Category Archives: Raptor Migration

Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, April-June 2018

OHB,-posted-060418,-Goldhill-Ave,-Zacc-HD,c

Oriental Honey Buzzard with what appears to be ‘landing lights’ at the shoulders! Goldhill Avenue, 6 April, 2018, by Zacc HD.

Summary:

Six migrant raptor species were recorded in the April to June period, a 50% increase compared to the previous year. The ‘additional’ species were the Black Kite and Black Baza. The other four species are regulars during this period – the Osprey, Oriental Honey-buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon.

A juvenile Black Kite Milvus migrans, a scarce visitor, was photographed at Choa Chu Kang christian cemetery on the 12th, scavenging on leftover food together with more than 20 Brahminy Kites; the kite was there for five days, from the 12-16 April. A single Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes was recorded at Pulau Ubin on 3 April.

Of the 22 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus recorded, one was of the torquatus race and at least 13 were of the orientalis race. Of the orientalis race, all were juveniles or second calendar year birds – six of these young birds were recorded in April, 4 in May and 3 in June. Interestingly, Zacc HD photographed an individual, at Goldhill Avenue in April, that showed features that looked like ‘landing lights’ (white patches) at the shoulders, which could lead the uninitiated to think that they had seen a Booted Eagle. The single torquatus was recorded only on one day, on 6 May at Bukit Timah near the hill top.

Records of the Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis spanned from 1-20 April. Eight were seen at Jelutong Tower on the 1st, flying north; up to three were on Pulau Ubin, with the rest being singles at Dairy Farm Nature Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR), Kranji Marshes, Choa Chu Kang, and the last one at Jelutong Tower on the 20th.

Five Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus were recorded, one at Kranji Marshes-SBWR area in April, one each at Pulau Ubin and Bishan Park in April, and one each at Neptune Court and Goldhill Avenue in May. A single Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus was recorded at the Kranji Marshes-SBWR area from April to June, and another at Seletar in April and May.

CHE, 200418, KM, male of a nesting pair, female dark morph, TGC_1575

Changeable Hawk Eagle, a young pale morph male still in immature plumage, judged to be a second year bird, that paired with a dark morph female to raise a chick at Kranji Marshes, in flight after delivering food to the nest, 20 April 2018, by Tan Gim Cheong

Sedentary Raptors

One Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was present at Goldhill Avenue area in April and May, with the exception of 9 April when two birds were seen. In addition, one individual was recorded at SBWR on 6 June.

For the Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus, there were 2 records each in April and May, and one in June. Next, for the Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus, there were 2 at Springleaf Nature Park and one at Seletar Camp in April, and one each at SBWR and Singapore Quarry in June.

One Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus was recorded at Kranji Marshes in April and May, and another at Yio Chu Kang in May.  The common Brahminy Kite Haliastur Indus was recorded in all 3 months and a maximum of 24 were recorded at Choa Chu Kang Christian cemetery in April, feeding on food scraps. 

Breeding Records

Three nestings of the White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster were observed during this period, one at Bukit Merah/SGH with at least one fledgling in early May, another at West Coast Park with at least one fledgling in early June and the best known one at Fort Canning with two chicks fledging in June.

A nest of the  Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus, with one dark morph adult and a young chick covered in white down on an Albizia tree at Kranji Marshes, was first reported on 3 April. During observations in April and May, the dark morph adult was usually present with the chick. The male, a pale morph and smaller in size compared to the dark morph, was observed to deliver food on the morning of 20 April and 19 May, leaving soon after on both occasions, leaving the female to feed the prey to the chick. Interestingly, the male was still in typical immature plumage with little streaking on breast and judged to be a second calendar year individual.

Nocturnal Raptors

A Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji flew into an apartment at Hougang Central on the night of 3 May surprising Janani Srinivasan, and the bird was guided out safely. On 24 May, Peter Ding had the good luck of encountering a Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus near Singapore Quarry and managed to photograph it. An Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula was found at a Sims Drive condominium on 2 April, and another roosting in a stand of trees by the seaside along a path at Punggol end on 9 Jun, during the day. An unfortunate Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo was found dead on 28 April at Bartley.

Breeding Records of Nocturnal Raptors

The Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu fledgling at SBWR was seen on 3 April and 20 May. A Spotted Wood Owl chick, partially covered in white downy feathers, fell to the ground at Pasir Ris Park on 5 April and was placed back onto the tree by rescuers (it had previously fallen on 23 March and similarly rescued). The same chick had reportedly fledged on 21 April but was found on the ground, unable to clamber up the trees, and was again placed back onto the tree. By 25 April the young owl appeared to have truly fledged. A family of Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji, with a fledgling, was present at Pasir Ris Park (PRP) on several days in May, roosting in a dense stand of small trees.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, Apr-Jun 2018, v2

Many thanks to everyone for sending in / sharing their records and to Zacc HD for the use of his photo.

