Author Archives: TAN Gim Cheong

Singapore Bird Report – December 2019

by Geoff Lim.
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

Decembers are generally slow months with relatively fewer sightings as many birders are out of town with their families, and the wet weather doesn’t help. The last month of the year turned out to be an exciting one, with a possible first record of the Taiga Flycatcher, the spectacular irruption of Asian Openbills, mysterious appearances by the Japanese Tit and Blue Whistling Thrush, and the visitation at the end of the month by Himalayan Griffons.

Taiga Flycatcher at Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, is a dimunitive flycatcher which habitually feeds from low perches at the forest edge or thickets. It breeds in temperate Siberia and winters in Southeast Asia, Thai-Malay Peninsula and NW Borneo, among other places (Wells, 2007: 522-523). Largely uniform ash brown with dark upper tail coverts and flight feathers, the bird could be overlooked as an Asian Brown Flycatcher if it did not perch “cocked”, with its tail held at an angle from its body, showing off the conspicuous white on the outer edge of the tail feathers.

1. Taiga

Taiga Flycatcher photographed on 9 December 2019 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens by David Fur.

On 1 December 2019, news broke that a Taiga Flycatcher had been seen & photographed by a few birders / photographers (Lim Kim Seng, Roy Toh, & others) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens eco-lake the day prior. They had been looking for the Daurian Redstart, which failed to show, but were treated to a bird that had never been recorded in Singapore. On the afternoon of 1 December 2019, Mike Hooper spotted the bird at the same vicinity, and the bird was seen by many birders during the subsequent days. It was last seen on 13 December 2019 by Yang Chee Meng.

Local birders quickly realised that the bird could be Singapore’s first ever record, though Wells noted that the species is known to be a migrant to West Malaysia. Usually solitary, the bird is known to take insects by sallying from perches in habitats ranging from mangrove forests, coastal scrub, lowland forest clearings, and overgrown rubber gardens, though there have been instances of birds dropping to the open ground. Photographers affirmed these observations as the solitary flycatcher often remained close to the ground and within thickets. During my observation of the bird on 1 December 2019, I also noted that the bird dropped to the ground on several occasions, appearing to be feeding.

Asian Openbills over Singapore

On 6 December 2019, Oliver Tan found two Asian Openbills, Anastomus oscitans, at Jurong Lake Gardens, and on the next day, 7 December 2019, an airborne invasion of hundreds of Asian Openbills into Singapore’s airspace took everyone by surprise. Veronica Foo and Betty Shaw were at Kranji Marshes for the monthly opening of the Kranji Marshes’ core areas when they were stunned by the sheer number of birds that took to the air around 7:15am that morning.  A rough count suggested an estimated 300 to 400 birds were present. Based on records compiled by Martin Kennewell from eBird submissions by many observers, flocks of the Asian Openbill continued to be spotted all over Singapore, from Tuas to Sentosa, to Changi, to Yishun, throughout the month. On 12 December, Oliver Tan counted 1,500 birds over NSRCC Changi. The birds were reliably seen around the fields near Kranji Marshes, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane and Turut Track, given the abundance of apple snails in the waterlogged fields.  Subsequently, several larger flocks were seen, the largest being a flock of 5,000 birds flying over Eastwood Estate / Sungei Bedok, on 25 December 2019, recorded by  Oliver Tan.

aob

An Asian Openbill, showing its ‘open bill’, at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, 23 Dec 2019, by Tan Gim Cheong

2. AOB

Asian Openbills in flight over Kranji Marsh on 7 December 2019. Photographed by Darren Leow.

3. AOB eclipse

Asian Openbills over Marina Barrage during the annular solar eclipse on 26 December 2019. by Kwok Tuck Loong.

Prior to this irruption, Asian Openbills were a rarity. The earliest record was in January 2013 near Seletar Airport; Francis Yap’s account of his search for the birds when they were first reported on our shores. The second was of a solitary bird in March 2019.

According to Dr Yong Ding Li, an ornithologist with the conservation group BirdLife International, the birds may have been driven south into Singapore by unseasonably dry weather in the Mekong basin (Straits Times, 8 December 2019).

Himalayan Vultures at Hindhede

Shirley Ng and her friends spotted two Himalayan Vultures, Gyps himalayensis, at around 6pm at Hindhede Park on 28 December 2019 while looking at the Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, in the pond. Birders and photographers venturing to the park were delighted to see the two birds the next morning, as the pair remained perched until the late morning, when they took off into the air, and were spotted at Jelutong Tower by Vincent Ng.

The Himalayan Vulture is the largest Asian Gyps vulture and is widespread in the mountains of China, South Asia and Central Asia (BirdLife 2013).  In a study conducted in 2008, two Asian ornithologists (Yong & Kasorndorkbua, 2008) noted that there had been over 30 records of the vulture’s occurrence in Southeast Asia between 1979 and 2008. The records for Singapore were clustered between the months of December, January and February, and were notably dominated by juveniles, including nine birds at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 12 January 1992. The authors opined that the dispersal could be attributable to climate change, deforestation and hunting, though natural patterns of post-fledging dispersal and navigational inexperience may have contributed to their appearance outside their regular range.

A compilation of Himalayan Vulture sightings since 1989 is appended below.

table

Table 1 – Himalayan Vulture Sightings in Singapore (adapted from Yong & Kasorndorkbua, 2008).

While the occurrence of the vultures in Singapore is interesting, their survival in Singapore is doubtful given the lack of carrion (see Latif & Osman, 2016, which reported that the bird discovered at Toa Payoh was found to be in a weakened state and the bones on its neck could be felt while the bird was covered with mites).

4. Capture HV

One of the two Himalayan Vultures taking off on 29 December 2019. Photographed by Danny Khoo.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Visitors to the CCNR and fringe areas spotted a variety of species. On 8 December 2019, a Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, was spotted on 8 December 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) by Russell Boyman.  A few days later on 13 December 2019, between 20 to 30 Eyebrowed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, were  flying in a southeasterly direction from the vantage of Jelutong Tower and was reported by Francis Yap,  who also spotted the locally rare Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Dicaeum agile, on 16 December 2019 at DFNP. Observers who subsequently looked for the canopy-dwelling flowerpecker reported about three birds, with at least one juvenile sighted.  Other than the two Himalayan Vulture first seen by Shirley Ng at Hindhede Park on 28 December 2019 and the Oriental Darter, there were two Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, seen on 29 December 2019 at DFNP by Oliver Tan.

5. TBFP

Thick-billed Flowerpecker at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Photographed on 21 December 2019 by Lee Van Hien.

Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)

Apart from the earlier mentioned Taiga Flycatcher, visitors also spotted a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 3 December 2019, which was reported by Kwok Tuck Loong, and a Christmas Eve sighting of a Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, on 24 December 2019 within the garden grounds by Art Toh.

6. HP

Hooded Pitta at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 24 December 2019 by Art Toh.

Central Singapore

The central region yielded reports of a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 14 December 2019, at Fort Canning, by William Mahoney, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, on Christmas Day, 25 December 2019, at Bidadari by Norhafiani A Majid, and a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, on 27 December 2019 at Duxton Pinnacles by Chen Boon Chong.

Northern Singapore

A very rare Dusky Warbler, Phylloscopus fuscatus, was photographed on 22 December 2019 along Yishun Pond and within the grounds of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital by Keith Hutton. The Dusky Warbler breeds in Siberia and China, and winters across a wide range, including the Himalayan foothills, the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, South China and SE Asia, including Peninsular Malaysia, where it prefers the understorey and floor of various forest types such as mangroves and regenerated growths following disturbance (Wells, 2007: 266-267).  Singapore’s records have been sparse, in 1994 and 1995 only. Both had been records from the Tuas reclaimed land.

7. Dusky Warbler, 251219, KTP, Kelvin Yoong

Dusky Warbler at the grounds of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on 25 December 2019 by Kelvin Yoong

8. DW

Dusky Warbler, ventral view, at the grounds of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on 25 December 2019 by Geoff Lim.

Other recorded sightings in the north were a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, and a dark morph Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhyncus, at Punggol Park on 28 December 2019 by Norhafiani A. Majid.

9. BWP

Blue-winged Pitta seen on 28 December 2019 at Punggol Park by Norhafiani A. Majid.

Eastern Singapore

On 2 December 2019, the Jurong Bird Park received, for treatment, an injured Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, that was found at Tanah Merah. Unfortunately, the owl succumbed to its injuries. On 7 December 2019, an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, was spotted at the park connector from ECP to GBTB by Manju Gang. On the same day (7 December 2019), a Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, was seen at Pasir Ris Park by Michael Leong. While visiting the woods near Changi Business Park on 22 December 2019, T. Ramesh spotted a Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides.

Across the sea, a Chinese Egret, Egretta eulophotes, was spotted on 20 December on Pulau Tekong 2019 by Frankie Cheong, while a Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus, was seen on Pulau Ubin on 21 December 2019 by Martin Kennewell, who subsequently spotted two Lesser Crested Tern, Thalasseus bengalensis, along Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin on 28 December 2019.

Southern Singapore

An Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, was seen on 29 December 2019 at the Southern Ridges by Dhanushri Munasinghe.

Western Singapore

Kicking off bird sightings in western Singapore were two House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, an introduced species, spotted on 1 December 2019 at Tuas South by Gahya Arasu. On 6 December 2019, a rare Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, was photographed at the Jurong Lake Gardens by Nigel Tan. A rare Stejneger’s Stonechat, Saxicola stejnegeri, was photographed by Lester Tan at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 22 December 2019, and present for the remainder of the month.

10. CHGP

Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon at Jurong Lake Garden on 6 December 2019 by Nigel Tan.

Apart from the spectacular sighting of more than a thousand Asian Openbills at Kranji Marsh and Harvest Link on 7 December 2019 by Veronica Foo and other birdwatchers, other species reported included a Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, on 23 December 2019 at Tuas South by See Toh Yew Wai, and a Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, on 27 December 2019 at West Coast Park by Tay Kian Guan.  On 28 December 2019, a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, was seen along Turut Track by Art Toh.

