Author Archives: Alan OwYong

About Alan OwYong

Retiree birder and photographer.

32nd Annual Bird Census 2017

32nd Annual Bird Census. 

Compiled by Lim Kim Chuah.

PG Plover

This year only 73 Pacific Golden Plovers were counted ( 65 at Mandai and 8 at SBWR) compared to 522 last year. It is the lowest since 1990.  See chart below. Is this a blip or signs of habitat deterioration? We hope that these bird censuses and counts will provide the answers.

The 32nd Annual Bird Census was held on on 5 March 2017. The weather was generally good and the count went well for the 23 sites surveyed. This is one site less than the 24 sites that were counted in 2016. Sites not counted this year included Lower Pierce Reservoir Park, Upper Seletar Reservoir Park, Ubin Central, Botanic Garden, Khatib Bongsu, Pasir Ris Park and Kranji Dam.

Bird-wise, we continue to see a disturbing trend in the reduction of number of birds counted. A total of 5682 birds was counted this year. This is a drop of 1056 birds (16%) compared to 2016 and 2888 birds (34%) below the past 28-year average count of 8471 birds. In terms of species counted, this year total of 138 is 4 species higher than 2016 but 11 species lower than the past 28-year average of 149 species. What could the reasons for this declining trend in both the number of birds and number of species counted? Possibilities included loss of habitats, declining population in migratory birds, etc. More work and data mining need to be done to ascertain the cause(s) of this decline.

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And how did the counts go at the 23 sites that were surveyed?

Kranji Marsh turned out to be the site with the most number of species of birds counted (72 species) followed by Poyan (55 species) and Malcolm Park (48 species). Kranji Marsh again proved to be a very important site as it registered the highest number of birds counted (582 birds). This is closely followed behind by Sungei Mandai (560 birds) and Malcolm Park (361 birds). It’s interesting that Malcolm Park, an urban park located close to the city recorded such high density and diversity of birds.

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And which are among the most numerous birds in Singapore? Well it’s hardly surprising that the title went to the ubiquitous Javan Myna, a bird that is ironically listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red list of threatened species. This is based on a rapidly declining population in its native wild range i.e. Java and Bali due to the cage bird trade.

The Javan Myna has consistently been counted among the top 4 birds (see chart). But the same cannot be said of its close cousin – the Common Myna whose fortune has continue to dip since the 90’s (see chart). Is it something to do with the rapid urbanization of Singapore? Or strong competition from the Javan Myna? Unfortunately, we do not have the answer.

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Comparing the Top 10 birds in 2016 and 2017, the species are similar except for the conspicuous absence of the Pacific Golden Plover in this year’s Top 10. This species is usually recorded in good numbers during the ABC especially from Sungei Mandai. This year, only 73 birds were counted – the lowest since 1990. Sungei Mandai recorded only 65 birds and another 8 at Sungei Buloh. Hopefully this blip is only temporary and not a sign of habitat deterioration at Sungei Mandai. But the annual declining trend seems to suggest that habitat deterioration may be one of the reasons.

Top 10 Birds in 2017 & 2016

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Counts of Pacific Golden Plover from 1990-2017:

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Finally, a BIG THANK You to all participants some of whom has repeatedly helped with the census through the years. This year’s participants included Andrew Chow, Wing Chong, Lee Ee Ling, Veronica Foo, LKS, Mick Price, Willie Foo, Alan OwYong, Keita Sin, Terry Heppell, Jane Roger, Kenneth Kee, Margie Hall, Wee Sau Cheng, Low Choon How, Tan Kok Hui, Rob & Kim Arnold, Koh Ai Kiak, Mithilesh Mishra, Jane Heppell, Ian Rickword, Nessie Khoo, Pang Hui En, Martin Kennewell + 9 NUS students, Liana Knight Spencer and George Kinman, Yeo Seng Beng, James Tan, John Ogiev, Richard Wong, Carmen Hui, Lim Li Fang, Eunice Kong, Yong Junzer, Milton Tan and Koh Ai Kiak.

The ABC was started in the 1980’s by the late Clive Briffett. What started as a fun activity to get more people interested in birds has generated a treasure trove of data through the years. We acknowledge that there are inaccuracies in the data collected e.g. skill level of counters, changes to sites, number of sites, routes changes etc. But if we are to look for trends in the data and focus on the big picture, then the data could prove interesting and useful as an indicator of the state of the health of the avifauna in Singapore. Hence it is pertinent that the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) continue to organize such counts and continue to monitor the trend. We look forward to the continued support of all members and participants.

Table: Summary of results from each site.

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NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee.

Fresh Water Ponds at Kranji Marshes

Kranji Marshes. Two conservation proposals in 1985 and 1990 resulted in adoption by NSS and later developed as a Kranji Marshes Park in 2005 by URA.

NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee:  (First published in NSS’s website on 10 September 2017)
A Review of the Facts
The views expressed below are endorsed by the following:
Dr. Shawn Lum (NSS President)
Dr. Geh Min (NSS Past President)
Dr. Ng Soon Chye (NSS Past President)
Mr Leong Kwok Peng (Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Dr. Ho Hua Chew (Vice-Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Introduction
Nature Society (Singapore) [NSS] members have been disturbed by statements made in
certain blogs and websites that they feel are inaccurate or misrepresent the work of the
Society and in particular its Conservation Committee both in the Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch) as well as in its emergence as the NSS after 1991. These comments aremade in articles posted in Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG) blogs, Raffles Museum of
Biodiversity Research (RMBR)’s DNA website and elsewhere. We feel it is important for the good name of NSS and the work we do that we attempt to clarify and correct some of these inaccuracies by giving our version of events. What follows below is our review of these inaccurate and misleading statements and our comments on them.
A) Campaign Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
1) ‘The almost daily media confrontation was led by Dr Wee, who was then President of NSS when the Conservation Committee Chairman declined to take up the fight as the area was not rich in birdlife.” .” (DNA, undated)
2) “… I have requested the Chairman of the Conservation Committee Dr Ho Hua Chew to
take up the cause. He declined. As a diehard birdwatcher he was probably interested in areas where the birdlife was visually as well as audibly obvious — like Kranji Heronry, Sungei Buloh or Khatib Bongsu.” (BESG, 2017a)
3) “Nature Society’s Conservation Committee was similarly not involved in the late 1990s
when Lower Peirce forest was under threat of being cleared for a golf course. I was the
Founding President of the newly formed Nature Society (Singapore) then and I sent a
message to Dr Ho Hua Chew, Chairman of the Conservation Committee, to oppose the plan. He was not interested. So I took charge.” (BESG, 2017b)
NSS Responses:
1) Dr Ho, with Sutari as assistant, was co-ordinator for the bird surveys under the NSS Bird Group. This was acknowledged behind the cover page of NSS’s Proposed Golf Course at Lower Peirce Reservoir: an EIA report (1992). Together with Sutari, Dr. Ho invited Dr.
Wee, the then President of the Society, to visit the bird survey transacts, which he agreed to do. To claim that Dr. Ho could not care less because the Peirce Reservoir Forest is not “rich in birdlife” is false. If that is true, Dr. Ho would not have, together with Sutari, persuaded and brought the then President to visit and have a look at the field of battle at all.
2) The claim that Dr. Ho declined “to take up the cause” is incorrect. What happened was that he was asked by the then President to co-ordinate/collate the results of all the surveys done by the various groups. Dr. Ho thought and told the then President that he (the President) was the best person for the task as he was a botanist and plant life was the main-stay of the nature reserve. Also, he was close at the time to the various academic collaborators.
B) Signature Petition Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
“There was also a spontaneous signature campaign … a campaign that was organized without the knowledge of the President” ( BESG, 2017a).
NSS Responses:
1) The signature campaign was organised with Dr. Wee’s knowledge and was not
“spontaneous”. In Wee and Hale, 2008, it is stated that: “A campaign was organized that
resulted in many thousands signing up, giving not only their names but their identity card numbers and occupations” to oppose the construction of the golf course … And further, in Wee & Hale 2008, it is added: “The almost daily confrontation in the media led to increasing public support against … the golf course”.
2) Dr. Wee himself had sent Dr. Ho a draft of the petition asking for his input. Dr. Ho
assisted to canvass for signatures in support of the petition. The signature collection was
impressive. NSS made extensive outreach to collect the signatures. It was not sent, as the
Government decided to shelve the building of the golf course.
C) NSS’s Conservation Proposals and their Aftermath
Here are a series of the internet postings on the Conservation Committee’s efforts at nature conservation:
Internet Comments:
1) “Flushed with success, the Conservation Committee of the society began a series of
campaigns to get government to protect the many areas listed in the Master Plan – as long as there was an abundance of birdlife. Filled with enthusiasm but lacking in behind-the-scene connections, the local leadership engaged in media confrontations when government failed to respond positively. Members were then new to conservation and more than a little naive, to say the least. Eventually every single non-gazetted area listed in the Master Plan ended up being developed.” (DNA, undated).
2) “Eventually, every one of the other conservation proposals in the society’s Master Plan
was rejected and till today, Sungei Buloh is the society’s first and only success in persuading the government to set aside any new area for nature conservation.” (Wee & Hale, 2008)
3) “This complements the Society’s earlier success, that of persuading government to set
aside an area for a bird sanctuary in Sungei Buloh. Until today these are the only two
successes the Society can be proud of “ (BESG, 2017a)

