Category Archives: Bird Survey and Census

8th Annual Parrot Count 2018

8th Annual Parrot Count 2018

Authors: Albert Low and Alan OwYong

Introduction

The World Parrot Count was initiated eight years ago by Michael Braun and Roelant Jonker from the parrot researchers’ group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU). A key objective of the study was to document the status and abundance of feral and non-native parrots in urban environments globally where populations are established. Being part of this study provides an excellent opportunity for us to also monitor native parrot abundance and diversity in Singapore beyond our nature reserves. Given that some species such as the non-native Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) have increased in abundance across Singapore, it is also timely to identify areas where these species are concentrated and their roost sites.

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Results and Conclusions

Coordinated annually by the Bird Group since 2011, this year’s Parrot Count took place on 24 February 2018. 11 sites across mainland Singapore were counted this year. This year’s total of 1,770 parrots of 9 species was much lower than the 2,621 parrots of 9 species recorded last year.

This year, the site with the highest species richness was Bukit Brown Cemetery with a total of six species of parrot recorded including an escapee Red Lory (Eos bornea). The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) was the most numerous parrot recorded during the count, with a total of 899 individuals seen, making up 50.8% of all parrots recorded during the count. However, this was a significant decrease from 2017’s total of 1,521 individuals, the 1,837 individuals in 2016 and the high count of 2,059 observed in 2015. 738 Red-breasted Parakeets were also recorded, making up the bulk (41.7%) of the remaining parrots recorded. Other species recorded include small numbers of Tanimbar Corellas (Cacatua goffiniana), Coconut Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots (Loriculus galgulus) and Yellow-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea).

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During the census, parrot numbers peaked between 7 pm and 7.30 pm where 965 parrots were counted.  The largest parakeet flocks mainly arrive at last light, with counters at many sites managing to observe the noisy spectacle of flocks of parakeets returning to their roosting trees just before complete darkness.

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Of particular interest is the significant decline in the total number of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded during this year’s count. Despite similar weather conditions to last year and no visible changes to existing counting sites, the large flocks of Long-tailed Parakeets that stage and roost around Yishun appear to have disappeared from the area. While this is undoubtedly a cause for concern, equally unusual was the unexpected appearance of large numbers of Long-tailed Parakeets at counting sites in western Singapore. Counters at Clementi and Jurong West, roosting sites that traditionally supported only Red-breasted Parakeets, reported more than a hundred (in the case of Jurong West 462!) Long-tailed Parakeets roosting alongside their Red-breasted counterparts (Table 1).

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This is the first time in the count’s eight year history that large flocks of both parakeet species have been recorded roosting together at certain urban roost sites, seemingly disproving the hypothesis that urban parakeet roosts in Singapore were segregated by species. It is unclear whether the decline in Long-tailed Parakeet numbers around Yishun and their appearance at previously unused roosting sites in Western Singapore are linked. However, it shows that the roosting behaviour of Singapore’s urban-adapted parakeets are potentially very fluid in a constantly changing urban landscape. As such, it wouldn’t be surprising to find that Yishun’s parakeet flocks may also have shifted to new staging and roosting sites, potentially in adjacent areas such as Sembawang. It is hoped that birdwatchers will continue to report parakeet roosts within their neighbourhoods, so that a more complete picture of Singapore’s urban parakeet population can be obtained and unusual observations in roosting ecology documented through regular surveys such as this count.

Acknowledgements

On behalf of the Bird Group, we would like to thank the following for their willingness to carry out parrot monitoring on a weekend evening – Site Leaders: Anuj Jain, Yong Ding Li, Winston Chong, Lim Kim Keang, Lee Ee Ling, Jane Rogers, Nessie Khoo, Marcel Finlay, Ng Bee Choo, Morten Strange, Angus Lamont, and Richard White. Assisting Counters: Florence Ipert, Ernest Lee, Hui Choo, Alex Lim, Joyce Ang, Heather Pong, Kelly Ng, Yen Ting, Carmen Choong, Yanna Graham, Lee Whye Guan, and Tang Zhe. Finally we also thank Roelant and Michael for inviting us to be part of this study.

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NSS Blue and Green Survey 22 Feb 2018

The Nature Society (Singapore) is conducting monthly Marine, Bird and Plant surveys along the North West coast and around the Southern Islands of Singapore. The Blue and Green Alliance between Raffles Marina and Nature Society ( Singapore) is a long standing and significant partnership for the cause of nature protection. We are grateful to Raffles Marina for their continued support and look forward to exciting initiatives together as we celebrate IYOR2018. We started off with the first survey on 22 Feb 2018 on board Lady Olivia, a 38 footer Grand Banks from Raffles Marina.

NSS Blue and White Survey 22 Feb 2018Part of the NSS Survey Team. From left Stephen Beng, Davy Koh, Alan OwYong, Lester Tan and Ong Shean Boon. Photo: Ong Shean Boon and Raffles Marina.

The route covered the coast of the newly reclaimed land slated for the development of the mega Tuas Port across south of Jurong Island towards Pulau Samakau ending at Pulau Jong. We made a stop over at Pulau Hantu on the way back.

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Mega shipyards for VLCC and oil rigs are already operating off the reclaimed land at Tuas.

We were off to a great start with the sighting of a Great-billed Heron feeding off beach next to Raffles Marina. I have seen this heron there in the early 2000s, the first record of this species in the northern part of Singapore.

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Pleased to find this Great-billed Heron feeding off the beach next to Raffles Marina.

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This patch of Casuarinas in the middle of the Tuas reclaimed land will be a migrant trap come September. Had to find a way to get in there, legally of course.

In all we recorded 20 species and one unidentified raptor. The highlight was the Mangrove Whistler at Pulau Hantu. It had gone missing for the past few years. So it was great to see it back at Hantu. The surprise was that we did not see a single tern or shorebird during the trip.

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Good to see the return of the Mangrove Whistler to Pulau Hantu. Only one bird was seen. (Photo: Lester Tan.)