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Singapore Raptor Report – March 2018

Eurasian-Sparrowhawk,-110318-morning,-TEG,-Feroz-Fizah,-w

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Tampines Eco Green, on 11 March 2018, by Feroz Fizah

Summary for migrant species:

In March, 150 raptors of 12 migrant species were recorded. Feroz Fizah sought ID help for a raptor photographed in flight at Tampines Eco Green on 11 March, late morning and both Adrian Silas Tay and Lau Jiasheng quickly identified it as the very rare Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, making it our 4th record for this species. On 15 March, Tay Kian Guan photographed an accipiter at Henderson Waves, harassing an Oriental Honey Buzzard. Accipiters can be notoriously difficult to identify, nevertheless, the photo showed enough detail to identify the raptor as a female Besra Accipiter virgatus, another rarity.

Yet another scarce raptor was a juvenile pale morph Common Buzzard Buteo buteo photographed in the Central Business District on 2 March by John Marriott, and is probably the same juvenile pale morph photographed by Luke Milo Teo on 27 Jan 2018. Also, Veronica Foo photographed a juvenile Black Kite Milvus migrans in flight at Lorong Halus on 21 March. Ryan Lee found a Northern Boobook Ninox japonica on the ground near a block of HDB flats at Pasir Ris on the 30th, it could have flown against a window; at Chung Cheng High (Main), another boobook was found by Teo Jo-Hsuan on the 16th morning and it was stunned, having flown against a window.

Accipiter,-150318,-HW,-Tay-Kian-Guan,-w

Besra, adult female, harassing an Oriental Honey Buzzard, Henderson Waves, on 15 March 2018, by Tay Kian Guan.

A total of 69 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhynchus were recorded, a mixture of adults and juveniles but notably all orientalis subspecies. 42 Black Bazas Aviceda leuphotes were recorded, with the bulk at Kranji Marshes. Of the 11 Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis recorded, there were six females and one male, with the remainder unsexed.

The small flock of Jerdon’s Bazas Aviceda jerdoni were still around Coney Island on the 15th, when 8 were recorded; the Bishan individual stayed from the 7th to the 12th; while the last record was an individual photographed by Luke Milo Teo at Ulu Sembawang on the 24th, a new late date for the species.

The female Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis at Ang Mo Kio was still around on the 3rd, while a male was seen at Lorong Halus on the 11th, followed by another individual at Kranji Marshes on the 17th. Of the five Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus recorded, at least two were juveniles. Four Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus at the northern areas rounded up the migrant raptors for the month.

JSH,-f,-230318,-Jelutong,-Fryap,-web

Japanese Sparrowhawk, adult female, Jelutong Tower, on 23 March 2018, by Francis Yap

Highlights for sedentary species:

There were breeding records for four resident species this month. An adult dark morph Changeable Hawk Eagle (CHE) Nisaetus cirrhatus was found sitting on its nest at Kranji Marshes on the 17th, and the next day, the 18th, at Bukit Batok West, a CHE was found lying low on another nest. A family of four Black-winged Kites Elanus caeruleus, with two recently fledged juveniles were recorded at Kranji Marshes on the 18th. A White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster nest, on a metallic comms tower south of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, holding one chick was recorded on the 30th. For the nocturnal raptors, a young chick, covered in white downy feathers, of a pair of Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo fell from its nest at Pasir Ris Park on the 23rd, and concerned photographers contacted ACRES, whose staff placed the owlet back into the tree; in addition, another pair with 2 chicks were observed at Bidadari on the 24th.

For other nocturnal raptors, there were two records of the rare Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus on Pulau Ubin, a juvenile on the 4th and an adult on the 17th. Five Buffy Fish Owls Ketupa ketupu were recorded, one at Ulu Pandan, three at the Botanic Gardens, and a juvenile at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Two Sunda Scops Owls Otus lempiji were recorded, one at Dairy Farm and another at Pasir Ris. Unfortunately for the Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula, one was found injured at Jurong West on the 28th.

Throughout the month, there were reports of a single Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela at Goldhill Avenue, but at the end of the month, sharp-eyed Adrian Silas Tay noticed that there were actually two birds. The other sedentary raptors recorded included seven Crested Goshawks, seven Grey-headed Fish Eagles and 17 Brahminy Kites. All in, there were 10 Changeable Hawk-Eagles, eight Black-winged Kites, and eight White-bellied Sea Eagles.

Table 1

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – March 2018

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Feroz Fizah, Tay Kian Guan and Francis Yap for the use of their photos.

Singapore Raptor Report – February 2018

CSH,, 010218, Punggol Promenade, Felix Chan

Chinese Sparrowhawk moulting into adult (grey) feathers, at Punggol Promenade, on 1 Feb 2018, by Felix Chan

Summary for migrant species:

In February, 81 raptors of 11 migrant species were recorded. The raptor of the month is undoubtedly the vagrant Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis photographed by Francis Yap at Bukit Timah on the 8th. On the 12th, two scarce raptors were recorded: a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo photographed at Kent Ridge Park by Nathan Johnson and a Black Kite Milvus migrans (lineatus) photographed at Pulau Ubin by Wang HM. A grey morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia photographed at Mimosa Walk by Heather Goessel on the 14th was a good surprise.

Himalayan Vulture at Bukit Timah today (8 Feb 2018) at around 1110 am, Francis Yap

Himalayan Vulture, a composite image, Bukit Timah, on 8 Feb 2018, by Francis Yap.

