Category Archives: Bird Report

Birding in just one tree

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

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

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The whole African Tulip Tree seen tree from our window.

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

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The hidden cry from the male Asian Koel.

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

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

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

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Flowering season – male Brown-throated Sunbird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morten Strange

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet.

Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus 
By Lim Kim Chuah.
I recalled often hearing the sweet, rapid and piercing whistles “weep-weep-weep-wit-wip” of the Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus during my walk around the forest of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the 90’s. However, seeing one usually entailed some neck breaking exercises as this species usually forages high in the canopy amidst the tall dipterocarp trees. But it’s worth the effort as the stunning red colors of the male bird is simply dazzling amidst the green canopy.
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Male Scarlet Minivet taken at Panti on 10 August 2014 by Lim Kim Chuah.
Besides Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, this species has also been recorded in our Central Catchment Nature reserve forests. Sadly, its sweet sounding call is now silent in Singapore and has not been heard since the early 2000’s. The last one reported was an unconfirmed report of a male at Jelutong Tower in August 2004.
I still recall rather vividly the last one I saw in Singapore. It was a lonely female perched high on a dead branch at MacRitchie Reservoir during the bird race in Dec 2000. It appeared to be looking forlornly in the distance as though sensing that its existence in Singapore was ending.
The Scarlet Minivet belongs to the cuckooshrike (Campephagidae) family. There are five members belonging to this family in Singapore – Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Pied Triller, Ashy Minivet and Scarlet Minivet. This species has a wide distribution and can be found from the Indian subcontinent to Southern China and many parts of SE Asia. Fortunately, it is a common bird in neighboring Johor and this is where I go to enjoy this delightful bird. Hopefully it will return to Singapore one day.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore). Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee A Naturalist’s Guide to  the Birds of Singapore. 2013 John Beaufoy Publishing Limited

Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul.

Annual bird census data reveals Singapore as the global stronghold of endangered songbird. 

Straw-headed Bulbul at Zoo

Wild populations of many bird species are in rapid decline across Southeast Asia as a result of unsustainable hunting for the pet-bird trade, especially in Indonesia. Sought by bird hobbyists for its powerful and rich song, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) is one of the world’s most threatened songbirds due to soaring demand for the pet trade.  Across much of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul has been relentlessly trapped from the wild to be later sold in the bird markets of Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. The species has now gone extinct from Thailand and most parts of Indonesia where it used to be found, including the whole island of Java. There are also no recent records from Sumatra.

In a recent study published in the journal Bird Conservation International led by members of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, wild populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore was found to have steadily risen over the last 15 years, and may now be the largest in its entire distribution. Using data gathered from more than 15 years of the Annual Bird Census, the study found that populations on the island of Pulau Ubin have increased at nearly 4% per year. It is estimated that at least 110 individuals of the Straw-headed Bulbul now survives on Ubin, making the island a global stronghold for the species. On the other hand, trends in mainland Singapore were less clear, appearing to remain unchanged over the study period.

The population of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore is estimated to be at least 202 individuals based on existing data. However this estimate is likely to be conservative since the Western Catchment area was not comprehensively surveyed. Moreover, new sites for the bulbul, including remnant pockets of woodland like Burgundy woods has been discovered very recently and these were not captured in the Annual Bird Census. Given that the global population of the species is now estimated at 600-1,700 individuals, Singapore may easily hold 12-34% of the world’s remaining wild Straw-headed Bulbuls.

To effectively conserve the Straw-headed Bulbul, there will be a need to conserve small pockets of woodland such as Bukit Brown and Khatib Bongsu outside the nature reserves. It is also hoped that the authorities will review plans to gazette at least some parts of Pulau Ubin as a nature reserve. Other biodiversity can be expected benefit from the conservation actions targeting the bulbul.

