had to be their way of strengthening their flight muscles for their first flight.

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The juveniles look very different from the adults. They have dark brown wings and buffy belly instead of grey wings and white belly of the adults.

Last Thursday on our drive in, I could not see any sea-eagles near the nest. I can only assumed that they have fledged. And just as we were about to enter the ICQ complex, I caught sight of one of the juveniles flying back to the nest. What a happy sight for me to see that they have successfully fledged and ready to join their parents to grace our skies with their majestic and soaring flights over our sea coasts and reservoirs. The next time you drive into Johor, do keep a lookout for them among the Albizias near to the ICQ complex.

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White-bellied Sea-eagles are common residents that can be found in most open country habitats both inland and near the coast. They are also recorded in our outer islands at Pulau Ubin in the north and the southern islands. The tall Albizia trees are their favourite trees to build their nest but they also use man made structures like telecom towers and even flag masts for nest building. The same pair will reuse their old nest by adding new branches and twigs to it. May they continue to thrive in our forests and seas for years to come.

34th Singapore Bird Race with “Wings of Johor”

34th Singapore Bird Race with “Wings of Johor” by Belinda Wong.

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I am surprised to see at least 14 tagged Common Redshanks in this group.

This year’s Singapore Bird race has an additional category of “Best Bird Photo’ contest offered by main sponsor Sony Singapore.  A Sony RX10 Mark IV awaits the best photo.  The catch is the photo must be captured by a Sony RX10 Mark IV camera.  So for that we drove over to Sungei Buloh Visitor Centre (SBVC) Singapore for a brief camera familiarization on 10th November 2018, a day before the race. The Sony RX10M4 is a really amazing camera from what we learnt during the short training with lots of amazing features.

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Just loved how the Common Redshank is reflected in the water.

Our friend, YK Han had kindly offered to show us around the known birding spots around Sungei Buloh and Kranji areas before the training in the afternoon.  My team mate, Lai Peng and I gladly accepted the opportunity as we were unsure how to move around the area.  Last year we had taken part for the first time, also in the “photography category” and we found ourselves getting lost a few times, losing lots of precious time trying to find our way to and from Sg. Buloh and Kranji Marshes.

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Lesser Coucals are normally difficult to spot, glad I got a decent shot.

The next morning, 11th November 2018, we were all geared up for the actual day of the race.  As we had to register by 7.00am and flag off at 7.30am, we aimed to reach SBVC by 6.30am just to be on the safe side.  For this I was up by 4.30am, had a quick breakfast at home and picked up Lai Peng at around 5.30am.  There was no jam at the Causeway as it was really early and we reached SBVC just before 6.30am.  I thought we were the first to arrive but there were already quite a few people before us, probably the race organisers.

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Little Egret looking so elegant walking across the water.

We registered ourselves and were pleasantly surprised we were given a nice grey race tee-shirt.  After a short briefing by Lim Kim Chuah, the race was flagged off at 7.30am sharp.

We birded at the SBVC till about 8.15am and did not regret it as we ticked off 21 species here, including 2 cuckoos – a Drongo Cuckoo and a Little Bronze Cuckoo.   After that, we headed off to Neo Tiew, Turut Track and Kranji areas. First bird we had was the Long-tailed Shrike which I only managed to get one shot of it – taking off……phew.  It almost got away.

We birded around the area and decided to make a rush to Kranji for a very quick walk up to the watch tower to try to get some raptors, and also that Scaly-breasted Munia which we hoped to get since it was building a nest the day before.  It was already getting very late, almost 10.00am and it was a really long walk in. After checking off the Dark-morph Changeable Hawk-eagle, and as it was really quiet with hardly any birds at this time of the day, we decided to move off to SBWR even though the scaly-breasted did not show up. We were hoping for the Black-naped Oriole but even that was not there.  As we reached the exit, I was lucky to get a shot of the Ashy Minivet.  We then quickly left for SBWR to look for our waders.

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One of the two Brahminy Kites that looked like they may be building a nest.

It was already past 11.00am when we finally reached SBWR and started chasing after the crows for a shot of them at the car park (can’t believe I was chasing for shots of crows !).  We stayed for about 15 minutes at SBWR and got all the usual wader suspects. As we reached the exit, I looked up to see 2 smallish birds on a bare branch some distance away and quickly took a shot.  I thought they were Lineated Barbets but was really excited when upon closer look they were Coppersmiths.

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Juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard dark morph flying over Kranji Marshes.

Soon it was already 11.30am and we quickly rushed back to SBVC.  We had planned to reach SBVC by 11.30am but we were running a little late.  We had learned from last year’s experiences that we need at least an hour to sort out the photos, unlike last year when we gave ourselves only 30 minutes.

After parking the car, we rushed in to try to find a spot to plug in our lap-tops and realised, to my horror, that I was using CF card for my photographs. Our laptops do not have slots to read CF cards and I had forgotten to bring my card reader!

