Category Archives: Bird Report

SINGAPORE BIRD REPORT, JANUARY – JUNE 2022

Written by Geoff Lim. Edited by Tan Gim Cheong,
with inputs from Alan Owyong, Lim Kim Chuah and Dr Yong Ding Li.

Mangrove Blue FC, 170322, PRP, Danny Khoo 2

Mangrove Blue Flycatcher at Pasir Ris Park, 17 March 2022, by Danny Khoo.

1) A selection of the highlights of January – June 2022:

– Asian Emerald Cuckoo at Jurong Lake Gardens in January 2022 (fourth record).
– Violet Cuckoos at Dairy Farm Nature Park in May 2022.
– Black-winged Stilt at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in April 2022.
– Pied Stilts with chicks on a northeastern island in June 2022 (third record).
– Red Knot at Chek Jawa in April 2022.
– Red-necked Phalarope at Tampines Eco Green in April 2022.
– Christmas Frigatebird at Marina East in January 2022.
– Glossy Ibis at Lorong Halus in May 2022.
– Cinereous Vulture at Neo Tiew Crescent in January 2022 (first record, present from 2021).
– Himalayan Vultures at Lorong Sesuai in January 2022.
– Black-thighed Falconet at Lorong Halus in June 2022.
– Black-and-red Broadbill at Chek Jawa and SBWR in May 2022 (fifth record).
– Large Woodshrike at Chek Jawa in April 2022 (second modern record).
– Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes at Chek Jawa in April and May 2022.
– Brown Shrike at Holland Green in June 2022 (first June record).
– Black-and-white Bulbuls at Chek Jawa in May 2022 (second modern record).
– Dusky Warbler at Marina East in January 2022 and Changi Business Park in March 2022 (fourth and fith record respectively).
– Mangrove Blue Flycatcher at Pasir Ris Park in March 2022.
– Black Redstart at Pasir Panjang in January and February 2022 (first record, present from 2021).
– Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker at Chek Jawa in May 2022 (third record).
– Lesser Green Leafbird at Chek Jawa in April and May 2022.

2) A new feature is a graph of the observation dates and numbers for select species. PGP, dates

3) Another new feature of the bird report is maps showing the locations of the sightings in the January to June 2022 period.

map - OPH

Map showing sighting locations of Oriental Pied Hornbill between Jan and Jun 2022

4) Plus breeding records of many residents.

For the full details in our 80+ page report, please click Singapore Bird Report, January-June 2022

Thanks to all birders for their records, especially to Danny Khoo for the use of his photo on this page, and to Herman Phua, Lee Chin Pong, Lim Joseph, Danny Khoo and Kaeden Sim for the use of their photos in the full report.

Observations of Gallinago Snipes at Labrador NR.

By Alan OwYong.

The fenced-up open fields at the former British Petroleum Refinery between Belayer Creek and Labrador Nature Reserve has been the foraging grounds of Pond Herons, Egrets and late this season, Gallinago Snipes.

Several ditches were left on the soft muddy ground by the tyres of grass cutting tractors. With the monsoon rains, an ideal wetland habitat that the snipes love was created. The long grasses also provide them cover as they move around looking for earthworms to fatten themselves for the long flight back north.

Taking an evening bath at one of the waterlogged ditches

Only the Javan Mynas were seen trying to steal the earthworms from the snipes. While the White-breasted Waterhens and the Malayan Monitor Lizards that were feeding there did not bother the snipes at all.

Javan Myna waiting for the snipes to pull out the earthworms from the soil.

On 30 March, we counted a total of 6 snipes all within a small area not to far from the fence. We will able to identify two Pin-tailed Snipes (G. sterura) that day from some of the excellent photos of their pin feathers at their tail when they preened after taking a bath.

Pin-tailed Snipe. Preening after a bath revealing the pin feathers at the tail.

I had a photo of another on 8 April whose tail spread did not show any pin or the broader feathers of the Swinhoe’s Snipe (G. megala). Ayuwat J. was not able to identify it without more photos but did not rule out a Common Snipe (G. gallinago).

Cannot be identified as the tail is not fully spread to show all the outer feathers. Could may a Common Snipe as well.

Unfortunately none of us managed to get any definitive photos of the other snipes before they all left on the 12 April between 12.30 pm and 4.00 pm. I was able to pin down this timing as there were 4 snipes resting in the grasses when I left at 12.30 pm. I came back later at 4 pm, scanned until dusk and could not find a single snipe. A day before, I noticed that they were not active at all. Hardly moving out from hiding in the grasses. It may be that they had enough food and resting to gain strength for the flight back. They could have moved to other parts of the field but there were no records of them since. This timing is interesting as I always assumed that they would normally depart in the night.

Three snipes well hidden by the long grasses

The extreme departure dates recorded in the Avifauna of Singapore were 21 March for Swinhoe’s, 4 April for Common and 24 April for the Pin-tailed. I did not check in ebirds. Based on these dates we may have to look for the Swinhoe’s much earlier next season.

As an aside, a total of 5 Chinese Pond Herons were counted on 9 April. No Javan or Indian Pond Herons were seen here. They were foraging close to the snipes without any drama. They were still around on the 11 April but also disappeared on the 12 April. If any of you have any later dates please let me know.

A fully ripe Chinese Pond Heron having its last meal before its long flight back.

References:

Lim Kim Seng. Avifauna of Singapore. NSS 2009.

ayuwat.blog: Pintailed/Swinhoe’s/Common Snipe.