Studies on the long-term population trends of birds in Singapore would not be possible without the citizen science surveys carried out by the Nature Society and supported by a large team of volunteers since 1986. These surveys include the Mid-year, Fall, and most importantly, the Annual Bird Censuses. Additionally, there are also dedicated censuses focused on monitoring raptor migration and parrots in urban areas. During these censuses, as many as 50 volunteers may be surveying birds across the country concurrently. Over the last two decades, these censuses have allowed us to track population trends of threatened species such as the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.”

By Yong Ding Li.

Singapore Raptor Report – December 2016

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Eastern Imperial Eagle, juvenile, Pulau Ubin, 28 Dec 2016, by Robin Tan

Summary for migrant species:

An uncommon Grey-faced Buzzard (adult) photographed by Thio Hui Bing on the 1st on Pulau Ubin after rain was a good start for the month. The next day, on the 2nd, two rare raptors showed up: a grey morph Oriental Scops Owl photographed by Gavan Leong in the daytime, also on Pulau Ubin and a juvenile Black Kite photographed by Francis Yap at Jelutong Tower.

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Grey-faced Buzzard, Pulau Ubin, 1 Dec 2016, by Thio Hui Bing

Not to be outdone, a very rare Amur Falcon was photographed by Yip Peng Sun at Yishun Dam on the morning of the 16th – this being the second record for Singapore since the first occurrence on 21 Nov 2007.

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Amur Falcon, Yishun Dam, 16 Dec 2016, by Yip Peng Sun

The streak of rarities culminated with a juvenile Imperial Eagle, again on Pulau Ubin. The last record being on 18 Nov 2001, 15 years ago. First photographed on the 19th, the Imperial Eagle was relocated on the 27th at the same spot and appeared there everyday till the 31st, giving birders here a great opportunity to see this rarity. A juvenile Imperial Eagle photographed on the 24th at the eastern part of Singapore main island was most likely the same individual. As is the case with migrant eagles, this individual was occasionally mobbed by resident House Crows and Brahminy Kites.

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Eastern Imperial Eagle, juvenile, Pulau Ubin, 28 Dec 2016, by Frankie Cheong

A dark morph Booted Eagle was still wintering at Pulau Punggol Barat and the nearby areas, being recorded on the 3rd, 10th, 17th and 26th. Two Ospreys were recorded around the usual areas near the northern coast of Singapore. For the Accipiters, six Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, but none for the Chinese Sparrowhawk. Five Peregrine Falcons (3 juveniles, 1 adult, 1 un-aged) were recorded around the island, quite a good number for this uncommon species.

A total of 36 Black Bazas were recorded on the northern areas from Sungei Buloh to Pasir Ris, the largest flock being 15-strong at Punggol Barat. For the Oriental Honey Buzzard, 45 were recorded, the largest flock comprised 11 birds at Sungei Buloh on the 3rd, probably on migration. On the 15th, there was a sight report of a juvenile Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle, which cannot be verified due to the possibility of confusion with other similar-looking species.

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White-bellied Sea Eagle, immature, Pulau Ubin, 27 Dec 2016, by Tan Gim Cheong

Highlights for sedentary species:

By the 22nd, the Grey-headed Fish Eagle chick on the nest at Little Guilin had fledged – another successful nesting for the species at the same locality. Other records of this fish eagle came from Kranji Marshes (on 10th & 26th) and Pulau Ubin (on 15th & 29th).

The Crested Goshawk was recorded from the Botanic Gardens (adult on 3rd & 13th), West Coast Park (juvenile on 7th & 20th) and Sengkang Floating Wetlands (juvenile on 17th).  There were 2 torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzzards; the adult tweeddale morph recorded at Pasir Ris Park the previous month was still around on the 10th, 17th and 21st, while a juvenile tweeddale morph first recorded last month at Ang Mo Kio was photographed at the nearby Bishan Park on the 24th and 25th.

For the Changeable Hawk-Eagle, it was notable that nesting was observed at Mount Faber on the 20th. The White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, and Black-winged Kite completed the roundup for the month.

