Category Archives: Rare Bird Sighting

The (avian) Magic of Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin

Chek Jawa is best known for its intertidal biodiversity, and indeed, a rare shorebird, the Red Knot made an appearance on 2 April 2022, for just a day, to refuel on the mudflats before continuing on its way to the summer breeding grounds to the north.

Red Knot, 060921, Yishun Dam, Vincent Yip

Red Knot, one of these birds made a pit stop at Check Jawa, (photo at Yishun Dam by Vincent Yip)

The next day, birders at Chek Jawa found not the knot, but a Large Woodshrike, the second modern record for Singapore. The woodshrike only showed for a short period from 3-6 April, and 8 April 2022, at the coastal forest where Chek Jawa would slowly reveal its avian secrets.

LWS, 030422, LKC

Large Woodshrike, 3 April 2022, Chek Jawa, photo by Lim Kim Chuah

Thus, the coastal boardwalk became the focal point for birders, and the only shelter in the middle provided much welcome respite from the tropical sun. On 4 April 2022, two Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikes were spotted. They are rare, but after more than a month of observations, they turned out to be the most ‘regular’ of the rarities at Chek Jawa. The last reported sighting was on 17 May 2022.

BWFS, 080522, CBC

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, 8 May 2022, Chek Jawa, photo by Chen Boon Chong

A male Ruby-cheeked Sunbird was also spotted on 4 April 2022, initially by only one photographer who goes by the mantra of ‘shoot everything first and check later’. The tiny bird is not easy to spot among the foliage, but was also seen on other dates including 19 & 23 April 2022.

RCSB, SBWR, 280522, CBC

A male Ruby-cheeked Sunbird (photo at SBWR by Chen Boon Chong)

On 15 April 2022, a leafbird was spotted on the tallest tree that could be seen from the boardwalk shelter, and was determined to be a male Lesser Green Leafbird the next day. This is a rarity on the main island, and the first record for Pulau Ubin. The lonesome leafbird was reported till 17 May 2022.

DSC_0164,-Lesser-Green-Leafbird,-1208x900

A male Lesser Green Leafbird, one of these visited Chek Jawa (photo at Panti by Tan Gim Cheong)

Birders that continued to make their way to Chek Jawa were rewarded with another surprise: a female Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker, the third record for Singapore. The tiny bird only showed briefly each time, at the top of the tallest tree, on 23, 25, 28 April, and 1, 5, 6 May 2022.

SBreastedFP, 250422, TGC, crop

Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker, female, 25 April 2022, Chek Jawa, photo by Tan Gim Cheong

When April gave way to May, Chek Jawa sprang another surprise in the form of two Black-and-white Bulbuls, only the second modern record for Singapore. The bulbul showed briefly each time on 2, 3, 4 & 6 May 2022.

BnW Bulbul, 040522, TGC

Black-and-white Bulbul, 4 May 2022, Chek Jawa, photo by Tan Gim Cheong

Finally, on 5 May 2022, a Black-and-red Broadbill joined the string of rarities at Chek Jawa. This being the 5th record for Singapore. The broadbill showed well for a day but only provided brief views the next 2 days.

BnR BB, 050522, Angie

Black-and-red Broadbill, 5 May 2022, Chek Jawa, photo by Angie Cheong.

Thanks to Vincent Yip, Lim Kim Chuah, Chen Boon Chong and Angie Cheong for permission to use their photos.

A short history of the Black-and-red Broadbill in Singapore

TGC_0582,-Black-and-red-Broadbill,-600x800

Black-and-red Broadbill, Chek Jawa, 5 May 2022, by Tan Gim Cheong

The Black-and-red Broadbill, Cymbirhynchus macrohynchos, a former resident bird, was considered “not common” in Singapore (main island), but “quite numerous on Pulau Ubin” in the early days (Bucknill and Chasen, 1927).

By the 1980s, its fortune had changed and was considered extinct. Then in August 2004, one individual was discovered at the fittingly named Discovery Trail on Pulau Ubin, where it was seen and photographed (Lim, 2004). It was considered non-breeding visitor, probably from southern Johor.

After a dry spell of 13 years, another Black-and-red Broadbill was found dead, sadly, on Pulau Ubin in August 2017. Finally, in March 2019, a Black-and-red Broadbill was caught and ringed during a bird-ringing session at SBWR, the first modern day record for Singapore’s main island. Four months later, in July 2019, another Black-and-red Broadbill was recorded during a survey on Pulau Ubin.

That brings us to the present occurrence on Pulau Ubin, on 5 May 2022, where one individual was spotted along the coastal forest at Chek Jawa, bringing much joy to many birders who grabbed the chance to see this very rare beauty of a bird.

Below is the list of the ‘modern day’ records of the Black-and-red Broadbill, notably 4 out of 5 are on Pulau Ubin:

1) 7 & 22 August 2004, Pulau Ubin Discovery Trail (9 April 2005 also)
2) 24 August 2017, Outward Bound School, Pulau Ubin (found dead)
3) 20 March 2019, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
4) 7 July 2019, Pulau Ubin
5) 5 May 2022, Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin        

References:

Bucknill, J. A. S. & Chasen, F. N. (1927). Birds of Singapore Island. Government Printing Office, Singapore.

Lim, K. S. (2004). Black-and-red Broadbill Rediscovered. Singapore Avifauna, vol 18:3, pp 38-39.

First ever sightings of 12 species of birds for Singapore in 2021, a summary

By Geoff Lim

The year 2021 was an incredible year with many species of birds seen for the first time in Singapore. Here’s a quick summary of what showed up.

1. Siberian House Martin Delichon lagopodum

Found by: Fadzrun A. (ID by Frank Rheindt)
Location: Neo Tiew Harvest Lane
Date: 3 January 2021
Remarks: another sighting on 28 December 2021 at Marina East by Oliver Tan

Siberian House Martin, 281221, MED, Art Toh, same 3

Siberian House Martin, photo by Art Toh, Marina East, 28 Dec 2021

2. Brown Fish Owl Ketupa zeylonensis

Found by: Jackie Yeo (ID by Tan Gim Cheong)
Location: Hindhede Nature Park
Date: 17 February 2021
Remarks: Jan Tan’s photo of an owl at Singapore Quarry on 3 August 2019 turned out to be a Brown Fish Owl , making hers the first sighting.

