Category Archives: Uncategorized

32nd Annual Bird Census 2017

32nd Annual Bird Census. 

Compiled by Lim Kim Chuah.

PG Plover

This year only 73 Pacific Golden Plovers were counted ( 65 at Mandai and 8 at SBWR) compared to 522 last year. It is the lowest since 1990.  See chart below. Is this a blip or signs of habitat deterioration? We hope that these bird censuses and counts will provide the answers.

The 32nd Annual Bird Census was held on on 5 March 2017. The weather was generally good and the count went well for the 23 sites surveyed. This is one site less than the 24 sites that were counted in 2016. Sites not counted this year included Lower Pierce Reservoir Park, Upper Seletar Reservoir Park, Ubin Central, Botanic Garden, Khatib Bongsu, Pasir Ris Park and Kranji Dam.

Bird-wise, we continue to see a disturbing trend in the reduction of number of birds counted. A total of 5682 birds was counted this year. This is a drop of 1056 birds (16%) compared to 2016 and 2888 birds (34%) below the past 28-year average count of 8471 birds. In terms of species counted, this year total of 138 is 4 species higher than 2016 but 11 species lower than the past 28-year average of 149 species. What could the reasons for this declining trend in both the number of birds and number of species counted? Possibilities included loss of habitats, declining population in migratory birds, etc. More work and data mining need to be done to ascertain the cause(s) of this decline.

1-20170914_155759

And how did the counts go at the 23 sites that were surveyed?

Kranji Marsh turned out to be the site with the most number of species of birds counted (72 species) followed by Poyan (55 species) and Malcolm Park (48 species). Kranji Marsh again proved to be a very important site as it registered the highest number of birds counted (582 birds). This is closely followed behind by Sungei Mandai (560 birds) and Malcolm Park (361 birds). It’s interesting that Malcolm Park, an urban park located close to the city recorded such high density and diversity of birds.

1-20170914_155829_001

And which are among the most numerous birds in Singapore? Well it’s hardly surprising that the title went to the ubiquitous Javan Myna, a bird that is ironically listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red list of threatened species. This is based on a rapidly declining population in its native wild range i.e. Java and Bali due to the cage bird trade.

The Javan Myna has consistently been counted among the top 4 birds (see chart). But the same cannot be said of its close cousin – the Common Myna whose fortune has continue to dip since the 90’s (see chart). Is it something to do with the rapid urbanization of Singapore? Or strong competition from the Javan Myna? Unfortunately, we do not have the answer.

1-20170914_155859

1-20170914_155913

Comparing the Top 10 birds in 2016 and 2017, the species are similar except for the conspicuous absence of the Pacific Golden Plover in this year’s Top 10. This species is usually recorded in good numbers during the ABC especially from Sungei Mandai. This year, only 73 birds were counted – the lowest since 1990. Sungei Mandai recorded only 65 birds and another 8 at Sungei Buloh. Hopefully this blip is only temporary and not a sign of habitat deterioration at Sungei Mandai. But the annual declining trend seems to suggest that habitat deterioration may be one of the reasons.

Top 10 Birds in 2017 & 2016

1-20170914_155933

Counts of Pacific Golden Plover from 1990-2017:

1-20170914_155948

Finally, a BIG THANK You to all participants some of whom has repeatedly helped with the census through the years. This year’s participants included Andrew Chow, Wing Chong, Lee Ee Ling, Veronica Foo, LKS, Mick Price, Willie Foo, Alan OwYong, Keita Sin, Terry Heppell, Jane Roger, Kenneth Kee, Margie Hall, Wee Sau Cheng, Low Choon How, Tan Kok Hui, Rob & Kim Arnold, Koh Ai Kiak, Mithilesh Mishra, Jane Heppell, Ian Rickword, Nessie Khoo, Pang Hui En, Martin Kennewell + 9 NUS students, Liana Knight Spencer and George Kinman, Yeo Seng Beng, James Tan, John Ogiev, Richard Wong, Carmen Hui, Lim Li Fang, Eunice Kong, Yong Junzer, Milton Tan and Koh Ai Kiak.

The ABC was started in the 1980’s by the late Clive Briffett. What started as a fun activity to get more people interested in birds has generated a treasure trove of data through the years. We acknowledge that there are inaccuracies in the data collected e.g. skill level of counters, changes to sites, number of sites, routes changes etc. But if we are to look for trends in the data and focus on the big picture, then the data could prove interesting and useful as an indicator of the state of the health of the avifauna in Singapore. Hence it is pertinent that the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) continue to organize such counts and continue to monitor the trend. We look forward to the continued support of all members and participants.

Table: Summary of results from each site.

1-20170914_160014

 

Advertisements

NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee.

Fresh Water Ponds at Kranji Marshes

Kranji Marshes. Two conservation proposals in 1985 and 1990 resulted in adoption by NSS and later developed as a Kranji Marshes Park in 2005 by URA.

NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee:  (First published in NSS’s website on 10 September 2017)
A Review of the Facts
The views expressed below are endorsed by the following:
Dr. Shawn Lum (NSS President)
Dr. Geh Min (NSS Past President)
Dr. Ng Soon Chye (NSS Past President)
Mr Leong Kwok Peng (Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Dr. Ho Hua Chew (Vice-Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Introduction
Nature Society (Singapore) [NSS] members have been disturbed by statements made in
certain blogs and websites that they feel are inaccurate or misrepresent the work of the
Society and in particular its Conservation Committee both in the Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch) as well as in its emergence as the NSS after 1991. These comments aremade in articles posted in Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG) blogs, Raffles Museum of
Biodiversity Research (RMBR)’s DNA website and elsewhere. We feel it is important for the good name of NSS and the work we do that we attempt to clarify and correct some of these inaccuracies by giving our version of events. What follows below is our review of these inaccurate and misleading statements and our comments on them.
A) Campaign Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
1) ‘The almost daily media confrontation was led by Dr Wee, who was then President of NSS when the Conservation Committee Chairman declined to take up the fight as the area was not rich in birdlife.” .” (DNA, undated)
2) “… I have requested the Chairman of the Conservation Committee Dr Ho Hua Chew to
take up the cause. He declined. As a diehard birdwatcher he was probably interested in areas where the birdlife was visually as well as audibly obvious — like Kranji Heronry, Sungei Buloh or Khatib Bongsu.” (BESG, 2017a)
3) “Nature Society’s Conservation Committee was similarly not involved in the late 1990s
when Lower Peirce forest was under threat of being cleared for a golf course. I was the
Founding President of the newly formed Nature Society (Singapore) then and I sent a
message to Dr Ho Hua Chew, Chairman of the Conservation Committee, to oppose the plan. He was not interested. So I took charge.” (BESG, 2017b)
NSS Responses:
1) Dr Ho, with Sutari as assistant, was co-ordinator for the bird surveys under the NSS Bird Group. This was acknowledged behind the cover page of NSS’s Proposed Golf Course at Lower Peirce Reservoir: an EIA report (1992). Together with Sutari, Dr. Ho invited Dr.
Wee, the then President of the Society, to visit the bird survey transacts, which he agreed to do. To claim that Dr. Ho could not care less because the Peirce Reservoir Forest is not “rich in birdlife” is false. If that is true, Dr. Ho would not have, together with Sutari, persuaded and brought the then President to visit and have a look at the field of battle at all.
2) The claim that Dr. Ho declined “to take up the cause” is incorrect. What happened was that he was asked by the then President to co-ordinate/collate the results of all the surveys done by the various groups. Dr. Ho thought and told the then President that he (the President) was the best person for the task as he was a botanist and plant life was the main-stay of the nature reserve. Also, he was close at the time to the various academic collaborators.
B) Signature Petition Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
“There was also a spontaneous signature campaign … a campaign that was organized without the knowledge of the President” ( BESG, 2017a).
NSS Responses:
1) The signature campaign was organised with Dr. Wee’s knowledge and was not
“spontaneous”. In Wee and Hale, 2008, it is stated that: “A campaign was organized that
resulted in many thousands signing up, giving not only their names but their identity card numbers and occupations” to oppose the construction of the golf course … And further, in Wee & Hale 2008, it is added: “The almost daily confrontation in the media led to increasing public support against … the golf course”.
2) Dr. Wee himself had sent Dr. Ho a draft of the petition asking for his input. Dr. Ho
assisted to canvass for signatures in support of the petition. The signature collection was
impressive. NSS made extensive outreach to collect the signatures. It was not sent, as the
Government decided to shelve the building of the golf course.
C) NSS’s Conservation Proposals and their Aftermath
Here are a series of the internet postings on the Conservation Committee’s efforts at nature conservation:
Internet Comments:
1) “Flushed with success, the Conservation Committee of the society began a series of
campaigns to get government to protect the many areas listed in the Master Plan – as long as there was an abundance of birdlife. Filled with enthusiasm but lacking in behind-the-scene connections, the local leadership engaged in media confrontations when government failed to respond positively. Members were then new to conservation and more than a little naive, to say the least. Eventually every single non-gazetted area listed in the Master Plan ended up being developed.” (DNA, undated).
2) “Eventually, every one of the other conservation proposals in the society’s Master Plan
was rejected and till today, Sungei Buloh is the society’s first and only success in persuading the government to set aside any new area for nature conservation.” (Wee & Hale, 2008)
3) “This complements the Society’s earlier success, that of persuading government to set
aside an area for a bird sanctuary in Sungei Buloh. Until today these are the only two
successes the Society can be proud of “ (BESG, 2017a)