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Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Robin Tan, Yip Peng Sun, Thio Hui Bing and Frankie Cheong for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click singapore-raptor-report-dec16

 

 

Singapore Bird Report- November 2016

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Bulwer’s Petrel photographed by Lau Jiasheng on a pelagic trip to the Straits of Singapore.

The big new for November had to be the sighting of a Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii on 12th at the Straits of Singapore during a pelagic trip organised by Francis Yap and friends. This is the first encounter with this petrel and a very important find. It showed that they are using the Straits of Singapore to move from their breeding grounds at the islands off Japan and SE China to the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean.  (Note: the Singapore Straits is a multi-national stretch of water). The Records Committee is now assessing this record. During the same trip a rare Red-footed Booby Sula sula was photographed resting on flotsam. This is only the third record. Well done guys!

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Red-footed Booby, the third record of this species, at the Straits of Singapore photographed by Francis Yap.

With more and more observers, and people interested in birds, we are getting records of arriving thrushes, pittas, cuckoos and flycatchers from every corner of the island this month. This in turn gave us a very accurate picture of the movement of these migrants, data which is crucial for their conservation.

The Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida records for this month best illustrate this. Saket Sarupria posted a photo of one at the corner of a stair landing at Keppel Towers on 29th. It flew off later on its own. But the second sighting of the day at St. Andrew’s Cathedral survived the crash as well (David Tan). The next day, Sarah Chin’s dad found one at the PWC building at Chinatown. David Tan was kept busy going from Bedok North and then to King George’s Avenue to collect two more dead Hooded Pittas on the same day. The last Hooded Pitta for the month was at Tuas South, seen very much alive by Robin Tan. The five pittas found in that two days gave us a timing of its major movement. But it was the report of a Hooded Pitta that crashed into Patricia Lorenz’s house at Tanah Merah on 6th that sets a new extreme date (David Tan).

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Blue-winged Pitta looking lost in the grounds of Bowen Secondary School. Photo: Jimmy Lee.

The Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis continued to arrive this month. One found dead at Orchard Road on the 1st (David Tan), another casualty at Tuas on 3rd. Low Choon How reported one at Tuas South on 9th, another was photographed roosting at night at Hindhede NP by Vinchel Budihardjo on 11th. James Tann reported another crashing into Metropolis at One-North on 11th as well. This one survived. The last was seen wandering around Bowen Secondary School by Jimmy Lee on 18th. Pittas are one species that are very prone to crashing into buildings during night migration.

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Siberian Thrush feeding on the berries outside the BTNR Visitor Center. Photo: Lee Chuin Ming.

Up to three Siberian Thrushes Geokichla sibirica were first seen feeding on a fruiting tree near to the BTNR visitor center on 2nd by Lee Chuin Ming. This was followed by the appearance of the Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus at Bidadari spotted on the same day by Timothy Lim. More Eye-browed Thrushes were seen at Tuas South on 30th by Koh Lian Heng and Robin Tan.

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A surprise find at the Marina Barrage by Koh Lian Heng, a female Blue Rock Thrush.

The surprise find was a female Blue Rocked Thrush Moniticola solitarius at Marina Barrage by Koh Lian Heng on the 6th. This thrush normally prefers to perch at high buildings in Singapore. On the same day, Low Choon How recorded up another Siberian Thrush at Tuas South.

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First arrival of the season, a male Mugimaki Flycatcher photographed at Tuas South by Adrian Silas Tay.

The Ferruginous and Mugimaki Flycatchers were late by more than a month this season. First record of a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea came from the Zoo on 6th (Loke Peng Fai) and another at West Coast Park (Lim Kim Keang). This is the first record for West Coast Park. We managed to have three Mugimaki Flycatchers Ficedula mugimaki all arriving on the same day, 27th, at three different sites. Tuas South by Adrian Silas Tay, Pasir Ris Park by Lim Kim Seng and DFNP by Art Toh. These records almost nailed the date of the influx of this flycatcher.( Footnote: Received an update from Lim Zhong Yong that he photographed a Ferruginous Flycatcher on 29th October along the Rail Corridor near BTNR)

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This first winter male Blue and White Flycatcher came down to forage at the Acacia grove at Bidadari giving Lim Kim Keang this eye level side profile image. First seen by Er Bong Siong.

