Category Archives: Singapore Avifauna

Return of the King.

Return of the King

Lim Kim Seng

Every once in a long while, we get really lucky in life. For birders and bird photographers alike, it would be encountering a species that nobody has seen before. It sounds impossible in urban Singapore but it actually happened.

On 2nd May 2018, Ted Lee found it even if he did not realise the importance of his sighting. He posted his photo of a Great Slaty Woodpecker (GSW) on Facebook and every Singapore birder and bird photographer was stunned! It was a bird that had been thought lost to our forests, a bird so scarce that nobody had seen it before in Singapore. Alan Owyong calls this the sighting of the decade. Yes, it was really spectacular in the sense that this really was a totally unexpected, out of the blue sighting.

IMG_9809 BTNR

2018 has been an exceptional year so far for rarities with a string of super rarities turning up – Band-bellied Crake, Booted Warbler, Indian Paradise Flycatcher, and now this. The GSW takes the cake because it was supposed to be extirpated. Our rainforests have been well surveyed and nobody had even come close to a sighting of this legendary behemoth of a bird. It is also noteworthy as the largest living woodpecker species in the world since two larger species, Imperial and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, both from the New World, are supposed to be extinct or on the verge of extinction.  It measures up to 50 cm in length from the tip of its beak to the tip of its tail and weighs a maximum of about half a kilogram. The GSW is an awesome bird especially when seen close up.  It has a big head, big eyes, a narrow neck, a very long chisel-like bill and a stiff, long tail. Overall, it is clothed in dark grey with just a bit of buff on its throat. Males differ from females in having a broad, bright orange malar stripe.

The GSW has a wide global range being found in the Indian Subcontinent south of the Himalayas and southern China south to Southeast Asia as well as the islands of Borneo, Java and Sumatra. It occurs in deciduous and evergreen forests usually below 600 m but can range as high as 2000 m in some parts of its range. Due to its preference for old trees, it is most regular in old growth forest but has also been seen in plantations, mangroves and swampy forests. As such, it is rated as globally vulnerable by IUCN due to the large scale loss of old growth forests in the region in recent years.

IMG_9825 BTNR

In Singapore, the GSW has not been seen since 1950. There were unconfirmed sightings in the 1970s but none since. There are however specimens in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum including an individual collected in Woodlands in 1904, so it was originally here.

After the report by Ted Lee on 2nd May, I had expected to see birders and bird photographers climbing up the 163-m Bukit Timah to seek the GSW the very next day, on 3rd May. I happened to be leading a group of students on a field trip there and spent some time looking for it near the summit. No luck for me and everyone else who tried that day! To add to my misery, I injured my right knee while descending the hill.

On 4th May, more people tried but most were disappointed as they missed the bird except for Dominic Ng who got there around dawn and managed a photograph of the GSW. I was down at nearby Dairy Farm Nature Park where the most interesting bird was a pair of Greater Green Leafbirds. The pain in my right knee grew and I had to go for acupuncture to relieve it.

IMG_9798

On 5th May, which was a Saturday, I was taking a break from birding and relaxing at home but any hope of peace was shattered very early on. My mobile phone kept beeping as whatsapp messages started from 7.00 am. The GSW was back and in view! My phone was still beeping three hours later. GSW still here, reported Kenneth Kee. I had some errands to do and only managed to get to Bukit Timah around noon. I bumped into Felix Wong as he was driving out, the smile on his face sufficient to tell me that he had seen the bird. The climb from the foot was very steep and I was careful not to push too hard, mindful of my knee injury. Sweat was pouring down my back as I huffed and puffed up the hill, each step seemingly harder than the last. Thankfully, I met Toh Yuet Hsin who was also keen to see the bird and we managed to reach the spot where the bird was last seen in good time.

Amongst the half a dozen people there toting binoculars and cameras was Low Bing Wen. He told me that we had missed the GSW by about 10 minutes and that it was probably still around. I scanned every branch carefully but couldn’t see anything. At 12.40 pm, some relief. The GSW called but despite anxious minutes passing by, we could not see it. The minutes ticked by. Nothing! A Chestnut-bellied Malkoha was a welcome distraction until someone shouted, “Woodpecker!” at 1.14 pm. I moved as fast as my injured legs could carry me and stood behind the group of people staring up a thick Shorea curtisi tree. A panicky few seconds passed before I laid my eyes on this giant woodpecker. It was about 15 metres up the tree, perched on a small branch and hammering away, searching for grubs. Elation was replaced by the frantic rummaging of my camera bag and I squeezed off shot after shot.

More people were coming up the hill and they soon showed happy faces as each had their own communion with their holy grail.

At 1.48 pm, we had the GSW in view for over half an hour, an eternity for a rarity, and I was satisfied at last. I had squeezed off 99 still frames, taken two short videos and also made a 30-second recording of its whinnying call. Job done, I descended the hill even as more people seeking this bird huffed and puffed their way up the hill. I heard that the bird was present most of that day and probably over 100 people had seen this mega rarity by then. This was a really special moment in Singapore birding, the return of the king of woodpeckers, and easily the ornithological event of the decade!

All photos by Lim Kim Seng.

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Singapore Bird Report – March 2018

The month of March yielded some spectacular surprises – an amazing vagrant that looks good to become Singapore’s first record of the Indian Paradise Flycatcher, a nesting Chestnut-bellied Malkoha pair in Jurong Eco-Garden (JEG) and a young Jerdon’s Baza that stayed at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park over one weekend. Migrants continue to be reported throughout the month.

IPFC Feroz

Indian Paradise Flycatcher at SBWR on 23 March 2018, by Feroz Fizah.

A mixed report of resident and migratory species trickled into our consciousness during the first week of March. A Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus was spotted on 1 March 2018 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) by Nosherwan Sethna, while Alan Owyong was greeted by a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus when he crested the summit of Bukit Timah Hill; he earlier spotted a Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris while ascending the summit. Slightly further afield and on the same day, Martin Kennewell spotted an Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina, Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji and Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus along Dairy Farm Loop.

The first Saturday of the month (3 March) yielded a migratory Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus at Lower Pierce Reservoir (Vincent Lao), and a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus pair nesting along a public pathway at the Jurong Eco-Garden (Anthony Nik), where the chick fledged subsequently on the 14th (Esther Ong). A joint NParks-NSS Bird Group survey of Pulau Ubin on Sunday (4 March) yielded 6 Cinereous Bulbuls Hemixos cinereus, among other regular Ubin species, such as the Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting, Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu, Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans and Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha. The survey team also counted 33 Grey Herons Ardea cinerea that flew in a south-easterly direction to Ubin. Roger Boey, who was with the survey, photographed a Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis, a report currently pending acceptance by the Records Committee, while a Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus was spotted by Adrian Silas Tay and Jerold Tan on the island. Back on mainland Singapore, a Watercock Gallicrex cinerea was reported by Heather Goessel at Mimosa Walk.

CBMKH, snip

One of the nesting pair of Chestnut-bellied Malkohas at Jurong Eco-Garden with a praying mantis on 8 March 2018, photo by Terence Tan.

