Author Archives: Alan OwYong

About Alan OwYong

Retiree birder and photographer.

Woodpecker and Gecko Predation.

A short summary of the Woodpecker and Gecko predation.

By Evan Landy.


Friday 3rd July.


I encountered a pair of feeding Common Flamebacks, Dinopium javanense, early in the morning at Changi Beach Park. One of the flamebacks shuffled up and down a tree looking for insects but the other was relentlessly drilling away at a small hole in the bark of a sea almond tree. Curious about this behaviour I watched closely and, after several minutes of hard drumming, the woodpecker prised out a small gecko. It took about a minute to subdue the reptile, bashing it against a tree branch in the same way a kingfisher does with a fish, and then swallowing it tail-end first. The literature suggests that flamebacks are primarily insectivorous so I was surprised to see it with a larger prey item as the gecko was approximately twice the length of its beak. Given their habit of drilling into trees it seems they are capable of taking larger prey items too when these opportunities arise. And for the bird watcher it was a useful reminder to always remain curious even whilst watching commonly seen species. 

The male Common Flameback swallowing the gecko tail first. Photo: Evan Landy.
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Didn’t Pray Enough!

By Seng Alvin with Alan OwYong.

Besides photos of birds in flight the next most desired photos are those with food in mouth. There is so much we can learn and help with their conservation from the different food and prey that they take.

I found several photos of birds feeding on Praying Mantis from my backyard at Pasir Ris Park. I was curious to find out a little more about the prey and the other species feed on it too.

I posted my photos of the Oriental Pied Hornbill and Yellow-vented Bulbul on the Bird Sightings FB page and invited fellow members to post theirs. I was pleasantly surprised with the response. A total of nine more species were added to my post.

Seng Alvin’s close up photo of the Oriental Pied Hornbill with a mantis praying and hanging on for its dear life.
Yellow-vented Bulbuls needing some proteins to supplement their fruit diet. Seng Alvin.

I dug up some facts on the Praying Mantis on the internet and found that it is one of the top predators in the insect kingdom. There are over 2,000 species in the world and they come in all colours. They needed this to blend in to the natural environment as they are mainly ambushed hunters. For example the green Praying Mantis will use the green foliage as camouflage and wait for insects, birds, frogs, snakes or lizards to come by before they snap their powerful forelegs out in split seconds to snatch their prey. There is a video of a Praying Mantis holding the mouth of a Changeable Lizard open and biting its lips off with its sharp teeth and strong jaws.

Menlolong” You can almost hear the praying mantis pleading for its life.

Looking at the list, many of the birds are generalist and opportunists. Not many are insectivorous. Their ability to pick out a well camouflaged praying mantis staying motionless on a leaf or tree trunk is nothing short of amazing. Maybe the larger size of the praying mantis helped. Once spotted, all the “praying” will not help. Arboreal foragers like the Greater Racket Drongo, Pied Triiler, Black-naped Oriole, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and the Common Iora must have inherited the skill of hunting for this particular prey from their parents when they were young.

Insects like the Praying Mantis form a big part of the diet of this nationally near- threatened Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. Photo: Evelyn Lee.
Male Pied Triller showing off its catch. Photo: Hearn Robin.
A praying mantis playing dead hoping and praying that the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo will pass it up. Photo: Lee Chin Pong.
The Common Iora sensibly chose a smaller praying mantis for its meal. Photo: Ros Qian.
Seah Kok Meng’s “Lo Hei ” shot of a Oriental Pied Hornbill tossing a praying mantis. It was still “praying ” hard seconds before being swallowed.

The Collared Kingfishers have moved inland from the coastal areas and have adapted to a new diet that includes the Praying Mantis.

Collared Kingfishers have adapted to life away from the Mangroves. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid
Victor Tan’s image of the darling Collared Kingfisher chick being fed with a juicy mantis meal.

Even birds like the Long-tailed Shrikes were not choosy when it comes to feeding their chicks. If there are no centipedes around, a praying mantis will do nicely.

Long-tailed Shrike’s favorite food for its young included centipedes but a change of taste was just as welcomed too. Photo: Norhafiani A. Majid.

This unlucky Praying Mantis was at the wrong place at the wrong time even though the Malaysian Night Heron’s preferred food are the earthworms and skinks.