Another late arriving flycatcher was the rare Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana. We have yet to separate it in our checklist. Lee Van Hien photographed one at the favourite migrant stop over at Tuas South on 12th after a tip from his friends. Two days later Keita Sin had one flying over Jelutong Tower. Inevitably a first winter male was found at Bidadari foraging on the acacia groves on 15th (Er Bong Siong). The fourth record was another first winter male photographed at DFNP by James Tann on 27th. Four records for one month is not usual. Most stayed around for a few days.

The male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocauda at the Zoo entertained us for about a week. It was last seen on 6th. A week later on 13th Geoff Lim found another there, this time a female. One more female turned up at Bidadari on 18th (Lim Kim Keang) and could be the same female reported by Dawn Birding on 30th. We hope that this rare and beautiful flycatcher will return to our shores year after year.

Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos Hierococcyx nisicolor arrived only in November. First one was seen at Tuas South, where else, by Low Choon How on 9th ( rather early), the second at SBWR on 13th by Lim Kim Seng and the third on 26th at Tuas South again. A day later we had our first record of the Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides at Bidadari (Goh Cheng Teng).

West Coast Park seems to be a favorite stop over for kingfishers this season. Keita Sin flushed a Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceryx erithaca there on the 3rd. Alan OwYong photographed a returning Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata near the big drain on the 5th. Then Lim Kim Keang stumbled on a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda on the 6th while looking for the Black-capped. A Squared-tailed Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was also wintering there since the 5th (Alan OwYong). All these (except for the Black-capped King fisher) were new for West Coast Park.

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A rare shot of an Indian Cuckoo in flight captured by Lee Tiah Khee over Tanah Merah Grasslands on 12th.

Other notable visitors reported were a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka found at a Jurong warehouse on 9th (Lim Kim Chuah), an Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus at Tanah Merah Grasslands on 12th (Lee Tiah Khee), Ruddy Kingfisher at Bidadari on 14th (Simon Siow), Cinereous Bulbul Hemixos cinereus heard at BTNR on 23rd by Lim Kim Chuah, two White-shouldered Starlings Sturnus sinensis at SBTB on 26th by Koh Lian Heng and a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans at Tuas South on 26th by Lim Kim Keang.

Four resident species were recorded for the first time in their respective locations. A lone Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta over Telok Blangah Hill on 6th (Alan OwYong), Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus at Murnane Reservoir on 11th (Seng Beng), an adult  Javan Munia Lonchura leucogastroides with three juveniles at Kovan on 12th (Seng Beng) and Thick-billed Pigeon Treron curvirostra at GBTB on 26th( Kok Lian Heng). An indication of the spreading of these species from their usual habitats?

Shorebirds recorded this month included Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica, globally threatened Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris at SBWR 0n 3rd (David Li), two Sanderlings Calidris alba again at Pulau Tekong on 6th (Frankie Cheong), a Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis at Marina Barrage on 5th (Liz How) and a Common Snipe gallinago gallinago at NTL 3 on 14th (Lim Kim Seng). The numbers for snipes is poor this season.

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Black Bittern at pond at Kent Ridge Park, a first for this site. Photo: Veronica Foo.

Waterbirds included one dead and another live Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurthythmus . David Tan picked up the dead bittern at Jurong West on 5th and Seng Alvin shot a confiding bittern at PRP on the 7th. The first Black Bittern Dupetor flavicolis for the season was captured by Veronica Foo at the pond at Kent Ridge Park on 22nd. This is new for the park. A second Black Bittern was reported from Tuas South on 26th by Lim Kim Keang. The month ended with an exciting find, a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes at SBWR by Lee Kai Chong. It had a red ring attached to one of its leg. David Li is still trying to find out where it was ringed.

