Category Archives: Singapore Avifauna

Singapore’s last surviving Malkoha.

Contributed by Alan OwYong.

The last surviving Malkoha, the Chestnut-bellied Phaenicophaeus sumatranus, that was once confined to the Singapore Central Forest and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has adapted well to the forest fringes and buffer nature parks since the start of the century. But our early specimens were collected from the mangroves along Kranji River, Jurong and Seletar, Sungei Sembawang and Ulu Pandan. It must be this adaptability that sees it surviving until today. Its closest relative here, the Black-bellied Malkoha P. Diardi, died out in the 1950s due to its dependence on denser forests in the interior that were logged ( per cons Yong Ding Li). So did the smaller Raffles’s and Red-billed Malkohas. We can learn from these extinctions and manage our forest to protect our last malkoha and other similiar species from meeting the same fate.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at JEG

Rare open view at the Jurong Eco Gardens, where nesting have been recorded.

Mainly arboreal, it hops from branch to branch looking for large insects and small vertebrates at the forest canopies.  Unlike cuckoos, it builds its own nest and care for its young on its own. This uncommon breeding resident is both globally and nationally near-threatened.

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha at Jelutong

Jelutong Tower is the best place to get eye-level shots of this canopy feeder. Its diet of large insects makes it vulnerable and is listed as nationally near-threatened.

I have seen them foraging along the Mandai Lake Road in the early 2000s. Those who remembered the Mandai Orchid Gardens will know of the few nesting records there. One of the nest was inside a low ficus tree right next to the souvenir stall at the Gardens close to the visitors path. Another nesting was outside the Bukit Timah Visitor Center at roof top level. The eggs on an open flimsy nest were at the mercy of the preying Long-tailed Macaques. The most recent nesting records however came from Jurong Eco Gardens. These Malkohas can still be seen there today.

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Eye-level nest at the Mandai Orchid Gardens right next to the visitor’s walkway. 

Besides keeping the Central Forest intact, the creation of buffer nature parks augurs well for the survival and well being of this jewel of our forest.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009. Craig Robson. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd. A.F.S.L. Lok and T.K. Lee. Brood Care of the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha. Nature in Singapore 2008.1.85-92. 

 

 

 

Singapore Bird Report – June 2017

June may be a quieter month, but great to see so many postings on fledglings, rare and uncommon residents from across the island. We will try to cover some of the more interesting sightings including a few over stayers and unexpected locations of these sightings.

Yong Ding Li led a census for the Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus at Pulau Ubin on the morning of 4th as part of this year’s Pesta Ubin Festival. They counted a total of 68 birds, confirming that Pulau Ubin has the highest density for this globally endangered species anywhere in the world.

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The newly fledged Grey-rumped Treeswift chick at Ang Mo Kio by Gerald KC Lim

Danny Khoo reported the successful fledging of the Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis chick at Ang Mo Kio park on 10th and the Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii chick at the Mandai Track 7 on 16th. Great to see that this uncommon forest resident is doing fine. An adult White-headed Munia Lonchura maja was seen feeding three juveniles at a suburban estate at Mount Sinai on 15th by Gerald KC Lim. These may be released birds.

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White-headed Munia family photographed at a suburban estate by Gerald K.C. Lim

Aldwin Recinto chanced upon the lowly situated nest of the Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris at Lorong Halus on 17th. Two days later the chick fledged. A pair of over worked Common Ioras Aegithina tiphia were busy keeping up with the feeding of a Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonnerati chick over at Jurong Eco Garden on 20th (Lee Chuin Ming).

Lee Chuin Ming

Common Iora feeding a Banded Bay Cuckoo chick that is more than twice its size. (Lee Chuin Ming)

Alan OwYong and Ted Ng photographed an Asian Red-eyed Bulbul Pycnontus brunneus feeding a juvenile at the White Mulberry tree at Dairy Farm NP on 26th. The eyes of the juvenile Red-eyed Bulbul is dark brown not red.

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Juvenile Asian Red-eyed Bulbul being fed by parent at Dairy Farm NP. Photo: Ted Ng

A cute looking juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus was nicely captured by Patricia Tiang over at Kent Ridge Park on 26th. This juvenile also don’t have the red ‘whiskers’.

RWB Patricia

Juvenile Red-whiskered Bulbul without any red ‘whiskers’ at Kent Ridge Park (Patricia Tiang)

The unwelcome breeding record came from the canal leading to Kranji Marshes where an adult Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild was feeding two youngs on 12th (Birding Dawn). This is the first record of these juveniles, which means that they have adapted to our weather. Our seed eaters will be impacted if they flourish.

Con Foley and friends sighted a lone straggler Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica flying over the Kranji Marshes on 3rd. They have been recorded as late as 11th June. The Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was photographed at the Gardens by the Bay on 5th (Francis Yap). Over at Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong reported that up to 20 Red-necked Stints, Calidris ruficollis some in breeding plumage were still around on 5th. The previous late date for this shorebird was 28th May. Staying in Tekong, two white and one dark morph Pacific Reef Egrets Egretta sacra were seen together on the 12th as well. Frankie Cheong’s photo below.

Most of our recent records of the Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana came from Chek Jawa and Sungei Buloh, great to receive a record from Christina See of one at Pulau Hantu on 14th. The Southern Islands have always been their stronghold.

The summer visitor Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis seen last month was spotted again by Fadzrun A. at the same grasslands at Seletar end on 5th. It was also photographed at the Mangrove Arboretun at Pulau Ubin by Joseph Lin from NParks on 15th (per Robert Teo’s report). As far as we know this is the first record for Pulau Ubin. 

Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo Joseph Lin

Joseph Lin from NParks photo of a Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, a first for Pulau Ubin.

Staying in Ubin, the on-off Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster a non-breeding visitor, was seen again at the Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin on 4th by Alfred Chia.

Rare residents reported this month include three House Sparrows Passer domesticus over at Jurong Island on 2nd (Low Choon How), a Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus at Sentosa on 3rd by CT Goh and Sandra Chia, a Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps seen at Jelutong Tower on 18th by Martin Kennewell. An uncommon White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus  was recorded at Dairy Farm NP on 23rd by Alan OwYong.

Other interesting resident species reported were Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotii at Kranji Marshes on 3rd by Con Foley and friends and another Abbott’s Babbler at Chek Jawa on 17th by Atish Banerjee. A forest Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at Pasir Ris Park on 4th by Lim Kim Seng and a Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera heard calling at the Lakeview Estate on 18th by Marcel Finlay. He had seen three birds last month along the Petai Trail. It looks like the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus are doing well at the Kranji Marshes. Martin Kennewell counted 27 of them there on 17th.

