Singapore Raptor Report – October 2017

Accipiter, 251017, Jelutong, Fryap

Japanese Sparrowhawk, juvenile, at Jelutong Tower on 25 Oct 2017, by Francis Yap. Interestingly, this individual has dark and pale tailbands that appear equal in width, the most commonly held criteria for Besra. However, other features such as short tail, long primary projection, weak mesial stripe and weak chest markings point to Japanese Sparrowhawk. A good reminder that identification cannot be based on a single feature alone.

Summary for migrant species:

October 2017 is probably the least remarkable October on record, with only 6 migrant species recorded (we usually record around 9 species in October). For the second year in a row, there were no records of the Black Baza in October, not that they no longer come to Singapore, just that they arrive only later in the year.

The bulk of the 70 migrants recorded were made up by the 33 Oriental Honey Buzzards, and 25 Japanese Sparrowhawks. There were 8 Chinese Sparrowhawks, including one female spotted regularly at Ang Mo Kio. Two Western Ospreys were recorded at the Kranji-Sungei Buloh area and one adult Peregrine Falcon was recorded at Kent Ridge on the 3rd. The single juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier at Mount Faber on the 3rd was a notable record.

Crested Goshawk mating, 271017, Ang Mo Kio, Seah Han Wah

A pair of Crested Goshawks mating, at Ang Mo Kio on 27 Oct 2017, by Seah Han Wah. Note the small dark droplet-shaped markings on a rather clean white breast of the female (below) versus the bigger rufous-brown patches on the breast of the male (above).

Highlights for sedentary species:

The locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle was recorded twice at Kent Ridge this month, on the third and the 12th. As for the uncommon Crested Goshawk, a pair was observed mating at Ang Mo Kio; another 4 adults were recorded at Kent Ridge and the Botanic Gardens; and a juvenile at Bidadari, honing its skills at hunting, using a Variable Squirrel as target. Amazingly, all the four records of the torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzards were of the tweeddale form, with at least one female and one juvenile – one at Toa Payoh on 3rd, a female at Jelutong Tower on 7th, a juvenile at Jelutong Tower on 22nd, and a female at Old Upper Thomson on 29th. The other resident raptors recorded included the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Black-winged Kite, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Table 1

Many thanks to everyone who had reported their sightings in one way or another, and especially to Francis Yap and Seah Han Wah for the use of their photos.

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong

For a pdf version with more details please click Singapore Raptor Report – October 2017

 

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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.

3Red_legged_crake_eggs

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  

 

Singapore Bird Report – October 2017

22179889_1472239912896645_8256191510998948950_oThe avian phenomenon at Yishun. Hundreds of Grey Wagtails roosting with Forest Wagtails. 

The avian phenomenon of the year had to be the congregation of wagtails at Yishun and Sembawang. On 23rd of September Shahrulbariah Arif-Sng alerted us to large flocks wagtails roosting on the palm trees at Yishun St 11 on Bird Sightings FB page. They were identified as Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea. Counts in early October exceeded 200. In the past we normally get to see one or two Grey Wagtails foraging at some quiet monsoon drains in the west. This large gathering has never happened here before. Another surprise was finding a small number of White Wagtails Motacilla alba and Forest Wagtails Dendronanthus indicus roosting with them. Alfred Chia managed to identify a rare lugens sub-species among the White Wagtails from photos posted. The Forest Wagtails forage at a different habitat from the other two, so how and why did they come to know about this roost was another mystery. On the 9th, Esther Ong reported another congregation of Grey Wagtails, this time at Sembawang a few kilometers away. The numbers here were just as impressive as those in Yishun. Efforts to find them in the day were not successful. We can only guess that they may be feeding somewhere in Johor. Another mystery was the absence of the Yellow Wagtails at both roosts.

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Red-legged Crake nesting at SBG with the first chick just hatching. Photo: Mike Smith of AsiaPhotoStock.com

On 14th, Mike Smith made avian history when he chanced upon a nest of the Red-legged Crake Rallina fasciata with a clutch of 5 eggs, at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. He monitored the nesting and found that some of the chicks hatched on 3rd and 4th Nov. This will be the first documented nesting of this uncommon and elusive crake in Singapore.

22730604_10214324306606159_8904075516337209887_n FYAP

Francis Yap’s photo of the year, a very rare vagrant, the White-throated Needletail flashing by over CCNR on 25th. 

