Category Archives: Birding resource

Bird Watching for Beginners 2 Oct 2016

Text and photos by Yap Wee Jin. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

It was a warm and sunny morning to start the day. By 7:30am, a group of us (21 members + 4 ) were already gathered at the Sungei Buloh Visitor Centre. After a briefing on shorebirds recognition and identification by Kim Chuah, we set off to the Main Bridge.


The tide was just beginning to rise as we strolled to the Main Bridge. This meant some of the mudflats were exposed and a good place for us to scan for shorebirds and other water-birds. And we were not disappointed. In the far corner of the river, we saw a small flock of Common Redshanks, their red legs giving their identity away even at that distance. Several Common Sandpipers were chasing each other and their distinctive shrill calls could be heard. And nearer right under the bridge, three menacing looking Estaurine Crocodiles lurked just at the water surface. There were many other birds near the bridge – a lone Purple Heron stood at the edge of the water waiting for its breakfast, a Stork-billed Kingfisher gave its presence away with its loud raucous call. There were many Little Egrets showing off their dainty yellow toes as they flew further upriver as the tide came in. We spent almost an hour birdwatching at this bridge while we waited for the tide to rise.

dpp_11553Members birdwatching at the main bridge

dpp_11549A hungry crocodile waiting for its first meal of the day? (It has a ‘broken’ tail)

At about 9 am, Kenneth signaled that it was time to go to the Main Hide and wait for the arrival of the waders. And true to Kenneth’s words, the waders arrived on the dot. We were first greeted by the fly-in of Common Redshanks and then Whimbrels. It was simply an awesome and unforgettable spectacle. More waders flew and cameras clicked continuously to try to capture the moment.


As the waders settled down, the lesson on waders resumed. Kim Chuah, Kenneth, Wing Chong then explained to the participants on how to differentiate the different waders – the Whimbrel with its long curved bill, the Common Greenshank with its light yellowish green legs and two-toned slightly upturned bill…..and the list goes on.

After an educational morning, we decided to call it a day at 11 am. On the way out, Kim Chuah decided to check if the Copper-throated Sunbird was around at the Mangrove Boardwalk. Some of the more lucky ones saw the sunbird hiding in the midst of the dense mangrove foliage which meant we could not fully appreciate the beauty of this sunbird. Well better luck next time!

Species of birds seen:                                                                  Species heard only:

1 Common Sandpiper                                                                  1 Asian Paradise Flycatcher

2 Common Redshank                                                                   2 Arctic Warbler

3 Stork Billed Kingfisher                                                              3 Oriental Magpie Robin

4 Striated Heron                                                                           4 Rufous Woodpecker

5 Little Egret

6 Painted Stork

7 Common Greenshank

8 Whimbrel

9 Red Turtle Dove

10 Spotted Dove

11 Lesser Sand Plover

12 Collared Kingfisher

13 Grey Heron

14 Purple Heron

15 Common Iora

16 Ashy Tailorbird

17 Little Tern

18 White Bellied Sea Eagle (juvenile)

19 Great Egret

20 Eastern Cattle Egret

21 Brahminy Kite

22 Marsh Sandpiper

23 White-breasted Waterhen (with chicks)

24 House Crow

25 Common Flameback

26 Copper-throated Sunbird

To those who were there to share the morning with us, here are some of the pictures taken. Birds and animal photographs – courtesy of Kim Chuah.

greenshank-redshank-buloh-20161002-5l5a5481Common Greenshanks and Common Redshanks

marsh-sandpiper-buloh-20161002-5l5a5530Marsh Sandpiper

redshank-buloh-20161002-5l5a5527Common Redshanks

Estaurine Crocodile

whimbrel-redshank-buloh-20161002-5l5a5503Whimbrels and Common Redshanks

Happy Birding!

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




Identification resources for the new birders

One the the challenges for new birders everywhere is not so much to see the birds (you are bound to bump into birds), but to identify what has been seen. After all, as an insightful Chinese proverb goes: “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”

More experienced birder rely on their memory to tell birds apart. But before one gets experience, there is always the learning process. The best and easiest way is of course observing birds with others who are more familiar that can point things out. But that is not always an option.

So how does the modern birder do it? Here is a brief guide to what sort of resources are available:


Field Guides

The printed book is still one of the easiest and most useful tool to start identifying birds. For Singapore birders, there are a few notable ones that one can buy and start their journey. I will be very brief on the subject as to the pros and cons of each.



1. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore (Yong Ding Li, Kim Chuah Lim, Tiah Khee Lee)


  • The newest guide with good coverage of Singapore birds. By restricting itself to only Singapore birds, one will not be so confused compared to regional guides.
  • Photographs instead of illustrations. New birders feel comfortable with pictures while experienced birders are happier with illustrations and written description (go figure!)
  • Each species is given a description, possible sites and conservation value all in the same page.


  • It’s limited to Singapore birds, so as your birding adventure grows, you have to buy other guides.
  • One picture per bird. Sometimes they have different plumage depending on age or sex. Flying and perched birds look different too.



2. A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia (Craig Robson)


  • Very well written and illustrated book covering the South-East Asia region, so rather comprehensive.
  • Most of the illustration shows a consistent, high standard of details and proportions.
  • Gold standard for the South-East Asia birds.


  • More for intermediate to advanced birders as there are way too many species described, so one tends to be overwhelmed with info.
  • The detailed descriptions are on a different page from the illustrations, so one have to flip back and forth.
  • Some of the birds that are listed as being recorded in Singapore are really not, and some of the species are split into different species not recognized locally.



3. A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore (Allen Jeyarajasingam)


  • Cover each bird in details down to subspecies level.
  • Detailed description of the range and abundance of each species.
  • Will cover Malaysian birds as many local birders eventually cross the causeway for birding.


  • Not many people use this book anymore in this side of the causeway. For one it is the most expensive.
  • Bird illustration not as good as the above.
  • The detailed descriptions are on a different page from the illustrations, so one have to flip back and forth.


Bird App


The NSS Bird Guide App

Pros: No need to buy anything, just use the mobile phone.
Cons: Only for iOS and Android. Not available for other platform.


Picture Sites

1. Oriental Bird Images

If you have the name of the bird at hand, then this website serves many pictures of the said species so that you can verify if the looks of the bird matches. It is user contributed, so quality of pictures vary.

2. African Bird Image Database

We have a lot of introduced species originating from Africa. While we do not like this situation, the challenge of identifying these birds still exist. So this bird images database can be a useful resource.


Sound Site


If you recorded or remembered a bird species calls or songs, then you can compare them to other possible candidates at this site. Identifying a bird by its call is always a good challenge, and is one that birders need to learn.


Translation Service

Database of the birds of China

If you wish to know the Chinese name of a bird, you can use this translation service that have all the names of the birds of the world in the Chinese language. This was highlighted by one of our reader, Chye Guan.