Nine Jerdon’s Bazas Aviceda jerdoni continued to winter at the Lorong Halus area, three were spotted at Changi Business Park and one at Bishan Park. Of the 28 Black Bazas Aviceda leuphotes recorded in the month, 18 were fittingly seen on the 18th by Goh Cheng Teng at Kranji Marshes.

The female Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis at Ang Mo Kio is still wintering there, while single occurrences were recorded at Punggol Promenade (1st),  Upper Seletar (6th) and Lorong Halus (17th). There were also four Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis during the month: a female at Bukit Timah (9th), an immature at Jelutong Tower (21st), one at Pasir Ris Park (23rd) and another female at Tampines Eco Green (26th).

Among the five Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus recorded, one was the ernesti race recorded on the 17th at Jelutong Tower by Goh Cheng Teng and Lim Hong Yao. Four Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus and 19 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus rounded up the migrant raptors for the month.

CGH, 150218, AMK TGW, Michael Phua, adult

Crested Goshawk, Ang Mo Kio, on 15 Feb 2018, by Michael Phua.

Highlights for sedentary species:

February was a pretty good month for the Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela, with records from Pulau Ubin on the 4th, Kent Ridge Park on the 8th and the long-staying individual at Malcolm Park. Also good as a daytime record was an Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula photographed by Deborah Friets at Satay by the Bay on the 19th.

There were two breeding records for the Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus: a pair at the Botanic Gardens with a single chick that fledged on the 4th and another pair at Ang Mo Kio that had a more eventful time as the nest was reported to have been blown down by strong winds together with the chicks. Fortunately, ACRES was alerted and the chicks returned to the parents which continued to look after them till they fledged. Interestingly, a juvenile Crested Goshawk caught a young monitor lizard (probably a clouded monitor) at the Botanic Gardens on the 3rd.

CGH, 030218, SBG, Lian Yee Ming, with prey

Crested Goshawk with a young monitor lizard, Botanic Gardens, on 3 Feb 2018, by Lian Yee Ming.

There were also two breeding records of the Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu: a fledgling at the Botanic Gardens late in the month, and another fledgling at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve with its parents on the 26th. The other sedentary raptors recorded included seven Grey-headed Fish Eagles, eight Black-winged Kites, seven Changeable Hawk-Eagles, and the common White-bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites.

Table 1

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – February 2018

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

 Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Felix Chan, Michael Phua, Francis Yap and Lian Yee Ming for the use of their photos.

First Autumn Raptor Migration Count in Singapore

by Tan Gim Cheong
This article was first published in BirdingASIA 28 (2017).
The write-up here is an expanded version with more figures and acknowledgements.
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Figure 1 – Part of a kettle of 82 OHB, Tuas South Avenue 16, Singapore, 8 October 2014. 

From 1 October to 16 November 2014 Singapore’s first autumn raptor migration count took place at Tuas South Avenue 16 (1.265ON 103.622OE), near the southwest tip of Singapore island, an area with many grassland plots that generate strong thermals during the day. The project was carried out by volunteer amateur birdwatchers but, due to a shortage of volunteers over the 47-day period, full coverage was unfortunately not achieved – observation times varied from two to eight hours per day while on seven days, no counts were made; overall, an average coverage of five hours per day was achieved. Nonetheless, the count was still useful in providing a baseline indication of the numbers and diversity of raptors that may be expected in Singapore during autumn migration.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Daily total of all migrant raptors. Note: no birds were recorded on 3 October, and no counts made on 13, 14, 16, 20, 21 and 29 October and 11 November.

A total of 3,667 raptors of 11 migrant species were recorded. Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus (3,189 birds) accounted for 87% of the total. The Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis (252 birds) was a distant second, making up 7%, while the remaining 6% comprised small numbers of nine species, including 15 Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis. Those three species were recorded throughout the period. A total of 11 Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes was recorded – one on 30 October, two on 1 November and eight on 12 November; six Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus – one each on 4, 6 and 8 October and 1, 5 and 16 November; three Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus – one each on 1, 8 and 10 November; Booted Eagle Hieraeetus pennatus – singles on 18 and 24 October; Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga – singles on 23 October and 13 November; and Osprey Pandion haliaetus – singles on 10 and 16 November. There was just one Black Kite Milvus migrans on 23 October, and one Common Buzzard Buteo buteo on 30 October. A further 183 raptors were unidentified.

Figure-3

Figure 3. Individual species totals.

Although Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded throughout the period, there were two noticeable peaks: between 6-12 October (37% of the total) and between 7-15 November (40% of the total). Flocks of up to 80 birds migrated across the site by ‘kettling’ – circling together – in one thermal and gliding to the next, making this site one of the best places in Singapore to observe migrating raptors (eg. prior to the 2014 count, 745 Oriental Honey Buzzarsd were recorded on a single day, on 9 November 2013; an even higher number, 894, has subsequently been recorded, on 9 November 2015).

Figure-4

Figure 4. Distribution of Oriental Honey Buzzards.

A count of 31 Japanese Sparrowhawks on 23 October 2014 was the highest one-day number of this species in Singapore. Most of these migrated singly, but up to three were observed kettling together. Chinese Sparrowhawk was encountered only in ones and twos; the largest group of Black Baza was a flock of eight, the remaining three comprised two together and a single. One notable record was a Northern Boobook Ninox japonica in flight on the afternoon of 1 November 2014 – it had probably been disturbed from its day-time roost.