This praying mantis must have dropped to the ground much to the delight of this Malaysian Night Heron. Photo: Hearn Robin

Most raptors besides the Oriental Honey Buzzards take fish, birds and mammals. The Black Baza is an exception as large insects like the Praying Mantis and grasshoppers form the bulk of their diet.

Herman Phua excellent capture of a Black Baza enjoying its favourite snack.

From the diversity of the species, it would seem that the Praying Mantis form a good part of the diet of these birds. Maybe except for seed eaters and those without the proper bills, we can assume that many birds will not pass up a meal of the “Kung Fu Killer” of the insect world.

Yellow-vented Bulbul would not passed up a praying mantis meal even though they are mainly frugivorous. Photo: Agnes Chua.

We wish to thank all our friends for their contribution and the use of their photos.

Report on the 35th Annual Bird Census

Report on the 35th Annual Bird Census

By Lim Kim Seng

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Five Asian Openbill Storks foraging at Kranji Marshes. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.

The 35th Annual Bird Census (ABC) was conducted on 29th March 2020 just before the nation-wide “circuit breaker” kicked in. Organized by the NSS Bird Group, it saw the involvement of 39 members and volunteers at 26 sites all around Singapore. This is an improvement from last year when 39 counters covered 20 sites. Altogether, ABC 2020 logged a total of 6,342 birds and 147 species, an overall increase from 2019’s 5,496 birds and 143 species. This could be due to more sites been counted in 2020 as compared to 2019.

So what’s Singapore most abundant bird? If you are guessing Javan Myna, you’re wrong! It is the Asian Glossy Starling which scored 847 birds to beat Javan Myna, with 737 birds, into second place. Third was Pink-necked Green Pigeon (358), followed by a resurgent House Crow (256) and Yellow-vented Bulbul (250). The rest of the Top Ten species are Little Egret (186), Common Redshank (170), Black-naped Oriole (164), Spotted Dove (152) and the nationally threatened Grey Heron (149).

Last year’s fifth placing Pacific Golden Plover came in at 11th with 136 birds, down from 198 in 2020. In 12th position was Collared Kingfisher (124), followed by Olive-backed Sunbird (113), Olive-winged Bulbul (108), Pin-striped Tit-babbler (107), Common Iora (103), Rock Dove (101) and the globally near-threatened Long-tailed Parakeet (100). In 19th place was the Asian Openbill (98) that only invaded Singapore in huge numbers in late 2019. In 20th place was the ever-increasing introduced Red-breasted Parakeet (80).

The Top Twenty Species of 2020 are provided below:

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What about the sites? The most species diverse sites were Kranji Marshes with 70 species. The mixed habitats of marshland, grassland and open woodland provided at Kranji for a high biodiversity. Coming a distant second was Sungei Buloh Route 2 which had 56 species and third was Kranji Dam, with 47 species. The least species diverse sites were Lower Seletar Dam (27), followed by Chinese Garden, Mount Faber and Pasir Ris Park, all with 28 species.

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How about numbers? Well, the sites with the most number of birds counted were Sungei Buloh Route 1 with 495 birds counted followed by Sungei Buloh Route 2 (460) and Kranji Marshes (456). The sites with the least number of birds were Lower Peirce Reservoir with 80 birds, followed by Sime Track, Central Catchment Nature Reserve (130) and Bukit Batok Nature Park (137).

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Rare and interesting migratory species found during ABC2020 included Peregrine Falcon, Grey Plover, Drongo Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Blue-winged Pitta, Red-rumped Swallow, Yellow-browed Warbler. Eastern Crowned Warbler and Black-browed Reed Warbler. Globally threatened species included Lesser Adjutant (2 birds at Mandai Estuary), Straw-headed Bulbul (national count of 77 birds) and Greater Green Leafbird (2).

Nationally threatened specialties included Little Grebe (2 birds), Great-billed Heron (5), Changeable Hawk Eagle (9), Red-wattled Lapwing (11), Rusty-breasted Cuckoo (3), Mangrove Pitta (2 birds on Pulau Ubin), Asian Red-eyed Bulbul (7), Chestnut-winged Babbler (2), Oriental Magpie-robin (30) and White-rumped Shama (18)

This census would not have been possible if not for the counters who braved the elements and helped us to complete our 35th year of census. So, our grateful thanks to 39 volunteers.

