Category Archives: Bird Trip Report

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 19.2.17

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes on Sunday, 19 Feb 2017

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Members of Nature Society posing for a group photo at Kranji Marshes. Many thanks to Lee Ee Ling (squatting extreme right) for arranging and leading the walk, Yap Wee Jin ( squatting extreme left) and Wing Chong ( standing back left) for assisting. 

It was a cool and sunny Sunday morning when we arrived at the Kranji Marshes. A lush expense of greenery and cool waters greeted us when we stepped out of the bus. The hustle and bustle and noise of city life was replaced by the chipping sounds of birds all around. Everyone had their binoculars and cameras out ready for action when we started our walk at 8.15 am. This is one of the monthly walks to the core area of Kranji Marshes arranged by the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and National Parks Board. 

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The family of Red-wattled Lapwings have made Kranji Marshes their permanent home.

As we proceeded into the core area, less common birds such as the Red Wattled Lapwing and Daurian Starling were spotted. However, the highlight and top sighting for the day was the appearance of two Watercocks.  

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Highlight of the walk were the two Watercocks, a lifer for many of our members

Even though they only appeared for a brief moment, it was enough to make this trip worthwhile as they are uncommon winter visitor. A lifer for several members of the group who were obviously delighted with this sighting. ☺

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Bird watching in one of the many hides ensured that the birds were not disturbed.

Despite a brief moment of apprehension on seeing some black clouds in the sky towards the tail end of our walk, the good weather prevailed and our time passed quickly.

More pictures of birds sighted at the Kranji Marshes. 

Resident Ashy Tailorbird, Baya Weaver and a winter visitor Daurian Starling 

We ended our walk at 11 am with a good haul of 35 species much to the delight of all those who choose to spend the Sunday morning at the largest fresh water marsh in Singapore. 

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One of our many colorful Kingfishers, the White-throated poised for a catch.

Some additional information on our sightings:

Bird species sighted:                             Bird species heard:

1/ Purple Heron                                       1/ Yellow Bellied Prinia

2/ Javan Mynah                                        2/ Large Billed Crow

3/ Pink Necked Green Pigeon               3/ Collared Kingfisher

4/ Baya Weaver                                          4/ Common Iora

5/ Black Naped Oriole                              5/ Common Tailorbird

6/ Olive Backed Sunbird

7/ Common Flameback Woodpecker

8/ Red Breasted Parakeet

9/ Black Browed Reed Warbler

10/ Spotted Dove

11/ Red Wattled Lapwing

12/ Black Baza

13/ Lesser Coucal

14/ Blue Tailed Bee Eater

15/ Barn Swallow

16/ Long Tailed Parakeet

17/ Yellow Bittern

18/ Yellow Vented Bulbul

19/ Brahminy Kite

20/ Swifts

21/ Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

22/ Daurian Starling

23/ WaterCock

24/ Brown Shrike

25/ Asian Glossy Starling

26/ Pied Fantail

27/ Common Kingfisher

28/ Lesser Whistling Ducks

29/ Grey Headed Fish Eagle

30/ White Throated Kingfisher

31/ Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker

32/ White Breasted Waterhen

33/ Intermediate Egret

34/ Ashy Tailorbird

35/ Oriental Dollarbird

All Bird photos : Courtesy of Henrietta Woo

Birdwatching leader : Lee Ee Ling

Assisted by : Wing Chong, Yap Wee Jin

Report by : Yap Wee Jin

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Pelagic Birding in the Straits of Singapore.

Pelagic birding in the Singapore Straits. 18 Sept 2016. Text and Photos by Dirk Tomsa. 

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Cruising eastwards at the start of out Pelagic with the Singapore skyline in the distance. Photo: Gerard Francis.

On 18 September 2016, the Bird Group of the Nature Society Singapore organized its first pelagic birdwatching trip for its members. There were ten of us including the leaders Alfred Chia and Lim Kim Keang. We left Sentosa Marina just before 6 am and set course for the Singapore Straits. I had done a few pelagics in Australia before and always loved them, so I was full of anticipation when we finally cleared immigration – yes, passport clearence out at sea, a first for me – and headed out to more open water. Compared to my previous experiences in the cold waters of the Southern ocean, this tropical pelagic promised very different birds. Terns, not albatrosses or prions, would be most prominent, with up to eight different species possible including the beautiful Aleutian Tern which migrates through Singaporean waters around this time of the year. Furthermore, we were hoping to see Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel, another migratory species that routinely passes through the Singapore Straits in September. For me personally, these two were the main targets as both would be lifers for me. And, as it turned out, I would not be disappointed.   

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Terns like this Greater Crested Terns will be the most prominent pelagic species encountered.