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A Greater Coucal photographed at Pasir Ris Park by Lim Kim Seng. 

A few resident species were reported in unexpected locations this month. A Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo was seen twice at the Varsity Condo at Pasir Panjang  on 7th and 16th by Gan Cheong Wei. He also reported a leafbird there on 17th. Unfortunately it was not identified. The seldom visited Admiralty Park at Woodlands was the home of a pair of Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata spotted by Alan OwYong on 8th. Lioe Kim Swee reported seeing two unidentified crakes there in 2015.  A roosting Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis was photographed by Seng Alvin at Tampines Eco Green on 21st.

Seng Alvin

Nicely camouflaged Savanna Nightjar at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin,

Good to hear that the Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica returning to the Lorong Halus ponds on 26th even though it was just one bird (Martin Kennewell). Our previous record was in 2013 (Ho Hua Chew). Lena Chow was excited to find the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting at the Dairy Farm NP on 26th. Lim Kim Chuah said that he had seen it along one of the streams there before. Another sign of this forest kingfisher spreading. Many thanks for all your records.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited.

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebirds by Martin Kennewell. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to  Gerald KC Lim, Lee Chuin Ming, Ted Ng, Patricia Tiang, Frankie Cheong, Joseph Lin, Lim Kim Seng and Seng Alvin for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Bird Report-May 2017

May turned out to be pretty interesting month. Martin Kennewell was birding at the Hindhede Quarry on the 15th evening when he scoped a resting Pheasant-tailed Jacana  Hydrophasianus chirurgus.  This rare winter visitor must have been forced down by a thunderstorm earlier. This is one day earlier than the last recorded departure date. Francis Yap timed his visit to Seletar Grasslands to perfection when he found the Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis, a summer migrant from Australia, perched among the scrubs on 27th. Lim Kim Keang saw it again the next day.  For an encore Francis photographed one of the few surviving Lesser Green Leafbirds Chloropsis cyanopogon, a male  from Jelutong Tower on 17th. This is the rarest of our three leafbird species.

Lesser Green Leafbird FYap

A rare photograph of a Lesser Green Leafbird taken from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap

Sharindar Singh and his friend Ramesh Nadarajan reported a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra at Lorong Halus on 13th. If accepted this rare resident will be our fifth mainland record. Their stronghold is at Pulau Tekong although we have been getting periodic records from Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin. Tony Greer was on his way to Batam when he saw a shearwater flying alongside his ferry near Sister’s Island. Unfortunately the gloomy weather hampered the identification.

Bulwer's Petrel Jiasheng

On the 6th, a third Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii was reported at the Straits of Singapore, a multi-national stretch of water, south of the Eastern Anchorage (pers com with Lau Jiasheng).

Left: Lau Jiasheng’s photo of Bulwer’s Petrel taken at the Straits of Singapore.

There were a host of over-stayers this month. Topping the list was a Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis photographed on 13th by Piyong and Looi Ang Soh Hoon. Siew Mun heard it calling a week earlier. This is 40 days later than the previous late date of 3rd April.

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This Common Kingfisher was in no hurry to fly back. Photographed at Chinese Gardens by Looi Ang Soh Hoon. The deeper blue color almost had it misidentified.

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Another over stayer was this Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator Coromandus that crashed into the W Residences at Sentosa Cove on 2nd (Photo right provided by Sarah Chin). This is about week later than the previous late date. Richard White had been monitoring the Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida at the SBG. It was still around on the 13th. Yong Ding Li saw it there 2 days later. The previous late date was on 3rd May 2016 from Compass Vale Sec. School. An Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia was reported by Adrian Silas Tay at Seletar Grasslands on 27th over staying by a day. Over at Pulau Tekong, a late Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage was seen by Frankie Cheong on the same day.

As expected, we had a good number of breeding records this month. James Tann and Alan OwYong photographed a Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis carrying dead leaves to its nest at Chua Chu Kang grasslands on 1st. Wong Chung Cheong reported the nesting of the Grey-rumped Treeswifts Hemiprocne longipennis on a Angsana Tree at Ang Mo Kio on 7th. The next day Yong Ding Li also reported the nesting of the same species at Kay Siang Road. On 10 May, Lim Kim Keang came across a pair of Red-crowned Barbets Megalaima rafflesii going into a tree hole at Upper Seletar Reservoir. Over at the Chinese Gardens a pair of Coppersmith Barbets Megalaima haemacephala were feeding their chicks inside a nest hole in a Red Coral tree while a pair of Common Tailorbirds Orthotomus sutorius were going in and out of their nest by the lakeside (Piyong on 13th). Yeo Seng Beng reported a Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata passing nesting material to its mate at Hindhede Park on 17th. This would be the first nesting record for this secretive crake but unfortunately the nest cannot be found the next day. Atish Banerjee found a nest of a Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus at Dairy Farm NP on 18 May. Another Common Tailorbird nest with 2 chicks was found at the SBG on the 28th by Tan Gim Cheong and both parents were busy bringing insects to feed them. Most chicks reported above have fledged by now. Seng Alvin photographed a juvenile Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis sepulcralis at Tampines Eco Green on 25th. Earlier on the 5th, Aldwin Recinto had an adult Rusty-breasted Cuckoo as well at Pasir Ris Park.

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Seng Alvin

A juvenile Rusty-breasted Cuckoo photographed at Tampines Eco Green by Seng Alvin.

Most of the migrant reports were from Kranji Marshes. Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea (four on 20th), Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis on 6th and a Brown Shrike Lanis cristatus on 7th were reported by Martin Kennewell. Adrian Silas Tay had another Watercock at Seletar Grasslands on 27th as well. This species have been known to stay up to mid June. Another Blue-winged Pitta was also reported at Pasir Ris Park on 20th by Aldwin Recinto. Will we have another nesting of this Pitta this season? A known late stayer, the Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was seen on the last day of the month at Satay by the Bay by Ian Reid. We can expected this bittern to be staying there for a few more weeks.