Bakewell. D. (2004). Keep Calm and Study Snipes Part 1 and 2.

Records Committee Report 2022

Records Committee Report 2022

By Lim Kim Seng

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

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus at Singapore Botanic Gardens, 29 Dec 2021. Photo by Justin Jing Liang.

The Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities as it has done every year since the early 1980s. 2021 was an exceptional year with 12 new species in Category A alone being added to the List. This report updates the findings for the period, January 2021 – January 2022.

New Species

Seventeen new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 421, up from 407 in 2021 (Lim 2021). These included thirteen additions to Category A, three additions in Category C and one addition in Category D.

Category A: Species which have been recorded in an apparently wild state in Singapore within the last thirty years

Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus

Two birds photographed on 16 July 2021 at Pulau Tekong by Frankie Cheong were the first record for Singapore and mainland Southeast Asia. Prior to this record, the Javan Plover was recorded from South Sumatra, Java east to the Lesser Sundas. In addition, examination of photos taken in June at the same site revealed three birds including a juvenile. This indicates probable breeding in Singapore or somewhere nearby. One individual was still present at the site on 15 September. Amazingly, another individual was also seen at the Marina East breakwater on 17 December 2021 by Pary Sivaraman, the second record for Singapore and the first from the Singapore mainland. 

Javan Plower, Charadrius javanicus at Pulau Tekomg on 16 July 2021. Photo by Frankie Cheong.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica

One individual was seen found by a resident of the estate around Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on 23 June 2021. He brought it to the park seeking help for the weakened bird since there were bird photographers present according to William Khaw who photographed it. The bird was eventually rescued by ACRES but did not survive. This is the first confirmed record of the Wedge-tailed Shearwater for Singapore. It ranges widely in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and breeds on small tropical islands from hose off Japan to waters off Eastern and Western Australia. Two subspecies are known: A.p. pacifica and A. p. chlororhyncha.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica at BAMK Park on 23 June 2021. Photo by William Khaw.

Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi

Previously in Category B. An immature bird photographed at Marina East breakwaters by Evelyn Lee on 26 January 2022 reinstates this species in Category A. The Christmas Frigatebird breeds only on Christmas Island but ranges widely in the Indo-Malay Archipelago during the non-breeding season.

Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi over Marine East on 26 Jan 2022. Photo by Evelyn Lee.

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus

One with five Himalayan Vultures Gyps himalayensis at the Learning Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens, on 29 December 2021 first spotted by Justin Jing Liang and Cecilia Yip and shortly after by Yip Jen Wei and Martin Kennewell was a first record for Singapore. The Cinereous Vulture breeds in western and south-eastern Europe, Algeria, the Middle East, Himalayas east to central Asia. 

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 30 Dec 2021. Photo by Vincent Yip.

Long-eared Owl Asio otus

An individual photographed being pestered by House Crows at Marina East Drive on 20 November 2021 by Choo Shiu Ling was our first record for Singapore. The Long-eared Owl has a wide distribution occurring in North America, Europe, Eurasia and Far Eastern Asia south to Northern Indian Subcontinent.  Four subspecies are known.

Long-eared Owl Asio Otus at Marine East on 20 Nov 2021. Photo by Choo Shiu Ling.

Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius

Previously in Category B. Three records, all in 2021: A juvenile seen and photographed at a HDB block along Yishun Street 71 on 12 February 2021 by Lee Lay Na, an adult from Goldhill Avenue on 20 May 2021 by Art Toh and another adult at Jalan Mashhor from 9 to 12 July 2021 by Art Toh, Tan Choon Siang and Vincent Lao (Lim 2021b). The Black-thighed Falconet is resident in the Thai-Maly Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo and Java. 

Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius at Goldhill Ave on 20 May 2021. Photo by Art Toh.

Malayan Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus

Previously in Category B. One seen at Hindhede Quarry on 9 June 2021 by Vinod Saranathan, Kenneth Chow and Ash Foo was the first confirmed record since the 1950s. The Malayan Black Magpie is a forest resident of the Thai-Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. It was previously considered conspecific with Bornean Black Magpie, P. aterrimus

Malayan Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus at Hindhede Quarry on 9 June 2021. Photo by Kenneth Chow.

Siberian House Martin Riparia lagopodum

One seen at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 3 January 2021 by Mike Hooper and another at Marina East Drive on 28 December 2021 by Oliver Tan were the first records for the country. The Siberian House Martin breeds in north-eastern Russia, Mongolia and northern China and winters in Myanmar and Indochina. It was previously considered conspecific with Common House Martin, R. riparia.

Siberian House Martin Riparia lagopodum over Harvest Lane on 3 Jan 2021. Photo by Oliver Tan.

Pale-legged Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes

An individual seen, sound recorded and photographed at Petai Trail, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, between 12 and 27 November 2021 by Yong Ding Li, Sreekar Rachakonda, T Ramesh, Tan Gim Cheong and Tan Kok Hui was the first acceptable record for Singapore. A sonogram is needed to distinguish this species from the near-identical Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, P. borealoides. The Pale-legged Leaf-warbler breeds in Manchuria and winters in Southeast Asia.

