by Geoff Lim & Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)
September 2019 marked the appearance of rarities such as the Glossy Ibis, Black-naped Monarch, Blue Rock Thrush, and Japanese Paradise Flycatcher; as well as the first arrivals of many migrants.
Glossy Ibis Sighting
The Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus, is a widely distributed species that is found in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Central and North America. However, it is a very rare vagrant in Singapore. The sighting on 28 and 29 September 2019 by Raghav and Goh Cheng Teng, respectively, was our fifth sighting to date. Prior sightings were at Lorong Halus in 12-16 June 1984, Sungei Buloh in May 1989, Sime Road in October 1992, and November 2007. Wells (1999: 107) noted that the species is a vagrant in Peninsular Malaysia and highlighted that the sightings in 1984 and 1989 may have been wild sightings; captive birds were ruled out since the sightings comprised of adults and juveniles. Traded birds tended to be of a uniform age, since birds would be taken as fledglings.
Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) & Fringes
Possibly first for the season, a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, was spotted in flight on 2 September 2019 at Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap. Another was spotted within CCNR on 6 September 2019 by Dillen Ng; who also spotted an Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis, on the same day. Also on 6 September 2019, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was spotted at Jelutong by Francis Yap. On 10 September 2019, a Red-legged Crake, Rallina fasciata, was seen skulking about within the CCNR by Timothy Chua Jia Yao.
Jelutong proved to be a good location to observe other species, which included a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 13 September 2019 (Alan Owyong), and five Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, perched on a tree in the rain on 14 September 2019 (Tan Kok Hui). It was also from this vantage point on 27 September 2019 that two Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, three Crested Honey Buzzard, a Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis and an Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were seen flying over CCNR by Francis Yap and Richard White.
The Venus-Windsor-Lower Peirce corridor yielded the second Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, of the season on 2 September 2019 (Venus Loop, Ho Siew Mun). A White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, a species vulnerable to poaching, was spotted on 4 September 2019 (Lower Peirce, Mei Hwang) while a Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, was seen on 5 September 2019 (Venus Loop, Terence Tan), and a Banded Woodpecker, Chrysophlegma miniaceum, on 9 September 2019 (Windsor Park, Lim Sheen Taw). Further away, a torquatus race tweeddale morph Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, was spotted on 10 September 2019 at Upper Seletar Reservoir (Deborah Friets).
Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) and Singapore Quarry continues to be a high yield CCNR-fringe location. An Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was seen on 2 September 2019 (Choong YT), as was a first-for-the-season Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa daurica, on 5 September 2019 (Ho Siew Mun), a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, also on 5 September 2019 (Peter Lim), a Common Emerald Dove, Chalcophaps indica, on 7 September 2019 (Pary Sivaraman), a Sunda Scops Owl, Otus lempiji, on 10 September 2019 (Norhafiani A Majid), a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, on 11 September 2019 (Kok M Lee), and a Red-crowned Barbet, Megalaima rafflesii, on 12 September 2019 (James Quek). Fans of the Barred Eagle-Owl, Bubo sumatranus, were not disappointed. The owls appeared on 8 September 2019 (female; Martin Kennewell), 10 September 2019 (Leong Kai Kee & Low Chong Yang) and 27 September 2019 at 7:08pm (one bird; Art Toh).
Just outside DFNP, a Slaty-breasted Rail, Gallirallus striatus, was spotted in a canal by the Dairy Farm condominium on 2 September 2019 (Michael Phua), while at the nearby Bukit Batok Nature Park (BBNP), a Crimson Sunbird, Aethopyga siparaja, was reported on 7 September 2019 by Wing Chong.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
On 10 September 2019, a Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus, was spotted near the Gardens by Brian Powell, while on 12 September 2019, a Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hemiprocne longipennis, was spotted at the gardens’ Eco Lake by Timothy Chua.
Despite its much reduced size, Bidadari continued to support migrating birds. Birders visiting the grounds on 5 September 2019 were rewarded with sightings of a Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus (T. Ramesh) and a first of the season Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia (Herman Phua). Also spotted at the former cemetery were an Oriental Pied Hornbill, Anthracoceros albirostris (9 September 2019; Tracy Thu Trang Doan), a male adult Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu (10 September 2019; Tracy Thu Trang Doan with Ellen Tan; and 13 September 2019, T. Ramesh), a Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni (10 September 2019; Krishna Gopagondanahalli), Daurian Starling, Agropsar sturninus (12 September 2019; Ramesh T.), Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus (13 September 2019, T Ramesh), Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans (27 September 2019; Pary Sivaraman), Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica (28 September 2019, Alfred Chia; 29 September 2019, Angie Cheong), the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus (29 September 2019, Yang Chee Meng) and Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus (30 September 2019, Joseph Lim).
A Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, was spotted on 6 September 2019 at Malcolm Road, while a Barred Buttonquail, Turnix suscitator, was found dazed and resting at a basketball court at Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 by Sandra Chia, who took care of the bird and released it the next morning.
A Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Cacomantis sepulcralis, was spotted on 8 September 2019 on Coney Island (Kerry Pereira), while a Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, was spotted on 23 September 2019 at Marsiling Park by Benny Ng.
Pulau Ubin hosted several interesting species of birds, including a Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis, seen on 1 September 2019 among a flock of Lesser Sand Plover by Adrian Silas Tay. Four were seen the next day, on 2 September 2019, during an NParks survey, and photographed by See Toh Yew Wai. About a week later, a female Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea, was spotted on 7 September 2019 by Jason Lee, while a calling and thermalling Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 8 September 2019 caught the attention of Adrian Silas Tay. Further afield, a first-of-the-season Grey Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, arrived on Pulau Tekong on 14 September 2019 and was spotted by Frankie Cheong.
Back on the mainland, an Eastern Crowned Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus, was spotted on 11 September 2019 at Pasir Ris Park by Feroz Ghazali, while a juvenile Laced Woodpecker, Picus vittatus, was seen on 28 September 2019 at Tampines Eco-Green by Ken Joree Tan. Farther east, a Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, was spotted on 7 September 2019 at Changi Business Park by T Ramesh, while a juvenile Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla tschutschensis, was seen on 24 September 2019 by YT Choong.
A Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, became the first record for the species for this year’s winter migration when it was spotted on 11 September 2019 along the Southern Ridges by Tay Kian Guan.
The Gardens and Satay by the Bay parks proved to be a fruitful location in September. A Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, was seen on 12 September 2019 by Veronica Foo and on 30 September 2019 by Lim Sheen Taw; while Lesser Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna javanica, was seen on 24 September 2019 at Satay by the Bay by Annette Russell. The next two days had reports of Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei (Caszlyn Wong and Sim Chip Chye, 25 September 2019; first for the season) and Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone affinis, (26 September 2019, Cheong Khan Hoong & Sim Chip Chye) at Satay by the Bay. Other species include four juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, on 27 September 2019, at Satay by the Bay (Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan); Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa latirostris, on 28 September 2019 (Raymond Bong); a Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, on 29 September 2019, (Lim Sheen Taw); and a Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, on 30 September 2019 (Lim Sheen Taw).
On 20 September 2019, sightings of a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, at Duxton Pinnacle by Dillen Ng and others drew many to the block to see and photograph it; of these, Jojo Kuah spotted a total of two birds, of which one was a young male. Visiting Pinnacle on 26 September 2019 yielded a first for the season Pacific Swift, Apus pacificus, by Adrian Silas Tay. Two days later, on 28 September 2019, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was found along Marine Parade Road, by Jay Yip. Separately, on 23 September 2019, an Eurasian Magpie, Pica pica, the origin of which is unclear (possibly an escapee), was spotted at Sakra Road, Jurong Island, by Tan Boon Chong. Also, two Gull-billed Terns, Gelochelidon nilotica, were photographed near Sentosa on 21 September 2019, reported by Adrian Silas Tay.
Jurong Lake Garden proved to be a good habitat for birds. These included:
- White-headed Munia, Lonchura maja (7 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
- Crested Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus, (10 September 2019; Alok Mishra);
- Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola, (29 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
- Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, (28 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
- Amur Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone incei, (29 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid);
- Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, a possible first-for-the-season (27 September 2019 Tay Kian Guan; 29 September 2019 Norhafiani A Majid);
- Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia, (28 September 2019; Norhafiani A Majid),
- Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus,on 30 September 2019 (Kok M Lee).
Between 22 and 28 September 2019, up to four Cuthroat Finch Amadina fasciata, an introduced species, were also spotted within the garden’s grounds (Geri Lim and Jimmy Lim, respectively).
Further away at Jurong Lake, Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted on 26 September 2019 by Tay Boon Kiat, while a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was seen on 28 September 2019 by Norhafiani A Majid.
Jurong Eco-Garden continued to support bird life despite the reduction of surrounding woodland. On 11 September 2019, a Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus, was spotted by Terence Tan, while a single juvenile Chestnut-bellied Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, was observed to have successfully fledged between 17 and 19 September 2019 (Kwok Tuck Loong, Alan Owyong and Joseph Lim). On 30 September 2019, a Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus (confusus subspecies) was spotted by Joseph lim on the garden’s grounds.
