by Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compiler), Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)
Undoubtedly the mega-sighting for the month of May was the rare Pheasant-tailed Jacana at Satay by the Bay, followed closely by the Buff-rumped Woodpecker on Pulau Ubin. This month also marks the tail end of the spring migration as our winter visitors make their way back to their breeding ground. Reports of resident species begin to dominate the scene as we reach the middle of the year.
Lily-trotter in an Urban Lily Pond
On 5 May 2019, a Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus flew over the lily pond around 8am at Satay by the Bay, alighted briefly on the plants, before taking off again into the skies.
Pheasant-tailed Jacanas are distributed across the Indian sub-continent, southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, the Mekong delta to the Philippines. Some northern population migrate and may winter as far as Yemen and the Greater Sundas islands; vagrants may even occur in Australia. The species is a non-breeding visitor in the Malay peninsula, preferring freshwater wetlands covered by water hyacinth and water lilies (Wells 1999: 267-268).
In recent years, records of this species remain sparse, with one recorded on 10 December 2016 at Kranji Marsh by Veronica Foo, and another on 15 May 2017 at Hindhede Quarry by Martin Kennewell, who spotted the bird while digiscoping.
Assessed by IUCN to be of Least Concern, the species is, however, on the decrease (IUCN, 2019).
Central Catchment Nature Reserve, BTNR, DFNP
As the year progresses towards the half-way mark, only a handful of migrants/ non-breeding visitors remain. A Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica was spotted on 4 May 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Goh Zai Fa, while a singing Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax was spotted on 12 May 2019 within the grounds of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) by Martin Kennewell.
Due to its accessibility and presence of good rainforest birds, Dairy Farm Nature Park attracted many birders and photographers during this month. A Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica was spotted on 1 May 2019 by Terence Tan, while an ensemble of Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena puella, Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps, Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra and Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii were spotted on 4 May 2019 by K. Saravanan, Goh Zai Fa, and Khoo MeiLin. Over the ensuing days, two species of Leafbirds were seen – the Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis was spotted on 5, 10 18 and 20 May 2019 by Art Toh, Vincent Chin, Herman Phua, and See Toh Yew Wai; while a Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati was seen on 12 May 2019 by Teo Lay Chong. A juvenile Red-crowned Barbet was also seen on 14 May 2019 by Julie Wee.
Other species reported were a Banded Woodpecker Chrysophlegma miniaceum seen on 6 May 2019 by Steven Lee, a Cream-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus simplex feeding on a mulberry tree and a pair of Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis on 20 May 2019 by Geoff Lim, a Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris on 30 May 2019 by Oliver Tan, and a Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus flaviventris on 31 May 2019 by Alan Owyong.
Further afield, the combined cries of about 40-50 House Swift Apus nipalensis captured the attention of Francis Yap on 6 May 2019 at Singapore Quarry. Francis described how he spotted the flock, a rare sighting as the species declined drastically in Singapore over the past 2-3 decades: “I initially saw 1-2 House Swifts and a few Plume-toed Swiftlets. After a short while, I heard something I have not heard in a very long time. A chorus of swift calls from a distance. I looked up I [sic] noticed they were far up and looked like House Swifts. I counted 7-8. A further scan up the treeline at the top of the quarry revealed that there were a whole large flock of them circling around. I think conservatively, there should be about 40-50 of them…”
Up to three Short-tailed Babbler Malacocincla malaccensis were heard within CCNR on 12 May 2019 by Martin Kennewell, while the false coffee tree at Mandai Track 7 started to attract Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii – two birds were seen feeding on 18 May 2019 by Francis Yap, who also spotted a Chestnut-winged Babbler Stachyris erythroptera nearby that day. On 19 May 2019, a Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was spotted at BTNR by Vincent Lao, while a Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis and a Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatrana were spotted at the woods behind Rail Mall by Art Toh.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
A House Swift Apus nipalensis was spotted within the Garden grounds on 10 May 2019 by Benson Brighton and Vincent Ng.
Eagle-hunters at Goldhill Avenue spotted more than the Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela. While the eagle was seen on 4 and 20 May 2019 by Khoo Meilin and Lim Hong Yao, respectively, a male Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus in adult plumage was seen on 1 May 2019 by Francis Yap; another Tiger Shrike was spotted on 17 May 2019 at Fort Canning Park by George Kamov. Birders seeking out sightings at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park noted a heronry of Purple Herons Ardea purpurea numbering about 10 birds on 3 May 2019 (Esther Tan) and White-headed Munia Lonchura maja on 4 May 2019 (Khoo Mei Lin), while a Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu was spotted further away at Bidadari on 8 May 2019 by T. Ramesh.