The highest number of raptors recorded on a single day was 490 birds, on 8 October, with an average of 92 birds a day during the period. Notably, there was one day, 3 October, when no migrant raptors were recorded, even though the weather was fine. Reports of migrating raptors 4 km north of the count site, not seen by our recorders, suggest that migration occurred across a broad front, and some birds were not in visual range of the count site.

Figure-5

Figure 5. Distribution of Japanese Sparrowhawk.

The flight path also appeared to have shifted slightly compared with earlier years, when about half of the raptors flew south and the rest flew east-south-east. During the 2014 count, few raptors flew south; most flew east-south-east passing to the north of the observers. A survey of the wider area revealed that there was a new area of reclaimed land in the sea between Singapore and Malaysia, north-north-west of the count site, and birds were using the thermals it generated to cross the Straits of Johor; they passed further north of the count site than in previous years. The count site itself was reclaimed from the sea about 15 years ago, indicating that raptors adapt to the landscape altered by man to take advantage of available thermals.

Figure-6

Figure 6. Distribution of Chinese Sparrowhawk.

The peak hours for raptor movement were 12h00-16h00. Singapore is at the tip of continental South-East Asia, beyond which lie the Indonesian islands of the Riau Archipelago. Birds passing the site after 16h00 would find themselves flying over the sea as nightfall approaches, and might not have much time to find a suitable roosting site on the small islands scattered to the south.

The general direction of the flight path was from the north-west (Malaysia), then east-south-east towards Jurong Island (Singapore). By extrapolating the flight path, it would appear that most birds proceed directly to the Riau Islands without stopping in Singapore.

Other Migrants

Other migrants recorded during the count were: Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum (327), Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva (76), Pacific Swift Apus pacificus (25), Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus (11), White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis (10), Ashy Bulbul Hemixos flavala (9), Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica (5), Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus (2), Streaked Bulbul Ixos malaccensis (2), Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata (1), Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus (1) and Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus (1).

Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks go to all the volunteers who helped with the count: Alan Owyong, Alan Yeo, Alfred Chia, Alvin Yeo, Chong Boon Leong, Con Foley, Danny Lau, David Awcock, Diana Jackson, Doreen Ang, Francis Yap, Frankie Cheong, Frankie Lim, Han Yong Kwong, Horst Flotow, Jacky Soh, Jane & Terry Heppell, John Spencer, Lau Jia Sheng, Laurence Eu, Lawrence Cher, Lee Ee Ling, Lee How Sung, Leslie Fung, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Mui Soon, Low Choon How, Nicholas Tan, Ron Chew, See Toh Yew Wai, Subha & Raghav Narayanswamy, Tan Chee Keon, Tan Kok Hui, Timothy Lim, Wing Chong, Woo Jia Wei and Yap Euhian.

Singapore Raptor Report – January 2018

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Peregrine Falcon, juvenile, at Kranji Marshes, on 14 Jan 2018, by Goh Cheng Teng

Summary for migrant species:

In January, 75 raptors of 9 migrant species were recorded. Apart from singles at Coney Island and Pasir Ris Park, a flock of 8 Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni was recorded at Lorong Halus Wetlands on the 20th. The grey morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia found on 9 Dec at Dairy Farm Nature Park was still around on 19 Jan. A juvenile Black Kite Milvus migrans (lineatus), a scarce migrant, was photographed at Bulim Avenue on the 15th and 21st.

A female Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis was still wintering at Ang Mo Kio, while another sub-adult female was photographed at Lorong Halus on the 20th. Only three Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were recorded: one at Sentosa on the 3rd, one at Tampines Eco Green on the 20th and another at Mount Faber on the 26th, all were juveniles.

Two Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus were recorded, at the usual spots: one at Sungei Buloh – Kranji area and the other at Seletar Dam. Of the four Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus, one juvenile was at Pulau Ubin on the 7th, another juvenile at Jurong West also on the 7th, one at Sungei Buloh – Kranji area on multiple days, and the last one at Seletar Airport on the 27th.

For the Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes, up to 13 were in the Lorong Halus – Tampines area, 2 at Telok Blangah and another 5 at One North. Lastly, a total of 34 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus were recorded in January.

OHB, 020118, AMK, TErence Tan, torquatus tweeddale 2

Oriental Honey Buzzard, torquatus tweeddale morph, at Ang Mo Kio, on 2 Jan 2018, by Terence Tan.

Highlights for sedentary species:

January was a good month for the torquatus form of the Oriental Honey Buzzzard as four of these showed up, all of the tweeddale morph, one at Ang Mo Kio on the 2nd, one at Pasir Ris – Tampines area between the 2nd to 8th, one at Bukit Timah on the 18th, and one at Chinese Garden on the 31st.

The Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus pair at Sentosa was observed breaking off twigs for their nest and feeding on rodents at the beginning of the month; and as the leaves on the tree grew back, their nest high up the upper branches probably became more difficult to observe. Individuals were recorded at Pasir Ris, Mandai, and Telok Blangah, and another three at the Botanic Gardens.

The other sedentary raptors recorded included two Grey-headed Fish Eagle, two Black-winged Kites, nine Changeable Hawk-Eagles and the common White-bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites.

