Author Archives: Alan OwYong

About Alan OwYong

Retiree birder and photographer.

Singapore Bird Report-April 2017 Part II Residents

April is the breeding season for most of our resident species in Singapore. They were also more active and visible. We received a fair share of sightings from the forests to the wetlands and from parks to grasslands

Starting at Pulau Ubin, Lim Kim Chuah and Adrian Silas Tay both found the rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea on 1st and 2nd respectively. Excellent find as the population at P. Hantu had gone missing. Also on the 2nd, Keita Sin reported a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl near to the old resort. Good to know they are doing well in Ubin. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megarhyncha were particularly vocal at this time of the year. James Tan had a field day on 29th and came back with some great images.

Mangrove Pitta James Tann

Mangrove Pitta, our resident pitta photographed at Pulau Ubin by James Tann.

Kranji Marshes was also a good site for picking up some uncommon residents this month. A Plantive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus by Rob Arnold on 3rd, Little Terns Sternula albifrons  throughout the month and House Swifts Apus nipalensis on 29th (both by Martin Kennewell), an adult male Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus by Subha and Raghav on 14th.

Cinnamon Bittern Subha and Raghav

Adult male Cinnamon Bittern photographed at Kranji Marshes by Raghav Narayanswamy.

But the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the buffer nature parks serve up the most resident sightings this month. At BTNR summit, Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta on 6th (Martin Kennewell). This species has been split and accepted by the IOC.  Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the forest specialists Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris and Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra there on 14th.  A Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivigatus was reported at the Lower Pierce Reservoir on 22nd by Marcel Finlay. Two juvenile Sunda Scops Owls Otus lempiji were roosting next to the playground at Hindhede Nature Park on 11th (Siew Mun), while Martin Kennewell had a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus there on 14th.  The pair of Brown Hawk Owls Ninox scutulata were still around Petai Trail on 20th according to Marcel Finlay. He also found a pair of Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata at Hindhede on 21st and 24th. Felix Wong and his wife while on a walk at the newly opened Windsor Nature Park, came across a family of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana with the adults feeding its young. A good record of this secretive sunbird feeding its young.

Red Wattled Lapwing James Tann

Red-wattled Lapwings are doing well and spreading across the island. Photo; James Tann

Our parks and gardens continued to attract many of the forest edge species. A pair of Brown Hawk Owls was discovered by Art Toh at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 6th, seen again on 13th by Richard White. This is the fourth resident owl species found at the SBG. Marcel Finlay found some Asian Palm Swifts Cypsiurus balasiensis over the Eco Lake at SBG on 23rd. Back to the owls, he reported the Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo returning to Bishan Park on 8th. He had seen them there in 2012 and 2015. Two males and one female Violet Cuckoos were present at the Jurong Eco Garden on 15th (Adrian Silas Tay). They stayed around for a few days much to the delight of many photographers.

Violet Cuckoo Terence Tan

Violet Cuckoo male at Jurong Eco Gardens. Photo: Terence Tan. Our resident population is supplemented by some wintering birds.

More House Swifts, this time about 6 birds flying over the canopy walk at Kent Ridge Park on 16th (Alan OwYong). This population may be roosting at the old bungalows along Kent Ridge Road. An interesting find was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax photographed by Art Toh at the Pond at Jurong Eco Garden on 23rd. Lee Kai Chong commented on facebook that this juvenile came from the Jurong Bird Bird which is close by.

BCNH Art Toh

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron at JEG. Photo: Art Toh.

Other notable sightings includes a dead Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus that crashed into Yew Tee Community Center on 2nd (Timothy Chua), three Javan Munias Lonchura leucogastroides  at downtown Parkview Square on 5th (Alan OwYong), more Glossy Swiftlets at Lakeview Estate on 14th and three Little Terns returning to the Sport Hub’s Marshes on 20th (both by Marcel Finlay). We had several nesting records but the only one we can report was James Tann’s report of the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus at a restricted site at Chua Chu Kang on 15th.

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 and individual reports. 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 James Tann, Raghav Narayanswamy, Terence Tan and Art Toh for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Bird Report- April 2017. Part 1 Winter Visitors.

We are still getting lots of late migrants passing through this month like the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, that crashed into a block of flat at Simei Street 5 on 3rd (Low Choon How). This set a new late date for this rare flycatcher.

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Rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher that crashed into a flat at Simei. Photo: Low Choon How.

Another rare flycatcher was a female Green-backed Ficedula elisae photographed at the CCNR on 6th by Lim Kim Seng. An uncommon Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki was reported by Martin Kennewell at Hindhede NP on the 14th. Martin also had a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia from Kranji Marshes on 1st.

Kranji Marshes was again the top site for our winter visitors this month.

Other good finds include a Large-hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides on 1st (Richard White), another hawk cuckoo, a Hodgson’s H. niscolor on 2nd (Con Foley), both at Bidadari, a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda West Coast Park photographed by Johnson Chua on 4th. Lim Kim Keang found one there last November 6th. Could this be the same Kingfisher? Johnson also photographed a lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus there the next day. This sub species is rarely seen here as its normal wintering range is in Taiwan and the Philippines.

Brown Shrike Johnson Chua

A lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike photographed at West Coast Park                              by Johnson Chua. Very similar to the adult Tiger Shrike.

A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka flew into a corridor at One-North Residences on 6th (Alan OwYong) and a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans from Jelutong Tower on 7th (Marcel Finlay) with another Crow-billed Drongo crashing into an office building at Jurong Island on 18th (Lim Kim Chuah). It managed to recover and flew off by itself. A Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported at the Petai Trail from 7th to 20th by Marcel Finlay. Hard to tell if this is our resident race or not.

Javan Pond Heron Choon How

Javan Pond Heron in early breeding plumage at Lorong Halus by Low Choon How.

Other notable visitors were three Ashy Minivets Pericocotus divaricatus and late Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica seen flying over Kranji Marshes on 1st by Martin Kennewell. Around the ponds, Martin reported that the Black-capped Kingfisher H. pileata was still enjoying the sun on 8th and 19th.  Wagtails were also reported at their respective habitats. Eastern Yellow Motacilla tschutschensis at Kranji Marshes until the 16th (Martin Kennewell) and Forest Dendronanthus indicus at Admiralty Park on 9th (Vincent Lao) and Lower Pierce on 15th and 16th (Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay).

Forest Wagtail Vincent Lao

Forest Wagtail on a tarmac walkway at Admiralty Park. Photo: Vincent Lao

Pittas were still coming through and crashing into our buildings. Three different Blue-wingeds Pitta moluccensis were reported on 14th from Kranji Marshes and a Hooded P. sordida from Hindhede both by Martin Kennewell. The one that crashed near to the Commonwealth MRT station on 21st was a Hooded as well (Adrian Silas Tay).