After asking around to see who has a card-reader, I finally decided to check with Han, who was actually so busy himself trying to sort out his team’s photos with his partner Francis.  As luck would have it, he did have a card reader. Thank you Han!

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The waders are so well camouflaged at the ponds at SBWR

Then we realised we had another problem – the image number I see from the camera is different from the image viewed on the computer.  Luckily I had learned from our mistakes from last year – i.e. delete unwanted photos straight from the camera.  Thus I did not have too many photos to go through.  We managed to complete and handed in our paper and SD card, with only 1 minute to spare!  Phew! That was so stressful!  We will have to be better prepared if we do come back next year to avoid the stress!

We were delighted and surprised to walk away as second runners up with 44 species. The book prizes were much appreciated.

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Receiving our prizes from GOH Professor Leo Tan.

We would like to congratulate NSS Bird Group for a very well organised and successful event and also to Sony for their generosity in sponsoring 3 awesome cameras as prizes.  Well done guys!

 

 

34th Singapore Bird Race Winners

The 34th edition of the Singapore Bird Race 2018 ended on a high with three teams walking away with a priced Sony RX10M4 camera each. This is also the first time we have a “Best Photo Contest” for the photography teams using the on-loan Sony RX10M4. We would to thank Sony Singapore for their sponsorship and generous donation.

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Tuck Loong and Sia Ping’s winning photo of the Blue-winged Pitta with kind permission from Sony Singapore. 

Team Alpha Dynamic led by Kwok Tuck Loong with Tay Sia Ping took the initiative to go all the way to the Chinese Gardens to shoot the colorful Blue-winged Pitta at its well known hideout. The image wowed the judges, clinched the “best photo” contest and won them a Sony RX10M4 camera. Congrats to Tuck Loong and Sia Ping.

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Beaming Tuck Loong and Sia Ping receiving the Sony RX10M4 from Rubin Zheng, Product Manager (Singapore) Digital Still Camera. Sony Singapore. Photo Yap Wee Jin.

Team Terns led by veteran birder and former Bird Group Chairperson Lim Kim Keang with Alfred Chia and Tan JuLin pipped the Lau family team Drongoes by one species to win the Birders Category. They returned with 78 species and lugged home a Sony RX10M4 as well. They got the last two species just as they were on the way back to hand in their scores. Congratulations to Team Terns!

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The “Terns” – Champions for the Birder Category with Guest of Honour Professor Leo Tan. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

It was no contest in the photography category when the sharpshooters team “In the Tree” led by Goh Cheng Teng with Lester Tan came back with 55 photos of different species. They were also winners of last year’s photography category. Congratulations to Cheng Teng and Lester who were all smiles hugging the new Sony RX10M4.

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Team “In The Tree” – Champions for the Photography Category. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

A total of 31 teams took part in this year’s race, the highest to date. We are heartened by the turn out of 9 teams from 4 schools when we opened up this year’s race to both primary and secondary students. The excitement and smiles on their faces when they received their prices were reward enough for the organisers. Many thanks to Minister Desmond Lee for the donation of the Schools Champions trophy and Challenged Shield which went to team ‘Unity 1″ from Unity Secondary with an impressive 36 species.

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Team Unity 1 – Champions for the Schools (Sec) Category being presented the Challenge Shield by GOH Joseph Koh. Photo by Yap Wee Jin.

Team Eagles from Shuqun Primary came back with a score of 32 species to win the Primary Schools category. We wish to thank John Beaufoy Publishing Company for the book prizes for the schools teams.

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We also wish to thank our partners Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve for the use of the venue, Friend of Buloh, Birdlife International, East Asia Australasia Flyway Partnership, PUB and Nature Photography Society of Singapore for their support.

See you all again next year!

 

Pacific Reef Egret fish sorting behaviour?

Pacific Reef Egret fish sorting behaviour?

By Yeo Seng Beng.

On Sunday 7th October 2018, at 5 pm in the evening, I observed a Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) dark morph catching fish at low tide off Singapore’s West Coast Park.  The egret was positioned where a large monsoon drain with a continuous flow of water connects to the sea.  I suspect small fish congregate here because the drain water carries food into the sea.

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As it was low tide, the sea was quite shallow, and the egret easily caught 4 fish during the 25 minutes that I was observing it.  What was interesting was how the bird handled the fish, depending on the size of the fish.

The smallest fish, the egret ate immediately.

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The largest fish, which the bird was unable to hold on to, escaped within a few seconds.

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But the 2 intermediate sized fish, the egret surprisingly did not eat straight away, but placed the fish on dry land up on the bank of the monsoon drain, presumably to wait until the fish became less active.

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In the meantime, the egret would return to the sea to catch more fish.  But if the fish it left on dry land, started to flip or jump too vigorously, the egret would return to the bank to check on, or watch over these fish.

