Category Archives: Bird Report

Phenomenal congregation of Wagtails at Yishun.

Contributed by Veronica Foo. 

On 3 October 2017, following Mr Lim Kim Keang’s alert of a few wagtail species sighting at Yishun,  I went down in the evening to a block of flats to see for myself this interesting phenomenal congregation and roosting of the wagtail species. With dimming light, grey sky and light drizzle, I did not expect anything much.

When I reached at the block of flats in the early evening, I was greeted by a small flock of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) flying above the roof top of an opposite block of flats and some were seen perched along the roof top parapet and the central antennae.

Grey Wagtails on Aerial Antenna @ Blk 153 @ 3 Oct 2017

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) perched on the aerial antennae.

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

Grey Wagtails on roof top @ 3 oct 2017 Yishun Blk 153

Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) perched on roof parapet.

A Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) was also seen perched momentarily before it was startled by more incoming flock of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea). It flew too soon to get a record shot of it. There must have been more than a hundred of them. Alfred Chia arrived slightly after me and he too expressed the large number of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) seen as unusual, as based on previous report and status, they are an uncommon winter visitor and very small numbers were seen during each migratory period.

A surprising find were a pair of White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) and Forest Wagtails (Dendronanthus indicus) seen together on the roof top as well as roosting subsequently among the palm tree on the ground.

White Wagtail @ Yishun Blk 153 @ 3 Oct 2017

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) on roof top

Forest Wagtail on roof top

Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus) on rooftop

As it was my first time observing such large numbers of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) as well as the congregational roosting of all the 4 species together, it certainly was a sighting to behold.

Forest wagtail among the Grey Wagtails

Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)  roosting in the palm fronds among the Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea).

The puzzling questions that come up after this phenomenal observation:

  1. What drew the large numbers of Grey Wagtails here?
  2. It was a surprise that the Forest Wagtails and White Wagtails were also seen together despite the differences in their habitat/feeding behaviour. As each species were seen in a pair, did they feel vulnerable to the point of seeking refuge amongst the large flock of Grey Wagtails?
  3. Since such a large number of Grey Wagtail were seen in the evening, where do they forage during the day without anyone noticing or reporting?
  4. Was there previous observation of a few species of Wagtails roosting together without any territorial conflict?

Reference:  Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing 2013. All photos: Veronica Foo.

 

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Singapore Bird Report-September 2017

The autumn migration is truly underway this month with more passerines reported all over the island. Out of the twenty plus arrivals this month, only four beat their previous early arrival dates. Some like the Arctic Warblers were very late. 

The list of the first arrivals of the season:

Adrian Silas Tay

Red-footed Booby washed up at the seawall at Marina Barrage. Photo: Adrian Silas Tay.

  1. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, six birds scoped at Pulau Sekudu, Ubin on 1st by Lim Kim Keang, Low Choon How and Russell Boyman
  2. Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii at Marina Barrage on 1st by Russell Boyman. Photo posted by Seng Alvin on 2nd. Another reported at Seletar Dam on 7th by Fadzrun A.
  3. Red-footed Booby Sula sula, a dried up carcass was found washed up on the seawall at Marina Barrage on 3rd by Adrian Silas Tay and friends. May have died at sea while on transit.
  4. Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae, a female at Dempsey Hill on 7th photographed by Lawrence Eu. This is 10 days earlier than the previous early arrival date.
  5. Daurian Starling Agropsar sturninus a small flock seen at the sand banks at Seletar Dam on 7th by Wang Heng Mount.
  6. Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus, with a Godwit at Pulau Tekong on 9th by Frankie Cheong.
  7. Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes, bird seen on the same day on Tekong by Frankie Cheong. Another three were reported there on 23rd and one on 29th. The reclaimed land there had been their favourite wintering ground for the past few years.
  8. A White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus was reported by Adrian Silas Tay at Lorong Halus on 10th. Lim Kim Keang reported several White-winged Terns feeding at Serangoon Reservoir on 15th. White-winged Terns usually arrives much earlier in July and August.
  9. Adrian Silas Tay also had a Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hydrida, at the  Lorong Halus that same day. This is about a week later than last year’s early date.
  10. Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, one heard calling at the Bulim Woods on 10th by James Tann. It could be either an overstayer or a new arrival.
  11. Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus, seen at the MacRitchie Trail on 10th by Marcel Finlay. This was followed by one at GBTB on 25th photographed by Terence Tan and another at DFNP by James Tann on 25th.
  12. Another Wagtail, this time an Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla  tschuschensis, from Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course on 10th by Fadzrun A.
  13. Martin Kennewell had an early Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura, at Kranji Marshes on the 10th. Identified by call, this individual is 5 days earlier than the previous arrival date.
  14. Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis first one reported at Seletar Dam on 8th by Marcel Finlay. The second, a juvenile made a late landfall at Marina Barrage on 13th, duly spotted by Robin Tan. This juvenile stayed over to refuel for more than 2 weeks. On 23rd, Frankie Cheong reported three more Red-necked Stints at Pulau Tekong.
  15. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, two birds were photographed at the Marina Barrage on 15th by Robin Tan. Pary Sivaraman posted another photo of one of them he shot the next day. A subspecies, the Swinhoe’s Plover C.a. dealbatus, was identified by Dave Bakewell from photos taken there by Alan OwYong on the 15th.
  16. Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei, a recent split, was photographed at Chinese Gardens on 20th by Siew Mun and seen by Marcel Finlay at Bukit Brown on same day. He had another at Old Thompson Road on 25th. Terence Tan also shot one at DFNP on 21st. Two birds were reported from Bidadari as well on 24th by Francis Yap and Alan OwYong. The Amur seems to be more commonly encountered than the Blyth’s during this migratory period. 
  17. Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris, was photographed at the Japanese Gardens on 21st by Gerald Lim.
  18. A returning non-breeding visitor, Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus, was photographed at Lorong Halus on 26th by Seng Alvin. This is just a day earlier than the last reported date. Alan OwYong saw the same bee-eater there the next day.
  19. Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius, a male was a surprise find at Gardens East on 27th. It beats the earlier arrival date by 3 weeks. Unfortunately it did not stay around.
  20. Over at Pulau Ubin, a confiding Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca, was spotted by See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap and friends on 23rd. Last year one crashed into the River Valley High School on the same day.
  21. A Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus, was first recorded at Bukit Brown on 20th b=y Marcel Finlay. A second arrived at Bidadari on 24th. Robin Tan was there to welcome it. The next day another was picked up by Terence Tan at GBTB.
  22. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola, are overdue. Great that Rama Krishnan heard one calling at the Kranji Marshes on 25th to confirm that they arrived. These confiding warblers are notoriously hard to see.
  23. Two Arctic Warblers Phylloscopus borealis, was reported by Tay Kian Guan on 21st at the Southern Ridges. Veronica Foo saw another at Hindhede NP on 28th. Unusually late as we get them in early August.
  24. Finally we had our first Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneata, when Martin Kennewell photographed one at SBWR on the 30th. Previous early arrival date was 23rd September.
  25. Kozi Ichiyama recorded the first Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, on the last day of August. It was the start of an influx of these flycatchers all over the island for the whole of September including our second casualty that crashed into a factory in the Joo Koon, Tuas area on 18th (David Tan).