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A Grey Nightjar resting at a flower bed at One-North Residences. Alan OwYong.

Other interesting winter visitors reported were a white morph Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi along Dairy Farm Loop on 17th ( Tony James),  Siberian Blue Robin Luscina cyane along Petai Trail on 19th (Marcel Finlay) and two Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola at Kranji Marshes on 29th (Martin Kennewell).  A returning Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus was seen at DFNP on 14th (Martin Kennewell) and another adult at Jurong Eco Garden on 17th (Siew Mun).

Tiger Shrike Siew Mun

Adult Tiger Shrike photographed at Jurong Eco Garden by Siew Mun.

A few wader and waterbird sightings to report. A Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa at Lorong Halus on 4th (Low Choon How) and maybe the same bird at Farmway 3 on 6th (Lim Kim Seng). A Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola at Kranji Marshes on 8th (Martin Kennewell) and another at Marina Barrage on 16th by Keita Sin. This could be our first record of this fresh water wader at this breakwaters. Frankie Cheong reported a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage at Pulau Tekong on 8th. This is our most reliable site for this globally threatened species. Two Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea at the old Grebe pond at Lorong Halus on 7th (Lim Kim Seng). Johnson Chua photographed  an adult male Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus lurking at the Flamingo enclosure at the Jurong Bird Park on 12th. This is presumed to be a wild bird as it had no rings on its feet.

Chinese Egret Frankie Cheong

Chinese Egret at its favorite site at Pulau Tekong. Photo Frankie Cheong 

See Toh Yew Wai and friends took two boats out to the Straits of Singapore on 29th to check on the seabirds that were on their way back north. They came back with the second sighting of the Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, a record 26 Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris, two Jaegers, Long-tailed Stercorarius longicaudus and Parasitic S. parasiticus and a few Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus among others. A very productive outing. Some of these sightings may not be in Singapore waters.

Short-tailed Shearwater Wong Lee Hiong

A low flying Short-tailed Shearwater photographed at the Straits of Singapore by Wong Lee Hong. A record 26 of these shearwaters were seen on that day.

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.

A field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Bird Society of Japan

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. 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 especially Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay for their personal lists. Many thanks to LJohnson Chua, Low Choon How, Vincent Lao, Alan OwYong,  Siew Mun, Frankie Cheong and Wong Lee Hong for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

New Wetland at the Singapore Sports Hub

Text and photos by Marcel Finlay.

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{1. National Stadium with Wetland in Foreground]
The Sports Hub may seem an odd place to go birding – lots of buildings and paved areas are not usually conducive to finding many species.
But you may be surprised to learn that the site has nearly 1,000 trees of 39 species and thousands of square metres of shrubs and plants – with a good percentage of them being native to Singapore and South-East Asia.
Add to this some areas of grassland and the 750m long waterfront along the Kallang Basin (part of Marina Reservoir) which includes a 200m long stretch of newly-planted wetland and you have a good mosaic of habitats which support a surprisingly diverse range of resident and visiting bird life. You can see the wetland strip in front of the National Stadium in the photo above.
Over the past year, I have recorded 67 species at the site which is surprisingly good for such an urban location. This includes breeding Long-Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach), Olive-Backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia), Common Tailorbirds, (Orthotomus sutorius), Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) and Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
Of these 67 species I have observed 22 using the new small wetland strip either for roosting, feeding or nesting which shows how productive this habitat can be.
In the Government-approved design for the waterfront area the zone between the new stone steps and the edge of the water was destined to be a (rather sterile) pebble beach.
As constructing the beach was not a critical activity the contractor levelled and cleared the area and left the final finishing for the end of project. (see photo below)

Photo2 levelling

{2: levelling and clearance of the ground. April 2014}  

As time went on a range of plants including casuarina, creepers, reeds and grasses started to self-generate and the strip soon became an informal wetland area (see photo below) which was regularly attracting Smooth-Coated Otters (or Hybrid Smooth-Coated x Small-Clawed?), Water Monitor Lizards (Varanus salvator), Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta), Striated Herons (Butorides striata), Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), Scaly-Breasted Munia (Longchura punctulata), Long-Tailed Shrike and Olive-Backed Sunbirds.

photo 3 regeneration

{3. Natural plant regeneration. March 2015}
Impressed by the amount of wildlife using the wetland area I decided to try and convince the various stakeholders that it should be retained permanently as a wetland area.
One of my roles as design manager for the Sports Hub’s builder Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd. was to prepare the project’s submission to the PUB for certification under the ABC Waters (active, clean and beautiful) scheme.
I proposed the wetland along with the large vegetated and bio-retention swales as the main elements of our submission. After a bit of negotiation we managed to get the support of the PUB and then, with their help, received the blessing of the other authorities. The condition was that we replanted the area with PUB-approved wetland species such as those used at Lorong Halus and Sengkang Floating Wetlands.
The replanting was completed in November 2015 (see images below) and by February 2016 it had filled out nicely and looked ready for the wildlife to return.


{4 & 5, Completion of new planting November 2015}

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{6. Maturing plants May 2016}

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{7. Maturing plants May 2016}
Within a week of the first stand of reeds being planted I was delighted to find a pair of Yellow Bitterns (Ixobrychus sinensis) had roosted there. They did not stay but perhaps remembered the site as two returned in March 2016 and stayed until 19th May. Two birds (the same?) returned on 20thOctober and have remained throughout the Winter and Spring.
A single White-Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) arrived in March and was joined by a second bird in July. I wasn’t sure they were a pair until I saw a single fluffy black chick on October 16th – the wetland’s first breeding success!

{8. Yellow Bittern, 9. Adult White-Breasted Waterhen, 10. juvenile White-Breasted Waterhen}

An Oriental Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus orientalis) also arrived in March and was so happy with his new quarters that he didn’t leave until May 31st. Word must have spread as in October 2016 three birds arrived and have been here throughout the Winter.
To my big surprise I found a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella certhiola) on October 18th, I managed to see it twice more in the following days and then couldn’t relocate it. I assumed it must have just been passing through but I have seen and heard it each week since the beginning of January 2017 so I assume it has been present all the time but was just silent early on. It is very skulking and elusive and although I have a couple of nice recordings of its song it is very hard to get a decent photo – all I have managed is the blurry shot below. (The bird is still present on May 4th)
To complete the set of probable warblers a Black-Browed Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps) appeared on the 24th April and is still present on 2nd May. No doubt just passing through for a feed before beginning its migration back to its breeding grounds but I can hope that one may choose to overwinter in the wetland when they return to Singapore in October.