NSS Responses:
1) Only two of these nature areas proposed for conservation “ended up being developed”; these are: Marina South and Senoko. The claim that there are “only two successes the Society can be proud of “(citing Sungei Buloh and the campaign against the Lower Peirce golf course) is again incorrect.
2) Here are the facts pertaining to the proposals submitted to the relevant authorities and their aftermath, stated in brief. The readers can judge the facts for themselves:
a) Kranji Dam Mangrove (MNS, 1987a): A proposal for its conservation was put in a small section of the Sungei Buloh proposal, formulated by the NSS Bird Group and Conservation Committee. Thanks to Clive Briffett, who identified the area as important and formulated the detailed proposal after the Buloh proposal was submitted (MNS 1987b), it was designated a Nature Area in the inaugural Singapore Green Plan (SGP, 1993). And it was subsequently named the ‘Kranji Nature Trail Park’ and incorporated into the management of Sg Buloh Nature Park by National Parks (NParks). In 2015, it was officially integrated into Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, dropping its former name.
b) Kranji Marshes (MNS, 1985 & MNS, 1990a): The Kranji Marshes was included with
five other Singapore wetland sites in the IUCN’s Directory of Asian Wetlands, emphasizing its ecological importance as “a fairly rare type of habitat in Singapore and the Peninsular Malaysia” (Hails, 1989). An outline proposal for the conservation of the freshwater marshland at the Kranji Reservoir was submitted as early as 1985 to the relevant authorities. An expanded and updated proposal was submitted in 1990. After the tussles with the Mediacorp Transmission Project (1990) and the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course (2002), the remaining intact marshes, mostly south of the BBC station, were designated “Kranji Marshes Park” in 2005 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). NSS carried out an adoption programme here under the Public Utility Board’s (PUB) ABC Waters Programme from 1999 to 2014. After this, URA has, in consultation with NSS, made the Park more accessible to the public while also making it more attractive to the birdlife.
c) Senoko (MNS, 1990b): This bird sanctuary, a remnant mangrove area with aqua-culture ponds, was overwhelmed by the Sembawang HDB project. In response to its request to manage Senoko (NSS letter, 13 July 1992), NSS’s Conservation Committee received a reply from the Ministry of National Development (MND) stating that it had set aside 24 hectares of Senoko for conservation, but that the area boundary had not been finalised yet and they would revert back when it is done (MND letter, 6 October 1992). The Committee then requested a meeting to discuss the run of the boundary to include an important part of the habitat (NSS letter, 6 Nov 1992). The Committee was trying to do the best for the wildlife in the area, given that the authorities were not familiar with the habitat and its wildlife . In the meantime, the Committee managed to show NParks the area of concern in January 1993. While awaiting the MND’s reply, the then MND Acting Minister announced in Parliament that the Senoko bird sanctuary area will be developed for HDB upgraders.
d) Sentosa (MNS, 1990c): This report proposed Mount Serapong and Mount Imbiah for
conservation. These two areas were put into the Singapore Green Plan (1993) as Nature
Areas. This proposal has so far stayed the hand of Sentosa Development Corporation in its ,plans from eating into Mount Serapong and, to some extent, Mount Imbiah.
e) Marina South (MNS, 1991a): The NSS Conservation Committee’s effort to save the
marshy area with ponds for the wild ducks and other wetland bird species was overwhelmed by the government’s land-fill to prevent mosquito infestation. After the conservation proposal was rejected by the Ministry of Environment, the Committee requested that the marshland be filled up in slow stages to allow for the preparation of an adjacent, manicured pond in the Marina South Public Park for the wild ducks — as an alternative refuge (NSS letter, 20 May
1992). This was not acceded but, two decades later (2012), this park pond was enlarged and extended to form the Dragonfly Pond in the Gardens by the Bay.
f) Kent Ridge Environs (MNS, 1991b): This proposal covers the belukar forest of Kent
Ridge Campus. Still very much intact and put into the revised Singapore Green Plan as a
new Nature Area (URA 2003).
g) Pulau Ubin (NSS, 1992): Now a park under NParks management. This proposal was
based on an island-wide survey (1991) of the birdlife of Pulau Ubin by the NSS Bird Group when Ubin was a little-explored area in terms of biodiversity. The proposal was a pioneering conservation effort for Ubin. The Conservation Committee again re-emphasised its commitment to the future survival and viability of Ubin as a Nature Area in its Position Paper submitted in 2014 to NParks and MND. This report urged a Nature Reserve designation for Ubin, with one centralized management authority together with proposals for further protecting and enhancing its biodiversity assets. In 2016, NParks was assigned to be this central management agency, which will enable NParks to “respond more quickly and directly to queries and issues raised by residents and the public, instead of having to refer these queries to other agencies…” (NParks, 2016). This is a huge conservation step forward together with the URA’s shelving of its plan for the MRT connection as well as for housing and industrial development.
h) Sungei Khatib Bongsu (MNS, undated/a) and South Simpang (NSS, 1993): The Khatib
Bongsu proposal covers a mangrove area where the heronry of the Black-crowned Night
Heron was located. The South Simpang proposal is an expanded and updated proposal
which includes the heronry, and covers a larger area from Sungei Khatib Bongsu to the
eastern flank of Sungei Seletar estuary. The proposed area is mostly mangrove with some
wooded areas along its landward side included. It was designated in the Simpang
Development Guide Plan (1993) as a Nature Area to be integrated into the housing plan. Itis also mentioned in the budget speech in Parliament by Mr Lim Hng Kiang, the then MND Acting Minister, as a conservation site together with Sungei Buloh (refer Singapore
Parliament Report: 18 March 1994). The comment in BESG that “Sungei Khatib Bongsu was eventually canalized and the surrounding area reclaimed and developed into a reservoir” (BESG, 2017c) is incorrect. In 2004, on request from the PUB, the NSS Conservation Committee submitted a report on the important wildlife of the Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area (NSS, 2004). In response to the Committee’s report, PUB replied that there are no plans to develop SungeiSeletar Estuary, Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Sungei Simpang into a reservoir in the near future. Any reservoir development there will likely be in tandem with other developments in
the area (PUB’s letter, 5 April 2007). The lower reaches of the river are still uncanalised and the reservoir has been put on hold and only a slice of the forest at the landward area had to give way to a new road (Yishun Avenue 8) and an international college. Most of the mangrove and forest are still intact under MINDEF management (Lim, 2014). The
government will have to be reminded of their commitment here as planned in the 1993
Simpang DGP and declared by Mr Lim Hng Keang in Parliament.
i) Bukit Brown (NSS, 2011 & Ho, 2012): The position paper submitted was against the
development of the new 8-lane expressway through a part of Bukit Brown near Lornie Road.
Also built into NSS’s objection was that the expressway will overwhelm an important and
beautiful valley that has an interesting stream and birdlife — to which the government
responded by building a viaduct over the valley. According to a comment posted in BESG,
the trees at Bukit Brown “were common roadside species and the other plants were similarly common” (BESG, 2017d). However, the NSS Conservation Committee took an ecological view, regarding the wild vegetation proliferating there for decades as an extended habitat for forest wildlife. Over years of monitoring, the Bird Group and other birdwatchers have recorded at least 50 species of forest birdlife there, including 15 nationally threatened species such as the White-bellied Woodpecker, Violet Cuckoo, Black-headed Bulbul, Red-eyed Bulbul, etc. (NSS, 2011; Ho, 2012). Also, rare or nationally threatened forest butterfly species have appeared in the area like the Golden Royal and the Banded Line Blue, a new record for Singapore, (A. Jain, personal comm., Dec 2012) as well as the interesting Malayan Colugo (Flying Lemur).
To say that the area “had absolutely no conservation value” (BESG, 2017d) because there are no rare or nationally threatened plants is to take a one-sided perspective or dis-ecological view of nature conservation. The area provides sustenance for the many wildlife of the neighbouring MacRitchie forest of the Nature Reserve. To the question: “Does it mean that any areas or trees on which birds land regularly need to be preserved?” (BESG, 2017d), the answer is not obviously an outright “no”. Of course, they don’t have to be birds. If the area has many nationally threatened as well as uncommon wildlife, especially forest-affiliated species, the area is certainly worth conserving. Otherwise, it would be foolish to seek the preservation of Sungei Buloh for migratory birds three decades ago, when there was very little vegetation around the area at all, let alone any plants being rare or endangered.
D) Concluding Remarks
The above-mentioned efforts of NSS to save or to secure the long-term survival of
unprotected nature areas is only part of the work of the Conservation Committee under the Society’s auspices. That the Society, including of course the Conservation Committee, is committed seriously to defend the integrity of the Nature Reserves goes without saying. Recent evidence includes our position papers on the Cross Island MRT Line Project and also on the Mandai tourism project by Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH), the latter involving NSS’s effort to expand the boundary of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) at its north-western sector to provide a viable buffer and wildlife connectivity along the Reserve’s almost negligible territorial ground there.