        (Note: Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you had an earlier sighting of any of the above or unreported species)                         

Terence Tan

A recent split Amur Paradise Flycatcher at Dairy Farm NP on 21st. Photo: Terence Tan

Based on our previous pelagic trips, mid September was the height of the passage of the Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels Oceanadroma monorhis, and Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus, with counts of 5-600 birds. Unfortunately the 17th September trip organised by the Bird Group for NSS members came back with very low counts for both (16 for Bridled and 18 for the Storm Petrels). But they did established new early arrival date for the 25 Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus. Other seabirds recorded by Alfred Chia, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kin Seng, Con Foley and others were 25 Swift Terns Thalasseus bergii, 3 Lesser Crested Terns Thalasseus bengalensis, and 1 White-winged Tern.

Robin Tan 2

This juvenile Red-necked Stint arrived at Marina Barrage on 13th. Photo: Robin Tan

Alfred Chia, Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo did a quick shorebird count at Chek Jawa on 24th. Their tally included 200 Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus, 9 Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinerea , 7 Barred-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica, 15 Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus, 35 Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola, 25 Little Terns Sternula albifrons, 3 Pacific Golden Plovers Pluvialis fulva, 2 Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

James Tann MW

Mangrove Whistler caught the eyes of James Tann at Pulau Ubin. 

With more birders and photographers in the field it was not surprising that a good number of rare and uncommon resident species were reported, most of them from Pulau Ubin. The elusive Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra, was heard calling along the Chek Jawa boardwalk at Pulau Ubin on 1st by Low Choon How and heard again by Veronica Foo on 3rd. Staying at Ubin, Veronica added 3 Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris, from Butterfly Hill on the 15th, an unusual record for Ubin. A day later James Tann returned with great photos of the Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea, a much sought-after island species. There were two birds at Ketam according to Adrian Silas Tay.

Serin Subaraj

Juvenile Barred Eagle Owl at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Serin Subaraj.

The NParks survey team and volunteers did one better when they found a juvenile Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus, among the durian trees on the 18th. Subsequent visits confirmed the presence of its parents nearby although out of sight. This is the first evidence of the presence of a breeding family of this rare owl in Singapore.

Veronica Foo

Cinereous Bulbul, a non breeding visitor at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Veronica Foo.

The female Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus, made an appearance on 21st (Alan OwYong) feeding together with the Oriental Pieds at Butterfly Hill. During the hunt for the owl, See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap and friends spotted a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda, there on 23rd. This could be our resident minor race or a migrant. The previous earliest arrival date of the migratory Ruddy Kingfisher was also on the 23rd at Pasir Ris Mangroves in 1989. The last uncommon record for Ubin were 2 Cinereous Bulbuls Hemixos cinereus, a non-breeding visitor, seen by Lim Kim Keang, Alfred Chia and Veronica Foo on 24th.

LKS

Three White-rumped Munias at Sentosa Cove on 18th. Photo: Lim Kim Seng.