{11. Oriental Reed Warbler, 12. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, 13. Black-Browed Reed Warbler}

One thing to note is that all of these species spend more time in Singapore than they do in their breeding ranges – for tax purposes they would be considered ‘ordinarily resident’ in Singapore!
Other birds which have made use of the wetland are: Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Brown Shrike (Lanius Cristatus), Yellow-Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier), Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica), Common Tailorbird, Javan Myna (Acridotheres javanicus), Olive-Backed Sunbird, Scaly-Breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata), White-Headed Munia (Lonchura maja), Crimson-Rumped Waxbill (Estrilda rhodopyga) and a rather lost looking Blue Waxbill (Uraeginthus angolensis)

14 Brown Shrikw, 15 White-headed Munia, 16 Common Tailorbird.

I record all my sightings on eBird which enables me to easily summarize the comings and goings at each site I regularly visit. For the Sports Hub I have made 2 to 3 early morning visits to the wetland and 2 to 3 lunchtime visits elsewhere on the site each week since late 2015 so I have quite a lot of data for two winter seasons and a full summer. Although I am a single observer and the period is not long enough to draw any firm conclusions I have noted the following dates for a selection of migrating and resident species:
1-6 Chinese Pond Herons often present – earliest 29th Sept, latest 1st April
1-10 Little Egrets regularly visit – earliest 3rd Nov, latest 12th April
2-8 Cattle Egrets erratically present – earliest 1st December, latest 3rd March
Up to 17 Little Terns (Sterna hirundo) fishing and loafing on the water – earliest 20th April, latest 13th October (do they stay around Singapore’s coastline for the winter or do they go further afield?)
1 Brown Shrike present from 20th October to 9th February

{17. Little Terns resting on regatta course buoys and 18. Little Tern fishing}

What interests me the most about this small strip of wetland is not so much that it attracts lots of wildlife but that it is evidently sufficient to provide all the food and roosting requirements for at least 4 species of birds.
It seems that the Yellow Bitterns, White-Breasted Waterhen and especially the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler and Oriental Reed Warblers do not need anything else. It is a small island of habitat which does not rely on connectivity to other transitional habitats for it to be useful.
It is also important to note that this habitat is only 18 months old.
We can compare this with the cleansing biotope at Gardens by the Bay and the small reed bed at Satay by the Bay.
These are also recently planted small areas of emergent plants and reeds, also surrounded by less ideal habitat but also home to several wintering Oriental Reed Warblers, Black-Browed Reed Warblers, one or two Yellow Bitterns and a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler.
Likewise, I have seen all four species in the small stands of reeds in the new ponds at the bottom of the viewing tower at Kranji Marshes and I understand that the Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler has also wintered at the Sengkang floating wetlands in previous years.
Although planting isolated stands of native trees in Singapore is sadly not going to provide significant or sufficient habitat for wintering forest species it appears that isolated areas of wetland planting can provide sufficient and safe wintering habitat for some of Asia’s species of warblers and herons.
All four species are classified as being LC (of least concern) by IUCN at the moment and are not considered under threat of significant population loss. However, it is thought that Oriental Reed Warblers are declining in some parts of its range through habitat loss as reed beds are drained and streams are canalised. It is logical that this would apply to the other warblers.
Providing quality habitat for them in Singapore can only be a positive step in their conservation. Even better is the speed with which these habitats can be mature enough to be attractive to the target species.
The plants also provide a valuable service in taking nutrients out of storm water runoff which helps to reduce the amount of treatment needed later in the system to turn reservoir water into drinking water.
The PUB is encouraging developers to include ABC Waters features on each new development and at some stage this may become a requirement. This is good news for wildlife. These features are not so costly to install and mature very quickly.
The wetland at the Sports Hub is a good example of the public and private sectors working together for biodiversity. The contractor paid for the design, groundworks and planting, the PUB provides ongoing maintenance.
The recently-announced redevelopment of the Kallang Riverside north of the Merdeka Bridge is an ideal opportunity to increase the extent of this type of habitat in Singapore and provide more opportunities for migrating birds to find a winter home here.
marcel finlay
Singapore, May 2017
My thanks to the ABC Waters team at the PUB and Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd. for their assistance in creating this small but useful addition to Singapore’s habitats.
All photos by the author except for images 2, 4 and 5 by Hasan Mehedi of DSPL.

Nesting of an Olive-winged Bulbul

Contributed by Andrew Tan

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On 8 April, I took a walk along the mangroves lined Belayer Creek. This connector is named after a historic rock Batu Belayer or “Sail Rock” at the entrance of the harbor. This is one of the only two remnant mangrove patches in the south of Singapore. 60 birds, 19 fish species and 14 true mangroves have been recorded here.

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I saw two Olive-winged Bulbuls, Pycnonotus plumosus, flying in and out of a palm tree. On checking I found one of them sitting on a cup nest wedged in between the fond stem and the trunk below eye level ( right). It was made of plant fiber, leaves and twigs. My joy was complete when I saw two chicks inside. They were tiny and bare and must have just hatched. The Olive-winged Bulbul is the most common forest bulbul in Singapore. They are also found in our woodlands, abandoned orchards and some nature parks.

 

                      Parent sitting on the two newly hatched chicks.

I left the nest alone for a few days and returned on 12th to check on the progress. Both chicks were doing well. They were still bare and their eyes were still closed. The parents were seen bringing back cicadas and orange berries to feed them. This varied diet was new to me as I thought that it will be mostly insects for proteins.

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Besides insects the parent bird brought back berries for the very young chicks as well.

Insects like Cicadas are an important source of protein for the growing chicks

On the 15th, about a week old, pin feathers can be seen on both the chicks. Their eyes were opened and calls for food were more frequent. The parents were perched nearby the nest to make sure that no predators are around. When I got too close for comfort they will warn me with loud calls and frantic wing flapping. However instinct took over and they continued with the feeding after a while when I stayed away.

                      Four days to a week old chicks showing different feather growth.

Debra who lived nearby came to helped me to check on the chicks on 17th and found the fitter one standing on the rim of the nest. It looked strong and was fully covered with feathers. She reckoned that it will be fledgling soon. The other chick was still resting inside the nest and less active.

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When I went there on the 19th to check, the bigger chick surprised me by flying away to the bushes nearby. I may have caused it to take its maiden flight but I am glad that it fledged. The parents were still around and were still feeding the younger chick. It took just 11 days for the first chick to fledged. Nature make sure that they do so as fast as possible to avoid being predated. Good to see another pair of our native bulbuls gracing our natural landscape. Family photo on right showing the 9 days old chick standing on the nest.                Video of chick preening

 

7th Parrot Count 2017

Authors: Albert Low and Alan OwYong

Introduction

Long-tailed Parakeet

Long-tailed Parakeets flying across CCNR photographed at Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap. They made up 58% of the total counted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The smaller Yellow-crested Cockatoo where 8 were counted. 