In fact, it didn’t take long at all until we saw the first storm-petrels. Navigating the waves low above the surface, several small groups of Swinhoe’s whizzed past the boat, but unfortunately none of them came really close so that it was difficult to clearly see the subtle markings on these essentially brown birds. Eventually, my binoculars captured a bird close enough to the boat to enable me making out the slightly paler, crescent-shaped wing bar. Most birds, however, kept their distance and so I felt kind of reassured that Swinhoe’s was actually the only ‘stormie’ likely to be encountered here. Identifying different species at this long range would be a huge challenge. In the end, Alfred and Kim Keang confirmed that all storm-petrels seen that day were Swinhoe’s and that the total number of birds migrating through the straits that morning must have been around 300-350. Good numbers indeed, and a valuable tick for my list.

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At this time of the year, the Straits of Singapore is one of the best places to see these Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels as they migrate through the Straits. More than 320 were counted this morning. Photo: Gerard Francis.

The storm-petrels were most abundant early in the morning. As the clock approached 9 am, the little brown birds became scarcer and we turned our attention to terns. Apparently a solitary Little Tern bid farewell to our boat as we left Sentosa but I had missed it, watching the distant silhouette of a Brahminy Kite instead.

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Close up view of two Great Crested Terns in non-breeding plumage at the yellow buoy.

But now out at sea, more and more terns appeared near the boat. As expected, the most numerous were the fairly common Greater Crested Terns. More than twenty of this large tern species flew past throughout the trip and we were treated to some close-up views early on when a group of six perched on a buoy. We circled the buoy a couple of times so that everyone could get a good look. For the majority on board, this was their first pelagic birdwatching trip, so seeing these large terns so close was a great experience for all.

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The Lesser Crested Tern on the left and the Greater side by side for comparison. The bright orange bill of the Lesser is a good feature to tell them apart.

Getting such good views of the very similar Lesser Crested Tern took a lot longer. In fact, we had to wait until we passed the same buoy again on the way back. This time the six Greater Crested Terns shared the tight space with two Lesser Crested Terns, thereby providing an excellent opportunity to compare these two species at close range. Despite the names, the difference in size is actually not that big, but the brightly coloured bills – orange in the Lesser, yellow in the Greater – made it easy for everyone on board to tell the birds apart.

In between our two encounters with the Crested Terns, there was a prolonged period where there were no birds at all. During this intermezzo, my thoughts drifted and I struggled to stay awake as my body reminded me that I had gotten up at 4.30 am. I staved off the temptation to just close my eyes by chatting with other participants, eating some snacks or looking at the field guides Alfred and Kim Keang had kindly provided. And then, just when I was about to doze off, another bird appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

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Bridled Tern with its distinctive dark upper wings and eyebrow. An uncommon winter visitor.  

A Bridled Tern emerged near the boat and was gone within seconds, but then another one appeared. And another. With their dark upper-wings and distinct eyebrow, these are among my favourite terns. We would see several others later on, but most of them remained distant specs on the horizon and unfortunately not everybody on board saw them.  

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Fantastic views of the Aleutian Tern resting on a flotsam,  a well known habitat for this tern. We counted eight of these wonderful terns during the trip.

The Bridled Terns had barely disappeared out of sight when someone from the front of the boat shouted ‘bird on water’. That sounded promising for Aleutian Tern because this species is well-known for its habit to rest on flotsam. And sure enough, an Aleutian Tern it was. Undisturbed by our approaching boat the bird perched calmly on a piece of driftwood, allowing fantastic views and great photo opportunities. Soon we saw a second bird perched a bit further away. All in all, we counted eight of these wonderful terns.

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An uncommon Common Tern was our last and sixth tern species for the day.

Yet, not every tern on the water was an Aleutian Tern. Thanks to the sharp eyes of our ever-watchful guides, one of the flotsam squatters was identified as a Common Tern, a species which despite its name is actually fairly uncommon in Singapore waters. This was the sixth and last tern species to go onto our list for the day. The other two possibilities, Black-naped and White-winged Tern, did not grace us with an appearance this time, but that was only a minor blemish on an otherwise thoroughly rewarding trip.   

A big thank you to Alfred and the Bird Group for organising this trip, both Alfred and Kim Keang for the guiding and Gerard Francis for the use of his photos.