Brown and Buffy Fish Owl, 220221, Hindhede, TGC

Brown Fish Owl, shown next to a Buffy Fish Owl, composite photo by Tan Gim Cheong, Hindhede Nature Park, 22 Feb 2021

3. Wedge-tailed Shearwater Ardenna pacifica

Found by: William Khaw (ID by Eric Tan)
Location: Bishan – Ang Mo Kio Park
Date: 23 June 2021

Shearwater, 230621, BAMK, Art Toh

Wedge-tailed Shearwater, photo by Art Toh, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, 23 June 2021

4. Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus

Found by: Frankie Cheong (ID by James Eaton)
Location: Reclaimed land off northeast SG
Date: 16 July 2021
Remarks: another sighting on 17 December 2021 at Marina East by Pary Sivaraman

Javan Plover, 150721, Tekong, Frankie Cheong

Javan Plover, photo by Frankie Cheong, 16 July 2021

5. Ashy-headed Green Pigeon Treron phayrei

Found by: Yip Jen Wei ( ID with Martin Kennewell)
Location: Dillenia Hut, Central Catchment
Date: 9 October 2021

1, AHGP, Art Toh, 101021, crop

Ashy-headed Green Pigeon, photo by Art Toh, CCNR, 10 Oct 2021

6. Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata

Found by: Alex Kang (ID by Yang Chee Meng & Yong Ding Li)
Location: Kent Ridge Park
Date: 15 October 2021

4, Spotted FC, Geoff, 231021

Spotted Flycatcher, photo by Geoff Lim, Kent Ridge Park, 23 Oct 2021

7. Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis

Found by: Soo Kok Choong (ID by Vincent Yip)
Location: Ulu Pandan PCN – Clementi Road junction
Date: 23 October 2021

6, Tree Pipit, LKS, 311021

Tree Pipit, photo by Lim Kim Seng, Ulu Pandan PCN – Clementi Road junction, 31 Oct 2021

8. Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes

Found by: Yong Ding Li, Sreekar Rachakonda
Location: Petai Trail, MacRitchie Reservoir
Date: 12 November 2021

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, 251121, Petai, TGC

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, photo by Tan Gim Cheong, Petai Trail, 25 Nov 2021

9. Long-eared Owl Asio otus

Found by: Choo Shiu Ling (ID by Tim Marshall)
Location: Marina East
Date: 20 November 2021

Long-eared Owl, 201121, MED, Shiu Ling FBBS, crop

Long-eared Owl, photo by Choo Shiu Ling, Marina East, 20 Nov 2021

10. Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

Found by: Ian Cash (ID by Art Toh)
Location: Jambol Place
Date: 28 November 2021

Black Redstart, 061221, Jambol Place, Art Toh 1

Black Redstart, photo by Art Toh, Jambol Place, 6 Dec 2021

11. Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

Found by: Gabriel Koh
Location: Marina East
Date: 13 December 2021

Common Starling, 141221, MED, Lee Chin Pong

Common Starling, photo by Lee Chin Pong, Marina East Drive, 14 Dec 2021

12. Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus

Found By: Cecilia Lee, Justin Jing Liang (ID by Martin Kennewell)
Location: Forest west of Tyersall Avenue
Date: 29 December 2021

Cinereous Vulture, 301221, SBG, Danny Khoo

Cinereous Vulture, photo by Danny Khoo, SBG, 30 Dec 2021

This is a summary of the birds seen for the first time in Singapore in 2021.

Accepted records will be inserted into the NSS Bird Checklist is due course.

Thanks to Art Toh, Tan Gim Cheong, Frankie Cheong, Geoff Lim, Lim Kim Seng, Choo Shiu Ling, Lee Chin Pong and Danny Khoo for allowing us to use their photos.

Singapore Raptor Report – November 2021

Long-eared Owl, 201121, MED, Shiu Ling FBBS, crop

Long-eared Owl, a first for Singapore, harassed by crows, at Marina East, 20 Nov 2021, by Choo Shiu Ling

Summary for migrant species:

It’s another amazing November, with 20 migrant raptor species recorded (compared with 18 last year). Most astonishing was Singapore’s first record of the Long-eared Owl Asio Otus, an individual harassed by crows at Marina East on the 20th, well captured on camera by Choo Shiu Ling. The only Northern Boobook Ninox japonica was unfortunately found dead at Ghim Moh on the 1st. An Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia appeared on the kitchen floor of a resident on the 15th; and on the 17th, a rufous morph was found concussed on the ground, in front of some shops at Jurong Street 52 where it was placed on a tree as it recovered and subsequently flew into the dense foliage higher up a tree.

The rarity for diurnal raptors is no doubt the Amur Falcon Falco amurensis that showed well at Lorong Halus Wetlands on the 26th, found by Lim Yu Jun and Tan Kian Hoe, hunting and feeding on the wing for prolonged periods over the wetlands. It continued to frequent the same area everyday for the rest of the month, resting on an apartment block undergoing construction, in between its feeding flights (it is still around as of this report).

Amur Falcon, 271121, Halus, Chen Boon Chong

Amur Falcon, at Lorong Halus Wetlands, 27 Nov 2021, by Chen Boon Chong

The one and only Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, a pale morph, was photographed by Zacc HD and others at Mount Faber on the 6th (Zacc also photographed the only Booted Eagle, a dark morph, last November). Only one Common Buzzard Buteo buteo so far this season, a juvenile pale morph, was recorded on the 6th at Henderson Waves. One Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii was recorded at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and its vicinity on the 5th, 17th and 20th.

Only two Pied Harriers Circus melanoleucos were recorded, a juvenile at Nanyang Crescent on the 5th, and a female at Henderson Waves on the 17th.

Three Common Kestrels Falco tinnunculus were recorded, one on the 1st, perched on a low branch at Canterbury Road, another on the 6th at Henderson Waves / Mount Faber, and the last on the 14th at Mount Faber. Also three in number were the Black Kites Milvus migrans, one on the 11th at Telok Blangah Hill Park (TBHP) / Mount Faber, one on the 19th at Bukit Timah hill, and the third at TBHP on the 22nd.

All four Greater Spotted Eagles Clanga clanga recorded were juveniles. One was photographed from Skyville@Dawson on the 2nd; another at Mount Faber on the 9th, gliding straight through the site without flapping nor turning; one at Tuas on the 13th, harassed by a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle, and another at Henderson Waves on the 21st.

JB, 221121, DFNP, Dave Koh

Jerdon’s Baza, at Dairy Farm Nature Park, 22 Nov 2021, by Dave Koh

Juveniles made up the majority of the seven Eastern Marsh Harriers Circus spilonotus recorded. One was at Mount Faber on the 5th; another at Lorong Halus Wetlands on the 6th; the only male at Henderson Waves on the 6th; singles at Mount Faber on the 16th, Bukit Timah hill top on the 19th, Jurong Lake Gardens on the 20th, and East Coast Park on the 25th.

The first Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni was recorded at the southern ridges from TBHP to Henderson Waves to Mount Faber, with a max of five at Mount Faber. Subsequently, they were recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park, Bukit Timah hill top, Lorong Halus Wetlands, and Coney Island where three birds seem to be wintering. Altogether, 16 of these charismatic raptors were recorded.