Unusual Sightings

On 1 December 2019, Seng Beng posted a video of a Tit taken at Pasir Ris Park the day prior, asking if it was a Cinereous or Japanese Tit. Subsequently, good photographs obtained by Francis Yap and other birders showed that it was a Japanese Tit, Parus minor. It was seen by many on subsequent days, and the last report of it was on 14 December 2019, by Adrian Silas Tay. Most birders reported seeing only one bird, but Isabelle Lee reported seeing a second bird on 2 December 2019. Interestingly, the expected species is the Cinereous Tit, Parus cinerea, which is resident in the mangrove forests in Malaysia, while the Japanese Tit is known to be resident in northern Thailand and beyond.

11. JT

Japanese Tit photographed from Pasir Ris Park by Francis Yap, posted on 4 December 2019.

Another interesting bird sighted in December was the Blue Whistling Thrush, Myophonus caeruleus, spotted by Felix Wong on 7 December 2019 at Fort Canning Park. Interestingly, it was of the black-billed caeruleus subspecies, the nearest known wintering area being northern Thailand, with birds straying towards central Thailand. The whistling thrush, which had a broken upper mandible tip, remained in the same location for many days and was last reported on 24 December 2019 by Keita Sin. The crassirostris subspecies, which sports a yellow beak, is found in Peninsular Malaysia (Wells, 2007: 480-481); but they do not occur south of the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur.

12. BWT

Blue Whistling Thrush photographed on 8 December 2019 at Fort Canning Park by Francis Yap.

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Strait of Singapore

A pelagic trip along the Strait of Singapore (a multi-national stretch of water) on 14 December 2019 led by Martin Kennewell yielded three Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, Bridled Tern, Onychoprion anaethetus, Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana, and three White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus.

 

This report is compiled and by written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, and individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, Danny Khoo, Darren Leow, David Fur, Francis Yap, Geoff Lim, Kelvin Yoong, Kwok Tuck Loong, Lee Van Hien, Nigel Tan, and Norhafiani A. Majid  for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCES

BirdLife (2013). Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis. Archived 2014 Discussion. Accessed from the Internet at https://globally-threatened-bird-forums.birdlife.org/2013/09/himalayan-vulture-gyps-himalayensis-request-for-information/

Latif M. R., & Osman F. M. b. (2016). Himalayan Vulture at Toa Payoh. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2016:5. Obtained from the internet at https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/app/uploads/2017/04/sbr2016-005.pdf

Tan, A. (2019, December 8). “Hundreds of Asian Openbill storks spotted in Singapore.” Straits Times. Accessed from the Internet at https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/hundreds-of-asian-openbill-storks-in-singapore-in-rare-sighting-with-possible.

Wells, D. R. (2007). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol. 2, London: Christopher Helm.

Yong, D. L. and Kasorndorkbua, C. (2008). “The Status of the Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis in South-East Asia”, Forktail, 24:57-62.

 

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2019

Shikra, 211119, Jelutong, Alex Fok, crop

The first record of the Shikra, a juvenile on 21 Nov 2019, at Jelutong Tower, by Alex Fok. Note the long tail, uneven spotting of the underwing coverts, and belly heavily marked by thick streaks (the last is variable).

Summary for migrant species:

It’s another amazing November, with 21 migrant raptor species recorded, compared to last November’s already high count of 18 migrant raptor species. On the 21st, Alex Fok was at Jelutong Tower when he photographed an interesting looking accipiter that was to become the first Shikra for Singapore! Previously thought to be resident where it occurs, the Shikra is now known to be a short distance migrant, with thousands passing Chumphon, Thailand during autumn migration, though only a small number have been recorded in northern Peninsular Malaysia.

Another lucky birder was Pary Sivaraman, who was at Ulu Pandan park connector on the 6th when he photographed a distant raptor that turned out to be a rare Short-toed Snake Eagle. An immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle seemed to be wintering in Singapore, being photographed at Ulu Pandan on the 9th, seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on the 14th and photographed again at Bukit Timah Hill vicinity on the 30th.

STSE, 061119, Sg Ulu Pandan PCN, Pary Sivaraman, crop

Short-toed Snake Eagle, 6 Nov 2019, Sungei Ulu Pandan park connector, by Pary Sivaraman

The third Besra for the season (this rare raptor is seldom recorded, and if we are lucky, we usually get one in a season) was photographed at Singapore Quarry on third November, what a coincidence, and by three lucky observers – Keita Sin, Dillen Ng and Fang Twangqi. This Besra was an adult female, interestingly the only previous record of the Besra at Singapore Quarry was also an adult female on 23 Jan 2010.

Besra, 031119, Sg Quarry, Keita Sin 2

Besra, adult female, at Singapore Quarry, 3 Nov 2019, by Keita Sin

It was an exceptional month for the Greater Spotted Eagle, with 5 records just on one day – third November – Zacc HD photographed a very rare pale morph at Neo Tiew Harvest Link; Bryan Lim photographed two in flight at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve at 9:27am; Goh Cheng Teng photographed another at Tuas at around 11am; and Francis Yap photographed one at Ulu Pandan at 5:24pm, amazing. The next day, 4 Nov 2019, Sue Shuttleworth photographed a juvenile at the Botanic Gardens, perched on a bare branch. On the 6th, Choong YT photographed two eagles at Kent Ridge Park; on the 9th, Zacc HD photographed another eagle at Henderson Waves; and on the 10th, two eagles were recorded/photographed by Oliver Tan, Woo Jia Wei and See Toh Yew Wai. All in, up to 10 Greater Spotted Eagles were recorded over a period of eight days.

GSE, 031119, Neo Tiew Harvest Link, 1733h, pale form, Zacc HD, crop

Greater Spotted Eagle, the rare pale (fulvescens) morph, at Neo Tiew Harvest Link, 3 Nov 2019, by Zacc HD

The beginning of November proved to be a good time for raptors at the southern ridges, with a Pied Harrier each, on the 2nd (female at Henderson Waves), 3rd (juvenile at Kent Ridge Park) and 4th (juvenile at Henderson Waves); followed by a juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier on the 6th, and a juvenile Black Kite on the 7th, both at Henderson Waves. Elsewhere, single records included a Northern Boobook at Tuas on the 5th, an Oriental Scops Owl at Jurong on the 23rd, and a Common Kestrel at Tuas South on the 30th.

Six Common Buzzards were recorded, one at Kent Ridge Park on 7th morning, one each at Henderson waves on 7th afternoon, 9th, 10th, one at Changi Business Park on 10th & 12th, and another at West Coast Park on the 26th. At least half (3 birds) were pale morph juveniles. Eleven Grey-faced Buzzards were recorded, same as last November – two at Tuas (one each on the 2nd & 30th), nine at Henderson Waves (one on 2nd, 3rd & 10th, and six on the 7th).

CB, 121119, CBP, James Gan 2

Common Buzzard, juvenile pale morph, at Changi Business Park, 12 Nov 2019, by James Gan

CB, 261119, WCP, Keita Sin 2

Common Buzzard, juvenile pale morph, at West Coast Park, 26 Nov 2019, by Keita Sin

Five Booted Eagles were recorded, a dark morph at Henderson Waves on the 3rd, a pale & a dark morph at Bukit Timah summit on the 10th, one at Pulau Ubin on the 18th, and another dark morph at the Botanic Gardens on the 21st. Eight Western Ospreys were recorded, with half probably on migration across the southern ridges. Of the eleven Peregrine Falcons recorded, a juvenile photographed at Neo Tiew Road by Pary Sivaraman on the 29th was identified as a calidus subspecies by Dr. Chaiyan.

Fourteen Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded, most of them (11) were on passage migration at Henderson Waves between the 1st and 16th, including a flock of 4 birds captured by Adrian Silas Tay on the 9th, and one with a damaged wing on the 16th; one was at Satay by the Bay on the 8th, another at the Botanic Gardens on the 23rd & 24th; and one wintering at Changi Business Park from 18th to the end of the month.

JB, 091119, HW, AST, crop

Jerdon’s Baza captured in formation! Henderson Waves, 9 Nov 2019, by Adrian Silas Tay.

JB, 161119, HW, STYW

Jerdon’s Baza, Henderson Waves, 16 Nov 2019, by See Toh Yew Wai.

Thirty nine Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them over Henderson Waves, while an adult female, likely the same individual, returned again to winter at Ang Mo Kio. 194 Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them also at Henderson Waves, with 47 birds on the 23rd; an adult female at Kent Ridge Park on the 6th was missing an inner primary flight feather, giving it the appearance of ‘6 fingers’, and it made also an appearance at Henderson waves on the 19th.

JSH, 061119, KRP, Zacc HD, crop

Japanese Sparrowhawk, appearing to have 6 fingers instead of 5 fingers due to moult, at Kent Ridge Park, 6 Nov 2019, by Zacc HD

We had 803 Black Bazas this month, with 100 birds passing Sentosa on the 6th and 180 birds passing Henderson Waves on the 10th. Numbers for the Oriental Honey Buzzard stood at 1339, with a day high of 259 birds over Tuas on the 2nd, and 160 birds passing Hindhede Nature Park on the 19th, ahead of rain.

Highlights for sedentary species:

There were four Crested Serpent Eagles, one each at Jelutong Tower on the 10th, Pasir Ris Park on the 19th, Kranji Marsh on the 27th, and one at Pulau Ubin on the 18th & 24th. We also had a single record of a juvenile torquatus tweeddale morph of the Oriental Honey Buzzard at Ang Mo Kio on the 6th, and an ernesti Peregrine Falcon at Hindhede Nature Park on the 11th.

Nesting-related activities were observed for two resident species. Two adult White-bellied Sea Eagles were flying together on the 10th at Kent Ridge, and one eagle was carrying nesting materials; two adult Brahminy Kites at Pasir Ris Park on the 27th, carrying sticks/branches. The other resident raptors recorded included the Black-winged Kite, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Goshawk and Changeable Hawk-Eagles.