The other excitement for the month were the sightings of the White-throated Needletail Hirundapus caudacutus a very rare vagrant first photographed over Bukit Timah Hill on 5 April 2008. There have been no records since then yet there are 3 records this month alone! Keita Sin managed to photographed one flying over Henderson Wave on 19th and another on 31st. In between Francis Yap posted an excellent photo of one he shot flying over Jelutong Tower on 25th. As a bonus, Keita also shot a very rare migrant, the Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus over Henderson Wave on 19th with Francis Yap following up with another over Jelutong Towers on 20th. Well done guys!

BCJFC Leslie Loh

Bidadari is still the favourite rest stop for the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher. Photo: Leslie Loh

This October, we welcomed back the Blue-winged Pittas Pitta moluccensis, the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers Cyornis brunneatus and the Siberian Blue Robins Larvivora cyane and other passerines to our forests and parklands. Bidadari is still a desirable stopover for many of our winter visitors, with the arrival of two Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers on 5th (TT Koh). Laurence Eu had one at Labrador NR on the 24th and another seen at Rifle Range Link the next day by Francis Yap and Richard White. Con Foley had another late arrival at Bidadari on 27th. Other records came from Jurong Central and Chinese Garden, Singapore Zoo and Botanic Garden. Singapore is the best place to see this globally threatened species in the winter.

As for the Blue-winged Pitta, the first one was picked up at Jurong Island although one was heard calling on the 10th at the Bulim Forest last month. Lim Kim Chuah found it on the floor of his office building on 22nd. He managed to nurse it back for release a few days later. The one found by Jayon P. Thomas at IMH on 23rd and another by Art Toh at Labrador old flats on 27th  were not so fortunate. But it was the one that ‘got lost’ and ended up at the playground at Hougang Central on 27th that became the star attraction of the month. Another one was reported at Potong Pasir by Choon Beng on 30th.

Lim Kim Chuah also found two Siberian Blue Robins, one a young male on the 22nd and the other on 23rd at his Jurong Island office. Both died as a result of window collision. Earlier on the 17th, David Tan retrieved the carcass of another dead Siberian Blue Robin from Bishan. It was killed by a cat after surviving a building collision there. Richard White reported a female at Hindhede NP on 21st.   

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Verditer Flycatcher, photographed by George Presanis at DFNP on 9th. Unfortunate it was not seen again. Status being reviewed by the Records Committee.

We also had three “out of range” sightings this month. A Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassini  was photographed by George Presanis at DFNP on 9th. Another species, the montane Little Pied Flycatcher Ficedula westermanni was reported by Dr. Niel Bruce at the downtown old Muslim Cemetery on 15th. Martin Kennewell and a few birders were at Hindhede NP looking for the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher when they saw a Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis flying across the park. All these were not seen again. The Records Committee will be reviewing these records for their status.

Francis Yap

Crow-billed Drongo arriving at Windsor Nature Park on 2nd. Photo: Francis Yap.

A Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans was photographed by Francis Yap at Windsor Park on 2nd. He later reported another on 25th at Rifle Range Link. A Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus was photographed by Hung Ting Wei off SBWR perched on the nettings. Pacific Swifts Apus pacificus were seen all over the Southern Ridges this month.  Zacc HD had one over KRP on 3rd and Alan OwYong came in with a report of five on 19th there. Red-rumped Swallows Cecropis daurica were flying around the Kranji Marshes on 7th (Annual Bird Race) and photographed perched at Turuk Track on 28th by Fadzrun Adnan.  The first Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus  was reported by Goh Juan Hui at SBWR and as expected very skittish. Another early cuckoo, the Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus was reported on ebird by Martin Kennewell. It was seen at Bidadari on 17th. A third cuckoo, the Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris was reported by Seng Beng on 29th at the SBTB. Martin Kennewell picked up a first White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis over at Pulau Ubin on 8th.

BCKF Wee Jin

Black-capped Kingfisher welcoming the birders during the NSS Bird Walk at Kranji Marshes. Photo: Mahesh Krishnan

The first Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca made a one day stop over at Hindhede NP on the 9th (Siew Mun and Francis Yap) much to the dismay of many birders and photographers. But the Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda did not make it. David Tan showed us the carcass after it collided with a building at NUS on 16th. The wait for the Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata ended with a sighing at Marina Barrage on 20th by Zan J. The regular at the Kranji Marshes was reported by Francis Yap four days later. It was still around on 29th during the NSS Bird Walk. A Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax was seen briefly at DFNP on the 10th by Alan OwYong and See Toh Yew Wai. Lee Van Hien had another at Bidadari on 25th. This non-breeding hawk-cuckoo always precedes the migratory Hodgson’s.