The young Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots Loriculus galgulus dwelling in the nest at the Whampoa Market eventually fledged on 13 May 2019 (Ang Siew Siew). Farther away, Little Tern Sternula albifrons were seen fishing at Pelton Canal on 9 May 2019 by Phua Joo Yang, who also spotted a Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis in the canal around noon on 14 May 2019; the bird was wet and subsequently moved to a shaded area.
On 5 May 2019, David Tan recovered a Thick-billed Pigeon Treron curvirostra that perished after colliding into a building at MacPherson.
Two noteworthy sightings in the north were of a flock of about 25 Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica on 5 & 6 May 2019 at the Halus area which was reported by Billy Goh, as well as two sightings of Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula on 7 May 2019 at Montreal Drive by Martin Kennewell, Kwok Tuck Loong and Khong Yew, and on 12 May 2019 at Sumang Walk by Wong Chung Cheong.
Some nesting Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis were reported at Punggol End on 6 May 2019 (Geoff Lim), as was a House Swift Apus nipalensis flying over Coney Island, and Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis at the Halus ponds as reported by Oliver Tan; the grebes were spotted at the same location on 25 May 2019 by Martin Kennewell. Barn Owl spotters at Montreal Drive on 7 May 2019 also spotted a male and female Laced Woodpecker Picus vittatus (Kei Yoo) and at least two Long-tailed Parakeet Psittacula longicauda (Kei Yoo).
On 18 May 2019, birder Fadzrun Adnan was driving along the Seletar Expressway when he spotted what he thought was a nocturnal macaque perched on the drain railings. As he came closer, the shape and colour was unmistakeably that of a Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus under the street light. Due to his being on the expressway, Fadzrun was not able stop his car anywhere to photograph it.
At the end of the month, two sightings of Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus were reported in the north. On 26 May 2019, one bird was spotted at Hougang hawking for bats by Minerva Maria-Sagan, while another bird was found perched outside the window of a HDB flat in Woodlands Street 41 on 30 May 2019 by Effkewkew Yakeru, a first for Woodlands.
During this period, David Tan recovered several casualties that perished from impact with building structures. On 5 May 2019, he collected a Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata near the Singapore Youth Flying Club. A von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus survived the collision on the same day at the Youth Flying Club and was reported by Jimmy Tan. One week later, a juvenile Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus was collected outside Nex at Serangoon.
Pasir Ris Park (PRP) continued to support a good diversity of bird species. Apart from common garden species, birders and photographers reported the following species over the course of May: a Green Imperial Pigeon Ducula aenea was spotted on 4 May 2019 by Yvo Goossens, as was a Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus on 10 May 2019 by Julie Wee, a Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulpurea on 11 May 2019 inside the mangrove broadwalk by Laura Berman, the regular Sunda Scops Owl Otus lempiji on 16 May 2019 by Terence Tan, and a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting on 25 May 2019 by Lionel Leong, the second record for the park so far.
Pasir Ris Farmway 3 and the adjacent areas also proved to provide refuge for birds: White-headed Munia Lonchura striata were spotted on 1 May 2019 by T. Ramesh, while an extremely skittish Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa was seen foraging for food in the afternoon with egrets in a field on 4 May 2019 by Chen Boon Chong. Another Javan Pond Heron was spotted in the field outside Pasir Ris Camp on 5 May 2019 by Fadzrun Adnan, while a Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus was spotted on 7 May 2019 by Steven Cheong. Farther afield at the Tampines Canal, three more Little Tern Sternula albifrons were spotted on 6 May 2019 by Alvin Seng, after one was seen during the final week of April 2019. One adult Striated Heron Butorides striata was also seen interacting with a juvenile in the canal on 11 May 2019 by Chen Boon Chong.
Pulau Ubin, with its woodlands and mangroves, continued to support a good mix of species. Up to four White-rumped Shama Copsychus malabaricus were reported to be on the island on and around 11 May 2019 (Geoff Lim), while the electrifying news of the sighting of the rare Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis gripped the community when one was photographed at Ketam Quarry on 25 May 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay and others. Also seen that day was a Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea at Ketam by Adrian Silas Tay, as well as a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela, that was spotted calling over Ketam by Krishna Deepak. The next day, 26 May 2019, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica and Grey Plover Charadrius squatarola were seen in the distance from Chek Jawa during the low tide by Martin Kennewell and T. Ramesh.
A Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was found expired at Tampines Street 43 and reported by David Tan. Coincidentally, another Cinnamon Bittern was picked up at this spot on 16 Jan 2018.