Pale-legged Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes at Petai Trail CCNR on 25 Nov 2021. Photo by Tan Gim Cheong.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

An adult seen at Marina East Drive on 13 December 2021 by Gabriel Koh and subsequently by many other observers was the first record for Singapore. It breeds in Europe and the Palearctic eastwards to Mongolia. Northern populations are migratory and winters south to Spain and Africa. It has also been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, North America, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and Fiji. 12 subspecies have been described.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris at Marine East on 13 Dec 2021. Photo by Jenny Koh.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata

One photographed at Kent Ridge Park on 15 October 2021 by Alex Kang was the first record for Singapore. It breeds most of Europe and the Palearctic and winters in Africa and south-western Asia. Five subspecies are known.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata at Kent Ridge Park on 15 Oct 2021. Photo by Alex Kang.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrorus

One female seen at Springwood Walk on 28 November 2021 by Ian Cash was initially identified as a Daurian Redstart. It was seen again 6 December 2021 by Art Toh who correctly identified it as a Black Redstart. This is a widespread breeder in Europe, Asia and northern Africa. Northern populations are migratory and winter in southern and western Europe and Asia, and north-west Africa, south to Morocco and east to central China. Between five and seven subspecies are known to exist.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrorus at Springwood Walk on 6 Dec 2021. Photo by Art Toh.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivalis

One seen at the Ulu Pandan Park Connector (beside Clementi Road) on 23 October 2021 by Soo Kok Choong was our first record for Singapore. The Tree Pipit occurs through most of Europe and the Palearctic and migrates south to winter in Africa and Southern Asia. Two subspecies are known: A.t. trivialis and A.t. haringtoni

Tree Pipit Anthus trivalis at Ulu Pandan PC, besides Clementi Road, on 23 Oct 2021. Photo by Soo Kok Choong.

Category C: Species which although introduced by man have now established a regular breeding population which may or may not be self-sustaining

The following species have been accepted as new entrants in Category C: 

Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles

Previously in Category E (Lim 2009). A polytypic species ranging New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand, the Masked Lapwing was first recorded in Singapore when four birds were sighted at Lower Peirce Reservoir on 3-9 September 1994 (Lim 2009). They were believed to be escapees from the nearby Zoo. Subsequently, there were reports from other parts of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Kranji Reservoir, Lower Seletar Reservoir, Seletar Country Club, Tanah Merah and Marina East. The first breeding record was from Seletar Country Club on 24 November 2004 and, more recently, chicks have been seen at Marina East. This Australasian species appears established in the localities listed and is therefore added to Category C.

Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles at Marina East. Photo by Alan OwYong.

Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea

Previously in Category E (Lim 2009). The Milky Stork is a monotypic species with a range covering the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Indochina, Greater Sundas and Sulawesi (Clements 2007). It was first reported in Singapore when 2 birds were reported on 9-22 September 1997 at Seletar Farmway (Lim 2009). The birds were believed to be free-flying birds from the Zoo. Subsequently, sightings became regular in the north and northwest of Singapore. Breeding has not yet been reported outside the Zoo but juveniles are frequently seen and are indicative of local breeding.  

Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea at Chinese Gardens. Photo by Alan OwYong.

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala

Previously in Category E (Lim 2009). The Painted Stork is a monotypic species ranging from the Indian Subcontinent to South China and Southeast Asia (Clements 2007). It is a common escapee, presumably from free-flying stock from the Zoo, first reported in Singapore at Senoko on 29 March 1987 (Lim 2009). Subsequently, sightings have become frequent in coastal wetlands in the north and north-west of Singapore, especially at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Like the preceeding species, breeding has not yet been reported outside the Zoo but juveniles have been seen. Hybrids with the previous species are common and care should be taken to separate them.

Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala. Photo by Alan OwYong.

Category D: Species which have occurred in an apparently wild state but for which the possibility of escape or release cannot be satisfactorily excluded

The following species have been accepted as a new entrant in Category D:

Ashy-headed Green Pigeon Treron phayrei

A male seen in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 9 Oct 2021 by Yip Jen Wei was the first record for Singapore. However, since it was not clear if the bird was a genuine straggler as it is over 1,000 km from its normal range, or whether it is a product of the regional cagebird trade, this record was assigned to Category D, pending further evidence.

Ashy-headed Green Pigeon Treron phayrei at CCNR on 9 Oct 2021. Photo by Yip Jen Wei.

Other updates to the Checklist

The taxonomy, nomenclature and systematics follow that of the latest IOC version 12.1 which was released in January 2022. 

An update done by the committee was to review species in Category C and apply a shorter timeframe to introduced species. Instead of 30 years as applied for species in Category A, Category C species must be present in the last ten years and there must be records of breeding within that period. As a result, two species, Crested Myna and Black-winged Starling, have been removed.

Another important change is an update on the nationally threatened species of Singapore using IUCN criteria and extending the coverage to include non-resident species except introduced species. This was possible through the excellent work of the Singapore Red Data Book Working Group for Birds, headed by Yong Ding Li. The recently completed re-assessment also highlighted the plight of wild birds in Singapore and the rest of the world from a multitude of threats of extinction including habitat loss and disturbance, poaching, pollution and climate change. 

Please click on the link to download the NSS Bird Checklist 2022.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report: Ian Cash, Frankie Cheong, Choo Shiu Ling, Kenneth Chow, Ash Foo, Mike Hooper, Alex Kang, William Khaw, Gabriel Koh, Jenny Koh, Vincent Lao, Evelyn Lee, Lee Lay Na, Justin Jing Liang, Pary Sivaraman, T. Ramesh, Soo Kok Choong, Sreekar Rachakonda, Tan Choon Siang, Art Toh, Tan Gim Cheong, Tan Kok Hui, Oliver Tan, Vinod Saranathan, Vincent Yip, Alan OwYong, Yip Jen Wei and Yong Ding Li. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Keang, Tan Gim Cheong, Tan Kok Hui, and Yong Ding Li. 