Alan OwYong KP Teh Sin Yong Chee Keita
Alfred Chia Lee Bee Yong Steven Shields
Andrew Chow Leung Wei Kee Susan Knight
Atsuko Kawasaki Lim Kim Chuah Tan Kok Hui
Betty Shaw Lim Kim Keang Terry Heppell
Con Foley Martin Kennewell Twang Fangqi
Ding Li Yong Morten Strange Veronica Foo
Erika, Michelle Movin Nyanasengeran Willie Foo
Esther Kong MY Chan Wing Chong
Eunice Kong Nessie Khoo Yan Jiejun
Jane Heppell Ng Bee Choo Yap Wee Jin
John Spencer Ng Chay Tuan Yap Wee Jin
Kim Seng Lim Seng Beng Yeo Yong Yik Shih

Hope to see all of you again in 2021!

Birds Species Detectability in a HDB Heartland

Bird Species Detectability in a HDB Heartland

By Lim Kim Seng (ibisbill@yahoo.com)

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Javan Myna, a joint Top Most Detectable Species With Rock Dove and Asian Glossy Starling. Photo © Lim Kim Seng

 Introduction

This is a continuation of my studies of birds outside my balcony window in a HDB heartland called Woodlands. In the previous study, I found out that my one-hectare HDB neighbourhood actually has a decent diversity of birds – 36 species seen or heard over 40 days. What I wanted to do in this particular study is to find out what species are the most regularly seen or heard. In other words, what bird species are present virtually every day? What are our most common birds in HDB heartland? What are the rarest?

Methodology

To find out the most common birds in my neighbourhood, I resorted to a simple method or recording “presence”“ or “absence”, based on my observations by sight or sound of birds outside my balcony and study windows. I also added species that I saw on my regular trips to the wet market and supermarket to buy groceries. I kept a list of species in a notebook from April 4th to May 16th, a total of 40 days. I tried to keep watch of a total duration of an hour a day, aided by my 8×30 binoculars and my 65x zoom bridge camera.

Detectability and “Common-ness”

Over 40 days, 36 bird species were recorded. The results for the Ten Most Common or “Detectable” Species included three that were ever present – Asian Glossy Starling, Javan Myna and Common Pigeon.  These species were most often seen utilizing man-made structures such as rooftops, TV aerials as well as on trees and different ground surfaces. It should come as no surprise that two of these were introduced to Singapore.

Joint fourth was the Brown-throated Sunbird. This was a surprise as I had expected the ubiquitous Olive-backed Sunbird to be the winner. The former came to a tree outside my balcony almost every day to perform its chiffchaff-like song, especially at dawn. I think it is just one or two pairs that exist in my neighbourhood but they are very noticeable when they call. The other species was Swinhoe’s White-eye, another dawn singer in my tree and also present almost daily with a variety of chirps that made them instantly recognizable. I missed both only on one day each.

The rest of the Top Ten included Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, one of four parrots recorded, Black-naped Oriole, Pacific Swallow, Spotted Dove, Red-breasted Parakeet and either Germain’s or Black-nest Swiftlet.

The Eleventh to Twentieth positions also include some very familiar “garden birds” such as Asian Koel, House crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Olive-backed Sunbird as well as newly colonizing species such as Little Bronze Cuckoo. The complete list is in Appendix 1.

Perhaps, as our HDB heartlands and urban spaces are landscaped with plants that attract wildlife and as urban green spaces become more heterogeneous, these and other species will invade more urban areas in Singapore in the future. In addition, balconies in more favorable surroundings like parklands, wetlands, coasts or forests should show a richer and more diverse birdlife than my neighbourhood.

Recommendations and Conclusion

Even though this was a one-off study at just one site, I hope that it gives us an idea of what our most common birds of urban Singapore is, and how such studies can be done very easily with a minimum of fuss. More detailed studies could perhaps be made on why these species are so highly successful at colonizing man-made habitats compared to others.

 Appendix 1

Full List of Birds Detected at Woodlands Study Site, April 4th to May 16th, 2020 (Numbers in brackets next to the species indicates the number of days they were detected.)