NSS Responses:
1) Only two of these nature areas proposed for conservation “ended up being developed”; these are: Marina South and Senoko. The claim that there are “only two successes the Society can be proud of “(citing Sungei Buloh and the campaign against the Lower Peirce golf course) is again incorrect.
2) Here are the facts pertaining to the proposals submitted to the relevant authorities and their aftermath, stated in brief. The readers can judge the facts for themselves:
a) Kranji Dam Mangrove (MNS, 1987a): A proposal for its conservation was put in a small section of the Sungei Buloh proposal, formulated by the NSS Bird Group and Conservation Committee. Thanks to Clive Briffett, who identified the area as important and formulated the detailed proposal after the Buloh proposal was submitted (MNS 1987b), it was designated a Nature Area in the inaugural Singapore Green Plan (SGP, 1993). And it was subsequently named the ‘Kranji Nature Trail Park’ and incorporated into the management of Sg Buloh Nature Park by National Parks (NParks). In 2015, it was officially integrated into Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, dropping its former name.
b) Kranji Marshes (MNS, 1985 & MNS, 1990a): The Kranji Marshes was included with
five other Singapore wetland sites in the IUCN’s Directory of Asian Wetlands, emphasizing its ecological importance as “a fairly rare type of habitat in Singapore and the Peninsular Malaysia” (Hails, 1989). An outline proposal for the conservation of the freshwater marshland at the Kranji Reservoir was submitted as early as 1985 to the relevant authorities. An expanded and updated proposal was submitted in 1990. After the tussles with the Mediacorp Transmission Project (1990) and the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course (2002), the remaining intact marshes, mostly south of the BBC station, were designated “Kranji Marshes Park” in 2005 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). NSS carried out an adoption programme here under the Public Utility Board’s (PUB) ABC Waters Programme from 1999 to 2014. After this, URA has, in consultation with NSS, made the Park more accessible to the public while also making it more attractive to the birdlife.
c) Senoko (MNS, 1990b): This bird sanctuary, a remnant mangrove area with aqua-culture ponds, was overwhelmed by the Sembawang HDB project. In response to its request to manage Senoko (NSS letter, 13 July 1992), NSS’s Conservation Committee received a reply from the Ministry of National Development (MND) stating that it had set aside 24 hectares of Senoko for conservation, but that the area boundary had not been finalised yet and they would revert back when it is done (MND letter, 6 October 1992). The Committee then requested a meeting to discuss the run of the boundary to include an important part of the habitat (NSS letter, 6 Nov 1992). The Committee was trying to do the best for the wildlife in the area, given that the authorities were not familiar with the habitat and its wildlife . In the meantime, the Committee managed to show NParks the area of concern in January 1993. While awaiting the MND’s reply, the then MND Acting Minister announced in Parliament that the Senoko bird sanctuary area will be developed for HDB upgraders.
d) Sentosa (MNS, 1990c): This report proposed Mount Serapong and Mount Imbiah for
conservation. These two areas were put into the Singapore Green Plan (1993) as Nature
Areas. This proposal has so far stayed the hand of Sentosa Development Corporation in its ,plans from eating into Mount Serapong and, to some extent, Mount Imbiah.
e) Marina South (MNS, 1991a): The NSS Conservation Committee’s effort to save the
marshy area with ponds for the wild ducks and other wetland bird species was overwhelmed by the government’s land-fill to prevent mosquito infestation. After the conservation proposal was rejected by the Ministry of Environment, the Committee requested that the marshland be filled up in slow stages to allow for the preparation of an adjacent, manicured pond in the Marina South Public Park for the wild ducks — as an alternative refuge (NSS letter, 20 May
1992). This was not acceded but, two decades later (2012), this park pond was enlarged and extended to form the Dragonfly Pond in the Gardens by the Bay.
f) Kent Ridge Environs (MNS, 1991b): This proposal covers the belukar forest of Kent
Ridge Campus. Still very much intact and put into the revised Singapore Green Plan as a
new Nature Area (URA 2003).
g) Pulau Ubin (NSS, 1992): Now a park under NParks management. This proposal was
based on an island-wide survey (1991) of the birdlife of Pulau Ubin by the NSS Bird Group when Ubin was a little-explored area in terms of biodiversity. The proposal was a pioneering conservation effort for Ubin. The Conservation Committee again re-emphasised its commitment to the future survival and viability of Ubin as a Nature Area in its Position Paper submitted in 2014 to NParks and MND. This report urged a Nature Reserve designation for Ubin, with one centralized management authority together with proposals for further protecting and enhancing its biodiversity assets. In 2016, NParks was assigned to be this central management agency, which will enable NParks to “respond more quickly and directly to queries and issues raised by residents and the public, instead of having to refer these queries to other agencies…” (NParks, 2016). This is a huge conservation step forward together with the URA’s shelving of its plan for the MRT connection as well as for housing and industrial development.
h) Sungei Khatib Bongsu (MNS, undated/a) and South Simpang (NSS, 1993): The Khatib
Bongsu proposal covers a mangrove area where the heronry of the Black-crowned Night
Heron was located. The South Simpang proposal is an expanded and updated proposal
which includes the heronry, and covers a larger area from Sungei Khatib Bongsu to the
eastern flank of Sungei Seletar estuary. The proposed area is mostly mangrove with some
wooded areas along its landward side included. It was designated in the Simpang
Development Guide Plan (1993) as a Nature Area to be integrated into the housing plan. Itis also mentioned in the budget speech in Parliament by Mr Lim Hng Kiang, the then MND Acting Minister, as a conservation site together with Sungei Buloh (refer Singapore
Parliament Report: 18 March 1994). The comment in BESG that “Sungei Khatib Bongsu was eventually canalized and the surrounding area reclaimed and developed into a reservoir” (BESG, 2017c) is incorrect. In 2004, on request from the PUB, the NSS Conservation Committee submitted a report on the important wildlife of the Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area (NSS, 2004). In response to the Committee’s report, PUB replied that there are no plans to develop SungeiSeletar Estuary, Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Sungei Simpang into a reservoir in the near future. Any reservoir development there will likely be in tandem with other developments in
the area (PUB’s letter, 5 April 2007). The lower reaches of the river are still uncanalised and the reservoir has been put on hold and only a slice of the forest at the landward area had to give way to a new road (Yishun Avenue 8) and an international college. Most of the mangrove and forest are still intact under MINDEF management (Lim, 2014). The
government will have to be reminded of their commitment here as planned in the 1993
Simpang DGP and declared by Mr Lim Hng Keang in Parliament.
i) Bukit Brown (NSS, 2011 & Ho, 2012): The position paper submitted was against the
development of the new 8-lane expressway through a part of Bukit Brown near Lornie Road.
Also built into NSS’s objection was that the expressway will overwhelm an important and
beautiful valley that has an interesting stream and birdlife — to which the government
responded by building a viaduct over the valley. According to a comment posted in BESG,
the trees at Bukit Brown “were common roadside species and the other plants were similarly common” (BESG, 2017d). However, the NSS Conservation Committee took an ecological view, regarding the wild vegetation proliferating there for decades as an extended habitat for forest wildlife. Over years of monitoring, the Bird Group and other birdwatchers have recorded at least 50 species of forest birdlife there, including 15 nationally threatened species such as the White-bellied Woodpecker, Violet Cuckoo, Black-headed Bulbul, Red-eyed Bulbul, etc. (NSS, 2011; Ho, 2012). Also, rare or nationally threatened forest butterfly species have appeared in the area like the Golden Royal and the Banded Line Blue, a new record for Singapore, (A. Jain, personal comm., Dec 2012) as well as the interesting Malayan Colugo (Flying Lemur).
To say that the area “had absolutely no conservation value” (BESG, 2017d) because there are no rare or nationally threatened plants is to take a one-sided perspective or dis-ecological view of nature conservation. The area provides sustenance for the many wildlife of the neighbouring MacRitchie forest of the Nature Reserve. To the question: “Does it mean that any areas or trees on which birds land regularly need to be preserved?” (BESG, 2017d), the answer is not obviously an outright “no”. Of course, they don’t have to be birds. If the area has many nationally threatened as well as uncommon wildlife, especially forest-affiliated species, the area is certainly worth conserving. Otherwise, it would be foolish to seek the preservation of Sungei Buloh for migratory birds three decades ago, when there was very little vegetation around the area at all, let alone any plants being rare or endangered.
D) Concluding Remarks
The above-mentioned efforts of NSS to save or to secure the long-term survival of
unprotected nature areas is only part of the work of the Conservation Committee under the Society’s auspices. That the Society, including of course the Conservation Committee, is committed seriously to defend the integrity of the Nature Reserves goes without saying. Recent evidence includes our position papers on the Cross Island MRT Line Project and also on the Mandai tourism project by Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH), the latter involving NSS’s effort to expand the boundary of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) at its north-western sector to provide a viable buffer and wildlife connectivity along the Reserve’s almost negligible territorial ground there.