More reports of migratory species were reported between the week spanning 5 and 11 March. A White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis subspecies was spotted at Marina Barrage on 6 March by Dodotee Tee. A Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida was seen at SBG on 8 March by Geri Lim. Two different Ruddy Kingfishers Halcyon coromanda were spotted, one on 8 March at West Coast Park by Thio Hui Bing, and another on 10 March at Venus Loop by Lim Kim Chuah. Oliver Tan chanced upon a Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae on 9 March near Dillenia Hut in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. A juvenile Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni spent the weekend at Bishan, alternating between the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Parks 1 & 2 between 10 and 12 March. Known for its sporadic appearance at Tampines Eco Green (TEG) and Pasir Ris Park, this Baza has eluded many birders and photographers alike. Hence, its appearance in the heart of the island proved to be a boon to the community. Feroz Fizah photographed an accipiter on 11 March at Tampines Eco Green, which was subsequently identified by Adrian Silas Tay and Lau Jiasheng as an Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus.

Jerdon

TThe juvenile Jerdon’s Baza that lingered at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park between 10 and 12 March 2018. Photo taken on 10 March 2018 by Arman AF.

Resident species encountered included Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) on 8 March by Francis Yap, and a Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus at JEG by Terence Tan, Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra at West Coast Park on 10 March by Kozi Ichiyama, while Felix Wong highlighted the fledging of a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum early in the morning from a HDB flat in Choa Chu Kang. This is the second known and documented record of the flowerpecker nesting in an urban environment. The second chick fledged around noon on 11 March.

Between 12 to 18 March, we continued to receive reports of migratory species across Singapore. A Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis and Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus were encountered by Alan Owyong at Venus Loop. Martin Kennewell chanced upon a Black-backed Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca in the CCNR on 13 March, while an Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina was seen by Luke Milo Teo at Ulu Sembawang on the same day. A Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus was spotted hawking over the skies of HortPark by Keita Sin on 15 March, while Tan Kok Hui chanced upon a Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides on Coney Island on the same day. Other notable migrants were a Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica seen by Fadzrun Adnan on 16 March over Seletar Aerospace, a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia in Pulau Ubin by Lena Chow on 16 March, a Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla in Kranji Marshes on 17 March by Martin Kennewell, and two Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis, one seen winging over Henderson Wave by Tay Kian Guan on 16 March and another at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 17 March by Francis Yap.

Resident species spotted during this week include a Buffy Fish Owl Ketupa ketupu along Ulu Pandan Canal on 16 March by Jason Humphries, Grey-rumped Treeswift Hemiprocne longipennis and Ruddy-breasted Crake at One-North Cresent, also on 16 March, by Alan Owyong, a Grey-headed Fish-eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus along Ulu Pandan Canal on 17 March by Mark Nelson Valino, a Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus during a night survey on Pulau Ubin, also on 17 March, by Francis Yap and Jacky Soh, and a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela at Malcolm Park on 18 March by Lena Chow.

BEO

Barred Eagle Owl spotted during a night survey of Pulau Ubin on 17 March 2018. Photo by Francis Yap.

The week of 19 to 25 March proved to be fruitful in terms of bird reports in social media. KC Ling reported at least 20 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus feeding from a White Gutta or Nyatoh Tree at the Eco-Garden within SBG. Lim Kim Keang reported spotting two Mangrove Whistlers Pachycephala cinerea on Pulau Hantu on 21 March, while Alan Owyong reported a Grey-headed Fish Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus at Bishan Park on 23 March. Also on 23 March, Lim Kim Chuah reported that a Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo chick had fallen out of its nest at Pasir Ris Park. The chick was subsequently rescued by ACRES and restored into a nearby tree in a makeshift nest. Keita Sin reported spotting two Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo adults with two chicks at Bidadari on 24 March.

BCHP

Male Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot on a White Gutta tree at the Eco-Garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 24 March 2018. Photo by Geoff Lim.

Reports of migratory species continued to filter in. A Black Kite Milvus migrans was photographed by Veronica Foo flying over Lorong Halus on 21 March, while two instances of Black-backed Kingfishers Ceyx erithaca entering residential areas were reported: an injured bird at Keppel Bay on 21 March, and another bird which spent the night in Kim Forrester’s kitchen after flying inside. It left on its own accord the next morning. Feroz Fizah sought ID help for a Paradise Flycatcher photographed on 23 March at SBWR and Dave Bakewell noticed that it looked different from the Amur & Blyth’s, identifying it as an out-of-range Indian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone paradisi, a first for Singapore! (Oliver Tan realised that he had photographed a similar-looking paradise flycatcher at SBWR on 2 Dec 2017). The bird was seen again on the 25th by many birders. On 23 March, Henrietta Woo and Ong Ruici reported seeing a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus at SBG, while a Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus was seen fishing at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) and another at Springleaf Nature Park by Thana Sinnarthamby and Cheah Chen Poh, respectively. On 24 March, Keita Sin spotted a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka at Bidadari, while Felix Wong spotted two Hooded Pittas standing metres apart in SBG. A Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni spotted by Luke Milo Teo on 24 March at Ulu Sembawang proved to be a new extreme date for the species. An NParks survey on Pulau Ubin on 25 March yielded Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola, a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica in breeding plumage and a Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris at Chek Jawa. Meanwhile, Doreen Ang, together with two friends, spotted a first winter Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus at Bulim on 25 March.

GBFC

A Green-backed Flycatcher in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve on 29 March 2018, by Oliver Tan. The bird was video-recorded while singing.

The final week of March (26 – 31 March) yielded several interesting records. Two Green-backed Flycatchers Ficedula elisae were spotted, a calling female by Fadzrun Adnan on 27 March at Venus Loop, and a singing male by Oliver Tan inside CCNR. A Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was spotted at Bidadari by Martin Kennewell on 28 March. A White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis was reported on Pulau Ubin on 29 March by Joseph Lin, a first for the island (correction: there was an earlier record on 8 Oct 2017 by Martin Kennewell). Migratory flycatchers continue to be reported – a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia at Kheam Hock Road on 29 March by Thana Sinnathamby, and a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea at Ulu Sembawang by Luke Milo Teo on 30 March.

BBC

The highly prized Band-bellied Crake continued to be seen at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on 31 March 2018. Photo taken by Geoff Lim.

Two Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus were recorded, one at SBWR on 30 March by Tan Kok Hui, and another at Fairway Golf Course on 31 March by Alan Owyong. A Northern Boobook Ninox japonica was reported at a Pasir Ris HDB block on 31 March by Ryan Lee, while an Eastern-crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus was seen inside CCNR by Martin Kennewell. Also spotted on 31 March was the Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykullii by Geoff Lim, Kozi Ichiyama and visiting Australian birder, Alastair White, at SBG. The highlight of the last day of March would be the Indian Paradise Flycatcher relocated at SBWR by Lim Kim Chuah.

Residents reported during this week include an injured Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula at Jurong West Street 91 by Hafinani on 28 March, an Abbott’s Babbler Malacocincla abbotti at West Coast Park on 29 March by Art Toh, a Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus at SBWR on 30 March by Tan Kok Hui, a Van Hasselt’s Sunbird Leptocoma brasiliana at Ulu Sembawang on the same day by Luke Milo Teo, and a Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii on 31 March inside CCNR by Martin Kennewell.

During their pelagic trip along the multi-national Straits of Singapore on 3 March, Francis Yap, Seetoh Yew Wai and friends spotted a Parasitic Jaegar Stercorarius parasiticus, as well as Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis, Swift Tern Thalasseus bergii, and a Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra. Note that some of these may not be in Singapore waters.

Parasitic Jaeger

Parasitic Jaegar in flight during the pelagic trip on 3 March 2018, by Francis Yap.

Abbreviations:
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green

This report is compiled by Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong, edited by Tan Gim Cheong, based on selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebird. 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 Feroz Fizah, Terence Tan, Arman AF, Oliver Tan, Geoff Lim and Francis Yap for the use of their photos.