The World Parrot Count was initiated seven years ago by Michael Braun and Roelant Jonker from the parrot researchers’ group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU). A key objective of the study was to document the status and abundance of feral and non-native parrots in urban environments globally where populations are established. Being part of this study provides an excellent opportunity for us to also monitor native parrot abundance and diversity in Singapore beyond our nature reserves. Given that some species such as the non-native Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) have increased in abundance across Singapore, it is also timely to identify areas where these species are concentrated and their roost sites.

Results and Conclusions

Coordinated annually by the Bird Group since 2011, this year’s Parrot Count took place on 25 February 2017. 17 sites across mainland Singapore were counted this year. This year’s total of 2621 parrots of 9 identifiable species is higher than the 2,483 parrots of 8 species recorded last year.

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As was the case over the past 3 years, the well-wooded Mount Rosie was the most species-rich site, with six species of parrot recorded. Bottle Tree Park, a site first surveyed in 2015, was once again the top site in terms of total abundance, with 719 individuals from four parrot species recorded. The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) was the most numerous parrot recorded during the count, with a total of 1,521 individuals seen. However, this was a continued decrease from the 1,837 individuals last year and the high count of 2,059 observed in 2015. This constituted 58% of all parrots recorded during the count. 903 Red-breasted Parakeets were also recorded, making up the bulk (34.5%) of the remaining parrots recorded. Other species recorded include small numbers of Tanimbar Corellas (Cacatua goffiniana), Coconut Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots (Loriculus galgulus) and Yellow-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea).

Common Name Overall Species Totals %
Long-tailed Parakeet 1521 58.03
Red-breasted Parakeet 903 34.45
Rose-ringed Parakeet 33 1.26
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 41 1.56
Rainbow (Coconut) Lorikeet 16 0.61
Tanimbar Corella 70 2.67
Yellow-crested Cockatoo 8 0.31

 

image001

During the census, parrot numbers peaked between 7 pm and 7.30 pm where 1,669 parrots were counted.  As shown in recent counts, the largest parakeet flocks were mainly observed at last light, with counters at many sites managing to observe the noisy spectacle of flocks of parakeets returning to their roosting trees just before complete darkness.

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Of particular interest is the continued decline in the total number of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded during the Parrot Count since 2015. However, counts over the past three years at major staging and roosting sites around northern Singapore show no discernable trends, with numbers at the Bottle Tree Park showing an overall increase since 2015 while the staging areas at Springleaf Nature Park have been quite stable over the past two years following a decline between 2015 and 2016 (Figure 1). It is possible that instead of a genuine decline, changes in the foraging and roosting habits of parakeet flocks may be responsible for a lower number of individuals counted overall. Hopefully, continued data collection in the years ahead will provide a clearer perspective of these trends.

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Figure 1: Numbers of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded at three sites in northern Singapore over the past three years.

Conversely, preliminary analysis of two Red-breasted Parakeet roosting sites over the past three years show less variation in flock size year-on-year (Figure 2). Given that the species is now widespread and common in Singapore, it is clear that many other roosting sites are present throughout urban Singapore and are not being counted. This is evident from a new roost site counted for the first time at Jurong West that contained close to 500 individuals, effectively doubling this year’s count relative to the past two years. It is hoped that birdwatchers will continue to report parakeet roosts within their neighbourhoods, so that a more complete picture of Singapore’s Red-breasted Parakeet population can be obtained.

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Figure 2: Numbers of Red-breasted Parakeets recorded at Clementi Central and Changi Point over the past three years.

Acknowledgements

On behalf of the Bird Group, we would like to thank the following for their willingness to carry out parrot monitoring on a weekend evening – Site Leaders: Albert Low, Lim Kim Chuah, Alan Owyong, Lim Kim Keang, Debra Yeo, Lee Ee Ling, Nessie Khoo, Marcel Finlay, Shirley Ng, Ng Bee Choo, Morten Strange, Angus Lamont, Low Choon How, Van Wang Ye. Assisting Counters: Florence Ipert, Doris Owyong, Chi Yang, Christine, Ryan Tiew, See Wei An, Ching Chiew Lian, Yong Jun Zer, Scott Li Meng Aloysius. Francis Yap and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos. Finally we also thank Roelant and Michael for inviting us to be part of this study.

 

Singapore Bird Report-March 2017

Kranji Marshes was the top location for rarity sightings this month starting with a rare passage migrant, an Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus picked out by Martin Kennewell on 11th from among the high flying Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica and Aerodramus Swiftlets. This also sets a new late date for the few spring records we have.

Bailion's Crake MK

An unusual open shot of a Baillon’s Crake at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell.

Later in the month on 26th, Martin photographed an uncommon visiting Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla in the canal there. A rare Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, a former resident was counted during the Annual Bird Census on 4th by Martin and Con Foley, and Martin followed up with a sighting of the shy White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea the next day. The other rare find outside Kranji this month was the Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisea encountered by Lim Kim Seng on 22nd at Jelutong Tower.

Other migrants reported passing through were a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea at the Buona Vista MRT canal on 7th by Andrew Chow and another at Lower Peirce on 4th and 10th (Marcel Finlay) and Oriental Pratincoles Glarela maldivarum at Marina Barrage on 5th (Zacc HD). A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka was seen by Lim Kim Keang at the Rifle Range Link on 11th. The male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia spotted by Veronica Foo at Labrador Nature Reserve on 17th has a very nice orange flush across its chest unlike the autumn birds. While the male that Lim Kim Keang saw at Pulau Ubin on 22nd was in song, something we only hear during Spring. So were the Eastern-crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus that were wintering at DFNP this month (Martin Kennewell). Martin also came across a small group of Eye-browed Thrushes Turdus obscurus there. He counted six to seven birds from 21st to end of the month.

CWC LKS

One of the more colorful cuckoos, the Chestnut-winged photographed by Lim Kim Seng at Halus.

Several migrating cuckoos were reported this month starting with the Chest-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus at Lorong Halus on 4th by Lim Kim Seng, followed by another record at Pulau Ubin on 10th sent in by Jacky Soh.

Two Large Hawk-Cuckoos Hierococcyx sparverioides, first from SBG on 7th seen by Luce Sam and again on 18th at Healing Gardens by Laurence Eu, the other along the ECP near the Sailing Club on 16th by Roland Lim.

LHC Richard White

Bidadari is still a favourite rest stop for visiting cuckoos.   This juvenile Large Hawk-Cuckoo (left) was photographed there recently by Richard White.  