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The Chinese Egret in question shot at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve by Lee Kai Chong.

Legend: BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park. GBTB: gardens by the Bay. PRP Pasir Ris Park. NTL 3 Neo Tiew Lane 3.

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

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

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

A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Birds Society of Japan. 1993

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Lau Jiasheng, Francis Yap, Lee Chuin Ming, Koh Lian Heng, Adrian Silas Tay, Lim Kim Keang, Lee Tiah Khee, Veronica Foo and Lee Kai Chong for the use of their photos. If you have any earlier records than those reported here and found some errors, please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com. 

 

32nd Singapore Bird Race 2016 Review.

Close to 100 eager participants gathered at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves on 16th October for the 32nd Singapore Bird Race 7.30 am flag-off. 18 Photographer teams, 14 Advanced and Novice birder teams made up this record turn out for a chance to bird inside the conservation core of the Kranji Marshes. The change of format to a half day instead of a 24 hours race help to entice more new participants to get a feel of what a bird race is all about. All enjoyed the race and most will take part again based on the survey done after the race. Some even asked a longer race!

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A record turnout of close to 100 participants from 32 teams for the 32nd Singapore Bird Race.

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Shawn Lum President of Nature Society (Singapore) welcoming the participants.

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Lim Kim Chuah Chairperson of the Bird Group and organizer for the 32nd Bird Race briefing the participants on the Rules and Regulations before the start of the Race.

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We are most grateful to Simon Siow ( second from the right) for fielding not one but two teams from MNSJ for this year’s Bird Race. His team ( with Alyce Ang and Jimmy Lee) recorded a creditable 60 species in the Advanced Category. The Bird Group will be visiting Danga Bay with MNSJ to check on the waders wintering there in December as part of joined activities with MNSJ.

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Just after flag-off, all eyes peeled to the skies for the early ticks

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Teams in intense action inside the Conservation Core of the Kranji Marshes. Many thanks to SBWR for opening this area for the Bird Race.

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Teams at the main bridge at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves shooting egrets roosting on the mangroves.

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The Duck Hide inside the Kranji Marshes Core was a great spot to tick the Black-backed Swamphen. This is the first visit to the Core Conservation Area for many of the participants.

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Teams hard at work tallying up the day’s count before submission

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Team CAL taking a deserved break after a frantic morning of chasing ticks. From right Richard Lim,  Ang Kok Hwa, Chang Wei Hean and supporter Lim Chun King 

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Arbitrators Morten Strange, Albert Low, Francis Yap, Tan Gim Cheong and Lee Taih Khee checking on the entries of the various teams to determine the winners. Many thanks to all our arbitrators for helping out on their rest day.

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Time to tuck in to a sumptuous buffet after a hard morning’s work and swapping stories with other teams. 

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We are grateful to Dr. Lena Chan, Director of the National Biodiversity Center at NParks, for gracing the Bird Race as our Guest of Honor.

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Morten Strage author of several regional bird guides highlighting some of the notable species recorded during the race like the Bar-tailed Godwit, Long-toed Stint, Little Ringed Plover and Pacific Swifts.

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Albert Low talking about the bird diversity in South East Asia. He and Yong Ding Li recently launched their book “100 Best Bird Watching Sites in Southeast Asia” which was on sale on the day.

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Leong Kok Peng Vice President of NSS giving away prizes to Eyzat Amer of Team “Tiger Shrike” Winners of the Advanced Category with 75 species, a super effort. The team was led by Martin Kennewell with Richard Carden. Congratulations!

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Father and daughter Team “Sandpiper”. Dad Lim Kim Seng turned a family bonding session with daughters Nur Diana and Nur Nadia ( both not in the photo) into a winning affair taking second prize in the Advanced Category with 69 species. 