Eighteen Grey-faced Buzzards Butastur indicus were recorded, spanning from the 1st to the 28th, mostly along the southern ridges to Marina Bay belt, with one outlier at Lorong Halus Wetlands on the 27th. All of them appear to be on passage migration. Four Western Ospreys Pandion haliaetus were recorded along the northern coast, and sixteen Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus throughout, including site faithfuls at Bedok South, Sembawang and Jurong West.

TGC_7535,-GFB,-261121,-TBHP

Grey-faced Buzzard, juvenile, at Telok Blangah Hill Park, 26 Nov 2021, by Tan Gim Cheong

Of the thirty four Chinese Sparrowhawks Accipiter soloensis recorded, the site faithful adult female at Ang Mo Kio which arrived last month continued to be present. Most of the 175 Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were recorded migrating over the southern ridges, with 15 birds being the highest in a day, on the 4th.

We had 236 Black Bazas Aviceda leuphotes this month, with 40 birds over Mount Faber on the 11th, and 30 birds on the 16th. For the 819 Oriental Honey Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus, a day high of 71 birds was recorded at Tuas on the 4th, with another 56 birds on the 10th, and 57 birds on the 16th at Mount Faber.

GHFE, posted 301121, Wong Sangmen

Grey-headed Fish Eagle, juvenile, at Potong Pasir, 30 Nov 2021, by Wong Sangmen

Highlights for sedentary species:

There were five Crested Serpent Eagles Spilornis cheela, three on Pulau Ubin on the 5th, one at Kranji Marshes on the 21st and another at the southern ridges on various dates. Only one torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard was recorded, at Lock Road on the 28th.

The other diurnal resident raptors recorded included the Black-winged Kite, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Crested Goshawk and the common Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle. An adult Brahminy Kite attacked a Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo at Pebble bay on the 15th, and the pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles at Little Guilin may be starting to use their nest again.

For the nocturnal residents, the Eastern Barn Owl Tyto javanica was recorded at Hotel G near Bugis on the 6th, and at Bishan Street 12 on the 13th mobbed by crows. The pair of Buffy Fish Owls Ketupa ketupu at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is raising a chick and there were three Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo at the Botanic Gardens on the 8th and at Mandai on the 17th, both suggestive of adults with a young owl.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Choo Shiu Ling, Chen Boon Chong, Dave Koh, and Wong Sangmen for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details please click Singapore Raptor Report – November 2021

Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, July-September 2021

JSH, 200921, PRP, Philip Chua

Japanese Sparrowhawk, Pasir Ris Park, 20 September 2021, by Philip Chua

Summary:

A total of 8 Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were recorded in September, with the first arrival on 20 September; one individual was not aged, while the other seven were all adults. At Henderson Waves, there were 30 unidentified sparrowhawks on 24 September.

A total of 34 observations were made for the Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus during the July to September period : 10 in July, 7 in August and 17 in September. As with the previous year, where photographs were available, the honey buzzards could be aged as sub-adults (2nd calendar year), right up to end September, these being over-summering birds. Moult of the primaries (feathers) progressed from 4-5 new primaries in July, to 5-6 new primaries in August, to 6-7 new primaries in September, consistent with last year’s observation. Although one individual had 7 new primaries on 14 August, it was probably not exceptional.

An adult torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard was photographed at Upper Seletar Reservoir Park on 23 July, while a juvenile with uniform plumage was photographed at Thomson Nature Park on 7 September.

Two Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus of the ernesti subspecies were recorded – one adult photographed at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve flying towards Johor on 21 July, and another adult photographed at Marina East on 29 July. The ernesti at Fort Canning on 29 July might have been the same individual as the Marina East falcon.

The Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus, a regular during this time of the year, was recorded at Pulau Ubin (29 July), Yishun Dam (21 August) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (5 September).

CHE, 110821, NTHL, SCC

Changeable Hawk-Eagle with a Changeable Lizard held by its beak and another in its right talons, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, 11 August 2021, by Sim Chip Chye

For the resident raptors, the great rarity was the lone Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius, discovered by Art Toh and Tang Choon Siang on 9 July at Jalan Mashhor, and which made brief appearances on the next two days before disappearing. The rare Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was only recorded twice – an adult photographed at Pulau Ubin on 7 August, and another adult photographed at Kent Ridge Park on 6 September.

There were nesting-related records for a number of species of diurnal raptors. At Seletar, a pair of Black-winged Kites Elanus caeruleus was nest-building and mated in mid-August; while a pair of Brahminy Kites Haliastur Indus mated on 31 August and were adding sticks to their nest on 24 September.

At Little Guilin, a pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles Haliaeetus ichthyaetus mated in late August. Their fledgling of a few months is probably about to become independent. At Pasir Ris Park, a pair of Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus comprising an adult male and a rather young (sub-adult) female mated on 19, 21, 24 and 28 July, as well as 9 August; while a different pair of adults mated on 25 September. For the White-bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leocogaster, a juvenile was still at the vicinity of the nest on a tall tree at Singapore General Hospital on 5 August.   

Throughout these 3 months, a dark morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus had been frequenting Pasir Ris Park, catching a feral Junglefowl hen on 1 August. Another individual at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane caught two Changeable Lizards on 11 August.

BHO, 150821, Mandai Track 7, Vincent Yip

Brown Hawk-Owl, with yellow left iris and orange right iris, Mandai Track 7, 15 August 2021, by Vincent Yip

For nocturnal raptors, a fledgling Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji was photographed at Mandai Track 7 on 16 July. At Pasir Ris Park, the two juvenile Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo which left the nest in April were still with their parents on 21 August. At Hindhede Nature Park, the family of four Brown Hawk-Owls Ninox scutulata (found in June) were recorded again on 4 July and 2 August.

On 7 August, HP Tan photographed an interesting looking fish owl that appeared to be the Brown x Buffy Fish Owl hybrid offspring of the mixed Brown Fish Owl and Buffy Fish Owl pair recorded in February 2021.

BFO hybrid, posted 070821, Hindhede, HP Tan FBBS, pic, crop

This appears to be the hybrid Brown Fish Owl x Buffy Fish Owl offspring, Hindhede Nature Park, 7 August 2021, by HP Tan

At Yishun, a pair of Buffy Fish Owls Ketupa ketupu mated on 1 September. Unfortunately, on 16 September, one of the owls was found in the monsoon drain, appeared to be weak and would probably have floated away with the shallow water had it not been rescued.

At Mandai Track 7, an interesting Brown Hawk-Owl had yellow iris on the left eye and orange iris on the right eye. At Jalan Asas, an adult Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus was recorded on 19 July and 23 July.