Three more Great-billed Herons were recorded, two off Pulau Salu, where we hope to reconnect with the long lost Beach Stone-Curlew.

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One of the two Great-billed Herons seen off Pulau Salu where the last Beach Stone-curlew held out until 1999.

Terebu Bembang Besar

The highest one day count for the Great-billed Herons at the Southern Islands was 12 by NSSBG on 10.1.1999.  Like most herons, they skimmed the sea surface like this heron off Terebu Bembang Besar.

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Pulau Jong stood out like an emerald isle north of the Western Anchorage. Very little surveys were done here. Hoping to find some rare plants or animals.

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Interesting find on Pulau Jong was this pair of Large-billed Crows. We saw them flying off to Semakau most probably to scavenge on whatever is left from the incinerated garbage.

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Stephen Beng and Davy Koh surveying the reefs off Pulau Jong. 

 Tigertail Seahorse (Hippocampus comes) and Gorgonian Fan Coral ( Gorgonia flabellum). (Photos by Stephen Beng.)

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Lester Tan looking for signs of animal footprints, crabs and rare plants on Pulau Jong. He reported seeing lots of small fishes in the shallow waters and Hermit Crabs on the beach.

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Close up of the coastal vegetation on Pulau Jong. Does anyone know which species of Pandanus is this?

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Hermit Crabs on Pulau Jong ( Photo: Lester Tan).

Checklist of Birds seen on 22 Feb 2018 from Raffles Marina to Pulau Jong
Species              No
Barn Swallow  30+
Swiftlet spp      20+
Javan Myna     15
Spotted Dove   11
Scaly-breasted Munia 8
House Crow     7
Brahminy Kite 6
Grey Heron      6
Great-billed Heron  4
Intermediate Egret  4
Collared Kingfisher 3
White-bellied Sea-eagle   3
Brown-throated Sunbird 3
Black-naped Oriole 3
Striated Heron 2
Large-billed Crow 2
Black-winged Kite 2
Yellow-vented Bulbul 2
Little Egret 1
Mangrove Whistler 1
Unid Raptor 1

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

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

 

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census by Lim Kim Chuah

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census (FMBC) took place in the morning of 22nd October 2017. 58 counters took part and 26 sites were counted. Weather was quite variable throughout the sites surveyed ranging from partly cloudy and overcast to sunny. It rained in some places towards the end of the count.

In all, 138 species totaling 5,306 birds were counted. The total number of birds counted was disappointing and the number was the lowest counted in the 14-year history of the FMBC.

On a brighter note, this census shows that Singapore remains an important stronghold for the vulnerable Straw-headed Bulbul. 49 birds were counted with more than half from Pulau Ubin. Pulau Ubin also proves to be an important site for another globally threatened species, the White-rumped Shama with most of the 16 birds counted coming from Pulau Ubin.

34 species of true migrants were counted totaling 1019 birds. This represents 35% of total species counted and 19% of total number of birds counted.

TOTAL BIRDS AND SPECIES COUNTED

In all, 138 species of birds were recorded consisting of 5,306 birds. If unidentified birds (including swiftlets) are added, the total was 5810 birds.

In terms of species, the total of 138 species was close to the 14-year average of 135. However, the total birds counted of 5,306 (compared to the average of 7,226) was the lowest recorded in the 14-year history of FMBC. Also noted was the disturbing decreasing trend of birds counted during the last two editions of the census – 5,416 in 2015 and 5,314 in 2016 (see chart).

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One of the possible reasons for the low number counted this year could be the big drop in the number of birds counted in one of the key wader sites, Sungei Mandai. Only 316 birds were counted compared to the average of 1,138. One possible reason is that most of the mudflat at Sungei Mandai was covered by algae and this probably limit the amount of mudflat for the waders to forage.

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TOP 20 BIRDS

The top spot for the most number of birds counted went to the Asian Glossy Starling (663) and this was closely followed by the Javan Myna (645). Whimbrel was the most numerous migrant counted.

POS SPECIES 2017 SPECIES 2016
1 Asian Glossy Starling 663 Lesser Sand Plover 829
2 Javan Myna** 645 Javan Myna** 612
3 Whimbrel 299 Asian Glossy Starling 472
4 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 274 Pacific Golden Plover 364
5 Spotted Dove 158 Whimbrel 215
6 Yellow-vented Bulbul 156 Yellow-vented Bulbul 177
7 Common Redshank 139 Black-naped Oriole 166
8 Black-naped Oriole 137 Common Redshank 163
9 House Crow 128 Spotted Dove 155
10 Grey Heron## 126 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 121
11 Rock Dove 106 Rock Dove 114
12 Red-breasted Parakeet* 99 Long-tailed Parakeet* 88
13 Little Egret 91 Eurasian Tree Sparrow 87
14 Daurian Starling 83 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 86
15 Olive-backed Sunbird 83 House Crow 81
16 Long-tailed Parakeet* 80 Zebra Dove 75
17 Pacific Swallow 70 Olive-backed Sunbird 68
18 Pacific Golden Plover 63 Common Iora 63
19 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 60 Pacific Swallow 61
20 Collared Kingfisher 59 Common Greenshank 50

The top bird counted for 2016, the Lesser Sand Plover was conspicuously absent from the top 20 birds. Only 3 birds were counted during the census. Another observation is the notable decrease in the number of Pacific Golden Plover counted, falling from position 4 (364 birds) last year to 18 (63 birds). Pacific Golden Plover is typically featured among the top 10 birds in most years (see chart). The chart also shows a decreasing trend since 2004.

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SITE COUNTS

A total of 26 sites were surveyed. This is comparable to the 14-year average of 25 sites.

The site with the most number of birds counted was Pasir Ris Park with 406 birds counted. This is closely followed by Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Route 1 (394) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Route 2 (389).