FFC VF

Ferruginous Flycatcher “Iron Boy” from Pulau Ubin on 22nd by Veronica Foo.

A dead Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler Locustella certhiola was picked up at Changi T4 by Willie Foo on 10th. Another was reported at Kranji Marshes on 24th by Francis Yap. The rarer Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata was found by James Lambo on 29th at Tuas South. The first Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea was reported by Avinash Sharma at MacRitchie Park on 15th. Veronica Foo had a juvenile at Pulau Ubin on 22nd while conducting the Fall Migration Bird Census. An unconfirmed record came from Bidadari during the last week of the month.

3DX_5835

A very fortunate Laurence Eu was at the right place and time to snap this rare passage migrant, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, at Labrador Nature Reserve on 24th.

The rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata made a one day stop over at the Labrador NR on 24th. Laurence Eu was at the right place and time to captured it on his camera’s sensor. Last year he also found the one at the Zoo on 31st October. We ended the month with an Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus at Kranji Marshes (Veronica Foo) and a spectacular flypast of 66 Oriental Pratincoles Glareola maldivarum across Jelutong Tower was captured by Goh Cheng Teng. One was reported by Martin Kennewell earlier on 22nd at the Kranji Marshes.

 

Sanderling Luke

A lone Sanderling turned up at the Marina Barrage on 14th. Luke Milo Teo was there to snap it up. Another new species to add to this city waterfront.

The breakwaters next to Marina Barrage continue to attract interesting shorebirds like the juvenile Sanderling Calidris alba on 12th (Luke Milo Teo). This was where a Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius was reported two days earlier by TT Koh. The number of Red-necked Stints Calidris ruficollis at Marina Barrage went up to four on 17th (Alan OwYong).

LTS Frankie Cheong

A fresh water loving Long-toed Stint at Pulau Tekong. Photo: Frankie Cheong.

A rather greyish Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta and Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola were at Frankie Cheong’s restricted site at Pulau Tekong on 21st. Two more Wood Sandpipers were seen at the Kranji Marshes together with a Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago on 29th during a Bird Group walk (Lee Ee Ling/ Yap Wee Jin). These fresh water shorebirds are the one that Nparks wants to bring in to the marshes. 

LRP Pary Sivaraman

A non-breeding Little Ringed Plover beautifully taken at the Marina Barrage by Pary Sivaraman

Larger waterbirds sighted include a Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa and Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes at Pulau Tekong on 9th and 10th (Frankie Cheong), a Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra showing up at Marina Barrage on 16th (Siew Mun), a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis found dead at Jurong West on 23th by Ben Choo and another, very much alive was photographed at SBTB on 27th by Robin Tan.

Notable residents reported this month were the rare Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon at BTNR by James Lambert on 15th. A sizable flock of 10 Green Imperial Pigeons Ducula aenea present at PRP on the 9th (Seng Alvin), up to 20 House Swifts Apus nipalensis over at KRP out hawking for insects in the evening of the 19th (Alan OwYong) and a large flock of 26 Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica being flushed out at Kranji Marshes on 22nd (Martin Kennewell). Good to see that they are returning to Kranji Marshes. Both the House Swift’s and Whistling Ducks numbers were the highest for some  time.

Francis Yap and company organised the only pelagic in the Singapore Strait (a multi-national stretch of water) for the month on 14th and returned with a Parasitic Jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticus, a few Aleutian Onychoprion aleuticus and Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus among others. 

P Jaeger See Toh

Parasitic Jaeger migrating through the Straits of Singapore by See Toh Yew Wai during this month’s Pelagic trip.

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Location abbreviations: SBG Singapore Botanic Gardens, IMH Institute of Mental Health, DFNP Dairy Farm Nature Park, KRP Kent Ridge Park, NUS National University of Singapore.

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 Alan OwYong, Mike Smith, Francis Yap, Leslie Loh, George Presanis, Mahesh Krishnan, Veronica Foo, Laurence Eu, Frankie Cheong, Luke Milo Teo, Pary Sivaraman and See Toh Yew Wai  for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

Singapore Raptor Report, July-September 2017

PF, 170817, Ubin, Xu Weiting

Peregrine Falcon (ernesti subspecies), at Pulau Ubin, 17 August 2017, by Xu Weiting

Summary:

The Osprey, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Chinese Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon were recorded during the July to September period. The Osprey was recorded in small numbers all 3 months, at the Kranji-Mandai and Yishun Dam areas. The 5 Oriental Honey Buzzards recorded from 13 July to 6 September are more likely to have stayed for the summer; and the first autumn arrival was on 24 September at Lorong Halus, followed by another on 25 September at Bidadari and small flocks on 30 September at Tuas. A torquatus Oriental Honey Buzzard tweeddale morph was photographed at Toa Payoh on 30 September.