Many thanks to everyone for their records, and to Philip Chua, Sim Chip Chye, Vincent Yip and HP Tan for the use of their photos.

For a pdf version with more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2021

The Black-Thighed Falconet in Singapore.

THE BLACK-THIGHED FALCONET IN SINGAPORE

Lim Kim Seng

Introduction

The Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius was previously classified as a resident breeder as there had been specimens collected from Singapore as well as records since the 1920s and up to the 1990s (Lim 2009) but is likely to have become extirpated thereafter. It was re-categorized by the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group Records Committee, or NSSBGRC, as a non-breeding visitor as there have been no confirmed breeding record and no confirmed sightings for thirty years (Lim 2021). The Black-thighed Falconet was put into Category B, a category for wild birds, resident, visitor or vagrant, that have not been recorded for thirty years. In 2021 alone, however, there were three separate records of Black-thighed Falconet and as a result, it was re-instated in Category A by NSSBGRC.

Black-thighed Falconet was re-instated by the NSSBGRC in 2021. Photo taken at Panti Forest by Jimmy Chew.

Global Range, Habitat Requirements, Altitudinal Range, Breeding Habits and Conservation Status of Black-thighed Falconet

The Black-thighed Falconet is a monotypic species first described by Drapiez in 1824. It is one of five falconets in the world, all of which occur in southern China, South and Southeast Asia. Its natural range spans the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Its habitat is primary and secondary forests (including on limestone), edges of forests, rubber plantations, fruit orchards, cultivated land, parkland and wooded gardens up to 1,700 m (Ferguson-Lees & Christie 2000, Lim et al 2020, Wells 1999). The Black-thighed Falconet occurs as a common resident in most parts of its range and it is not known to undertake any movements (Robson 2000). In north Borneo, this species is replaced by the endemic White-fronted Falconet M. latifrons (Myers 2009).

In the Thai-Malay Peninsula, it breeds from November to July (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999). Nests are usually in tree cavities abandoned by woodpeckers and larger barbets, mostly in dead trees. In a site monitored in Perak, Malaysia, birds used a cavity in a limestone outcrop and nested successfully (Khoo 2021). Clutch size is three to six. The young remain with their parents for at least two months after fledging (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999).  It breeds from December to June in Borneo (Myers 2009). There is also evidence of communal feeding by birds other than parents, possibly by older siblings, and birds have also been seen to use old nest cavities as communal roost sites (Khoo 2021).

In Perak, Malaysia, they used cavities in Limestone outcrops to nest. Photo: Khoo Siew Yoong.

The Black-thighed Falconet is treated as “least concern” by IUCN (BirdLife International 2016).

Identification and Ecology of Black-thighed Falconet

The Black-thighed Falconet is one of the smallest raptors in the world at 15-17 cm in length from bill tip to tail tip. It is the same size as the White-fronted Falconet but smaller than Collared and Pied Falconets and has the distinction of being the smallest bird of prey of the world! In comparison, the Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala measures 15-17 cm, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker Yungipicus moluccensis, 13 cm and Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier measures 19-21 cm. Females are slightly larger than males and an adult weighs about 43 g (Wells 1999). In terms of its jizz, the Black-thighed Falconet has a big-headed, stout-bodied appearance with a medium-sized tail.

The small size of the falconet makes it hard to confuse with other birds although distance may make identification challenging as this species usually hawks from tall trees. It is mostly black on the head, eyestripe, ear patch, upperparts, bill, leg and tail, with mostly white on forehead, eyebrow and underparts, and orange-rufous on throat and lower breast to vent. Juveniles show pinkish horn bill and cere, rusty eyebrow and ear stripe, pale fine edges to upperparts and less rufous on lower underparts.

Its flight is rapid and direct, with fast wingbeats and sharp pointed wings, often accompanied by short periods of gliding.

Its voice is a shrill squeal kweer-week (Wells 1999).

Black-thighed Falconets hunt socially or alone, making sorties from a dead tree. Its diet is mainly arthropods, typically termites, butterflies and moths, dragonflies, carpenter bees, beetles, mantids, grasshoppers and cicadas, birds such as House Swift Apus nipalensis, sunbirds and munias, mammals such as bats and rats, and geckos (Khoo 2021, Wells 1999). Prey is usually snatched on the wing, occasionally from the ground, to be consumed from a perch, and there is evidence that falconets choose flowering trees with an abundance of nectar feeders to hunt (Wells 1999).

Birds indulge in head bobbing and tail wagging in close proximity and allo-preening has been observed (Wells 1999).

Historical Status of the Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore

The earliest reference to the occurrence of the Black-thighed Falconet in Singapore can be found in Bucknill & Chasen (1927) who stated that it “sometimes visit Singapore”. Gibson-Hill (1950) mentioned that it was “resident in small numbers” while RAFOS (1966-1969) and Tweedy (1970) mentioned the existence of several records in the 1960s.

There were no records until almost two decades when I found the first of four sight records within a period of seven years, all from a dead durian tree in my wooded garden in Jalan Ulu Sembawang in the north of Singapore. All records were of singles and included a juvenile seen on the following dates – 11 October 1979, 2 October 1983, 1 December 1983 and 12 April 1986 (Lim 1992). These records indicate the presence of a small and possibly breeding resident population in the area or that of non-breeding visitors from nearby Johor state, Malaysia. There were no further records from this site which was resettled and developed as part of the new Sembawang Estate in the early 1990s. Our most recent record was an adult seen on a dead tree, near the current Ranger’s Station, in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 7 October 1990 (Lim 2009).

In addition to these records, there were also four unconfirmed records between 1992 and 2005 from Sime Road, Loyang and Bukit Batok Nature Park. There are also nine specimens collected from MacRitchie Reservoir, Jurong and Singapore in the Lee Kong Chian Nature History Museum collection.  

Due to the fact that there have been no records for thirty years and also no confirmation of breeding, the Black-thighed Falconet’s status was reviewed by NSSBGRC in early 2020 as no longer fitting that of a wild bird for Category A, which is the category for all wild birds recorded within the last thirty years. It was re-categorised as belong to Category B, which is the category for all wild birds recorded within Singapore but not within the last thirty years (Lim 2021).

As fate would have it, soon after the release of the new checklist, news came of our first sighting of Black-thighed Falconet since 1990. This came from a juvenile that was seen and photographed by Lee Lay Na at a HDB block in Yishun Street 71 on 12 February 2021 (Tan, G.C. & Lim, G. 2021). The report of a juvenile is interesting as it indicates local or regional breeding.

A typical perch of the Black-thighed Faconet on top of tree at Goldhill Avenue by Art Toh.

