Category Archives: Bird Art

“Singapore Birds on the Brink” A Retrospective.

“Singapore Birds on the Brink” Exhibition.

Following the successful conclusion of the Mapletree sponsored Straw-headed Bulbul Conservation Planning Workshop in 6 May 2019, Mr. Wan Kwong Weng, Group Chief Corporate Officer proposed to host an exhibition on this globally threatened Bulbul for the public. Yong Ding Li, Asia Advocacy and Policy Manager, Birdlife International (Asia) agreed to work with the Nature Society (Singapore) to curate it but felt that a single species-focused exhibition may not capture enough public interest and suggested to expand it to include the endangered songbirds like the White-rumped Shama and Green Leafbirds.

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He consulted the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) for contributions of photographs and material. It was during the discussion that we hit on the idea of showcasing the threatened birds of Singapore in our national Red Data Book, which also includes the many song birds that we wish to highlight. Mr. Wan gave the go ahead, came up with the title and the “Singapore Birds on the Brink” was conceived.

The closing panel of the exhibition highlighting the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul, the species that kick-started this exhibition. Panel photos: Alan OwYong. and Francis Yap. Photo by Chung Cheong.

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To be included in Mapletree Arts in the City’s August event to be held at Vivocity, we had just over two months to set up this exhibition. There were more than 50 resident species of birds listed in the Red Data Book as nationally threatened mainly due to loss of natural habitat, and this provided the foundation of our exhibition. Photo: Alan OwYong.

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Group photo of the contributing photographers with GOH Mayor Low Yen Ling. From left Cheng Heng Yee and Quek Oon Hong, Wang Bin, Lee Tiah Khee with Samuel Lim, Alan OwYong, Mohamad Zahidi (Zack), Francis Yap and Keita Sin. Absent Con Foley, Bjorn Olesen and Derrick Wong. Photo: Chung Cheong.

Luckily all our bird photography friends gave their full support and provided us with their best photographic images of some of the uncommon and rare species for the exhibition. We thank them all ( Alan OwYong, Bjorn Olesen, Cheng Heng Yee and Quek Oon Hong, Con Foley, Derrick Wong, Francis Yap, Keita Sin, Lee Tiah Khee, Mohamad Zahidi (Zack) and Wang Bin) for their generosity and a special thanks to Alfred Chia and Yong Ding Li for the panel and species write ups. We are grateful to have Mapletree Investments coming in as the main supporter of this initiative to bring awareness of our imperilled resident birds and natural habitat, to the larger public and masses.

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The exhibition was declared opened at Vivocity on the 16 August by Ms. Low Yen Ling, Mayor of South West District and Senior Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education and Manpower and Mr. Edmund Cheng, Chairman of Mapletree Investments. Our special guests are from the National Junior College Greenlink Club. Photo courtesy of Mapletree Arts in the City.

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GOH Ms. Low Yen Ling, Mayor of South West District touring the exhibition with Mr. Edmund Cheng Chairman of  Mapletree and Mr. Wan Kwong Weng, Group CCO with Yong Ding Li and Alan OwYong in attendance Photo: Geoff Lim.

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Lee Tiah Khee explaining to Mayor Low Yen Ling on how he took the photo of the rare Cotton Pygmy Goose at the Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Mapletree Arts in the City.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Cotton Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelianus. 棉凫     

A very rare resident, the Cotton Pygmy Goose is a shy waterfowl which inhabits freshwater marshes, ponds and reservoirs. They may be found singly, in pairs or in small groups. This species may still be found in the Western Catchment but due to its inaccessibility, information on its presence there is scant. They have also been seen in Kranji Marsh and Lorong Halus Wetlands in recent years. Extinction rank high for this species as numbers may now be in the single digit.

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Cheng Heng Yee and his wife Quek Oon Hong sharing the moment of the shot of a pair of Changeable Hawk Eagles with Mayor Low Yen Ling. Photo: Mapletree Arts in the City.

Changeable Hawk Eagle

The Changeable Hawk Eagle is a surprisingly powerful predator that can take prey as large as a small monkey. Although medium-sized animals like squirrels and large lizards form the mainstay of its diet, these eagles have been observed in the wild to threaten far larger prey. One individual was seen to have successfully taken a young Banded Leaf Monkey from its troop at the edge of the forest, while another made a number of unsuccessful attempts on a young macaque.

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Francis Yap contributed more than 10 photos for the exhibition including this panel of four photos (from top left clockwise): Red-crowned Barbet, Mangrove Whistler, Red-legged Crake and Short-tailed Babbler.

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Keita Sin (right) giving Mayor Low Yen Ling a brief history of our White-bellied Woodpecker in the company of Yong Ding Li. Con Foley was away and was not able to personally elaborate on how he shot this pair of woodpeckers. Photo: Chung Cheong

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Derrick Wong happily posing next to his photo of a Little Tern dropping its catch in mid air. He did not realised that he captured this moment until after he reviewed his photos later that day.