Dated: 5th September 2017.
References:
BESG (2017a). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 8: Lower Peirce’. 2 April.
BESG (2017b). “Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 13: MacRitchie Forest. 20 April.
BESG (2017c). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 4: Khatib Bongsu’. 5 April.
BESG (2017d). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 11: Bukit Brown’. 16 April.
DNA (undated). “Wee Yeow Chin” in The DNA of Singapore, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research website.
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Hails, C. J. (1989), ‘Singapore’ in A Directory of Asian Wetland, edited by D.A. Scott. (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, World Conservation Union.
Ho, H. C. (2012). ‘Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown’. In Nature Watch Vol. 20, No 2, April – June 2012.
Lim, J. (2014). ‘A Paddle through the Magical Watery World Woods’ in the blog The Long and Winding Road: 30  July.
MNS (1991a). Conservation Proposal for Marina South. Malayan Nature Society ( Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
MNS (1991b). Kent Ridge Environs: A Proposal for Conserving Nature at the National University of Singapore  Campus. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990a). Conservation Proposal for Kranji Heronry and Marshes. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):  Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990b). Conservation Proposal for Senoko (Sungei Sembawang). Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):
Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990c). Conservation Proposal for Sentosa. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
MNS (1987a). A Proposal for a Nature Conservation Area at Sungei Buloh. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore
Branch): Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1987b). A Proposal for an Ecological Park at Kranji Dam. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): The Bird
Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1985). Kranji Marshes: An Outline Proposal for a New Nature Reserve. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore):  Bird Group. Unpublished report.
MNS (undated/a). Conservation Proposal for Sungei Khatib Bongsu (Yishun Heronry). Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch): Bird Group. Unpublished Report.
NParks (2016). ‘NParks to be the Central Management Agency for Pulau Ubin’. National Parks Board, 4 June.
NSS (2011). Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
NSS (2004). Important Information on the Biodiversity of Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area. Nature Society
(Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report submitted specifically to PUB, ( June 11).
NSS (1993). Conservation Proposal for South Simpang (covering Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Kampong Kitin Area).
Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report
NSS (1992). Conservation Proposal for Pulau Ubin. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
URA (2003). URA Draft Master Plan 2003. Report of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Wee, Y. C. & Hale, R. (2008). “The Nature Society (Singapore) and the Struggle to Conserve Singapore Nature Areas’.  In Nature in Singapore 2008 Vol 1, 26 August.

Pulau Ubin Commonest Birds Quest 2017

Pesta Ubin 2017

Pulau Ubin Commonest Birds Quest (CBQ) 2017

By Lim Kim Keang

 

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CBQ Co-ordinator Lim Kim Keang welcoming and briefing participants on the survey methods at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Yap Wee Jin.

INTRODUCTION

On 11 June 2017, the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group conducted the second survey to find out which were the commonest bird species on Pulau Ubin. This survey was organized in conjunction with Pesta Ubin which covered a 3-month period from May to July 2017.

METHOD

A total of 10 teams consisting of 10 leaders and 28 participants took part in this year’s CBQ. Areas in the west, central and eastern part of Pulau Ubin were covered. The routes included those in 2016 with additional routes to cover as much of the island as possible within the allocated time from 8.00 to 10.30 am. The good weather helped and all the teams completed their designated route in the allocated time.

The same MacKinnon bird listing method used in 2016 was again used this year. This method involved recording each new species of birds (seen or heard) until a pre-defined number of species is reached. Once this pre-defined number is reached, a new list is started. Any one species will only be recorded once in the first list but may be recorded again in subsequent lists. For our purpose, we continued to use a list of 10 species before starting on a new list.

The relative abundance of each species is calculated by dividing the number of contacts by the total number of contacts by all teams. A contact is defined as a list of 10 birds. For example, the number of contacts for Common Iora was 31. There was a total of 54.4 contacts by all team. The relative abundance of Common Iora is calculated by dividing 31 by 54.4 which equals 0.57. A bird which is more common will have a higher relative abundance index than one which is less common.

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Lee Ee Ling going through the transacts with members before the start of the survey. Photo: Yap Wee Jin.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION

Table 1 shows the top 20 commonest birds based on the relative abundance indices.

Table 1: Top 20 species of Birds of the Pesta Ubin 2017 Commonest Bird Quest

Top 20 species of Birds of the Pesta Ubin 2017 Commonest Bird Quest
Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund. Index Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund Index
1 Common Iora 31 0.57 11 Brown-throated Sunbird 16 0.29
2 White-rumped  Shama 31 0.57 12 Asian Glossy Starling 16 0.29
3 Swiftlets 31 0.57 13 Dark Necked Tailorbird 16 0.29
4 Yellow-vented Bulbul 28 0.51 14 Crimson Sunbird 15 0.28
5 Straw-headed Bulbul 28 0.51 15 Oriental Magpie Robin 15 0.28
6 Olive-winged Bulbul 27 0.50 16 Common Tailorbird 15 0.28
7 Collared Kingfisher 18 0.33 17 Red Jungle Fowl 14 0.26
8 Javan Myna 18 0.33 18 Van Hasselt’s  Sunbird 12 0.22
9 Olive-backed Sunbird 18 0.33 19 Oriental Pied Hornbill 11 0.20
10 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 17 0.31 20 House Crow 10 0.18
21 Common Emerald Dove 10 0.18

The survey by the 10 teams produced a total of 54.4 lists. The relative abundance index of the birds detected ranged from 0.02 to 0.57. A total of 60 species were recorded during the CBQ. The most abundant species are Common Iora, White-rumped Shama and swiftlets (not identifiable to species). These three species registered the highest relative abundance index of 0.57 and were recorded in 100, 90 and 80 percent of the surveyed sites respectively. Both the iora and shama are very vocal at this time of the year and are easier to detect. This could be a contributing factor for their high score. Swiftlets are likely to be Germain’s or Black-nested Swiftlet but could also be hybrid species from the swiftlet farms in Johor. As noted in CBQ 2016, other censuses conducted by the Bird Group have consistently found the Yellow-vented Bulbul to be a very common bird in most parts of Singapore.