Other notable residents was a King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis, from Kranji Marshes on 10th by Martin Kennewell, 14 Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica, at Lorong Halus pond on 15th by Lim Kim Keang, 3 White-rumped Munias Lonchura striata, at Sentosa Cove on 18th by Lim Kim Seng. A high count of 6 Red-legged Crakes were seen and heard calling at Bukit Brown on 19th and 20th by Marcel Finlay. An Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula, at Buloh Crescent on 29th by Derrick Wong, 4 Lesser Adjutants Leptoptilos javanicus, seen flying from Kranji Marshes Tower on 30th by Martin Kennewell and a Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea, at Sentosa on 30th by Lim Kim Seng. The White-rumped Munia is a new record for Sentosa but it’s status will required verification. The sighting of the 4 Lesser Adjutants was the largest for this former resident so far in Singapore. Lets hope they will re-establish here again.

References:

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.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebird. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Adrian Silas Tay, Terence Tan, Robin Tan, James Tann, Serin Subaraj, Veronica Foo and Lim Kim Seng for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore’s last surviving Malkoha.

Contributed by Alan OwYong.

The last surviving Malkoha, the Chestnut-bellied Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, that was once confined to the Singapore Central Forest and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has adapted well to the forest fringes and buffer nature parks since the start of the century. But our early specimens were collected from the mangroves along Kranji River, Jurong and Seletar, Sungei Sembawang and Ulu Pandan. It must be this adaptability that sees it surviving until today. Its closest relative here, the Black-bellied Malkoha P. Diardi, died out in the 1950s due to its dependence on denser forests in the interior that were logged ( per cons Yong Ding Li). So did the smaller Raffles’s and Red-billed Malkohas. We can learn from these extinctions and manage our forest to protect our last malkoha and other similiar species from meeting the same fate.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at JEG

Rare open view at the Jurong Eco Gardens, where nesting have been recorded.

Mainly arboreal, it hops from branch to branch looking for large insects and small vertebrates at the forest canopies.  Unlike cuckoos, it builds its own nest and care for its young on its own. This uncommon breeding resident is both globally and nationally near-threatened.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at Jelutong

Jelutong Tower is the best place to get eye-level shots of this canopy feeder. Its diet of large insects makes it vulnerable and is listed as nationally near-threatened.

I have seen them foraging along the Mandai Lake Road in the early 2000s. Those who remembered the Mandai Orchid Gardens will know of the few nesting records there. One of the nest was inside a low ficus tree right next to the souvenir stall at the Gardens close to the visitors path. Another nesting was outside the Bukit Timah Visitor Center at roof top level. The eggs on an open flimsy nest were at the mercy of the preying Long-tailed Macaques. The most recent nesting records however came from Jurong Eco Gardens. These Malkohas can still be seen there today.

000000020036-001

Eye-level nest at the Mandai Orchid Gardens right next to the visitor’s walkway. 

Besides keeping the Central Forest intact, the creation of buffer nature parks augurs well for the survival and well being of this jewel of our forest.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009. Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd. A.F.S.L. Lok and T.K. Lee. Brood Care of the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha. Nature in Singapore 2008.1.85-92. 

 

 

 

Red-Legged Crakes in Singapore.

A Note on Red-Legged Crakes (Rallina fasciata) in Singapore

SBG

Image 1.  Adult at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 20th May 2012.  By Francis Yap

This elegant, usually secretive rail is found year-round in Singapore’s forests and parks and is known to breed here.

It has a wide range and is understood to be present as a resident or breeding visitor or passage migrant or combination thereof in North-East India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo and the Philippines.  It has recently also been found in Cambodia.

As a result of this large range the Red-Legged Crake’s current IUCN Red List Category is LC (of Least Concern)

A review of the available printed and online resources for this species tells us two things

  • Compared with similar species present in Singapore such as Ruddy-Breasted Crake (Zapornia fusca) and Slaty-Breasted Rail (Lewinia striata) relatively little is known about it.
  • There are only two places in its range where it is relatively easy to locate and see this bird – Singapore (numerous locations) and Thailand (Kaeng Krachan National Park, Western Thailand).

In this article, I will try to summarise the current gaps in our knowledge, put forward some new information from recent observations in Singapore and suggest how birders in Singapore might provide valuable information to further complete our understanding of this species.

The fullest account of the species is in, ‘Rails – A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World’ by Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo (1998) which highlights the following gaps in our knowledge:

Juvenile:  Not properly described, probably similar to immature but duller, and more extensively white on underparts.

Movements:  These are not properly understood, but the species is both resident and migratory in its normal range.

Food and Feeding:  No information available.

Breeding:  Nest undescribed.  Eggs 3-6.  Both sexes incubate.  No further information available.

Habits:  Shy, retiring and difficult to flush. (…) Claims that the species is nocturnal may refer primarily to calling activity.

Social Organisation:  Assumed to be monogamous.

Social and Sexual Behaviour:  No information available.

The species description in ‘Handbook of the Birds of the World’ (now available online as http://www.HBWAlive.com) appears to derive directly from Taylor and van Perlo and does not add any significant new information.