There were two additional records, both also backed by photographs. One was a bird photographed using the top of a tree at Goldhill Avenue on 20 May 2021 by Art Toh (Tan, G.C. 2021) while the second was another adult from Jalan Mashhor on 9 July 2021, reported by Art Toh and Tan Choon Siang, and still present on 12 July 2021, reported by Vincent Lao (Lim, G. et al 2021).

A far away photo of the second adult falconet taken at Jalan Mansor two months later again by Art Toh.

These three sightings from 2021 have the effect of reinstating the Black-thighed Falconet into the Singapore List once again. At the moment, it is probably best considered a rare non-breeding visitor due to the short-term nature of their occurrences in 2021. Hopefully, one day, we will find them nesting in Singapore again.

Concluding Remarks

Birders and bird photographers are much more active than two decades ago. There are people at various locations in Singapore every day and most of them carry some sort of photographic equipment with them. This number of people watching birds daily is bound to yield rewards in the form of documenting the occurrence of rarities as well as species that are either new to Singapore or those thought to have been extirpated. Recent records of Javan Plover and Green Broadbill attest to this increased opportunity of detecting something really sensational!

Would-be falconet seekers are encouraged to focus on sites in the central and north of Singapore, where all confirmed sightings have been made since 1979. Bukit Brown would be another place to pay attention to given the recent record (and nearby, in Goldhill). Searches on Pulau Ubin may also yield results due to the island’s proximity to Malaysia as well as the island’s reputation for attracting Malaysian visitors. Prime habitats to look for this elusive raptor are the edges of forests and woodland as well as areas where there are tall trees or snags.

It is hoped that birders and bird photographers will continue to help us make new discoveries or re-discoveries in the case of the Black-thighed Falconet, the smallest bird of prey in the world.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Yong Ding Li for helpful suggestions with the drafting of this article, Jimmy Chew, Khoo Siew Yoong and Art Toh for the use of their photographs.

References

BirdLife International. (2016). Microhierax fringillarius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. Downloaded on 10 September 2021.

Bucknill, J.A.S & Chasen, F.N. (1927).  The birds of Singapore Island. Government Printing Office, Singapore.

Ferguson-Lees & Christie, D.A. (2001). Raptors of the World. Christopher Helm, London.

Gibson-Hill, C.A. (1950). A checklist of the birds of Singapore Island. Bull. Raffles Mus. No. 21: 132-183.

Khoo, S.Y. (2021). Breeding ecology of Black-thighed Falconets in Perak, Malaysia. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/tag/black-thighed-falconet/

Lim, G., Lee, I. & Tan, G.C. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – July 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group.  https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/monthly-bird-reports/

Lim, K.S. (1992). Vanishing birds of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Lim, K.S. (2021). Bird Records Committee Report (January 2021). Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/birds-records-committee-report-jan-2021/

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing, Oxford.

Myers, S. (2009). A field guide to the birds of Borneo. Talisman Publishing, Singapore.

Royal Air Force Ornithological Society (1966-1969). Bulletins of the Singapore Branch & unpublished correspondence with members.

Tan, G.C. (2021). Singapore Raptor Report, Late Spring Migration, April-June 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/raptor-report/singapore-raptor-report/

Tan, G.C. & Lim, G. (2021). Singapore Bird Report – February 2021. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/category/monthly-bird-reports/

Tweedy, L. (1970). The birds of Singapore. Army Birdwatching Club (Far East).

Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume One: Non-passerines. Academic Press, London.

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

First Records of the Javan Plover in Singapore

By Frankie Cheong & Lim Kim Seng

Figure #1: Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong. Note the flesh-coloured long legs, buff breast patch and eyestripe, and white supercilium extending beyond eye.

     I (FC) was going for my usual round exploring the reclaimed land on Pulau Tekong on the morning of 16th July 2021. My main reason for going to this area was to follow up on a Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus to get a better look since it is a rare breeding visitor in Singapore only recorded at this location to date.

Upon reaching the area, I heard the call of a Pied Stilt, so I stopped my car and scanned the area. I was not able to find it. However, I did see three waders busy foraging about 20 to 30 m away.  I pointed my camera and looked through the view finder to try and see what they were. They are appeared to me to be Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, a species known to be an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant in Singapore (Lim 2009; Lim et al. 2020) so I just clicked a few shots for record purposes and continued to search for the stilt.

Once I had downloaded and processed my photographs, one of these plovers were identified as a “Kentish Plover” and subsequently shared online on a Facebook group. I was pleasantly surprised to received messages from Dave Bakewell and James Eaton were both saying that this could be something rarer than Kentish Plover. There was a mad rush to google and messages were flying. Later that day. James Eaton messaged me to confirm that this is a Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus, a species never before seen outside Indonesia and Timor Leste!

He wrote, the plumage is spot on for Javan (gingery breast sides and ear coverts) but it has a long, sleek appearance with quite long thin bill and very leggy typical of Javan”. I also sent a short report, with my photographs, to the Records Committee of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group as this species was not on the official bird checklist for Singapore.

Subsequently, I went back to my archives because I remember seeing the same plovers some time ago at Pulau Tekong. Indeed, I have some badly taken photos on 20th June 2021! There were also three birds, one of which looked like a juvenile. I sent these photos to James Eaton and he concurred that this was a juvenile, which meant that breeding could be taken place for the first time here in Singapore and outside Indonesia and Timor Leste! So, not only was this a new species for Singapore, it was also a new breeding record for Singapore! In addition, this was also a new record for continental Southeast Asia! What a mega tick! The three birds were still there on 2nd August.

If accepted by the Records Committee, these will be the first records, and the first breeding record of the Javan Plover in Singapore, something unprecedented since a similar event when Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis turned up in 1988 (Lim 2009, Lim et al 2020).

Status and Range of Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a monotypic resident shorebird found across Java, the Lesser Sundas, southern Sumatra (Lampung) Bangka and Belitung (Iqbal et al. 2013; Iqbal 2015, Eaton et al 2016). The species is locally common at a number of sites it is known from in Indonesia (e.g. Jakarta Bay). The species is essentially endemic to Indonesia and Timor-Leste until the Singapore records. The records from the south-east coast of Sumatra and Belitung are fairly recent (within the last decade) and suggests a northward trajectory of range expansion of the species. The species occurs in a variety of habitats ranging from beaches and shrimp ponds to coastal mudflats and wetlands, occasionally straying into semi-open scrubland. The Singapore records suggest a northward expansion of its range towards continental Southeast Asia, and the species may already be occurring undetected in the Riau Archipelago, e.g. on Bintan (Yong, D.L., Adha Putra, C. in litt.). The Javan Plover is rated as globally Near-Threatened in view of its small and declining range (BirdLife International 2021).