Table 1, revised

Addendum
Changes (highlighted in yellow) include additional records of 1 Brahminy Kite, 2 White-bellied Sea Eagles, 1 Grey-headed Fish Eagle, 2 Changeable Hawk-Eagles and 1 unidentified Accipiter.

For a pdf version (revised) with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Jan 2018, revised

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong  

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Goh Cheng Teng and Terence Tan for the use of their photos.

Singapore Raptor Report – December 2017

OHB, 081217, Sgp, Teo Chee Kee

Oriental Honey Buzzard, adult female dark morph, on 8 Dec 2017, by Teo Chee Kee.

Summary for migrant species:

December marked the arrival of two migrant raptor species. The first Eastern Marsh Harrier for the season, a juvenile, was photographed in flight at Kranji Marshes on the 2nd at 6:59am. This is fairly typical behaviour for the species as they are early movers. The first Black Kites of the season came in a group of three over Pulau Ubin on the 26th. The three juveniles were flying about over Pulau Sekudu and the nearby fish farms, probably hoping to scavenge.

The rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl found on 30 November at Dairy Farm Nature Park was still around on the 1st, but disappeared thereafter. On the 9th, a grey morph Oriental Scops Owl was found roosting high up a nearby tree; it was recorded again on the 11th and the 17th at the same locality. This grey morph individual might also have been the same one found in January this year, returning to the same locality in Singapore after breeding in the northern latitudes!

Three Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded. One frequented the Tampines Eco Green to Pasir Ris Park area throughout the month; another was recorded at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West on the 10th and 11th; and the last one flew by Jelutong Tower on the 22nd. Two Common Buzzards were recorded; the first was photographed on the 2nd at Seletar Aerospace Drive; on the 6th, 2 birds were photographed at nearby Seletar West, and one of the birds may have been the same bird first recorded on the 2nd.

Five Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded. A male at Pasir Ris Park on the 3rd and 9th; a female at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West on the 9th, two over Henderson Wave on the 20th, and a female at Sentosa on the 24th. Two Peregrine Falcons were recorded; one at Clementi and the other at Seletar Airport area. Three Western Ospreys were recorded; one at SBWR-Kranji Marshes area, another at Yishun Dam and the last at Pasir Ris Park.

Finally, we come to the most abundant migrant raptors. 19 Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded; a number of them at Henderson Waves, probably just passing through for destinations further south. 20 Black Bazas were recorded, and a small group is probably wintering at Pasir Ris Park. The Oriental Honey Buzzard is tops again with 93 birds; a number were recorded at Henderson wave, also probably just passing through on their way farther south.

Crested Goshawk (Accipiter Trivirgatus), 281217, Sentosa, Michael Phua

Crested Goshawks mating, at Sentosa, on 28 Dec 2017, by Michael Phua.

Highlights for sedentary species:

For the uncommon Crested Goshawk, 11 birds were recorded. Notably the pair at Sentosa was observed mating on four days: the 24th, 25th, 26th and 28th. The pair was observed bringing small branches to reinforce their nest high up the bare tree and on the 25th, the female goshawk was photographed breaking a small branch with its beak. A juvenile goshawk, probably from the pair’s last breeding attempt, was also seen at the tree on the 24th.

All three records of the torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards were of the tweeddale form. An adult male was recorded at Pasir Ris Park on the 15th, the record on the 21st was probably of the same individual. Another was recorded at Toa Payoh on the 17th.

Of the two Grey-headed Fish Eagles recorded, one was at Bishan Park and the other at Little Guilin, where a new nest had been built on a tall tree but nesting was not observed during the month. The other resident raptors recorded included the Changeable Hawk Eagle, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Table 1

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong 

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Teo Chee Kee and Michael Phua for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – Dec 2017

 

Raptor Migration ( Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Raptor Migration (Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Article and photos by Keita Sin

Autumn migration

Birdwatching in Singapore gets particularly exciting during the migratory season. One of the groups of birds that migrate through Singapore is what are generally referred to as “raptors” – birds of prey from the order Accipitriformes (eagles, hawks, harriers etc) and Falconiformes (falcon, kestrels etc).

The majority of raptors migrate through Singapore around October to November for the autumn migration, during which they head south to their wintering grounds. During the spring migration in mid-February to mid-April, they will head back north towards their breeding grounds.

There are several locations that have been known to be good spots for raptor watching in autumn. The annual Singapore Bird Group Raptor Count has been conducted at these locations, such as Pulau Ubin, Changi, Tuas and the Southern Ridges (Kent Ridge Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park).

Being a fan of raptors myself, I joined the Raptor Counts at Kent Ridge Park in 2015 and 2016 to watch the convoys of birds flying south-east along the ridge. During these counts, one particular question occurred to me: if the birds were filtering in at different points on the Southern Ridges before continuing to fly along the ridge, wouldn’t it be most productive to do a count as close as possible to its southernmost end?

The birds of Henderson Waves

On 17th November 2016, I made my way towards Mount Faber Park (the southernmost park along the ridge) to find out the answers to my question. However, the views offered there were rather disappointing, and I thus continued towards the Henderson Waves, which offered great views in all directions.