From the species description in ‘A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore’ by Morten Strange we read ‘Diet unknown. Nest has never been described.  May disperse outside breeding season but this has not been studied.’

The species data sheet from the Data Zone at http://www.Birdlife.org states:

Population size:  Unknown

Population trend:  Unknown

Vocalizations: The calls of the Red-Legged Crake are variously described as follows:

‘In breeding season calls at dawn and dusk, either a slow descending trill or nasal pek pek pek or clucking kunkunkunkunk..; advertising calls gogogogok at night.  (Birds of East Asia by Mark Brazil)

‘Territorial call (often at night) is loud, hard, rapid UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH…, every 1.5-3s.  Also, quacking nasal brrr, brr’ay or grr’erh. –  (Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson)

‘Male territorial all is a loud rapid hard (6-9) note UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH…, repeated every 1.5-3s.  Females sometimes join in with sudden quacking nasal brrr, brr’ay or grr’erh notes. Often call during night.’  (A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson)

‘The territorial call is a loud series of nasal pek calls, repeated every half second at dawn and dusk in the breeding season (Robson).  A series of loud ehh calls followed by a loud trill most frequent at dawn and dusk (Jeyarajasingam).  (Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Quentin Phillipps and Karen Phillipps)

‘Calls at night.’ – (A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore by Morten Strange)

‘Details are from Coates & Bishop (1997) unless otherwise specified.  The advertising call is described as a loud staccato series of gogogogo notes, usually given at night but also during the day in rainy weather.  Birds also give a series of “devilish-sounding” screams, and very sharp girrrr and R R R R call.  The territorial call is a loud series of nasal pek calls, repeated about every 0.5s and given at dawn and dusk in the breeding season; this is apparently given by the male, and the female sometimes joins in with nasal notes (C.R.Robson in litt.).  There is also a long, slow descending trill, reminiscent of the Ruddy-Breasted Crake (Lekagul & Round 1991).  When two birds meet, there is a cacophony of scolding sounds.’  (Rails A Guide to Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World by Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo).

It is always difficult to transcribe bird or animal vocalisations into words but it seems that the authors above are describing 5 or 6 different sounds:

  1. Advertising call (at dusk and during the day after rain) – gogogogo or gogogogok or ehh or UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH
  2. Territorial call (dawn and dusk during breeding season – male only?) – pek pek pek or kunkunkunkunk
  3. Female response to male territorial call (dawn and dusk during breeding season) – nasal notes or sudden quacking nasal brrr, brr’ay or grr’erh
  4. Other call – long, slow descending trill,
  5. Other call – girrr, R R R R, brrr, brr’ay, grr’eh, loud trill
  6. Other call – devilish-sounding screams, cacophony of scolding sounds

There are few recordings of this species available online:

The Internet Bird Collection has no recordings.

Xeno-canto.org has 7 recordings – 5 from Singapore and 2 from Indonesia.

The Macaulay Library has 4 recordings – 3 from Singapore (2 of these are also on xeno-canto) and 1 from Malaysia

AVoCet has 2 recordings – both from Indonesia

Of these 11 separate recordings we can note that 5 were made between 18.45 and 19.05, 1 was made at 09.30 and one at 21.30.  For the remaining 4 recordings no time information is available.

It is too small a sample to draw any conclusions on what time of year the birds most often call nor whether some calls may be associated with breeding periods but we can note that the calls were recorded in 8 months of the year from March through to November.

These recordings seem to cover two distinct types of vocalisation:

  1. A multi-note repeated call which could be described as gogogogok or UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH or perhaps pek pek pek or ehh ehh ehh depending on the listener.  This is heard in 8 recordings. The number of notes in each call varies from 5 to 9 notes.  Sometimes there is a constant number of notes per call e.g. xeno-canto recordings XC364136 and XC57232 both have 5-note calls.  Sometimes the number of notes varies between calls e.g. the call of the individual recorded in Macaulay Library recording ML30627461 varies between 6 and 9 notes and the call in XC352336 varies between 7 and 8 notes.  The call covers a range of frequencies from 500Hz to 7kHz but most of the sound is between 1 and 2kHz as you can see in the Sonogram below:

XC352336final

  1. A sharp single (squealing?) call followed by a descending growling/girrrr/trill. This is heard in six recordings.  In two cases this call comes before a series of gogogogok calls (XC364136 and AvoCet recording AV8465) and in one case after a series of gogogogok calls (XC366445).  I have also heard this call given on its own (pers ob).  This call is at a higher pitch than the advertising call and the main elements are between 3 and 4 kHz.

20170606_121433

The available recordings do not currently seem to cover all the descriptions in the literature.

It is likely that some calls have yet to be recorded and published (for example the single nasal ‘kek’ call described by Yong Ding Li op cit) but it is also possible that some of the different transcriptions in the literature are in fact referring to the same call.  Perhaps there are only 3 or 4 distinct vocalizations rather than 5 or 6?

Visual Media:

In the Internet Bird Collection there are 19 videos from 3 locations:  Kaeng Krachan National Park in Western Thailand, Singapore Botanic Gardens and Hindhede Nature Park Singapore.  They show adult and juvenile birds bathing, walking or preening.  There are also 6 photos – 3 from Singapore, 2 from Thailand and 1 from India.