References 

Clements, J.F. (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World, Sixth Edition. Christopher Helm, London.

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

Lim, K.S. (2021a). Records Committee Report 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee, Singapore. Accessed on 24th March 2022.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/birds-records-committee-report-jan-2021/?msclkid=6dd4d878ab7011ec99532166de9b43cbLim, K.S. (2021b). The Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, Singapore. Accessed on 24th March 2022.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2021/09/11/the-black-thighed-falconet-in-singapore/

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

By Frankie Cheong & Lim Kim Seng

Figure #1: Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong. Note the flesh-coloured long legs, buff breast patch and eyestripe, and white supercilium extending beyond eye.

     I (FC) was going for my usual round exploring the reclaimed land on Pulau Tekong on the morning of 16th July 2021. My main reason for going to this area was to follow up on a Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus to get a better look since it is a rare breeding visitor in Singapore only recorded at this location to date.

Upon reaching the area, I heard the call of a Pied Stilt, so I stopped my car and scanned the area. I was not able to find it. However, I did see three waders busy foraging about 20 to 30 m away.  I pointed my camera and looked through the view finder to try and see what they were. They are appeared to me to be Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, a species known to be an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore (Lim 2009; Lim et al. 2020) so I just clicked a few shots for record purposes and continued to search for the stilt.

Once I had downloaded and processed my photographs, one of these plovers were identified as a “Kentish Plover” and subsequently shared online on a Facebook group. I was pleasantly surprised to received messages from Dave Bakewell and James Eaton were both saying that this could be something rarer than Kentish Plover. There was a mad rush to google and messages were flying. Later that day. James Eaton messaged me to confirm that this is a Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus, a species never before seen outside Indonesia and Timor Leste!

He wrote, the plumage is spot on for Javan (gingery breast sides and ear coverts) but it has a long, sleek appearance with quite long thin bill and very leggy typical of Javan”. I also sent a short report, with my photographs, to the Records Committee of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group as this species was not on the official bird checklist for Singapore.

Subsequently, I went back to my archives because I remember seeing the same plovers some time ago at Pulau Tekong. Indeed, I have some badly taken photos on 20th June 2021! There were also three birds, one of which looked like a juvenile. I sent these photos to James Eaton and he concurred that this was a juvenile, which meant that breeding could be taken place for the first time here in Singapore and outside Indonesia and Timor Leste! So, not only was this a new species for Singapore, it was also a new breeding record for Singapore! In addition, this was also a new record for continental Southeast Asia! What a mega tick! The three birds were still there on 2nd August.

If accepted by the Records Committee, these will be the first records, and the first breeding record of the Javan Plover in Singapore, something unprecedented since a similar event when Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis turned up in 1988 (Lim 2009, Lim et al 2020).

Status and Range of Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a monotypic resident shorebird found across Java, the Lesser Sundas, southern Sumatra (Lampung) Bangka and Belitung (Iqbal et al. 2013; Iqbal 2015, Eaton et al 2016). The species is locally common at a number of sites it is known from in Indonesia (e.g. Jakarta Bay). The species is essentially endemic to Indonesia and Timor-Leste until the Singapore records. The records from the south-east coast of Sumatra and Belitung are fairly recent (within the last decade) and suggests a northward trajectory of range expansion of the species. The species occurs in a variety of habitats ranging from beaches and shrimp ponds to coastal mudflats and wetlands, occasionally straying into semi-open scrubland. The Singapore records suggest a northward expansion of its range towards continental Southeast Asia, and the species may already be occurring undetected in the Riau Archipelago, e.g. on Bintan (Yong, D.L., Adha Putra, C. in litt.). The Javan Plover is rated as globally Near-Threatened in view of its small and declining range (BirdLife International 2021).

Identification of the Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a small plover with sandy brown upperparts, white lores, white supercilium extending behind eye and white collar, buff-coloured eyestripe and breast patches. Its bill is long and black and its legs are long and flesh-coloured. Compared to Kentish Plover, it has a bigger head with a less sloping forehead, a slenderer body and distinctly longer legs. The Malaysian Plover Charadrius peroni is similar but is shorter-billed with distinctly mottled upperparts. The Swinhoe’s Plover Charadrius dealbatus can be differentiated from the other two plovers by its head shape (steep forehead), the broad, white supercilium extending almost to the collar, the absence of the dark patch on its lores (giving it a ‘white-faced’ appearance), its shorter bill and legs.

Recommendations for future fieldwork

More fieldwork needs to be conducted in coastal (wetland) habitats around Singapore and its offshore islets as well as southern Peninsular Malaysia and the Riau Archipelago to determine if the Javan Plover has established a presence further northward as the Singapore records would suggest. There are known areas of coastal wetlands used by shorebirds in the northern and western coastline of Bintan (Yong, D.L. in litt.) and these sites should be further surveyed for their shorebird communities.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dave Bakewell and James Eaton for helpful comments on my photographs on Facebook. Thanks also go to Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li for the use of his photograph of Kentish Plover and White-faced Plover, as well as input on the species from the region from Yong Ding Li and Chairunas Adha Putra.

Figure #2. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure #3. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 4 & 5. Javan Plovers photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 6 & 7. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

References

BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Charadrius javanicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/07/2021.  