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The diversity of habitats at Kranji Marsh, Kranji Dam and Pasir Ris Park prove to be attractive for many species of birds and these three sites ended with the most number of bird species recorded. Kranji Marsh took top spot with a whopping 76 species, followed by Kranji Dam (51 species) and Pasir Ris Park (48 species).

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Abbreviation for site:

 

SBG Singapore Botanic Garden KRM Kranji Marsh SIM Sime Track SER Serangoon
FAB Mount Faber KRD Kranji dam MCP Malcolm Park PRP Pasir Ris Park
TBH Telok Blangah Hill Park MAN Sg Mandai BSP Bishan Park UBW Ubin West
KRP Kent Ridge Park BBW Bkt Batok West USR Upper Seletar Reservoir Park UBC Ubin Central
POY Poyan BBP Bkt Batok Nature Park LSD Lower Seletar Dam UBE Ubin East
SB1 Sg Buloh Route 1 BTR Bkt Timah Nature Reserve SBP Sembawang Park
SB2 Sg Buloh Route 2 DFP Dairy Farm Nature Park HAL Lor Halus

This year’s census proved rather disappointing with low number of birds counted. Hopefully this is just a blip and not a continuing trend.

This census would not have been possible without the support and participation from many volunteers. We would like to thank and acknowledge the contributions from the following leaders and volunteers:

Bey Swee Hua, Richard Carden, Alfred Chia, Sandra Chia, Andrew Chow, Lena Chow, Fadzrun Adnan, Con Foley, Amuary Gassiot, Veronica Foo, Terry and Jane Heppell, Constance Huges-Treherne, Jian Wei, Atsuko Kawasaki, Kenneth Kee, Julienne Kee, Martin Kennerwell, Susan Knight, Nessie Khoo, Esther Kong, Eunice Kong, Danny Lau, Lee Chuin Ming, Lee Ee Ling, Jimmy Lee, Geraldine Lee, Lee Whye Gwan, David Li, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng, Lim Yan Ting, Lin Chee Wei, Patricia Lorenz, Melpa, Merrill, Alvin Seng, Steven Shields, Sng Bee Bee, Keita Sin, John Spencer, Tan Bee Lan, Tan Kok Hui, Teo Hui Min, George Presanis, Twang Fang Qi, Wai Jack Sin, Wan Xuan,, Wee Sau Cheng, Wing Ching How, Wing Chong, Wong Chun Cheong, Woo Lai Choo, Yang Pah Liang, Yan Jiejun, Yong Yik Shih, Yong Jun Zer

APPENDIX

Total species and number counted (2004-17)

Year # of species # of birds # of sites
2004 135 8035 25
2005 134 5825 18
2006 142 7386 25
2007 134 7159 25
2008 142 7343 26
2009 119 7381 23
2010 137 9556 30
2011 144 8486 25
2012 135 7846 30
2013 123 7837 25
2014 152 8280 25
2015 124 5416 22
2016 126 5314 20
2017 138 5306 26
Avg 135 7226 25
Std Dev 8.8 1259 3
Min 119 5306 18
Max 152 9556 30

List of birds counted on 22nd October 2017:

POS SPECIES SUM POS SPECIES SUM
1 Asian Glossy Starling 663 56 White-crested Laughingthrush 20
2 Javan Myna** 645 57 Crimson Sunbird 20
3 Whimbrel 299 58 Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker 19
4 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 274 59 Common Hill Myna# 19
5 Spotted Dove 158 60 Oriental Pied Hornbill## 17
6 Yellow-vented Bulbul 156 61 Malaysian Pied Fantail 17
7 Common Redshank 139 62 Pied Triller 16
8 Black-naped Oriole 137 63 White-rumped Shama## 16
9 House Crow 128 64 Baya Weaver 16
10 Grey Heron## 126 65 Red-wattled Lapwing## 15
11 Rock Dove 106 66 Laced Woodpecker 15
12 Red-breasted Parakeet* 99 67 Changeable Hawk-Eagle## 14
13 Little Egret 91 68 Grey Plover 13
14 Daurian Starling 83 69 Purple Heron## 12
15 Olive-backed Sunbird 83 70 Stork-billed Kingfisher 12
16 Long-tailed Parakeet* 80 71 Banded Woodpecker 12
17 Pacific Swallow 70 72 Brown Shrike 11
18 Pacific Golden Plover 63 73 Yellow-bellied Prinia 10
19 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 60 74 Common Kingfisher 9
20 Collared Kingfisher 59 75 Rufous Woodpecker 9
21 Common Greenshank 58 76 Red-rumped Swallow 8
22 Oriental White-eye 56 77 Oriental Magpie-Robin## 8
23 White-breasted Waterhen 54 78 Copper-throated Sunbird# 8
24 Barn Swallow 52 79 Japanese Sparrowhawk 7
25 Ashy Tailorbird 52 80 Golden-bellied Gerygone 7
26 Striated Heron 50 81 Asian Fairy-bluebird# 7
27 Zebra Dove 49 82 Paddyfield Pipit 7
28 Straw-headed Bulbul##** 49 83 Western Osprey 6
29 Red Junglefowl## 46 84 Crested Honey Buzzard 6
30 Common Flameback 46 85 Whiskered Tern 6
31 Common Sandpiper 44 86 Pied Imperial Pigeon 6
32 Blue-tailed Bee-eater 43 87 Large-billed Crow 6
33 Olive-winged Bulbul 43 88 Lesser Coucal 5
34 Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 42 89 Pacific Swift 5
35 Scaly-breasted Munia 42 90 Little Grebe## 4
36 Brahminy Kite 37 91 Intermediate Egret 4
37 Blue-throated Bee-eater 37 92 Oriental Reed Warbler 4
38 Dark-necked Tailorbird 37 93 Abbott’s Babbler 4
39 Common Iora 36 94 Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 4
40 Asian Koel 35 95 Orange-bellied Flowerpecker 4
41 Arctic Warbler 33 96 Chestnut Munia 4
42 Lineated Barbet 32 97 Grey Wagtail 4
43 Coppersmith Barbet 32 98 Black-winged Kite 3
44 Common Tailorbird 30 99 Slaty-breasted Rail 3
45 Brown-throated Sunbird 30 100 Lesser Sand Plover 3
46 Eurasian Tree Sparrow 30 101 Wood Sandpiper 3
47 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 27 102 Little Bronze Cuckoo 3
48 Lesser Whistling Duck## 26 103 Tanimbar Corella* 3
49 Oriental Dollarbird 23 104 Long-tailed Shrike 3
50 White-throated Kingfisher 23 105 Cream-vented Bulbul# 3
51 Rose-ringed Parakeet 22 106 Little Spiderhunter 3
52 Common Myna 22 107 Yellow Bittern 2
53 White-bellied Sea Eagle 21 108 Eastern Cattle Egret 2
54 Asian Brown Flycatcher 21 109 Great-billed Heron## 2
55 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot ## 20 110 Great Egret 2