First Autumn Raptor Migration Count in Singapore

by Tan Gim Cheong
This article was first published in BirdingASIA 28 (2017).
The write-up here is an expanded version with more figures and acknowledgements.
DSC_0196-web

Figure 1 – Part of a kettle of 82 OHB, Tuas South Avenue 16, Singapore, 8 October 2014. 

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

Figure 2

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

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

Figure-3

Figure 3. Individual species totals.

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

Figure-4

Figure 4. Distribution of Oriental Honey Buzzards.

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

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

Figure-5

Figure 5. Distribution of Japanese Sparrowhawk.

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

Figure-6

Figure 6. Distribution of Chinese Sparrowhawk.

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

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

Other Migrants

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

Acknowledgements

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

Singapore Bird Report – January 2018

Band-bellied Crake, 190118, SBG, Meena Vathyam

January’s mega find, the Band-bellied Crake, at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 19 Jan 2018, by Meena Vathyam

The string of rarities continued to show up and provided for an eventful January. The bird of the month is without doubt the Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykullii, found by Meena Vathyam at the Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG) on the 19th. Thanks to her, many birders managed to see this mega rarity as their lifer. It is only the second record for Singapore after the first occurrence in 2014. The bird continued to be observed at the same small patch of vegetation for the rest of January and is probably still wintering there.

Green-backed Flycatcher, 310118, Dillenia Hut, Fryap

Another rarity, the Green-backed Flycatcher, at Dillenia Hut on 31 Jan 2018, by Francis Yap

On the 20th, See Toh Yew Wai found another rarity at the Jelutong Tower – an adult male Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae; Francis Yap found one at the junction of Sime Track and Rifle Range Link on the 26th; and Martin Kennewell also photographed this species 100m up the junction, on Rifle Range Link, on the 28th, likely the same individual. Elsewhere, Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo found another individual at Lorong Lada Hitam on the 23rd. Francis Yap also recorded an individual at Dillenia Hut, CCNR on the 31st. Another rarity was a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides found at BTNR on 27th by Lau Jia Sheng and Tan Kok Hui.

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, 200118, Jelutong, Thio HB

A rare non-breeding visitor, the Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, at Jelutong Tower on 20 Jan 2018, by Thio Hui Bing

The non-migrant rarities for the month included a Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus, the 3rd record for this non-breeding visitor, found by Martin Kennewell, in the company of Richard Carden and Thio Hui Bing, at Jelutong Tower on the 20th. Additionally, Thio Hui Bing and Lim Kim Seng also recorded two individuals of the locally rare Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps on the same date & locality.

At Pulau Tekong, Frankie Cheong recorded an uncommon Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii and a flock of over 20 Marsh Sandpipers Tringa stagnatilis on the 3rd; and on the 20th, he recorded the Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis and Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta. A Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was also recorded at Pulau Tekong on 3rd by Frankie Cheong, and two birds at Kranji Golf Course on 4th by Luke Milo Teo.

Two Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica were recorded at Kranji Golf Course on the 4th and 14 of these birds at Marina Bay MRT on the 10th, both by Luke Milo Teo. Also at Kranji Golf Course, an Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis was recorded on the 5th by Alan OwYong;  and a White Wagtail Motacilla alba on the 6th by Luke Milo Teo. A Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica was recorded at Kranji Golf Course on the 5th by Alan OwYong and at Bulim on the 6th by See Toh Yew Wai.

White-rumped Munia, 270118, SBG, Goh Cheng Teng

White-rumped Munia, at SBG on 27 Jan 2018, by Goh Cheng Teng

Alan OwYong recorded a sub-adult Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor at West Coast Park on the 3rd. Earlier in the morning Anthony Nik and Stuart Campbell photographed two unusual female flycatchers there. One was a Blue and White/ Zappey’s Flycatcher and the other had yet to be identified. Veronica Foo found another Hodgon’s Hawk Cuckoo at Bambusetum, SBG, where she also spotted the White-rumped Munias Lonchura striata, on 21st. The munias were present throughout the rest of the month feeding on seeds. A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus was recorded at SBWR on the 20th by Gautham, while a Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus was found at Telok Blangah Walk on the 22nd by Mark Nelson Valino . At Lorong Lada Hitam on the 23rd, a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha Phaenicophaeus sumatranus was recorded on the 23rd by Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo. On the 24th, an adult Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was recorded at Hindhede NP by Alan OwYong.

Lester Tan photographed a Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago megala in flight at Jurong Street 22 on the 3rd, identification made possible by its tails feathers which were spread. This encouraged Alan OwYong to attempt to photograph snipes in flight and he managed to photograph a probable Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura at Bulim on the 15th.

A Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata was recorded by Luke Milo Teo at Turut Track on 4th, and by Alan OwYong at Kranji Marshes on 5th, and was still there on the 28th during an NSS outing. Another was photographed in flight at SICC Golf Link on the 5th by Francis Yap. On the 27th, Vincent Lao found an Oriental Dwarf (Black-backed) Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca at Lower Pierce Reservoir.

A Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was recorded at Bedok Central on the 5th by Eileen Ruth; another at Bulim on the 6th by See Toh Yew Wai; and another at Neo Tiew Lane 3 on the 14th by Alan OwYong. At Bulim on the 7th, Alan OwYong found a Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus, an uncommon migrant. At Lorong Lada Hitam on the 23rd, a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was found by Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo.

 

Greater Painted Snipe, 140118, Bulim Avenue, Pary Sivaraman

Amazing flight views of a Greater Painted Snipe, at Bulim Avenue on 14 Jan 2018, by Pary Sivaraman

At Bulim on the 6th, See Toh Yew Wai recorded 6-8 Greater Painted Snipes Rostratula benghalensis, a Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps, Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis, and Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia. On the 7th, Adrian Silas Tay found 4-5 Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea. The Greater Painted Snipes were still around on the 14th, photographed by Pary Sivaraman.

Two Baillon’s Crakes Porzana pusilla were found by See Toh Yew Wai at Bulim on the 6th, while David Tan reported another found inside an apartment at Tampines on the 11th, and Goh Cheng Teng found another of this scarce migrant at Turut Track on the 14th.

Blue Rock Thrush, 080118, Labrador Villa Rd (private pty), Art Toh

Blue Rock Thrush, at Labrador Villa Rd on 8 Jan 2018, by Art Toh

Art Toh had a lucky encounter with a Blue Rock Thrush Monticola soltarius at Labrador Villa Road on the 8th. He also found a Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis at SBG on the 18th. The next day, on the 19th a Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida was recorded at BTNR by Looi Ang Soh Hoon.

Martin Kennewell reported seeing around 50 White-shouldered Starlings Sturnia sinensis feeding on Bottlebrush trees at Seletar Club Road on the 16th. A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka was recorded at NTU on the 22nd by Luke Milo Teo, and another at Bidadari on the 27th by See Toh Yew Wai. At DFNP on the 24th, an Orang-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina with a deformed (crossbeak) bill was found by Laurence Eu.

At Marina Barrage on the 18th, Pary Sivaraman recorded 12-15 Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus and 10-12 Swinhoe’s Plovers (dealbatus subspecies of the Kentish Plover). At nearby Marina East Drive, Lee Chuin Ming redorded a Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis on the 21st; while Feroz Fizah found a Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii at Changi Coastal Walk on the 22nd.

