On the morning of 16 July this year, I went hiking to the Central Catchment Forest, Mandai Track 15 to look for the Sambar deer, a former native but probably escapees from the zoo. I started the hike at 7.40 am and shortly reached a stream where sightings of the deer had been reported. I tread slowly and quietly anticipating the deer to appear anytime. Suddenly, I saw some small movements at the bare dark patches of the bushes about 5 meters away.
It was a small bird and from the size and shape I could see that it was a pitta even though it was dark and shaded at 8 am in the morning. As I got nearer I could see it “hopping” around just like a pitta. Upon seeing me coming, the pitta jumped up and perched on a low branch, instead of getting skittish and flee. At one point the pitta turned and looked straight at me in absolute silence. From my photos, I can see that it was a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta,Pitta moluccensis, with duller plumage and gape. On checking with my friends I was told that this is the first mainland record of a juvenile Blue-winged Pitta. The previous sighting of a fledged juvenile was at Pulau Ubin also around July in 2016 where its nest was discovered ( See reference).
I tried to move in for a closer shot and to avoid the many mountain bikers coming through as this was a shared track at this spot. Unfortunately a biker went by fairly fast and spooked the bird. It quickly hopped and flew further into the bushes.
I wandered around the vicinity to look for it. Then I heard the calls of a Blue-winged Pitta coming from a forest patch about 20 meters away. It turned out to be another pitta, a bigger adult with brighter plumage and clear define plumage perched on a small tree, 3 meters from the ground.
This adult Blue-winged Pitta was calling loudly and regularly throughout my observations. It remained perched for about 3 minutes and flew deeper into the forests when I approached it for closer shots. I can only assumed that this is the parent bird.
Both the adult and the juvenile could not be located and was not seen again.
1.‘First documented records of the Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis breeding in Singapore, BING WEN LOW, ALFRED CHIA, GIM CHEONG TAN, WEE JIN YAP & KIM KEANG LIM
Observation Records of Juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfishers and White-Throated Kingfishers
Text and photos by Veronica Foo
The months of April and May provide many opportunities to see young birds.
On 15th April 2021 during a walk at Kranji Marshes with Kwek Swee Meng, I chanced upon a pair of juvenile White-throated Kingfishers (Halcyon smyrnensis) perched on a rail by a drain with an adult. The White-throated Kingfisher is a common resident in Singapore. It is polytypic and the subspecies in Singapore is the perpulchra. Both juveniles had darkish bills and some vermiculation on their throat and breast areas.
The adult was seen diving down to the drain once and returning to the rail without any catch. Subsequently, one of the juveniles dived and returned to the rail seemingly without a catch. These birds feed on fish, small amphibians and insects. It was suggested that the juveniles were probably attempting to learn to feed. The adult bird subsequently flew off, followed by the 2 juveniles one after another.
The Adult White-Throated Kingfisher with two juveniles.
On 4th May 2021, during a walk at MacRitchie Reservoir with Lim Kim Keang, two birds swooped to a tree in front of us followed by another larger bird a few seconds later. The two obscured birds were making calls to each other. They subsequently flew to different trees on the opposite side of the reservoir boardwalk where we had a better view of them. They were the uncommon resident Stork-Billed Kingfishers (Pelargopsis capensis), our largest Kingfisher species in Singapore. Rarely do we see a juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfisher lest a pair of them? This species is polytypic and the ones resident in Singapore is the subspecies malaccensis.
Both juveniles had brown crowns, head-sides and napes, brown vermiculation on their breasts, darkish bills unlike the bright red in adults. These kingfishers feed on fish and crabs but the juvenile birds did not attempt to dive to fish nor were they fed by the adult. The juveniles continued making calls while the adult remained perched on a different tree. The birds eventually flew off into the forest.
The adult Stork-Billed Kingfisher perched and overlooking the reservoir water.
Based on this observation, the Stork-Billed Kingfishers were probably looking for better hunting grounds.