The first arrival of the Japanese Sparrowhawk was on 24 September at Lorong Halus (3 birds), followed by singles at Bidadari and Jelutong Tower before the month ended. The first arrival of the Chinese Sparrowhawk was also on 24 September at Lorong Halus (2 birds), followed by an individual at Jelutong Tower later on. A Peregrine Falcon (ernesti subspecies) was recorded at Pulau Ubin on 17 August; another reported from the 39th floor of OCBC Building on 24 August was also seen feeding on feral pigeons on previous occasions.

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A Changeable Hawk-eagle, adult pale morph, at Springleaf, 3 Sep 2017, by Laurence Eu

For the resident raptors, highlights included the locally rare Crested Serpent Eagle on 13 July at South Buona Vista Road. On 18 August at Little Guilin, a juvenile Grey-headed Fish Eagle was observed whining constantly in the presence of an adult, but just 2 weeks later, on 1 September, the adults were seen building a new nest on a tall tree.

A juvenile Crested Goshawk was recorded at Pasir Ris Park on 13 July, and Changi Village on 10 September, with a shrew in its talons; adults were recorded on 17 August at Kent Ridge Park, 21 August at Aljunied (2 birds), and 7 September at Sentosa, with a Plantain Squirrel in its talons. The Black-winged Kite was recorded on 9 July at Kranji Marsh, 10 July at Punggol Barat (2 birds) and 20 August at Changi Point Ferry Terminal. A Changeable Hawk-eagle which probably fledged sometime in June or earlier was seen on the nest at Dairy Farm area on 1 July and 15 July, maybe it was ‘homesick’.

Many thanks to everyone for their records and to Xu Weiting and Laurence Eu for the use of their photos.

Compiled by Tan Gim Cheong 

For a pdf version with more details pleas click Singapore Raptor Report, Early Autumn Migration, Jul-Sep 2017

 

Out of Season Breeding of the Malaysian Plovers in Singapore.

By Goh Cheng Teng.
Introduction:
The Malaysian Plover is an uncommon resident shorebird found around the coastal sandy area of mainland Singapore and Pulua Semakau. First recorded in 12 October
1963 at Jurong by JC Darnell and MA Webster,  where subsequent sightings were also seen. They have been since recorded at Changi Coast, Tuas and Semakau.  One or two pairs have also been reported in Pulau Tekong, Seletar Dam, Marina East and Labrador as well.  It is considered nationally threatened ( Lim K S 1992) and globally near threatened.
On 17 September 2017, Lester Tan and I were scouring the shoreline of Marina East in search of the Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis, that had been reported earlier in the week when we came across a Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronil chick following its parents around. As we approached closer, the chick laid still as it attempted to camouflage itself among the debris and uneven surface of the seawall.
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17 September 2017 Marina East. Chick trying to hide among the debris.

After a brief period of close up observation, we retreated to allow the parents to collect the chick, which they did after we were a distance away.
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17th September 2017 Marina East. Parents coming back to collect the chick.
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17 September Marina East. Furry chick showing some of the sandy plumage.
The following weekend, on 23 September, we returned to the same section of the seawall in hopes of seeing the progress of the chick. We were not disappointed.
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23rd September 2017. Marina East. Glad to see it is still around.
The next day on 24th, the chick was again sighted. On this occasion, the family was observed venturing to the top of the seawall as well.
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The family venturing up the seawall on 24th September 2017.
Unfortunately, we were unable to return to Marina East in the subsequent weeks to further observe the chick’s progress. This series of sightings, however brief, has been a treat for us, and we hope the chick survived to adulthood successfully.
Addendum:
According to the Avifauna of Singapore (Lim Kim Seng 2009),  breeding had been reported in March and April and its breeding season remains to be investigated.
This record is probably the first of a pair breeding in September although I
have previously observed 2 nesting of Malaysian Plovers in Tuas South in July and August. We hope that this record will add to our knowledge of the breeding cycle of our only resident shorebird and help with their protection.
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20 July 2014. Discovered by Roy Sim in the preceding weeks.
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23rd August 2015 Tuas South
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23rd August 2015. Tuas South.
All photos: Goh Cheng Teng unless stated.
Reference: Lim Kim Seng. Avifauan of Singapore 2009 Nature Society (Singapore).
A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. The Wild Bird Society of Japan 1993.