Identification of the Javan Plover

The Javan Plover is a small plover with sandy brown upperparts, white lores, white supercilium extending behind eye and white collar, buff-coloured eyestripe and breast patches. Its bill is long and black and its legs are long and flesh-coloured. Compared to Kentish Plover, it has a bigger head with a less sloping forehead, a slenderer body and distinctly longer legs. The Malaysian Plover Charadrius peroni is similar but is shorter-billed with distinctly mottled upperparts. The Swinhoe’s Plover Charadrius dealbatus can be differentiated from the other two plovers by its head shape (steep forehead), the broad, white supercilium extending almost to the collar, the absence of the dark patch on its lores (giving it a ‘white-faced’ appearance), its shorter bill and legs.

Recommendations for future fieldwork

More fieldwork needs to be conducted in coastal (wetland) habitats around Singapore and its offshore islets as well as southern Peninsular Malaysia and the Riau Archipelago to determine if the Javan Plover has established a presence further northward as the Singapore records would suggest. There are known areas of coastal wetlands used by shorebirds in the northern and western coastline of Bintan (Yong, D.L. in litt.) and these sites should be further surveyed for their shorebird communities.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Dave Bakewell and James Eaton for helpful comments on my photographs on Facebook. Thanks also go to Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li for the use of his photograph of Kentish Plover and White-faced Plover, as well as input on the species from the region from Yong Ding Li and Chairunas Adha Putra.

Figure #2. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure #3. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 16th July 2021. Photo © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 4 & 5. Javan Plovers photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

Figure # 6 & 7. Javan Plover photographed at Pulau Tekong on 20th June 2021. Photos © Frankie Cheong.

References

BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Charadrius javanicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 31/07/2021.  

Eaton, J.A., van Balen, B., Brickle, N.W. & Rheindt, F.E. (2016). Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago. Greater Sundas and Wallacea. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Iqbal, M. 2015. Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus on Belitung Island, a new site for Sumatra (Indonesia). Wader Study 122(2): 160–161.

Iqbal, M., Taufiqurrahman, I., Gilfedder, M. & Baskoro, K. 2013. Field identification of Javan Plover Charadrius javanicus. Wader Study Group Bull. 120(2): 96–101.

Lim, K.S. (2009). The avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore.

Lim, K.S., Yong, D.L. & Lim, K.C. (2020). A field guide to the birds of Malaysia and Singapore. John Beaufoy, Oxford.

Figure # 8. Kentish Plover at Marina East on 31st January 2021. Photo © Alan OwYong.

Figure #10. White-faced Plover at Marina Barrage by Yong Ding Li.

Singapore Bird Report – December 2020

Gadwall, 041220, SBWR H1D, TGC 2

Gadwall, our 2nd record, one of five birds at SBWR Hide 1D pond, 4 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

December 2020 heralded two amazing records of migrants. The first was the appearance of five Gadwalls Mareca strepera after 31 years! This being the second time that the Gadwall was recorded in Singapore, the ducks were seen at SBWR Hide 1D on 4 Dec 2020 afternoon by Daniel Loh, who graciously shared his sighting with Pary Sivaraman, who kindly spread the news. The other amazing record was that of a Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula also only the second record of the species in Singapore, after a break of 21 years, photographed at the pond at Marsiling Park on 12 Dec 2020 by Derrick Wong.

Tufted Duck, 121220, Marsiling Park, Derrick Wong, same 3

Tufted Duck, our 2nd record, Marsiling Park, 12 Dec 2020, by Derrick Wong

Next up was the 4th record of the Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina at the Healing Garden section of the Botanic Gardens on 2 Dec 2020 by Vincent Lee. Notably, this was the first male of the species to be recorded in Singapore and it was present at the Healing Garden from 2 to 6 Dec 2020, seen and photographed by many birders. The Healing Garden also hosted a juvenile Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea on 2 Dec 2020, recorded by many birders including Albert Low.

Narcissus FC male, 031220, Healing Gdn, TGC, crop

Narcissus Flycatcher, male, Healing Garden, SBG, 3 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

The rare Grey-headed Lapwing Vallenus cinereus at Marina East Drive, recorded on the last day of November 2020, was present on various days through December, seen and photographed by many birders, such as Tay Kian Guan on 1 Dec 2020 and John Marriott on 31 Dec 2020.

GHLW, 031220, MED, TGC, crop

Grey-headed Lapwing, Marina East Drive, 3 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

Another rarity, the Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus was found hiding in the flooded vegetation at the grassland along Marina East Drive on the evening of 4 Dec 2020 by Khoo Meilin, Esther Ong and Kwok Tuck Loong. The Jacana was present for the next two days from 5-6 Dec 2020.

PT Jacana, 051220, MED, Norhafiani A Majid

Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Marina East Drive, 5 Dec 2020, by Norhafiani A. Majid

At the partly flooded grassland along Marina East Drive, an Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia caught a mouse/rat on 5 Dec 2020, photographed by Zacc HD; a Greater Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis with 3 chicks were seen on 6 Dec 2020 by Soumen M; a Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica family with 9 ducklings were recorded on 26 Dec 2020 by Herman Phua; a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea on 31 Dec 2020 by Gabriel Koh; a Baillon’s Crake Zapornia pusilla on 20 Dec 2020 by Kwok Tuck Loong, Esther Ong & Khoo MeiLin, present till 30 Dec 2020. Another Baillon’s Crake was recorded at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane (NTHL) on 26 Dec 2020 by Raghav Narayanswamy and on 27 Dec 2020 by Tan Kok Hui.

LWD, 261220, MED, Herman, with 9 ducklings

Lesser Whistling Duck family, Marina East Drive, 26 Dec 2020, by Herman Phua

Other birds recorded at NTHL included a Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus on 6 Dec 2020 by Mike Hooper; and the single Sand Martin Riparia riparia noted in November 2020 was still around on 1, 5 and 6 Dec 2020 (Krishna G, Yip Jen Wei and Jeff Tan respectively), and was joined by another individual from 24 to 27 Dec 2020 on 24, 25 and 27 Dec 2020 as noted by Francis Yap, Benjamin Naden and Rob Arnold respectively. At the nearby Kranji Marsh, 8 Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus were recorded on 31 Dec 2020 by Martti Siponen.

Siberian Thrush, 091220, DFNP, TGC, crop

Siberian Thrush, adult male, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 9 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

At Dairy Farm Nature Park, a juvenile Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus was photographed on 2 Dec 2020 by Dennis; an adult male Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica photographed on 8 Dec 2020 by Joy Kutty, and present till 11 Dec 2020; a male Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula Mugimakion 9 Dec 2020 by Wong Chung Cheong; a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax on 29 Dec 2020 by Oliver Tan. There was also a juvenile Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis of the migrant diffusus subspecies on 31 Dec 2020, photographed by Tan Hong Kim. The diffusus Black-naped Oriole is a known winter visitor, but in the field, little attention has been paid to subspecies of this otherwise common bird which has a large resident population.