The park and open space complex comprising Gardens by the Bay (GBTB), Satay by the Bay (SBTB), Bay East, Marina Barrage and Marina East Drive has proven to be a productive area for birds. Apart from the surprise visit by the Pheasant-tailed Jacana featured above, many other species were observed to frequent this area. Three Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica were seen on 1 May 2019 at SBTB by Steven Cheong, as was a Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus on 2 May 2019 by Pary Sivaraman, an Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis consuming a chick it caught on 3 May 2019 and spotted by Brenda Chua LH, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus galgulus and a Ruddy-breasted Crake Porzana fusca on 4 May 2019 by Siew Mun. Other species spotted include a Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla on 5 May 2019 by Peter Lim, an Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis on 6 May 2019 by Julie Wee, a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nyticorax on 16 May 2019 by Khoo Meilin, as well as a late-staying Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis on 24 May 2019 by Guo Hui.
Within GBTB, an Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis was heard on 9 May 2019 by Veronica Foo, while a pair of Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis were seen mating on 11 May 2019 by TM Ng. A Black-browed Reed-warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps was also seen in the garden’s grounds on 21 May 2019 by Wong Chung Cheong; another was spotted in a small reed bed farther afield at Bay East on the same day by Martin Kennewell, as was a white morph Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra by Lea Elpa and Martin Kennewell.
At Marina Barrage, a Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa in full adult splendour was seen on 1 May 2019 by Mike Hooper, while a Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrid paid a surprise visit to Marina Bay on 5 May 2019 and was spotted by Choong YT. Visitors to the Marina East shoreline were rewarded by the presence of an Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis and Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus, migrants leaving our shores, on 12 May 2019 (William Mahoney), as were rocky shore residents such as the Pacific Reef Heron Egretta sacra (William Mahoney), and the dimunitive Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronni on 10 and 20 May 2019 by Art Toh and Khoo Meilin, respectively. The grass field adjacent to the rocks harboured a male Greater Painted-Snipe Rostratula benghalensis who successfully defended his three chicks from a mob of House Crow on 18 May 2019 and witnessed by See Toh Yew Wai, as well as an Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia on 29 May 2019 by Steven Chong.
Other reports from the south include a pale morph Pacific Reef Heron on Pulau Buran, one of the southern islands, on 8 May 2019 by John Marriott, a Tiger Shrike on 15 May 2019 at the Telok Blangah Green Carpark on 15 May 2019 by Choong YT, and a Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus on Sentosa on 20 May 2019 by Khong Yew.
During the month of May 2019, birders and photographers concentrated their effort around the Jurong Lake-Chinese-Japanese Garden region, the Kranji-Lim Chu Kang-Neo Tiew axis, and Pandan Canal.
Birders and photographers were drawn to the Jurong Lake area by the arrival of the rarely encountered Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii. First encountered at the end of April 2019, the bird continued to be seen on 1 May 2019, where an adult and a juvenile were seen by many feeding with other pond herons, such as a Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa, in the grass fields adjacent to the East-West MRT line, to 11 May 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay who made the last report of the bird. Other birds included two Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis flushed from the Japanese Garden ponds on 17 May 2019 and an Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis; both were spotted by Fadzrun Adnan.
Over at Jurong Gateway, a confiding Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus was reported on 5 May 2019 by Sanmen Wong, and subsequently reported on social media until the end of May 2019. On 25 May 2019, a Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela was reportedly seen in overhead flight over Toh Tuck Road by Bijoy Venugopal.
A stone’s throw away from the Jurong Lake district, photographers continued to visit Pandan Canal for bird-in-flight, and fish-in-feet photographs of a resident Grey-headed Fish-eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus. A park user (Krishnan Deepak) reported the presence of an Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus on 9 May 2019 along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector. One eagle watcher (Alan Owyong) reported the presence of a dark morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala, a Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis and a White-headed Munia Lonchura maja on 16 May 2019.
Action around the Kranji hotspot kicked off with a report of two Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans spotted on 1 May 2019 at Kranji Marsh. Martin Kennewell and Eyzat Amer reported that two were perched in trees, one high while another stayed low; with both birds obscured by vegetation. The duo also reported seeing three Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, and a high-flying House Swift Apus nipalensis. A Large-billed Crow Corvus splendens, was also seen that day along Turut Track by Pary Sivaraman. Birders visiting New Tiew Harvest Lane reported a Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla (Fadzrun Adnan), and another House Swift (William Mahoney) on 4 May 2019, a Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus feeding with two Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia, as well as an Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschtschensis on 8 May 2019 (Adriana Dinu). Common Moorhen were also sighted at Lim Chu Kang Avenue 3 on 11 May 2019, along with a Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni by Fadzrun Adnan, as was a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting on 16 May 2019, and a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo Cacomantis sepulcralis on 18 May 2019 at Kranji Marsh by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan and Angie Cheong, respectively. A Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii was also seen at Turut Track on 16 May 2019 by Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan. On 20 May 2019, a male Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus was seen at the Kranji Marsh by Martin Kennewell.