Little Tern Sternula albifrons 白额燕鸥 Nationally Endangered

The aptly named Little Tern is one of the smallest of the nearly 50 tern species in the world. In Singapore, it is best seen at some of our reservoirs such as Kranji, and in our coastal waters. Because of its tendency to nest on open sandy ground, especially on beaches, Little Terns are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance (especially from beach-goers), as well as the conversion of its sandy shore habitat to development.

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The public can participate in the crossword puzzle at the back of these cards to win shopping vouchers from Mapletree. A fun way to learn about our threatened birds. We had to do a reprint as it ran out on the first day.  Green Imperial Pigeon and Barred Eagle Owl on the panel, Mangrove Pitta, Blue-naped Monarch and Straw-headed Bulbul on the cards. Photo: Chung Cheong.

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Mohamad Zahidi’s photo of the nationally threatened Great-billed Heron, the largest bird in Singapore.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana 大嘴鹭

Standing at well over a metre, the Great-billed Heron is among the world’s largest herons. In Singapore, small numbers may be found in coastal mangroves, mudflats, reefs and the rocky coasts of the offshore islands. Extensive development along Singapore’s southern coastline meant that the Great-billed Heron has lost most of its habitat here. It is also one of the bird species from Southeast Asia described and named by Sir Stamford Raffles, who was himself an ardent naturalist.

Blue-eared Kingfisher_Bjorn Olesen

A brilliant take on our Blue-eared Kingfisher by Bjorn Olesen, an international award winning photographer and author.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting 蓝耳翠鸟   

 A shy and rare resident kingfisher that inhabits forested streams within the Central Catchment Forest previously, the Blue-eared Kingfisher has, in recent years, been seen in various other localities like the Bukit Batok Nature Park and Neo Tiew area. Although the increasing numbers of places where this species can be sighted now is an encouraging sign, its population remains low and continued protection of its habitat is vital.

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Wang Bin sharing the plight of the Little Grebe in Singapore (Wang Bin’s photo at the top) with GOH Mayor Low Yen Ling and Vinayagan Dharmarajah Regional Director Birdlife International Asia.  Less than ten Little Grebes are struggling to survive at only one location in Singapore. Another threatened wetland species, the Greater Painted Snipe by Alan OwYong is featured at the bottom panel.

Nationally Critically Endangered
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 小䴙䴘

The Little Grebe is a rare resident found in freshwater ponds and marshes. The Singapore population of the Little Grebe has never been stable and numbers are low though they have been observed in some disused quarries. Small numbers may appear in a locality and disappear just as quickly, either through habitat destruction or disturbance.

Threatened birds featured in the Exhibition:

Cinnamon-headed Pigeon , Green Imperial Pigeon, Thick-billed Pigeon (EN), Jambu Fruit Dove, Barred Eagle Owl, Buffy Fish Owl (CR), Spotted Wood Owl (CR), Blue-rumped Parrot (CR), Long-tailed Parakeet, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (EN), Straw-headed Bulbul (EN), Black-headed Bulbul (CR), Lesser Whistling Duck (EN), Little Grebe (CR), Crested Serpent Eagle (CR), Crested Goshawk (CR), Changeable Hawk Eagle (EN), Grey-headed Fish Eagle (CR), Black-naped Tern (EN), Little Tern (EN), Violet Cuckoo (EN), Drongo Cuckoo (CR), White-chested Babbler (CR), Chestnut-winged Babbler (EN), Short-tailed Babbler, Cotton Pygmy Goose (CR), Great-billed Heron (CR), Malaysian Plover (CR), Malaysian Eared Nightjar (CR), Greater Painted Snipe (CR), Plume-toed Swiftlet (CR), Ruddy Kingfisher (CR), Blue-eared Kingfisher (CR), Mangrove Pitta (CR), Mangrove Whistler, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher (CR), Scarlet Minivet (CR), Black-naped Monarch (CR), Greater Green Leafbird (CR), Lesser Green Leafbird (CR), Yellow-vented Flowerpecker (CR), Beach Stone Curlew (CR), Red-crowned Barbet, Red-legged Crake (VU), White-bellied Woodpecker (CR), Yellow-eared Spiderhunter (CR) and Zitting Cisticola.

National Status: VU- Vulnerable. EN- Endangered.  CR- Critically Endangered.

Reference: The Singapore Red Data Book. Threatened Plants & Animals of Singapore. Edited by G.W.H Davison, PK.L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew. Second Edition.

Many thanks to Mapletree Arts in the City, Chung Cheong, Geoff Lim, Derrick Wong and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos.

Wild Birds and Habitats-A Digital View.

Contributed by Andrew Chow.

My favorite paint medium for bird painting is soluble water color pencils. I still used them once in a while. But even an old hand like me had to embrace the digital age. I bought myself a Samsung Note 10 that came with a S-pen. With the help of the Autodesk Sketchbook software, it makes sketching a lot easier from the photos I took on site.

I did several digital bird paintings in the past years using the Note 10. I think it is important to include the habitat where the bird is found to tell the whole story. I hope to inspire those who wish to take up this absorbing hobby.

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Little Guilin is close to my place. It is also the nesting site of the nationally threatened Grey-headed Fish Eagle. No invitations needed to try out and start my digital journey.