 

 

32nd Annual Bird Census 2017

32nd Annual Bird Census. 

Compiled by Lim Kim Chuah.

PG Plover

This year only 73 Pacific Golden Plovers were counted ( 65 at Mandai and 8 at SBWR) compared to 522 last year. It is the lowest since 1990.  See chart below. Is this a blip or signs of habitat deterioration? We hope that these bird censuses and counts will provide the answers.

The 32nd Annual Bird Census was held on on 5 March 2017. The weather was generally good and the count went well for the 23 sites surveyed. This is one site less than the 24 sites that were counted in 2016. Sites not counted this year included Lower Pierce Reservoir Park, Upper Seletar Reservoir Park, Ubin Central, Botanic Garden, Khatib Bongsu, Pasir Ris Park and Kranji Dam.

Bird-wise, we continue to see a disturbing trend in the reduction of number of birds counted. A total of 5682 birds was counted this year. This is a drop of 1056 birds (16%) compared to 2016 and 2888 birds (34%) below the past 28-year average count of 8471 birds. In terms of species counted, this year total of 138 is 4 species higher than 2016 but 11 species lower than the past 28-year average of 149 species. What could the reasons for this declining trend in both the number of birds and number of species counted? Possibilities included loss of habitats, declining population in migratory birds, etc. More work and data mining need to be done to ascertain the cause(s) of this decline.

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And how did the counts go at the 23 sites that were surveyed?

Kranji Marsh turned out to be the site with the most number of species of birds counted (72 species) followed by Poyan (55 species) and Malcolm Park (48 species). Kranji Marsh again proved to be a very important site as it registered the highest number of birds counted (582 birds). This is closely followed behind by Sungei Mandai (560 birds) and Malcolm Park (361 birds). It’s interesting that Malcolm Park, an urban park located close to the city recorded such high density and diversity of birds.

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And which are among the most numerous birds in Singapore? Well it’s hardly surprising that the title went to the ubiquitous Javan Myna, a bird that is ironically listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red list of threatened species. This is based on a rapidly declining population in its native wild range i.e. Java and Bali due to the cage bird trade.

The Javan Myna has consistently been counted among the top 4 birds (see chart). But the same cannot be said of its close cousin – the Common Myna whose fortune has continue to dip since the 90’s (see chart). Is it something to do with the rapid urbanization of Singapore? Or strong competition from the Javan Myna? Unfortunately, we do not have the answer.

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Comparing the Top 10 birds in 2016 and 2017, the species are similar except for the conspicuous absence of the Pacific Golden Plover in this year’s Top 10. This species is usually recorded in good numbers during the ABC especially from Sungei Mandai. This year, only 73 birds were counted – the lowest since 1990. Sungei Mandai recorded only 65 birds and another 8 at Sungei Buloh. Hopefully this blip is only temporary and not a sign of habitat deterioration at Sungei Mandai. But the annual declining trend seems to suggest that habitat deterioration may be one of the reasons.

Top 10 Birds in 2017 & 2016

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Counts of Pacific Golden Plover from 1990-2017:

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Finally, a BIG THANK You to all participants some of whom has repeatedly helped with the census through the years. This year’s participants included Con Foley, Danny Lau, Andrew Chow, Wing Chong, Lee Ee Ling, Veronica Foo, LKS, Mick Price, Willie Foo, Alan OwYong, Keita Sin, Terry Heppell, Jane Roger, Kenneth Kee, Margie Hall, Wee Sau Cheng, Low Choon How, Tan Kok Hui, Rob & Kim Arnold, Koh Ai Kiak, Mithilesh Mishra, Jane Heppell, Ian Rickword, Nessie Khoo, Pang Hui En, Martin Kennewell + 9 NUS students, Liana Knight Spencer and George Kinman, Yeo Seng Beng, James Tan, John Ogiev, Richard Wong, Carmen Hui, Lim Li Fang, Eunice Kong, Yong Junzer, Milton Tan and Koh Ai Kiak.

The ABC was started in the 1980’s by the late Clive Briffett. What started as a fun activity to get more people interested in birds has generated a treasure trove of data through the years. We acknowledge that there are inaccuracies in the data collected e.g. skill level of counters, changes to sites, number of sites, routes changes etc. But if we are to look for trends in the data and focus on the big picture, then the data could prove interesting and useful as an indicator of the state of the health of the avifauna in Singapore. Hence it is pertinent that the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) continue to organize such counts and continue to monitor the trend. We look forward to the continued support of all members and participants.

Table: Summary of results from each site.

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Pulau Ubin Commonest Birds Quest 2017

Pesta Ubin 2017

Pulau Ubin Commonest Birds Quest (CBQ) 2017

By Lim Kim Keang

 

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CBQ Co-ordinator Lim Kim Keang welcoming and briefing participants on the survey methods at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Yap Wee Jin.

INTRODUCTION

On 11 June 2017, the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group conducted the second survey to find out which were the commonest bird species on Pulau Ubin. This survey was organized in conjunction with Pesta Ubin which covered a 3-month period from May to July 2017.