BNO diffussus, 311220, DFNP, Tan Hong Kim, crop

Black-naped Oriole, juvenile migrant diffusus subspecies, (note the white belly, yellow in resident maculatus) Dairy Farm Nature Park, 31 Dec 2020, by Tan Hong Kim

At Pasir Ris Park, a Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis was recorded behind the toilet of car park B on 13 Dec 2020 by Nasir M; a Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor on 13 Dec 2020 by Valli Nalla; a Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus  eurhythmus in the mangroves on 17 Dec 2020 by Oliver Tan; and the Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhynca on 30 Dec 2020 by William Chong

At Changi Business Park, an Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus was recorded on 8 Dec 2020 by James Wong; a Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparveroides on 17 Dec 2020 by Felix Wong; and an adult male Blue-and-White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana on 26 Dec 2020 by Lee Yin Mun.

The Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was recorded at Changi Business Park on 11 Dec 2020 by Tan Gim Cheong, at Dover Rise on 31 Dec 2020 by Jonathan Lin, and at Sentosa Skywalk on 31 Dec 2020 by Wilson Chua.

YB Warbler, posted 311220, Sentosa skybridge, AOY

Yellow-browed Warbler, Sentosa Skywalk, 31 Dec 2020, by Alan OwYong

At Jurong Lake Gardens, a Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu was recorded on 4 Dec 2020 by Kok M Lee; a Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus on 6 Dec 2020 by Tay Kian Guan; and a Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis apparently carrying food, on 31 Dec 2020 by John Paul Briones.

Chestnut-cheeked Starling, 041220, The Grandstand, Alfred Chia, crop

Chestnut-cheeked Starling, The Grandstand vicinity, 4 Dec 2020, by Alfred Chia

Elsewhere, a rare Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis was picked out from a flock of Daurian Starlings Agropsar sturninus at The Grandstand on 4 Dec 2020 by Alan OwYong and photographed by Alfred Chia; a Slaty-breasted Rail Lewinia striata apparently was nesting in the vicinity of The Grandstand, returning to the same patch of grass where chicks could be heard on 4 Dec 2020 by Tan Gim Cheong; 150 Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea were reported by Krishna G. at the Yishun Street 11 roost on 7 Dec 2020; an injured Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka at Raffles Place MRT on 9 Dec 2020 was reported by Ashley Ng; a tired Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida at Bukit Merah on 11 Dec 2020 was reported by Grace Ho; a Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana at West Coast Park on 11 Dec 2020 was reported by Dave Koh; the Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata was still at Holland Plain on 21 Dec 2020, by Andy Chew.

Gadwall, 041220, SBWR H1D, TGC 5 birds

Gadwalls, the five birds that visited SBWR Hide 1D pond, 4 Dec 2020, by Tan Gim Cheong

This report is compiled by Tan Gim Cheong, assisted by Geoff Lim. 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 Derrick Wong, Norhafiani A. Majid, Herman Phua, Tan Hong Kim, Alan OwYong and Alfred Chia for allowing us to use their photographs

The Mystery of the Goldhill Juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle.

By Alan OwYong and Tan Gim Cheong.

The Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis Cheela, is listed as a rare resident and migrant in the NSS Bird Group’s Checklist 2021. Earlier authors were divided on its status. Robinson (1927) was not sure of its presence, while Burknill & Chasen (1927) noted that they visited on occasions. Gibson-Hill (1950) recorded it as a resident with small numbers. Chasen considered the subspecies here as the malayensis ( Thai-Malay Peninsula and N. Sumatra). Visiting burmanicus subspecies ( Indochina) have been recorded including one at the Chinese Gardens.

Cindy Chen had been photographing this Serpent Eagle at Goldhill for more than three years. An unusual back view of the eagle looking flustered fending off the mob attack of the Collared Kingfishers was one of her more memorable images of this eagle.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, two individual Crested Serpent Eagles were residing at the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. Subsequent records from around the island were mostly single birds and were assumed to be wanderers from Johor.

Over the past decade, a Crested Serpent Eagle had been visiting a patch of open forest at the end Goldhill Avenue. It seemed to be taken up residence there during the past few years, mainly due to the availability of reptiles and rodents there.

The tall Albizia trees fringing the open fields at Goldhill Avenue provide vantage perches for hunting for the Crested Serpent Eagles. Photo: Alan OwYong.

The first record of another bird here was on 14 March 2019 when Art Toh photographed both eagles perched on the same tree. They appeared to be of different sex but no bonding or pairing between the two was seen. Will these two be the real deal?

Photo of the two Serpent Eagles perched on the same tree on 14 March 2019 by Art Toh.

It took almost two years before we got the answer. On 7 March 2021, Julian Wong videoed the mating of this pair on an Albizia tree at the fringe of the Goldhill area. He was surprised to learn that this is the first record of these eagles mating here. This was great news as the Crested Serpent Eagle has no proven breeding records in Singapore.

Julian Wong videoed the first mating of a pair of Crested Serpent Eagles on 7 March.

But it was the photo of a juvenile bird taken by Tan YinLing on 25 May 2021 at the same forest that got us excited. This was the second photo of a juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle in Singapore (the other photo was in August 2018 at Bukit Batok). The first record of an immature was from Botanic Gardens on 11 November 1982. On 12 December 2001, a juvenile was recorded at Kent Ridge Park. Dr. Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua of the Kasetsart Laboratory of Raptor Research, Thailand, commented that this is a malayensis subspecies.

Second photo of the juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle taken on 25 May by Tan YinLing.

Trevor Teo made his own luck, roaming the area for several days, and finally got a close up look at the juvenile eating a snake on 3 June 2021. A just reward for his hard work. Unfortunately he did not see how the juvenile got the snake.

Trevor Teo worked very hard to get this photo of the juvenile with a snake. It was tearing and eating the snake when he saw it.

But the big question remains unanswered. Where did this juvenile come from?

So far no one has spotted any nests around the Malcolm Road area. These eagles build large platform nests with sticks and small branches close to the canopy of tall and secluded trees. They lay one egg and incubate it for 37-42 days. It will take a further 59-65 days before it fledges. The interval between mating to appearance of this Goldhill juvenile was 80 days. This time line looks a bit tight.

Curiously, none of the adults had been seen together with the juvenile, either on the same tree or close to each other. There were no reports of the adults chasing the juvenile away. No feeding was observed.

Juveniles are known to wander around. In a tracking study done in Taiwan, a juvenile was recorded some 20 km away from its natal site.

The Bird Group’s Records Committee will be evaluating this in their next review to determined the origin of this juvenile and change its status if needed.