SBG

{Image 2: Adult and juvenile at Singapore Botanic Gardens 26th Feb 2014.  By Francis Yap}

On the Oriental Bird Images database of the Oriental Bird Club there are 25 photos – 14 from Singapore (of 3 to 4 different birds), 6 from Thailand and 4 from Malaysia.  One of the images from Singapore taken by Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong in February 2006 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens shows an adult bird with a fat worm in its beak.

The 4 images from Malaysia are a series of photos of a roadkill bird taken by Amar-Singh HSS in Ipoh, Perak.  They are probably the best available set of images showing plumage details and reproduced below with the kind permission of the photographer.

unnamed (4)unnamed (3)unnamed (2)

Sightings:On the Singapore Birds Project website, there are 6 images and on the Singapore Birds website there are a further 2.  Of these 7 are from the Singapore Botanic Gardens and one from Lorong Halus.

A review of the records on eBird over the past 10 years shows the following number of sightings:

Vietnam – 1, Cambodia – 1, Thailand – 11, Peninsular Malaysia – 8, Malaysian Borneo – 8, Indonesia – 4, Myanmar- 0, Philippines – 0.

Such low numbers would indicate rarity (said to be the case in Vietnam and Cambodia) and/or difficulty of location and observation (inaccessibility of preferred habitat/shy and unobtrusive nature of the species) and/or lack of observers (although Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia have good numbers of contributors to eBird).

However, the situation in Singapore is very different – for the first four months of 2017 there are 25 eBird records of probably 15-18 different individuals from Sungei Buloh, Kranji Marshes, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Hindhede Nature Park (including a high count of 5 by Martin Kennewell), Macritchie Reservoir Park, Venus Loop and Singapore Botanic Gardens.  This would indicate that this species in Singapore is neither rare nor especially difficult to locate.

We can summarise the gaps in our knowledge of this species as follows:

  1. Appearance: Plumage and physical differences between male and female are not well described. It may be that there are insufficient consistent differences to make field identification of the sexes reliable.  There are now a number of good images of juvenile birds which were not available to Taylor and van Perlo but the plumage of immature birds is still not well understood – some images available show very grey adult-sized individuals – are these young birds?
  2. Movements: It is not fully understood to what extent they are migratory and dispersive.
  3. Habits: To what extent is this species nocturnal or crepuscular or diurnal?
  4. Social and Sexual Behaviour: No information.
  5. Breeding: – No information on nests or nesting habits
  6. Population Trend: No information
  7. Food and Feeding: No information
  8. Voice: Number of distinct vocalisations not clear in the literature. Insufficient number of published recordings to clarify this.

Some new information:

Three recent encounters with this species in Singapore can help to start filling in the gaps:

  1. On 24th March 2017 I came across 2 adult birds foraging in damp leaf litter amongst rotting logs in Hindhede Nature Park, Singapore at 17.30. I was able to observe them for approximately 10 minutes. During this time they remained silent and there was no significant physical interaction between the two birds.  One bird had slightly lighter patches on the crown and side of the head and seemed to have a slightly shorter bill than the other.  They walked very slowly amongst the leaf litter, they did not peck repeatedly or scratch with their feet.  From time-to-time each bird would lower their head, peer down between the leaves and come up with a thin grey worm about 8-10cm long which was quickly swallowed. During the period of observation each bird caught approximately 5 worms.  No other food was seen to be taken.  It is possible they were feeling vibrations through their feet.

This observation coupled with the photo of a bird feeding on a worm in Singapore Botanic Gardens in 2009 by Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong confirms that earthworms make up a part of the Red-Legged Crake’s diet.  Their activity also accords with the description given on the Singapore Birds Project website: “Forages by carefully walking through wet areas of secondary growth and forest, and picking up food items with its bill from the wet ground and leaf litter.”

  1. On 26th March 2017 I came across a Red-Legged Crake calling with the ‘advertising’ call at 19.00 on the Petai Trail in Macritchie Reservoir Park, Singapore. The bird was in damp undergrowth in an area of secondary forest about 3m from the boardwalk which runs along the edge of the reservoir.  I was able to locate the bird briefly by sight to confirm the identification.

I began recording and noticed that the call was being answered by another bird                 concealed in emergent vegetation at the water’s edge on the other side of the                        boardwalk. I was unable to locate the second bird by sight.

The reply call was one I had not heard before.  It might be described as a low-                     pitched sharp exhalation of breath – it does not seem to fit any of the descriptions in        the literature.

girr

This calling and answering continued for approximately two minutes after which the first bird continued calling alone.  After 3 minutes 24 seconds of recording the first bird made a loud sharp squealing note (describe as a ‘sharp hiccup’ by some observers) followed by a descending girrrrrr call lasting 4.5 seconds.  As this call finishes the second bird makes the same 2 calls of approximately the same duration but at a higher pitch (see extract from Sonogram page 5 above).