METHOD

A total of 10 teams consisting of 10 leaders and 28 participants took part in this year’s CBQ. Areas in the west, central and eastern part of Pulau Ubin were covered. The routes included those in 2016 with additional routes to cover as much of the island as possible within the allocated time from 8.00 to 10.30 am. The good weather helped and all the teams completed their designated route in the allocated time.

The same MacKinnon bird listing method used in 2016 was again used this year. This method involved recording each new species of birds (seen or heard) until a pre-defined number of species is reached. Once this pre-defined number is reached, a new list is started. Any one species will only be recorded once in the first list but may be recorded again in subsequent lists. For our purpose, we continued to use a list of 10 species before starting on a new list.

The relative abundance of each species is calculated by dividing the number of contacts by the total number of contacts by all teams. A contact is defined as a list of 10 birds. For example, the number of contacts for Common Iora was 31. There was a total of 54.4 contacts by all team. The relative abundance of Common Iora is calculated by dividing 31 by 54.4 which equals 0.57. A bird which is more common will have a higher relative abundance index than one which is less common.

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Lee Ee Ling going through the transacts with members before the start of the survey. Photo: Yap Wee Jin.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION

Table 1 shows the top 20 commonest birds based on the relative abundance indices.

Table 1: Top 20 species of Birds of the Pesta Ubin 2017 Commonest Bird Quest

Top 20 species of Birds of the Pesta Ubin 2017 Commonest Bird Quest
Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund. Index Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund Index
1 Common Iora 31 0.57 11 Brown-throated Sunbird 16 0.29
2 White-rumped  Shama 31 0.57 12 Asian Glossy Starling 16 0.29
3 Swiftlets 31 0.57 13 Dark Necked Tailorbird 16 0.29
4 Yellow-vented Bulbul 28 0.51 14 Crimson Sunbird 15 0.28
5 Straw-headed Bulbul 28 0.51 15 Oriental Magpie Robin 15 0.28
6 Olive-winged Bulbul 27 0.50 16 Common Tailorbird 15 0.28
7 Collared Kingfisher 18 0.33 17 Red Jungle Fowl 14 0.26
8 Javan Myna 18 0.33 18 Van Hasselt’s  Sunbird 12 0.22
9 Olive-backed Sunbird 18 0.33 19 Oriental Pied Hornbill 11 0.20
10 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 17 0.31 20 House Crow 10 0.18
21 Common Emerald Dove 10 0.18

The survey by the 10 teams produced a total of 54.4 lists. The relative abundance index of the birds detected ranged from 0.02 to 0.57. A total of 60 species were recorded during the CBQ. The most abundant species are Common Iora, White-rumped Shama and swiftlets (not identifiable to species). These three species registered the highest relative abundance index of 0.57 and were recorded in 100, 90 and 80 percent of the surveyed sites respectively. Both the iora and shama are very vocal at this time of the year and are easier to detect. This could be a contributing factor for their high score. Swiftlets are likely to be Germain’s or Black-nested Swiftlet but could also be hybrid species from the swiftlet farms in Johor. As noted in CBQ 2016, other censuses conducted by the Bird Group have consistently found the Yellow-vented Bulbul to be a very common bird in most parts of Singapore.

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The Common Iora is one of the three most common bird counted in 2017 with 31 contacts.

Last year’s most common bird the Olive-winged Bulbul is sixth this year. The Yellow-vented and Straw-headed Bulbuls are fourth and fifth respectively on the CBQ 2017 list. The habitat on Pulau Ubin which consists of a mosaic of orchards, old rubber plantations and secondary forest are good for omnivorous birds like bulbuls.

A significant observation in the CBQ 2016 survey was the relative abundance of both the Straw-headed Bulbul and White-rumped Shama. Both species continued to do very well on Pulau Ubin but it is critical that the authorities and the public remain vigilant against potential poaching here and in other parts of Singapore.

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The White-rumped Shama continues to do well in Ubin with 31 contacts during the survey. The count maybe due to it being very vocal at this time of the year.

As also noted in 2016 it is inevitable that biases exist for all rapid survey and census. The most obvious bias is that this is a rapid one day count lasting only 2 to 2.5 hours. Experience of participants is also a contributing factor with the more experienced participants recording more birds heard or sighted. This survey is conducted at a time where some species may be more vocal than others and most if not all migrants are absent. Another issue involves the detection bias towards species that are more vocal or active at the edges of habitats as the selected routes were along existing roads, trails or boardwalks. But in general, this survey does provide a fairly good picture of the type of common resident birds that you can expect to see on a bird walk on the island in the middle of the year.

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Rounding up the top three are the Swiftlets also with 31 contacts.

Table 2 :  Summary of contacts(heard/sighted) and species of birds surveyed during the CBQ 2017

Summary of Routes – Contacts and Species  CBQ 2017
Route Route 1 Route 2 Route 3 Route 4 Route 5 Route 6 Route 7 Route 8 Route 9 Route 10 Total
Total in

Top 20

19 20 14 21 11 17 10 18 15 17 21
Total Contacts

(heard/sighted)

99 60 36 90 26 72 15 55 30 61 544
Total Species

(heard/sighted)

34 34 22 38 16 29 13 31 20 29 60
Nbr of Lists 9.9 6.0 3.6 9.0 2.6 7.2 1.5 5.5 3.0 6.1 54.4
Zone W W C C C E E E E E All
LegendRoute 1:  Ketam Mountain Bike Trail to Pekan Quarry