Documentation of nesting and breeding records of Kingfishers especially that of Stork-Billed Kingfisher are very scant. These two confirmed breeding records add to the knowledge of our resident kingfishers. Based on a previous record by Lim Kim Chuah and Marcel Finlay on the nesting and breeding record of Stork-Billed Kingfisher can be read on this link. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/nesting-and-breeding-record-of-stork-billed-kingfisher-in-singapore/ . The juvenile Stork-Billed Kingfisher photographed by Marcel Finlay on 4 July 2017 has a darker bill base with some red towards the tip. This juvenile may be of a younger age than the two that were observed recently.
Kingfishers generally dig and build nests in river-banks, decaying trees or termite nests in trees in obscurity. From the above observations and sightings, we can deduce that these two kingfisher species are building nests here. Their successful nestings that resulted in these four juveniles is a positive occurrence and we hope for their continuous survival with records of their sightings.
1.Lim, K.S. (2009). The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore).
2.Wells, D.R. (1997). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Academic Press.
3. Yong, D.L., Lim, K.C. and Lee T.K. (2017). A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy.
4. Craig Robson (2016). Birds of South-East Asia (Concise Edition).
In my previous article ‘The Farmland Marshes of Kranji. Part 1’, I had described an ‘accidental site’ comprising muddy parts, marsh-like and water-logged areas that attracted migrant birds and local birds. In the second part of my write up, I will highlight how some of our resident birds have managed to breed in this accidental site, signaling the ultimate success of such a place. Most of the observations on the breeding of these birds were taken exclusively from outside the fence near one of the lamp posts. Not unexpectedly, it was impossible to photograph the chicks.
The White-breasted Waterhen is a relatively common bird seen at many locations in Singapore. It was one of the first birds seen here to have chicks. The chicks were rather small when first seen and did not venture beyond a specific area located to the left of the Farmland. A pair of Cinnamon Bitterns were also sometimes seen perched on the low-lying shrubs in the deeper parts of the Farmland. Subsequently I would see one of them intermittently fly in to catch what was possibly insects and fly off. With careful observations I tracked it to another Farmland. It would go regularly to the same location with food in its mouth leading me to believe there could be a nest there. I did not attempt to search for the nest in the other Farmland as it would highly likely have disturbed the nesting. Anyway, it was in another Farmland. The Slaty-breasted Rails with three juveniles have been seen to walk regularly in this Farmland. They would also walk outside the Farmland. Since I did not see the chicks in this Farmland, I cannot be certain whether they had bred here though it is possible since they appeared comfortable walking around.
Chestnut Munia (Black-headed Munia), Scaly-breasted Munia, Common Waxbill and Golden-backed Weavers have been busily seen bringing nesting materials. The nests cannot be seen but I have seen fledglings of the Chestnut Munia and Scaly-breasted Munia. I did not pay too much attention to the other two birds and thus may have missed the fledglings. The Red-wattled Lapwings would fly in an extremely aggressive manner above this Farmland when disturbed. Its chicks were seen in the Farmland behind this plot of land.
Lesser-whistling ducks have been seen regularly visiting this plot of land. The maximum number of Lesser-whistling ducks I had seen at one time was twenty-eight (28) as they flew away from the Farmland. They would fly in, wade in the water-logged areas or stand at various places (Photos 1 to 3).
Photo 1. Lesser-whistling ducks flying into the Farmland.
Photo 2. Lesser-whistling ducks wading in the water-logged areas.
Photo 3. Lesser-whistling ducks standing at one part of the Farmland.
The area shown by Photo 3 may be especially important as I have seen one pair of Lesser-whistling ducks spend a considerable portion of their time there. It was in the water-logged area near this site, I first noticed the seven (7) ducklings wading with its parents.
Photo 4. Showing the areas where the adults would be seen wading with the chicks.
The Lesser-whistling ducks and ducklings would be seen intermittently wading in the areas marked by the three red arrows. They would usually move in the direction of the blue arrows and reverse back. Whilst I could see the chicks with my binoculars partially hidden by the vegetation, it was not possible for me to get any photos standing outside the fence. The other angle that allowed observation from outside the fence in the past unfortunately was blocked by significant overgrowth of vegetation (hatched purple) and prevented any clear line of sight.
The Common Moorhen has also been seen at various parts of the Farmland. They would either wade in the water-logged areas or stand at a few chosen spots on the solid ground (Photos 5 & 6).