A male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was seen flying over Jelutong Tower on 12th by Adrian Silas Tay, another over Petai Trail on 3rd (Marcel Finlay) and two different Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoos Surniculus lugubris at Jurong Eco Garden on 25th (James Tann) and at Petai Trail on 12th (Marcel Finlay). These two may be winter visitors but we do have a resident population as well. Two resident cuckoos reported were a female Plantive Cacomantis merulinus from the Chinese Gardens on 4th (Siew Mun), another Plantive at the GBTB on 15th (Alan OwYong) and a Little Bronze Chrysococcyx minutillus at Kranji Marshes on 9th (Andrew Chow)

We had only one report of a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida from the CCNR by Marcel Finlay. This one was sighted along Petai Trail on 8th. A Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis was reported at DFNP on 30th by Martin Kennewell. Khong Yew photographed an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca at the SBG on 27th. It was passing through.

Scanning the open skies proofed profitable with some great finds. Francis Yap had a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus on migration flying over his favorite Jelutong Tower on 8th, while Alan OwYong picked out the smallish resident Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis hawking insects over the SBG on 11th.

Brown-backed Needletail Keita Sin

A really difficult species to photograph, the fast flying Brown-backed Needletail                 captured by Keita Sin from the BTNR summit on 21st.

Not to be outdone Keita Sin reported the passage of a fast flying Brown-backed Needtail Hirundapus giganteus across BTNR summit on 21st. This uncommon visitor was also recorded by Martin Kennewell over at DFNP on 23rd. Two birds were seen there. On the last day of the month Martin sent in a report of Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta flying over DFNP. He also reported a House Swift Apus nipalensis over at the SBG on 24th. Sightings of House Swifts are now getting more frequent which is a good sign.

Coming back to ground, two hard to see Lanceolated Warblers Locustella lanceolata were reported at Seletar End on 10th (Marin Kennewell), A Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola at the GBTB was spotted by John Spencer on 11th. This is a new record for GBTB. Several Black-browed Warblers Acrocephalus bistrigiceps were also hiding there on 15th (Alan OwYong). Another Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler was reported to be wintering at the small marsh garden at the Sport Hub for most of the month (Marcel Finlay).

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Two male Kentish Plovers in breeding plumage wintering at Marina Barrage. 

Shorebirds still wintering here include Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus (two males in breeding plumage and one female) at Marina Barrage on 10th (Alan OwYong), a male dealbatus subspecies of the Kentish Plover, sometimes known as White-faced Plover C. a. dealbatus on 11th (Robin Tan) and an Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata at Pulau Tekong on 9th (Frankie Cheong).

Red-legged Crake

Venus Loop is one of the few locations where the Red-legged Crake can be encountered. Photo by Lee Chuin Ming on 13th March at Venus Loop.

Resident species of note came from Sister’s Island where a Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana was reported by Timothy Chua on 11th, another at Seletar Dam on 11th (Marcel Finlay), two Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata  and three pairs of forest specialist Short-tailed Babblers Malcocincla malaccensis (22nd) at Petai Trail (Marcel Finlay) and Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji at Labrador NP on 26th (Abel Yeo). This could be a new record for Labrador.

Two nestings were reported. Black-winged Kites Elanus caeruleus at NTL 2 with three chicks that were about to fledge on 5th by Alfred Chia and Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis at PRP by Lim Kim Keang. Eggs belonging to Greater Painted Snipe Rostraula benghalensis at Seletar were unfortunately predated as per report on 10th (Martin Kennewell) robbing us the chance of documenting the breeding of this uncommon resident snipe for the first time.

Slaty-breasted Rail

Less common Slaty-breasted Rail are most at home among the marshy areas at Kranji. Siew Mun photographed this there on 13th March. 

The only crashed record was that of a rare migrant Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia hitting a glass panel at SDE Foyer at NUS on 9th (Cheryl Lee). A road kill identified as a Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus along Neo Tiew Road was reported by Chua Yen Kheng of NParks on 11th. This is compensated by the sightings at Kranji Marshes on 13th by Siew Mun and two juveniles rails at Bishan Park by Andrew Tan on 22nd.

Ending this month’s report were the Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster returning to Ketam Quarry at Ubin on 22nd and a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis seen at Bishan Park on 17th. At least one Black Drongos Dicrurus macrocercus that were wintering at Seletar last month was still around on 12th. All three records from Lim Kim Keang.

Legend. DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park, ECP: East Coast Parkway, GBTB: Gardens by the Bay, CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

References:

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

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

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records especially Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay for their personal lists. Many thanks to Martin Kennewell, Lim Kim Seng, Richard White, Keita Sin, Alan OwYong, Lee Chuin Ming and Siew Mun for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

 

 

 

 

First Nesting Record of the Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore.

First documented records of the Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis breeding in Singapore.

BING WEN LOW, ALFRED CHIA, GIM CHEONG TAN, WEE JIN YAP & KIM KEANG LIM

(This article was first published in BirdingASIA 26 (2016) under Important Breeding Record)

Introduction:

The Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis is a widespread non-breeding visitor to the Malay Peninsula, with breeding previously considered to be confined to the Malaysian states of Perlis and Kedah, including Langkawi island (Wells 2007). However, in 2005 breeding was recorded at Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara National Park, significantly increasing the species’s known breeding range on the Malay Peninsula (Hutchinson & Mears 2006). In Singapore, the Blue-winged Pitta is classified as an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant that is recorded annually with an earliest date of 7 October and latest of 12 April (Lim 2009). However, since 2008 there has been an increasing number of reports of Blue-winged Pittas calling between late April and July. Most of these reports emanate from western Singapore, around the periphery of a military training area, but similar reports have also been received from northern Singapore and Pulau Ubin, an island off the main island’s north-east coast in the channel separating Singapore and Malaysia. Here we document the first confirmed breeding records of Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore, based on observations at two nest sites on Pulau Ubin in July and August 2016.

Observations in the field

On 9 July 2016, WJY observed two adult Blue-winged Pittas carrying earthworms, apparently to an unseen nest in an area of regenerating secondary forest on the eastern end of Pulau Ubin (Plate 1).

AC7Plate 1. The first Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis nest (arrowed) at  Pulau Ubin, Singapore, among the dead fronds of a rattan grove, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

On 14 July GCT and a small team of helpers searched for and located an active nest. The area is an abandoned rubber plantation; consequently most of the bigger trees are rubber Hevea brasiliensis. The understorey is, however, floristically diverse and features a variety of shrubs and climbers. The nest was at ground level amongst the dead fronds of rattans Calamus erinaceus, and comprised a roughly spherical mound of dried leaves and twigs bound together with mud (Plate 2). The mould measured 22 × 20 cm with a depth of 17 cm and an entrance hole 11 × 9 cm. It was located a mere 4.3 m from an unpaved track popular with recreational hikers and cyclists, particularly at weekends.