Abbreviations:
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
NSS: Nature Society (Singapore)

NTU: Nanyang Technological University
SICC: Singapore Island Country Club

This report is produced by Tan Gim Cheong and Alan OwYong based on selected postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from ebird. 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 Meena Vathyam, Francis Yap, Thio Hui Bing, Goh Cheng Teng, Pary Sivaraman, and Art Toh for the the use of their photos. 

Singapore Bird Report – December 2017

Singapore Bird Report-December 2017

The birding community could not ask for a better ending for the year. A national first (pending review by Record’s Committee), a second record after 11 years and several rare winter visitors gave many of us our year end lifers.

BW Fadhil

First photo of the “Booted Warbler” taken on 4th by Muhd Fadhil of NParks. 

Martin Kennewell was quick to alert us on an odd looking tree warbler at Kranji Marshes on 9th. After much consultation with overseas friends, the consensus is a Booted Warbler Iduna caligata, a long way from its wintering grounds in India and Sri Lanka. Muhd. Fadhil, an Nparks staff first photographed it on 4th. It is still there during the first week of January. Our thanks to Martin and Fadhil. 

Esther Ong

The photo that started the frenzy. Esther Ong’s photo of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo taken on 23rd December. 

While looking for the Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus, at Sentosa’s Siloso Park on 23th, Tuck Loong, Esther Ong and friends spotted a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus, feeding on the caterpillars on a bare Ficus superba there. Our first record for this non-breeding visitor was on 31 May 2006 at Seletar Reservoir Park. Incredibly a second female was reported six days later at the same tree feeding together. It stayed until 3rd January when all the caterpillars were gone, long enough for all of us to add a national tick to our list. A rare Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was also spotted there on 23rd (Lim Kim Chuah & Seng Beng) and along the Skywalk in following days.

Choon How

The rare Yellow-browed Warbler spent a week wintering along the Skywalk at Sentosa, giving many photographers a great chance to shoot this at eye level. Photo: Low Choon How.

The month started with a rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia returning to the same tree at DFNP on 1st. Another, a grey morph also returned on the 9th (Luke Milo Teo). Earlier in the year, on 10th Jan 2017, both of them were seen on the same tree there, a case of site fidelity assuming they were the same owls. Lena Chow got a first for Bukit Batok with a sighting of a Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka, there on 1st. Another Grey Nightjar was back at Bidadari on 17th (Tan Kok Hui). At least 5 Eastern-crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus, were counted at Upper Peirce Reservoir on 14th by Veronica Foo. An uncommon Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus, was videoed at PRP on 20th by Marc Ng.

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Portrait of a rufous morph Oriental Scops Owl taken at DFNP by Luke Milo Teo.

Several rare flycatchers were still stopping over this month. Two Ferruginous Flycatchers Muscicapa ferruginea at DFNP on 1st (Oliver Tan), with another on 28th at RRL (Goh Cheng Teng and Lester Tan), our third of the season, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata at Lower Peirce Reservoir on 5th (Basil Chia), a dead Blue and White/ Zappey’s from SGH on 13th (David Tan) and another 1st winter Blue and White Cyanoptila cyanomelana, male at Siloso on 30th (Tan Kok Hui and Co), the rare Green-backed Ficedula elisae, at CCNR on 5th (David Gibson) and a female at RRL on 23th (Alan OwYong and Lim Kim Keang), ending with a Mugimaki Ficedula mugimaki, at Siloso on 27th by Martin Kennewell.

Green-backed Flycatcher

The rare Green-backed Flycatcher resting at the Central Catchment Forest. Photo by Alan OwYong taken at Rifle Range Link. 

The cuckoos made a great showing this month in part due to the caterpillars on the bare ficus at Sentosa. Spotted there were 2 Chestnut-winged Cuckoos Clamator coromandus, one adult and one juvenile Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus, one juvenile and one adult Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides, a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax and a Hodgson’s Hawk-cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor. A Hodgon’s was also photographed at Bishan Park on 8th by Terence Tan, a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo at Healing Gardens on 14th by Laurence Eu, a dead Indian Cuckoo at NUS on 29th found by Yong Ding Li and a wintering Chestnut-winged Cuckoo at the SBG. 

Mark Itol

Mark Itol’s eye level shot of the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo wintering at the SBG.

Migrant thrushes, a favourite with the birders and photographers, showed up at Hindhede NP with the rare Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica on 5th (Oliver Tan), an Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus, at Bukit Brown on 14th (Marcel Finlay) and the Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina returning to the SBG on 26th (Goh Cheng Teng and Lester Tan).

Siew Mun

Siew Mun’s Baillon’s Crake taken at Satay by the Bay, a first for the gardens.

The visiting waterbirds reported this month include a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis at Hampstead Gardens (Veronica Foo) and SBTB (Heather Gossels) both on 8th, Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus at SBG on 9th (Martin Kennewell and Richard Carden), a Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus, photographed flying over Changi Coastal Road by Goh Cheng Teng also on the 9th, a Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla, at the SBTB on 17th (Siew Mun), 2 Watercocks Gallicrex cinerea on 18th, one at Japanese Gardens (Philip Toh) and the other found injured at Pasir Laba Camp by Daniel Ng. One of the largest flock of Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum, over 200 was seen flying over Turuk Track on 17th by Yong Ding Li.

MNH Goh Cheng Teng

Is this the first photograph of a Malayan Night Heron in flight taken in Singapore?. Photo: Goh Cheng Teng.

The uncommon Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata, was reported at Neo Tiew Lane 3 on 17th by Francis Yap and another back wintering at WCP on 21st. On the same day a dead Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca was found dead along Allenbrooke Road at Sentosa by Wahidah Dayanara.

Francis Yap 2

A much sought-after and very skittish Black-capped Kingfisher well hidden at Neo Tiew Lane 3.  Photo: Francis Yap. 

Notable shorebirds for the month include 2 globally threatened Great  Knot Calidris tenuirostris, at Chek Jawa on 6th (Lim Kim Keang) and Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta, at Tekong on 23rd (Frankie Cheong).

Resident species of interest include Plume-toed Swiftets Collocalia affinis and Asian Palm Swift Cypsiurus balasiensis, at SBG on 5th by See Toh Yew Wai and 8th by Zacc respectively, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax at Eco Lake on 9th by Martin Kennewell, Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis at Telok Blangah Walkway on 12th by James Tann and a White-rumped Munia Lonchura striatabelow KRP canopy walk on 15th by Marc Ng. Its wild status is in question.

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Not an easy swift to see over our skies. an Asian Palm Swift shot over Eco Lake by Mohamad Zahidi (Zacc HD).

An uncommon Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was spotted at SBTB by Tan Eng Boo on 19th. On the same day, Lim Kim Seng came across the long introduced Chinese Hwamei at Sentosa. It went missing for a large part of the year. The Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster at Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin picked out by Deborah Friets on 26th ends this report. Happy New Year and Good Birding 2018!

Location Abbreviations: DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, PRP Pasir Ris Park, NUS National University of Singapore, SBTB Satay by The Bay, WCP West Coast Park, KRP Kent Ridge Park and RRL Rifle Range Link.

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 ebird. 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 Muhd Fadhil, Esther Ong, Low Choon How, Luke Milo Teo, Alan OwYong, Mark Itol, Siew Mun, Goh Cheng Teng, Francis Yap and Mohamad Zahidi for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

 

 

Raptor Migration ( Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Raptor Migration (Autumn) along Henderson Waves

Article and photos by Keita Sin

Autumn migration

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

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

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

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

The birds of Henderson Waves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birding at Henderson Waves

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

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

What about spring migration?