Eaton, J.A., van Balen, B., Brickle, N.W. & Rheindt, F.E. (2016). Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago. Greater Sundas and Wallacea. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Iqbal, M. 2015. Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus on Belitung Island, a new site for Sumatra (Indonesia). Wader Study 122(2): 160–161.

Iqbal, M., Taufiqurrahman, I., Gilfedder, M. & Baskoro, K. 2013. Field identification of Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus. Wader Study Group Bull. 120(2): 96–101.

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

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy, Oxford.

Figure # 8. Kentish Plover at Marina East on 31st January 2021. Photo © Alan OwYong.

Figure #10. White-faced Plover at Marina Barrage by Yong Ding Li.

Birds Records Committee Report ( Jan 2021)

By Lim Kim Seng.

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

The Records Committee continues to receive records of new bird species to the Singapore List and rarities. This report updates the findings of the period, November 2019 – December 2020.

New Species

Nine new bird species were added to the Singapore List, bringing the total number of species to 407. These included three firsts – Common Swift, White-bellied Erpornis and Hair-crested Drongo – that had been recorded in the period under review. In addition, six species that had been previously categorized under Categories B or D had been re-reviewed by the committee and found to fit Category A. 

Common Swift Apus apus

An individual seen and photographed flying over Jelutong Tower on 9 Oct 2019 by Richard White, Francis Yap and Martin Kennewell was the first record for Singapore. Amazingly, this was followed by a second record from Henderson Waves on 27 Oct 2020 seen by Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong and Deborah Friets. The subspecies recorded is pekinensis which breeds in Northeast China and Transbaikalia, winters in Africa and have recently been seen in Thailand.

Common Swift Apus apus at Jelutong Tower, 9 Oct 2020. Photo by Francis Yap.

Orange-breasted Green Pigeon Treron bicincta

A male photographed at Chinese Garden on 22 Dec 2007 by Jonathan Cheah and Jimmy Chew is the only record for Singapore (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category D.

White-faced Plover Charadrius dealbatus

This is a taxonomic split accepted by IOC. The first Singapore records were up to four birds at Tuas from late Oct 1994 to Mar 1994 by Peter Kennerley (Lim 2009). Subsequent records were received from Changi and Marina East. Previously treated as a distinct subspecies of Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus.

White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus, a taxonomic split accepted by IOC,
Photo taken at Marina East Drive by Alan OwYong.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis

A bird seen at Punggol on 18 Sep 1994 by Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng and Alan Owyong was the first record for Singapore (Lim 2009). This species was recently seen in southern Johor, Malaysia during the northern winter. It was previously assigned to Category D.

Crimson-winged Woodpecker Picus puniceus

Up to two birds seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve between 5 Nov 2001 and 16 Feb 2008 by Todd Birzer, Reuben Braddock, Andrew Chow, Lim Kim Seng and Yong Ding Li were our first records since 1970 (Lim 2009). Another record from Singapore Botanic Gardens on 16 Oct 2004 could not be confirmed. This species was previously assigned to Category B.

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis

1 photographed at East Coast Park by Seetoh Yew Wai on 27 Nov 2014 and another at Pulau Ubin by Keita Sin on 25 Dec 2014 were our first records since 1970 (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category B.

Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis, at East Coast Park on 27 Nov 2014. Photo by See Toh Yew Wai.

White-bellied Erpornis Erponis zantholeuca

One seen and heard at the summit of Bukit Timah on 16 Jun 2020 by Richard White was the first record for Singapore. Martin Kennewell who arrived later was able to capture some excellent photos of the individual.

White-bellied Erpornis, Erpornis zantholeuca at Bukit Tiamh NR on 16 Jun 2020. Photo by Martin Kennewell.

Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus

An individual videoed at Changi Business Park on 26 Nov 2019 by T Ramesh and Steven Cheong was misidentified as a Crow-billed Drongo. Excellent detective work by Frank Rheindt proved that it was actually the subspecies brevirostris of Hair-crested Drongo, which is the migratory subspecies that breeds in China and northern Vietnam and winters in subtropical Southeast Asia and – this once – also in Sundaic Southeast Asia.

Hair-crested Drongo, Dicrurus hottentottus, at Changi Business Park on 26 Nov 2020. Video grab by T. Ramesh

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis

An individual seen at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 14 Jul 1996 by Lim Kim Chuah was our first record of this lowland Sundaic forest species. It was subsequently seen by other observers and last seen on 6 Jul 1999 (Lim 2009). Previously assigned to Category D.

Updates to the Checklist

In addition to the new species, the Records Committee have also been reviewing the checklist with a view to producing a checklist that is up-to-date, accurate and user-friendly.

One minor change was to use the term “Vagrant” instead of “Accidental” to describe the status of birds that do not breed in the Thai-Malay Peninsula region but occasionally stray into Singapore. An example would be Booted Warbler. Vagrants are denoted by “V” in the checklist.  

Perhaps the most important change was to Categories A and C. The committee decided to apply a 30-year timeframe instead of the traditional 50 years. The rationale for this is to better reflect the presence of extant breeders and to exclude extinct species in Singapore. Therefore, the cut-off for Categories A and C would be January 1st 1991. Any record that pre-dates 1991 would be transferred to Category B.