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When the decision to turn the old Muslim Cemetery at Bidadari into a housing estate, I had to capture the lush greenery and woodlands before it was gone. The background shows the familiar view to all of us walking in. I had many lifers at this migrant haven. The one I chose to represent Bidadari is the globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, my lifer at this site.

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The lost of our fresh water wetlands may see these nationally threatened Little Grebes disappeared from our island. I had the privilege of seeing this family bringing up their chicks at the new pond off Lorong Halus in 2014. It was my pleasure to feature them and their precious wetland for posterity.

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One of the first birds I saw when I visited Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves many years back is the nationally near-threatened Copper-throated Sunbird. It is a mangrove specialist which means that we will have to keep our mangroves if we want to see this beautiful sunbird for generations to come. I want to illustrate the role the mangroves play in keeping our coastal biodiversity intact.

 

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This is one of my latest work at the newly opened Kranji Marshes. The Black-backed Swamphen is the emblem for the largest wetland in Singapore. It is the bird that every visitor want to see when visiting the marshes. We are glad that NParks and the URA have created this wetland sanctuary to bring back the water birds.

I wish to thank the Bird Group for showcasing my works on their blog. I hope these paintings will give you the reason to go out and enjoy our wild places and the birds.

 

 

 

 

 

AVA’s Relative Abundance Survey for Urban Birds 2015

The AVA carried out the second RASUB over two Saturdays in April this year with the help of the public. The species counted were the Javan Myna, Common Myna, Rock Pigeon, Asian Glossy Starling, Asian Koel, House Crow and Black-naped Oriole. The Black-naped Oriole was included as it is known to foster the Asian Koel.

A total of 1,606 birds were counted in 50 locations compared to 784 over 23 sites in 2014. The Javan Mynas topped the list just like in 2014.

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Results: Javan Mynas 832, Rock Pigeons 531, Asian Glossy Starlings 96, Black-naped Orioles 52, House Crows 48, Common Myna 39 and Asian Koel 11.

The results of this year’s survey is similar to the survey carried out in 2014, where Javan Mynas were the most commonly seen species and achieved the highest count among the target species. House crows and Asian Koels showed similar distributions in locality, confirming that Asian Koels are brood parasites of House crows in Singapore.

The AVA intends to continue with this census every year in order to monitor the trend of these urban species and supplement its own surveys and studies.

Bird Illustrations by Edward Lear

Edward Lear was a 19th century English author and poet, renowned today primarily for his literary nonsense, in poetry and prose, and especially his limericks, a form that he popularised. His literary work include the nonsense poem The Owl and the Pussycat, and a volume of limericks called A Book of Nonsense. Less known was the fact that he began his professional life as an artist and illustrator of birds.

The 19th century was a time of great discovery for birds, with lavish expeditions to parts unknown to the western world to collect specimens. Many of such bird specimens arrive in the great museums of the day, ready to be classified and illustrated. It was also a time when these very illustrations were compiled and published as volumes for sale. Advances in lithography made mass reproduction of such colour illustrations possible, although at a high price. Edward Lear was one of those artist that excelled in this art form.

A few illustrations from his collaborative work with John Gould, the ornithologist and artist on the monograph entitled “Birds of Europe” is reproduced below. This is limited to the raptors and except for one drawing, all these birds have been sighted in Singapore before. The original book is from the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the digital copy is available at Biodiversity Heritage Library.

 

Video

Above is a video featuring David Attenborough on the bird illustrations done by Edward Lear.

 

Photo Gallery

Historical Singapore Birds Illustration Part 1

Birding in Singapore has a recreational and scientific activity for a long time. In the 19th century, shooting a bird literally meant shooting it with a rifle. The recreational aspect of this is manifested in the naming of certain class of birds as game birds, and collection of birds meant collecting bags of shot birds, either for eating or for bragging rights. The more serious collector went through various means to shoot and collect different bird species that in ended up in private collections and museums for scientific cataloging.

As we progress to a gentler means of birding, the binoculars and scopes replaced the gun. And now, many birders supplement or replace their binoculars with digital cameras.

Before bird photographs were common or even available, guide books that described the avifauna of any region needed detailed description through text, and artistic rendition done by those who had access to museum skins of birds. One such person was Henrik Grönvold. He was a Danish born naturalist and artist active in the first half of the 20th century. He started work at the Natural History Museum in London preparing anatomical specimen, and was skilled as a taxidermist. He progressed to bird illustration armed with the knowledge gained on the job.

There are many books in which he was commissioned as an artist, as his skill was much sought after. One of them was the seminal work on the birds of the Malay Peninsula, by Robinson & Chasen simply titled The Birds of the Malay Peninsula. Covering 5 volumes starting in 1927 to 1976, it is an ornithological work that serves an an important source of historical avifauna information for the region. Grönvold was involved in the illustration for the first 4 volumes.

Having obtained a rare second-hand set of these books, I have reproduced a few of these paintings from the first volume below. The style of illustration may be a bit outdated, and having worked on them purely based on museum skins rather than having seen the real bird (he never traveled to our region), there are some oddities. Nonetheless there is still a lot of charm in these drawings. So 87 years after publication, here are some of them for everyone to enjoy.

 

Photo Gallery