Notable residents for the month: A female Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorthynchus was reported on 4th by Joe Lim from NParks at Butterfly Hill at Pulau Ubin and a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax at SBG by Laurence Eu.
White-headed Munia Pary Sivaraman

Pary Sivaraman reported ten White-headed Munias Lonchura maja (Pary’s Photo left) at Kranji Marshes on 7th. The numbers for this munia has dropped drastically over the years. Another uncommon munia, the introduced Javan Munia Lonchura leucogastroides was photographed at Lor. Halus by Aldwin Recinto on 30th.

 

The rare forest Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting seemed to be spreading which is good news. The latest location was at the Bukit Batok Quarry seen by Phyoe Aung Wai on 19th. Earlier on the 15th Martin Kennewell spotted another Blue-eared Kingfisher at the Hindhede Quarry. The third record for the month was at the Kranji Marshes where Wong Chung Cheong saw one on the canal railing on 27th. This is still one of the best location to see this resident kingfisher.

BEKF Gerals Chua

A very expressive shot of the Blue-eared Kingfisher taken at Kranji Marshes by Gerals Chua.

A fruits of the White Mulberry tree at Dairy Farm NP attracted many of our resident furgivorous species like the Asian Fairy Bluebirds Irena puella, Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati, Blue-winged Leafbird C. cochinchinensis, Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul P. brunneus and Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers Dicaeum trigonostigma .

Orange-belled Flowerpecker Ted Ng

A lovely open photo of a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker feasting on the white mulberry at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Photo: Ted Ng

Other species reported from Dairy Farm were Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana on 10th by James Tann, Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris on 11th by Terence Tan, Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus on 13th by James Tann, and Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus on 23rd by Alan OwYong.

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Strong legs needed by the Van Hasselt’s Sunbird to get to the nectar of a tapioca flower. Taken at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Alan OwYong

Notable residents for the month were two House Swifts Apus nipalensis along the AYE near Clementi by Kristie Yeong on 11th, Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea at Pasir Ris Park on 15th by Seng Alvin, another Violet Cuckoo at Hindhede NP on 16th by Andrew Chow, three more Chestnut-bellied Malkohas at Bukit Batok NP on 20th by James Tann, Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus flaviventris feeding on the figs at the summit Bukit Timah Hill on 20th (Ted Ng), the uncommon Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus at Windsor Park on 24th by Veronica Foo and up to 12 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus over the Satay by the Bay on 27th by Atish Banerjee. A good numbers record of this nationally threatened parrot.

BCB Chuin Ming Lee

Some leg work needed to get this Black-crested Bulbul at the summit of Bukit Timah Hill. Photo: Lee Chuin Ming.

Resident wetland species reported included a Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus at Tampines Eco Garden on 25th by Seng Alvin, a Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus at Kranji Marshes on 27th by Martin Kennewell and Kozi Ichiyama and a pair of Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis at Seletar Grasslands by Adrian Silas Tay on the same day.  The Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana were seen returning to SBWR with three birds sighted by Martin Kennewell on the 27th.

SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens; SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve; AYE: Ayer Rajah Expressway:

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebirds by Martin Kennewell. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to Francis Yap, Lau Jiasheng, Looi Ang Soh Hoon, Sarah Chin, Pary Sivaraman, Gerals Chua, Ted Ng, Alan OwYong and Lee Chuin Ming for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

Singapore Bird Report-April 2017 Part II Residents

April is the breeding season for most of our resident species in Singapore. They were also more active and visible. We received a fair share of sightings from the forests to the wetlands and from parks to grasslands

Starting at Pulau Ubin, Lim Kim Chuah and Adrian Silas Tay both found the rare Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea on 1st and 2nd respectively. Excellent find as the population at P. Hantu had gone missing. Also on the 2nd, Keita Sin reported a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl near to the old resort. Good to know they are doing well in Ubin. The Mangrove Pittas Pitta megarhyncha were particularly vocal at this time of the year. James Tan had a field day on 29th and came back with some great images.

Mangrove Pitta James Tann

Mangrove Pitta, our resident pitta photographed at Pulau Ubin by James Tann.

Kranji Marshes was also a good site for picking up some uncommon residents this month. A Plantive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus by Rob Arnold on 3rd, Little Terns Sternula albifrons  throughout the month and House Swifts Apus nipalensis on 29th (both by Martin Kennewell), an adult male Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus by Subha and Raghav on 14th.

Cinnamon Bittern Subha and Raghav

Adult male Cinnamon Bittern photographed at Kranji Marshes by Raghav Narayanswamy.

But the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and the buffer nature parks serve up the most resident sightings this month. At BTNR summit, Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta on 6th (Martin Kennewell). This species has been split and accepted by the IOC.  Lim Kim Keang also reported seeing the forest specialists Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris and Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra there on 14th.  A Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivigatus was reported at the Lower Pierce Reservoir on 22nd by Marcel Finlay. Two juvenile Sunda Scops Owls Otus lempiji were roosting next to the playground at Hindhede Nature Park on 11th (Siew Mun), while Martin Kennewell had a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus there on 14th.  The pair of Brown Hawk Owls Ninox scutulata were still around Petai Trail on 20th according to Marcel Finlay. He also found a pair of Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata at Hindhede on 21st and 24th. Felix Wong and his wife while on a walk at the newly opened Windsor Nature Park, came across a family of Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds Leptocoma brasiliana with the adults feeding its young. A good record of this secretive sunbird feeding its young.

Red Wattled Lapwing James Tann

Red-wattled Lapwings are doing well and spreading across the island. Photo; James Tann

Our parks and gardens continued to attract many of the forest edge species. A pair of Brown Hawk Owls was discovered by Art Toh at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 6th, seen again on 13th by Richard White. This is the fourth resident owl species found at the SBG. Marcel Finlay found some Asian Palm Swifts Cypsiurus balasiensis over the Eco Lake at SBG on 23rd. Back to the owls, he reported the Spotted Wood Owls Strix seloputo returning to Bishan Park on 8th. He had seen them there in 2012 and 2015. Two males and one female Violet Cuckoos were present at the Jurong Eco Garden on 15th (Adrian Silas Tay). They stayed around for a few days much to the delight of many photographers.

Violet Cuckoo Terence Tan

Violet Cuckoo male at Jurong Eco Gardens. Photo: Terence Tan. Our resident population is supplemented by some wintering birds.

More House Swifts, this time about 6 birds flying over the canopy walk at Kent Ridge Park on 16th (Alan OwYong). This population may be roosting at the old bungalows along Kent Ridge Road. An interesting find was a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax photographed by Art Toh at the Pond at Jurong Eco Garden on 23rd. Lee Kai Chong commented on facebook that this juvenile came from the Jurong Bird Bird which is close by.