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Plate 2. The nest, a roughly spherical mound, was constructed using sticks and vegetation bound together with mud, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

When the nest was first found on 14 July, four chicks were present. They were estimated to be at least a week old, given the presence of pin feathers and that the parents were already feeding them on 9 July. In order to document feeding behaviour without undue disturbance, cameras switched to video mode were left to record nest visits when observers were in the general area. It was observed that both parents returned as frequently as every two minutes to tend to the chicks. The parents could be differentiated from behind, based on the width of their dark crown stripe, with one individual having a noticeably broader stripe than its partner (Plate 3). It was not clear whether this was due to differences in feather wear or individual variation.

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Plate 3. The parent birds could be distinguished by the difference in the width of their crown stripe, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

Nest visits generally lasted between 16 and 40 seconds, with longer visits associated with the feeding of young and removal of faecal sacs. The parents also made short visits to the nest for the sole purpose of faecal sac removal. The primary food for the chicks was earthworms, which were collected by the parents in areas of bare earth and small gullies close to the nest (Plate 4). It was surprising that while one parent incessantly uttered alarm calls whenever humans were within 15 m of the nest, the other parent (with the narrower crown stripe) continued visiting the nest silently to feed the young. At other times, one parent uttered the loud alarm call from a hidden position while the other gave a slightly longer, lower-pitched whirrr at intervals of between one and three seconds. This alternative warning call was often accompanied by ‘wing-flicking’—the rapid opening and closing of the wings.

9.7.16 YWJ Pair with Earthworms and LizardPlate 4. The parent birds returned to the nest frequently with copious quantities of earthworms, 9 July 2016. Yap Wee Jin.

Although the brood comprised four chicks, it was apparent that the bulk of the food was fed to the three chicks closest to the entrance of the mound. On 19 July, all four chicks left the nest between 12h42 and 17h01 (Plate 5); they left progressively, in their own time, even though the fourth chick appeared underdeveloped compared with its siblings (Plate 6). The three stronger chicks were already capable of short flights to perches 3 m above the ground, whilst the fourth could only hop on the forest floor. Assuming the chicks were around a week old on 14 July, the estimated fledging period was about 14 days.

 

BWP chick 1536H
Plate 5. One of the three stronger chicks during its first foray out of the nest, 19 July 2016Tan Gim Cheong.

BWP last chick 1701H snip
Plate 6. Compared to its three siblings, the fourth chick was noticeably weaker and less well-developed when the family fledged, 19 July 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

During subsequent visits on 21 and 23 July, we observed a single fledgling about 50 m from the nest site; by this time it was already independent, capable of foraging alone and undertaking flights between trees (Plate 7). While the fate of the rest of the clutch is unclear, the observation of the lone juvenile foraging independently three days after leaving the nest suggests that the fledglings become independent very quickly. However, the parent birds were still very protective and one of them continued to utter alarm calls incessantly whenever observers approached within 15 m of the fledgling. The parents were also observed to make short circular flights and hops around observers, flicking their wings frequently to show their white wing patches, presumably to act as a distraction and on at least one occasion both parents were observed to make alarm calls, alternating with wing-flicking.

 

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Plate 7. Soon after leaving the nest, one of the fledglings was already a confident flier that frequently perched in the mid-storey, 21 July 2016.
Alfred Chia

 

 

On 23 July, a second nest was discovered by KKL deeper in the forest, about 50 m from the original nest; it was similar in construction to the first nest. On 28 July, a single egg was found in the new nest and thereafter one egg was laid every day until 1 August—a clutch of five eggs (Plate 8).

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Plate 8. The second Blue-winged Pitta nest found at Pulau Ubin showing the clutch of five eggs, 2 August 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

 

 

The parents only started brooding on 2 August after all five eggs had been laid. During the incubation period, the parents took turns incubating and were occasionally observed to turn the eggs. On 14 August, 18 days after the discovery of the first egg, three chicks hatched and the remaining two eggs hatched the following day (Plate 9). During the period when there were both eggs and chicks to care for, the parents were observed to take turns feeding chicks and incubating. They also consumed the egg shells once the chicks had hatched.

AC10Plate 9. All five eggs in the second nest hatched successfully by 15 August 2016. Low Choon How.

During observations on 17 August, it was noted that nest visits lasted between 33 and 255 seconds, with intervals of from 1 to 19 minutes between visits. Parents were observed to either remove or consume faecal sacs and, in contrast to the first nest, alarm-calling was minimal, possibly due to the greater distance of the second nest from the trail. Unfortunately, this nesting attempt may not have had a positive outcome. On 18 August, the parents were seen to remove a dead chick from the nest and on 21 August we found that all the chicks had disappeared. As the chicks were only seven days old, unable to fly and completely dependent on their parents, it is most likely that they were predated.

Discussion:

The discovery of Blue-winged Pitta breeding in Singapore is significant both as an extension of the breeding range by about 400 km to the south-east but also because it may change our understanding of the status and movements of the species on the Malay Peninsula. The first reports of Blue-winged Pitta from Singapore outside the established wintering/migration period were in July 2008 when two individuals were heard calling vociferously on the Kranji Nature Trail (Low 2008, Lok et al. 2009); the species could already have bred in Singapore when the Taman Negara NP record was documented. We can now confirm that the breeding range of this species extends to the most southerly point of the Malay Peninsula, also raising the possibility of breeding on the islands of the Greater Sundas. The forest near the eastern end of Pulau Ubin is regenerating on abandoned rubber plantations. Similarly, most of the Blue-winged Pittas heard calling have been reported from western Singapore, where the forest has regenerated from land that was previously used for plantations or village agriculture (Yee et al. 2016). This is in line with published literature which notes the species’ preference for secondary growth as breeding habitat (Wells 2007). This habitat preference may also explain why the species has not been recorded breeding in southern Peninsular Malaysia, where there is little observer effort because the majority of visiting birdwatchers opt to visit remnant tracts of rainforest instead of secondary growth. There is no confirmatory evidence that the birds breeding in Singapore are resident—they may winter in Sumatra or elsewhere. In Singapore, anecdotal evidence such as birds colliding with windows shows that good numbers of Blue-winged Pittas move through the city-state on migration (BWL pers. obs.).

Acknowledgements:

We thank Low Choon How and Alan Owyong for their active involvement in documenting the nesting record and for useful discussion.

References:

Hutchinson, R. & Mears, A. (2006). Extension of the breeding range of Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis in peninsular Malaysia. Forktail 22: 119–120.