We wish to thank Cindy Chen, Art Toh, Julian Wong, Tan YinLing and Trevor Teo for sharing their sightings and notes with us and for the use of their photographs.

References:

Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009

Gombobaatar Sundev and Toru Yamazaki (compilers). 2018. A field Guide to the the Raptors of Asia. Volume 1.

Wikipedia.

In letters Dr. Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua. Kasetsart Laboratory of Raptor Research and Conservation Medicine. Thailand.

Singapore Raptor Report – January 2020

 

Himalayan Vulture, 090120, Pinnacle, Bp Chua, crop

Himalayan Vulture, near the Pinnacle@Duxton, 9 Jan 2020, by Bp Chua

Summary for migrant species:

The Himalayan Vultures stole the show in January. Amazingly, a total of 12 immature vultures showed up, besting the previous high of 9 immature birds in January 1992. On the 8th, one vulture was photographed at The Pinnacle@Duxton at 2:24pm, flying east, and another two were photographed at Cashew Road at 2:45pm. At 6:25pm, a flock of ten vultures, initially mistaken for Asian Openbills, were photographed at Bedok, flying towards Siglap. Shortly after 7pm, up to 11 vultures were captured on video flying at the Tanjong Pagar area around Amara Hotel and The Pinnacle@Duxton. One vulture even landed on the roads – Peck Seah Street & Maxwell Road, causing vehicles to slow down and avoid the bird. Members of the public expressed shock in seeing such a huge bird, which eventually flew off to safety.

The vultures must have roosted on the tall building in the Tanjong Pagar area as they were spotted on top of the buildings on the morning of the 9th. Twelve vultures were spotted and after 9am, they took flight, heading south towards Sentosa, but then turned back, probably dreading to fly over the open sea. By around 11am, eleven vultures were spotted flying over Fort Canning Park and by noon time, twelve vultures were spotted at Dairy Farm Nature Park – they were heading north.

There were no sightings of the vultures on the 10th. Then on the 11th, nine vultures were spotted at West Coast Park in the afternoon, flying west.

HV, 090120, DFNP, Siew Mun, around noon (managed 7 out of 10)

Himalayan Vultures at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 9 Jan 2020, by Siew Mun

A total of 137 raptors of 14 migrant species were recorded in January 2020. This is in great contrast to 7 migrants species recorded in January 2019! Only one Grey-faced Buzzard, a juvenile, was photographed at St John’s Island on the 3rd. Also, a single Eastern Marsh Harrier was recorded, a juvenile on the 19th at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane. The wintering immature Rufous-bellied Hawk-Eagle was recorded at Dairy Farm Nature Park–Hindhede Nature Park area on the 15th, and at Bukit Timah Hill vicinity on the 17th.

Two Booted Eagles were reported – one at Pasir Ris Park on the 7th, and another at Pulau Ubin on the 9th. Also, two Chinese Sparrowhawks were recorded – one at the Botanic Gardens on the 15th and the wintering female at Ang Mo Kio on the 25th.

Five Western Ospreys were recorded along the northern coast from Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) to Yishun Dam to Pulau Ubin. Six Jerdon’s Bazas were recorded – two at Changi Business Park, three at Coney Island, and one at Pasir Ris–Tampines Eco Green area. Ten Japanese Sparrowhawks were recorded, mostly singles at various location in the western half of Singapore.

GFB, 030120, St John's Island, Dillen Ng

Grey-faced Buzzard, juvenile, at St John’s Island, on 3 Jan 2020, by Dillen Ng

Thirteen Peregrine Falcons were recorded, probably the highest monthly number for the species, comprising both adults and juveniles; they were recorded singly, with some individuals regularly perching near the top of apartment blocks at Jurong and Punggol. Twenty Black Bazas were recorded, mostly in the Lim Chu Kang area (including SBWR & Kranji Marshes) and Pasir Ris Park. 61 Oriental Honey Buzzards were recorded – apart form 12 recorded at Kranji Marshes on the 1st, the others were mostly singles from various localities.

A Buteo photographed at a distance at Tuas South on the 5th by Martin Kennewell and Zacc HD was initially thought to be a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo, but may potentially be a Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus – stay tuned! Lastly, two Oriental Scops Owls, a nocturnal raptor, were photographed during the daytime at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on the 23rd.

Brahminy with Red-legged Crake, posted 140120, SBTB, Andrew Seah

Brahminy Kite, flying with a dead Red-legged Crake in its talons, at Satay by the Bay, on 14 Jan 2020, by Andrew Seah

Highlights for sedentary species: 

Three Crested Serpent Eagles were recorded, one at Malcolm Road on the 10th and probably the same bird at Stevens MRT on the 12th; one at Seletar on the 12th; and one at Pulau Ubin on the 19th and 22nd.

Up to nine Grey-headed Fish Eagles were recorded, localities included SBWR, Kranji Marshes, Little Guilin, Sungei Ulu Pandan, Botanic Gardens, Central Catchment forest, Springleaf Nature Park, Yishun Dam, Lorong Halus and Pulau Ubin.

Breeding-related activities were observed for four species. Mating was observed for the Black-winged Kite at Neo Tiew Harvest Link on the 4th and at Kranji Marshes on the 26th. For the Crested Goshawk, a nest with chicks was observed at West Coast Park on the 3rd, and at Pasir Ris Park, nest building was observed on the 30th, followed by mating on the 31st. Interestingly, the nest at West Coast Park was only about 20m away from the nest of a pair of Brahminy Kites.

CGH x2 fighting, posted 040120, near Aljunied MRT, BICA, KL Pow's hubby

Crested Goshawks, feet locked together, apparently refusing to let go, was separated by a passerby before flying off, male (left) is much smaller than female (right), Aljunied MRT vicinity, Jan 2020, by KL Pow’s husband

There were two nesting records for the Brahminy Kite, the nest at West Coast Park had two chicks, with one fledging on the 17th, and amazingly the adults were observed mating! By the 21st, the second chick had also fledged. The second nest was found at the Lim Chu Kang area on the 12th. On the 14th, an adult Brahminy Kite at Satay by the Bay was captured on camera flying with a dead Red-legged crake in its talons. For the White-bellied Sea Eagle, a pair was building a nest at SBWR on the 26th.

There was one ernesti Peregrine Falcon, an adult, on the 29th, in the vicinity of the Botanic Gardens, eating a bird. No torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzzards were recorded in January. The other sedentary raptors recorded were five Changeable Hawk-Eagles, and one Barred Eagle Owl at the Singapore Quarry, its usual location, on the 23rd.

Table 1

For more details, please click Singapore Raptor Report – January 2020

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and also thanks  to Siew Mun, Bp Chua, Dillen Ng, and Andrew Seah for the use of their photos.