Route 2: Bubut Hut to Pipit Hut

Route 3: Noordin Campsite to Jalan Batu Ubin

Route 4: Pekan Quary Loop

Route 5: Sensory Trail to Jalan Ubin Loop

Route 6: Murai Hut to Mamam Campsite Loop

Route 7: Pekaka Hut via Jalan Durian to Murai Hut

Route 8: Chek Jawa to Kelichap Hut

Route 9: Punai Hut to Beberek Hut

Route 10: Beberek Hut to Belatok Hut

COMMENTS

We are glad that there was a six-fold increase in participation. The Pesta Ubin Commonest Birds Quest continued to provide the opportunity to the public to participate in a citizen science project. The data collected over an extended duration could be used to monitor changes to the avifauna of Pulau Ubin and ultimately the state of the environment here. A common bird today may become very rare or even become extinct tomorrow if its habitat is altered irreversibly or destroyed.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We would like to thank the leaders, participants and organizers of Pesta Ubin 2017 especially NParks and Ria Tan . The Pesta Ubin CBQ 2017 participants were: Akskay Gupta, Alfred Chia, Alice Fan, Atsuko Kawasaki, Bey Swee Hua, Bjorg Haakenson, Bong Yuna, Derek, Doreen Ang, Ee Family – Agnes Low, Terence, Maximus, Marianne & Madeleine Ee, Francis Chia Tee Heng, Ginny Cheang Fong Yin, Jimmy Lee, Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Keang, Monika, Ng Chay Tuan, Ou Jianwen, Peng Ah Huay, Roland Lim, See Swee Leng, Thio Hui Bing, Tok Sock Ling, Tzung-Mei Jang, Willie Foo, Wilson Leung, Yap Wee Jin, Yong Yik Shih and Zheng Rubin.

REFERENCE

MacKinnon J. (1993), A field guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford University Press.

 

Pulau Ubin Nocturnal Bird Survey Report

Nocturnal Bird Survey Report at Pulau Ubin by Sandra Chia.

The nocturnal fauna of Singapore has long held the fascination of many nature-enthusiasts. From the inquisitive stare of the Buffy Fish Owl to the wide-eyed Sunda Scops Owl, nocturnal birds have been seen throughout the island, and garnered the attention of many. Several of us have seen owls on Pulau Ubin before, but how many are there exactly? And where?

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One of Ubin’s the Buffy Fish Owls. Photo: Sandra Chia.

To get a better understanding of the diversity and numbers of nocturnal birds present on Pulau Ubin, the Bird Group in collaboration with Nparks conducted its first ever Ubin night survey. On 22 July, while hordes of people were headed home after a long day at the beach, a group of us were headed towards Changi Point Ferry Terminal for a very different reason. Boarding a bumboat, 11 of us set off into the sunset for Pulau Ubin. Headed by an experienced leader, the group was further split into three teams of three to four surveyors each. Three survey routes were established, covering the east, west and central portions of Ubin.

Upon reaching the starting point of each survey route, the group embarked on a slow walk back to the kampong centre, that took about 2 hours. Whenever a nocturnal bird was encountered or heard, the species and coordinates of the encounter were jotted down and compiled into a datasheet thereafter. When nocturnal mammals were encountered, the species and location of the encounter were likewise noted down, on a separate datasheet.

In total, 16 individual birds were seen or heard. The most numerous were the Large-tailed Nightjar and Sunda Scops Owl, of which 6 individuals of each species were encountered throughout the survey. The Buffy Fish Owl and Black-crowned Night Heron were encountered once each, while the Savanna Nightjar was encountered twice. To our delight, Greater Mousedeer were seen by all three groups and one group even saw a herd of wild boar with 3 adults and 13 piglets!

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There is probably a much wider diversity and greater number of nocturnal birds on Ubin, based on historical sightings as well as the fact that there are many parts of Ubin our routes did not cover. For example, all species of owl known in Singapore are recorded on Ubin except for the Short-eared Owl. We hope to continue to conduct more nocturnal census and hopefully uncover more nocturnal birds on Ubin.

The Bird Group is grateful to all the survey leaders for leading the surveys and to all participants who assisted. The survey leaders included Lim Kim Keang, Willie Foo and Alfred Chia and participants included Sandra Chia, Emmanuel Goh, Dillen Ng, Lim Hong Yao and Tan Julin. We would also like to thank Robert Teo, Grace Ang, Joseph Lin and Jacky Soh from NParks for supporting our work.

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Ubin.

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Pulau Ubin, 4 June 2017.
SHB Ted Ng
Pulau Ubin is without doubt the most important site for the Straw-headed Bulbuls. This photo of three birds taken at by Ted Ng at Hindhede NP will be hard to get elsewhere in the region. 
Few of the World’s endangered species have been more strongly associated with Singapore than the charismatic Straw-headed Bulbul. Wiped out from most of its Southeast Asian distribution by indiscriminate poaching, some of most significant populations of this largest of the world’s bulbuls have fortunately, found a safe home in Singapore. Pulau Ubin is without a doubt the most important site for the species.
 
To determine the size of its population on Pulau Ubin,  the Bird Group conducted a pan-island survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul in conjunction with Pesta Ubin. Led by an experienced leader, teams of 3-4 surveyors covered 9 different transects totalling over 18 km across Ubin. This was the first time a targeted survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul has be carried out in Singapore, and attracted over 35 volunteer surveyors, including a large contingent of enthusiastic students from the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College.
 
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Yong Ding Li back to camera briefing the surveyors at Pulau Ubin on the census. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.
Along each transect, the teams stopped to record Straw-headed Bulbuls at defined points for five minutes. At the end of each ‘point count’ teams moved at least 250 metres from the previous point before conducted the next count. Datasheets were provided so that all surveyors could record their observations immediately.
 
So how many Straw-headed Bulbuls are there on Ubin? In total, the teams reported 68 individuals within a band of 100 m from their counting transects. Because some parts of Ubin were not surveyed, we expect the actual population to be even larger. The organising team is currently conducted statistical analysis on the dataset to calculate the densities of the bulbuls of the island. Building on the pioneering studies on the species carried out by veteran birdwatchers Ho Hua Chew and Trixie Tan, this survey confirms that Ubin remains a critical stronghold for the Straw-headed Bulbul and needs to be well-protected from poachers by regular ranger patrols. 
 