1            Asian Glossy Starling  Aplonis panayensis (40)

2            Rock Dove Columba livia (40)

3            Javan Myna Acridotheres javanicus (40)

4            Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis               (39)

5            Swinhoe’s White-eye Zosterops simplex               (39)

6            Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus (33)

7            Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis (32)

8            Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica (31)

9            Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis (31)

10          Red-breasted Parakeet  Psittacula alexandri (25)

11          Swiftlet sp. Aerodramus sp. (25)

12          Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis (24)

13          Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum (23)

14          Pied Triller Lalage nigra (20)

15          Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis (17)

16          Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea  (16)

17          Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier (15)

18          House Crow Corvus splendens (14)

19          Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus (14)

20          Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri  (14)

21          Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans (13)

22          Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus  (11)

23          Zebra Dove Geopelia striata (7)

24          Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa (4)

25          Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis (4)

26          Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis (3)

27          Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata (3)

28          Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis (2)

29          Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (2)

30          Golden-bellied Gerygone Gerygone sulphurea (2)

31          Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda (2)

32          Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus  (1)

33          Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris (1)

34          Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus (1)

35          Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor (1)

36          White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster (1)

Fig 2-2

Spotted Dove and Asian Glossy Starlings seen from my balcony. Photo © Lim Kim Seng

Bird Species Diversity in a HDB Heartland.

Bird Species Diversity in a HDB Heartland

By Lim Kim Seng (ibisbill@yahoo.com)

Fig 1

The study site looking from my study window, Woodlands, Singapore. Photo © Lim Kim Seng

 Introduction

I live in Woodlands, a lively HDB township in the north of Singapore. My unit is on the 6th floor of a 13th storey HDB flat facing north, just 2 km from the Straits of Johor. My balcony and study room windows face the south, overlooking a 4-storey multi-story car park and another 13th flat just 100 m away. To north of my flat is a tiny patch of secondary forest that had been reduced in extent over the last twenty years due to the establishment of a new polytechnic and upcoming plans for retail, commercial and industrial infrastructure, and a new MRT station. To the south are yet more flats, a small shopping mall with an adjoining wet market and supermarket, an old folks’ home and a small community garden. To the south-west, a primary school where both of my kids studied.

From a landscape ecology perspective, my estate is about as concrete as it gets with about fifty trees (mostly Podocarpus, but also including saga, Cassia, Syzigium, rambutan, tembusu and mahogany), hedges and grassy verges surrounding my flat and the nearby roads. A small grassy field separates my flat from a neighbouring flat. The whole area is no more than one hectare.

Methodology

The unprecedented circuit breaker measures enforced by the Singapore government in late March 2020 to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak offered an opportunity to study the birds of my 25-year old neighbourhood. Beginning April 4th, I spent an average of one hour each day watching and listening birds outside my balcony or study room windows. I kept a list of species seen or heard each day. This was supplemented by walks to the supermarket about twice a week for groceries. On May 16th, I stopped to review what I have recorded after 40 days.

Species Diversity

Over 40 days, I recorded 36 species of birds. Of these, almost all were resident breeders. The sole exception was an Arctic Warbler, which wasn’t seen subsequently and likely passing through. The average daily diversity was 14.75 species with a low of 10 achieved on 4 days and a high of 22 on 2 days.

The most successful families were the pigeons with five species represented, followed by parrots (4 species), sturnids (4 species) and raptors (3 species).

Most of the 36 species were common species such as pigeons, crows, mynas and sparrows but they also included some surprises. Pied Imperial Pigeon was detected only once, two birds feeding on the fruits of a MacArthur’s Palm outside a neighbourhood supermarket. Long-tailed Parakeet was detected on two occasions and indicated that the planting of suitable fruiting trees could help it become a common urban species in Singapore. Also surprising was a Collared Kingfisher that demonstrated its adaptability to apparently unsuitable habitat in my study area.

The time of the year favours the resident species, for which April to June is peak breeding period, and was rather late for migrating birds. As such only one migrant (Arctic Warbler) was detected whereas common migratory species such as Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Asian Brown Flycatcher and Daurian Starling, all of which I have recorded in my area in the past, went missing in this study.

Other surprise omissions include the following urban species: White-throated Kingfisher, Coppersmith Barbet, Common Flameback, Oriental Dollarbird, Long-tailed Shrike, Common Iora, Common Tailorbird and Paddyfield Pipit.