Photo 1 View from HWView from Henderson Waves (facing South)

I stood there from 9:20am to 1:00pm and was rewarded with 19 Crested Honey Buzzards; 9 Black Bazas; 1 Booted Eagle; 1 Chinese Sparrowhawk; 8 Japanese Sparrowhawks; and most importantly, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, which then became the second accepted record for Singapore.

Photo 2 Eurasian SparrowhawkEurasian Sparrowhawk at Henderson Waves, 17 November 2016. Note the 6 “fingers” and bulky body

Observations in 2016 and 2017 by many pairs of eyes led to observations of many other uncommon migratory raptors including the Greater Spotted Eagle, Grey-faced Buzzard, Common Buzzard and Jerdon’s Baza. Other migratory raptors such as the Pied Harrier and Eastern Marsh-harrier were recorded nearby too. Resident raptors such as the Crested Goshawk, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle and Grey-headed Fish-eagle were also seen regularly (detailed counts in the monthly raptor report).

Photo 3 CollageLeft to right, from top row onwards: Jerdon’s Baza, Grey-faced Buzzard, Black Baza, Crested Goshawk, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Eastern Marsh-harrier, Crested Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk.

Other migrants such as Oriental Pratincoles, Pacific Swifts, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Ashy Minivets, and Blue-throated and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters regularly flew over the bridge too.

Photo 4 Oriental PratincoleOriental Pratincoles at Henderson Waves, 15 November 2017

The highlights, however, were the Asian House Martin (solitary bird on 19 October) and Needletails. The second and fourth White-throated Needletails in Singapore were recorded (a solitary bird on 19 October, and another on 31 October flying together with 2 other unidentified needletails) and another single unidentified Needletail was photographed on 6 November (by Lawrence Cher).

Photo 5 White-throated NeedletailWhite-throated Needletail at Henderson Waves, 31 October 2017

The diversity of birds recorded at Henderson Waves is astonishing compared to the other sites along the Southern Ridges. It could be that many of the birds flew south through the Central Catchment and only entered the ridge halfway through, causing them to be unrecorded at the other locations. The better view offered at the bridge might also have contributed to the increased diversity observed.

The raptors (and other migrants) usually fly over the bridge from north-west to south-east (from Telok Blangah Hill Park towards Mount Faber Park). The collective observation of the large number of birders stationed at the bridge in 2017 seems to point to a rough trend of having better counts (in terms of both quantity and diversity) when the wind is blowing from the north-west direction.

Birding at Henderson Waves

On text, Henderson Waves sounds like the perfect place in Singapore to go raptor watching. It is, sadly, not as fantastic as it seems. This place offers no shelter from the scorching sun (and yet the hotter it is, the better for raptor migration) and the birds tend to fly very high along the ridge. For those whose main objective is bird photography, Henderson Waves will be a disappointment. However those who are prepared can be rewarded with beautiful sights of convoys of birds, and the occasional low-flying raptor. Those who keep local lists will no doubt be able to tick off a great number of uncommon species.

When birding at Henderson Waves, make sure you protect yourself against the sun – apply sunblock, wear a hat, and put on sunglasses. It will also be great to record the wind direction and share your sightings. A pair of binoculars is a must.

What about spring migration?

Singapore has a lower number (in terms of both quantity and diversity) of raptors recorded during the spring migration. This could be due to the different flight paths taken by the raptors during their return journey, and it would be interesting to find out how Henderson Waves performs then. Could there be a different site in Singapore that hosts the main bulk of raptors flying through in spring? There’s only one way to find out.

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2017

Besra, 181117, posted 051217, Telok Blangah, Les Sail

Besra, juvenile, at Telok Blangah Hill on 18 Nov 2017, by Leslie Fung.

Summary for migrant species:

November 2017 turned out to be the best month ever for migrant raptor diversity, with 18 migrant species recorded! This is in huge contrast to last month, which was noted to be “the least remarkable October on record, with only 6 migrant species recorded”! The raptors seem to be making it up for a lacklustre October.

An incredible number of ‘megas’ (birding speak for very rare birds) were recorded, complete with photographic evidence. On 18 November, Leslie Fung and Diana Jackson photographed an accipiter which looked superficially like a Japanese Sparrowhawk in flight, but was in fact a juvenile Besra, one of the ‘megas’, and one which is amongst the most difficult to identify. A report of a Besra on the 10th turned out to be a Japanese Sparrowhawk, underscoring the difficulties in identification.

26 November must surely be a magical day for a few photographers who were richly rewarded for their efforts out in the field. Francis Yap’s vigil at Henderson Waves paid off handsomely with a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, another mega, and only the third occurrence of this species in Singapore. At the eastern end of Singapore, on the new Tanah Merah Coast Road, Adrian Silas Tay, Goh Cheng Teng, et al, made special efforts to get to this stretch of road where kerbside parking is not allowed and managed to photograph an Amur Falcon! Another mega, and also the third occurrence of the species in Singapore.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 261117, Henderson Wave, Francis Yap, 1004h
Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 26 Nov 2017, Henderson Waves, by Francis Yap

On 8 November, Terence Tan chanced upon a Northern Boobook in daylight at Satay by the Bay and obtained a beautiful set of images of this rarely encountered nocturnal bird of prey.