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

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census by Lim Kim Chuah

The 14th Fall Migration Bird Census (FMBC) took place in the morning of 22nd October 2017. 58 counters took part and 26 sites were counted. Weather was quite variable throughout the sites surveyed ranging from partly cloudy and overcast to sunny. It rained in some places towards the end of the count.

In all, 138 species totaling 5,306 birds were counted. The total number of birds counted was disappointing and the number was the lowest counted in the 14-year history of the FMBC.

On a brighter note, this census shows that Singapore remains an important stronghold for the vulnerable Straw-headed Bulbul. 49 birds were counted with more than half from Pulau Ubin. Pulau Ubin also proves to be an important site for another globally threatened species, the White-rumped Shama with most of the 16 birds counted coming from Pulau Ubin.

34 species of true migrants were counted totaling 1019 birds. This represents 35% of total species counted and 19% of total number of birds counted.

TOTAL BIRDS AND SPECIES COUNTED

In all, 138 species of birds were recorded consisting of 5,306 birds. If unidentified birds (including swiftlets) are added, the total was 5810 birds.

In terms of species, the total of 138 species was close to the 14-year average of 135. However, the total birds counted of 5,306 (compared to the average of 7,226) was the lowest recorded in the 14-year history of FMBC. Also noted was the disturbing decreasing trend of birds counted during the last two editions of the census – 5,416 in 2015 and 5,314 in 2016 (see chart).

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One of the possible reasons for the low number counted this year could be the big drop in the number of birds counted in one of the key wader sites, Sungei Mandai. Only 316 birds were counted compared to the average of 1,138. One possible reason is that most of the mudflat at Sungei Mandai was covered by algae and this probably limit the amount of mudflat for the waders to forage.

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TOP 20 BIRDS

The top spot for the most number of birds counted went to the Asian Glossy Starling (663) and this was closely followed by the Javan Myna (645). Whimbrel was the most numerous migrant counted.

POS SPECIES 2017 SPECIES 2016
1 Asian Glossy Starling 663 Lesser Sand Plover 829
2 Javan Myna** 645 Javan Myna** 612
3 Whimbrel 299 Asian Glossy Starling 472
4 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 274 Pacific Golden Plover 364
5 Spotted Dove 158 Whimbrel 215
6 Yellow-vented Bulbul 156 Yellow-vented Bulbul 177
7 Common Redshank 139 Black-naped Oriole 166
8 Black-naped Oriole 137 Common Redshank 163
9 House Crow 128 Spotted Dove 155
10 Grey Heron## 126 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 121
11 Rock Dove 106 Rock Dove 114
12 Red-breasted Parakeet* 99 Long-tailed Parakeet* 88
13 Little Egret 91 Eurasian Tree Sparrow 87
14 Daurian Starling 83 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 86
15 Olive-backed Sunbird 83 House Crow 81
16 Long-tailed Parakeet* 80 Zebra Dove 75
17 Pacific Swallow 70 Olive-backed Sunbird 68
18 Pacific Golden Plover 63 Common Iora 63
19 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 60 Pacific Swallow 61
20 Collared Kingfisher 59 Common Greenshank 50

The top bird counted for 2016, the Lesser Sand Plover was conspicuously absent from the top 20 birds. Only 3 birds were counted during the census. Another observation is the notable decrease in the number of Pacific Golden Plover counted, falling from position 4 (364 birds) last year to 18 (63 birds). Pacific Golden Plover is typically featured among the top 10 birds in most years (see chart). The chart also shows a decreasing trend since 2004.

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SITE COUNTS

A total of 26 sites were surveyed. This is comparable to the 14-year average of 25 sites.

The site with the most number of birds counted was Pasir Ris Park with 406 birds counted. This is closely followed by Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Route 1 (394) and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Route 2 (389).

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The diversity of habitats at Kranji Marsh, Kranji Dam and Pasir Ris Park prove to be attractive for many species of birds and these three sites ended with the most number of bird species recorded. Kranji Marsh took top spot with a whopping 76 species, followed by Kranji Dam (51 species) and Pasir Ris Park (48 species).

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Abbreviation for site:

 

SBG Singapore Botanic Garden KRM Kranji Marsh SIM Sime Track SER Serangoon
FAB Mount Faber KRD Kranji dam MCP Malcolm Park PRP Pasir Ris Park
TBH Telok Blangah Hill Park MAN Sg Mandai BSP Bishan Park UBW Ubin West
KRP Kent Ridge Park BBW Bkt Batok West USR Upper Seletar Reservoir Park UBC Ubin Central
POY Poyan BBP Bkt Batok Nature Park LSD Lower Seletar Dam UBE Ubin East
SB1 Sg Buloh Route 1 BTR Bkt Timah Nature Reserve SBP Sembawang Park
SB2 Sg Buloh Route 2 DFP Dairy Farm Nature Park HAL Lor Halus

This year’s census proved rather disappointing with low number of birds counted. Hopefully this is just a blip and not a continuing trend.

This census would not have been possible without the support and participation from many volunteers. We would like to thank and acknowledge the contributions from the following leaders and volunteers:

Bey Swee Hua, Richard Carden, Alfred Chia, Sandra Chia, Andrew Chow, Lena Chow, Fadzrun Adnan, Con Foley, Amuary Gassiot, Veronica Foo, Terry and Jane Heppell, Constance Huges-Treherne, Jian Wei, Atsuko Kawasaki, Kenneth Kee, Julienne Kee, Martin Kennerwell, Susan Knight, Nessie Khoo, Esther Kong, Eunice Kong, Danny Lau, Lee Chuin Ming, Lee Ee Ling, Jimmy Lee, Geraldine Lee, Lee Whye Gwan, David Li, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng, Lim Yan Ting, Lin Chee Wei, Patricia Lorenz, Melpa, Merrill, Alvin Seng, Steven Shields, Sng Bee Bee, Keita Sin, John Spencer, Tan Bee Lan, Tan Kok Hui, Teo Hui Min, George Presanis, Twang Fang Qi, Wai Jack Sin, Wan Xuan,, Wee Sau Cheng, Wing Ching How, Wing Chong, Wong Chun Cheong, Woo Lai Choo, Yang Pah Liang, Yan Jiejun, Yong Yik Shih, Yong Jun Zer

APPENDIX

Total species and number counted (2004-17)

Year # of species # of birds # of sites
2004 135 8035 25
2005 134 5825 18
2006 142 7386 25
2007 134 7159 25
2008 142 7343 26
2009 119 7381 23
2010 137 9556 30
2011 144 8486 25
2012 135 7846 30
2013 123 7837 25
2014 152 8280 25
2015 124 5416 22
2016 126 5314 20
2017 138 5306 26
Avg 135 7226 25
Std Dev 8.8 1259 3
Min 119 5306 18
Max 152 9556 30

List of birds counted on 22nd October 2017:

POS SPECIES SUM POS SPECIES SUM
1 Asian Glossy Starling 663 56 White-crested Laughingthrush 20
2 Javan Myna** 645 57 Crimson Sunbird 20
3 Whimbrel 299 58 Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker 19
4 Pink-necked Green Pigeon 274 59 Common Hill Myna# 19
5 Spotted Dove 158 60 Oriental Pied Hornbill## 17
6 Yellow-vented Bulbul 156 61 Malaysian Pied Fantail 17
7 Common Redshank 139 62 Pied Triller 16
8 Black-naped Oriole 137 63 White-rumped Shama## 16
9 House Crow 128 64 Baya Weaver 16
10 Grey Heron## 126 65 Red-wattled Lapwing## 15
11 Rock Dove 106 66 Laced Woodpecker 15
12 Red-breasted Parakeet* 99 67 Changeable Hawk-Eagle## 14
13 Little Egret 91 68 Grey Plover 13
14 Daurian Starling 83 69 Purple Heron## 12
15 Olive-backed Sunbird 83 70 Stork-billed Kingfisher 12
16 Long-tailed Parakeet* 80 71 Banded Woodpecker 12
17 Pacific Swallow 70 72 Brown Shrike 11
18 Pacific Golden Plover 63 73 Yellow-bellied Prinia 10
19 Pin-striped Tit-Babbler 60 74 Common Kingfisher 9
20 Collared Kingfisher 59 75 Rufous Woodpecker 9
21 Common Greenshank 58 76 Red-rumped Swallow 8
22 Oriental White-eye 56 77 Oriental Magpie-Robin## 8
23 White-breasted Waterhen 54 78 Copper-throated Sunbird# 8
24 Barn Swallow 52 79 Japanese Sparrowhawk 7
25 Ashy Tailorbird 52 80 Golden-bellied Gerygone 7
26 Striated Heron 50 81 Asian Fairy-bluebird# 7
27 Zebra Dove 49 82 Paddyfield Pipit 7
28 Straw-headed Bulbul##** 49 83 Western Osprey 6
29 Red Junglefowl## 46 84 Crested Honey Buzzard 6
30 Common Flameback 46 85 Whiskered Tern 6
31 Common Sandpiper 44 86 Pied Imperial Pigeon 6
32 Blue-tailed Bee-eater 43 87 Large-billed Crow 6
33 Olive-winged Bulbul 43 88 Lesser Coucal 5
34 Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 42 89 Pacific Swift 5
35 Scaly-breasted Munia 42 90 Little Grebe## 4
36 Brahminy Kite 37 91 Intermediate Egret 4
37 Blue-throated Bee-eater 37 92 Oriental Reed Warbler 4
38 Dark-necked Tailorbird 37 93 Abbott’s Babbler 4
39 Common Iora 36 94 Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 4
40 Asian Koel 35 95 Orange-bellied Flowerpecker 4
41 Arctic Warbler 33 96 Chestnut Munia 4
42 Lineated Barbet 32 97 Grey Wagtail 4
43 Coppersmith Barbet 32 98 Black-winged Kite 3
44 Common Tailorbird 30 99 Slaty-breasted Rail 3
45 Brown-throated Sunbird 30 100 Lesser Sand Plover 3
46 Eurasian Tree Sparrow 30 101 Wood Sandpiper 3
47 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 27 102 Little Bronze Cuckoo 3
48 Lesser Whistling Duck## 26 103 Tanimbar Corella* 3
49 Oriental Dollarbird 23 104 Long-tailed Shrike 3
50 White-throated Kingfisher 23 105 Cream-vented Bulbul# 3
51 Rose-ringed Parakeet 22 106 Little Spiderhunter 3
52 Common Myna 22 107 Yellow Bittern 2
53 White-bellied Sea Eagle 21 108 Eastern Cattle Egret 2
54 Asian Brown Flycatcher 21 109 Great-billed Heron## 2
55 Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot ## 20 110 Great Egret 2

 

 

A Christmas Cuckoo Present

A Christmas Cuckoo Present by Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

Lim Kim Seng reported the sighting of the Chinese Hwamei at Siloso on the 19th December.  There has been no reports of this naturalised laughingthrush for a good part of the year. This led to Tuck Loong, Esther Ong and others to go and look for it on 23rd December.

They not only got the Chinese Hwamei but hit the jackpot when Tuck Loong spotted a small cuckoo perched high up on a high bare tree. From some of the early photographs taken, it looked like a possible candidate for a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus.

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Our Christmas present the female Asian Emerald Cuckoo turning up at Sentosa on 23rd December. 

Subsequent photographs obtained the next day confirmed their finding, effectively giving the whole birding community a timely Christmas present. All those who made the trip to the Siloso Skywalk over the following week went home happy with their tick.

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Ticking our presents, all the happy birders and photographers at Siloso Skywalk on Christmas Eve.

The bare tree in question is the Deciduous Fig Ficus superba, a fig species known to shed its leaves periodically. When the new shoots and leaves started to sprout, the Tussock Moths presumably the Clearwing, Perina sunda took full advantage of this by laying thousands of eggs on the tree. The result was an outbreak of it’s caterpillars. There were so many caterpillars that large congregations of them were to be seen on the ground, railings and nearby structures.

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The caterpillars of the Tussock Moths on the Ficus Superba attracted five species of cuckoos, an occurrence we  not witnessed before. 

It was this massive supply of food in the form of tussock moth caterpillars that attracted the cuckoos. The Asian Emerald Cuckoo, a rare migrant to the Malay Peninsula, naturally caused the most excitement as this would otherwise be the second record of the species for Singapore.  Another female cuckoo was sighted on the 29th December, and concurrent observations of both individuals confirmed that there were at least two Asian Emerald Cuckoos around, which is unprecedented! Other cuckoos partaking in this caterpillar feast included at least two Large Hawk Cuckoos, two Indian Cuckoos, two Chestnut-winged Cuckoos, and one Hodgson’s and Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo each. Other uncommon migratory birds seen in the secondary forest around the site included a Crow-billed Drongo, at least two Yellow-browed Warblers and a first winter male Blue-and-white/Zappey’s Flycatcher (Cyanoptila sp.).

Our first record of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo was a sub-adult female and juvenile observed at Seletar Reservoir Park on 31st May 2006. K.C. Tsang was the one who photographed them. Some of the diagnostic features were unclear in the photographs which resulted in conflicting identification answers from regional bird experts even after some consultation. The deliberations and discussions at the Records Committee went back and forth for two years before it was eventually included in the official NSS Checklist as a national first. There were two earlier records of females, both were turned out to be mis-identified Violet Cuckoos.

The Asian Emerald Cuckoo is widely distributed across the lower hills of the Himalayas (where it occurs as a summer visitor), eastward to southern China (Yunnan north to Sichuan) and much of continental Southeast Asia. There are few records in the Malay Peninsula and elsewhere in the Greater Sundas (e.g. Sumatra) where it probable occurs as a rare non-breeding visitor during the months of the northern winter. 

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

 

Singapore Bird Report-November 2017

 

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Only our second record, the female Narcissus Flycatcher taken at Dairy Farm NP on 29th by Goh Cheng Teng showing the mottled breast and the brownish upper-tailed coverts.

The star bird of the month was the Narcissus Flycatcher, Ficedula narcissina, a female, photographed on 28th at DFNP by Marcel Finlay and Veronica Foo. It stayed over for the next 2 days long enough for some great photos to confirm its ID. This will be our second record once the Records Committee completes its review. A second record for Sentosa was a female Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola solitarius, photographed by Jan Tan at Resorts World Sentosa on 2nd.

Terence Tan 4Another first for Gardens by the Bay when this rare Northern Boobook made an overnight stop over there on 8th. Photo: Terence Tan.

Other rarities for the month include a Northern Boobook, Ninox japonica, that stopped over at Satay by the Bay (SBTB) on 8th. Terence Tan was there to capture its one day stay. A very rare passage migrant, an Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, was very well captured by Francis Yap with Fadzrun Adnan from the Jelutong Tower on 24th.