Once again, we are grateful to all the survey leaders for leading the surveys along their transects. They include Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Movin Nyanasengeran, Sandra Chia, Trixie Tan, Wong Chung Cheong and Yong Ding Li.  We also thank Robert Teo and Germaine Leng from the National Parks Board for supporting our work.
__________________________

Ding Li YONG
PhD Candidate
Fenner School of Environment and Society
Forestry Building, Linnaeus Way
The Australian National University

Canberra ACT 0200
Thanks to Ted Ng and Lim Kim Chuah for the use of the photos.

7th Parrot Count 2017

Authors: Albert Low and Alan OwYong

Introduction

Long-tailed Parakeet

Long-tailed Parakeets flying across CCNR photographed at Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap. They made up 58% of the total counted.

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The smaller Yellow-crested Cockatoo where 8 were counted. 

The World Parrot Count was initiated seven years ago by Michael Braun and Roelant Jonker from the parrot researchers’ group of the International Ornithological Union (IOU). A key objective of the study was to document the status and abundance of feral and non-native parrots in urban environments globally where populations are established. Being part of this study provides an excellent opportunity for us to also monitor native parrot abundance and diversity in Singapore beyond our nature reserves. Given that some species such as the non-native Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) have increased in abundance across Singapore, it is also timely to identify areas where these species are concentrated and their roost sites.

Results and Conclusions

Coordinated annually by the Bird Group since 2011, this year’s Parrot Count took place on 25 February 2017. 17 sites across mainland Singapore were counted this year. This year’s total of 2621 parrots of 9 identifiable species is higher than the 2,483 parrots of 8 species recorded last year.

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As was the case over the past 3 years, the well-wooded Mount Rosie was the most species-rich site, with six species of parrot recorded. Bottle Tree Park, a site first surveyed in 2015, was once again the top site in terms of total abundance, with 719 individuals from four parrot species recorded. The Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) was the most numerous parrot recorded during the count, with a total of 1,521 individuals seen. However, this was a continued decrease from the 1,837 individuals last year and the high count of 2,059 observed in 2015. This constituted 58% of all parrots recorded during the count. 903 Red-breasted Parakeets were also recorded, making up the bulk (34.5%) of the remaining parrots recorded. Other species recorded include small numbers of Tanimbar Corellas (Cacatua goffiniana), Coconut Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots (Loriculus galgulus) and Yellow-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea).

Common Name Overall Species Totals %
Long-tailed Parakeet 1521 58.03
Red-breasted Parakeet 903 34.45
Rose-ringed Parakeet 33 1.26
Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 41 1.56
Rainbow (Coconut) Lorikeet 16 0.61
Tanimbar Corella 70 2.67
Yellow-crested Cockatoo 8 0.31

 

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During the census, parrot numbers peaked between 7 pm and 7.30 pm where 1,669 parrots were counted.  As shown in recent counts, the largest parakeet flocks were mainly observed at last light, with counters at many sites managing to observe the noisy spectacle of flocks of parakeets returning to their roosting trees just before complete darkness.

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Of particular interest is the continued decline in the total number of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded during the Parrot Count since 2015. However, counts over the past three years at major staging and roosting sites around northern Singapore show no discernable trends, with numbers at the Bottle Tree Park showing an overall increase since 2015 while the staging areas at Springleaf Nature Park have been quite stable over the past two years following a decline between 2015 and 2016 (Figure 1). It is possible that instead of a genuine decline, changes in the foraging and roosting habits of parakeet flocks may be responsible for a lower number of individuals counted overall. Hopefully, continued data collection in the years ahead will provide a clearer perspective of these trends.

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Figure 1: Numbers of Long-tailed Parakeets recorded at three sites in northern Singapore over the past three years.

Conversely, preliminary analysis of two Red-breasted Parakeet roosting sites over the past three years show less variation in flock size year-on-year (Figure 2). Given that the species is now widespread and common in Singapore, it is clear that many other roosting sites are present throughout urban Singapore and are not being counted. This is evident from a new roost site counted for the first time at Jurong West that contained close to 500 individuals, effectively doubling this year’s count relative to the past two years. It is hoped that birdwatchers will continue to report parakeet roosts within their neighbourhoods, so that a more complete picture of Singapore’s Red-breasted Parakeet population can be obtained.

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Figure 2: Numbers of Red-breasted Parakeets recorded at Clementi Central and Changi Point over the past three years.

Acknowledgements

On behalf of the Bird Group, we would like to thank the following for their willingness to carry out parrot monitoring on a weekend evening – Site Leaders: Albert Low, Lim Kim Chuah, Alan Owyong, Lim Kim Keang, Debra Yeo, Lee Ee Ling, Nessie Khoo, Marcel Finlay, Shirley Ng, Ng Bee Choo, Morten Strange, Angus Lamont, Low Choon How, Van Wang Ye. Assisting Counters: Florence Ipert, Doris Owyong, Chi Yang, Christine, Ryan Tiew, See Wei An, Ching Chiew Lian, Yong Jun Zer, Scott Li Meng Aloysius. Francis Yap and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos. Finally we also thank Roelant and Michael for inviting us to be part of this study.

 

Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest

­­­­­­­

By Lim Kim Keang with contributions from Lim Kim Chuah and Yong Ding Li. Photos from Ria Tan and Alan OwYong.

The rustic Ubin that nature lovers love so much.

Pulau Ubin, the wild rustic corner of Singapore, view from the Jetty. Photo: Ria Tan.

INTRODUCTION

On 5 June 2016, the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group conducted a survey to find out which were the commonest bird species on Pulau Ubin. This survey was organized in conjunction with the month-long Pesta Ubin 2016 event. The Bird Group has been birding on Pulau Ubin since the 1970’s and 80’s and this survey to determine the commonest bird species on Pulau Ubin was also timely.

Willie Foo welcoming bird watchers to Pesta Ubin.

Willie Foo welcoming bird watchers to Ubin at the start of Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest. Photo: Ria Tan

METHOD

A total of six teams consisting of six leaders and six participants took part in the CBQ. Areas in the central and eastern part of Pulau Ubin were covered. The routes were carefully selected to cover as much of the island as possible within the allocated time from 8.00 to 10.00 am. The good weather helped and most teams completed their designated route in the allocated time except two which went on overtime.