Northern Boobook, 081117, SBTB, Terence Tan 3

Northern Boobook, 8 Nov 2017, Satay by the Bay, by Terence Tan

Just as the month came to a close, Khoo MeiLin and Tsang Kwok Choong found a rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl roosting at Dairy Farm Nature Park in the daytime. This particular individual might have been the same one found in January this year, returning to the same tree in Singapore after breeding in the northern latitudes!

OSO, 301117, DFNP, KC Tsang

Oriental Scops Owl, rufous morph, 30 Nov 2017, Dairy Farm Nature Park, by KC Tsang

On the 11th, a juvenile Greater Spotted Eagle, a rarity, flew by Henderson Waves, giving cheer to a bunch of birders who must have temporarily forgotten about being roasted under the sun!

GSE, 111117, Henderson Waves, Adrian Silas Tay

Greater Spotted Eagle, juvenile, 11 Nov 2017, Henderson Waves, by Adrian Silas Tay

The rare Pied Harrier was photographed at Henderson Waves by Francis Yap on the 15th (a juvenile), recorded at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell on the 18th (immature) and at Pulau Semaukau by Saket Sarupria on the 28th (adult male).

Pied Harrier, 151117 1305h, TBHP CP2, Fryap

Pied Harrier, juvenile, 15 Nov 2017, Henderson Waves, by Francis Yap

On the 13th, a dark morph Booted Eagle was spotted at Henderson Waves during the hottest part of the day, flying southeast initially and then turning northeast, perhaps deciding that it was not going to cross the seas to the south.

Booted Eagle, 131117, HW, TGC

Booted Eagle, dark morph, 13 Nov 2017, Henderson Waves, by Tan Gim Cheong

The Jerdon’s Baza, a good bird for many birders, was recorded on three dates, singles on 12th and 14th at Henderson Waves, both in the afternoon, and the third one at Pasir Ris on the 25th.

Jerdon Baza, 251117, PRP CP B, Jeremy Ong

Jerdon’s Baza, at Pasir Ris Park on 25 Nov 2017, by Jeremy Ong.

The rather uncommon Grey-faced Buzzard was recorded at Henderson Waves on 2nd, 5th, 11th and 19th, all singly except for 2 birds on the 5th, and another 2 recorded at Sisters Island / St John’s Island area on the 4th.

Grey-faced Buzzard, 041117, St John Island, Adrian Silas Tay

Grey-faced Buzzard, 4 Nov 2017, near St John’s Island, by Adrian Silas Tay

The uncommon Common Buzzard was photographed on the 2nd, 19th and 25th, all being singles in flight at Henderson Waves.

Common Buzzard, 251117, HW, STYW

Common Buzzard, 25 Nov 2017, Henderson Waves, by See Toh Yew Wai

Another uncommon raptor despite its name, the Common Kestrel was photographed at the new Tanah Merah Coast Road on the 26th.

Common Kestrel, 261117, new Changi Coast Rd, Goh Cheng Teng
Common Kestrel, 26 Nov 2017, Tanah Merah Coast Road, by Goh Cheng Teng

Twenty two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them over Henderson Waves, while one adult female seemed to be wintering at Ang Mo Kio. Five Peregrine Falcons and four Western Ospreys were also recorded.

BB w prey, 231117, PRP, Heather Goessel 2

Black Baza, feeding on a grasshopper, 23 Nov 2017, Pasir Ris Park, by Heather Goessel

Finally, we come to the most abundant migrant raptors. 129 Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, many of them at Henderson Waves, this season’s hotspot. The Black Bazas showed quite a bit, from zero birds last month to 375 birds this month, with a day high of 127 birds on the 12th at Henderson Waves. Heather Goessel had a lucky encounter with one feeding on what appeared to be a grasshopper, at Pasir Ris Park. The Oriental Honey Buzzard is tops again with 531 birds, including a flock of 74 at Henderson Waves and a flock of 61 at Tuas, both on the 11th.

OHB, 151117, HW, Fryap

Oriental Honey Buzzard, juvenile, 15 Nov 2017, Henderson Waves, by Francis Yap

Highlights for sedentary species:

The locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle was recorded three times at the Kent Ridge / Henderson Waves area with a max of 2 birds, plus another one at Pulau Tekong on 23rd morning. For the uncommon Crested Goshawk, 3 juveniles were recorded, one at the Southern Ridges, one at MacRitchie and one at Pasir Ris; among the 5 adults, a pair was observed mating at the Botanic Gardens on the 18th.

All five records of the torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards at three localities were of the tweeddale form, with at least one female at Satay by the Bay and one male at Pasir Ris Park, the last locality being the Jelutong Tower. A Grey-headed Fish Eagle was recorded at Sentosa on the 16th, the other 6 were found at its usual haunts – Kranji, Little Guilin, Botanic Gardens and in flight over Henderson Waves.

A juvenile dark morph Changeable Hawk Eagle was seen calling, seemingly for the adult dark morph nearby, at Jalan Kayu on the 16th, indicating that the young hawk-eagle had recently fledged. Unfortunately, a juvenile pale morph did not make it, as its fresh carcass was found at Clarke Quay on 25th morning, apparently a victim of collision with a building or window. The other resident raptors recorded included the Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

There are also additional records for October 2017, please refer to the PDF below.