        

From the lens of a rookie birdwatcher

A few months ago, Lim Kim Chuah, Chairperson of the Bird Group was asked to conduct a test for girl guides who aspire to have the Birdwatcher Badge. He took a student from MGS, Hao Yunrui under his wings, went over to her school one afternoon, pass her a pair of binoculars and also one of our field guide written by Ding Li and et al. He showed her the birds in her school, taught her a few things about birding and then gave her some assignments. The assignments were: 1) learn and write her observation on 6 species of birds that she can find in her school or around her home/park 2) to participate in one NSS Birdwatching activity 3) to write a reflection on her journey
Here is Hao Yunrui’s reflection:

After an eventful few weeks of dabbing into amateur bird watching, I’ve gathered some thoughts to share about this fascinating hobby. When I initially made the decision to take on the Bird watching Badge, I saw it as something to be done and then simply forgotten. Like ticking off the goods on the grocery list, it was just one of those things that I needed to try out once to clear it off my bucket list. Mrs Tham then brought me under the guidance of Mr Lim Kim Chuah, who then carried me through the course of my one month Bird watching Journey. His tasks for me were:

First, to make a bird watching journal covering my observations of 6 different species of birds

Second, to go on a Bird watching trip with the Bird Group members of Nature Society (Singapore).

Hmmm, that sounded easy, was what I thought to myself when I first saw the tasks assigned to me, and that marked the start of my fascinating journey of unveiling a new realm of experience whose door had previously never been opened to me.

To achieve the tasks, I made it a point to go to various nature reserves and parks to watch birds every Saturday. My aim on each of my solo trip was to spot at least one species of bird that is new to me (a lifer in birdwatchers lingo). I also jotted down my observations in a field logbook (which would later become my bird watching journal) and if those tiny flickering feathered friends would allow me, I would try to snap a picture or two.

Female Koel from Bishan Park.

Female Asian Koel from Bishan Park.Photo: Hao Yunrui.

During my early morning sojourns to our parks and gardens, I spotted a variety of birds some of which made calls which I have heard previously e.g. the Asian Koel. It dawned on me that all of us do cross paths with many types of birds in our daily life. We hear their calls, catch their silhouettes among the trees but we are usually so caught up with our busy schedule that we choose to ignore such beautiful creatures in our midst. Throughout this one month, I sometimes wonder, if only people could spare a moment to look at the flowers and trees around them instead of staring into their phones. Only then will they discover the feathered wonders among our midst – those eye-catching and bright yellow Black-naped Oriole and the ubiquitous loud and noisy Asian Koel. And if you care to look closely at the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, you will realise that the patterns on its back are actually intricately beautiful. If you observe a Javan Myna, it is not all black but has white patches on its wings when it flies. These are some of tiny details that many of us fail to notice but which is really visible if we could only spend some time to observe them. On the hindsight, I was also like one of these people. I am glad taking on this bird watching badge has taught me to be more observant of the nature around us.

White-breasted Waterhen at Kranji Mashes.

White-breasted Waterhen at Kranji Mashes. Photo: Hao Yunrui

Through this experience, I have managed to see a lot of rare and interesting birds. Mr Lim took the extra step to encourage me to join the Nature Society on a birding walk to Kranji marsh. It was really an eye-opener and a wonderful experience which will certainly open up my eyes and taught me to see our natural world especially our avian friends through a different set of lens.

Common Moorhen at Kranji Marshes.

Common Moorhen at Kranji Marshes. Hao Yunrui

These are some of the shots I’ve captured over the weeks. However, I wasn’t able to capture most of the birds that I saw as they were either too far away or flying. The graceful physiques of these birds were instead captured by my eyes with binoculars.

The trip to Kranji Marshland was really eye-opening ( quite literally ). It’s the first time I am visiting a marshland. And I felt privileged to be able to visit the core area of this park which is yet to be opened to the public. I initially felt really awkward and out of place because everyone else around me were equipped with gigantic, state-of-the-art bird viewing equipment and most participants were in their 40s and 50s. However, it was evident that they were really passionate about what they were doing as they could call out the names of all the birds that came within our view. Some could even spot birds miles away with their sharp eyes and telescopes were also on hand to allow close views of distant birds. It was quite heartening to see a handful of young adults mixing in the crowd because it truly shows that this hobby is not just for the “old” but the young as well. It was the first time I ever felt so close and intimate with nature, as though I were a part of it and it a part of me. Watching our feathered friends in such a quiet place gave me a sense of connection. When the White-bellied Sea Eagle stared intensely into my eyes through the binoculars, I could almost feel it whispering to me. Seeing nature fully at work was very magical, because everything seemed to be in such perfect balance without the interference of man. We spotted a Purple Heron poking its head out of the water hyacinths in search of prey. It made me realised that nature can function by itself perfectly and does not need our help to survive, but rather we are the ones who constantly seek help from nature. We should treasure of whatever nature we have conserve it to the best of our ability.

Bird watching is no longer something to be simply tick off my bucket list. I hope to be able to visit such places again and be acquainted with its many fascinating birds.