Dated: 5th September 2017.
References:
BESG (2017a). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 8: Lower Peirce’. 2 April.
BESG (2017b). “Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 13: MacRitchie Forest. 20 April.
BESG (2017c). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 4: Khatib Bongsu’. 5 April.
BESG (2017d). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 11: Bukit Brown’. 16 April.
DNA (undated). “Wee Yeow Chin” in The DNA of Singapore, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research website.
6
Hails, C. J. (1989), ‘Singapore’ in A Directory of Asian Wetland, edited by D.A. Scott. (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, World Conservation Union.
Ho, H. C. (2012). ‘Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown’. In Nature Watch Vol. 20, No 2, April – June 2012.
Lim, J. (2014). ‘A Paddle through the Magical Watery World Woods’ in the blog The Long and Winding Road: 30  July.
MNS (1991a). Conservation Proposal for Marina South. Malayan Nature Society ( Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
MNS (1991b). Kent Ridge Environs: A Proposal for Conserving Nature at the National University of Singapore  Campus. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990a). Conservation Proposal for Kranji Heronry and Marshes. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):  Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990b). Conservation Proposal for Senoko (Sungei Sembawang). Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):
Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990c). Conservation Proposal for Sentosa. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
MNS (1987a). A Proposal for a Nature Conservation Area at Sungei Buloh. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore
Branch): Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1987b). A Proposal for an Ecological Park at Kranji Dam. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): The Bird
Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1985). Kranji Marshes: An Outline Proposal for a New Nature Reserve. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore):  Bird Group. Unpublished report.
MNS (undated/a). Conservation Proposal for Sungei Khatib Bongsu (Yishun Heronry). Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch): Bird Group. Unpublished Report.
NParks (2016). ‘NParks to be the Central Management Agency for Pulau Ubin’. National Parks Board, 4 June.
NSS (2011). Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
NSS (2004). Important Information on the Biodiversity of Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area. Nature Society
(Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report submitted specifically to PUB, ( June 11).
NSS (1993). Conservation Proposal for South Simpang (covering Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Kampong Kitin Area).
Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report
NSS (1992). Conservation Proposal for Pulau Ubin. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
URA (2003). URA Draft Master Plan 2003. Report of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Wee, Y. C. & Hale, R. (2008). “The Nature Society (Singapore) and the Struggle to Conserve Singapore Nature Areas’.  In Nature in Singapore 2008 Vol 1, 26 August.

Mobbing of a Collared Owlet at Fraser’s Hill

By Connie Khoo.

The Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei, is a small owl of montane forests of Malaya. Birders to Fraser’s Hill will be familiar with its toot-toot-toot call in the day time. I was birding there with Laurence Eu, a birder friend from Singapore last week when we came across a cacophony of excited bird calls by the roadside. It was early evening. We thought that it was a mini bird wave. But the tones of the calls were different. They sounded like more like alarm and distress calls.

unnamed

Streaked Spiderhunter is the most aggressive of the lot. Photo: Laurence Eu

When we got out of our car, we found a Collared Owlet perched on a small branch. A flock of smaller birds were mobbing it. A group of six Silver-eared Mesias took turns to harass it with pair of Black-throated Sunbirds. Five munias joined in. In the failing light I cannot make out if they were White-rumped or White-bellied as both species occur there.