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The Common Iora is one of the three most common bird counted in 2017 with 31 contacts.

Last year’s most common bird the Olive-winged Bulbul is sixth this year. The Yellow-vented and Straw-headed Bulbuls are fourth and fifth respectively on the CBQ 2017 list. The habitat on Pulau Ubin which consists of a mosaic of orchards, old rubber plantations and secondary forest are good for omnivorous birds like bulbuls.

A significant observation in the CBQ 2016 survey was the relative abundance of both the Straw-headed Bulbul and White-rumped Shama. Both species continued to do very well on Pulau Ubin but it is critical that the authorities and the public remain vigilant against potential poaching here and in other parts of Singapore.

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The White-rumped Shama continues to do well in Ubin with 31 contacts during the survey. The count maybe due to it being very vocal at this time of the year.

As also noted in 2016 it is inevitable that biases exist for all rapid survey and census. The most obvious bias is that this is a rapid one day count lasting only 2 to 2.5 hours. Experience of participants is also a contributing factor with the more experienced participants recording more birds heard or sighted. This survey is conducted at a time where some species may be more vocal than others and most if not all migrants are absent. Another issue involves the detection bias towards species that are more vocal or active at the edges of habitats as the selected routes were along existing roads, trails or boardwalks. But in general, this survey does provide a fairly good picture of the type of common resident birds that you can expect to see on a bird walk on the island in the middle of the year.

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Rounding up the top three are the Swiftlets also with 31 contacts.

Table 2 :  Summary of contacts(heard/sighted) and species of birds surveyed during the CBQ 2017

Summary of Routes – Contacts and Species  CBQ 2017
Route Route 1 Route 2 Route 3 Route 4 Route 5 Route 6 Route 7 Route 8 Route 9 Route 10 Total
Total in

Top 20

19 20 14 21 11 17 10 18 15 17 21
Total Contacts

(heard/sighted)

99 60 36 90 26 72 15 55 30 61 544
Total Species

(heard/sighted)

34 34 22 38 16 29 13 31 20 29 60
Nbr of Lists 9.9 6.0 3.6 9.0 2.6 7.2 1.5 5.5 3.0 6.1 54.4
Zone W W C C C E E E E E All
LegendRoute 1:  Ketam Mountain Bike Trail to Pekan Quarry

Route 2: Bubut Hut to Pipit Hut

Route 3: Noordin Campsite to Jalan Batu Ubin

Route 4: Pekan Quary Loop

Route 5: Sensory Trail to Jalan Ubin Loop

Route 6: Murai Hut to Mamam Campsite Loop

Route 7: Pekaka Hut via Jalan Durian to Murai Hut

Route 8: Chek Jawa to Kelichap Hut

Route 9: Punai Hut to Beberek Hut

Route 10: Beberek Hut to Belatok Hut

COMMENTS

We are glad that there was a six-fold increase in participation. The Pesta Ubin Commonest Birds Quest continued to provide the opportunity to the public to participate in a citizen science project. The data collected over an extended duration could be used to monitor changes to the avifauna of Pulau Ubin and ultimately the state of the environment here. A common bird today may become very rare or even become extinct tomorrow if its habitat is altered irreversibly or destroyed.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We would like to thank the leaders, participants and organizers of Pesta Ubin 2017 especially NParks and Ria Tan . The Pesta Ubin CBQ 2017 participants were: Akskay Gupta, Alfred Chia, Alice Fan, Atsuko Kawasaki, Bey Swee Hua, Bjorg Haakenson, Bong Yuna, Derek, Doreen Ang, Ee Family – Agnes Low, Terence, Maximus, Marianne & Madeleine Ee, Francis Chia Tee Heng, Ginny Cheang Fong Yin, Jimmy Lee, Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Keang, Monika, Ng Chay Tuan, Ou Jianwen, Peng Ah Huay, Roland Lim, See Swee Leng, Thio Hui Bing, Tok Sock Ling, Tzung-Mei Jang, Willie Foo, Wilson Leung, Yap Wee Jin, Yong Yik Shih and Zheng Rubin.

REFERENCE

MacKinnon J. (1993), A field guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford University Press.

 

Mobbing of a Collared Owlet at Fraser’s Hill

By Connie Khoo.

The Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei, is a small owl of montane forests of Malaya. Birders to Fraser’s Hill will be familiar with its toot-toot-toot call in the day time. I was birding there with Laurence Eu, a birder friend from Singapore last week when we came across a cacophony of excited bird calls by the roadside. It was early evening. We thought that it was a mini bird wave. But the tones of the calls were different. They sounded like more like alarm and distress calls.

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Streaked Spiderhunter is the most aggressive of the lot. Photo: Laurence Eu

When we got out of our car, we found a Collared Owlet perched on a small branch. A flock of smaller birds were mobbing it. A group of six Silver-eared Mesias took turns to harass it with pair of Black-throated Sunbirds. Five munias joined in. In the failing light I cannot make out if they were White-rumped or White-bellied as both species occur there.

But it was the pair of Streaked Spiderhunters that actually attacked the owlet, coming close to peck at it. The owlet tolerated the harassment for a while but moved to other perches when the “attacks’ continued. It eventually flew off after withstanding 30 minutes of this and peace resumed.

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Silver-eared Mesias were the most numerous, six were taking turns in the mobbing. 

Why do these different species gang up to attack the owlet? Could it be that they see it as a common “enemy’, a known predator of their nestings? We see this mobbing behaviour with the Oriental Whip Snake as well,

Apart from watching such a drama, we had a bonus of also seeing a rare White-browed Shrike-babbler that was attracted to the commotion and joined in the collective mobbing. This was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.

Contributed by Connie Khoo with edits by Alan OwYong.

Ref: Craig Robson. A field Guide to Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd 2000.