Apart from the excitement over the Glossy Ibis at Kranji Dam, Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted along the dam on 8 and 14 September 2019 by Martin Kennewell; a single bird on the 8th was a moulting adult with remnants of its dark belly and dark eye stripe, while two birds were seen on the 14th. White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus, were also observed within the reservoir on 30 September 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay.
Over at Kranji Marsh, a Straw-headed Bulbul, Pycnonotus zeylanicus was spotted on 5 September 2019 by Feroz Ghazali; while five to six Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted perched at the metal railings of the PUB facility along the waters of Kranji Reservoir on 13 September 2019 by Oliver Tan. The resident Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, was also spotted on 28 September 2019 by Wing Cheong; while about two weeks prior to this sighting a dark-morph bird was seen on 10 September 2019 along Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Steven Cheong predating on what appeared to be a rallid bird. Further away at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3, two adults and possibly one juvenile Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, were spotted by Sandra Chia.
Over at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, we received reports of arriving waders through social media. On 3 September 2019, 37 Common Redshank, Tringa totanus, were spotted by Martin Kennewell, many were flagged but were too far to be deciphered. On the same day, a single Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa williamsoni, was also seen by Martin. After making its arduous journey from the Arctic Circle, an Arctic Warbler, Phylloscopus borealis, found its way into the grounds of the reserve on 18 September 2019, making the sighting by Timothy Chua the first-of-the-season. On 20 September 2019, a Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea, was spotted by David Li, while on 22 September 2019, a first-of-the-season Broad-billed Sandpiper, Limicola falcinellus, was spotted by Andy Dinesh and T. Ramesh. On 24 September 2019, a Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea, which is not commonly seen in the reserve, was spotted by Terence Tan.
The windswept Tuas yielded a Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, on 22 September 2019 at Tuas Checkpoint (Fadzrun Adnan), a first-of-the-season Chestnut-winged cuckoo, Clamator coromandus and a first-of-the-season Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx fugax, on 26 September 2019 (Alfred Chia).
Other birds spotted in the western reaches of the island city include a first-of-the-season Japanese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter gularis, on 13 September 2019 (Lim Kim Seng), a “huge flock” of Daurian Starling, Agropsar sturninus, at Pandan Reservoir on 27 September 2019 (Evelyn Lee), and the regular family of Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, along Pandan River on 26 September 2019 (Francis Yap).
On 28 September 2019, the NSS Bird Group conducted a pelagic survey along the Straits of Singapore. Key highlights included a total of 112 Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, Oceanodroma monorhis, a far cry from the previous record of 532 birds in September 2018, as well as the fourteen Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus. Note that pelagic sightings might not be in Singapore waters.
Red-necked Phalarope Sighting
A total of fourteen juvenile Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus, were spotted on the seas north of Batam (Indonesia), the first sighting of multiple phalaropes in a flock. Three previous sightings were of single birds, two on land and one at sea.
Red-necked Phalaropes are small waders that forage by picking from the surface of the waters while swimming, often spinning about when pursuing active prey (Wells, 1999:264-265). Known as vagrants during passage seasons, the birds have so far been seen mostly in marine habitats, although one report from Singapore occurred in the flooded reclaimed land in Tuas in November 1994.
A total of fifteen adult and one juvenile Aleutian Terns, Sterna aleutica, were spotted, as were 55 Bridled Terns, Sterna anaethetus, with two flocks of 18 and 7 flying eastwards in the direction of Horsburgh Lighthouse. Two adult and two juvenile Common Terns, Sterna hirundo, were resting on flotsam, while 24 Swift Terns, Thalasseus bergii, (formerly Great Crested) and 10 Lesser Crested Terns, Thalasseus bengalensis, with four being unidentified, were seen. A total of six Little Terns, Sterna albifrons, were also seen and these may be winter visitors.
Other birds seen include a Great-billed Heron, Ardea sumatrana, on Sister’s Island, 5 Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, flying south, an Intermediate Egret, Egretta intermedia, and a soaring Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis.
Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. London: Academic Press.
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green
This report is written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.
Many thanks to Art Toh, David Fur, Francis Yap, Lim Sheen Taw, T. Ramesh, Goh Cheng Teng, Steven Cheong, See Toh Yew Wai, Alan Owyong and Norhafiani A. Majid for allowing us to use their photographs.