The MacKinnon bird listing method was used to determine the commonest birds on Pulau Ubin. This method involved recording each new species of birds (seen or heard) until a pre-defined number of species is reached. Once this pre-defined number is reached, a new list is started. Any one species will only be recorded once in the first list but may be recorded again in subsequent lists. For our purpose, we decided counting up to 10 species before starting on a new list.

Willie Foo briefing the team on bird recording for the Commonest Bird Quest.

Willie Foo, Secretary of the Bird Group, briefing the team on how to record the birds based on the Mackinnon Bird Listing Method. Photo: Ria Tan

The relative abundance of each species is calculated by dividing the number of contacts by the maximum total number of contacts by all teams  (i.e. total number of lists).  A bird which is more common will have a higher relative abundance index than one which is less common.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION

Table 1 shows the top 20 commonest birds based on the relative abundance indices.

Table 1: Top 20 species of Birds of the Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest

Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund. Index Rank Common Name Total Contacts Rel. Abund Index
1 Olive-winged Bulbul 33 0.65 11 Straw-headed Bulbul 17 0.33
2 Common Iora 27 0.53 12 Red Jungle Fowl 17 0.33
3 Oriental Magpie Robin 24 0.47 13 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 17 0.33
4 White-rumped  Shama 24 0.47 14 Van Hasselt’s Sunbird 16 0.31
5 Brown-throated Sunbird 23 0.45 15 Yellow-vented Bulbul 15 0.29
6 Swiftlets 22 0.43 16 Oriental Pied Hornbill 15 0.29
7 Javan Myna 21 0.41 17 Common Tailorbird 15 0.29
8 Collared Kingfisher 20 0.39 18 Crimson Sunbird 14 0.27
9 Olive-backed Sunbird 18 0.35 19 Asian Glossy Starling 12 0.24
10 Dark-necked Tailorbird 18 0.35 20 Ashy Tailorbird 11 0.22
Olive-winged Bulbul

Olive-winged Bulbul is Ubin’s most abundant species.

The survey by the six teams produced a total of 51 lists. The relative abundance index of the birds detected ranged from 0.02 to 0.65. A total of 63 species were recorded during the CBQ. The most abundant species is the Olive-winged Bulbul. It recorded the highest relative abundance index of 0.65 and was recorded in all the surveyed sites. This is interesting as other censuses conducted by the Bird Group have consistently found the Yellow-vented Bulbul to be the more common bird in most parts of Singapore. The habitat on Pulau Ubin which consists of a mosaic of orchards, old rubber plantations and secondary forest probably contributed to this result.

Another interesting point is that more species were recorded in the  central routes than the eastern ones. It is possible that the more wooded nature and closed canopy along the eastern routes could have resulted in less birds been detected.

Teams of four setting out to different transacts  to record the bird life in Ubin.

Six teams fanned out across Central and Eastern Ubin to try to find the commonest birds on the island. Photo: Ria Tan.

A very significant observation from the survey is the relative abundance of both the Straw-headed Bulbul and White-rumped Shama. Both species are becoming scarce in many parts of Southeast Asia as a result of rampant trapping for the bird trade. It is critical that the authorities and the public remain vigilant against potential poaching here and other parts of Singapore where these species are thriving. If the current situation persists, Singapore could become the only place in the world where these species survive in the wild.

As in all rapid survey and census, it is inevitable that biases exist. The most obvious bias is that this is a rapid one day count lasting only 2 to 2.5 hours. It is conducted at a time where some species may be more vocal than others and most if not all migrants are absent. Another issue involves the detection bias towards species that are more vocal or active at the edges of habitats as the selected routes were along existing roads, trails or boardwalks. But in general this survey does provide a fairly good picture of which are that common resident birds that you can expect to see on a bird walk on the island in the middle of the year.

Table 2:  Summary of contacts(heard/sighted) and species of birds surveyed during the CBQ

Site W1 CT1 CT2 CJ1 CJ2 CJ3 Overall
Total In Top 20 Species List 19 17 19 18 16 13 20
Total species (heard/sighted) 39 33 37 31 25 27 63
Total contacts (heard/sighted) 108 79 87 110 57 60 501
 

Legend

W1 Siam Temple Route
CT1 Sensory Trail – Pekan Quarry Loop
CT2 Nordin Beach Route
CJ1 Chek Jawa Coastal Route
CJ2 Chek Jawa Balai Quarry Route
CJ3 Murai Hut – Mamam Beach Loop

COMMENTS

The Pesta Ubin Commonest Birds Quest provided an opportunity to involve and encourage the public to participate in a citizen science project. The data collected over an extended duration could be used to monitor changes to the avifauna of Pulau Ubin and ultimately the state of the environment here. A common bird today may become very rare or even become extinct tomorrow if its habitat is altered irreversibly or destroyed. One example is the House Swift which is no longer a common species. House Swifts used to build nests under the Pulau Ubin Jetty but have been absent for many years. Are the proliferation of swiftlet houses and the hordes of swiftlets the cause of decline? Or are there more serious environmental problems?

Ee Ling and Lim Kim Keang the organisers of the Pesta Ubin Commonest Bird Quest.

NSS Bird Group’s Lee Ee Ling and Lim Kim Keang the organisers for the Pesta Ubin 2016 Commonest Bird Quest. Photo: Ria Tan.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We would like to thank the leaders, participants and organizers of Pesta Ubin especially Ria Tan. The Pesta Ubin CBQ 2016 participants were: Andrew Chow, Doreen Ang, Joseph Chan, Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Loh Wang Chiu, Ng Chay Tuan, Peng Ah Huay, Rob, Willie Foo, Rob Arnold and Yong Yik Shih.

REFERENCE

MacKinnon J. (1993), A field guide to the Birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford University Press.