Nesting and Breeding Record of Stork-billed Kingfisher in Singapore

NESTING AND BREEDING RECORD OF STORK-BILLED KINGFISHER IN SINGAPORE

By Lim Kim Chuah and Marcel Finlay

The Stork-billed Kingfisher is the largest of the 8 species of kingfishers known to occur in Singapore. It has a wide distribution and can be found from the Indian subcontinent, mainland Southeast Asia to Singapore and east to the Philippines and Sulawesi. In Singapore, it is an uncommon resident and can typically be found in the mangroves, forest edges around our reservoirs and water areas. Some of the places include Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Kranji Marsh, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Pasir Ris Nature Park, Bukit Batok Nature Park, Hindhede Nature Park, MacRitchie Reservoir and Pulau Ubin.

Like many of our resident birds, there is not much documentation on the nesting or breeding of this species. Lim KS1 mentioned that breeding has been reported but nest has not been found in Singapore.

On 4 June 2017, I was scanning around the Pekan Quarry, Pulau Ubin when I noted a pair of Stork-billed Kingfisher at the far end of the quarry. The pair was observed entering into a termitarium nest. The termitarium was appended on bamboo plants growing at the edge of the quarry pond.  During my brief period of observation, the kingfishers were observed to fly into the hole periodically. Often one bird could be seen to perch nearby while the other is in the hole. This behaviour suggest that the birds were possibly nesting in the termitarium.

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Picture showing nesting site.

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Cropped picture showing the kingfisher perched (top left) close to the termitarium

According to Wells2, Stork-billed Kingfishers have been observed to use both soil and arboreal termitarium as nesting places. This observation of the Stork-billed Kingfisher using an arboreal termitarium at Pekan Quarry is probably the first documented record of the nest of the Stork-billed Kingfisher in Singapore.

To add to our breeding record of this species, Marcel Finlay observed an individual at the Petai Trail, MacRitchie Reservoir in 4 July 2017. The bill of this individual was mostly black and the legs were not the usual bright red. These features are indicative of a juvenile bird which is not often reported in Singapore.

I hope this short note will add to our knowledge of breeding birds in Singapore.

Marcel Finlay SBKF

Juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher showing darkish bill Photo: Marcel Finlay.

REFERENCES

1.Lim, K.S. (2009). The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 

2.Wells, D.R. (1997). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Academic Press.  

3. Yong, D.L., Lim, K.C. and Lee T.K. (2013). A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy.

 

 

 

33rd Singapore Bird Race (2017) – Arbitrator’s Report

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Participants of the 33rd Singapore Bird Race

The 33rd Singapore Bird Race, held from 7-8 October 2017, saw the participation of 27 teams across three categories. The 20-hour ‘Marathon’ category attracted 4 teams, the 5-hour ‘Sprint’ category 11 teams and the ‘Photography’ category 12 teams.

Marathon Category – Winning Teams

Scouring the island from the Marina Bay to the Southern Ridges to Bukit Timah and Kranji-Sungei Buloh areas, the Weekend Birders (Silas Tay & Jerold Tan) topped the Marathon category with 101 species. The Malay Pot-bellied Laughingthrushes (Sutari Supari, Ali Jaafar, P Pandian & Soh Lay Bee) came in second with 89 species. Teams ChonkChonkChonk (Keita Sin, Sandra Chia & Geraldine Lee) and ChongChongChong (Justin Nai, Ng Shao Hua, Teo Hui Min & Wong Chee Weng) tied for third place with 85 species. Alas, all 4 teams in the Marathon category walked away with prizes! Congrats.

Sprint Category – Winning Teams

To minimise time spent travelling, most of the Sprint teams limited themselves to the Kranji-Sungei  Buloh areas. In this relatively small area, Team Darters (Alfred Chia, Desmond Lee, Lim Kim Keang & Albert Low) turned in an amazing 75 species to top the Sprint category. The Falconets (Benjamin Lee, Chung Yi Fei, Chua Chong Tzeh & Thereis Choo) came in second with 68 species. The team JSP (Simon Siow, Alyce Ang, Fance Chua & Jimmy Lee) was a close third with 66 species. Well done.

Photography Category – Winning Teams

The Horseshoe Crabs (Goh Cheng Teng & Lester Tan) topped the Photography category with 59 species caught on camera. The team Gotcha (Michael Toh, Jane Rogers & Doreen Ang) came in second with 42 species. Right behind them was TnT (Tay Sia Ping, Ting Tuan Eng & Gan Lee Hsia) at third with 41 species photographed. Great work.

