Category Archives: Migration dates

The Return of the Indian Pond Heron to Bidadari?

The return of the Indian Pond Heron to Bidadari?

We have our 4th record of this vagrant and maybe now a rare winter visitor to Bidadari early this April when TT Koh showed me his photo of a summer Indian Pond Heron, Ardeola grayii, he shot on the 4th. He was not sure of its id and did not send out the alert. It was a post by Phua Joo Yang on 25th in Singapore Birders that got us down to look for it at Bidadari the next day.


TT Koh’s shot of the Indian Pond Heron at Bidadari on 4 April 2018

Coincidently, Terence Tan posted a non-breeding lighter plumage of another Pond Heron from Bishan Park on 23rd, which Martin Kennewell and Dave Bakewell commented that it was a good candidate for an Indian. Unfortunately this particular Pond Heron could not be found since.

Terence Tan

Terence Tan’s photo of an “unriped” Pond Heron at Bishan Park on 23 April 2018.

The question now is whether this is the same Indian Pond Heron that visited Bidadari in the past two years. On 11 April 2015 Joseph Tan shot one at Bidadari. He did not expect it to be an Indian and did not post it. Good thing that Er Bong Siong did six days later on Bird Sightings. Its admin Francis Yap was quick to realised what he was looking at and alerted its members. All of us got our lifers when we rushed down to tick it in the next two days.

Indian Pond Heron

Taken on 26 April 2018 when it was flying from tree to tree.

This record was enough to move the first record of a summer Indian Pond Heron seen on 20 March 1994 at Senoko by Lim Kim Seng and Lim Kim Chuah from Category D to A. This now constitutes the first national record for this Pond Heron. Cat D are for species which are wild but the possibility of an escapee or released bird cannot be satisfactorily excluded. Myanmar is the nearest range for this Pond Heron and the first record for this Pond Heron for Malaysia was on 12 April 1999 at Penaga district, Penang (SuaraEng 1999). So the exercise of prudence to leave it in Cat D in 1994 was the right call.

To establish its status further, another Indian Pond Heron was sighted at Bidadari again by See Swee Leng on 9 March 2016 and Keita Sin on 6 April 2016. This one wintered there until 19 April 2016. But it may be have flown to Farmway 3 as Lim Kim Keang reported one there on 8 May 2016, making this it latest departure date.

Indian Pond Heron

Shot from the roadside on our way back to the carpark as it flew down to the slope inside the parlour to feed.

From the arrival dates of this Pond Heron to Bidadari, the probability of it being the same bird is high. We can only be sure if we are able to tag this heron which will not be an easy task. In the meantime, let’s enjoy its presence here and try to give it room to forage and feed before it makes it way back. With our long telephoto lenses, there is no need to go close to take that spectacular shot.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009 Nature Society (Singapore). Thanks to TT Koh, Terence Tan and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos. 


Singapore Bird Report – July 2017

We have several very early migrant sightings this month. Is it due to global warming? Maybe the birds are more sensitive to the changes than us.

Wood Sandpipers Goh Cheng Teng

Composite photo of a Wood Sandpiper flying over Jurong West by Goh Cheng Teng. First migrant shorebird to arrive this season.

A Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus was photographed by Francis Yap with Keita Sin at Jelutong Tower on 19th, two weeks earlier than the previous early date. On 16th, Goh Cheng Teng photographed a Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola flying over Jurong West. This is 2 days ahead of the previous early arrival date. Four days later Alan OwYong flushed another Wood Sandpiper from a wet patch at Bulim grasslands. On the same day and place, Ben Choo photographed a female leucopsis White Wagtail Motacilla alba at the canal there. The jury is out if this is over summering or early arrival as the previous early arrival date is 9th September 2016 (Richard White, Marina Barrage).

1-Ben Choo

Ben Choo’s shot of a female White Wagtail in breeding plumage at a canal at Bulim raise the question of its arrival or over-summering status.

The sighting of the Wood Sandpiper prompted Francis Yap to stake out Seletar Dam and he was rewarded with shots of Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta there on 24th. A day later, three Common Redshanks Tringa totanus were reported by Robin Tan and a Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos by Lim Kim Seng, both at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.


The first passerine migrant spotted by Thio Hb at the Kampong Java Park on 20th. Photo: Thio Hb.