Table 1

For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – November 2019

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Alex Fok, Adrian Silas Tay, See Toh Yew Wai, Pary Sivaraman, Zacc HD, Keita Sin and James Gan for the use of their photos.

Singapore Bird Report – November 2019

By Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compiler), Tan Gim Cheong (ed.).

November was spectacular, with the first record of two species – the Fairy Pitta and Shikra at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve; an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher (the locally extinct rufous-backed subspecies), found inside a camera shop in the city; and, a rare Red-footed Booby at St John’s Island. Also, it was and has always been a great month to spot migrating raptors in southern Singapore.

A Fairy’s Visitation in November

1 FP, 081119, CCNR, Fryap

The first Fairy Pitta discovered in Singapore on 8 Nov 2019 – photo by Francis Yap.

On 8 November 2019, Francis Yap and Richard White were en route to Jelutong Tower, when the duo spotted a paler than usual pitta along the trail under the darkening morning sky as a storm threatened from Sumatra. When Francis managed to regain phone reception and were able to refer to other photos on the internet, the two confirmed that they had Singapore’s first record of the Fairy Pitta, Pitta nympha. Francis’ electrifying account can be accessed here. The Fairy Pitta stopped over for a week, with daily records from 8-13 November 2019.

The Fairy Pitta has been recognised as part of a superspecies comprising the Blue-winged Pitta, P. moluccensis, Mangrove Pitta, P. megarhyncha, and Indian Pitta, P. brachyura (Lambert & Woodcock, 1996:162), hence the superficial resemblance with one another. BirdLife has classified the species as Vulnerable, with key threats being habitat loss and conversion, as well as local trapping pressure (BirdLife, 2019). The pitta breeds in coastal eastern China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and migrates to Borneo, and possibly Indochina, during the northern winter (Lambert & Woodcock, 1996:163). The species is known as a long-distance migrant; however, its movement is still not well understood.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Souls who braved the relative steep inclines of our modest Bukit Timah Hill were rewarded with sightings of our resident fruit pigeons and doves, needletails and raptors. Visitors on 1 November 2019 noted the presence of five Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra and two Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, both by Choong YT, as well as a Zappey’s or Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatilis/cyanomelana, spotted by Richard White at the summit.

A week later, four White-throated Needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus, and one Silver-backed Needletail, Hirundapus cochinchinensis, were seen on 7 November 2019 by Fadzrun Adnan, the summit being a known site for needletail sightings. Subsequently, two Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, were seen on 10 November 2019 by Martin Kennewell, while an immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, was seen on 14 November 2019 by Alfred Chia. Another sighting of the Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle flying towards the summit on 30 November 2019 by Francis Yap probably relate to the same individual.

On the foothills, at Hindhede Nature Park, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, in full adult splendour was spotted on 18 November 2019 by Richard White, and the bird was spotted again on 30 November 2019 by Felix Wong.

2 RBE, 301119, BT, Fryap, crop

Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle at Bukit Timah on 30 November 2019 by Francis Yap

The core CCNR area continued to yield good sightings. On 1 November 2019, a White-throated Needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus, was spotted flying southwards from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap, who also spotted three Ashy Minivet, Pericrocotus divaricatus. Apart from the spectacular discovery of the Fairy Pitta, Pitta nympha, by Richard White and Francis Yap on 8 November 2019 as narrated above, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, was also spotted on the same day by Nicholas Lim along Rifle Range Link. Fairy Pitta hunters the following week stumbled on an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, (black-backed subspecies) on 9 November 2019 (Norhafiani Majid), while visitors to other parts of the CCNR reported a Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, on 10 November 2019 at Sime Road (Felix Wong) and a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 11 November 2019 (Adrian Tay). On 21 November 2019, the first Singapore record of the Shikra, Accipiter badius, was made by Alex Fok, who photographed the bird from his vantage point at Jelutong Tower.

Several days later on 25 November 2019, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, was flushed at Rifle Range Link behind the fenceline within a protected area next to the main track (Oliver Tan), while Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, were seen flying over the MacRitchie Reservoir. Further afield, a male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, was spotted on 2 November 2019 at Thomson Nature Park by Andrew Wood, while a Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, was seen on 16 November 2019 at Lower Peirce Reservoir Park by Stephen Matthews.

Farther west, at the fringe parks comprising Singapore Quarry-Dairy Farm Nature Park, a Besra, Accipiter virgatus, was photographed on 3 November 2019 by Keita Sin & Dillen Ng. A few days later on 6 November 2019 at the quarry, a single  Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, was seen by Martin Kennewell. A  Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, was seen by Richard White on 10 November 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park, while a small flock of four birds was spotted at the park on 14 November 2019 by Martin Kennewell. One day later on 15 November 2019, a female Greater Green Leafbird, Chloropsis sonnerati, an IUCN red-listed and endangered species, was spotted by Mike Hooper. The Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, continued to make a regular appearance, with a report of one bird being made on 29 November 2019 by Chelsea Lee.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

On 1 November 2019, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, was spotted within the garden by Tomohiro Iuchi, while a single Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was spotted on 2 November 2019 by Kwok Tuck Loong and Geoff Lim. On the same day, a  Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, was spotted within the garden grounds by Kwong Yew. Two days later on 4 November 2019, a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, was spotted by Christi Kemmel, while on 12 November 2019, a male Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, was spotted by photographer Dennis Lim. Birders arriving to confirm the redstart’s presence discovered an adult Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, on 13 November 2019 (Martin Kennewell), as well as a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, on 14 November 2019 (Francis Yap).

3 DR, 161119, SBG, DF

Daurian Redstart at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 16 November 2019 by Dorcas Fong.

Other noticeable sightings included a flock of several Common Hill Myna, Gracula religiosa, on 16 November 2019, a Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, on 21 November 2019, which was harassed by a Brahminy Kite, Haliastur indus (Oliver Tan), and a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, on 23 November 2019 by Peng Ah Huay.

4 JB, 231119, SBG, MY

Jerdon’s Baza at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 24 November 2019 by Angela Yeo

Central Singapore

The fragmented woods of Bidadari continued to attract important bird species such as the globally vulnerable Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, spotted on 3 November 2019 by Norhafiani Majid, an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, on the same day by T. Ramesh, a very skittish Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, on 5 November 2019 by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan, who also spotted the first-of-the-season Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka.

5 Zappey, 101119, Bida, Isabelle Lee

Adult male Zappey’s Flycatcher taken on 10 November 2019 by Isabelle Lee

A full adult male Zappey’s Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatilis, appeared on 10 November 2019 and was reported by Krishna Gopagondanahalli, while a first winter male Zappey’s / Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp., was sighted by Yang Chee Meng on 11 November 2019. Several days later, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, was reported on 16 November 2019 by Chan Kumchun, while a first winter male Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, was spotted on 21 November 2019 by Alan Owyong.

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First winter male Zappey’s or Blue-and-White Flycatcher on 15 November 2019 by Art Toh

Further afield came the surprising report of a Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, (the locally extinct rufous-backed subspecies), found on 6 November 2019 inside Peninsula Plaza by the staff of Cathay Photo; while a less happy news of a building strike casualty in the form of a female Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Treron curvirostra, was reported on 25 November 2019 by Shiva at Hotel V, Lavender.

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Siberian Thrush at Bidadari on 21 November 2019 by Alan Owyong

Northern Singapore

Eight first-of-the-season White-Shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, were reported on 1 November 2019 at Lorong Halus by Lim Kim Keang. Further away at Canberra Street, a fledgling Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach, was seen on 22 November 2019  by Desmond Yap.

Eastern Singapore

The woods along a large canal at Changi Business Park has proven to be a good birding spot, as a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda, was seen on 1 November 2019 by Tan Eng Boo, while four Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, were seen on 6 November 2019 by Mike Hooper, and a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, was spotted on 21 November 2019 by Steven Cheong, and on 25 November 2019 by Mike Hooper.

Pasir Ris Park yielded a migrating Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, on 5 November 2019 by Alvin Seng, a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 19 November 2019 by Tan Yes Chong, and a report of a first winter male Zappey’s / Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp, on 23 November 2019 by Wong Sangmen. Over at Pulau Ubin, we received a report of a flying Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 24 November 2019.

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Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo spotted on 5 November 2019 at Pasir Ris Park by Alvin Seng

Southern Singapore

With migration progressing in earnest in November, migrant watchers congregated along the Henderson Waves were rewarded by sightings of a wide variety of birds. On 1 November 2019, a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, constituted a new arrival date, thirty-seven first-of-the-season Black Baza, Aviceda leuphotes, arrived in four kettles, as did nine Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, and a single Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis; as reported by Oliver Tan. The next day, 2 November 2019, yielded a south-flying Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, by Francis Yap, a Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, by Sandra Chia, a Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus, by Oliver Tan, who also spotted a Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus.

On 3 November 2019, a Grey-faced Buzzard was seen by Oliver Tan. A Pied Harrier, Circus melanoleucos, was seen shortly after twelve noon on 4 November 2019, by Francis Yap, while seventy nine Crested Honey Buzzard were spotted flying at varying intervals on 7 November 2019 by Low Choon How, with the peak occurring around 10:53am (24 birds) and 11:03am (23 birds); Choon How also reported the sighting of four Grey-faced Buzzard.  A first-of-the-season Black Kite, Milvus migrans, was also spotted on the same day by Zacc HD.

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Pied Harrier taken from Henderson Waves on 4 November 2019 by Francis Yap

On 9 November 2019, a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, and a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, were seen by Martin Kennewell. An Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, was seen on 11 November 2019 by Keita Sin, who also saw a White-throated Needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus, on 14 November 2019, which constituted the tenth record of the bird for 2019, and a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, on the same day. The next day, on 16 November 2019, a single Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Agropsar philippensis, was photographed among fifteen Daurian Starling by See Toh Yew Wai.