Perhaps, as our HDB heartlands and urban spaces are landscaped with plants that attract wildlife and as urban green spaces become more heterogeneous, these and other species will invade more urban areas in Singapore in the future. In addition, balconies in more favorable surroundings like parklands, wetlands, coasts or forests should show a richer and more diverse birdlife than my neighbourhood.

Species Discovery Curve

The 40-day period of observation also allowed me to plot a Species Discovery Curve for my neighbourhood. It gives an indication of the species diversity of an area. The richer the area is, the longer it would take for the curve to flatten out.

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Table 1: Species Discovery Curve for Woodlands Estate

The vertical axis marks the cumulative number of species from day 1 to 40 while the horizontal axis marks the number of days that the species were surveyed. It can be seen that the curve started flattening on Day 5 when 28 species were recorded. It took another 35 days to record an additional 8 species, to make a grand total of 36 species in all.

It would be interesting to do a similar graph for other HDB heartlands and urban areas in Singapore to see if the species diversity is similarly low. Of course, balconies located near richer ecosystems like coasts, mangroves or rainforests can expect higher species diversity as well as a different assemblage of species.

Recommendations and Conclusion

Even though this was a one-off study at just one site, I hope that it gives us an idea of what the bird species diversity is like for the more urban parts of Singapore. I hope that this study will show how such studies can be done very easily with a minimum of fuss.

Appendix 1

Full List of Birds Detected at Woodlands Study Site, April 4th to May 16th, 2020

  1. Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus
  2. Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
  3. White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
  4. Rock Dove Columba livia
  5. Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis
  6. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
  7. Pink-necked Green Pigeon Teron vernans
  8. Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor
  9. Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea
  10. Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus
  11. Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis
  12. Swiftlet sp. Aerodramus
  13. Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris
  14. Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis
  15. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis
  16. Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri
  17. Red-breasted Parakeet Psittacula alexandri
  18. Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula Longicauda
  19. Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus
  20. Golden-bellied Gerygone Gerygone sulphurea
  21. Pied Triller Lalage nigra
  22. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
  23. House Crow Corvus splendens
  24. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier
  25. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
  26. Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
  27. Swinhoe’s White-eye Zosterops simplex
  28. Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis
  29. Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
  30. Javan Myna Acridotheres javanicus
  31. Common Myna Acridotheres tristis
  32. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum
  33. Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
  34. Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
  35. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
  36. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata

Fig 2

Spotted Dove, one of the regulars seen from my balcony. Photo © Lim Kim Seng

Unexplained observations of an Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis nesting.

Unexplained observations of an Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis nesting.

By Alfred Chia.

I had written briefly on my Facebook page about the nesting of an Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis along the corridor of my flat. The nest was however built out-of-sight and out-of-reach and hung from one of my plant which overhangs beyond the parapet wall. You will not be able to see it unless you take the trouble to peer over the wall.

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Link: https://www.facebook.com/540928362/posts/10158109695448363/?d=n

Briefly, the female sunbird started constructing the nest on or before 10 February 2020. On 16 March, the female started occupying the nest. From 8 April onwards, the male was observed bringing food to the nest very frequently, each time perching on another plant that is visible to me as I stand within my house, before it flies into the nest to feed its fledgling. Out of two chicks, one survived, as is usual. This chick fledged on 18 April, about twelve days after hatching. After this, the fledgling was not seen but the two parent birds still came to my plants sporadically.

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On 21 April, something unexpected (at least to me) happened. I had peered beyond the parapet wall at 1100 hours just to see if there is still any activity at the nest. No activity was seen, as has been the case since the chick fledged on 18 April but it was noticed that the nest opening was a wee bit messed up such that the opening was partially blocked. At 1315 hours, I went back out again to have a look. I was shocked at what confronted me. The nest was missing! I looked at the small ledge that was directly below the area where the nest was at formerly to see if it had dropped onto it. Besides some remnant dried leaves that were already there for some time, the nest was nowhere to be found. Baffled, I took the lift to the ground floor to further check if the nest had dropped there. Again, it was not found.

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A flurry of questions immediately ran through my mind. What happened to the nest? Did the sunbird remove the nest intentionally? Or was it relocated? Why did they do it? Where could it have taken it to? Could it have been the female sunbird who remove it? Could it have carried the entire nest structure away in one fell swoop because the remnant dried leaves on the ledge does not indicate that it had increased exponentially?