After this the birds were silent. From the increasing volume of the calls it was clear that the birds were gradually moving towards each other.  Owing to the lack of light and the density of the undergrowth I was unable to confirm by sight if they encountered each other.  The recording is available on xeno-canto.org No: XC366445 and can be listed to here. (double-click on icon) (There are some sudden changes of volume in the recording as I had to turn the microphone through 180-degrees to record each bird).

  • embedded mp3 file)
  • Link to xeno-canto recording with sonogram)

http://www.xeno-canto.org/366445/embed?simple=1

It is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from this recording other than it adds a third distinct vocalization to the two already covered by the currently available recordings.  This third vocalization may or may not be one of those described by the authors cited above.

As there are distinct differences between the vocalizations made by each bird it is certainly possible that this was an encounter between a male and female and may be behaviour associated with the breeding season for this species.

  1. On 16th May 2017 nest-building was observed in Singapore (location not disclosed to avoid disturbance). The nest was constructed on the ground under a small plant.  The materials used seemed to be exclusively dried leaves collected from the ground.  One bird collected the materials and carried them to the nest location where the second bird (probably the female) tucked them under itself. A single white egg was seen.

Suggestions for further study:

It seems likely that Singapore is the best place to improve our knowledge of this species as there are several easily-accessible locations where they can found with a reasonable degree of certainty.

They have been recorded at: Bishan Park, Bukit Batok Nature Park, Bukit Brown, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Hindhede Nature Park, Kranji Marshes, Lorong Halus, Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, Gardens by the Bay, Mount Faber, Nee Soon Swamp Forest, Pulau Ubin, Punggol, Sembawang, Sime Forest, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore Zoo, Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, Tyersall Woods and Venus Drive Trails.  This wide range of locations demonstrates that although considered primarily as a forest-dweller it is not restricted to old growth and does visit disturbed and newly-created habitats.

  1. Status: In Singapore the Red-Legged Crake is classified as an Uncommon Resident Breeder / Winter Visitor.  To what extent is the resident population in Singapore supplemented by migrants?  Annual censuses are not going to help establish this.  We need year-round recording of occurrence to see if the population significantly increases for a certain part of the year.  There are probably too few observers contributing to eBird in Singapore at the moment but increased use of this tool (even for simple one-off sightings) would be the quickest way of getting this data.  Over the long term this can also be used to establish population trends.
  2. Movements: To what extent do they range around Singapore?  It is my experience that some birds are to be regularly found in the same quite small area but is this true for the whole year?  This more accurate positional data can be recorded on and extracted from eBird.
  3. Habits: Is it mainly nocturnal or just crepuscular or is it often active during the day (perhaps when feeding young)?  Nearly all of my encounters have been between 5.30pm and 7.30pm (with only 2 early in the morning) but looking at the images available it is clear that many of them were taken during full daylight hours (for example Francis Yap’s photos above were taken at 11.52am and 10.24am respectively) and we also have a recording of a bird calling at 09.30am.  Perhaps the birds often seen in daylight at the Singapore Botanic Gardens are very much the exception?
  4. Appearance: New photos (especially of two birds together) and the study of the existing images available would help define any significant differences between the sexes and to better describe juvenile birds.  Singapore has a large bird photography community and there are no doubt many unpublished images which could be collated and studied.
  5. Food and Feeding: Descriptions of feeding behaviour and photos/videos of them feeding would be very valuable.
  6. Breeding Behaviour: Descriptions of courtship behaviour, dates of appearance of juveniles.  The breeding birds at Singapore Botanic Gardens provide us with a good opportunity to start collecting this information
  7. Vocalisations: The current dataset is small but can be studied in more detail to analyze frequencies and time intervals for the various calls.  This may lead to the ability to distinguish between male and female birds.

As mentioned by some authors this species tends to call more frequently after rain and this is also my experience so visits after rain to look for recording opportunities are more likely to be fruitful.  It is clear that calls are frequently made at dusk and one recording by Yong Ding Li confirms they call at night but currently we lack any recordings to confirm that this species calls at dawn and, when they do, what calls they make.  Do they call all year-round?  Currently there are no recordings for December, January and February.  More recordings are needed.  It is easy to load these on to xeno-canto and make them publicly available.

The author would welcome any contributions of photos, audio recordings, sight records, behavioural descriptions and offers of collaboration from the Singapore birding community to help the further study of this species.

marcel finlay

 Singapore, May 2017

Email: marcorovetti@btinternet.com

Thanks to Francis Yap and Amar-Singh HSS for kind permission to use their photos, Seng Beng Yeo for the nesting information and to Lim Kim Chuah and Alan Owyong for their assistance.

References: 

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

‘Notes on the Distribution and Vocalizations of the Red-Legged Crake (Rallina fasciata) in Singapore’ – Singapore Avifauna Volume 23 No 4 (Nature Society Singapore Bird Group, 2009)

A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea – Sulawesi, The Moluccas and Lessa Sunda Islands, Indonesia by Brian J. Coates and K. David Bishop.  (Dove, 1997).