But it was the pair of Streaked Spiderhunters that actually attacked the owlet, coming close to peck at it. The owlet tolerated the harassment for a while but moved to other perches when the “attacks’ continued. It eventually flew off after withstanding 30 minutes of this and peace resumed.

unnamed (1)

Silver-eared Mesias were the most numerous, six were taking turns in the mobbing. 

Why do these different species gang up to attack the owlet? Could it be that they see it as a common “enemy’, a known predator of their nestings? We see this mobbing behaviour with the Oriental Whip Snake as well,

Apart from watching such a drama, we had a bonus of also seeing a rare White-browed Shrike-babbler that was attracted to the commotion and joined in the collective mobbing. This was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.

Contributed by Connie Khoo with edits by Alan OwYong.

Ref: Craig Robson. A field Guide to Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd 2000.

 

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 19.2.17

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes on Sunday, 19 Feb 2017

20170219_075705_HDRx

Members of Nature Society posing for a group photo at Kranji Marshes. Many thanks to Lee Ee Ling (squatting extreme right) for arranging and leading the walk, Yap Wee Jin ( squatting extreme left) and Wing Chong ( standing back left) for assisting. 

It was a cool and sunny Sunday morning when we arrived at the Kranji Marshes. A lush expense of greenery and cool waters greeted us when we stepped out of the bus. The hustle and bustle and noise of city life was replaced by the chipping sounds of birds all around. Everyone had their binoculars and cameras out ready for action when we started our walk at 8.15 am. This is one of the monthly walks to the core area of Kranji Marshes arranged by the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and National Parks Board. 

050A6212_edited

The family of Red-wattled Lapwings have made Kranji Marshes their permanent home.

As we proceeded into the core area, less common birds such as the Red Wattled Lapwing and Daurian Starling were spotted. However, the highlight and top sighting for the day was the appearance of two Watercocks.  

050A6316_edited

Highlight of the walk were the two Watercocks, a lifer for many of our members

Even though they only appeared for a brief moment, it was enough to make this trip worthwhile as they are uncommon winter visitor. A lifer for several members of the group who were obviously delighted with this sighting. ☺

20170219_100333x

Bird watching in one of the many hides ensured that the birds were not disturbed.

Despite a brief moment of apprehension on seeing some black clouds in the sky towards the tail end of our walk, the good weather prevailed and our time passed quickly.

More pictures of birds sighted at the Kranji Marshes. 

Resident Ashy Tailorbird, Baya Weaver and a winter visitor Daurian Starling 

We ended our walk at 11 am with a good haul of 35 species much to the delight of all those who choose to spend the Sunday morning at the largest fresh water marsh in Singapore. 

050A6332_edited

One of our many colorful Kingfishers, the White-throated poised for a catch.

Some additional information on our sightings:

Bird species sighted:                             Bird species heard:

1/ Purple Heron                                       1/ Yellow Bellied Prinia

2/ Javan Mynah                                        2/ Large Billed Crow

3/ Pink Necked Green Pigeon               3/ Collared Kingfisher

4/ Baya Weaver                                          4/ Common Iora

5/ Black Naped Oriole                              5/ Common Tailorbird

6/ Olive Backed Sunbird

7/ Common Flameback Woodpecker

8/ Red Breasted Parakeet

9/ Black Browed Reed Warbler

10/ Spotted Dove

11/ Red Wattled Lapwing

12/ Black Baza

13/ Lesser Coucal

14/ Blue Tailed Bee Eater

15/ Barn Swallow

16/ Long Tailed Parakeet

17/ Yellow Bittern

18/ Yellow Vented Bulbul

19/ Brahminy Kite

20/ Swifts

21/ Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

22/ Daurian Starling

23/ WaterCock

24/ Brown Shrike

25/ Asian Glossy Starling

26/ Pied Fantail

27/ Common Kingfisher

28/ Lesser Whistling Ducks

29/ Grey Headed Fish Eagle

30/ White Throated Kingfisher

31/ Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker

32/ White Breasted Waterhen

33/ Intermediate Egret

34/ Ashy Tailorbird

35/ Oriental Dollarbird

All Bird photos : Courtesy of Henrietta Woo

Birdwatching leader : Lee Ee Ling

Assisted by : Wing Chong, Yap Wee Jin

Report by : Yap Wee Jin

Singapore Raptor Report – January 2017

oso-100117-dfnp-rufous-tgc

Oriental Scops Owl, rufous morph, roosting, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 10 Jan 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong

Summary for migrant species:

The highlight for January was the two Oriental Scops Owls at Dairy Farm Nature Park first seen on the 10th. Amazingly, both the grey and rufous morph of this rare migrant were present, roosting on the same tree next to the Wallace Education Centre!

All in, a total of 106 migrant raptors of 8 species were recorded. The Black Baza claimed the top spot with 43 birds, relegating the Oriental Honey Buzzard to the second place with 40 birds. There were 11 Japanese Sparrowhawks, including a juvenile feeding on a Zebra Dove at Pasir Ris Park on the 2nd.

oso-100117-dfnp-grey-tgc

Oriental Scops Owl, grey morph, which was more alert and often opened its eyes, Dairy Farm Nature Park, 10 Jan 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong

Two Jerdon’s Bazas were first photographed at Chek Jawa on the 14th, and 2 birds photographed at Pasir Ris Park on the 18th were most likely the same individuals. The juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle was still at Pulau Sekudu on the 1st and 2nd. Unfortunately, there was an oil spill on the 3rd which affected the area and the eagle was not seen again until the 8th when it appeared briefly in the afternoon and was photographed. After that it was not seen again.