With several teams having photographed 40-odd species according to their log sheets, the fight for second and third place in the photography category was a tight one. In the end, it boiled down to things such as ensuring the photos for all species listed were submitted, submitting the photos in readable format (i.e. jpg and not raw, which we couldn’t read) and how closely the logged name matched the checklist name, etc. Future teams please note!

Race highlights

All teams combined, a total of 150 species were recorded. Among these, 3 species are listed as rare. They are the Lesser Adjutant at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 7 October at 6:11pm (an excellent record!); Little Grebe at Lorong Halus Wetlands on 8 Oct – both species were recorded by the Malay Pot-bellied Laughingthrushes; and the Blue-eared Kingfisher at Kranji Marshes on 8 Oct recorded by various teams.

Other interesting species included the Greater Sand Plover at SBWR on 7 Oct, Ruddy-breasted Crake at Satay by the Bay on 7 Oct, and the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul at Bukit Batok Nature Park on 7 Oct, and at SBWR and Hindhede Park on 8 Oct. Others on 8 Oct: Black-capped Kingfisher at Lorong Halus; Chinese Sparrowhawk and Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot at Kranji Marshes; Dark-sided Flycatcher and Slaty-breasted Rail at SBWR; Cinnamon Bittern at Neo Tiew Lane 3; Violet Cuckoo and Red-crowned Barbet at the Central Catchment Forests; Rusty-breasted Cuckoo at Neo Tiew area; Little Ringed Plover at Lim Chu Kang; Great-billed Heron at Seletar Dam; Blue-rumped Parrot at BTNR and Central Catchment Forests; Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Black-crested and Asian Red-eyed Bulbuls at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

A shout-out to fellow arbitrators Kenneth Kee, Morten Strange, See Toh Yew Wai and Francis Yap for generating the results so quickly.

Tan Gim Cheong
Chief Arbitrator, 33rd Singapore Bird Race

Bird Race Results

Position Marathon Category Score
1st Weekend Birders 101
2nd Malay Pot-bellied Laughingthrush 90
3rd ChonkChonkChonk & ChongChongChong 85
     
Position Sprint Category Score
1st Team Darters 75
2nd Falconets 68
3rd JSP 66
4th Jiak Hong Birders 61
5th Wings 58
6th Friends of Buloh 58
7th The Jiao Langs 53
8th Phalaropians 52
9th Robin’s Magpies 46
10th Bathawk, Robin & Penguin 37
11th Serendipity 33
     
Position Photography Category Score
1st Horshoe Crabs 59
2nd Gotcha 42
3rd T&T 41
4th Avian Pixels 40
5th JAWsome 40
6th The 3 Roosters 37
7th MNSJ Eagle 36
8th See & Shoot 33
9th The Trio 32
10th Wings of Johor 28
11th OK:-) 5
12th Kingfisher Blues

Phenomenal congregation of Wagtails at Yishun.

Contributed by Veronica Foo. 

On 3 October 2017, following Mr Lim Kim Keang’s alert of a few wagtail species sighting at Yishun,  I went down in the evening to a block of flats to see for myself this interesting phenomenal congregation and roosting of the wagtail species. With dimming light, grey sky and light drizzle, I did not expect anything much.

When I reached at the block of flats in the early evening, I was greeted by a small flock of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) flying above the roof top of an opposite block of flats and some were seen perched along the roof top parapet and the central antennae.

Grey Wagtails on Aerial Antenna @ Blk 153 @ 3 Oct 2017

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) perched on the aerial antennae.

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)

Grey Wagtails on roof top @ 3 oct 2017 Yishun Blk 153

Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) perched on roof parapet.

A Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) was also seen perched momentarily before it was startled by more incoming flock of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea). It flew too soon to get a record shot of it. There must have been more than a hundred of them. Alfred Chia arrived slightly after me and he too expressed the large number of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) seen as unusual, as based on previous report and status, they are an uncommon winter visitor and very small numbers were seen during each migratory period.

A surprising find were a pair of White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) and Forest Wagtails (Dendronanthus indicus) seen together on the roof top as well as roosting subsequently among the palm tree on the ground.

White Wagtail @ Yishun Blk 153 @ 3 Oct 2017

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) on roof top

Forest Wagtail on roof top

Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus) on rooftop

As it was my first time observing such large numbers of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) as well as the congregational roosting of all the 4 species together, it certainly was a sighting to behold.

Forest wagtail among the Grey Wagtails

Forest Wagtail (Dendronanthus indicus)  roosting in the palm fronds among the Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea).