The only other notable action in the west outside the three hotspots occurred during Labour Day evening, which saw birders and photographers congregating at Chestnut Avenue to admire a family of three Spotted Wood Owl Strix seloputo roosting in the rain trees above the road. The juvenile was fairly active at nightfall and sported fully developed pinions. It spent the evening clambering and flying from branch to branch within the same tree. The birds continued to be observed over the next few days. An expatriate residing at the area intimated that the owls started nesting in some Bird Nest Fern Asplenium nidus around March 2019 and that the owlet had fallen out from the nest, requiring intervention by ACRES.
Two bands of birdmen visited the Singapore Strait in May 2019. The assembly on 4 May 2019 reported a Lesser Frigatebird Fregata ariel, Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris, Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis, and White-winged Tern Chlidonias hybrida (See Toh Yew Wai, and Adrian Silas Tay), while those who took to the sea on 19 May 2019 reported sighting a Brown Booby Sula leucogaster, two Short-tailed Shearwater, and two Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel (Francis Yap). Note that pelagic sightings might not be in Singapore waters.
BTNR: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
CCNR: Central Catchment Nature Reserve
DFNP: Dairy Farm Nature Park
JEG: Jurong Eco-Garden
SBG: Singapore Botanic Gardens
SBWR: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
TEG: Tampines Eco-Green
This report is written by Geoff Lim, adding to records compiled by Alan OwYong, and is edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.
Many thanks to Siew Mun, Benson Brighton, Julie Wee, Vincent Lao, Esther Tan, David Tan, Phua Joo Yong, Terence Tan, Adrian Silas Tay, Liz How, Khong Yew, Angie Cheong, See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap for the use of their photos.
BirdLife International 2016. Hydrophasianus chirurgus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22693543A93411790. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22693543A93411790.en. Downloaded on 18 June 2019.
Wells, D. R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. London: Academic Press.
List of Species seen:
|Lesser Whistling Duck||1-May-19|
|Lesser Whistling Duck||2-May-19|
|Lesser Whistling Duck||5-May-19|
|Lesser Whistling Duck||11-May-19|
|Malayan Night Heron||12-May-19|
|Black-crowned Night Heron||16-May-19|
|Indian Pond Heron||1-May-19|
|Indian Pond Heron||2-May-19|
|Indian Pond Heron||3-May-19|
|Indian Pond Heron||4-May-19|
|Indian Pond Heron||5-May-19|
|Indian Pond Heron||11-May-19|
|Javan Pond Heron||1-May-19|
|Javan Pond Heron||2-May-19|
|Javan Pond Heron||4-May-19|
|Javan Pond Heron||5-May-19|
|Eastern Cattle Egret||8-May-19|
|Pacific Reef Heron||8-May-19|
|Pacific Reef Heron||11-May-19|
|Pacific Reef Heron||12-May-19|
|Pacific Reef Heron||21-May-19|
|Crested Serpent Eagle||4-May-19|
|Crested Serpent Eagle||20-May-19|
|Crested Serpent Eagle||25-May-19|
|Common Emerald Dove||1-May-19|
|Jambu Fruit Dove||8-May-19|
|Green Imperial Pigeon||4-May-19|
|Banded Bay Cuckoo||16-May-19|
|Eastern Barn Owl||5-May-19|
|Eastern Barn Owl||7-May-19|
|Eastern Barn Owl||12-May-19|
|Eastern Barn Owl||18-May-19|
|Eastern Barn Owl||19-May-19|
|Spotted Wood Owl||1-May-19|
|Spotted Wood Owl||2-May-19|
|Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot||4-May-19|
|Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot||13-May-19|
|Eastern Crowned Warbler||9-May-19|
|Oriental Reed Warbler||2-May-19|
|Oriental Reed Warbler||6-May-19|
|Black-browed Reed Warbler||21-May-19|
|Black-browed Reed Warbler||21-May-19|
|Sturnidae||Asian Glossy Starling||1-May-19|
|Greater Green Leafbird||12-May-19|
|Motacillidae||Eastern Yellow Wagtail||8-May-19|