These are the species that have been removed from categories A and C due to the absence of records for the last thirty years:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Eurasian TealAnas creccaReassigned to Category B
Christmas FrigatebirdFregata andrewsiReassigned to Category B
Hen HarrierCircus cyaneusReassigned to Category B
Eurasian WoodcockScolopax rusticolaReassigned to Category B
DunlinCalidris alpinaReassigned to Category B
Roseate TernSterna dougalliiReassigned to Category B
Black-thighed FalconetMicrohierax fringillariusReassigned to Category B
Plain SunbirdAnthreptes simplexReassigned to Category B
White-capped MuniaLonchura ferruginosaRemoved from Category C
Java SparrowLonchura oryzivoraRemoved from Category C
Yellow-breasted BuntingEmberiza aureolaReassigned to Category B

The committee has also taken the opportunity to review a number of records that were deemed to lack conclusive evidence of occurrence. As a result, the following species have been removed from the checklist proper:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Blyth’s Hawk-EagleNisaetus albonigerRemoved from Category A
Western Marsh HarrierCircus aeruginosusRemoved from Category A
Oriental HobbyFalco severusRemoved from Category A
Richard’s PipitAnthus richardiRemoved from Category A

Another action was with regards to the occurrence of seabirds within Singapore territorial waters. As both the Straits of Johor and Singapore Straits are shared with Malaysia and Indonesia respectively, there is a need to ascertain that birds seen are inside Singapore territory. Therefore, seabird records were scrutinized to confirm that they were all seen in and not outside Singapore by referring to the GPS coordinates for these records. Records outside Singapore territorial waters or without verifiable GPS data are therefore categorized under Annex 1.    

The following species have been assigned to Annex 1:

English NameScientific NameRemarks
Lesser Black-backed GullLarus fuscusAssigned to Annex 1
Pomarine SkuaStercorarius pomarinusAssigned to Annex 1
Bulwer’s PetrelBulweria bulwerii Assigned to Annex 1

Acknowledgements

We would like to thanks the following observers for submitting their records for review and for the use of their photographs in this report:  Steven Cheong, Deborah Friets, Martin Kennewell, T. Ramesh, Tan Gim Cheong, Richard White, Francis Yap, See Toh Yew Wai and Alan OwYong. Finally, thanks are also due to my fellow committee members for their expertise in the deliberation process:  Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Benjamin Lee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Movin Nyanasengeran, Dillen Ng, Alan Owyong, Frank Rheindt, Keita Sin, Tan Gim Cheong and Yong Ding Li.

Reference

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

Report on the 35th Annual Bird Census

Report on the 35th Annual Bird Census

By Lim Kim Seng

Asian Openbill 4

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

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

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

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

The Top Twenty Species of 2020 are provided below:

20200526_145928

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

20200526_145438

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

20200526_145503

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

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

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

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

Hope to see all of you again in 2021!

Birds Species Detectability in a HDB Heartland

Bird Species Detectability in a HDB Heartland

By Lim Kim Seng (ibisbill@yahoo.com)

Fig 2-1

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

 Introduction

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

Methodology

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

Detectability and “Common-ness”

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations and Conclusion

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

 Appendix 1

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

1            Asian Glossy Starling  Aplonis panayensis (40)

2            Rock Dove Columba livia (40)

3            Javan Myna Acridotheres javanicus (40)

4            Brown-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis               (39)

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

6            Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus (33)

7            Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis (32)

8            Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica (31)

9            Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis (31)

10          Red-breasted Parakeet  Psittacula alexandri (25)

11          Swiftlet sp. Aerodramus sp. (25)

12          Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis (24)

13          Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum (23)

14          Pied Triller Lalage nigra (20)

15          Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis (17)

16          Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea  (16)

17          Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier (15)

18          House Crow Corvus splendens (14)

19          Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus (14)

20          Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri  (14)

21          Pink-necked Green Pigeon Treron vernans (13)

22          Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus  (11)

23          Zebra Dove Geopelia striata (7)

24          Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa (4)

25          Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis (4)

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

27          Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata (3)

28          Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis (2)

29          Common Myna Acridotheres tristis (2)

30          Golden-bellied Gerygone Gerygone sulphurea (2)

31          Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda (2)

32          Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus  (1)

33          Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris (1)

34          Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus (1)

35          Pied Imperial Pigeon Ducula bicolor (1)

36          White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster (1)

Fig 2-2

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

Bird Species Diversity in a HDB Heartland.

Bird Species Diversity in a HDB Heartland

By Lim Kim Seng (ibisbill@yahoo.com)

Fig 1

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

 Introduction

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

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

Methodology

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

Species Diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Species Discovery Curve

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

1-_1010324

Table 1: Species Discovery Curve for Woodlands Estate

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

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

Recommendations and Conclusion

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

Appendix 1

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

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

Fig 2

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

Singapore Bird Report – February 2020

By Geoff Lim & Isabelle Lee,
&
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

February continues with unusual species – the first occurrence of the Chinese Blackbird in Singapore, the first occurrence of the nominate subspecies of the White Wagtail, and our third sighting of the very rare Chinese Blue Flycatcher.

1. CBFC

Chinese Blue Flycatcher, photographed by a casual birder on 25 February 2020 at the CCNR.

The third sighting of the very rare Chinese Blue Flycatcher, Cyornis glaucicomans, was made by a casual birder on 25 February 2020 inside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR).  On 29 February 2020, the bird was spotted again and heard in the early morning by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, and subsequently seen by several others in the late morning. Previous occurrences for the species included a sighting in November 1997 at Sungei Buloh, and a male bird photographed at Bidadari in November 2013 (the supposed occurrence in December 2015 was a mis-identification).