BCNH Art Toh

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron at JEG. Photo: Art Toh.

Other notable sightings includes a dead Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus that crashed into Yew Tee Community Center on 2nd (Timothy Chua), three Javan Munias Lonchura leucogastroides  at downtown Parkview Square on 5th (Alan OwYong), more Glossy Swiftlets at Lakeview Estate on 14th and three Little Terns returning to the Sport Hub’s Marshes on 20th (both by Marcel Finlay). We had several nesting records but the only one we can report was James Tann’s report of the Red-wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus at a restricted site at Chua Chu Kang on 15th.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records. Many thanks to James Tann, Raghav Narayanswamy, Terence Tan and Art Toh for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Bird Report- April 2017. Part 1 Winter Visitors.

We are still getting lots of late migrants passing through this month like the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata, that crashed into a block of flat at Simei Street 5 on 3rd (Low Choon How). This set a new late date for this rare flycatcher.

JPFC Choon How-001

Rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher that crashed into a flat at Simei. Photo: Low Choon How.

Another rare flycatcher was a female Green-backed Ficedula elisae photographed at the CCNR on 6th by Lim Kim Seng. An uncommon Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki was reported by Martin Kennewell at Hindhede NP on the 14th. Martin also had a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia from Kranji Marshes on 1st.

Kranji Marshes was again the top site for our winter visitors this month.

Other good finds include a Large-hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides on 1st (Richard White), another hawk cuckoo, a Hodgson’s H. niscolor on 2nd (Con Foley), both at Bidadari, a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda West Coast Park photographed by Johnson Chua on 4th. Lim Kim Keang found one there last November 6th. Could this be the same Kingfisher? Johnson also photographed a lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus there the next day. This sub species is rarely seen here as its normal wintering range is in Taiwan and the Philippines.

Brown Shrike Johnson Chua

A lucionensis sub species Brown Shrike photographed at West Coast Park                              by Johnson Chua. Very similar to the adult Tiger Shrike.

A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka flew into a corridor at One-North Residences on 6th (Alan OwYong) and a Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans from Jelutong Tower on 7th (Marcel Finlay) with another Crow-billed Drongo crashing into an office building at Jurong Island on 18th (Lim Kim Chuah). It managed to recover and flew off by itself. A Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported at the Petai Trail from 7th to 20th by Marcel Finlay. Hard to tell if this is our resident race or not.

Javan Pond Heron Choon How

Javan Pond Heron in early breeding plumage at Lorong Halus by Low Choon How.

Other notable visitors were three Ashy Minivets Pericocotus divaricatus and late Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica seen flying over Kranji Marshes on 1st by Martin Kennewell. Around the ponds, Martin reported that the Black-capped Kingfisher H. pileata was still enjoying the sun on 8th and 19th.  Wagtails were also reported at their respective habitats. Eastern Yellow Motacilla tschutschensis at Kranji Marshes until the 16th (Martin Kennewell) and Forest Dendronanthus indicus at Admiralty Park on 9th (Vincent Lao) and Lower Pierce on 15th and 16th (Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay).

Forest Wagtail Vincent Lao

Forest Wagtail on a tarmac walkway at Admiralty Park. Photo: Vincent Lao

Pittas were still coming through and crashing into our buildings. Three different Blue-wingeds Pitta moluccensis were reported on 14th from Kranji Marshes and a Hooded P. sordida from Hindhede both by Martin Kennewell. The one that crashed near to the Commonwealth MRT station on 21st was a Hooded as well (Adrian Silas Tay).

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A Grey Nightjar resting at a flower bed at One-North Residences. Alan OwYong.

Other interesting winter visitors reported were a white morph Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi along Dairy Farm Loop on 17th ( Tony James),  Siberian Blue Robin Luscina cyane along Petai Trail on 19th (Marcel Finlay) and two Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola at Kranji Marshes on 29th (Martin Kennewell).  A returning Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus was seen at DFNP on 14th (Martin Kennewell) and another adult at Jurong Eco Garden on 17th (Siew Mun).

Tiger Shrike Siew Mun

Adult Tiger Shrike photographed at Jurong Eco Garden by Siew Mun.

A few wader and waterbird sightings to report. A Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa at Lorong Halus on 4th (Low Choon How) and maybe the same bird at Farmway 3 on 6th (Lim Kim Seng). A Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola at Kranji Marshes on 8th (Martin Kennewell) and another at Marina Barrage on 16th by Keita Sin. This could be our first record of this fresh water wader at this breakwaters. Frankie Cheong reported a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes in breeding plumage at Pulau Tekong on 8th. This is our most reliable site for this globally threatened species. Two Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea at the old Grebe pond at Lorong Halus on 7th (Lim Kim Seng). Johnson Chua photographed  an adult male Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus lurking at the Flamingo enclosure at the Jurong Bird Park on 12th. This is presumed to be a wild bird as it had no rings on its feet.

Chinese Egret Frankie Cheong

Chinese Egret at its favorite site at Pulau Tekong. Photo Frankie Cheong 

See Toh Yew Wai and friends took two boats out to the Straits of Singapore on 29th to check on the seabirds that were on their way back north. They came back with the second sighting of the Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii, a record 26 Short-tailed Shearwaters Puffinus tenuirostris, two Jaegers, Long-tailed Stercorarius longicaudus and Parasitic S. parasiticus and a few Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus among others. A very productive outing. Some of these sightings may not be in Singapore waters.

Short-tailed Shearwater Wong Lee Hiong

A low flying Short-tailed Shearwater photographed at the Straits of Singapore by Wong Lee Hong. A record 26 of these shearwaters were seen on that day.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

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

A field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. Wild Bird Society of Japan

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records especially Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay for their personal lists. Many thanks to LJohnson Chua, Low Choon How, Vincent Lao, Alan OwYong,  Siew Mun, Frankie Cheong and Wong Lee Hong for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Bird Report-March 2017

Kranji Marshes was the top location for rarity sightings this month starting with a rare passage migrant, an Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus picked out by Martin Kennewell on 11th from among the high flying Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica and Aerodramus Swiftlets. This also sets a new late date for the few spring records we have.

Bailion's Crake MK

An unusual open shot of a Baillon’s Crake at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell.