The Telok Blangah park area, where most birders would park or pass by on their way to the Henderson Waves, also yielded several species. These included a Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, spotted on 11 Nov 19 by Tan Eng Boo, a Zappey’s / Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp., on 16 November 2019 by Herman Phua, a Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, on 21 Nov 19 by Dean Tan.

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Female Zappey’s / Blue-and-White Flycatcher taken on 16 November 2019 by Herman Phua

Further south, Kent Ridge Park yielded two Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, on 6 November 2019 by Choong YT, ten Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, and a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, on 7 November 2019 by Alan Owyong, and two high flying Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, on 24 November 2019 by Raghav Narayanswamy.

Over at Satay-by-the-Bay, a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, was spotted on 4 November 2019 by Choong YT, while a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, was seen on 8 November 19, at Gardens-by-the-Bay by Steven Ang. On 30 November 2019, there was an amazing report of an immature Red-footed Booby, Sula sula, photographed on St. John’s Island, by Chua Yingzhi.

Western Singapore

At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), a Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, was seen on 2 November 2019 by Andy Dinesh, who observed that the bird fed continuously for 2-3 hours. The next day on 3 November 2019, a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, was reported by Bryan Lim, while three days later on 6 November 2019, an Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, was spotted by Jimmy Wong. Towards the end of the month, on 23 November 2019, birders at SBWR thought they might have had four Eurasian Curlews, but they turned out to be Whimbrels, Numenius phaeopus, a common winter visitor, of which 35 were recorded by Alastair Newton.

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Black-tailed Godwit on 2 November 2019 at SBWR by T. Ramesh

Birders visiting the area around the Kranji Marshes (KM) noted a pale morph Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, on 3 November 2019 along Neo Tiew Harvest Link (Zacc HD), a White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, at Lim Chu Kang Avenue 3 on 10 November 2019 (Veronica Foo), as well as a Grey-headed Lapwing, Vanellus cinereus, on 16 November 2019 along Turut Track (Sandra Chia).

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Grey-headed Lapwing at Turut Track on 16 November 2019 by Sandra Chia

The adventurous ones visiting Tuas were ambly rewarded. Birds seen on 2 November 2019 includewd a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, one Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis,  one Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, and Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor (Martin Kennewell), a Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus (Low Choon How), Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, and Himalayan Cuckoo, Cuculus saturatus (Jerold Tan). The next day, on 3 November 2019, yielded a Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, (Art Toh), and a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, (Jerold Tan), while  5 November 2019 yielded two Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator (Martin Kennewell), and a Northern Boobook, Ninox japonica, (Yong Ding Li). On 16 November 2019, a female House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, was spotted by Richard White, while an Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, was seen on 23 November 2019 by Choong YT. A Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, was subsequently seen on 30 November 2019, hovering over the grasslands by Gahyathree Arasu.

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House Sparrow (left ) with Eurasian Tree Sparrows at Tuas on 19 November 2019 by Zacc HD

Mai Rong Wen (麥榮文)photographed a big flock of Daurian Starlings at Pandan River on 1 November 2019, and Kim Chuah, amazingly, noticed a single Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Agropsar philippensis, among the mass of flying birds. Birders trawling the Pandan Canal reported seeing a Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus, on 2 November 2019 (Martin Kennewell), a Greater Spotted Eagle, Clanga clanga, on 3 November 2019 (Francis Yap), and a Short-toed Snake Eagle, Circaetus gallicus, on 6 November 2019 (Pary Sivaraman). The Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, recorded on 9 November 2019 by Krishna Deepak RNV appeared to be the same individual seen in the Bukit Timah Area.

A variety of species encountered in other parts of Western Singapore included three Ashy Minivet, Pericrocotus divaricatus, on 1 November 2019 at Jurong Lake Gardens (Oliver Tan), a Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, near Dunearn Road on 2 November 2019 (Yeo Seng Beng), seven hundred and eighty seven roosting Blue-throated Bee-Eater, Merops viridis, on 7 November 2019 at Eng Kong Place (Richard White), a dead Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, on 19 November 2019 at Upper Bukit Timah Road (Francis Loke), and a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, on 23 November 2019 (Mike Hooper).

 

This report is written by Geoff Lim, compiled by Alan OwYong & Geoff Lim, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, Angela Yeo, Alan Owyong, Alvin Seng, Dorcas Fong, Francis Yap, Isabelle Lee, Herman Phua, T. Ramesh, Sandra Chia, and Zacc HD for allowing us to use their photographs.

References

BirdLife International 2017. Pitta nympha (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22698684A116880779. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T22698684A116880779.en. Downloaded on 23 December 2019.

Lambert, F. and Woodcock, M. (1996). Pittas, Broadbills and Asities. London: Pica Press.

 

12th Singapore Raptor Watch Report (2019)

Autumn 2019 Migration – 9 Nov 2019

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Black Baza, at Puaka Hill, Pulau Ubin, 9 Nov 2019, by Jacky Soh

The 12th Singapore raptor watch was held on Saturday, 9 November 2019 and involved 45 participants. The weather was fine. There were seven raptor watch sites and the numbers counted at each site varied from a high of 175 to a low of 43 birds. A total of 714 raptors were counted, including 562 raptors representing 10 migrant species (two species more compared to last year) and 93 raptors of 6 resident species. A further 59 raptors could not be identified to species level.

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Most of the sites were the same ones as previous years, thanks to all the site leaders for their faithful support!  The minor changes were the shifting of the Japanese Gardens site to Jurong Lake Garden, and a slight shift of the Tuas site to Tuas South Avenue 10. We also had an opportunity to add in Tuas South Link, where the records were distinct (based on timing of the birds) from the other Tuas site.

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Figure 1 : 2019 Raptor Watch Sites. (source of basemap – maps.google.com.sg)

The highest number of raptors recorded was at Jurong Lake Garden (175 birds), followed by Telok Blangah Hill Park (147 birds) and Tuas South Avenue 10 (107 birds). The greatest diversity of migrant raptors was at Telok Blangah Hill Park with seven species, followed by Jurong Lake Garden with six species, and Puaka Hill with five species. The other sites all recorded three migrant species.

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Figure 2 : Total count by Site

The peak hours for migrant raptors were between 11am to 12pm (133 migrant raptors) followed by a higher peak from 3pm to 4pm (194 migrant raptors).

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Figure 3 : Raptor numbers by 1-hour time periods (migrant raptors only)

The Oriental Honey Buzzard (OHB) were present at all the sites and claimed the top spot again, with 398 birds counted. The largest number of OHB were at Jurong Lake Garden (155 birds), Tuas South Avenue 10 (86 birds) and Tuas South Link (64 birds). There were 104 Black Bazas across five sites, with Telok Blangah Hill Park recording the most (57 birds).

A total of 34 Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded across all sites. The 17 Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded at three sites only, with the bulk at Puaka Hill, Pulau Ubin (14 birds).

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Black Bazas, part of a kettle of 16 birds, at Telok Blangah Hill Park, 9 Nov 2019, by Alan OwYong

Three Western Ospreys were recorded – two at Tuas South Link and one at Puaka Hill. Interestingly, two Greater Spotted Eagles were recorded, one at Jurong Lake Garden from 10am to 11am and one at Telok Blangah Hill Park from 12pm to 1pm – could these have been the same individual flying eastsoutheasterly?

Only one Grey-faced Buzzard and one Peregrine Falcon were recorded – both at Jurong Lake Garden; as well as one Common Buzzard and one Jerdon’s Baza – both at Telok Blangah Hill Park.

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Figure 4 : Migrant and Unidentified Raptors Counted

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Raptor watchers for Puaka Hill, Pulau Ubin, 9 Nov 2019, photo courtesy of Jacky Soh

For the resident species, the total count was 93 birds of 6 species. The count for the resident raptors comprised 42 Brahminy Kites, 25 White-bellied Sea Eagles, 18 Changeable Hawk Eagles, 4 Crested Serpent Eagle, 2 Black-winged Kites and 2 Grey-headed Fish Eagles.

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Figure 5 : Resident Raptors Counted

The figure below provides a snapshot of the number of raptors according to the three categories – migrant, un-identified & resident raptors, at the 7 sites.

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Figure 6 : Raptor Sub-totals by Category by Site

A complete breakdown of the species counted at each site is shown in the table below:

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Figure 7 : Raptor numbers by Site and break down of Species

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The team of raptor watchers/counters at Telok Blangah Hill Park

Thanks to all the 45 wonderful birders which included National Parks Board staff, for spending their Saturday out in the open to count raptors. The following fantastic people led or assisted in the raptor count (apologies if anyone were to be inadvertently missed out):

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Please click here for the pdf version 12th Singapore Raptor Watch – 2019

 

Singapore Raptor Report – October 2019

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Oriental Honey Buzzard, juvenile, showing its long neck and slim bill, at Henderson Waves, 19 Oct 2019, by Zacc HD

Summary for migrant species:

October 2019 is as remarkable as last year, with 11 migrant species recorded (we usually record around 9 species in October). Henderson Waves continued to be a popular place to watch migrating raptors. A total of 712 migrant raptors were recorded, with another 48 unidentified accipiters, which are likely to be migrants too.

The most numerous were the 425 Oriental Honey Buzzards, followed by 135 Japanese Sparrowhawks, and 130 Chinese Sparrowhawks (quite a jump compared to last October’s 57). Notably no Black Baza was recorded.

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Besra, juvenile, note the lightly marked underwing coverts and strong mesial stripe, at Jelutong Tower, 18 Oct 2019, by Francis Yap

A rare Besra was photographed by Francis Yap at Jelutong Tower on the 18th and amazingly, another at Henderson Waves on the 31st, photographed by both Deborah Friets and Looi Ang Soh Hoon, lucky birders indeed. Both the Besras were juveniles. Another rarity was the Common Kestrel, seen and photographed at Tuas South on the 5th.

Booted Eagles are now harder to see as they no longer seem to winter here, occurring only as passage migrants, but Keita Sin got lucky at Henderson Waves on the 30th, photographing one as it flew over. The uncommon Grey-faced Buzzard was only recorded on the 30th – two birds at Henderson Waves in the morning and one at Bukit Timah summit in the afternoon.