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

Lok A. F. S. L., Khor K. T. N., Lim K. C. & Subaraj, R. (2009) Pittas (Pittidae) of Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 155–165.

Low, A. (2008) Bird Report. Singapore Avifauna 22(7): 1–25.

Wells, D. R. (2007) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Yee A. T. K., Chong K. Y., Neo L. & Tan H. T. W. (2016) Updating the classification system for the secondary forests of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. 32: 11–21.

Birding in just one tree

Contributed by Morten Strange, retired photographer, author and publisher, now an independent financial analyst. 

The African Tulip Tree Spathodea campanulata is widely used in Singapore as an introduced ornamental tree, locally known as Flame of the Forest. We have one of those right outside our apartment on the fourth floor off lower Sembawang Road. Over the years the tree has grown up, so it is now right outside our windows, ideal for armchair birding! You get stunning point-blank eye-level views of all the common stuff, and now and then a few more difficult-to-see-well species.

A T Tree 1

The whole African Tulip Tree seen tree from our window.

Every morning we wake up to the fluty whistle of the Black-naped Oriole, it seems to call all year. When I grew up in Europe I hardly ever saw an oriole, the European species O. oriolus is really hard to find in the north; here we are lucky to have the stunning O. chinensis so easy to see. The call from the Asian Koel appears to be more seasonal; how that exciting cry can be a bother to anyone is a puzzle to me! Occasionally we get the sweet song from the Oriental Magpie-Robin.

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The hidden cry from the male Asian Koel.

When the tree is in flower, the nectar-feeders come swarming in and flutter in and out of the tree all day. We get the two common species of sunbirds as you can imagine, as well as Oriental White-eye, Yellow-vented Bulbul and of course the every-where present Javan Myna.

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Our environmental refugee the Javan Myna is just so amazingly omnivorous, you cannot help but feeling some sympathy for this adaptable foreign worker.

We used to regard this species as a pest here, and it is one of only six bird species that you are allowed to kill according to Singapore legislation. But since it was uplisted to globally Vulnerable to extinction last year, we might have to view it in a slightly different light: As an environmental refugee from its native range in Java and Bali, where it is widely persecuted with capture and imprisonment (I mean caging …), a species worthy of our protection in exile!?

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Flowering season – male Brown-throated Sunbird.

Scarlet-rumped Flowerpecker visits the tree but does not seem to use the flowers. However, many insects do, and they in turn attract the Blue-tailed Bee-eater which is also a prolific and attractive visitor during flowering.

When the flowers turn into fruits, the parrots arrive and chew on them to get to the seeds. Rose-ringed Parakeet is most regular, but we also get Red-breasted and Long-tailed and the occasional Tanimbar Corella. My favorite however, is the diminutive and acrobatic Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, they come in late in the afternoon; you always know when they are there from their ringing whistle.

A T Tree 7

When the flowers turn into fruits, the parrots arrive, here the attractive and acrobatic Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot.  

I have never seen a bird nest in the tree, although we have Pink-necked Green Pigeon nesting other places in the estate. We did have a nest of Plantain Squirrel right outside our window one year. The Philippine Glossy Starling collects nesting material from the tree, and couples use it as a spring-board when they fly into their nests under the roof of our building. In the migratory season Asian Brown Flycatcher and occasionally Oriental Honey-Buzzard perch for a while.

A T Tree 2

My son Mark took this great shot of a Common Flameback male one day. I didn’t even know it had white dots in the primaries!?

Although we are at least a kilometer from the nearest proper secondary forest, we get some forest edge species visiting such as Hill Myna, Banded Woodpecker and occasionally Oriental Pied Hornbill and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. In total more than 30 species of birds use that tree.

I sold all my camera equipment many years ago. But now and then I pick up a compact camera belonging to my son or wife and snap a few pictures of the birds in the tree for fun. Not because I think we need any more images like these, but to send the message out that you don’t have to travel to remote and exotic places to study and enjoy nature.

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The ubiquitous Yellow-vented Bulbul very at home at every “local patch”

It was the British comedian and birder Bill Oddie who popularized the concept of the ‘local patch’. Our local patch is Springleaf Nature Park near our place; but in fact we don’t really even have to go anywhere to watch birds these days, they are right outside our window. We have already lost a few large branches in the tree, and one day I expect that a storm will snap off the crown completely. But until then we will enjoy it every day.

Morten Strange

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morten_Strange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore Bird Report- February 2017

BRT Seng Alvin

The return of the Blue Rock Thrush to the Pinnacle@Duxton. Photo: Seng Alvin

The buzz of the month had to be the return of the Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius to the Pinnacle@Duxton on 19th. This time two males, thanks to Seng Alvin’s vigilance during his temporary stay. It stayed around into the end of the month giving many birders their lifers. The next excitement was another returnee to the fig tree at DFNP, a male adult Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanonmelana on 10th ( Alan OwYong). The main interest was whether this could be a recently split Zappey’s. It was last seen on 20th by Vernoica Foo.

BWFC Con Foley

Con’s photo of the Blue and White Flycatcher taken at DFNP clinched its identification.

Besides these two most wanted winter visitors,  there were other less rare visitors like Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus from SBWR photographed by James Tann on the 2nd. Another Forest Wagtail was seen along Venus Loop by Veronica Foo on 8th and Thio Hb on 12th. Marcel Finlay had one more along the Lower Pierce Boardwalk on 13th.

Siberian Blue Robins Luscinia cyane were showing well this month especially inside the CCNR. Marcel Finlay alone counted 4 birds (2 males, 1 adult female, and 1 immature female) along the Petai Trail on 2nd, 15th, 27th and 28th. A family group wintering together? Earlier Terence Tan reported one along Venus Loop on 7th.

Black Drongo at PB by Danny Lau

A rare visiting Black Drongo taken at Punggol Barat by Danny Lau. 

Notable visitors passing through were a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea back at the Bulim Canal on 3rd (James Tann) and a rare visiting Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus at Punggol Barat on 4th ( Danny Lau, Tan Kok Hui et al). Two were later photographed at the Seletar side by Martin Kennewell on 24th. A Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was photographed at the Belayer Creek Mangroves by Kwek Jun Yi on the 8th. This is not its preferred habitat which is fresh water wetlands. It may have just made landfall.

Three sightings of the Crow-billed Drongos Dicrurus annectans were reported, one at CCNR by Lim Kim Seng on 8th, a first winter male at SBG on 15th by Richard White and another at Jelutong on 24th by Marcel Finlay.

Red rumped Swallow at KM Martin K.

A seldom seen perched photo of a Red-rumped Swallow taken at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell.