 

Singapore Bird Report – July 2017

We have several very early migrant sightings this month. Is it due to global warming? Maybe the birds are more sensitive to the changes than us.

Wood Sandpipers Goh Cheng Teng

Composite photo of a Wood Sandpiper flying over Jurong West by Goh Cheng Teng. First migrant shorebird to arrive this season.

A Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus was photographed by Francis Yap with Keita Sin at Jelutong Tower on 19th, two weeks earlier than the previous early date. Keita Sin did better when he came across a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus flying across Punggol Barat on 22nd, more than a month from the last early date of 3rd Sept. On 16th, Goh Cheng Teng photographed a Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola flying over Jurong West. This is 2 days ahead of the previous early arrival date. Four days later Alan OwYong flushed another Wood Sandpiper from a wet patch at Bulim grasslands. On the same day and place, Ben Choo photographed a female leucopsis White Wagtail Motacilla alba at the canal there. The jury is out if this is over summering or early arrival as the previous early arrival date is 9th September 2016 (Richard White, Marina Barrage).

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Ben Choo’s shot of a female White Wagtail in breeding plumage at a canal at Bulim raise the question of its arrival or over-summering status.

The sighting of the Wood Sandpiper prompted Francis Yap to stake out Seletar Dam and he was rewarded with shots of Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta there on 24th. A day later, three Common Redshanks Tringa totanus were reported by Robin Tan and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by Lim Kim Seng, both at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

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The first passerine migrant spotted by Thio Hb at the Kampong Java Park on 20th. Photo: Thio Hb.

On 26th Francis returned to Seletar Dam and notched up two more new arrivals. Three Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus and a Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, normally the harbinger of the start of the migrant season. But it was beaten by an Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris photographed by Thio Hb at Kampong Java Park on 20th. Our previous early arrival date for this flycatcher was 9th August. Fadzrun A. shot a flock of 46 Lesser Sand Plovers at Kranji Dam on 31st. The migrating shorebirds have arrived!

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First Lesser Sand Plovers of the season from Seletar Dam captured by Francis Yap

We ended the month with a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea crashing into the Beach Villas at Resort World Sentosa on 31st. Tan Kok Yeang was kind enough to send us the photo. The injured bird was handed over to Nparks. This is a new addition to Sentosa but we had record of this migrant arriving as early as 8th of July. We can expect a busy month ahead as more migrants will be making landfall at various parts of the island.

 

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The injured Watercock that crashed into the Beach Villas at Sentosa. Photo: Tan Kok Yeang.

Our residents put up a good show as well. The most unexpected sighting was a rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea turning up at Marina East on 30th, a first for the south.  We had very few mainland records as this is a mangrove island dweller. We had to thank Mike Hooper for this record.  Koh Liang Heng followed up the next day and found it at the same place. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megrahyncha were reported at Pulau Ubin and Pasir Ris Park on 8th and 17th respectively ( Willie Foo and Lim Kim Keang). The Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis were heard calling at the Bulim Forest by Wing Chong and James Tann and at Choa Chu Kang Cemeteries by Martin Kennewell both during the Mid Year Bird Census on 8th. They may be nesting but no nests were found so far.

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The rare Mangrove Whistler photographed at Marina East by Mike Hooper on 30th. 

An Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris was seen at Gardens by the Bay by Veronica Foo on 27th, a surprising first for GBTB. From one Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica to ten at the Lorong Halus ponds on 17th was the welcome news from Lim Kim Keang. We continue to receive records of House Swifts Apus nipalensis over the months. Three birds were seen at the East Coast Parkway near Fort Road by Lim Kim Chuah on 14th. Signs that this species maybe making a comeback.

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The juvenile Greater Green Leafbird at Dairy Farm is a good indication of the successful breeding of this uncommon species.

The other good news were sightings of juveniles of some of the uncommon species, confirming their breeding success. A Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati juvenile was photographed feeding on a White Mulberry Tree at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 15th. We do not have any breeding records for this leafbird and this is only the second record of a juvenile.

A young male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was seen being chased by an female Sunbird at Jurong Eco Garden on 18th. Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the same there a few weeks earlier. Over at the Lorong Halus ponds, a pair of Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis were seen feeding a juvenile on 25th. All the three above records came from Alan OwYong. The last young bird reported was a Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 31st by Seng Alvin, a first for the park.?

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This young Violet Cuckoo was being chased around Jurong Eco Garden by a female Sunbird.

Finally two non-breeding visitors were reported this month. A Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was seen perched at Science Park 2 on 13th by Francis Yap and a pair of Black Hornbills Anthracoceros malayanus at Sentosa flying towards Siloso on 30th seen by Colin Richardson, a visiting birder (posted in ebird, reported by Martin Kennewell). This hornbill was recently added to the checklist based on the records from Pulau Ubin, where one was seen by Adrian Silas Tay on 22nd.

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, Ben Choo, Thio Hb, Francis Yap, Tan Kok Yeang and Alan OwYong for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

Singapore’s last surviving Malkoha.

Contributed by Alan OwYong.

The last surviving Malkoha, the Chestnut-bellied Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, that was once confined to the Singapore Central Forest and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has adapted well to the forest fringes and buffer nature parks since the start of the century. But our early specimens were collected from the mangroves along Kranji River, Jurong and Seletar, Sungei Sembawang and Ulu Pandan. It must be this adaptability that sees it surviving until today. Its closest relative here, the Black-bellied Malkoha P. Diardi, died out in the 1950s due to its dependence on denser forests in the interior that were logged ( per cons Yong Ding Li). So did the smaller Raffles’s and Red-billed Malkohas. We can learn from these extinctions and manage our forest to protect our last malkoha and other similiar species from meeting the same fate.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at JEG

Rare open view at the Jurong Eco Gardens, where nesting have been recorded.

Mainly arboreal, it hops from branch to branch looking for large insects and small vertebrates at the forest canopies.  Unlike cuckoos, it builds its own nest and care for its young on its own. This uncommon breeding resident is both globally and nationally near-threatened.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at Jelutong

Jelutong Tower is the best place to get eye-level shots of this canopy feeder. Its diet of large insects makes it vulnerable and is listed as nationally near-threatened.