I had a previous unexplained experience of an incomplete Olive-backed Sunbird nest missing too. This was on a plant along the corridor. It was halfway through construction when suddenly it just disappeared. It was a clean act too as the floor directly below the nest was clean and devoid of any nesting material. At that time, I had even surmised that my friendly block cleaner could have taken it off my plant as the nest building can be very messy with bits of the material being dropped onto the floor constantly. About two months after this incident, I had my niece, who lives in Yishun, coming up to me to ask if sunbirds are capable of removing nest after painstakingly building it. Hers was also in the midst of being constructed when she realised that it was missing the next day. When I ask if it could have been the block’s cleaner who had removed it, she replied that the cleaner hardly ever cleans the corridor.

A check through my Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters & Sugarbirds monograph by Robert A. Cheke & Clive F. Mann reveal no such information on nest removal or relocation. A check through the internet & other resources did not help either.

It will be interesting to know if any of our readers, birders or photographers have noted such behaviour from an Olive-backed Sunbird  before. I’d be glad to hear from you. Additionally, it may be well worth to follow-up on future nesting of this species if you come across it – both pre and post-nesting.

Chinese Egret’s feeding behavior.

Chinese Egret’s feeding behaviour.
By T. Ramesh.
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Chinese Egret ( Egretta eulophotes) is also known as Swinhoe’s egret & yellow-billed white heron.   It occurs along the coast of east Asia from east Russia, through China to Korea and winters in Southeast Asia.  This species is a rare migrant to Singapore and it is on globally vulnerable conservation status.
Upon hearing the sighting of this egret at Chek Jawa, I made two visits and was  happy to sight this rarity there on 20th March 2020,  two hours before the low-tide at 1.30 p.m.  It stayed at the tidal mudflats for 3 hours and I had an opportunity to observe and video record  its feeding  behaviour.  Chinese egret feeds mainly on fish, shrimps and small crustaceans. It follows tide-line to feed.
The Chinese egret is an active feeder and moves with lots of energy .  It moves quickly around its feeding site to find and chase fish .  It showed various feeding techniques as below:-
i)   Running  rapidly for short distance and stabbing with its bill
ii)  Making  sudden turns right , left and u-turn  and stabbing with its bill
ii)  Walking  slowly and standing  looking for food
iv) Running  with wings half-spread and flapped or flicked
I have captured  all of these actions in the attached video:
Their indecisive and sudden movements appeared comical and many of us started laughing.  Observing this peculiar behaviour of this global rarity was indeed ,  a rare opportunity !
Attachments area

Preview YouTube video Chinese Egret’s feeding behaviour

Nesting of White-rumped Munia at Telok Blangah.

Nesting of White-rumped Munias at Telok Blangah.

By Vincent Chiang.

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An adult White-rumped Munia guarding over its nest over at Telok Blangah Estate.

Late last December I came across some munias hopping in and out of an old nest at the hanging foliage at a housing block at Telok Blangah Estate. It was in early January that I identified the pair as the White-rumped Munias. They have taken over an abandoned cup shaped nest ( Bulbul?) and started building over it by adding bits of thin dry grasses to it. Over the next few days there were not much activities but the nest seemed complete. On one occasion, I found a mixed flock of about a dozen White-rumped and Javan Munias hanging around.  Only three curious adult White-rumped Munias came and perched near the nest. Not sure if they are the parents with a helper or not. They did not go into the nest.

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The White-rumped Munia’s nest in red on the hanging foliage at an apartment block above an active Olive-backed Sunbird’s nest in blue. 

The White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, is a rare resident of Singapore, occurring in forest edges, open vegetation and secondary growth. The wild mainland population most probably died out leaving few surviving birds at the offshore islands of Ubin and Tekong. The birds seen now a days on the mainland are likely to have been released or escapees. The documented nesting season is May and July to August ( Kelham 1883 and SINAV 6.2, 6.3). This March nesting record now sets an earlier date for this species in Singapore.

84023905_1173368182994281_8002783979629445120_n24th January photo of its completed elongated round nest made up of fine dried grasses.

Not much activity was observed in February. The pair were seen flying in and out of the nest and may be roosting there. Sometimes one would stay back to guard the nest. It was only in early March that I heard chirping sounds coming out of the nest and the parent birds coming back very often with traces of grass seeds in their mouths. It was either whole seeds or chewed up puree. I did not see them bringing back insects and other prey. Maybe I was not there when they did so.