The puzzling questions that come up after this phenomenal observation:

  1. What drew the large numbers of Grey Wagtails here?
  2. It was a surprise that the Forest Wagtails and White Wagtails were also seen together despite the differences in their habitat/feeding behaviour. As each species were seen in a pair, did they feel vulnerable to the point of seeking refuge amongst the large flock of Grey Wagtails?
  3. Since such a large number of Grey Wagtail were seen in the evening, where do they forage during the day without anyone noticing or reporting?
  4. Was there previous observation of a few species of Wagtails roosting together without any territorial conflict?

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

 

Singapore Bird Report-September 2017

The autumn migration is truly underway this month with more passerines reported all over the island. Out of the twenty plus arrivals this month, only four beat their previous early arrival dates. Some like the Arctic Warblers were very late. 

The list of the first arrivals of the season:

Adrian Silas Tay

Red-footed Booby washed up at the seawall at Marina Barrage. Photo: Adrian Silas Tay.

  1. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres, six birds scoped at Pulau Sekudu, Ubin on 1st by Lim Kim Keang, Low Choon How and Russell Boyman
  2. Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii at Marina Barrage on 1st by Russell Boyman. Photo posted by Seng Alvin on 2nd. Another reported at Seletar Dam on 7th by Fadzrun A.
  3. Red-footed Booby Sula sula, a dried up carcass was found washed up on the seawall at Marina Barrage on 3rd by Adrian Silas Tay and friends. May have died at sea while on transit.
  4. Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae, a female at Dempsey Hill on 7th photographed by Lawrence Eu. This is 10 days earlier than the previous early arrival date.
  5. Daurian Starling Agropsar sturninus a small flock seen at the sand banks at Seletar Dam on 7th by Wang Heng Mount.
  6. Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus, with a Godwit at Pulau Tekong on 9th by Frankie Cheong.
  7. Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes, bird seen on the same day on Tekong by Frankie Cheong. Another three were reported there on 23rd and one on 29th. The reclaimed land there had been their favourite wintering ground for the past few years.
  8. A White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus was reported by Adrian Silas Tay at Lorong Halus on 10th. Lim Kim Keang reported several White-winged Terns feeding at Serangoon Reservoir on 15th. White-winged Terns usually arrives much earlier in July and August.
  9. Adrian Silas Tay also had a Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hydrida, at the  Lorong Halus that same day. This is about a week later than last year’s early date.
  10. Blue-winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis, one heard calling at the Bulim Woods on 10th by James Tann. It could be either an overstayer or a new arrival.
  11. Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus, seen at the MacRitchie Trail on 10th by Marcel Finlay. This was followed by one at GBTB on 25th photographed by Terence Tan and another at DFNP by James Tann on 25th.
  12. Another Wagtail, this time an Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla  tschuschensis, from Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course on 10th by Fadzrun A.
  13. Martin Kennewell had an early Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura, at Kranji Marshes on the 10th. Identified by call, this individual is 5 days earlier than the previous arrival date.
  14. Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis first one reported at Seletar Dam on 8th by Marcel Finlay. The second, a juvenile made a late landfall at Marina Barrage on 13th, duly spotted by Robin Tan. This juvenile stayed over to refuel for more than 2 weeks. On 23rd, Frankie Cheong reported three more Red-necked Stints at Pulau Tekong.
  15. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, two birds were photographed at the Marina Barrage on 15th by Robin Tan. Pary Sivaraman posted another photo of one of them he shot the next day. A subspecies, the Swinhoe’s Plover C.a. dealbatus, was identified by Dave Bakewell from photos taken there by Alan OwYong on the 15th.
  16. Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei, a recent split, was photographed at Chinese Gardens on 20th by Siew Mun and seen by Marcel Finlay at Bukit Brown on same day. He had another at Old Thompson Road on 25th. Terence Tan also shot one at DFNP on 21st. Two birds were reported from Bidadari as well on 24th by Francis Yap and Alan OwYong. The Amur seems to be more commonly encountered than the Blyth’s during this migratory period. 
  17. Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris, was photographed at the Japanese Gardens on 21st by Gerald Lim.
  18. A returning non-breeding visitor, Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus, was photographed at Lorong Halus on 26th by Seng Alvin. This is just a day earlier than the last reported date. Alan OwYong saw the same bee-eater there the next day.
  19. Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius, a male was a surprise find at Gardens East on 27th. It beats the earlier arrival date by 3 weeks. Unfortunately it did not stay around.
  20. Over at Pulau Ubin, a confiding Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca, was spotted by See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap and friends on 23rd. Last year one crashed into the River Valley High School on the same day.
  21. A Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus, was first recorded at Bukit Brown on 20th b=y Marcel Finlay. A second arrived at Bidadari on 24th. Robin Tan was there to welcome it. The next day another was picked up by Terence Tan at GBTB.
  22. Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers Locustella certhiola, are overdue. Great that Rama Krishnan heard one calling at the Kranji Marshes on 25th to confirm that they arrived. These confiding warblers are notoriously hard to see.
  23. Two Arctic Warblers Phylloscopus borealis, was reported by Tay Kian Guan on 21st at the Southern Ridges. Veronica Foo saw another at Hindhede NP on 28th. Unusually late as we get them in early August.
  24. Finally we had our first Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Cyornis brunneata, when Martin Kennewell photographed one at SBWR on the 30th. Previous early arrival date was 23rd September.
  25. Kozi Ichiyama recorded the first Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia, on the last day of August. It was the start of an influx of these flycatchers all over the island for the whole of September including our second casualty that crashed into a factory in the Joo Koon, Tuas area on 18th (David Tan).