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Common Kestrel, at Tuas South, on 5 Oct 2019, by Francis Yap

The Eastern Marsh Harrier was recorded on passage at Kranji Dam on the 7th (a juvenile); at Kranji Marshes on the 14th (a female); and on the 28th, one juvenile was first photographed at Seletar at 9:01am and thereafter at Jelutong Tower at 9:28am.

The Common Buzzard was recorded at the Southern Ridges area only – a juvenile dark morph at Kent Ridge on the 11th, two adult pale morphs at Henderson Waves on the 12th, a juvenile pale morph at Henderson Waves on the 20th, and another juvenile pale morph at Kent Ridge on the 24th. (Note: the various subspecies are ‘lumped’ as Buteo buteo in the NSS bird checklist).

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Common Buzzard, at Henderson Waves, on 12 Oct 2019, by Adrian Silas Tay

Four migrant Peregrine Falcons were recorded – one adult at Sembawang (21st & 25th), one at Dairy Farm Nature Park (26th), on at Lorong Halus (28th), and one at the Southern Ridges (20th, 21st & 27th). Two Western Ospreys were recorded, one at the Sungei Buloh and one at Henderson Waves.

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The 2nd Besra, a juvenile, note the lightly marked underwing coverts, mesial stripe and streaked body, at Henderson Waves, 31 Oct 2019, by Deborah Friets

Highlights for sedentary species:

There were two records for the locally scarce Crested Serpent Eagle, one at Henderson Waves on the 14th and another at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on the 18th; five records for the  Grey-headed Fish Eagle, one each at Pandan, Botanic Gardens, Coney Island and two at Henderson Waves; five records for the Crested Goshawk, one each at Satay by the Bay, Pasir Ris Park, Woodlands Street 81, and two at the Henderson Wave – Kent Ridge area. were observed mating at West Coast Park. Then on 23 Oct, 2 chicks of the were seen on a nest at Woodlands. These  are good signs for our resident raptors.

On 5th Oct, a Peregrine Falcon of the resident ernesti subspecies recorded at Henderson Waves; and on 30th Oct, a torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard was photographed at Bukit Timah summit by Alan OwYong. The other resident raptors recorded included four Black-winged Kites at Tuas and two at Kranji Marshes; eleven Changeable Hawk-Eagles; and the common Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle. To streamline the report, only notable records, such as breeding-related or interesting behaviour, will be reported for the last two species.

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For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – October 2019

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Zacc HD, Deborah Friets, Adrian Silas Tay and Francis Yap for the use of their photos.

Singapore Bird Report – October 2019

by Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compiler), Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

The Black-naped Monarch at the Botanic Gardens

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Black-naped Monarch, Botanic Gardens, 21 Oct 2019, a clear photo by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan. Note the unnatural damage to the tail and tertials (broken & frayed tips); the feathers on the mantle also look unnaturally messy

The biggest find of the month was the extremely rare Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea, which also turned out to be the biggest disappointment, as it is in all likelihood an escapee. The monarch was first spotted at the Botanic Gardens on 18 October 2019 by visiting birder, Jan Lile, from Queensland, Australia. Her ebird record was picked up by Andrew Paul Bailey, who alerted birders on FB group ‘Bird Sightings’. Ramesh T. followed the lead the following day and found the bird, thereby alerting others to its continued presence. The bird remained at the Botanic Gardens until 24 October 2019, allowing many birders to see and photograph this great rarity, which unfortunately, turned out to be of captive origin.

A review of more than 60 photographs of the monarch showed evidence of unnatural feather damage, particularly to the tertials which were not only frayed, but also broken (tip of top left tertial); there were also unnatural wear to the tips of the primaries and especially to the tail feathers – indeed, the ends of three tail feathers were broken (see pic below); the mantle feathers were unnaturally messy – probably either through being handled or from flying against a cage; overall, the bird had a somewhat untidy appearance, hinting at its captive origin.

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Black-naped Monarch, Botanic Gardens, 21 Oct 2019, a photo from an unusual but useful angle, by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan. Note the unnatural broken tips to T2 & T4 (left side of tail), and broken T6 (right side of tail)

The Black-Naped Monarch had only been recorded on mainland Singapore once – on 1 January 2004. The species is rare on Pulau Ubin, and there are some records from Pulau Tekong; it is more usually encountered in the lowland rainforests, peat swamps, secondary forests and overgrown plantations in Malaysia (Wells, 2007:168-169).

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Birders visiting the CCNR core reported the influx of migratory birds visiting or passing over the central forests. On 5 October 2019, a White Wagtail Motacilla alba was spotted by Adrian Silas Tay. A full adult male Siberian Blue Robin, Larvivora cyane, was seen at Venus Loop on 13 October 2019 by Felix Wong, while a pair of resident Short-tailed Babbler, Malcocincla malaccensis, were spotted within the same locality on 18 October 2019 by Alan Owyong. On 20 October 2019, a first-of-the-season Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, was recorded by Luke Teo at Mandai Track 15. Towards the end of the month, a Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, a non-breeding visitor, was spotted on 25 October 2019 from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap.

A first-of-the-season female Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, was recorded on 22 October 2019 by Richard White, while another individual was seen at Thomson Nature Park on 25 October 2019 by Lian Yee Ming. On the summit of the Bukit Timah Hill, a Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Dicaeum chrysorrheum, was seen on 29 October 2019 by Alfred Chia, feeding in a fruiting fig tree. The next day on 30 October 2019, a first-of-the-season Grey-Faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus, was spotted flying over, by Fadzun Adnan.

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Cinereous Bulbul spotted on 25 October 2019 from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap

Further away, a Crow-Billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, was seen on 24 October 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Joseph Lim, while a Ferruginous Flycatcher was spotted on 29 October 2019 at the Singapore Quarry by Francis Yap. The next day, 30 October 2019, a Blue-and-white / Zappey Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp., was spotted at the same location by T. Ramesh.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Besides the Black-Naped Monarch, other birds seen include four Grey-headed Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus – a juvenile and adult at the Symphony Lake, and two adult birds at the Gallop Extension on 26 October 2019 by Geoff Lim.

Central Singapore

Despite a drastic reduction in area, Bidadari continued to support a number of migratory birds. The globally vulnerable Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, was spotted on 1 October 2019 by T. Ramesh at the area near the fallen tree at the former side entrance to the area, while a male Siberian Blue Robin, Larvivora cyane, was also seen on the same day by Deborah Friets. On 3 October 2019, a Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus lucionensis was spotted by Alan Owyong.

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Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher at Bidadari taken on 11 October 2019 by Francis Yap

On 7 October 2019, an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, was spotted by Gan Lee Hsia, while a first winter Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, was seen on 7 October 2019 by Terence Tan. On 16 October 2019, a male white morph Amur/Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone sp., was spotted by Deborah Friets, while a Dark-Sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, was seen on 26 October 2019 in the afternoon after the rain, by “Trustmind Ng”. The next day, on 27 October 2019, a Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, was spotted by Low Chong Yang, who visited the former cemetery at 7am.

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A white morph Amur/Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher was spotted on 16 October 2019 at Bidadari, photo by Amin

Other birds reported within Central Singapore included an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, that was found by Peng Ah Huay’s friend, in Ang Mo Kio Central, weak and not flying; a returning Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, that was seen on 27 October 2019 by Angela Yeo at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West; while a Blue-Winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was reported by Kwok Tuck Loong on 31 October 2019 at Geylang East Avenue 1 at about 7am.

Northern Singapore

On 1 October 2019, a single White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, was seen along Seletar Club Road, flying from a tree to across the road with other birds, by Pary Sivaraman. On the same day, a mixed flock containing more than 100 Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, and a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, were reported at a communal roost at Yishun by Khoo Mei Lin.

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Roosting Grey Wagtail at Yishun on 6 October 2019 by Norhafiani Majid

An Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, was reported to have crashed into a home at Recreation Road on 2 October 2019 by Janet Neo, and subsequently released, while a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was reported to have crashed into a home in Minton Condominium on 10 October 2019 by Tan Tze Khing and survived.

Not so fortunate was a von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, that was reported dead at the foot of a HDB flat along Compassvale Road on 29 October 2019 by Zhang Licong, while a Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, was reported as having crashed into a home in Serangoon on 31 October 2019 by Charmiane Magnus Kuan, and subsequently released.

Eastern Singapore

The eastern islands of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong had only two reports. We received a report of a first-of-the-season Long-Toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, on 3 October 2019 at Pulau Tekong from Frankie Cheong, while we had a report of more than 50 Swift Tern, Thalasseus bergii, on 4 October 2019 on Pulau Ubin from Tan Ju Lin and Tiak Lee.

The woods along a canal near Changi Business Park was reported to support two visiting Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, (1 October 2019, Mike Hooper), a Crow-Billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, a first-for-the-season Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, and a Brown-Chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, (28 October 2019, T. Ramesh). Further away at Bedok Camp, more than 300 Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were seen flying south on 27 October 2019 by Oliver Tan, while a Blue-Winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was spotted within Eastwood Estate on 30 October 2019 by Herman Phua. Over at Pasir Ris Park, Josh Spiler made an unusual report of a Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, which was spotted within the mangrove woods of on 12 October 2019.

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Blue-winged Pitta found exhausted at Eastwood Estate on 30 October 2019 by Herman Phua

Southern Singapore

A stray Spot-Billed Pelican Pelicanus philippensis on 3 October 2019 at Marina Barrage by John Marriott, possibly an escapee from our bird park, while a Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, was seen on 21 October 2019 at Gardens-by-the-Bay by Carmen Hui. Reports of the Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, at Pinnacle@Duxton continued to filter through on 3 and 6 October 2019 from Tay Kian Guan and Norhafiani Majid, respectively. Further west, a first-of-the-season Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, was seen on 11 October 2019 by Zacc HD.