There were 4 Peregrine Falcons, including a juvenile in pursuit of a Grey Plover in level flight at Pulau Ubin. The young Peregrine failed to catch the agile Grey Plover. Of the 3 Ospreys, 1 was at Pulau Ubin and 2 at Kranji Marshes. The absence of the Chinese Sparrowhawk was notable.

———————————————————————–

crested-goshawk-230117-bedok-tgc

Crested Goshawk, male (left), female (right), Bedok North, 23 Jan 2017, by Tan Gim Cheong.

Highlights for sedentary species:

January was a good month for the rare Crested Serpent Eagle as 4 birds were recorded – one at Pulau Ubin, one at the Kent Ridge area and two at Sembawang. Amazingly, 12 Crested Goshawks were recorded, probably the highest number ever in a month! Two adults and 2 juveniles at West Coast Park, a chick on a nest near the top of a raintree at the Botanic Gardens and a pair with 2 young chicks on a nest among the thick foliage of a tree in the car park of an HDB estate in Bedok North bode well for the population of this uncommon resident.

A single adult male torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzzard was photographed at Jelutong Tower on the 6th, and a single Black-winged Kite was recorded at Pulau Punggol on the 14th. On the 26th, 8 White-bellied Sea Eagles comprising 3 adults and 5 immatures were present at the same time at Chek Jawa, with a number of them harassing a Great-billed Heron which had caught a catfish. The Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Brahminy Kite and Changeable Hawk-Eagle completed the roundup for the month.

capture-table-1

 

For the pdf version, please click singapore-raptor-report-jan-2017

Year of the Red Jungle Rooster

Contributed by Seng Alvin.

As we will be welcoming the Year of the Rooster in a few days time, there is no better time to write something about our Red Jungle Fowl, Galus galus, without which we will not have our Hainanese  Chicken Rice.

15977756_1238761672869294_6912493067305375281_n

They are now seen all over the island from parks and gardens to our housing estates. But they were not recorded by our earlier authors up to the late 70s. The first record was from Pulau Ubin in 1985/86 from observations  by Lim Kim Keang, other birders and residents. This population, likely from Johor, had since established itself. Pulau Ubin is still considered the stronghold for this species. The first mainland record were two females seen at Poyan on 29 January 1998. (SINAV 12.1).

The spread of this species together with introduced stock and escapees to the rest of the island have resulted in hybrid birds roaming all over our parks and gardens. The danger will be a dilution of the original species in Ubin if it has not happened yet. Another concern is the spread of bird flu if it surfaces in Singapore again.

16195377_1238759936202801_5809461693696511536_n

Pasir Ris Park has a few families of the Red Jungle Fowls, with 30-40 birds, thriving in this mangrove parkland. The most recent was this hybrid family where the mother was a domestic hen with a complete white plumage. The father seems to be a Red Jungle Fowl. Why did it choose to mate with a domestic hen instead one of the wilder birds around?

It was seen hanging around at a distant to the mother and her seven chicks but did not feed with them. This strange behavior may be of rejection by the hen and the reluctance of the father to abandon the family or normal for the mother bird to bring up the chicks alone. What do you think? Interestingly the chicks are both white and brown taking the genes from each parent. I will monitor this family and seen how the chicks will turn out when they become adults.

Gong Xi Fa Cai to all.

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

First observation of Necrophilia (sex with the dead) in the Red Turtle Dove

Early in January 2016, while driving along Lim Chu Kang Lane 1, I stopped the car to photograph a male Red Turtle Dove, Streptopelia tranquebarica, that was flushed by traffic up a lamp post.

1-male

A male Red Turtle Dove on a lamp post

Moments later, the dove flew down to the road and started to puff itself up around a brownish clump lying motionless on the road.

Looking through my binoculars, i realised that it was displaying to a dead female Red Turtle Dove! I’ve never seen a live bird displaying to a dead one – interesting indeed.

2-display

Male Red Turtle Dove displaying to a dead female

 

After a while, the male started to climb on top of the dead female.

3-climbing-up

The male climbing on top of the dead female. (note the position of the female’s tail).

Then the male sat on the female and copulated, or attempted to copulate with the dead female, shifting her tail right-left-right a few times!

 

4-right

The male on the female (note the female’s tail is shifted to the right).

5-left

The male continues to copulate, or attempted to copulate with the dead female (note the female’s tail has shifted back).

 

6-right

The male still copulating or attempting to copulate with the dead female (note the female’s tail is shifted to the right).

The female is probably a roadkill, which is not uncommon on rural roads such as this one.

7-female

The fresh body of a female Red Turtle Dove on the road.

 

A quick search on the internet revealed that necrophilia has been reported in some species of birds, but not the Red Turtle Dove. This incident could be the first instance of necrophilia observed for the Red Turtle Dove.

Nature surprises in unexpected manners!

 

 

 

Changeable Hawk-Eagles of Singapore

In 2010, the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) initiated a Small Bird Study Grant to encourage research on threatened birds species in Singapore. The grant of  up to $2,000 would provide financial support to successful applicant to carry out research projects on these species in Singapore. Since its inception, we had awarded three grants to the following projects:

Tan Kok Hui for “The Study and Distribution of the Changeable Hawk-eagles in Singapore” in 2011. Ng Wen Qing for “Ecology interaction of Birds and Figs in Singapore ” in 2012. Felix Wong for “ Impact of the Introduced species like the Lineated Barbet and White-crested Laughingthrush on our native Birds”

CHE Nesting at Faber Forest 9.4.15 Kleen Koh

This nest( left) taken at Faber Forest in April 2015 from across the road at Trade Hub by Klenn Koh. The Forest has since been cleared for a bus depot.