Birds of Myanmar by Kyaw Nyunt Lwin and Khin Ma Ma Thwin (Silkworm Books, 2003)

Rails – A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World’ by Barry Taylor and Ber van Perlo (Pica Press, 1998)

Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore by Lim Kim Seng. (Nature Society (Singapore), 2007)

Birds of East Asia by Mark Brazil. (Christopher Helm, 2009)

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore by Morten Strange (Periplus, 2002)

Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson (New Holland, 2005)

A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand by Craig Robson (Bloomsbury, 2016)

Field Guide to the Birds of Borneo by Quentin Phillipps and Karen Phillipps (John Beaufoy Publishing, 2011)

www.Birdlife.org – Species datasheets.

www.eBird.org – species distribution maps

www.xeno-canto.org – voice recordings

www.avibase.com – summary of available voice recordings

www.avocet.com     voice recordings

www.hbwalive.com – (online version of Handbook of the Birds of the World by Lynx Edicions) – general species data

www.nparks.gov.sg – (Singapore bird checklist)

https://singaporebirds.com – (species info page)

https://singaporebirds.blogspot.sg  – (species info page)

 

Singapore Bird Report-April 2017 Part II Residents

April is the breeding season for most of our resident species in Singapore. They were also more active and visible. We received a fair share of sightings from the forests to the wetlands and from parks to grasslands

Starting at Pulau Ubin, Lim Kim Chuah and Adrian Silas Tay both found the rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea on 1st and 2nd respectively. Excellent find as the population at P. Hantu had gone missing. Also on the 2nd, Keita Sin reported a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl near to the old resort. Good to know they are doing well in Ubin. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megarhyncha were particularly vocal at this time of the year. James Tan had a field day on 29th and came back with some great images.

Mangrove Pitta James Tann

Mangrove Pitta, our resident pitta photographed at Pulau Ubin by James Tann.

Kranji Marshes was also a good site for picking up some uncommon residents this month. A Plantive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus by Rob Arnold on 3rd, Little Terns Sternula albifrons  throughout the month and House Swifts Apus nipalensis on 29th (both by Martin Kennewell), an adult male Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus by Subha and Raghav on 14th.

Cinnamon Bittern Subha and Raghav

Adult male Cinnamon Bittern photographed at Kranji Marshes by Raghav Narayanswamy.

But the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the buffer nature parks serve up the most resident sightings this month. At BTNR summit, Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta on 6th (Martin Kennewell). This species has been split and accepted by the IOC.  Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the forest specialists Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris and Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra there on 14th.  A Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivigatus was reported at the Lower Pierce Reservoir on 22nd by Marcel Finlay. Two juvenile Sunda Scops Owls Otus lempiji were roosting next to the playground at Hindhede Nature Park on 11th (Siew Mun), while Martin Kennewell had a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus there on 14th.  The pair of Brown Hawk Owls Ninox scutulata were still around Petai Trail on 20th according to Marcel Finlay. He also found a pair of Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata at Hindhede on 21st and 24th. Felix Wong and his wife while on a walk at the newly opened Windsor Nature Park, came across a family of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana with the adults feeding its young. A good record of this secretive sunbird feeding its young.

Red Wattled Lapwing James Tann

Red-wattled Lapwings are doing well and spreading across the island. Photo; James Tann

Our parks and gardens continued to attract many of the forest edge species. A pair of Brown Hawk Owls was discovered by Art Toh at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 6th, seen again on 13th by Richard White. This is the fourth resident owl species found at the SBG. Marcel Finlay found some Asian Palm Swifts Cypsiurus balasiensis over the Eco Lake at SBG on 23rd. Back to the owls, he reported the Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo returning to Bishan Park on 8th. He had seen them there in 2012 and 2015. Two males and one female Violet Cuckoos were present at the Jurong Eco Garden on 15th (Adrian Silas Tay). They stayed around for a few days much to the delight of many photographers.

Violet Cuckoo Terence Tan

Violet Cuckoo male at Jurong Eco Gardens. Photo: Terence Tan. Our resident population is supplemented by some wintering birds.

More House Swifts, this time about 6 birds flying over the canopy walk at Kent Ridge Park on 16th (Alan OwYong). This population may be roosting at the old bungalows along Kent Ridge Road. An interesting find was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax photographed by Art Toh at the Pond at Jurong Eco Garden on 23rd. Lee Kai Chong commented on facebook that this juvenile came from the Jurong Bird Bird which is close by.

BCNH Art Toh

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron at JEG. Photo: Art Toh.

Other notable sightings includes a dead Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus that crashed into Yew Tee Community Center on 2nd (Timothy Chua), three Javan Munias Lonchura leucogastroides  at downtown Parkview Square on 5th (Alan OwYong), more Glossy Swiftlets at Lakeview Estate on 14th and three Little Terns returning to the Sport Hub’s Marshes on 20th (both by Marcel Finlay). We had several nesting records but the only one we can report was James Tann’s report of the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus at a restricted site at Chua Chu Kang on 15th.

References:

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.

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. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to James Tann, Raghav Narayanswamy, Terence Tan and Art Toh for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Bird Report- April 2017. Part 1 Winter Visitors.

We are still getting lots of late migrants passing through this month like the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, that crashed into a block of flat at Simei Street 5 on 3rd (Low Choon How). This set a new late date for this rare flycatcher.