The Henderson Waves proved to be a productive site during the migration season, not just for raptors, but also for other migrating birds. On 10 October 2019, ninety-three Red-rumped Swallow, Cecropis daurica, flying over the ridges were counted by Oliver Tan, who also spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 14 Ocotber 2019. A Brown-Backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, was seen speeding over on 19 October 2019 by Zacc HD, as did an Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, by Gayathree Arasu. Raptor watchers who persisted their vigil were rewarded by a first-of-the-season Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, on 24 October 2019 (Keita Sin), a first-of-the-season Sand Martin, Riparia riparia on 26 October 2019 (Martin Kennewell), four more Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus on 27 October 2019 (See Toh Yew Wai), and a juvenile Besra, Accipiter virgatus, on 31 October 2019 (Looi Ang Soh Hoon).

Western Singapore

At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, a single Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, was seen soaring over the park on 1 October 2019 by Tay Kian Guan, while a rare Chinese Egret, Egretta eulophotes, was photographed on 6 October 2019 by Teo Nam Seng. The charismatic Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, appeared on 27 October 2019, a first-of-the-season record reported by Art Toh.

Oriental Pratincoles, 121019, Harvest Link, AOY

Part of a flock of Oriental Pratincoles spotted at Harvest Link by Alan Owyong, taken on 12 October 2019

A single Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, was seen preening itself in the evening at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 by Francis Yap. Over at Kranji Marshes, a first-of-the-season record of an Oriental Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus orientalis was reported on 2 October 2019 by Wing Chong. A few days later on 6 October 2019, another first-of-the-season report of a Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolate, was made by Tan Yew Chong. On 28 October 2019, Veronica Foo accounted for a first-of-the-season Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, as well as a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella certhiola. Along Harvest Link just outside Kranji Marshes, a Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus japonensis, was reported on 12 October 2019 by Looi Ang Soh Hoon, as were 16 Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, and two Long-Toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, (Alan Owyong), while 3 Pratincole were spotted the next day (13 October 2019) by Lim Kim Chuah, who also recorded a Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius. On the following day, 14 October 2019, an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, was spotted by Tay Kian Guan.

Over at Kranji Dam, White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus, were seen flocking with Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, on 1 October 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay, with eight of the latter flying towards Johor during last light. On 7 October 2019, a first-of-the-season record of an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, was reported by Chen Boon Chong, who noticed that it chased a Striated Heron out before flying back to the trees. The harrier later flew out in a south-westerly direction five minutes later.

A few adventurous birders ventured into Tuas and found a Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, on 5 October 2019 (Low Choon How), and a Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, on 28 October 2019 (Adrian Silas Tay).

This report is written by Geoff Lim, with records compiled by Alan Owyong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan, Francis Yap, Amin, Norhafiani A. Majid, Herman Phua and Alan Owyong for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCE

Wells, D. R. (2007), The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol. 2, London: Christopher Helm.

The 35th Singapore Bird Race (2019)

by Geoff Lim, Morten Strange, Tan Gim Cheong & Lim Kim Chuah. Photos by Francis Chia.

BR logo

The 35th Singapore Bird Race, which took place from 16-17 November 2019, attracted more than 130 participants who formed 43 teams – a record number. The participants included more than 60 students from Primary and Secondary Schools. The number of teams for the various categories were as follows: eight for Primary School, nine for Secondary School, five for Marathon, ten for Sprint, and 11 for Photographers.

The first ever race took place in 1984, and is today, one of the longest running citizen science events in South-east Asia. A key objective of the race is to promote the appreciation of birds and biodiversity to the public. It also brings people from different walks of life together, and get them to go outdoors to look at birds and nature.

Group pic, school

Participants of the School category – 35th Singapore Bird Race, @ MBC.

The Marathoners kicked off their gruelling 20-hour race at 4:30pm on 16 November 2019, while the race for the Sprint and Photographer categories was flagged off at 7:30am on 17 November 2019, followed by the School category at 8am, at Mapletree Business City.

group pic, sprint, photo

Participants of the Sprint and Photographer categories – 35th Singapore Bird Race, @ MBC.

Highlights for the School category

The school teams were confined to race in parks close to the vicinity of Mapletree Business City. The parks included HortPark, West Coast Park, Kent Ridge Park and Mount Faber Park. And unlike previous years, some calls were allowed this year so as to encourage more birders to take an interest in bird calls. The winner of the primary school category, Yumin Champs One recorded a respectable score of 20 species while the winner of the secondary school category, Goated-Spotters from Dunman Secondary School topped the category with a score of 35 species. The students had plenty of fun along the way and for many of them, this was the first time they were visiting these parks. Also, for most of them, it was also their first time seeing interesting species such as Oriental Pied Hornbill, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (pictured on the event T-shirt and allowed to be recorded by call), our delightful ‘little red dot’ unofficial national bird the Crimson Sunbird and many raptors, including the migratory Japanese Sparrowhawk.   

Champions of the School (Primary) sub-category

Champs - Pri YCO

Champions of the School (Primary) sub-category – Yumin Champs One (Yumin Primary School) with Mr Edmund Cheng, Chairman of Mapletree Investments.

School – Primary (top 3 placings)

Position Team Species
1st Yumin Champs One (Yumin Primary School) 20
2nd Top Wing (Teck Whye Primary School) 18
3rd Yumin Champs A (Yumin Primary School) 17

Champions of the School (Secondary) sub-category

Champs - Sec G-S

Champions of the School (Secondary) sub-category – Goated Spotters (Dunman Secondary School) with Mr Edmund Cheng, Chairman of Mapletree Investments

School – Secondary (top 3 placings)

Position Team Species
1st Goated-Spotters (Dunman Secondary School) 35
2nd Hwa Chong Hornbills (Hwa Chong Institution (Sec)) 33
3rd ISS Laughing Thrush (ISS International School (Sec)) 26

Highlights for the Marathon, Sprint and Photographer categories

The teams turned out a great set of results, including one team that exceeded 100 species of birds in a relatively short 20-hour period. There were also many close fights with placings determined by teams having just one more species than the next team. Indeed, the champions for the Sprint category edged pass the 1st runner-ups by just one species! The 1st runner-ups in the Marathon category also edged pass the 2nd runner-ups by one species. And the two teams in the Marathon category who tied for 4th place also lost to the 2nd runner-ups by just one species. The defending champions of the Photographer category were so well ahead of the pack that they were pretty close to the top three placings for the Sprint category, amazing.

Best bird of the race is arguably a rare Grey-headed Lapwing at Turut Track, spotted and photographed by a few lucky teams. The critically endangered Straw-headed Bulbul was recorded at the Kranji Marshes, Neo Tiew Woods, Gillman Barracks area, and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR). Dairy Farm Nature Park turned out to be a hotspot for uncommon birds such as the Jambu Fruit Dove, Greater Green Leafbird, Cinerous Bulbul, Blue-rumped Parrot, Red-crowned Barbet, Eye-browed Thrush and Siberian Thrush. Another rare bird recorded during the race was the Lesser Adjutant at SBWR.

Champions of the Marathon category

Champs - marathon

Champions of the Marathon category – The Weekend Birders, with Mr Lim Kim Chuah, Chairman of NSS Bird Group.

Marathon Category 

Position Team Species
1st Weekend Birders 121
2nd Birds are Reptiles 93
3rd dododo 92
4th Tied – Drongoes & dududu 91

Champions of the Sprint category

Champs - sprint

Champions of the Sprint category – Team Darters.

Sprint Category (top 3 placings)

Position Team Species
1st Team Darters 73
2nd CN Swiftlet 72
3rd NParks 68

Champions of the Photographer category

Champs - photo

Champions of the Photographer category – Where Where Where? with Mr Lucas of Leica and Dr Shawn Lum, President of NSS.

Photographer Category (top 3 placings)

Position Team Species
1st Where Where Where? 61
2nd Eurasian Birders 34
3rd Team Falcon 31

Acknowledgements

This year, we are privileged to have Mapletree Investments as our main sponsor. It is through the generous contribution of Mapletree that we were able to enable more schools to  participate in the bird race. This is especially important as the young are Singapore’s next generation who will inherit the natural heritage we leave behind.

Thanks also to other sponsors – Leica, Swarovski Optik, PUB, NParks, John Beaufoy Publishing and Wild Vigil Networks. Thanks to co-organiser Birdlife International, and thanks to the organising committee and all volunteers (logistics, guiding, arbitrating, etc.) helping to make the bird race a success. Also, a big thank you to all the participants for making this year’s bird race the biggest ever. Special thanks to the following schools for their support: Juying Primary School, Singapore Chinese Girls School (Pri & Sec), Teck Whye Primary School, West Grove Primary School, Yumin Primary School, Dunman Secondary School, Hwa Chong Institution (Sec), ISS International School (Sec), and Unity Secondary School.

Thanks to Mr Edmund Cheng, Chairman of Mapletree Investments, for gracing the event as the Guest-of-Honour. Thanks also to Mr Wan Kwong Weng, Group Chief Corporate Officer for Mapletree; Mr Kenneth Er, CEO of NParks; Dr Shawn Lum, President of NSS; and Mr Vinayagan Dharmarajah, Regional Director (Asia), Birdlife International, for their presence during the award ceremony held at the end of the day at Mapletree Business Centre.

Singapore Raptor Report Early Autumn Migration, July-September 2019

Osprey, 110719, SBWR, Sim Chip Chye

A Western Osprey with a big catch, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, 11 July 2019, by Sim Chip Chye

Summary:

The early migrants included all the five expected species, namely the Western Osprey, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Japanese Sparrowhawk, and Peregrine Falcon, during the July to September period.

A total of 46 Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded. There were at least seven immature orientalis in July, four in August, and three in September – these are individuals hatched last year, over-summering here this year and are expected to migrate to the north only next spring. At least two torquatus were recorded – one photographed at Springleaf on 20 July by Alex Fok, and a tweeddale morph photographed at Upper Seletar Reservoir on 10 September by Deborah Friets.

The first Japanese Sparrowhawk was recorded on 13 September at Jalan Bahar, and on 26 September, Adrian Silas Tay recorded 28 at The Pinnacles Duxton, including a flock of 12. Aother eight were recorded at Henderson Waves on 28 September. All in, 47 early arriving Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded.