I have seen them foraging along the Mandai Lake Road in the early 2000s. Those who remembered the Mandai Orchid Gardens will know of the few nesting records there. One of the nest was inside a low ficus tree right next to the souvenir stall at the Gardens close to the visitors path. Another nesting was outside the Bukit Timah Visitor Center at roof top level. The eggs on an open flimsy nest were at the mercy of the preying Long-tailed Macaques. The most recent nesting records however came from Jurong Eco Gardens. These Malkohas can still be seen there today.

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Eye-level nest at the Mandai Orchid Gardens right next to the visitor’s walkway. 

Besides keeping the Central Forest intact, the creation of buffer nature parks augurs well for the survival and well being of this jewel of our forest.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009. Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd. A.F.S.L. Lok and T.K. Lee. Brood Care of the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha. Nature in Singapore 2008.1.85-92. 

 

 

 

Singapore Bird Report – June 2017

June may be a quieter month, but great to see so many postings on fledglings, rare and uncommon residents from across the island. We will try to cover some of the more interesting sightings including a few over stayers and unexpected locations of these sightings.

Yong Ding Li led a census for the Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus at Pulau Ubin on the morning of 4th as part of this year’s Pesta Ubin Festival. They counted a total of 68 birds, confirming that Pulau Ubin has the highest density for this globally endangered species anywhere in the world.

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The newly fledged Grey-rumped Treeswift chick at Ang Mo Kio by Gerald KC Lim

Danny Khoo reported the successful fledging of the Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis chick at Ang Mo Kio park on 10th and the Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii chick at the Mandai Track 7 on 16th. Great to see that this uncommon forest resident is doing fine. An adult White-headed Munia Lonchura maja was seen feeding three juveniles at a suburban estate at Mount Sinai on 15th by Gerald KC Lim. These may be released birds.

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White-headed Munia family photographed at a suburban estate by Gerald K.C. Lim

Aldwin Recinto chanced upon the lowly situated nest of the Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris at Lorong Halus on 17th. Two days later the chick fledged. A pair of over worked Common Ioras Aegithina tiphia were busy keeping up with the feeding of a Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonnerati chick over at Jurong Eco Garden on 20th (Lee Chuin Ming).

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Common Iora feeding a Banded Bay Cuckoo chick that is more than twice its size. (Lee Chuin Ming)

Alan OwYong and Ted Ng photographed an Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnontus brunneus feeding a juvenile at the White Mulberry tree at Dairy Farm NP on 26th. The eyes of the juvenile Red-eyed Bulbul is dark brown not red.

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Juvenile Asian Red-eyed Bulbul being fed by parent at Dairy Farm NP. Photo: Ted Ng

A cute looking juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus was nicely captured by Patricia Tiang over at Kent Ridge Park on 26th. This juvenile also don’t have the red ‘whiskers’.

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Juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul without any red ‘whiskers’ at Kent Ridge Park (Patricia Tiang)

The unwelcome breeding record came from the canal leading to Kranji Marshes where an adult Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild was feeding two youngs on 12th (Birding Dawn). This is the first record of these juveniles, which means that they have adapted to our weather. Our seed eaters will be impacted if they flourish.

Con Foley and friends sighted a lone straggler Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica flying over the Kranji Marshes on 3rd. They have been recorded as late as 11th June. The Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was photographed at the Gardens by the Bay on 5th (Francis Yap). Over at Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong reported that up to 20 Red-necked Stints, Calidris ruficollis some in breeding plumage were still around on 5th. The previous late date for this shorebird was 28th May. Staying in Tekong, two white and one dark morph Pacific Reef Egrets Egretta sacra were seen together on the 12th as well. Frankie Cheong’s photo below.

Most of our recent records of the Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana came from Chek Jawa and Sungei Buloh, great to receive a record from Christina See of one at Pulau Hantu on 14th. The Southern Islands have always been their stronghold.

The summer visitor Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis seen last month was spotted again by Fadzrun A. at the same grasslands at Seletar end on 5th. It was also photographed at the Mangrove Arboretun at Pulau Ubin by Joseph Lin from NParks on 15th (per Robert Teo’s report). As far as we know this is the first record for Pulau Ubin. 

Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo Joseph Lin

Joseph Lin from NParks photo of a Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, a first for Pulau Ubin.

Staying in Ubin, the on-off Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster a non-breeding visitor, was seen again at the Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin on 4th by Alfred Chia.

Rare residents reported this month include three House Sparrows Passer domesticus over at Jurong Island on 2nd (Low Choon How), a Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus at Sentosa on 3rd by CT Goh and Sandra Chia, a Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps seen at Jelutong Tower on 18th by Martin Kennewell. An uncommon White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus  was recorded at Dairy Farm NP on 23rd by Alan OwYong.

Other interesting resident species reported were Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotii at Kranji Marshes on 3rd by Con Foley and friends and another Abbott’s Babbler at Chek Jawa on 17th by Atish Banerjee. A forest Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at Pasir Ris Park on 4th by Lim Kim Seng and a Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera heard calling at the Lakeview Estate on 18th by Marcel Finlay. He had seen three birds last month along the Petai Trail. It looks like the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus are doing well at the Kranji Marshes. Martin Kennewell counted 27 of them there on 17th.

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A Greater Coucal photographed at Pasir Ris Park by Lim Kim Seng. 

A few resident species were reported in unexpected locations this month. A Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo was seen twice at the Varsity Condo at Pasir Panjang  on 7th and 16th by Gan Cheong Wei. He also reported a leafbird there on 17th. Unfortunately it was not identified. The seldom visited Admiralty Park at Woodlands was the home of a pair of Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata spotted by Alan OwYong on 8th. Lioe Kim Swee reported seeing two unidentified crakes there in 2015.  A roosting Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis was photographed by Seng Alvin at Tampines Eco Green on 21st.