JPFC Choon How-001

Rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher that crashed into a flat at Simei. Photo: Low Choon How.

Another rare flycatcher was a female Green-backed Ficedula elisae photographed at the CCNR on 6th by Lim Kim Seng. An uncommon Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki was reported by Martin Kennewell at Hindhede NP on the 14th. Martin also had a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia from Kranji Marshes on 1st.

Kranji Marshes was again the top site for our winter visitors this month.

Other good finds include a Large-hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides on 1st (Richard White), another hawk cuckoo, a Hodgson’s H. niscolor on 2nd (Con Foley), both at Bidadari, a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda West Coast Park photographed by Johnson Chua on 4th. Lim Kim Keang found one there last November 6th. Could this be the same Kingfisher? Johnson also photographed a lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus there the next day. This sub species is rarely seen here as its normal wintering range is in Taiwan and the Philippines.

Brown Shrike Johnson Chua

A lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike photographed at West Coast Park                              by Johnson Chua. Very similar to the adult Tiger Shrike.

A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka flew into a corridor at One-North Residences on 6th (Alan OwYong) and a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans from Jelutong Tower on 7th (Marcel Finlay) with another Crow-billed Drongo crashing into an office building at Jurong Island on 18th (Lim Kim Chuah). It managed to recover and flew off by itself. A Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported at the Petai Trail from 7th to 20th by Marcel Finlay. Hard to tell if this is our resident race or not.

Javan Pond Heron Choon How

Javan Pond Heron in early breeding plumage at Lorong Halus by Low Choon How.

Other notable visitors were three Ashy Minivets Pericocotus divaricatus and late Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica seen flying over Kranji Marshes on 1st by Martin Kennewell. Around the ponds, Martin reported that the Black-capped Kingfisher H. pileata was still enjoying the sun on 8th and 19th.  Wagtails were also reported at their respective habitats. Eastern Yellow Motacilla tschutschensis at Kranji Marshes until the 16th (Martin Kennewell) and Forest Dendronanthus indicus at Admiralty Park on 9th (Vincent Lao) and Lower Pierce on 15th and 16th (Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay).

Forest Wagtail Vincent Lao

Forest Wagtail on a tarmac walkway at Admiralty Park. Photo: Vincent Lao

Pittas were still coming through and crashing into our buildings. Three different Blue-wingeds Pitta moluccensis were reported on 14th from Kranji Marshes and a Hooded P. sordida from Hindhede both by Martin Kennewell. The one that crashed near to the Commonwealth MRT station on 21st was a Hooded as well (Adrian Silas Tay).

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A Grey Nightjar resting at a flower bed at One-North Residences. Alan OwYong.

Other interesting winter visitors reported were a white morph Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi along Dairy Farm Loop on 17th ( Tony James),  Siberian Blue Robin Luscina cyane along Petai Trail on 19th (Marcel Finlay) and two Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola at Kranji Marshes on 29th (Martin Kennewell).  A returning Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus was seen at DFNP on 14th (Martin Kennewell) and another adult at Jurong Eco Garden on 17th (Siew Mun).

Tiger Shrike Siew Mun

Adult Tiger Shrike photographed at Jurong Eco Garden by Siew Mun.

A few wader and waterbird sightings to report. A Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa at Lorong Halus on 4th (Low Choon How) and maybe the same bird at Farmway 3 on 6th (Lim Kim Seng). A Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola at Kranji Marshes on 8th (Martin Kennewell) and another at Marina Barrage on 16th by Keita Sin. This could be our first record of this fresh water wader at this breakwaters. Frankie Cheong reported a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage at Pulau Tekong on 8th. This is our most reliable site for this globally threatened species. Two Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea at the old Grebe pond at Lorong Halus on 7th (Lim Kim Seng). Johnson Chua photographed  an adult male Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus lurking at the Flamingo enclosure at the Jurong Bird Park on 12th. This is presumed to be a wild bird as it had no rings on its feet.

Chinese Egret Frankie Cheong

Chinese Egret at its favorite site at Pulau Tekong. Photo Frankie Cheong 

See Toh Yew Wai and friends took two boats out to the Straits of Singapore on 29th to check on the seabirds that were on their way back north. They came back with the second sighting of the Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, a record 26 Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris, two Jaegers, Long-tailed Stercorarius longicaudus and Parasitic S. parasiticus and a few Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus among others. A very productive outing. Some of these sightings may not be in Singapore waters.

Short-tailed Shearwater Wong Lee Hiong

A low flying Short-tailed Shearwater photographed at the Straits of Singapore by Wong Lee Hong. A record 26 of these shearwaters were seen on that day.

References:

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 Bird Society of Japan

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. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records especially Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay for their personal lists. Many thanks to LJohnson Chua, Low Choon How, Vincent Lao, Alan OwYong,  Siew Mun, Frankie Cheong and Wong Lee Hong for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

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.

A T Tree 1

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

A T Tree 7

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.

A T Tree 2

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.
scarlet-minivet-panti-2014-08-10-5l5a4740
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.

amur-falcon-161216-seletar-dam-yip-peng-sun

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