The first three Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded on 22 September at Tuas. They were followed by two on 27 September at Jelutong Tower, 3 on 28 September at Henderson Waves, and 8 on 29 September at Tuas.

Four Western Ospreys were recorded, with one at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) on 11 July having caught a big fish. The others were singles at the Botanic Gardens on 7 July, Seletar Dam on 14 September, and Marina Bay on 26 September.

Four Peregrine Falcons were recorded – an adult ernesti on 6 Jul at Telok Blangah; a juvenile of indeterminate race on 27 July at Pulau Ubin; a far individual at Marina Bay on 3 August, possibly an ernesti; and another at Kranji Marsh on 29 Sep.

PF Capture

A resident ernesti Peregrine Falcon, note the dark ‘helmet’ and rufous-buff wash on chest, Telok Blangah, 6 July 2019, by Ros Qian

For the resident raptors, seven diurnal species were recorded. Apart from the usual ones, there were records of the rare Crested Serpent Eagle at Pulau Ubin on 2 July & 8 September, and at Malcolm Road on 6 July & 6 September. Notably for nocturnal raptors, a recently fledged juvenile Spotted Wood Owl at Pasir Ris Park fell to the ground on 11 July, but managed to climb back up the tree to reunite with its parents.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2019.

Many thanks to everyone for their records and to Sim Chip Chye and Ros Qian for the use of their photos.

 

Singapore Bird Report – September 2019

by Geoff Lim & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

September 2019 marked the appearance of rarities such as the Glossy Ibis, Black-naped Monarch, Blue Rock Thrush, and Japanese Paradise Flycatcher; as well as the first arrivals of many migrants.

Glossy Ibis Sighting

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Photo-montage of the Glossy Ibis at Kranji Dam on 29 September 2019 by Goh Cheng Teng

The Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus, is a widely distributed species that is found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Central and North America. However, it is a very rare vagrant in Singapore. The sighting on 28 and 29 September 2019 by Raghav and Goh Cheng Teng, respectively, was our fifth sighting to date. Prior sightings were at Lorong Halus in 12-16 June 1984, Sungei Buloh in May 1989, Sime Road in October 1992, and November 2007. Wells (1999: 107) noted that the species is a vagrant in Peninsular Malaysia and highlighted that the sightings in 1984 and 1989 may have been wild sightings; captive birds were ruled out since the sightings comprised of adults and juveniles. Traded birds tended to be of a uniform age, since birds would be taken as fledglings.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) & Fringes

Possibly first for the season, a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, was spotted in flight on 2 September 2019 at Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap. Another was spotted within CCNR on 6 September 2019 by Dillen Ng; who also spotted an Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis, on the same day.  Also on 6 September 2019, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was spotted at Jelutong by Francis Yap. On 10 September 2019, a Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, was seen skulking about within the CCNR by Timothy Chua Jia Yao.

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Chestnut-bellied Malkoha spotted from Jelutong Tower on 13 September 2019 by Alan Owyong

Jelutong proved to be a good location to observe other species, which included a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 13 September 2019 (Alan Owyong), and five Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, perched on a tree in the rain on 14 September 2019 (Tan Kok Hui). It was also from this vantage point on 27 September 2019 that two Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, three Crested Honey Buzzard, a Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis and an Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were seen flying over CCNR by Francis Yap and Richard White.

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Oriental Pratincole over Jelutong Tower on 27 September 2019 by Francis Yap

The Venus-Windsor-Lower Peirce corridor yielded the second Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, of the season on 2 September 2019 (Venus Loop, Ho Siew Mun). A White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, a species vulnerable to poaching, was spotted on 4 September 2019 (Lower Peirce, Mei Hwang) while a Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, was seen on 5 September 2019 (Venus Loop, Terence Tan), and a Banded Woodpecker, Chrysophlegma miniaceum, on 9 September 2019 (Windsor Park, Lim Sheen Taw). Further away, a torquatus race tweeddale morph Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, was spotted on 10 September 2019 at Upper Seletar Reservoir (Deborah Friets).

4 beo

Barred Eagle Owl at Singapore Quarry on 27 September 2019 at Art Toh

Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) and Singapore Quarry continues to be a high yield CCNR-fringe location.  An Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was seen on 2 September 2019 (Choong YT), as was a first-for-the-season Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa daurica, on 5 September 2019 (Ho Siew Mun), a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, also on 5 September 2019 (Peter Lim), a Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, on 7 September 2019 (Pary Sivaraman), a Sunda Scops Owl, Otus lempiji, on 10 September 2019 (Norhafiani A Majid), a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 11 September 2019 (Kok M Lee), and a Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, on 12 September 2019 (James Quek). Fans of the Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, were not disappointed. The owls appeared on 8 September 2019 (female; Martin Kennewell), 10 September 2019 (Leong Kai Kee & Low Chong Yang) and 27 September 2019 at 7:08pm (one bird; Art Toh).

Just outside DFNP, a Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus, was spotted in a canal by the Dairy Farm condominium on 2 September 2019 (Michael Phua), while at the nearby Bukit Batok Nature Park (BBNP), a Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja, was reported on 7 September 2019 by Wing Chong.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

On  10 September 2019, a Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus, was spotted near the Gardens by Brian Powell, while on 12 September 2019, a Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hemiprocne longipennis, was spotted at the gardens’ Eco Lake by Timothy Chua.

Central Singapore

Despite its much reduced size, Bidadari continued to support migrating birds. Birders visiting the grounds on 5 September 2019 were rewarded with sightings of a Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus (T. Ramesh) and a first of the season Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia (Herman Phua). Also spotted at the former cemetery were an Oriental Pied Hornbill, Anthracoceros albirostris (9 September 2019; Tracy Thu Trang Doan), a male adult Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu (10 September 2019; Tracy Thu Trang Doan with Ellen Tan; and 13 September 2019, T. Ramesh), a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni (10 September 2019; Krishna Gopagondanahalli), Daurian Starling, Agropsar sturninus (12 September 2019; Ramesh T.), Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus (13 September 2019, T Ramesh), Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans (27 September 2019; Pary Sivaraman), Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica (28 September 2019, Alfred Chia; 29 September 2019, Angie Cheong), the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus (29 September 2019, Yang Chee Meng) and Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus (30 September 2019, Joseph Lim).

5 jambu

Jambu Fruit Dove at Bidadari on 13 September 2019 by T. Ramesh

A Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, was spotted on 6 September 2019 at Malcolm Road, while a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, was found dazed and resting at a basketball court at Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 by Sandra Chia, who took care of the bird and released it the next morning.

Northern Singapore

A Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, was spotted on 8 September 2019 on Coney Island (Kerry Pereira), while a Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, was spotted on 23 September 2019 at Marsiling Park by Benny Ng.

Eastern Singapore

Pulau Ubin hosted several interesting species of birds, including a Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, seen on 1 September 2019 among a flock of Lesser Sand Plover by Adrian Silas Tay. Four were seen the next day, on 2 September 2019, during an NParks survey, and photographed by See Toh Yew Wai. About a week later, a female Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea, was spotted on 7 September 2019 by Jason Lee, while a calling and thermalling Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 8 September 2019 caught the attention of Adrian Silas Tay. Further afield, a first-of-the-season Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, arrived on Pulau Tekong on 14 September 2019 and was spotted by Frankie Cheong.

Back on the mainland, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was spotted on 11 September 2019 at Pasir Ris Park by Feroz Ghazali, while a juvenile Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus, was seen on 28 September 2019 at Tampines Eco-Green by Ken Joree Tan.  Farther east, a  Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, was spotted on 7 September 2019 at  Changi Business Park by T Ramesh, while a juvenile Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla tschutschensis, was seen on 24 September 2019 by  YT Choong.

Southern Singapore

A Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, became the first record for the species for this year’s winter migration when it was spotted on 11 September 2019 along the Southern Ridges by Tay Kian Guan.

6 bekf

Blue-eared Kingfisher at Gardens by the Bay on 29 September 2019 by Lim Sheen Taw

The Gardens and Satay by the Bay parks proved to be a fruitful location in September. A  Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, was seen on 12 September 2019 by Veronica Foo and on 30 September 2019 by Lim Sheen Taw; while Lesser Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica, was seen on 24 September 2019 at Satay by the Bay by Annette Russell. The next two days had reports of Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei (Caszlyn Wong and Sim Chip Chye, 25 September 2019; first for the season) and Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, (26 September 2019, Cheong Khan Hoong & Sim Chip Chye) at Satay by the Bay. Other species include four juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on 27 September 2019, at Satay by the Bay (Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan); Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa latirostris, on 28 September 2019 (Raymond Bong); a  Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 29 September 2019, (Lim Sheen Taw); and a  Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, on 30 September 2019 (Lim Sheen Taw).

7 brt

Blue Rock Thrush at Pinnacle@Duxton on 25 September 2019 by David Fur

On 20 September 2019, sightings of a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, at Duxton Pinnacle by  Dillen Ng and others drew many to the block to see and photograph it; of these, Jojo Kuah spotted a total of two birds, of which one was a young male. Visiting Pinnacle on 26 September 2019 yielded a first for the season Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, by Adrian Silas Tay. Two days later, on 28 September 2019, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was found along Marine Parade Road, by Jay Yip. Separately, on 23 September 2019, an Eurasian Magpie, Pica pica, the origin of which is unclear (possibly an escapee), was spotted at Sakra Road, Jurong Island, by Tan Boon Chong. Also, two Gull-billed Terns, Gelochelidon nilotica, were photographed near Sentosa on 21 September 2019, reported by Adrian Silas Tay.