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Unfortunately, I did not have time to wait to see what the egret finally did with the fish it left on the bank, but one assumes after all the hard work to catch and monitor the fish, the egret would eventually eat the fish as delayed gratification!

Here is a 3 min video demonstrating how the egret handled the 4 fish it caught.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/sucii0jd84rdiid/PRE%28eating-stabilised%20quiet%29.mts?dl=0

 

 

Saving Mandai Mudflats and Mangroves.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve just celebrated its 25th anniversary this year as the premier stop over site for migratory shorebirds in Singapore. But we were concerned for its future as the Mandai Mudflats and Mangroves further east was delisted from the Singapore Green Plan (2012). The government had announced plans to reclaim the mudflats. The visiting shorebirds depend on Mandai Mudflats to refuel during its stop over. They then fly to Sungei Buloh to roost during high tides. To show this connection, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves and NParks in 2011 initiated a study of the movement of shorebirds between the Mandai Mudflats and Sungei Buloh. The Bird Group of the Nature Society was invited to be part of the study which we gladly accepted. This was a first of its kind systematic study to determine that the visiting shorebirds that feed at Mandai Mudflats fly back to Sungei Buloh to roost.

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Mandai Mudflats and Mangroves at low tide. It is part of the Kranji-Mandai IBA, Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. Two Horseshoe Crab species are found to be breeding here. 

A total of six sessions were conducted between 28 November 2011 and 9 March 2012. Teams of 2 to 3 observers were stationed at Sungei Buloh, Pang Sua Estuary and in a boat at the Straits of Johor mid way along their flight path hours before the respective high and low tides.  We did not managed to be at Mandai Mudflats for all the sessions due to lack of observers. The numbers and time of each species taking off, landing and flying past each station were recorded. A good collegation was when most of the same species were recorded at the respective stations at around the same time.

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Teams locations A-SBWR, B- Boat in Johor Straits, C-Pang Sua Estuary, D-Mandai Mudflats.

The results were what we expected. During four high tide sessions, 200, 205, 241 and 177 Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus were recorded at all the stations flying from Mandai back to Sungei Buloh to roost. At the other two low tide sessions, 215 and 240 Whimbrels were recorded flying back to Mandai from Sungei Buloh to feed. These counts confirmed that high numbers of Whimbrels that feed at Mandai Mudflats returned to Sungei Buloh and vice versa.

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Good numbers of Whimbrels that feed at Mandai flew back to Buloh to roost.

Next were the Common Greenshanks Tringa nebularia. For the four high tide sessions, 50, 8, 62 and 60 flew from Mandai to Sungei Buloh and 57 and 93 flew out of Sungei Buloh back to Mandai/Pang Sua to feed during the two low tide sessions. Most of the Common Greenshanks that feed at Mandai returned to Sungei Buloh and vice versa, except for one session.

PGP

Pacific Golden Plovers flying over Johor Straits on their back to Sungei Buloh and fish farms to roost.

We monitored the movements of the Pacific Golden Plovers, Pluvialis fulva and Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus as well. But we only managed to record one collegation of 130 Lesser Sand Plovers flying from Mandai to Sungei Buloh at high tides and two records for the Pacific Golden Plovers, 40 from Mandai to Buloh at high tide and 75 from Buloh back to Mandai at low tide. The reason for this was that some of the Lesser Sand Plovers flew over to the Danga Bay, Johor to roost while the fish farmers reported large numbers of Pacific Golden Plovers roosting on their fish farms at high tides.

We had two interesting findings during the study. The Pang Sau estuary just west of Mandai was just as important as a feeding ground for the shorebirds as Mandai. Thankfully this estuary will form part of the nature park. Not all the Common Redshanks left Buloh at low tides. Many preferred to stay at Buloh to feed and roost.

The then Singapore Branch of the Malayan Nature Society had identified the Mandai Mudflats and Mangroves as “Top priority” in the Master Plan for Conservation of Nature in Singapore 1990 and the present Nature Society (Singapore) had been advocating for its protection ever since. The Bird Group carried out the first Annual Bird Census (ABC) there in April 1986 and added the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) in 1990. Both censuses are still on going without any breaks. The data collected have been shared with NParks and other organisations. We are delighted that Mandai was finally designated as a Nature Park on 17 October 2018. We would like to think that censuses and studies like these play a small part in achieving this outcome.

  • Study Team: Sharon Chan, David Li, Mendis Tan, Bari Mohamad, Lim Hai Bi, Loh Wan Jing, Alan OwYong, Ho Hua Chew, Lim Kim Keang, Gerard Francis, Con Foley,  Lau Jia Seng, Han Chong, See Swee Leng, Jimmy Chew, K.S. Wong.

Reference:  Ho, H. C. & OwYong, A. 2015. Report on the Shorebird Monitoring Project at the Sungei Buloh-Mandai Mudflat Coastal Sector: 28 November 2011 – 18 September 2012. Singapore: Bird Group, The Nature Society. Unpublished.