The Chinese Blue Flycatcher was previously lumped together as a subspecies of the Blue-throated Flycatcher, Cyornis rubeculoides, (for more taxonomic info, see Zhang, et al., 2016). Although classified as Least Concern, the bird is generally uncommon and widespread across its breeding range, which extends from southern Shaanxi and western Hubei to Yunnan, and its non-breeding range in west, central and southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia (del Hoyo, Collar and Christie, 2020), and Singapore.

This species prefers dense thickets, and the low and shady understorey, rarely 3m above the ground (del Hoyo, Collar and Christie, 2020); though observations by volunteers have shown that the species does visit the mid to upper canopy levels of the rainforest. In view of its preferred habitat and skulking habits, and possibility of appearances by non-breeding juvenile or female plumages, this species may be under-observed and may overwinter in Singapore.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

2, OHT

The Orange-headed Thrush at Dairy Farm Nature Park photographed on 22 February 2020 by Alan Owyong.

The core CCNR forests yielded several good species. Apart from the Chinese Blue Flycatcher, other birds spotted include two Black-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus atriceps, seen on 2 February 2020 at Jelutong Tower by Sandra Chia, a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 22 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell, four Chestnut-winged Babbler, Stachyris erythroptera, seen on 23 February 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy, and a Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, on 28 February 2020 by Richard Davis.

The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) yielded a Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, on 15 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell, a Black-crested Bulbul, Pycnonotus flaviventris, on 21 February 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy, who also saw two Yellow-browed Warbler, Phylloscopus inornatus, on the same day, a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, on 23 Feb 2020, by Ryan Bruce, two Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, and one Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Phylloscopus borealoides, on 23 February 2020 by Lim Kim Chuah.

Over at the nearby Hindhede Nature Park, two Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, were reported by Norhafiani Majid at the quarry pool, as was a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 25 February 2020 by Richard Davis. On the same day, one Orange-headed Thrush, Geokichla citrina, was seen by Lu Kiat.

Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) yielded a Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, which was spotted on 11 February 2020 by Art Toh, and on 25 February 2020 by Richard Davis. An Orange-headed Thrush, Geokichla citrina, in partial moult was observed on 15 and 23 February 2020 by Geoff Lim, who also spotted another Green-backed Flycatcher together with Yong Ding Li on the latter date. On 12 February 2020, a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, was seen by Keita Sin.

3, RLC

Red-legged Crake with its chick at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 7 February 2020 and photographed by Herman Phua.

The month’s record at the gardens began with the sighting of a Blue-winged Pitta, on 1 February 2020 by James Tann. A report of a Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, was made six days later on 7 February 2020 by Peter Bijlmakers, who saw the bird in the rainforest section of the gardens. On the same day, a Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, with a chick, was spotted by Herman Phua.

4a, apfc

A white-morph Amur/Blyth’s paradise flycatcher, on 28 February 2020, photographed by Isabelle Lee

The month’s end saw reports of an Asian Palm Swift, Cypsiurus balasiensis, on 25 February 2020 by Sandra Chia; a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, on 26 February 2020 by Choong YT; and the re-appearance of the Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, also on 26 February 2020 by Josh Spiler. The appearance of a white morph Blyth’s / Amur Paradise Flycatcher, on 28 February 2020, delighted many birders, such as Norhafiani A Majid who provided the report in social media. Interestingly, one of the long tail streamers of the paradise flycatcher was half-brown half-white! On 29 February 2020, a Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, was reported by Felicia Tay; and Cheong Khan Hoong observed a pair of Banded Woodpeckers Chrysophlegma miniaceum mating.

4, TF

Taiga Flycatcher at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 26 February 2020 photographed by Vincent Lao

Central Singapore

A Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, was spotted under the hedgerow near the CHIJ Toa Payoh playground on 6 February 2020 by Richard Davis, who subsequently also spotted a Chinese Hwamei, Garrulax canorus, and an Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla tschutschensis, at Toa Payoh on 12 February 2020. (Note: the Chinese Hwamei appears to be a recently escaped pet).

Northern Singapore

5, HHC

A Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo spotted on 4 February 2020 on Coney Island by Oliver Tan.

A Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, was spotted on 4 and 7 February 2020 on Coney Island by Oliver Tan, and again on 22 February 2020 on the same isalnd by Tan Kok Hui. A Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, was seen at Lorong Halus Wetland on 11 February 2020 by Peter Bijlmakers. On 22 February 2020, a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, and five White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, were spotted at Lorong Halus Wetland by Lu Kiat, while a solitary Little Grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis, was spotted on 26 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell. Other birds spotted in the north included one Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, on 24 February 2020 at Seletar Dam by Martin Kennewell, as well as up to 80 Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, seen at Yishun St 11 in a communal roost by Oliver Tan.

Eastern Singapore

The woods at Changi Business Park proved to be a cuckoo magnet, given the sighting of a Himalayan Cuckoo, Cuculus saturatus, on 4 February 2020 photographed by Choong YT, and a Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides, on 22 February 2020 by Yeo Seng Beng. A distance away, a single White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, was spotted at Sungei Bedok on 26 February 2020 by Choong YT, while two Spotted Wood Owl, Strix seloputo, were seen at Pasir Ris Park on 29 February 2020 by William Mahoney.