Later in the month on 26th, Martin photographed an uncommon visiting Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla in the canal there. A rare Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, a former resident was counted during the Annual Bird Census on 4th by Martin and Con Foley, and Martin followed up with a sighting of the shy White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea the next day. The other rare find outside Kranji this month was the Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisea encountered by Lim Kim Seng on 22nd at Jelutong Tower.

Other migrants reported passing through were a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea at the Buona Vista MRT canal on 7th by Andrew Chow and another at Lower Peirce on 4th and 10th (Marcel Finlay) and Oriental Pratincoles Glarela maldivarum at Marina Barrage on 5th (Zacc HD). A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka was seen by Lim Kim Keang at the Rifle Range Link on 11th. The male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia spotted by Veronica Foo at Labrador Nature Reserve on 17th has a very nice orange flush across its chest unlike the autumn birds. While the male that Lim Kim Keang saw at Pulau Ubin on 22nd was in song, something we only hear during Spring. So were the Eastern-crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus that were wintering at DFNP this month (Martin Kennewell). Martin also came across a small group of Eye-browed Thrushes Turdus obscurus there. He counted six to seven birds from 21st to end of the month.

CWC LKS

One of the more colorful cuckoos, the Chestnut-winged photographed by Lim Kim Seng at Halus.

Several migrating cuckoos were reported this month starting with the Chest-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus at Lorong Halus on 4th by Lim Kim Seng, followed by another record at Pulau Ubin on 10th sent in by Jacky Soh.

Two Large Hawk-Cuckoos Hierococcyx sparverioides, first from SBG on 7th seen by Luce Sam and again on 18th at Healing Gardens by Laurence Eu, the other along the ECP near the Sailing Club on 16th by Roland Lim.

LHC Richard White

Bidadari is still a favourite rest stop for visiting cuckoos.   This juvenile Large Hawk-Cuckoo (left) was photographed there recently by Richard White.  

A male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was seen flying over Jelutong Tower on 12th by Adrian Silas Tay, another over Petai Trail on 3rd (Marcel Finlay) and two different Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoos Surniculus lugubris at Jurong Eco Garden on 25th (James Tann) and at Petai Trail on 12th (Marcel Finlay). These two may be winter visitors but we do have a resident population as well. Two resident cuckoos reported were a female Plantive Cacomantis merulinus from the Chinese Gardens on 4th (Siew Mun), another Plantive at the GBTB on 15th (Alan OwYong) and a Little Bronze Chrysococcyx minutillus at Kranji Marshes on 9th (Andrew Chow)

We had only one report of a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida from the CCNR by Marcel Finlay. This one was sighted along Petai Trail on 8th. A Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis was reported at DFNP on 30th by Martin Kennewell. Khong Yew photographed an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca at the SBG on 27th. It was passing through.

Scanning the open skies proofed profitable with some great finds. Francis Yap had a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus on migration flying over his favorite Jelutong Tower on 8th, while Alan OwYong picked out the smallish resident Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis hawking insects over the SBG on 11th.

Brown-backed Needletail Keita Sin

A really difficult species to photograph, the fast flying Brown-backed Needletail                 captured by Keita Sin from the BTNR summit on 21st.

Not to be outdone Keita Sin reported the passage of a fast flying Brown-backed Needtail Hirundapus giganteus across BTNR summit on 21st. This uncommon visitor was also recorded by Martin Kennewell over at DFNP on 23rd. Two birds were seen there. On the last day of the month Martin sent in a report of Glossy Swiftlets Collocalia esculenta flying over DFNP. He also reported a House Swift Apus nipalensis over at the SBG on 24th. Sightings of House Swifts are now getting more frequent which is a good sign.

Coming back to ground, two hard to see Lanceolated Warblers Locustella lanceolata were reported at Seletar End on 10th (Marin Kennewell), A Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola at the GBTB was spotted by John Spencer on 11th. This is a new record for GBTB. Several Black-browed Warblers Acrocephalus bistrigiceps were also hiding there on 15th (Alan OwYong). Another Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler was reported to be wintering at the small marsh garden at the Sport Hub for most of the month (Marcel Finlay).

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Two male Kentish Plovers in breeding plumage wintering at Marina Barrage. 

Shorebirds still wintering here include Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus (two males in breeding plumage and one female) at Marina Barrage on 10th (Alan OwYong), a male dealbatus subspecies of the Kentish Plover, sometimes known as White-faced Plover C. a. dealbatus on 11th (Robin Tan) and an Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata at Pulau Tekong on 9th (Frankie Cheong).

Red-legged Crake

Venus Loop is one of the few locations where the Red-legged Crake can be encountered. Photo by Lee Chuin Ming on 13th March at Venus Loop.

Resident species of note came from Sister’s Island where a Great-billed Heron Ardea sumatrana was reported by Timothy Chua on 11th, another at Seletar Dam on 11th (Marcel Finlay), two Red-legged Crakes Rallina fasciata  and three pairs of forest specialist Short-tailed Babblers Malcocincla malaccensis (22nd) at Petai Trail (Marcel Finlay) and Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji at Labrador NP on 26th (Abel Yeo). This could be a new record for Labrador.

Two nestings were reported. Black-winged Kites Elanus caeruleus at NTL 2 with three chicks that were about to fledge on 5th by Alfred Chia and Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis at PRP by Lim Kim Keang. Eggs belonging to Greater Painted Snipe Rostraula benghalensis at Seletar were unfortunately predated as per report on 10th (Martin Kennewell) robbing us the chance of documenting the breeding of this uncommon resident snipe for the first time.

Slaty-breasted Rail

Less common Slaty-breasted Rail are most at home among the marshy areas at Kranji. Siew Mun photographed this there on 13th March. 

The only crashed record was that of a rare migrant Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia hitting a glass panel at SDE Foyer at NUS on 9th (Cheryl Lee). A road kill identified as a Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus along Neo Tiew Road was reported by Chua Yen Kheng of NParks on 11th. This is compensated by the sightings at Kranji Marshes on 13th by Siew Mun and two juveniles rails at Bishan Park by Andrew Tan on 22nd.

Ending this month’s report were the Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster returning to Ketam Quarry at Ubin on 22nd and a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis seen at Bishan Park on 17th. At least one Black Drongos Dicrurus macrocercus that were wintering at Seletar last month was still around on 12th. All three records from Lim Kim Keang.

Legend. DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park, ECP: East Coast Parkway, GBTB: Gardens by the Bay, CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the contributors for their records especially Martin Kennewell and Marcel Finlay for their personal lists. Many thanks to Martin Kennewell, Lim Kim Seng, Richard White, Keita Sin, Alan OwYong, Lee Chuin Ming and Siew Mun for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

 

 

 

 

First Nesting Record of the Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore.