Photo 5. Common Moorhen wading in the water-logged areas.
Photo 6. Common Moorhen standing at one of its usual sites.
The maximum number of adult Common Moorhens I had seen in this Farmland was four (4). I was unable to capture all four in a single frame (Photo 7).
Photo 7. Three Common Moorhens. The fourth one was hidden to the left of this photo.
Photo 7 is interesting as this was the same area where I had seen the pair of Lesser-Whistling ducks spend a considerable portion of the time. Similarly, a pair of the Common Moorhens would spend time here and move to the water-logged area (Photo 8).
Photo 8. Pair of Common Moorhens would be seen regularly at this location.
Two chicks were subsequently seen wading in the water-logged areas with the parents in this location. The chicks were much smaller than the adult and appeared almost completely black, except for the beak which looked possibly tan/pinkish. Despite all my attempts I could not get a single photo standing outside the Farmland. I was terribly disappointed in not being able to get any photos but was still happy to have seen the chicks of the Common Moorhen!
The movement of the Common Moorhen with its chicks was more restricted and usually would be restricted to the leftmost red arrow of Photo 4. I was somewhat puzzled as to whether the Lesser-whistling ducks and the Common Moorhens would get along. I had seen them on multiple occasions sharing the same area (Photo 9) in close proximity.
Photo 9. Lesser-whistling duck and Common Moorhen in proximity.
The final bird that had bred here would be the White-browed Crake. I did not see the chicks but saw the juvenile White-browed Crakes moving within the reeds. They had brownish heads. They would never venture out into the open and I do not have any decent photos of them. Unlike the Lesser-whistling ducks and the Common Moorhens, they preferred a slighly different location that included marsh-like and water logged areas (Photo 10). The head can usually be seen near the purple circled area and they would move within the area marked in blue.
Photo 10. Showing where the juvenile White-browed crakes would be seen.
From July to August 2020, the workers had started more intensive work around the Farmland to clear vegetation, move the bags of sand/fertilizer, etc. With permission from the Farmland supervisiors, I managed to enter and attempted to look for the Common Moorhens. They were not found making me suspect they had left the location due to the regular and significant human activity especially at the place where they were seen to be resting most of the time. Prior to this, the workers did walk around intermittently without doing any clearing of vegetation and I suspect the Common Moorhens remained at the site as they were not threatened.
The Lesser Whistling ducks still continue to come to the Farmland but in lesser numbers and would wade and rest at different locations. The White-browed Crakes can still be found in the Farmland as its usual movement area has not been affected by human activity.
At the start of September 2020, I was fortunate to witness two chicks of the White-browed Crake with its parents. In the ensuing days only one of the chicks was regularly seen, making me suspect that one of the chicks might have either died or fallen prey. Since my entry into the Farmland was not restricted, I was able to obtain photos of the slightly grown-up chick of the White-browed Crake and subsequently the Juvenile White-browed Crake (Photos 11 & 12). Many other birders have also been successful in capturing precious images of this bird.
Photo 11. White-browed chick with its parent
Photo 12. Juvenile White-browed chick
This accidental site in the Farmland consisting of muddy parts, marsh-like and water-logged areas has attracted both migrant birds and local birds. Recently, the Pallas-grasshopper Warbler and Oriental Reed Warbler have been spotted here. The site has also supported breeding of some of the most uncommon birds we have in Singapore.
In my opinion, this site has been successful as a habitat for both migratory and uncommon local birds. The muddy areas provided a resting and feeding spot for birds like the Long-toed stint and Little-ringed plover. The water-logged areas had relatively shallow portions and even the deeper portions were possibly at most only 0.5 meters. This allowed birds like the White-browed Crakes walk in the shallow areas and Asian Openbills in the deeper areas to forage for food. The interspersed vegetation with reeds provided cover from predators and yet allowed the birds to move freely and forage for food. Excessive human activity like clearing of vegetation would be a threat to these birds as exemplified by the disappearance of the Common Moorhens from this Farmland. Finally, my wish would be such a similar site would be reproduced in a nearby vicinity and it would allow birders like me to watch, photograph and enjoy birdlife.
This pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles,Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, are raising a family somewhere at the Toh Tuck area and have been fishing along the Pandan Canal for some time now. Both or one of them will perch in the mid canopy of the Albizia trees by the side of the canal either in the early morning hours or late afternoons looking out for any signs of life in the canal.
Perched up in the mid canopy, looking down at the canal waiting for any movements in the water.
Many of the dives and catches have been well documented in a number of great action photos posted in various Facebook groups recently. All of them show them diving down from the perch and snatching a fish from the surface of the water before taking it back to the trees.
Steven Wong’s photo of the Sea-eagle entering the water with both wings up. I had a photo of the eagle completely underwater with only the ripples to show on the surface. But deleted it off hand as it had nothing to show.
But on the morning of 21 March 2019, Steven Wong and I witnessed a dive catch we have not seen before. The eagle dived into the water and caught a catfish that was swimming beneath the water surface. At one stage the whole eagle was submerged under the water only to reappear out of the water like from out of nowhere.
Struggling to get up after being fully submerged in the water.
To do this, the eagle must have an extremely sharp eyesight to see the catfish that was swimming well below the surface. Maybe the clearer water that day helped. Then it must continuously keep track the movement of fish as it was diving down from the perch.
Relieved to have both wings clear of the water.
The hardest part must be when and where to plunge in as the fish was below the surface. It will first have to allow for the parallax as the fish was not where it is looking from above. It will also have to allow for the evasive action of the fish in the split second after it hit the water surface.
It takes a lot of down force to lift off judging from the turbulence on the water surface, captured in this photo by Steven Wong.
After hitting the water the eagle will not be able to see the fish as its nictitating membrane will cover its eyes. It will depend on its speed, trajectory and self belief that it talons will somehow fall on to its target and grab it. It was interesting to see that it managed to grab hold of the catfish head instead of mid body. It must be aiming for its head right from the start so that it will still get the other parts of the body if it miscalculate the strike. This hunting technic must have been learnt from the many failures in the past.
Determination written all over its face as it tried to drag it catch off the water.
Reversing its flight after the catch had to be another feat of power, using its wings to stop it going deeper and then pushing it back up to the surface. From the shots it took the eagle quite a few second to get airborne partly due to the size and weight of the catfish. We were happy to witness this hunting behaviour and add to the knowledge of these fish eagles in our midst.
Success and food for the chicks today. It will eat the top half of the fish on the Albizia tree before taking the tail end back to the nest.
Aiming for the head gave the fish eagle some margin of error.
Many thanks to Steven Wong for spotting the eagle that morning and generously sharing his local knowledge of the hunting behaviour of this pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles.
We have our 4th record of this vagrant and maybe now a rare winter visitor to Bidadari early this April when TT Koh showed me his photo of a summer Indian Pond Heron,Ardeola grayii, he shot on the 4th. He was not sure of its id and did not send out the alert. It was a post by Phua Joo Yang on 25th in Singapore Birders that got us down to look for it at Bidadari the next day.
TT Koh’s shot of the Indian Pond Heron at Bidadari on 4 April 2018
Coincidently, Terence Tan posted a non-breeding lighter plumage of another Pond Heron from Bishan Park on 23rd, which Martin Kennewell and Dave Bakewell commented that it was a good candidate for an Indian. Unfortunately this particular Pond Heron could not be found since.
Terence Tan’s photo of an “unriped” Pond Heron at Bishan Park on 23 April 2018.
The question now is whether this is the same Indian Pond Heron that visited Bidadari in the past two years. On 11 April 2015 Joseph Tan shot one at Bidadari. He did not expect it to be an Indian and did not post it. Good thing that Er Bong Siong did six days later on Bird Sightings. Its admin Francis Yap was quick to realised what he was looking at and alerted its members. All of us got our lifers when we rushed down to tick it in the next two days.
Taken on 26 April 2018 when it was flying from tree to tree.
This record was enough to move the first record of a summer Indian Pond Heron seen on 20 March 1994 at Senoko by Lim Kim Seng and Lim Kim Chuah from Category D to A. This now constitutes the first national record for this Pond Heron. Cat D are for species which are wild but the possibility of an escapee or released bird cannot be satisfactorily excluded. Myanmar is the nearest range for this Pond Heron and the first record for this Pond Heron for Malaysia was on 12 April 1999 at Penaga district, Penang (SuaraEng 1999). So the exercise of prudence to leave it in Cat D in 1994 was the right call.