A visit on 23 February 2020 by Oliver Tan to Pulau Ubin yielded several species of shorebirds, such as fifty Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, thirty Lesser Sand Plover, Charadrius mongolus, three Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica, one Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus, ten Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, and thirteen Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii. During another visit on 25 February 2020, Oliver also counted 15 White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, on the island.

Southern Singapore

A White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata, was spotted on 19 February 2020 at Telok Blangah Heights by Oliver Tan. A report of the nesting activities of this rare munia, was made by Vincent Chiang. At Gardens by the Bay on 4 February 2020, Lam SG observed a pair of Zebra Doves, Geopelia striata mating.

Western Singapore

6, Brah St

Brahminy Starling at Jurong Lake Gardens photographed on 29 February 2020 by Alan Owyong.

Jurong Lake Gardens, with its aquatic and park setting, has shown to support various types of birds. A Brahminy Starling, Sturnia pagodarum, descended on the gardens on 1 February 2020, and was reported by Tan Kok Hui; the bird has remained till the end of the month. Another starling, a Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Agropsar philippensis, was spotted on 9 February 2020 by Sandra Chia. A single Large Hawk-Cuckoo, was spotted on 8 and 16 February 2020, by Thana Sinnathamby and Peter Bijlmakers, respectively. A Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, was also reported on 15 February 2020 by Tan Kok Hui.

7, BWS

Three Black-winged Stilt at Jurong Lake Gardens on 16 February 2020 photographed by Geoff Lim.

The next day on 16 February 2020, three Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus, were reported in the morning by Adrian Silas Tay. The birds, two adults and a juvenile, remained for the rest of the day. They were not seen on subsequent days. The grass fields of the gardens also supported a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, which was spotted on 20 February 2020 by Keita Sin.

The Kranji Marshes, Neo Tiew fields and Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 continued to provide delights. At Kranji Marshes, besides a Red-rumped Swallow, Cecropis daurica, spotted on 7 February 2020 by Keita Sin, there were also three Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus, spotted on 23 February 2020 by Martin Kennewell, who also spotted a Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius. Visitors to the monsoon drain at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 were delighted to see a Ruddy Kingfisher, Halcyon coromanda, which was reported on 1 February 2020 by Chan Tsan Tsai, and subsequently seen during the month by others. A  Pin-tailed Snipe, Gallinago stenura, was reported on 8 February 2020 by Fadzrun A.

8, WWT alba

White Wagtail, nominate species (M. alba alba) photographed at Neo Tiew on 9 February 2020 by Lee Van Hien.

The fields at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane harboured a White Wagtail, Motacilla alba, reported on 9 February 2020 by Lee Van Hien; the bird was a male of the nominate (alba) race, a rare find indeed. According to Alfred Chia, who posted a detailed note on the wagtail, he noted that “This is a summer plumage male Motacilla alba alba, another subspecies that will be new to Singapore…The black on breast of race leucopsis, whether in summer or winter plumage, do not extend to the throat, unlike this individual. The black on the throat also continues up on the neck-sides, a feature not found in leucopsis too. The two distinctive white wingbars formed by the white tips & edges to the median & greater coverts also rules out leucopsis. The lack of a black eye-stripe & the presence of the wingbars also rules out the lugens…”

Also seen was a Ruddy-breasted Crake, Porzana fusca, which was reported on 22 February 2020 by Fadzrun A, two Long-toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, on 23 February 2020 by Pary Sivaraman, and a Red-throated Pipit, Anthus cervinus, on the same day by Martin Kennewell.

Nearby at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, a single Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, was reported on 5 February 2020 by Choong YT. Subsequently on 26 February 2020, a House Swift, Apus nipalensis, was reported by Richard Davis, while a Blue-winged Pitta, was spotted by John Paul Briones.

Down by the West Coast Park, a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Cacatua galerita, was seen on 14 February 2020 by Keita Sin, who also flagged out the existence of Singapore’s second Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, on 22 February 2020. On 28 February 2020, a Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, was reported by Peter Bijlmakers, who also saw a Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, winging over the park. Further east at the NUS Education Research Centre, the previously reported Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus, continued to be seen on 8 February 2020 by Tan Kok Hui.

Unusual Sightings

9, blackbird

Chinese Blackbird spotted at Jurong Lake Garden on 11 February 2020 by Oliver Tan

A Chinese Blackbird, Turdus mandarinus, was photographed on 11 February 2020 at Jurong Lake Gardens by Oliver Tan and others – this is the first occurrence of this species in Singapore; while an Asian Pied Starling, Gracupica contra, was spotted on 23 February 2020 at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Pary Sivaraman. The starling was previously spotted at Neo Tiew on 10 January 2020.

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 Alan Owyong, Isabelle Lee, Herman Phua, Lee Van Hien, Oliver Tan, Vincent Lao, Geoff Lim and the casual birder for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCES

del Hoyo, J., N. Collar, and D.A. Christie (2020). Chinese Blue Flycatcher (Cyornis glaucicomans), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D.A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.butfly2.01

Zhang, Z., Wang, X., Huang, Y., Olsson, U., Martinez, J., Alström, P. & Lei, F. (2016) Unexpected divergence and lack of divergence revealed in continental Asian Cyornis flycatchers (Aves: Muscicapidae). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 94: 232–241.

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

Oriental Turtle Dove, Wild or Caged?

By Records Committee, Bird Group.

The committee was able to accept and assign the Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia oreintalis, found at Sister’s Island on 28 November 2018 to Category A for wild birds by identifying it to subspecies level.

Oriental Dove

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

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

This subspecific identity gives us important hints.

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

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