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

(This article was first published in BirdingASIA 26 (2016) under Important Breeding Record)

Introduction:

The Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis is a widespread non-breeding visitor to the Malay Peninsula, with breeding previously considered to be confined to the Malaysian states of Perlis and Kedah, including Langkawi island (Wells 2007). However, in 2005 breeding was recorded at Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara National Park, significantly increasing the species’s known breeding range on the Malay Peninsula (Hutchinson & Mears 2006). In Singapore, the Blue-winged Pitta is classified as an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant that is recorded annually with an earliest date of 7 October and latest of 12 April (Lim 2009). However, since 2008 there has been an increasing number of reports of Blue-winged Pittas calling between late April and July. Most of these reports emanate from western Singapore, around the periphery of a military training area, but similar reports have also been received from northern Singapore and Pulau Ubin, an island off the main island’s north-east coast in the channel separating Singapore and Malaysia. Here we document the first confirmed breeding records of Blue-winged Pitta in Singapore, based on observations at two nest sites on Pulau Ubin in July and August 2016.

Observations in the field

On 9 July 2016, WJY observed two adult Blue-winged Pittas carrying earthworms, apparently to an unseen nest in an area of regenerating secondary forest on the eastern end of Pulau Ubin (Plate 1).

AC7Plate 1. The first Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis nest (arrowed) at  Pulau Ubin, Singapore, among the dead fronds of a rattan grove, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

On 14 July GCT and a small team of helpers searched for and located an active nest. The area is an abandoned rubber plantation; consequently most of the bigger trees are rubber Hevea brasiliensis. The understorey is, however, floristically diverse and features a variety of shrubs and climbers. The nest was at ground level amongst the dead fronds of rattans Calamus erinaceus, and comprised a roughly spherical mound of dried leaves and twigs bound together with mud (Plate 2). The mould measured 22 × 20 cm with a depth of 17 cm and an entrance hole 11 × 9 cm. It was located a mere 4.3 m from an unpaved track popular with recreational hikers and cyclists, particularly at weekends.

AC8
Plate 2. The nest, a roughly spherical mound, was constructed using sticks and vegetation bound together with mud, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

When the nest was first found on 14 July, four chicks were present. They were estimated to be at least a week old, given the presence of pin feathers and that the parents were already feeding them on 9 July. In order to document feeding behaviour without undue disturbance, cameras switched to video mode were left to record nest visits when observers were in the general area. It was observed that both parents returned as frequently as every two minutes to tend to the chicks. The parents could be differentiated from behind, based on the width of their dark crown stripe, with one individual having a noticeably broader stripe than its partner (Plate 3). It was not clear whether this was due to differences in feather wear or individual variation.

AC5
Plate 3. The parent birds could be distinguished by the difference in the width of their crown stripe, July 2016. Alfred Chia.

Nest visits generally lasted between 16 and 40 seconds, with longer visits associated with the feeding of young and removal of faecal sacs. The parents also made short visits to the nest for the sole purpose of faecal sac removal. The primary food for the chicks was earthworms, which were collected by the parents in areas of bare earth and small gullies close to the nest (Plate 4). It was surprising that while one parent incessantly uttered alarm calls whenever humans were within 15 m of the nest, the other parent (with the narrower crown stripe) continued visiting the nest silently to feed the young. At other times, one parent uttered the loud alarm call from a hidden position while the other gave a slightly longer, lower-pitched whirrr at intervals of between one and three seconds. This alternative warning call was often accompanied by ‘wing-flicking’—the rapid opening and closing of the wings.

9.7.16 YWJ Pair with Earthworms and LizardPlate 4. The parent birds returned to the nest frequently with copious quantities of earthworms, 9 July 2016. Yap Wee Jin.

Although the brood comprised four chicks, it was apparent that the bulk of the food was fed to the three chicks closest to the entrance of the mound. On 19 July, all four chicks left the nest between 12h42 and 17h01 (Plate 5); they left progressively, in their own time, even though the fourth chick appeared underdeveloped compared with its siblings (Plate 6). The three stronger chicks were already capable of short flights to perches 3 m above the ground, whilst the fourth could only hop on the forest floor. Assuming the chicks were around a week old on 14 July, the estimated fledging period was about 14 days.

 

BWP chick 1536H
Plate 5. One of the three stronger chicks during its first foray out of the nest, 19 July 2016Tan Gim Cheong.

BWP last chick 1701H snip
Plate 6. Compared to its three siblings, the fourth chick was noticeably weaker and less well-developed when the family fledged, 19 July 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

During subsequent visits on 21 and 23 July, we observed a single fledgling about 50 m from the nest site; by this time it was already independent, capable of foraging alone and undertaking flights between trees (Plate 7). While the fate of the rest of the clutch is unclear, the observation of the lone juvenile foraging independently three days after leaving the nest suggests that the fledglings become independent very quickly. However, the parent birds were still very protective and one of them continued to utter alarm calls incessantly whenever observers approached within 15 m of the fledgling. The parents were also observed to make short circular flights and hops around observers, flicking their wings frequently to show their white wing patches, presumably to act as a distraction and on at least one occasion both parents were observed to make alarm calls, alternating with wing-flicking.

 

AC

 

 

Plate 7. Soon after leaving the nest, one of the fledglings was already a confident flier that frequently perched in the mid-storey, 21 July 2016.
Alfred Chia

 

 

On 23 July, a second nest was discovered by KKL deeper in the forest, about 50 m from the original nest; it was similar in construction to the first nest. On 28 July, a single egg was found in the new nest and thereafter one egg was laid every day until 1 August—a clutch of five eggs (Plate 8).

AC 3

 

 

 

 

 

Plate 8. The second Blue-winged Pitta nest found at Pulau Ubin showing the clutch of five eggs, 2 August 2016. Tan Gim Cheong.

 

 

The parents only started brooding on 2 August after all five eggs had been laid. During the incubation period, the parents took turns incubating and were occasionally observed to turn the eggs. On 14 August, 18 days after the discovery of the first egg, three chicks hatched and the remaining two eggs hatched the following day (Plate 9). During the period when there were both eggs and chicks to care for, the parents were observed to take turns feeding chicks and incubating. They also consumed the egg shells once the chicks had hatched.