On 26th Francis returned to Seletar Dam and notched up two more new arrivals. Three Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus and a Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, normally the harbinger of the start of the migrant season. But it was beaten by an Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris photographed by Thio Hb at Kampong Java Park on 20th. Our previous early arrival date for this flycatcher was 9th August. Fadzrun A. shot a flock of 46 Lesser Sand Plovers at Kranji Dam on 31st. The migrating shorebirds have arrived!


First Lesser Sand Plovers of the season from Seletar Dam captured by Francis Yap

We ended the month with a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea crashing into the Beach Villas at Resort World Sentosa on 31st. Tan Kok Yeang was kind enough to send us the photo. The injured bird was handed over to Nparks. This is a new addition to Sentosa but we had record of this migrant arriving as early as 8th of July. We can expect a busy month ahead as more migrants will be making landfall at various parts of the island.

1-Watercock Tan Kok Yeang

The injured Watercock that crashed into the Beach Villas at Sentosa. Photo: Tan Kok Yeang.

Our residents put up a good show as well. The most unexpected sighting was a rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea turning up at Marina East on 30th, a first for the south.  We had very few mainland records as this is a mangrove island dweller. We had to thank Mike Hooper for this record.  Koh Liang Heng followed up the next day and found it at the same place. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megrahyncha were reported at Pulau Ubin and Pasir Ris Park on 8th and 17th respectively ( Willie Foo and Lim Kim Keang). The Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis were heard calling at the Bulim Forest by Wing Chong and James Tann and at Choa Chu Kang Cemeteries by Martin Kennewell both during the Mid Year Bird Census on 8th. They may be nesting but no nests were found so far.

Mike Hooper

The rare Mangrove Whistler photographed at Marina East by Mike Hooper on 30th. 

An Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris was seen at Gardens by the Bay by Veronica Foo on 27th, a surprising first for GBTB. From one Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica to ten at the Lorong Halus ponds on 17th was the welcome news from Lim Kim Keang. We continue to receive records of House Swifts Apus nipalensis over the months. Three birds were seen at the East Coast Parkway near Fort Road by Lim Kim Chuah on 14th. Signs that this species maybe making a comeback.


The juvenile Greater Green Leafbird at Dairy Farm is a good indication of the successful breeding of this uncommon species.

The other good news were sightings of juveniles of some of the uncommon species, confirming their breeding success. A Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati juvenile was photographed feeding on a White Mulberry Tree at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 15th. We do not have any breeding records for this leafbird and this is only the second record of a juvenile.

A young male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was seen being chased by an female Sunbird at Jurong Eco Garden on 18th. Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the same there a few weeks earlier. Over at the Lorong Halus ponds, a pair of Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis were seen feeding a juvenile on 25th. All the three above records came from Alan OwYong. The last young bird reported was a Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata photographed at Pasir Ris Park on 31st by Seng Alvin, a first for the park.?


This young Violet Cuckoo was being chased around Jurong Eco Garden by a female Sunbird.

Finally two non-breeding visitors were reported this month. A Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was seen perched at Science Park 2 on 13th by Francis Yap and a pair of Black Hornbills Anthracoceros malayanus at Sentosa flying towards Siloso on 30th seen by Colin Richardson, a visiting birder (posted in ebird, reported by Martin Kennewell). This hornbill was recently added to the checklist based on the records from Pulau Ubin, where one was seen by Adrian Silas Tay on 22nd.

Errata: an earlier version of this post included the report of a Pacific Swift (below) which Keita Sin has subsequently said was likely a misidentified House Swift and has since retracted.

Keita Sin did better when he came across a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus flying across Punggol Barat on 22nd, more than a month from the last early date of 3rd Sept


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 Goh Cheng Teng, Ben Choo, Thio Hb, Francis Yap, Tan Kok Yeang and Alan OwYong for the the use of their photos. Please notify if you find errors in these records.

They are on the way!

Dateline 6th August 2015


Part of a group seven Asian Dowitchers at SBWR on 10.9.2013

On the first day of this month, Zacc HD reported sightings of 8 Lesser Sand Plovers and 2 Common Sandpipers at Seletar Dam. On the same day over at Sungei Buloh, Adrian Gopal counted 11 Common Redshanks and 2 Common Greenshanks, The Common Redshanks went up to 137 and Common Greenshanks to 15 two days later according to a post by Lim Kim Seng.  The Autumn migration has began. The shorebirds are on the way. Time to bring out the guide books, polish up on your shorebird ID and get ready with your long lenses for some mud flat birding.