Vincent Chiang

Parent bird sitting on top of its nest. 

Finally on 8 March, I spotted one of the parent birds feeding a juvenile on the roof top, confirming a successful nesting. I was glad to be able to document this nesting even though I was not able to find out what is happening inside the nest and record the dates when the eggs were laid, chicks hatched and fledged.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore.

All Photos: Vincent Chiang.

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

By Records Committee, Bird Group.

The committee was able to accept and assign the Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia oreintalis, found at Sister’s Island to Category A for wild birds by identifying it to subspecies level.

Oriental Dove

This dove is very likely a nominate orientalis from Northeast Asia (wintering as far south as Cambodia and southern Vietnam), chiefly because it’s less vinaceous on the head and has a buff belly contrasting with a more vinaceous breast band than agricola from Southeast Asia and Northeast India.

Other subspecies (e.g. from peninsular India or western Asia) can also be ruled out.

This subspecific identity gives us important hints.

There are several reasons for natural vagrancy against the burden of proof for escaped status:

  1. Late November – right timing for a northern vagrant
  2. It’s the subspecies we would expect to show up as a vagrant here.
  3. Odd small-island occurrence. Sister’s Island acting as the “land’s end” of Asia continent.
  4. Not reported being seen in Indonesian and Malaysian bird markets or shops during many market surveys. Not seen in birds shops in Singapore as well.
  5. o.orientalis is a known wintering migrant. There are many instances of straying to various parts of the flyway.
  6. No signs of tags or rings, feather abrasions or body abnormalities and unusual behaviour.

 

Bird Records Committee Report (Feb 2020)

Bird Records Committee Report (Feb 2020)

By Lim Kim Seng

Chairman, Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee.

Large Woodshrike at Jelutong Tower

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis at Jelutong Tower, 22 Oct 2018. Photo by Francis Yap.

The Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities. This report updates the findings of the period, October 2018 – January 2020.

New Species

Eleven new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 414. The 2020 edition can be downlink here NSS Singapore Checklist 2020 edition.  NSS-Singapore Checklist-2020-edition

They include the following:

Shikra Accipiter badius

An immature photographed flying over Jelutong Tower on 21 Nov 2019 by Alex Fok was the first record for Singapore since a specimen was collected in 1891.

Shikra, 211119, Jelutong, Alex Fok, crop

Shikra Accipiter badius at Jelutong Tower on 21 Nov 2019. Photo by Alex Fok.

Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus

Up to five birds photographed on Pulau Tekong on 17 Jul 2019 by Frankie Cheong was the first record for Singapore.

Pied Stilt

Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus at Pulau Tekong on 17 July 2019. Photo: Frankie Cheong.

Oriental Turtle-dove Streptopelia orientalis

An adult of the nominate subspecies orientalis recorded on Sisters’ Island during an island survey by Camphora Pte Ltd on 28 Nov 2018 for SDC. This was the first record for Singapore.

Oriental Dove

Oriental Turtle-dove Streptopelia orientalis at Sisters’ Island on 28 Nov 2018. Photo: Camphora Pte Ltd.

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha

A bird seen and photographed near Dillenia Hut in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 8 Nov 2019 by Francis Yap and Richard White was the first record for Singapore.

Fairy Pitta

Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha at Central Catchment Forest on 8 Nov 2019. Photo: Francis Yap.

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis

A female seen at Jelutong Tower on 22 Oct 2018 by Oliver Tan, Francis Yap and Pary Sivaraman. This was the first record for Singapore since the 1950s.

Large Woodshrike at Jelutong Tower

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis at Jelutong Towers on 22 Oct 2019. Photo: Francis Yap.

Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis

One photographed at Pandan Reservoir on 3 Nov 2018 by Angela Chua was the first record for Singapore.

Skylark

Eurasian Skylark, Alauda arvensis, at Pandan Reservoir on 3 Nov 2018. Photo by Angela Chua.

Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus

A male photographed at the Ecolake, Singapore Botanic Gardens, on 12 Nov 2019 by Dennis Lim and Arman Nacionales and confirmed by Geoff Lim on 15 November 2019 was our third record for Singapore. A female seen at Satay by the Bay on 9 Feb 2013 by Laurence Eu was the first record. A male seen at Cashew Heights by Subha on 20 Jan 2014 was the second record while a female seen at Tg Rhu on 14 and 15 Jan 2020 by Manju Gang was our fourth record. Lastly, a male seen at National University of Singapore on 30 Jan 2020 by Lynette Chia was our fifth.  Previously assigned to Cat E, recent studies have shown that this species occur on a regular basis in Southeast Asia during the winter months, and should be rightly considered as wild birds.

Redstart

Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 15 Nov 2019. Photo: Geoff Lim.

Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla

A non-breeding male/female seen and photographed at the Ecolake, Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Nov 2019 by Lim Kim Seng, Wayne Merritt and Roy Toh was the first record for Singapore.

Tiaga FC

Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Nov 2019. Photo: Lim Kim Seng.

Japanese Tit Parus minor

A bird photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 30 Nov 2019 by Yeo Seng Beng was our third record of this species in Singapore. The first record came from a bird observed at Chinese Garden on 27 Oct 2012 by Choo Teik Ju and photographed by Frankie Lim and Wong Lee Hong.  The second was another individual photographed at Tuas on 5 November by Yong Ding Li.

Jap Tit

Japanese Tit Parus minor at Pasir Ris Park on 30 Nov 2019. Photo: Yeo Seng Beng.

White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus

A subadult male was found at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 16 Jan 2020 by Martin Kennewell. This was our first record. It was seen again later by Alan OwYong and Alfred Chia who submitted a formal report for it to be accepted into Cat A.

White-cheeked Starling

White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus at Seletar Aerospace Drive on 16 Jan 2019. Photo: Alan OwYong.

Brahminy Starling Sturnia pagodarum

A bird photographed at Jurong Lake Gardens on 30 Jan 2020 by Deborah Friets was our sixth record. The other records were singles at Marina East on 2 Feb 2008 and 5 Oct 2008 by Mike Hooper, Bidadari on 3 Dec 2013 by Frankie Cheong, Punggol Barat on 8 Feb 2016 by Francis Yap and 12 Sep 2016 at Gardens by the Bay by Mike Hooper.  Terry Heppell also photographed one at Gardens by the Bay on 13 Sept 2016 and should be the same bird as Mike Hooper’s. Previously assigned to Category E, recent studies have shown that this species occur on a regular basis in Southeast Asia during the winter months, and should be rightly considered as wild birds.

Brahminy Starling

Brahminy Starling Sturnia pagodarum at Jurong Lake Gardens on 30 Jan 2020. Photo: Deborah Friets.

In addition, a record of Black-headed Bunting in difficult juvenile plumage reported from Kranji on 18 Nov 2018 remains as “pending” as its identification (from the similar Red-headed Bunting) was not conclusive. Another record of Blue Whistling Thrush reported from Fort Canning Park on 7 Dec 2019 was assigned to category E.

Rarities

The following eight rarities were accepted.

Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala

An adult photographed at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 on 18 Jan 2020 by Dillen Ng was our second confirmed record from the field. Its similarity to Pintail Snipe means that a close look at its outermost tail feathers is essential to confirm its identification.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus

A bird seen and photographed at Kranji Marshes on 15 Jan 2020 by Veronica Foo and Lim Kim Keang was our fourth record. This individual was photographed at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 earlier on 11 Jan 2020 by Art Toh.

Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis

A male photographed at Jurong Lake Gardens on 9 Feb 2020 by Sandra Chia was our fifth record.  Previous records include singles at Loyang on 8 Dec 1987 by R. Subaraj, Bidadari on 11 Oct 2014 by Zahidi Hamid, Pandan River on 1 Nov 2019 by Mai Rong Wen and at Henderson Waves on 16 Nov 2019 by See Toh Yew Wai.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thanks the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report:  Frankie Cheong, Alfred Chia, Lynette Chia, Sandra Chia, Angela Chua, Veronica Foo, Alex Fok, Deborah Friets, Geoff Lim, Lim Kim Seng, Dillen Ng, Alan Owyong, Oliver Tan, Felix Wong, Francis Yap and Yeo Seng Beng. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Alan Owyong, Dr Frank Rheindt, Tan Gim Cheong and Dr Yong Ding Li.

Reference

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