AC10Plate 9. All five eggs in the second nest hatched successfully by 15 August 2016. Low Choon How.

During observations on 17 August, it was noted that nest visits lasted between 33 and 255 seconds, with intervals of from 1 to 19 minutes between visits. Parents were observed to either remove or consume faecal sacs and, in contrast to the first nest, alarm-calling was minimal, possibly due to the greater distance of the second nest from the trail. Unfortunately, this nesting attempt may not have had a positive outcome. On 18 August, the parents were seen to remove a dead chick from the nest and on 21 August we found that all the chicks had disappeared. As the chicks were only seven days old, unable to fly and completely dependent on their parents, it is most likely that they were predated.

Discussion:

The discovery of Blue-winged Pitta breeding in Singapore is significant both as an extension of the breeding range by about 400 km to the south-east but also because it may change our understanding of the status and movements of the species on the Malay Peninsula. The first reports of Blue-winged Pitta from Singapore outside the established wintering/migration period were in July 2008 when two individuals were heard calling vociferously on the Kranji Nature Trail (Low 2008, Lok et al. 2009); the species could already have bred in Singapore when the Taman Negara NP record was documented. We can now confirm that the breeding range of this species extends to the most southerly point of the Malay Peninsula, also raising the possibility of breeding on the islands of the Greater Sundas. The forest near the eastern end of Pulau Ubin is regenerating on abandoned rubber plantations. Similarly, most of the Blue-winged Pittas heard calling have been reported from western Singapore, where the forest has regenerated from land that was previously used for plantations or village agriculture (Yee et al. 2016). This is in line with published literature which notes the species’ preference for secondary growth as breeding habitat (Wells 2007). This habitat preference may also explain why the species has not been recorded breeding in southern Peninsular Malaysia, where there is little observer effort because the majority of visiting birdwatchers opt to visit remnant tracts of rainforest instead of secondary growth. There is no confirmatory evidence that the birds breeding in Singapore are resident—they may winter in Sumatra or elsewhere. In Singapore, anecdotal evidence such as birds colliding with windows shows that good numbers of Blue-winged Pittas move through the city-state on migration (BWL pers. obs.).

Acknowledgements:

We thank Low Choon How and Alan Owyong for their active involvement in documenting the nesting record and for useful discussion.

References:

Hutchinson, R. & Mears, A. (2006). Extension of the breeding range of Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis in peninsular Malaysia. Forktail 22: 119–120.

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

Lok A. F. S. L., Khor K. T. N., Lim K. C. & Subaraj, R. (2009) Pittas (Pittidae) of Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 155–165.

Low, A. (2008) Bird Report. Singapore Avifauna 22(7): 1–25.

Wells, D. R. (2007) The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, 2. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Yee A. T. K., Chong K. Y., Neo L. & Tan H. T. W. (2016) Updating the classification system for the secondary forests of Singapore. Raffles Bull. Zool. 32: 11–21.

Singapore Bird Report- February 2017

BRT Seng Alvin

The return of the Blue Rock Thrush to the Pinnacle@Duxton. Photo: Seng Alvin

The buzz of the month had to be the return of the Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius to the Pinnacle@Duxton on 19th. This time two males, thanks to Seng Alvin’s vigilance during his temporary stay. It stayed around into the end of the month giving many birders their lifers. The next excitement was another returnee to the fig tree at DFNP, a male adult Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanonmelana on 10th ( Alan OwYong). The main interest was whether this could be a recently split Zappey’s. It was last seen on 20th by Vernoica Foo.

BWFC Con Foley

Con’s photo of the Blue and White Flycatcher taken at DFNP clinched its identification.

Besides these two most wanted winter visitors,  there were other less rare visitors like Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus from SBWR photographed by James Tann on the 2nd. Another Forest Wagtail was seen along Venus Loop by Veronica Foo on 8th and Thio Hb on 12th. Marcel Finlay had one more along the Lower Pierce Boardwalk on 13th.

Siberian Blue Robins Luscinia cyane were showing well this month especially inside the CCNR. Marcel Finlay alone counted 4 birds (2 males, 1 adult female, and 1 immature female) along the Petai Trail on 2nd, 15th, 27th and 28th. A family group wintering together? Earlier Terence Tan reported one along Venus Loop on 7th.

Black Drongo at PB by Danny Lau

A rare visiting Black Drongo taken at Punggol Barat by Danny Lau. 

Notable visitors passing through were a Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea back at the Bulim Canal on 3rd (James Tann) and a rare visiting Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus at Punggol Barat on 4th ( Danny Lau, Tan Kok Hui et al). Two were later photographed at the Seletar side by Martin Kennewell on 24th. A Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was photographed at the Belayer Creek Mangroves by Kwek Jun Yi on the 8th. This is not its preferred habitat which is fresh water wetlands. It may have just made landfall.

Three sightings of the Crow-billed Drongos Dicrurus annectans were reported, one at CCNR by Lim Kim Seng on 8th, a first winter male at SBG on 15th by Richard White and another at Jelutong on 24th by Marcel Finlay.

Red rumped Swallow at KM Martin K.

A seldom seen perched photo of a Red-rumped Swallow taken at Kranji Marshes by Martin Kennewell.

Smaller migrant passerines include Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica at Mandai on 10th by Lim Kim Seng and a very tame individual at the SBG on 6th (Richard White). A female Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae at Jelutong Tower was photographed by Laurence Eu on 22nd and a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Kranji Marshes of all the places on 25th (Martin Kennewell and Richard Carden). Martin was clocking 80-90 species at Kranji Marshes at this time of the year picking out uncommon species like the House Swifts Apus nipalensis (3 birds) on 18th and Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica on 19th and 26th.

DSFC Richard White

A very tame Dark-sided Flycatcher refueling at the Singapore Botanic Gardens before making its flight back north. Photo Richard White.

Eastern Crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus were singing their hearts out in our forests at this time of the year. That was how Tan Kok Hui found one at DFNP on 11th. A White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis was expertly picked out by Terence Tan among a flock of Daurian Starlings Agropsar sturninus at Seletar Crescent on 17th.

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Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo making a stop over at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Alan OwYong.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is getting its fair share of migrants stopping over like the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca that made a short stop at the SBG on 2nd (Serena Chew). A Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor distracted the photographers temporary from the released Lady Amherst’s Pheasant on the 19th (Andrew Tan) and a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus was photographed there by Lee Chuin Ming on 25th.