My thanks to Mr. Lim Kim Chuah for his guidance, time and sharing his knowledge with me, Mr. Wong Chung Cheong and members of the Bird Group for showing me the birds at Kranji Marshes.

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

2nd NSS/NParks Kranji Marshes Bird Trip

Contributed by Alfred Chia. All photos by Yap Wee Jin 20 March 2016.
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The 2nd NSS/NParks collaborative birdwatching trip to the Kranji Marshes was organised on 20 March. 23 who signed up for this still sought-after trip were treated to a good show of birds on a sweltering hot morning.
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The Black-backed Swamphen peeping out of the water weeds. Good to see it back.
We managed to garner all wanted species: Black-backed Swamphen, Common Moorhen, a preening White-browed Crake, Red-wattled Lapwing and a perched Grey-headed Fish Eagle. The uncommon but pretty Black-capped Kingfisher was also a good find. In total, we had 5 species of kingfishers. Besides the Black-capped, there was also the Collared, White-throated, Stock-billed and Common Kingfishers. In the reeds, Pallas’s Grasshopper & Oriental Reed Warblers were heard but not seen.
Common Moorhen Yap Wee Jin

Common Moorhen is not so common due to the loss of fresh water marshlands.

Both Blue-throated & Blue-tailed Bee-eaters provided colour to the morning while the air was constantly filled with the incessant calls of both the Long-tailed & Red-breasted Parakeets. Not to be outdone too were calling Banded Bay & Rusty-breasted Cuckoos while at the Raptor Tower, a lone Lineated Barbet called desultorily.

 

White-browed Crake Yap Wee Jin

White-browed Crake is another shy wetland species that is hard to see.

It was also at the tower where ironically, we had unblocked view of a single Black-backed Swamphen, seen feeding far away on one of the island in the marshes. Prior to this, while making our way to the tower, some of us had fleeting flight views while some had just one-two second type of look when it momentarily appeared from the thick vegetation.

 

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Uncommon winter visitor Black-capped Kingfisher wintering at the marshes.

We ended the trip with 50 species of seen birds and another 8 species heard. All agreed it was a morning well-spent, sweat and the intense heat notwithstanding!

Kranji Marsh Walk-28 February 2016

By: Lim Kim Chuah & Lee Ee Ling. 

NSS led a public walk to Kranji Marsh core area on 28 February. We were fortunate to have a nice balmy morning. The group of 22 participants was immediately greeted by a grand fly pass of 13 Black Bazas at the start. And it was continuous wave of action after that. Blue-throated and Blue-tailed bee-eater displayed openly on a bare tree. And not to be outdone were Red-breasted Parakeets and also a beautifully “litted up” Dollarbird under the warm morning light. However a rather skittish and distant Banded Bay Cuckoo had other ideas and could not be persuaded to keep still. And skulking Pallas’ Grasshopper Warbler could be heard calling in the dense reeds and as usual refusing to show. In the marsh, the usual Red-wattled Lapwing did not disappoint. Some lucky birders also had good views of the specialty here – the Black-backed Swamphen. Then there were the usual hoard of bird foraging in the marsh –  Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Intermediate Egret, Yellow Bittern, Stork-billed, Collared and Common Kingfisher. To add some excitement, a lone “Swintail” Snipe left birders puzzled over its identity and an “unripe” Pond Heron generated some discussions on whether it is a Chinese or Javan (or maybe even an Indian).  In the fenced up open field, there was a small flock of Pacific Golden Plover. The brownish plumage blended nicely to the colour of the ground and took the sharp eyes of some birders to pick them out. There was also a lone Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and several Paddyfield Pipit roving around the field. And finally to end the walk, some of us were treated to an insomniac Savanna Nightjar calling and flying low over the marsh.

Thanks to Ee Ling for coordinating and organizing the walk.

Kranji Marshes 28 Feb 2016 Chung Cheong

Birding at Kranji Marsh.  Picture by Wong Chung Cheong

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Klenn Koh showing participants how to take pictures through the telescope using a mobile phone. Picture by: Wong Chung Cheong

Blue-tailed Bee-eater Kleen Koh

Some bird pictures from Klenn’s “phone-scoping” technique: A Blue-tailed Bee-eater basking under the morning light

Red-wattled Lapwing Kleen Koh

One of the stars of Kranji Marsh – Red-wattled Lapwing. Photo: Klenn Koh

Wood Sandpiper Klenn Koh

A lonely Wood Sandpiper – becoming increasingly difficult to see this species in Singapore. Photo: Klenn Koh.

Many thanks to Klenn Koh and Chung Cheong for the use of their photos.