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Leslie Fung, Jeremy Ong, Heather Goessel, Francis Yap, Adrian Silas Tay, See Toh Yew Wai, Goh Cheng Teng, Tsang Kwok Choong, and Terence Tan for the use of their photos.

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

For a pdf version of the report with detailed lists (including additional records for October 2017), please click here Singapore Raptor Report – November 2017

 

Singapore Raptor Report – October 2017

Accipiter, 251017, Jelutong, Fryap

Japanese Sparrowhawk, juvenile, at Jelutong Tower on 25 Oct 2017, by Francis Yap. Interestingly, this individual has dark and pale tailbands that appear equal in width, the most commonly held criteria for Besra. However, other features such as short tail, long primary projection, weak mesial stripe and weak chest markings point to Japanese Sparrowhawk. A good reminder that identification cannot be based on a single feature alone.

Summary for migrant species:

October 2017 is probably the least remarkable October on record, with only 6 migrant species recorded (we usually record around 9 species in October). For the second year in a row, there were no records of the Black Baza in October, not that they no longer come to Singapore, just that they arrive only later in the year.

The bulk of the 70 migrants recorded were made up by the 33 Oriental Honey Buzzards, and 25 Japanese Sparrowhawks. There were 8 Chinese Sparrowhawks, including one female spotted regularly at Ang Mo Kio. Two Western Ospreys were recorded at the Kranji-Sungei Buloh area and one adult Peregrine Falcon was recorded at Kent Ridge on the 3rd. The single juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier at Mount Faber on the 3rd was a notable record.

Crested Goshawk mating, 271017, Ang Mo Kio, Seah Han Wah

A pair of Crested Goshawks mating, at Ang Mo Kio on 27 Oct 2017, by Seah Han Wah. Note the small dark droplet-shaped markings on a rather clean white breast of the female (below) versus the bigger rufous-brown patches on the breast of the male (above).

Highlights for sedentary species:

The locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle was recorded twice at Kent Ridge this month, on the third and the 12th. As for the uncommon Crested Goshawk, a pair was observed mating at Ang Mo Kio; another 4 adults were recorded at Kent Ridge and the Botanic Gardens; and a juvenile at Bidadari, honing its skills at hunting, using a Variable Squirrel as target. Amazingly, all the four records of the torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards were of the tweeddale form, with at least one female and one juvenile – one at Toa Payoh on 3rd, a female at Jelutong Tower on 7th, a juvenile at Jelutong Tower on 22nd, and a female at Old Upper Thomson on 29th. The other resident raptors recorded included the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Francis Yap and Seah Han Wah for the use of their photos.

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

For a pdf version with more details please click Singapore Raptor Report – October 2017

 

Singapore Raptor Report, July-September 2017

PF, 170817, Ubin, Xu Weiting

Peregrine Falcon (ernesti subspecies), at Pulau Ubin, 17 August 2017, by Xu Weiting

Summary:

The Osprey, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Chinese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon were recorded during the July to September period. The Osprey was recorded in small numbers all 3 months, at the Kranji-Mandai and Yishun Dam areas. The 5 Oriental Honey Buzzards recorded from 13 July to 6 September are more likely to have stayed for the summer; and the first autumn arrival was on 24 September at Lorong Halus, followed by another on 25 September at Bidadari and small flocks on 30 September at Tuas. A torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard tweeddale morph was photographed at Toa Payoh on 30 September.

The first arrival of the Japanese Sparrowhawk was on 24 September at Lorong Halus (3 birds), followed by singles at Bidadari and Jelutong Tower before the month ended. The first arrival of the Chinese Sparrowhawk was also on 24 September at Lorong Halus (2 birds), followed by an individual at Jelutong Tower later on. A Peregrine Falcon (ernesti subspecies) was recorded at Pulau Ubin on 17 August; another reported from the 39th floor of OCBC Building on 24 August was also seen feeding on feral pigeons on previous occasions.

CHE, 030917, Springleaf, Laurence Eu, 3DX_3089

A Changeable Hawk-eagle, adult pale morph, at Springleaf, 3 Sep 2017, by Laurence Eu

For the resident raptors, highlights included the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle on 13 July at South Buona Vista Road. On 18 August at Little Guilin, a juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle was observed whining constantly in the presence of an adult, but just 2 weeks later, on 1 September, the adults were seen building a new nest on a tall tree.

A juvenile Crested Goshawk was recorded at Pasir Ris Park on 13 July, and Changi Village on 10 September, with a shrew in its talons; adults were recorded on 17 August at Kent Ridge Park, 21 August at Aljunied (2 birds), and 7 September at Sentosa, with a Plantain Squirrel in its talons. The Black-winged Kite was recorded on 9 July at Kranji Marsh, 10 July at Punggol Barat (2 birds) and 20 August at Changi Point Ferry Terminal. A Changeable Hawk-eagle which probably fledged sometime in June or earlier was seen on the nest at Dairy Farm area on 1 July and 15 July, maybe it was ‘homesick’.

Many thanks to everyone for their records and to Xu Weiting and Laurence Eu for the use of their photos.

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong 

For a pdf version with more details pleas click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2017