Smaller migrant passerines include Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica at Mandai on 10th by Lim Kim Seng and a very tame individual at the SBG on 6th (Richard White). A female Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae at Jelutong Tower was photographed by Laurence Eu on 22nd and a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Kranji Marshes of all the places on 25th (Martin Kennewell and Richard Carden). Martin was clocking 80-90 species at Kranji Marshes at this time of the year picking out uncommon species like the House Swifts Apus nipalensis (3 birds) on 18th and Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica on 19th and 26th.

DSFC Richard White

A very tame Dark-sided Flycatcher refueling at the Singapore Botanic Gardens before making its flight back north. Photo Richard White.

Eastern Crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus were singing their hearts out in our forests at this time of the year. That was how Tan Kok Hui found one at DFNP on 11th. A White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis was expertly picked out by Terence Tan among a flock of Daurian Starlings Agropsar sturninus at Seletar Crescent on 17th.

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Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo making a stop over at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Alan OwYong.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is getting its fair share of migrants stopping over like the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca that made a short stop at the SBG on 2nd (Serena Chew). A Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor distracted the photographers temporary from the released Lady Amherst’s Pheasant on the 19th (Andrew Tan) and a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus was photographed there by Lee Chuin Ming on 25th.

Swintail Snipe Marcel

A “Swintail” Snipe shot flying over the flooded grasslands at Seletar. Photo: Marcel Finlay

Much of Punggol Barat is now over grown but fortunately a nearby patch is more open and has short grasses as cover. With the recent wet weather, parts of it were water logged, an ideal habitat for snipes to roost. No less than 150 Gallinago snipes were counted with at least half of them identified as Common Snipes Gallinago gallinago on 22nd (Martin Kennewell).  He also managed to find a good number of resident Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis hiding among the taller sages. Visting Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea were also sighted with the most recent seen on 27th by Marcel Finlay.

Interesting shorebirds came from Frankie Cheong’s records at the reclaimed foreshore at Pulau Tekong. Two Chinese Egrets Egretta eulophotes, 10-12 Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis, 8 Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea, two Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinereus and 1 Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola. Most frustrating is that it is a restricted site.

Resident species that merit noting were an injured Barn Owl Tyto alba picked up near MBS on 6th ( Joe Lim). This could be from the family living under the Sheares Bridge. Two other owls, the Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji returning to the SBG to roost reported by Richard White on 14th and a surprise sighting of a Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo flying towards the buildings at Seletar Airport on 22nd evening (Martin Kennewell). Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra were photographed at the Chinese Gardens on 7th by Lee Chuin Ming, confirming their spread. Zacc HD picked up a House Swift Apus nipalensis flying over Seletar on 23rd. Keep a look out for these resident swifts to see if their numbers are increasing

The Oriental Pied Hornbills Anthracoceros albirostris at SBG successfully raised two chicks which fledged on 2nd (Millie Cher) and so did the Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus  on 19th at Bedok North. But the nesting of Oriental Pied Hornbills at Holland Drive somehow failed . The female was seen breaking out on 3rd by Lee Kia Chong but no chicks were seen feeding after that.

Legend: DFNP Dairy Farm National Park, SBWR Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, CCNR Central Catchment Nature Reserve

References:

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

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

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Seng Alvin, Con Foley, Danny Lau, Martin Kennewell, Richard White, Alan OwYong and Marcel Finlay for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 19.2.17

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes on Sunday, 19 Feb 2017

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Members of Nature Society posing for a group photo at Kranji Marshes. Many thanks to Lee Ee Ling (squatting extreme right) for arranging and leading the walk, Yap Wee Jin ( squatting extreme left) and Wing Chong ( standing back left) for assisting. 

It was a cool and sunny Sunday morning when we arrived at the Kranji Marshes. A lush expense of greenery and cool waters greeted us when we stepped out of the bus. The hustle and bustle and noise of city life was replaced by the chipping sounds of birds all around. Everyone had their binoculars and cameras out ready for action when we started our walk at 8.15 am. This is one of the monthly walks to the core area of Kranji Marshes arranged by the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and National Parks Board. 

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The family of Red-wattled Lapwings have made Kranji Marshes their permanent home.

As we proceeded into the core area, less common birds such as the Red Wattled Lapwing and Daurian Starling were spotted. However, the highlight and top sighting for the day was the appearance of two Watercocks.  

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Highlight of the walk were the two Watercocks, a lifer for many of our members

Even though they only appeared for a brief moment, it was enough to make this trip worthwhile as they are uncommon winter visitor. A lifer for several members of the group who were obviously delighted with this sighting. ☺

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Bird watching in one of the many hides ensured that the birds were not disturbed.

Despite a brief moment of apprehension on seeing some black clouds in the sky towards the tail end of our walk, the good weather prevailed and our time passed quickly.

More pictures of birds sighted at the Kranji Marshes. 

Resident Ashy Tailorbird, Baya Weaver and a winter visitor Daurian Starling 

We ended our walk at 11 am with a good haul of 35 species much to the delight of all those who choose to spend the Sunday morning at the largest fresh water marsh in Singapore. 

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One of our many colorful Kingfishers, the White-throated poised for a catch.

Some additional information on our sightings:

Bird species sighted:                             Bird species heard:

1/ Purple Heron                                       1/ Yellow Bellied Prinia

2/ Javan Mynah                                        2/ Large Billed Crow

3/ Pink Necked Green Pigeon               3/ Collared Kingfisher

4/ Baya Weaver                                          4/ Common Iora

5/ Black Naped Oriole                              5/ Common Tailorbird

6/ Olive Backed Sunbird

7/ Common Flameback Woodpecker

8/ Red Breasted Parakeet

9/ Black Browed Reed Warbler

10/ Spotted Dove

11/ Red Wattled Lapwing

12/ Black Baza

13/ Lesser Coucal

14/ Blue Tailed Bee Eater

15/ Barn Swallow

16/ Long Tailed Parakeet

17/ Yellow Bittern

18/ Yellow Vented Bulbul

19/ Brahminy Kite

20/ Swifts

21/ Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

22/ Daurian Starling

23/ WaterCock

24/ Brown Shrike

25/ Asian Glossy Starling

26/ Pied Fantail

27/ Common Kingfisher

28/ Lesser Whistling Ducks

29/ Grey Headed Fish Eagle

30/ White Throated Kingfisher

31/ Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker

32/ White Breasted Waterhen

33/ Intermediate Egret

34/ Ashy Tailorbird

35/ Oriental Dollarbird

All Bird photos : Courtesy of Henrietta Woo

Birdwatching leader : Lee Ee Ling

Assisted by : Wing Chong, Yap Wee Jin

Report by : Yap Wee Jin