To establish its status further, another Indian Pond Heron was sighted at Bidadari again by See Swee Leng on 9 March 2016 and Keita Sin on 6 April 2016. This one wintered there until 19 April 2016. But it may be have flown to Farmway 3 as Lim Kim Keang reported one there on 8 May 2016, making this it latest departure date.
Shot from the roadside on our way back to the carpark as it flew down to the slope inside the parlour to feed.
From the arrival dates of this Pond Heron to Bidadari, the probability of it being the same bird is high. We can only be sure if we are able to tag this heron which will not be an easy task. In the meantime, let’s enjoy its presence here and try to give it room to forage and feed before it makes it way back. With our long telephoto lenses, there is no need to go close to take that spectacular shot.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009 Nature Society (Singapore). Thanks to TT Koh, Terence Tan and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos.
Common Goldenback mating at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. By Rob Arnold.
Unfortunately I was travelling outside Singapore when the Indian Paradise Flycatcher was spotted and identified, and missed all the excitement. By the time I returned, most people had seen it, and visiting Sungei Buloh there were many fewer eyes looking for it; most people were seeking the Buffy Fish Owls. On my third unsuccessful morning wandering around the entry and car park, I noticed a pair of Common Goldenbacks in a tree at the far end of the car park. They were in a flowering tree and flew off as I approached.
The female Goldenback took up an erect position and waited for the male.
I worked my way back towards the entry, and heard a Plaintive Cuckoo loud and close. I tried to whistle it in, and amazingly it flew into a small tree and I was congratulating myself on my bird imitations. Must be rubbing off from spending time with Kim Chuah sifu. The bird flew off and I reviewed the pictures: something wrong here, it had a clear eye-ring and peachy buff up to the chin…a Rusty-Breasted. Oh well, good bird. Maybe not such good imitation.
The male was busy looking for grubs and did not seem to notice its mate waiting above.
I looked up and saw the female Goldenback climbing the big tree just opposite the Assembly Point. She got to a large branch and started prospecting along it. Then the male flew up to the same branch. Immediately she assumed an erect position on the top of the branch, which I suppose was at least anticipatory and at most invitational. He didn’t notice she had done this and went on prospecting – to be fair, he was underneath the branch and could not see her.
Once he noticed her erect position, the male moved along the look at her inquisitively.
As you can see, she maintained her erect position. Then he came to the top of the branch and noticed her, moved along and looked at her inquisitively, then hopped on. All this time she maintained the same position. Then he hopped off and she went off prospecting again. Seems clear from this that she instigated the mating – he did nothing and in fact did not notice until he was just along the branch from her, while she did not move from the time she assumed her position until they were done mating. Possibly of interest to others.
Success at last!
In the meantime, still looking for the Indian Paradise Flycatcher….
Our brief encounter with the Buffy Fish Owls at Singapore Botanic Gardens.
by Henrietta Woo.
Observers: Goh Pei Shuan, Henrietta Woo, Ong Ruici
Date: 21 Mar 2018
Time: From 1918 hours till nightfall
Location: NParks HQ, Singapore Botanic Gardens
Pei Shuan and I had just left the office and were making our way to the Evolution Garden when two large-sized birds abruptly landed in the tree above us while calling. We thought it might be the Red Jungle Fowls, but turning the corner, the birds revealed themselves to be Buffy Fish Owls. Both continued to vocalise, one more so frequently than the other, uttering a relatively soft “yiiii” (like a squeaky chair, for lack of a better description) each time. The other owl answered sporadically with a louder and harsher “yiooorhhh”. I am guessing that the former is a subadult; the plumage differences seem rather minute, however. Both kept close to each other.
While this was happening, Ruici who was at Botany Centre observing the Brown-chested JungleFlycatcher immediately rushed over and joined me about 5 minutes after Pei Shuan left. At this time, the owls had become more active, flying across the path to another tree and calling more frequently. The pair thereafter flew across the carpark, to the trees directly in front of the HQ, where we observed was a third owl. Soon after, two of the owls flew across the carpark one after the other back to the Evolution Garden. One of them was carrying a small branch/large twig from the Araucaria tree it had been perching in. The two owls in the Evolution Garden started to vocalise, seemingly coaxing the third individual (subadult?) to join them.