In this article, we provide a summary of Tan Kok  Hui’s study of our Changeable Hawk-eagles Nisaetus cirrhatus across Singapore. Raptors in Singapore are generally not well studied, and the Changeable Hawk-eagle is no exception.. It is listed in the Singapore Red Data Book as a nationally threatened, uncommon resident. Being an apex predator, the Changeable Hawk-eagle is an indicator species of the health of our ecosystems. A decline in the population of its prey species, which includes anything from Plaintain Squirrels and Monitor Lizards to young Long-tailed Macaques would thus have detrimental impacts on the population of this large raptor.

Prior to 1992 there were no documented records of nesting of the Changeable Hawk-eagle in the whole of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Our first confirmed nesting record of the species came in the early 2000s and it was regarded as a rare resident breeder then.

pa260403

The subspecies limnaeetus that occurs in Singapore is the only one in the region that is polymorphic

Kok Hui’s project was successful in locating many nesting sites over one season of field work and thus was able to establish a new estimate of the Changeable Hawk-eagle population. In all he found six active nesting sites outside the nature reserves, mostly at the north-western part of the island ( e.g. Poyan, Neo Tiew, Mandai West, Woodlands). One nest each was found in south ( Mount Faber) and east ( Changi). The large nests were usually built with sticks on Albizia trees in secondary woodland since these are often the tallest trees around.

Three pairs of Changeable Hawk-eagle were also recorded away from these nest sites. They were at Sarimbun, Seletar Camp and the Singapore Quarry. Additionally, a few inactive nests were seen at Pasir Ris, Dairy Farm, Temenggong Road and Bukit Batok.

Based on the study, it can be concluded that there were at least nine nesting pairs of Changeable Hawk-eagles distributed in Singapore outside of the Central nature reserves. The present evidence collected by Kok Hui suggests that the Changeable Hawk-eagle is adapting well to Singapore’s landscape, especially the remnant areas of tall secondary woodland. To ensure that large raptors such as the Changeable Hawk-eagle can continue to survive in the urban jungle of Singapore, it is important that our remnant woodlands, especially those with stands of Albizzia (Falcataria moluccana) trees be retained and conserved for their biodiversity value.

Compiled by Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li from Tan Kok Hui’s paper ”  The Study and Distribution of the Changeable Hawk-eagles in Singapore 2011″. Many thanks to Klenn Koh for the use of his photo.

 

 

 

Birding West Coast Park

Text and Photos by Keita Sin

West Coast Park is where my birding journey begun in January 2014 and I’ve gotten quite a lot of interesting lifers there. This park, however, is probably not one of the places many would include their birding itinerary. Though usually associated with McDonald’s and the iconic giant pyramid, West Coast Park actually has a good diversity of bird life to offer.

Marsh Gardens

Located at the western end of the park, the best part about this place is that due to the small size, many of the birds can be seen at close proximity.

The highlight of the Marsh Gardens would probably be this lone Great-Billed Heron that has been seen rather consistently since September 2015.

photo-1wGreat-Billed Heron. This is an uncropped photo from a 300mm focal length x 1.6 crop factor. There are not many places in Singapore which offers such a close view of this bird.

The Marsh Gardens boardwalk, though a short one, is worth exploring too. A family of Abbott Babblers has been recorded there and I once encountered this friendly juvenile Crested Goshawk, which might have flew over from Kent Ridge Park. I was told that Black Bitterns had been seen here in the past ( per con Alan OwYong).

photo-2wCrested Goshawk, February 2015.

Carpark 2

The area around Carpark 2, especially the patch of vegetation indicated in this map, is another interesting area worth exploring (it’s quite hard to describe a location in West Coast Park).

wcp-map

Map retrieved from NParks. Watch out for snakes and random holes when exploring the area.

I found a lone Spotted Wood Owl here in August 2016, and a flock of Pied-Imperial Pigeon is usually around in the morning. I’ve seen most of Singapore’s parrots (every in the checklist except the Blue-Rumped Parrot) here too. The palm trees probably attract them to the area. A trio of Tanimbar Corellas and two Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos frequent this place as well.

photo-4wSulphur-Crested Cockatoo perched on a Pong Pong tree. They have been seen chewing on the pulp of the fruit.

The eastern half of West Coast Park

Majority of the people whom I see in the eastern half of West Coast Park are either joggers or dog-owners, because there are barely any facilities there apart from a dog-run. Just trees, trees and more trees – fantastic for birds.

I didn’t expect to see this Orange-Headed Thrush on a young Casuarina tree.

photo-5wOrange-Headed Thrush, December 2015.

I experienced one of my greatest birding moments so far when I spotted this Black-Capped Kingfisher through my binoculars.

photo-6wBlack-Capped Kingfisher, January 2016

Birding in West Coast Park

West Coast Park is a rather elongated one, so be prepared to walk some distance if you intend to explore the whole place. While there were few reports of rare finds in this park, the environment is fantastic for birding and it could just be because not many birders visit the place.

If you are unable to decide on a location this migratory season, do give West Coast Park a try. I was told that a Hooded Pitta spent a few week wintering here some years back.

Reference: Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Asia Books Co. Ltd.

Pelagic Birding in the Straits of Singapore.