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A composite flight shot of the Asian House Martin, a very rare passage migrant flying over Jelutong Tower well captured by Francis Yap 

Sadly pittas continued to collide into our buildings this month starting with a first for the season Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida on the 20th. Lee Tiah Khee found the carcass at Toa Payoh. Another was found dead on 23rd by David Tan at Raffles Institution. Mabel a resident at Novena found an injured Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, on 22nd. It survived. But not the one that Michael Leong found at Parry Road on 23rd. Lim Kim Chuah had a dead Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneatus, at his office on Jurong island on 7th. We can ill afford the loss of this globally threatened species. David Tan picked up a dead Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis, after it crashed into North Vista Primary School. A Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax, crashed into a service apartment at Wilkie Road on 2nd (Yvonne Tan). Even our resident was not spared. A dead Changeable Hawk Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus, was picked up at Clark Quay by Asri Hasri on 25th after it crashed into one of the high rise buildings there.

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Eye-level shot of the Grey Nightjar, a rare winter visitor at the Satay by the Bay by Christina See.  This is the first record for this location. 

Many of the rare winter visitors were recorded in different parts of the island during the month. The best way is to list them by species for easy reference.

  1. Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica : Kent Ridge Park on 1st by Mogany Thanagavelu, Admiralty Park on 2nd by Luke Milo Teo, PRP on 7th by Zhang Licong and Bidadari on 11th by Richard White.
  2. Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka : SBTB on 3rd by Christina See, AMK Park on 12th by Tey Boon Sim and Bidadari on 20th by Khong Yew. Most number recorded in a single month.
  3. Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea : Bidadari on 3rd by Frankie Lim and a juvenile at at Healing Gardens at SBG on 23rd by Laurence Eu. Richard White reported one at BTNR on 11th and another at RRL on 23rd.  
  4. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca : Lentor Ave on 6th by Katherine Yeo after colliding with a building, another at Sentosa found dead by David Tan  and one found dead at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music on 11th by Shawn Ingkiriwang (picked up by David Tan).
  5. Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata : Lower Peirce Boardwalk on 3rd by Basil Chia, a juvenile at Bidadari on 12th by Pary Sivaraman (identified by Dave Bakewell) and a third from Tuas South on 17th by Alfred Ng. 

 

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A juvenile Japanese Paradise Flycatcher at Bidadari by Pary Sivaraman on 12th November. We may have overlook this plumage before. It stayed until 18th.

  1. White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis : All were reported around Seletar Crescent area. Francis Yap on 19th and Alfred Chia on 22nd with three birds.
  2. Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus: 5-6 birds over Jelutong Tower on 24th by Francis Yap and another at DFNP on the same day. Goh Cheng Teng had a flock of 20 birds circling over the northern part of Changi Coastal Road. The last for the month was at RRL on 29th by Stuart Birding.
  3. Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus : Bidadari on 3rd by Sam Ng and another at SBG on 25th by Gautham Krishnan.
  4. Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus : Bidadari on 2nd by Looi Ang Soh Hoon, Chinese Gardens on 3rd by Ben Choo and a dead bird at Pasir Ris on 26th by Lim Kim Chuah.
  5. Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus : Pulau Ubin on 4th by Yong Ding Li and Nigel Collar, and at SBTB on 5th by Kozi Ichiyama.
  6. Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor : Pulau Ubin on 4th (Yong Ding Li and Nigel Collar) and Pasir Ris Park on 25th by a friend of Deborah Friets.

Some of the single sightings of rare migrants reported for the month include a lugens White Wagtail Moticilla alba, at Sembawang on 6th (Fadzrun Adnan), Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina, at SBG on 7th by Lim Kim Chuah, a juvenile Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis, at Yishun on 8th by Khoo Meilin, Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, on 11th and a Siberian Blue Robin, Larvivora cyane, on 14th both at BTNR by Richard White, Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus, perched on the fence of Seletar Airport on 19th by Goh Cheng Teng, Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata at Kranji Marshes on 19th by See Wei An during a NSS Bird Group Walk and a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola, at Sengkang Wetlands on 21st by Francis Yap.

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Had to be the most open and clear shot of this sulker, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, taken at the Sengkang Wetlands by Francis Yap.

The Eastern Crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus, were still coming through. Thio Hui Bing reported one at Windsor Park on 22nd. Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki (Stuart Birding) and Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone affinis, (Marcel Finlay) were still visiting Bidadari on 20th. A Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus, was expertly picked up by Adrian Silas Tay on 25th at the Seletar end.

Zappey's Khong Yew

Zappey’s Flycatcher identified by the blue patch on the breast, taken at Dairy Farm NP by Khong Yew.

The rush to Dairy Farm Nature Park was sparked off by Zhang Licong’s alert of a 1st winter male Blue and White/Zappey’s Flycatcher on 24th. This was followed by a 1st winter Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cumatilis two days later. Dave Bakewell pointed to the small blue patch on its breast. An Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus, together with a rarer Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica, a passage migrant were seen feeding on the fig tree behind the Wallace Center on 24th and 25th respectively. Both male and female Mugimaki Flycatchers Ficedula mugimaki, and a Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu, (Kozi Ichiyama) were also seen feeding there on 26th. Veronica Foo had the only adult Blue and White Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana there on the 28th.

Dean Tan

The rarer Siberian Thrush making a short stop over at Dairy Farm NP. Photo by Dean Tan. 

In the air, more interesting migrants were seen passing through. Flocks of 20 Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica, on 1st (Alan OwYong), a Needletail spp on 6th (Frankie Cheong), both over Henderson Wave at Telok Blangah Hill. Keita Sin reported one of the largest flock of 70 Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum, flying over Kent Ridge Park on 15th.

As for our residents, Yong Ding Li showed Nigel Collar the Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha, at Pulau Ubin on 4th. A King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis, was reported by Martin Kennewell at Kranji Marshes on 5th. He also had a Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus, there on 12th, two very good finds for Kranji Marshes. Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea,  were still foraging at Changi South, with reports from Tan Eng Boo on 21st and James Tann on 22nd. A not so common sight nowadays was a flock of hundreds of White-headed Munias Lonchura maja, seen flying at the Tuas Grasslands on 5th by Low Choon How. They used to be very common there in the 90s but most of the open grasslands have been developed.

The only shorebird of note to report is a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, seen flying to Chek Java on 30th by Tay Kian Guan. As for the raptors, we had an Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus and Amur Falcon Falco amurensis, two very rare vagrants during the last week of the month. These and other raptors will be in the full Raptor Report coming out soon.

Location abbreviations: SBG Singapore Botanic Gardens, DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, RRL Rifle Range Link, SBTB Satay by the Bay, AMK Ang Mo Kio and BTNR Bukit Timah 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, individual reports and extracts from ebird. 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 Goh Cheng Teng, Terence Tan, Francis Yap, Christina See, Pary Sivaraman, Khong Yew and Dean Tan for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

First documented record of the successful nesting of the Red-legged Crakes, Rallina fasciata, in Singapore,

By Mike Smith.

Introduction:

The Red-legged Crake Raliina fasciata is an uncommon resident in NE India, across mainland South-East Asia, Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi and the Sundas. Singapore and West Thailand are the two places in its range where they are more easily seen. The northern population migrates and winters to South East Asia. On 13 June 2003, a Thai birder Prapoj Rukruenreang posted a set of a nesting Red-legged Crake with at least 4 eggs in it which he took at Kaeng Krachan N.P. The nest is built on a grassy base on the ground with dry leaves and small twigs spread on top of it.