Swintail Snipe Marcel

A “Swintail” Snipe shot flying over the flooded grasslands at Seletar. Photo: Marcel Finlay

Much of Punggol Barat is now over grown but fortunately a nearby patch is more open and has short grasses as cover. With the recent wet weather, parts of it were water logged, an ideal habitat for snipes to roost. No less than 150 Gallinago snipes were counted with at least half of them identified as Common Snipes Gallinago gallinago on 22nd (Martin Kennewell).  He also managed to find a good number of resident Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis hiding among the taller sages. Visting Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea were also sighted with the most recent seen on 27th by Marcel Finlay.

Interesting shorebirds came from Frankie Cheong’s records at the reclaimed foreshore at Pulau Tekong. Two Chinese Egrets Egretta eulophotes, 10-12 Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis, 8 Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea, two Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinereus and 1 Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola. Most frustrating is that it is a restricted site.

Resident species that merit noting were an injured Barn Owl Tyto alba picked up near MBS on 6th ( Joe Lim). This could be from the family living under the Sheares Bridge. Two other owls, the Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji returning to the SBG to roost reported by Richard White on 14th and a surprise sighting of a Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo flying towards the buildings at Seletar Airport on 22nd evening (Martin Kennewell). Thick-billed Pigeons Treron curvirostra were photographed at the Chinese Gardens on 7th by Lee Chuin Ming, confirming their spread. Zacc HD picked up a House Swift Apus nipalensis flying over Seletar on 23rd. Keep a look out for these resident swifts to see if their numbers are increasing

The Oriental Pied Hornbills Anthracoceros albirostris at SBG successfully raised two chicks which fledged on 2nd (Millie Cher) and so did the Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus  on 19th at Bedok North. But the nesting of Oriental Pied Hornbills at Holland Drive somehow failed . The female was seen breaking out on 3rd by Lee Kia Chong but no chicks were seen feeding after that.

Legend: DFNP Dairy Farm National Park, SBWR Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, CCNR Central Catchment Nature Reserve

References:

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

Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. 2013. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited. 

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

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong and edited by Tan Gim Cheong from selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Not all the records were verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to Seng Alvin, Con Foley, Danny Lau, Martin Kennewell, Richard White, Alan OwYong and Marcel Finlay for the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet.

Singapore’s Missing Birds – Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus 
By Lim Kim Chuah.
I recalled often hearing the sweet, rapid and piercing whistles “weep-weep-weep-wit-wip” of the Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus speciosus during my walk around the forest of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the 90’s. However, seeing one usually entailed some neck breaking exercises as this species usually forages high in the canopy amidst the tall dipterocarp trees. But it’s worth the effort as the stunning red colors of the male bird is simply dazzling amidst the green canopy.
scarlet-minivet-panti-2014-08-10-5l5a4740
Male Scarlet Minivet taken at Panti on 10 August 2014 by Lim Kim Chuah.
Besides Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, this species has also been recorded in our Central Catchment Nature reserve forests. Sadly, its sweet sounding call is now silent in Singapore and has not been heard since the early 2000’s. The last one reported was an unconfirmed report of a male at Jelutong Tower in August 2004.
I still recall rather vividly the last one I saw in Singapore. It was a lonely female perched high on a dead branch at MacRitchie Reservoir during the bird race in Dec 2000. It appeared to be looking forlornly in the distance as though sensing that its existence in Singapore was ending.
The Scarlet Minivet belongs to the cuckooshrike (Campephagidae) family. There are five members belonging to this family in Singapore – Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Lesser Cuckooshrike, Pied Triller, Ashy Minivet and Scarlet Minivet. This species has a wide distribution and can be found from the Indian subcontinent to Southern China and many parts of SE Asia. Fortunately, it is a common bird in neighboring Johor and this is where I go to enjoy this delightful bird. Hopefully it will return to Singapore one day.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 2009. Nature Society (Singapore). Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee A Naturalist’s Guide to  the Birds of Singapore. 2013 John Beaufoy Publishing Limited

Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul.

Annual bird census data reveals Singapore as the global stronghold of endangered songbird. 

Straw-headed Bulbul at Zoo

Wild populations of many bird species are in rapid decline across Southeast Asia as a result of unsustainable hunting for the pet-bird trade, especially in Indonesia. Sought by bird hobbyists for its powerful and rich song, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) is one of the world’s most threatened songbirds due to soaring demand for the pet trade.  Across much of Southeast Asia, the Straw-headed Bulbul has been relentlessly trapped from the wild to be later sold in the bird markets of Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia. The species has now gone extinct from Thailand and most parts of Indonesia where it used to be found, including the whole island of Java. There are also no recent records from Sumatra.

In a recent study published in the journal Bird Conservation International led by members of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, wild populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore was found to have steadily risen over the last 15 years, and may now be the largest in its entire distribution. Using data gathered from more than 15 years of the Annual Bird Census, the study found that populations on the island of Pulau Ubin have increased at nearly 4% per year. It is estimated that at least 110 individuals of the Straw-headed Bulbul now survives on Ubin, making the island a global stronghold for the species. On the other hand, trends in mainland Singapore were less clear, appearing to remain unchanged over the study period.

The population of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore is estimated to be at least 202 individuals based on existing data. However this estimate is likely to be conservative since the Western Catchment area was not comprehensively surveyed. Moreover, new sites for the bulbul, including remnant pockets of woodland like Burgundy woods has been discovered very recently and these were not captured in the Annual Bird Census. Given that the global population of the species is now estimated at 600-1,700 individuals, Singapore may easily hold 12-34% of the world’s remaining wild Straw-headed Bulbuls.

To effectively conserve the Straw-headed Bulbul, there will be a need to conserve small pockets of woodland such as Bukit Brown and Khatib Bongsu outside the nature reserves. It is also hoped that the authorities will review plans to gazette at least some parts of Pulau Ubin as a nature reserve. Other biodiversity can be expected benefit from the conservation actions targeting the bulbul.

Studies on the long-term population trends of birds in Singapore would not be possible without the citizen science surveys carried out by the Nature Society and supported by a large team of volunteers since 1986. These surveys include the Mid-year, Fall, and most importantly, the Annual Bird Censuses. Additionally, there are also dedicated censuses focused on monitoring raptor migration and parrots in urban areas. During these censuses, as many as 50 volunteers may be surveying birds across the country concurrently. Over the last two decades, these censuses have allowed us to track population trends of threatened species such as the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul.”

By Yong Ding Li.