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit. A total of 8 were wintering at SBWR. 14.9.2014

So what can we expect to see in the next few weeks? The best guide is to go a year back and see which uncommon species turned up and where.

Common Redshank

File Photo: Common Redshank, the first shorebird to arrive.

On 8th a Greater Sand Plover was picked up at Seletar Dam (Henry Koh). We then have to wait until the end of August before a flurry of sightings were reported at Sungei Buloh. An Asian Dowitcher made a quick one-day stop over (Ben Lee), followed by Terek Sandpiper ( See Toh Wai Yew). Then 6 Black-tailed Godwits, a Grey-tailed Tattler and a Curlew Sandpiper on the last day got every one excited.

Luckily the passerine migrants keep us busy during in the middle of the month. A Grey Wagtail was reported at the Japanese Gardens on 15th (KC Chan); an Asian Paradise Flycatcher at P. Ubin on 18th ( Akaikimgyo); an Asian Brown Flycatcher at Sime Forest on 18th (Lim Kim Seng); a Common Kingfisher at the Gardens by the Bay (Shirley Ng) ending with a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher at Bidadari (Lawrence Cher).

And for good measures, a non-breeding visitor Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo was photographed at Bishan Park on 22nd by Christina See. Time to stake out the migrant haven Bidadari soon. Please report your important sightings in any of the facebook groups and pages. Your sightings are a great help for us to monitor their migration pattern and behavoir. Thank you.

When do the Hawk Cuckoos visit Singapore? By Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.


Large Hawk Cuckoo 

Hawk Cuckoos are so named due to their resemblance to Accipiter hawks. We have three species of Hawk Cuckoos visiting our woodlands. Two species, namely the Large and Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos are migrants while one, the Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo is a non-breeding visitor after the split by King (2002). There is no evidence for the occurrence of the Northern Hawk Cuckoo, although it may occur here as a rare vagrant.

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo

The Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax is aptly named after the split as it is a resident of Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Due to our proximity to Peninsular Malaysia, we have records of this cuckoo in Singapore from June to April, inferred from old records of “Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos” during the period which migratory Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo are not suppose to occur. It is quite obvious to find them here at mid year due to post breeding dispersal. Last year the first arrivals were on 22nd August at Bishan Park (discovered by Christina See) followed by another on 24th September at Jurong Lake (Lim Kim Keang). Two late stayers were recorded on 9th March at SICC and 13th April at Bidadari. In 2013, the first three records were in August, 24th at Upper Pierce ( Bill Heng), 26th at Venus Loop (Lim Kim Seng) and 28th at Bidadari ( Tan Wee Eng).

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo

Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo.

The migratory Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisiolor from subtropical Asia is a rare winter visitor and passage migrant to Singapore. It also winters in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. We normally get to see them by middle of November, with some individuals staying up to March. Interestingly we get more juvenile birds than full adults. Last year, the three earliest records were all in November, the first on 8th at Bidadari (Aldwin Recinto) followed by one on 15th at SBWR (Lim Kim Keang) and lastly on 22nd at Tuas ( Lim Kim Seng & Alan OwYong). However in 2013 we had two very early records both in October. The 14th October sighting at Bidadari by Leslie Fung and Vincent Ng set a new early date by more than a month. This was followed by another sighting on 19th October at Kranji Marshes by Lim Kim Seng. The November sighting was on 14th at Bidadari by Henry Koh and Leslie Fung.

The larger ranged Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides was not recorded in Singapore until 23th February 1984 at Ulu Sembawang by Lim Kim Seng. (MBR 1894-1985 LKS pers obs). Past records suggest first arrivals by the earlier half of November. Last year we registered the first sighting only on the 15th December at Bidadari (Frankie Lim & Alan OwYong). In 2013 the first record was on 10th December at Bidadari (Zacc HD). Both the Large and Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoos’ status as a rare winter visitor and passage migrant may have to be reviewed due to the increased frequency of sightings in the past years.

All three Hawk Cuckoos spent a considerable part of theirtime feeding at Bidadari as seen from the sighting records, and may be show high site-fidelity. When Bidadari gives way to housing development later this year, we will have to look harder elsewhere to find these Hawk Cuckoos to monitor their status and study them.

(Note: These records were taken from postings in varies birding and personal facebook pages and internet forums. There may be other postings that we missed which may give early arrival dates.)


Yong Ding Li 2008 Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, A Birder’s Headache.

The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng 2009

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

A Photo Guide to the ID of Malaysian & Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo. Con Foley.