Western Singapore

Jurong Lake Garden proved to be a good habitat for birds. These included:

  • White-headed Munia, Lonchura maja (7 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, (10 September 2019; Alok Mishra);
  • Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, (29 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, (28 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, (29 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, a possible first-for-the-season (27 September 2019 Tay Kian Guan; 29 September 2019 Norhafiani A Majid);
  • Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, (28 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid),
  • Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus,on 30 September 2019 (Kok M Lee).
8 yrfccapture

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher at Jurong Lake Garden on 28 September 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid

9 wspp capture

Wood Sandpiper at Jurong Lake Garden on 29 September 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid

Between 22 and 28 September 2019, up to four Cuthroat Finch Amadina fasciata, an introduced species, were also spotted within the garden’s grounds (Geri Lim and Jimmy Lim, respectively).

Further away at Jurong Lake, Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted on 26 September 2019 by Tay Boon Kiat, while a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was seen on 28 September 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid.

Jurong Eco-Garden continued to support bird life despite the reduction of surrounding woodland. On 11 September 2019, a Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus, was spotted by Terence Tan, while a single juvenile Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, was observed to have successfully fledged between 17 and 19 September 2019 (Kwok Tuck Loong, Alan Owyong and Joseph Lim). On 30 September 2019, a Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus (confusus subspecies) was spotted by Joseph lim on the garden’s grounds.

Apart from the excitement over the Glossy Ibis at Kranji Dam, Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted along the dam on 8 and 14 September 2019 by Martin Kennewell; a single bird on the 8th was a moulting adult with remnants of its dark belly and dark eye stripe, while two birds were seen on the 14th. White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus, were also observed within the reservoir on 30 September 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay.

10 wt

Whiskered Tern at Kranji on 30 September 2019, photographed by See Toh Yew Wai

Over at Kranji Marsh, a Straw-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus zeylanicus was spotted on 5 September 2019 by Feroz Ghazali; while five to six Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted perched at the metal railings of the PUB facility along the waters of Kranji Reservoir on 13 September 2019 by Oliver Tan. The resident Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, was also spotted on 28 September 2019 by Wing Cheong; while about two weeks prior to this sighting a dark-morph bird was seen on 10 September 2019 along Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Steven Cheong predating on what appeared to be a rallid bird. Further away at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3, two adults and possibly one juvenile Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, were spotted by Sandra Chia.

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Changeable Hawk-Eagle with rallid prey on 10 September 2019 at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Steven Cheong.

Over at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, we received reports of arriving waders through social media. On 3 September 2019, 37 Common Redshank, Tringa totanus, were spotted by Martin Kennewell, many were flagged but were too far to be deciphered. On the same day, a single Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, was also seen by Martin. After making its arduous journey from the Arctic Circle, an Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis, found its way into the grounds of the reserve on 18 September 2019, making the sighting by Timothy Chua the first-of-the-season. On 20 September 2019, a Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, was spotted by David Li, while on 22 September 2019, a first-of-the-season Broad-billed Sandpiper, Limicola falcinellus, was spotted by Andy Dinesh and T. Ramesh. On 24 September 2019, a Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, which is not commonly seen in the reserve, was spotted by Terence Tan.

The windswept Tuas yielded a Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, on 22 September 2019 at Tuas Checkpoint (Fadzrun Adnan), a first-of-the-season Chestnut-winged cuckoo, Clamator coromandus and a first-of-the-season Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, on 26 September 2019 (Alfred Chia).

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Grey-headed Fish-eagle at Pandan River on 26 September 2019 by Francis Yap

Other birds spotted in the western reaches of the island city include a first-of-the-season Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, on 13 September 2019 (Lim Kim Seng), a “huge flock” of Daurian Starling, Agropsar sturninus, at Pandan Reservoir on 27 September 2019 (Evelyn Lee), and the regular family of  Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, along Pandan River on 26 September 2019 (Francis Yap).

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Pelagic Sightings

On 28 September 2019, the NSS Bird Group conducted a pelagic survey along the Straits of Singapore.  Key highlights included a total of 112 Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Oceanodroma monorhis, a far cry from the previous record of 532 birds in September 2018, as well as the fourteen Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus. Note that pelagic sightings might not be in Singapore waters.

Red-necked Phalarope Sighting

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Eleven of the fourteen Red-necked Phalaropes spotted in the Singapore Strait north of Batam on 28 September 2019. Photo by Alan Owyong.

A total of fourteen juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus, were spotted on the seas north of Batam (Indonesia), the first sighting of multiple phalaropes in a flock. Three previous sightings were of single birds, two on land and one at sea.

Red-necked Phalaropes are small waders that forage by picking from the surface of the waters while swimming, often spinning about when pursuing active prey (Wells, 1999:264-265). Known as vagrants during passage seasons, the birds have so far been seen mostly in marine habitats, although one report from Singapore occurred in the flooded reclaimed land in Tuas in November 1994.

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Close-up of the Red-necked Phalaropes spotted on 28 September 2019, showing the prominent white wing bar. Photo by Alan Owyong.

A total of fifteen adult and one juvenile Aleutian Terns, Sterna aleutica, were spotted, as were 55 Bridled Terns, Sterna anaethetus, with two flocks  of 18 and 7 flying eastwards in the direction of Horsburgh Lighthouse. Two adult and two juvenile Common Terns, Sterna hirundo,  were resting on flotsam, while 24 Swift Terns, Thalasseus bergii, (formerly Great Crested) and 10 Lesser Crested Terns, Thalasseus bengalensis, with four being unidentified, were seen. A total of six Little Terns, Sterna albifrons, were also seen and these may be winter visitors.

Aleutian

Adult Aleutian Tern in breeding plumage spotted on 28 September 2019. Photo by Alan Owyong.

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Adult Bridled Tern spotted on 28 September 2019. Photo by Wilson Leung.

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Adult Common Tern in breeding plumage seen on 28 September 2019. Photo by Alan Owyong

Other birds seen include a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, on Sister’s Island, 5 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, flying south, an Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia, and a soaring Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis.

References:

Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. London: Academic Press.

Abbreviations:
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green

This report is written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, David Fur, Francis Yap, Lim Sheen Taw, T. Ramesh, Goh Cheng Teng, Steven Cheong, See Toh Yew Wai, Alan Owyong and Norhafiani A. Majid for allowing us to use their photographs.

 

2019 ANNUAL BIRD CENSUS REPORT

By Lim Kim Chuah

Asian Openbill by Geoff Lim crop

Asian Openbill at SBWR, 24 March 2019, by Geoff Lim

The 2019 Annual Bird Census (ABC) was conducted on 24 March. Weather was generally fine at all the 17 sites covered. Another three sites on Ubin which were counted on 10 March as part of the Comprehensive Ubin Survey Monthly Survey were also added. This brings the number of sites counted to 20. The three sites counted on Ubin represented the sites which were traditionally counted during the ABC.

A total of 5,575 birds was counted, a 66% increase (2,207) compared to 2018. The number of species counted was 143 species, an increase compared to 137 species in 2018. The increases in both numbers and species counted in 2019 compared to 2018 could be due to the increase in the number of sites counted, 20 versus 17.

Some highlights from this year’s census include:

  • Asian Openbill – 1 at Buloh Route 1
  • Ashy Drongo – 1 at Telok Blangah
  • Black Bittern – 1 each at Bishan Park and Dairy Farm Nature Park
  • Black-browed Reed-Warbler – 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Blue-rumped Parrot – 4 at Bukit Batok West (Sadly, this is likely to be the last year that this site will be covered as the place is currently being developed into the Tengah New Town)
  • Blue-winged Pitta – 1 at Lower Pierce and at Bukit Batok West and 3 at Poyan
  • Chestnut-bellied Malkoha – 1 at Poyan
  • Chestnut-winged Cuckoo – 1 at Halus
  • Cinnamon Bittern – 1 at Buloh Route 2 and 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Crested Serpent Eagle – 1 at Malcolm Park
  • Dark-sided Flycatcher – 1 at Lower Pierce Reservoir
  • Great-billed Heron – 2 at Buloh Route 1, 1 at Buloh 2, 1 at Lower Seletar, 2 at Ubin East
  • Green Imperial Pigeon – 1 at Pasir Ris Park
  • Large Hawk Cuckoo – 1 at Pasir Ris Park
  • Lesser Adjutant – 2 at Buloh Route 1 and 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Lesser Whistling Duck – 11 at Buloh Route 2
  • Little Grebe – 2 at Lorong Halus and 1 at Ubin East
  • Oriental Pratincole – 2 at Ubin West
  • Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler – 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Straw-headed Bulbul – 46 counted at 8 locations with most of them from Ubin
  • Violet Cuckoo – 2 at Poyan
  • Watercock – 1 at Kranji Marsh

Despite the increase in number of birds counted this year compared to 2018, the total is still below the last 10 years’ average of 7,356. This could be attributed to the lesser number of sites counted due largely to the lack of manpower which meant some key sites like Sungei Mandai had to be left out in 2019.

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Chart below shows the total number of birds and species counted from 2010-19:

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Chinese Garden turned out to be the site with the highest number of birds counted (432). And Kranji Marsh remained the site with the highest number of species counted (73).

Chart below shows the number of birds counted at each site:

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Chart below shows the number of species counted at each site:

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And again, it was not surprising that our ubiquitous Javan Myna is the most numerous birds counted, reclaiming its position from the Asian Glossy Starling which it relinquished to in 2018.

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NSS Bird Group would like to thank the following volunteers for participating and helping with the census. Without their support, we would not have been able to continue to monitor the state of the birdlife here in Singapore all these years.

Lee Ee Ling, KP Teh, Alfred Chia, Veronica Foo, Wing Chong, John Spencer, Keita Sin, Danny Lau, Nessie Khoo, Alvin Seng, Terry and Jane Heppell, Francis Chia, Betty Shaw, Steven Shields, Alan Owyong, Con Foley, Yan Jiejun, Tan Kok Hui, Eunice Kong, Lee Bee Yong, Milton Tan, Beh Swee Hua, John Marriott, Woo Lai Choo, Cheng Li Ai, Pary Sivaraman, Arasu Sivaraman, Gahyatree Arasu, Lena Chow, Kong Lai Peng, Anandaraman Sivakumar, Patricia Lorenz, Jean-Marc Chavatte, Yong Jun Zer, Lim Jia Xuan and Lim Li Fang.