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Nicely camouflaged Savanna Nightjar at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin,

Good to hear that the Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica returning to the Lorong Halus ponds on 26th even though it was just one bird (Martin Kennewell). Our previous record was in 2013 (Ho Hua Chew). Lena Chow was excited to find the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting at the Dairy Farm NP on 26th. Lim Kim Chuah said that he had seen it along one of the streams there before. Another sign of this forest kingfisher spreading. Many thanks for all your records.

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 ebirds by Martin Kennewell. 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  Gerald KC Lim, Lee Chuin Ming, Ted Ng, Patricia Tiang, Frankie Cheong, Joseph Lin, Lim Kim Seng and Seng Alvin for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Oriental Pied Hornbills Nest Moving?

Contributed by Connie Khoo.

On 21st April 2017, I was birding around the limestone hills in Ipoh when I saw a pair of large birds, which I thought were eagles or owls, flying and landing on the cliff sides. But it turned out to be a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills instead. When I zoomed in with my scope, I was shocked to see that the male was carrying an egg in its beak. It then carried the egg into a big cavity after the female had inspected it. They both came out after a short while and flew off together. I was thinking that they may have stolen some other bird’s egg and hiding it there as I have seen this pair on this side of the cliff before.

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In less than 3 minutes, both flew back again with the male was carrying another egg in its beak. They are moving their nest! I was stunned! They were also surprised to find that someone was watching them moving their eggs to a “safer” place.

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A week later on 28th, I saw the male holding a feather outside the nest for a while before flying off. The female was no where to be seen. While both were away Rock Pigeons, Asian Glossy Starlings, Eurasian Tree-sparrows and Jungle Mynas were hanging outside their nest.

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On the 30th morning I went back to check on them. I saw the male flying back to the cavity alone calling loudly, rested for two minutes and then perched on a branch nearby. It later flew back to the “nest”, stay inside for a minute or two and flew off to the Durian plantation across the road. I thought that it may be carrying the eggs back to its previous nest but I cannot see any eggs in its beak.

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I returned in May and June weekly to check on their progress, spending a few hours each time. Unfortunately they were not around anymore.  I cannot draw any conclusion from this observation except that they are removing its eggs from one nest to another place, which turned out to be a cliff cavity instead of a tree hole.

Alan Kemp’s commented:

How exciting!!! I have never heard of any hornbill removing its eggs from a nest and placing them in another cavity elsewhere, especially unexpected, except at the very start of incubation, since the female thereafter should begin her flight feather moult and so become flightless. I did received one unpublished report of this species very likely using a cavity in a limestone cliff in southern China for nesting (that I included in my 1995 book), and several other hornbill species, including Great Hornbill, have been reported nesting and sealing up cliff cavities. Obviously you will continue to watch your site to see if anything develops (although the cavity does to look a good one to try and seal), and it would be lucky if you could try and guess and/or find the original cavity from where the eggs were taken (and if it was in a tree or in another cliff site).

The eggs size and colour looks like it is their eggs, rather than from some other bird’s nest that they may have robbed. Even if they did rob it, I also know of no hornbill hiding food for later use (called ‘caching/ making a cache’ for raptors).

A third, even less likely, idea is that may be these two birds are helpers to a third that is in the cavity they visited, but that too seems unlikely if they both went in the hole together.

 

The Pasir Ris Pied Fantail Story

Contributed by Seng Alvin.

I have been watching the nesting of the Malayan Pied Fantails Rhipidura javanica at Pasir Ris Park since 2014. All have been successful and none were invaded by the cuckoos. There was single nesting in 2014 but two in 2015 and last year.

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In January this year, a pair was again seen building a nest. By March two chicks were brought up successfully to grace the park. On 17th April I was a little surprised when I saw an adult bird sitting on the same old nest. They must have just bought this “resale unit” and moved in. I knew that they will be nesting again.

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But just as they were about to settle down, they decided to move to a “BTO” nest nearby. The poor father must have thought that he could take it easy this time round by reusing the old nest. It was not to be. He built a new nest around April/May just like any daddy would to please the mummy.

The new nest which look rather precarious.

Maybe it is the neighborhood, but sometime in early June I found the pair back at the old nest. It could be that the old nest is at a more convenient neighborhood close to the foraging grounds? It is still location, location, location even for the birds.

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Back at the old nest in early June. 

After all the hard work, they raise only one chick this time round. This is for the better as they can bring this one chick up without much stress.

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Only one chick this time around, less stress for the parents.

On 29th June, the chick fledged. The decision to stop at one paid off. Unless we tagged the adult birds, we cannot be certain if this pair are the same as the earlier pair that make Pasir Ris Park their home. I am really glad that despite the number of park visitors roaming around, these fantails are able to adapt and thrive here.

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Parent feeding the newly fledged chick outside the nest. 

 

Successful Nesting of Yellow-bellied Prinia

Contributed and photos by Seng Alvin

I came across many nestings of the Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris at my backyard at Pasir Ris Park in the past but was not able to find the nest as they are always well hidden inside the grass thickets. That was until the 17 June when I saw Aldwin Recinto shooting a low nest at the Lorong Halus grasslands.

The Yellow-bellied Prinia is native to the Asian sub-continent and the Greater Sundas and a common resident in SEA including Singapore. It is the only Prinia species here often heard in open grasslands. Breeding had been recorded but not fully documented. Aldwin and I can consider ourselves lucky to be able to capture the final days of nesting of this confiding species.

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The round nest was made up of dried lalang leaves and root fibers bound loosely together. It was hanging from a small dried twig less than a foot off the ground among the tall lalangs and reed beds. Only one chick was inside. It was quite near from the foot path but still well hidden inside with just a small “window” to look in.

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This was the only photo of the parent bird feeding the young taken on 17 June. I did not know then that the chick was ready to leave the nest.

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I went back the next day and the nest was empty. The chick had fledged. The parents were feeding it outside the nest among the lalangs. I managed to shoot the parent bringing back an insect for the chicks but could not get shots of the actual feeding as the chicks stayed hidden. This parental feeding last only one day as the family was not around when I went back again on the 19th. So glad to be able to get these sets of photos of these hard to see prinias producing a new generation of these delightful grassland birds in nature parks. My thanks to Aldwin for sharing the find with me.

Reference: 

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

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