I had my camera (thankfully!) with me, and managed to squeeze off a few shots before night fell. We also were able to take a few recordings of the owls vocalising and will eventually upload onto xeno-canto. This brief encounter with these Buffy Fish Owls while unexpected was most exhilarating!
I have been walking around Simei-Changi Business Park estate for the past three years . Ever since I started birding in Jan 2017, I combined my morning 5 km walk with birding (with bino and a zoom camera) which yielded interesting sightings of various species of birds.
I have recorded 65 species so far in this area . Many are residents and some are uncommon or rare visitors during migratory season. Below is the list in random order.
1. Black-naped Oriole
2. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
3. Common Goldenback
4. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker
5. Red-breasted Parakeet
6. Rose-ringed Parakeet
7. Blue crowned Hanging Parrot
8. Common Kingfisher
9. White-throated Kingfisher
10. Collared Kingfisher
11. Yellow Bittern
12. Grey Heron
13. Striated Heron
14. Cinnamon Bittern
15. Black-crowned Night heron
16. Blue-throated Bee-eater
17. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
18. White-breasted Waterhen
19. Spotted Dove
20. Zebra Dove
21. Pink-necked Pigeon
22. Green Imperial Pigeon
23. Red Turtle Dove
24. Oriental Pied Hornbill
25. Red-whiskered Bulbul
26. Little Egret
27. Common Iora
28. White-headed Munia
29. Scaly-breasted Munia
30. Brown Shrike
31. Long-tailed Shrike
32. Tiger shrike
33. Pied Triller
34. Oriental Dollarbird
35. Oriental Magpie Robin
36. Asian Glossy Starling
37. Asian Koel
38. Lesser Coucal
39. Grey Wagtail 40. Paddyfield Pipit
41. Malayan Pied Fantail
42. Pacific Swallow
43. Asian Brown Flycatcher
44. Dark-sided Flycatcher
45. Large-tailed Nightjar
46. White-bellied Sea-eagle
47. Ashy Tailorbird
48. Common Tailorbird
49. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
50. Large-billed Crow
51. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
52. Oriental White-eye
53. Slaty-breasted Rail
54. Arctic Warbler
55. Oriental Reed Warbler
56. Chinese Pond Heron
57. Crow-billed Drongo
58. Ashy Minivet
59. Snipe Spp.
60. Oriental Honey Buzzard
61. Brahminy Kite
62. Changeable Hawk Eagle
63. Black Baza
64. Jerdon’s Baza 65. Pacific Golden Plover.
Map of the birding spots in Simei- Changi Business Park.
If you are driving, you can park your car next to CBP bus terminal down slope going into the canal path ( marked in red here) .
Photos of birds of Simei – Changi Business Park
Green Imperial Pigeon
Five Black Bazas in a tree
Juvenile Cinnamon Bittern
White headed Munia
The best time for birding in this area is 7-9 am . (except Green Imperial Pigeon which comes around around 10-11 a.m.)
Changi Business Park with many open fields have large number of equatorial spitting cobras and I spotted three spitting cobras within a span of 8 minutes walk in different locations! I definitely need to get Phua Chu Kang boots J ( yellow safety boots ) and eye protection if I decide to I go into the fields.
Equatorial Spitting Cobra
If you are interested in watching metal birds landing, this is an ideal place as well, as flights land every few minutes. This poses danger to birds and below photo is a carcass of a bird ( grey heron?) may be due to collision with a plane.
Collision with an aircraft?
Look forward to seeing more birders in this area before this area develops into a complete concrete jungle. Remember to cover the canal behind Changi Bus terminal where Jerdon Baza, Black Baza , Grey Wagtail, Juvenile Cinnamon bittern & Juvenile night heron were sighted.
A Short History of the Jerdon’s Baza in Singapore.
By Alan OwYong and Tan Gim Cheong.