Team “Little Terns” Lim Kim Keang, Willie Foo, Wong Chung Cheong and Leung Wai Kee tied with the Malaysian Nature Society Johor Team 1 led by Simon Siow both with 60 species. “Little Terns” took third spot based on count back. 

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Team “Aim High” ( Richard White and See Toh Yew Wai with G.O.H Dr. Lena Chan) certainly did that. They came up tops among the 18 photography teams with 66 species photographed. This was a fantastic feat making them Winners of the Photography Category and third overall total for the day. Well done Richard and See Toh.

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Team “OOF” came in second in the photography category with 50 species. G.O.H Dr. Lena Chan with Leader Keita Sin, Goh Cheng Teng and Tan Rui Siang. A very commendable effort. 

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Dr. Lena Chan with team “The 3 Roosters” of  Laurence Eu, Alan Yeo and Zenon Kosiniak. They shot a combined 43 species to claim the third prize. Great effort for first timers, definitely something to crow about.

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Adrian Silas Tay led team “Weekend Birders” with Daniel Ong, Jerold Tan and Aung Mee to pick up the first prize for the Novice Category with 60 species receiving their prizes from Leong Kok Peng VP of NSS.  Great job guys. Congrats. You are hereby promoted to the Advanced Category next year.  

Another family team the “Banerjee Family” led by Anish with Atish and Debina came in second in the Novice Category with 51 species. A great family effort.

Team “Rajawali ” led by Ann Ang with her Mum Cecila Mah and Pat Ong took it easy this year to claim a podium place with 47 species. They were past winners in this category. 

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Leong Kok Peng, Vice President of NSS presenting tokens of appreciation to our sponsors and friends. Top: Dr. Lena Chan, Director. National Biodiversity Center. NParks, our Guest of Honor; bottom: Klenn Koh of Swarovski Optics, Bird Race Sponsors.

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 Top: Chua Yen Kheng of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves, Venue Sponsors and bottom: Tony Wong Committee Member Malayan Nature Society Johor. The Bird Group thanked Andrew Chow for his generous donation of his beautiful bird paintings as prizes and tokens of appreciation to our sponsors. 

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Swarovski Optics, long time sponsor of our Bird Race with their latest scopes and binoculars for the participants to try out.  Many thanks to Swarovski Optics and Klenn Koh for your continued support.

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Lim Kim Chuah Chairperson of the Bird Group and Organizer of the Bird Race thanking our sponsors, volunteers and participants at the close of the race. Special thanks to co-organizer, Lee Ee Ling, Yap Wee Jin, Nisha and Delphin. See you all next year!

Photos credit: Yap Wee Jin. Many thanks.

 

 

Birding Kent Ridge Park

Text and photos by Keita Sin 

The Southern Ridges of Singapore, stretching from Mount Faber to Kent Ridge Park, with places of historical interest and great hiking trails, is a great place to spend a weekend. The four parks making up the Ridges are also great for birdwatching. Kent Ridge Park, located at the western end is one of the most wooded parks there.

Raptor watch

Kent Ridge Park is one of the places where the annual Raptor Watch is held. A panoramic view of the sky can be appreciated from the top car park area, and Oriental Honey Buzzards and Sparrowhawks can usually be observed during the migration period. Other notable species such as the rare visiting Booted Eagle has been recorded here too. In 2000 and 2001 we had our first two records of the Blyth’s Hawk Eagle, a very rare non-breeding visitor from this park.

Other rare resident raptors, such as the Crested Goshawk and Crested Serpent Eagle, can also be seen here. The former had been recorded nesting at the park.

photo-1Crested Goshawk, January 2016. This top-down photo was taken from the canopy walk area.

photo-2Crested Serpent Eagle, April 2016.

Attractive Trees

The fig tree near the top car park (shown), as well as the rows of Tembusu trees at the area below it, is another area that attracts plenty of birds.

photo-3View from top car park. This is a great spot to look out for both raptors and birds feeding on the fruits, at the same time.