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Besides earthworms the Red-legged Crakes also take insects from the ground

In Singapore, they are an uncommon resident and winter visitor found in forest edges and nature parks away from swampy places. It was once considered rare until a family was seen bathing at the drain next to Tyersall Avenue and its vocalisation known.  The first breeding record was from Hume’s Heights where an adult was seen with three chicks on 16th January 1985. Families with chicks have since been seen in various parts of the Singapore Botanic Gardens and nearby Bukit Brown for the decade or so but not the actual nesting. The breeding season is in January, March, May to July and September based on sightings of the adults and chicks. In mid October, I chanced upon a nest at the Singapore Botanic Gardens with eggs in it. This is the first documentation of its nesting in Singapore.

14th October 2017.

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Four of the five off-white eggs that I chanced upon at the Helliconia Gardens when I was photographing the sunbirds.

I was photographing the sunbirds at the Helliconia Gardens at the Botanic Gardens when I chanced upon a nest with five off-white eggs in it. They must have been laid a day or two ago according the the workers there. The eggs were left unattended and no crakes were seen around the nest that day. So I was not sure if it belonged to the Red-legged Crakes. The bush is about 2 meters away from the concrete path where visitors to the park frequently used. Surrounding this bush are groves of various species of Helliconia plants.

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The nest is built on the inside Fire Bush less than 2 meters from the walking path but well hidden from sight by the Helliconia groves.

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The nest is about knee high from the ground. You can just see the Crake sitting on the well hidden nest in the Fire Bush. 

These groves of Helliconias provide an ideal place for the adult crakes to forage safely under cover. From one of the videos, they were seen picking out earthworms from the ground in between the stems of the Helliconia plants.

The Nest:

The nest itself is an untidy collection of dead leaves from the plants nearby piled on top of each other forming a depressed center for the eggs. The Helliconia leaves made up the majority of the leaves. The stem of one of the leaves can be seen sticking out of the nest giving it an unfinished look. In between there were small twigs and other dry plant material. It is about 25 cm long and 25 cm wide and 4 cm thick. It is not built on the ground but about knee high on the branches of a Fire Bush Hamelia patens, a path side ornamental plant.. At the center of the nest a few very small twigs seem to be used to give support to the eggs.

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The nest is made of piles of dried leaves and small twigs on the Fire Bush, an low ornamental plant commonly used for edge landscaping.

The nest can only be seen if one steps a little inside the flower beds and not from the path. The Helliconia plants cover any line of sight from the other side. This is the first description of its nest in Singapore and very different from the one in Thailand. It would appear that they will use whatever nesting material that is available nearby and adapt the position of the nest to the location.

The nearest water is the Symphony Lake about 30 meters down the slope. On the upslope is the service and visitors road by the side of the Rain Forest.

On October 15th I saw a crake on the nest and knew it was active. I spent about 60 hours monitoring the nest over the next 19 days.  Another five hours were spent by a birder friend when I was away for a few days. (I later found out that another birder, Roberta Cheok was also monitoring this nest at around the same time on her own).

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First saw the Red-legged Crake on the nest on the 15th October and knew that it was active.

For the first couple of days the nest was sometimes left unattended but from October 18th there was always a parent incubating the eggs. Both parents were involved in the incubation, one would be on the nest and the other foraging nearby undisturbed by human traffic. They kept totally quiet facing either the path or into the undergrowth but were alert to what was going on around them. A monitor Lizard was seen sniffing around but left the eggs alone, as did a squirrel.

During this period I got a great video of an adult stamping up an earthworm from the ground near the nest. After letting it wriggle around it pecked at it and gobbled it down. Earthworms seem to be a major part of the diet but I also saw crakes eating insects and a video by Lena Chow shows a small snake being eaten. The choice of nesting around the Helloconia groves may be due to the availability of the earthworms under the soft soil. On 28th October, a very hot afternoon of 33 degrees my birder friend saw a parent standing in the nest over the eggs possibly fanning the eggs with its wings maybe to regulate the temperature. Its bill was open as it was also trying to cool itself. It did this for over half an hour and did not sit on the eggs during the whole time.

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3rd November. First saw a crack on one of the eggs on the 20th day of monitoring.

On the afternoon of November 3rd,  the 20th day since I first came across the nest and eggs I saw a crack on one of the eggs. The parent was pecking around the egg, I wasn’t sure if it was trying to assist. About an hour later the first chick hatched and popped up its head to greet the world before snuggling under the parent.

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Red-legged Crake nesting at SBG with the first chick just hatching.

I later found that a second chick hatched at 5 pm. The worker said that he found the first chick on the ground and put it back to the nest at approximately 3pm. My birder friend went by at around 6pm to take a look. At first there were no signs of the chicks but it appeared briefly as a small black furry ball. At around 7 pm in failing light, the parent bird was observed to be pecking frantically all round the nest. After a few minutes of pecking, it suddenly flew out of the nest in a hurry. On closer inspection, he saw a swarm of large black and brown ants had invaded the nest most likely attracted by the remains of the eggs. They were all over the nest and eggs. Three eggs remained unhatched with one empty shell.

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The nest was invaded by ants a few hours after the first two chicks hatched. Both parents and chicks escaped leaving three eggs unhatched.

The chicks must have got out with the parent as none of them were in the nest. Past literature suggests that crake and hen chicks are precocial and were able to fend for themselves once hatched. This has to be nature’s way to save them from predation since they nest so close to the ground.  Soft calls presumably from the parent can be heard nearby. The parent maybe trying to gather the chicks together in the dark. Who would have thought that a small ant is the biggest threat to their nesting?
Next morning November 4th I found two hatched eggs in the nest and one egg on the ground. There were no chick carcasses. The parent were not in the nest but were scurrying around nearby. It would seem that the last three eggs hatched between 7 pm last night and 9 am this morning. I have no idea what happened to the chicks. I hope that their survival instincts got them to retreat to the deeper forest cover up the road and do their foraging there until they are big enough to fend for themselves.

Conclusion:

From this single nesting observation I was able to make a few interesting and perhaps new information about their nesting nesting behavior that may help with its conservation.

  1. Based on the information from the worker and the time I found the nest, it took at least 22 days for the first chick to hatch. As I cannot find any literature on the incubation period, this has to be the most accurate available.
  2. Our breeding period ends in September. This October/November nesting at best extends the period or may set a new “out of season” date for this crake. This then brings into question if this is a breeding visitor and not a resident?
  3. Crakes are known to build their nests on the ground, This one is about knee high. It could be that the surrounding ground is too exposed and the crakes adapted by building in on a low bush instead.
  4. We know that the chicks are precocial and that they were ready to be own their own a day or two after hatch. In other words they can be fully fledged in that short time. But from my observations the chicks were able to act within hours after hatching. For sure the first two chicks will not survive the ants attack if they do not jump off the nests barely few hours after hatching.

Photos: Mike Smith of AsiaPhotoStock.com

References:

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

A note on Red-legged Crakes (Rallina fasciate) in Singapore. May 2017 Marcel Finlay.

‘Notes on the Distribution and Vocalizations of the Red-Legged Crake (Rallina fasciata) in Singapore’ – Singapore Avifauna Volume 23 No 4 (Nature Society Singapore Bird Group, 2009)

Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore by Lim Kim Seng. (Nature Society (Singapore), 2007)

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

Vanishing Birds of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. Nature Society (Singapore) 1992.

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Malaysia and Singapore by Morten Strange (Periplus, 2002)

Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson Asia Book Co. Ltd 2000.

www.Birdlife.org

www.eBird.org

https://singaporebirds.com)

https://singaporebirds.blogspot.sg