We are indeed fortunate when a juvenile Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni moved from the northern part of Singapore to the heart of the island at Bishan Park in late February 2018. This raptor has eluded birders and photographers for many years as they make sporadic appearances at Lorong Halus and Tampines Eco Green. Last weekend, it was hunting at Bishan Park from early morning to late afternoon giving many of us our lifers and hundreds of perched, feeding and flight shots.
An exceptional shot of the Jerdon’s Baza making a low fly pass at Bishan Park captured by Lim Ser Chai.
But surprisingly this raptor was not recorded in the 1920s to 1990s. One of the reasons may be that it is largely sedentary. We should consider the winter population in Singapore to be true but short distance migrants. They are very rare in Peninsular Malaysia, so the birds we see could have come from north of Chumphon, possibly Northern Thailand, Myanmar or India. Their range includes South India and Southern China down to parts of South East Asia and across to Borneo, Sumatra (breeding recorded) and the Philippines.
A well taken and nicely framed habitat shot of Jerdon’s Baza by Mettalady Yeo.
It was listed as a rare accidental here, based on only seven records from 1996 to 2008. Our first record was an injured juvenile from Maju Camp at Clementi on 6 December 2002. I remembered someone pointed out the serrated upper mandible as one of the identity features. It was revised when a miss-identified juvenile Blyth’s Hawk Eagle photographed at Bidadari in January 1996 by the late Ong Kiem Sian was re-identified as an adult Jerdon’s Baza.
Martii Siponen’s photo of a Jerdon’s Baza (left) with an Oriental Whip Snake at Hindhede Quarry.
Between 2006 and 2008, a bunch of records came in from the Lim Chu Kang, Poyan and Choa Chu Kang areas. Con Foley photographed one in flight over the Chinese Gardens in 2007. In 2010, we had several records from the reclaimed land at Changi Cove (Lau JiaSheng et al). These records do point to a case of this species being overlooked in the past. In fact, Martti Siponen, a keen raptor watcher shot one in flight over Hindhede Quarry in 2010 and kept it filed as a Changeable Hawk Eagle.
The Jerdon’s Baza is also called a Lizard Hawk, well illustrated by Terence Tan’s dramatic shot of a Changeable Lizard being torn up.
Most of the recent sightings were at Lorong Halus where up to eight birds were roosting there during the migratory months. Their foraging ground then extended to Tampines Eco Green and the open fields of Pasir Ris Park. My first sighting was at Biopolis at one-north in 2012 where two birds were seen perched by Horst Flotow from his office window. This is also the first for one-north. Last November two were seen flying over Henderson Wave. Lets hope they will be returning year after year and enjoy our warm weather during the winter months.
(PS. The Jerdon’s Baza was last seen at Bishan Park on 12 March 2018).
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore). Toru Yamazaki. Field Guide to the Raptors of Asia. 2012 Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network.
Many thanks to Lim Ser Chai, Mettalady Yeo,Martti Siponen and Terence Tan for the use of their photographs.
These are my own personal observations on the 17th and 18th January 2018 at Marina East Drive. Similar observations on both dates and I was the only birder on both dates.
There was a group of about 10 to 12 Swinhoe’s or White faced Plovers, ssp. dealbatus. Some were in breeding plumage. Just beside them but as a separate group there were about 15 to 16 Kentish Plovers, Charadrius alexandrinus. Some were in breeding plumage. On the first date, the Kentish Plovers were closer to me. On the second date the White faced Plovers were closer to me.
Kentish Plover in breeding plumage.
The groups tolerated a certain distance between me and them.
When I moved closer they would start walking a few feet.
If I continued, they would fly but interestingly the group closer to me would fly off first.
On the first date, the Kentish Plovers flew off first but the White faced Plovers moved a couple steps further from me and stayed.
On the second date, the White faced Plovers behaved similarly. They were closer and flew off first. The Kentish Plovers didn’t fly off but moved a couple of steps further from me and stayed.
Swinhoe’s or White-faced Plover in breeding plumage.
I thought it was interesting since the White faced Plovers or Kentish Plovers seemed to stick together as a group. I must emphasize I didn’t move too quickly to them. I presume if I did all of them would have flown away.
I have attached the photos of the Kentish and White faced Plovers in breeding plumage.
I have taken more photos for my own understanding how the birds.