A relatively big population of Red-Whiskered Bulbuls can often be seen here.

photo-4Red-Whiskered Bulbul. An uncommon introduced resident. I often see them travelling together with Yellow-Vented Bulbuls.

The Violet Cuckoo and Banded Bay Cuckoo have been observed on this tree too.

photo-5Male Violet Cuckoo. Listen for their flight calls, this bird is often heard before seen.

photo-6Female Violet Cuckoo. More drab looking than the male, but so is the female Asian Emerald Cuckoo – don’t ignore them, you’ll never know.

photo-7Banded Bay Cuckoo. This individual was seen on the same day as the pair of violet cuckoos. Maybe they were having a conference.

When this fig tree fruits trees, occasional surprises such as the Thick-Billed Pigeon can occur too.

This coming season…

The migratory birds have once again started visiting (returning?) to Singapore. When in Kent Ridge Park, look for the fruiting trees, and do make an effort to scan the skies for raptors as well!

Further reading Angus Lamont’s bird records of Kent Ridge Park at http://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/rbz/biblio/46/46rbz113-122.pdf

Reference: Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East-Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd.

Birding West Coast Park

Text and Photos by Keita Sin

West Coast Park is where my birding journey begun in January 2014 and I’ve gotten quite a lot of interesting lifers there. This park, however, is probably not one of the places many would include their birding itinerary. Though usually associated with McDonald’s and the iconic giant pyramid, West Coast Park actually has a good diversity of bird life to offer.

Marsh Gardens

Located at the western end of the park, the best part about this place is that due to the small size, many of the birds can be seen at close proximity.

The highlight of the Marsh Gardens would probably be this lone Great-Billed Heron that has been seen rather consistently since September 2015.

photo-1wGreat-Billed Heron. This is an uncropped photo from a 300mm focal length x 1.6 crop factor. There are not many places in Singapore which offers such a close view of this bird.

The Marsh Gardens boardwalk, though a short one, is worth exploring too. A family of Abbott Babblers has been recorded there and I once encountered this friendly juvenile Crested Goshawk, which might have flew over from Kent Ridge Park. I was told that Black Bitterns had been seen here in the past ( per con Alan OwYong).

photo-2wCrested Goshawk, February 2015.

Carpark 2

The area around Carpark 2, especially the patch of vegetation indicated in this map, is another interesting area worth exploring (it’s quite hard to describe a location in West Coast Park).

wcp-map

Map retrieved from NParks. Watch out for snakes and random holes when exploring the area.

I found a lone Spotted Wood Owl here in August 2016, and a flock of Pied-Imperial Pigeon is usually around in the morning. I’ve seen most of Singapore’s parrots (every in the checklist except the Blue-Rumped Parrot) here too. The palm trees probably attract them to the area. A trio of Tanimbar Corellas and two Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos frequent this place as well.

photo-4wSulphur-Crested Cockatoo perched on a Pong Pong tree. They have been seen chewing on the pulp of the fruit.

The eastern half of West Coast Park

Majority of the people whom I see in the eastern half of West Coast Park are either joggers or dog-owners, because there are barely any facilities there apart from a dog-run. Just trees, trees and more trees – fantastic for birds.

I didn’t expect to see this Orange-Headed Thrush on a young Casuarina tree.

photo-5wOrange-Headed Thrush, December 2015.

I experienced one of my greatest birding moments so far when I spotted this Black-Capped Kingfisher through my binoculars.

photo-6wBlack-Capped Kingfisher, January 2016

Birding in West Coast Park

West Coast Park is a rather elongated one, so be prepared to walk some distance if you intend to explore the whole place. While there were few reports of rare finds in this park, the environment is fantastic for birding and it could just be because not many birders visit the place.

If you are unable to decide on a location this migratory season, do give West Coast Park a try. I was told that a Hooded Pitta spent a few week wintering here some years back.

Reference: Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd.