Pelagic birding in the Singapore Straits. 18 Sept 2016. Text and Photos by Dirk Tomsa. 

singapore-shoreline-gf

Cruising eastwards at the start of out Pelagic with the Singapore skyline in the distance. Photo: Gerard Francis.

On 18 September 2016, the Bird Group of the Nature Society Singapore organized its first pelagic birdwatching trip for its members. There were ten of us including the leaders Alfred Chia and Lim Kim Keang. We left Sentosa Marina just before 6 am and set course for the Singapore Straits. I had done a few pelagics in Australia before and always loved them, so I was full of anticipation when we finally cleared immigration – yes, passport clearence out at sea, a first for me – and headed out to more open water. Compared to my previous experiences in the cold waters of the Southern ocean, this tropical pelagic promised very different birds. Terns, not albatrosses or prions, would be most prominent, with up to eight different species possible including the beautiful Aleutian Tern which migrates through Singaporean waters around this time of the year. Furthermore, we were hoping to see Swinhoe’s Storm-Petrel, another migratory species that routinely passes through the Singapore Straits in September. For me personally, these two were the main targets as both would be lifers for me. And, as it turned out, I would not be disappointed.   

063

Terns like this Greater Crested Terns will be the most prominent pelagic species encountered.

In fact, it didn’t take long at all until we saw the first storm-petrels. Navigating the waves low above the surface, several small groups of Swinhoe’s whizzed past the boat, but unfortunately none of them came really close so that it was difficult to clearly see the subtle markings on these essentially brown birds. Eventually, my binoculars captured a bird close enough to the boat to enable me making out the slightly paler, crescent-shaped wing bar. Most birds, however, kept their distance and so I felt kind of reassured that Swinhoe’s was actually the only ‘stormie’ likely to be encountered here. Identifying different species at this long range would be a huge challenge. In the end, Alfred and Kim Keang confirmed that all storm-petrels seen that day were Swinhoe’s and that the total number of birds migrating through the straits that morning must have been around 300-350. Good numbers indeed, and a valuable tick for my list.

ssp-gf

At this time of the year, the Straits of Singapore is one of the best places to see these Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels as they migrate through the Straits. More than 320 were counted this morning. Photo: Gerard Francis.

The storm-petrels were most abundant early in the morning. As the clock approached 9 am, the little brown birds became scarcer and we turned our attention to terns. Apparently a solitary Little Tern bid farewell to our boat as we left Sentosa but I had missed it, watching the distant silhouette of a Brahminy Kite instead.

044

Close up view of two Great Crested Terns in non-breeding plumage at the yellow buoy.

But now out at sea, more and more terns appeared near the boat. As expected, the most numerous were the fairly common Greater Crested Terns. More than twenty of this large tern species flew past throughout the trip and we were treated to some close-up views early on when a group of six perched on a buoy. We circled the buoy a couple of times so that everyone could get a good look. For the majority on board, this was their first pelagic birdwatching trip, so seeing these large terns so close was a great experience for all.

346

The Lesser Crested Tern on the left and the Greater side by side for comparison. The bright orange bill of the Lesser is a good feature to tell them apart.

Getting such good views of the very similar Lesser Crested Tern took a lot longer. In fact, we had to wait until we passed the same buoy again on the way back. This time the six Greater Crested Terns shared the tight space with two Lesser Crested Terns, thereby providing an excellent opportunity to compare these two species at close range. Despite the names, the difference in size is actually not that big, but the brightly coloured bills – orange in the Lesser, yellow in the Greater – made it easy for everyone on board to tell the birds apart.

In between our two encounters with the Crested Terns, there was a prolonged period where there were no birds at all. During this intermezzo, my thoughts drifted and I struggled to stay awake as my body reminded me that I had gotten up at 4.30 am. I staved off the temptation to just close my eyes by chatting with other participants, eating some snacks or looking at the field guides Alfred and Kim Keang had kindly provided. And then, just when I was about to doze off, another bird appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

110

Bridled Tern with its distinctive dark upper wings and eyebrow. An uncommon winter visitor.  

A Bridled Tern emerged near the boat and was gone within seconds, but then another one appeared. And another. With their dark upper-wings and distinct eyebrow, these are among my favourite terns. We would see several others later on, but most of them remained distant specs on the horizon and unfortunately not everybody on board saw them.  

234

Fantastic views of the Aleutian Tern resting on a flotsam,  a well known habitat for this tern. We counted eight of these wonderful terns during the trip.

The Bridled Terns had barely disappeared out of sight when someone from the front of the boat shouted ‘bird on water’. That sounded promising for Aleutian Tern because this species is well-known for its habit to rest on flotsam. And sure enough, an Aleutian Tern it was. Undisturbed by our approaching boat the bird perched calmly on a piece of driftwood, allowing fantastic views and great photo opportunities. Soon we saw a second bird perched a bit further away. All in all, we counted eight of these wonderful terns.

296

An uncommon Common Tern was our last and sixth tern species for the day.

Yet, not every tern on the water was an Aleutian Tern. Thanks to the sharp eyes of our ever-watchful guides, one of the flotsam squatters was identified as a Common Tern, a species which despite its name is actually fairly uncommon in Singapore waters. This was the sixth and last tern species to go onto our list for the day. The other two possibilities, Black-naped and White-winged Tern, did not grace us with an appearance this time, but that was only a minor blemish on an otherwise thoroughly rewarding trip.   

A big thank you to Alfred and the Bird Group for organising this trip, both Alfred and Kim Keang for the guiding and Gerard Francis for the use of his photos.