Missing Birds-Moustached Babbler

By Lim Kim Chuah.

MISSING SINCE 1994

MOUSTACHED BABBLER Malacopteron magnirostre

Status: Extinct???

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Moustached Babbler from Panti (LKC)

This species was occasionally reported in very small numbers from the Upper Seletar and Sime Forest during the 1980’s. Breeding was also reported on several occasions. The last known report was from the MacRitchie catchment forest between 1993-94.

Considering the minimal size of the forest in Singapore and the vocal nature of this species, it is unlikely that the Moustached Babbler would have gone unnoticed all these years if the bird around. Also the sedentary nature of this species would probably rule out any possibility of birds dispersing from neighbouring Johor to Singapore. There is a high likelihood that this species could be extinct in Singapore today.

Hopefully I am wrong and should anyone discover this species in Singapore, please contact the Nature Society Bird Group.

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

Text and Photos by Raghav Narayanswamy.

I stumbled upon Hindhede Nature Park last spring when an Orange-headed Thrush popped up there. I had two hours to spare for birding that day and I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Before this not many people have heard about this corner of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The reserve now is only opened on weekends.

In just a couple of months, this rather small plot of land with nothing more than a flooded quarry and a short loop has offered me some great birding.

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Male Jambu Fruit Dove

There’s always something happening here. Calls of the loud Greater Racquet-tailed Drongos, Red-breasted Parakeets, and Common Hill Mynas greet you when you walk in. Other uncommon birds like the Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Western Osprey, and the Emerald Dove, will keep you busy for long periods of time.

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Brown Hawk Owl. 

Compared with other more popular birding spots, this park is compact and you can expect to be amazed by the proximity of the birds to each other. It sometimes seems overwhelming to deal with so many birds at once, especially when they are meters from each other. At one particular spot in the park, a pair of Red-legged Crakes, four Sunda Scops Owls, and a pair of Brown Hawk Owls converge each evening, with me right in the middle of it all, struggling to pick one to shoot over the rest.

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This family of Sunda Scops Owl is doing well at the Park.

What’s the first place you think of when asked, “Where can you find the Blue-winged Leafbird?” Chances are it was probably the Central Catchment, or Dairy Farm Nature Park, or Bukit Timah Hill. And I’d bet a large — avery large — sum of money that it was not Hindhede Nature Park. But when there’s a tree fruiting at Hindhede, you’re bound to catch sight of it, and good views are the standard here.

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The Blue-winged Leafbirds making their appearance at Hindhede NP.

We all hear about fruiting trees at Dairy Farm, Bukit Timah, and Upper Seletar. But again, there’s a surprise coming from the Hindhede camp. With a pair of Jambu Fruit Doves, Cream-vented, Olive-winged, Red-eyed, and Black-crested Bulbuls, and at least two Blue-winged Leafbirds, you can’t go wrong with a quick visit.

Singapore is known across Southeast Asia as one of the best places for the globally-vulnerable Straw-headed Bulbul. After all, Noah Strycker came specifically here for it in his 2015 World Big Year at a point when he had already seen 90% of Singapore’s checklist outside of Singapore. But out of all the places I have seen this bird, Hindhede really stands out. It is nearly always around, calling, and offering great views.

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The fruiting trees attracted this uncommon introduced Black-crested Bulbul 

Even birds that are traditionally seen around or past dusk, like owls, show up early here. Often, I don’t even need a flashlight for a decent photo, and the views, again, are guaranteed to be fantastic. Where else can you get to see three species of owls making their appearance almost daily. Other noteworthy sightings include the Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo, which was fairly active in the month of June, during which it was presumably breeding, and a pair of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds. And all this was just in the last three months!

I cannot wait to see what the migratory season will bring, now that the breeding season is coming to a close and the trees are no longer fruiting. Will the thrushes stop over? I am sure the Asian Brown and Mugimaki Flycatchers will pass by. What about the visiting cuckoos?