        (Note: Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you had an earlier sighting of any of the above or unreported species)                         

Terence Tan

A recent split Amur Paradise Flycatcher at Dairy Farm NP on 21st. Photo: Terence Tan

Based on our previous pelagic trips, mid September was the height of the passage of the Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels Oceanadroma monorhis, and Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus, with counts of 5-600 birds. Unfortunately the 17th September trip organised by the Bird Group for NSS members came back with very low counts for both (16 for Bridled and 18 for the Storm Petrels). But they did established new early arrival date for the 25 Aleutian Terns Onychoprion aleuticus. Other seabirds recorded by Alfred Chia, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kin Seng, Con Foley and others were 25 Swift Terns Thalasseus bergii, 3 Lesser Crested Terns Thalasseus bengalensis, and 1 White-winged Tern.

Robin Tan 2

This juvenile Red-necked Stint arrived at Marina Barrage on 13th. Photo: Robin Tan

Alfred Chia, Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo did a quick shorebird count at Chek Jawa on 24th. Their tally included 200 Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus, 9 Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinerea , 7 Barred-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica, 15 Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus, 35 Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola, 25 Little Terns Sternula albifrons, 3 Pacific Golden Plovers Pluvialis fulva, 2 Great-billed Herons Ardea sumatrana and 2 Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos.

James Tann MW

Mangrove Whistler caught the eyes of James Tann at Pulau Ubin. 

With more birders and photographers in the field it was not surprising that a good number of rare and uncommon resident species were reported, most of them from Pulau Ubin. The elusive Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra, was heard calling along the Chek Jawa boardwalk at Pulau Ubin on 1st by Low Choon How and heard again by Veronica Foo on 3rd. Staying at Ubin, Veronica added 3 Black-crested Bulbuls Pycnonotus flaviventris, from Butterfly Hill on the 15th, an unusual record for Ubin. A day later James Tann returned with great photos of the Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea, a much sought-after island species. There were two birds at Ketam according to Adrian Silas Tay.

Serin Subaraj

Juvenile Barred Eagle Owl at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Serin Subaraj.

The NParks survey team and volunteers did one better when they found a juvenile Barred Eagle Owl Bubo sumatranus, among the durian trees on the 18th. Subsequent visits confirmed the presence of its parents nearby although out of sight. This is the first evidence of the presence of a breeding family of this rare owl in Singapore.

Veronica Foo

Cinereous Bulbul, a non breeding visitor at Pulau Ubin. Photo: Veronica Foo.

The female Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus, made an appearance on 21st (Alan OwYong) feeding together with the Oriental Pieds at Butterfly Hill. During the hunt for the owl, See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap and friends spotted a Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda, there on 23rd. This could be our resident minor race or a migrant. The previous earliest arrival date of the migratory Ruddy Kingfisher was also on the 23rd at Pasir Ris Mangroves in 1989. The last uncommon record for Ubin were 2 Cinereous Bulbuls Hemixos cinereus, a non-breeding visitor, seen by Lim Kim Keang, Alfred Chia and Veronica Foo on 24th.

LKS

Three White-rumped Munias at Sentosa Cove on 18th. Photo: Lim Kim Seng.

Other notable residents was a King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis, from Kranji Marshes on 10th by Martin Kennewell, 14 Lesser Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna javanica, at Lorong Halus pond on 15th by Lim Kim Keang, 3 White-rumped Munias Lonchura striata, at Sentosa Cove on 18th by Lim Kim Seng. A high count of 6 Red-legged Crakes were seen and heard calling at Bukit Brown on 19th and 20th by Marcel Finlay. An Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula, at Buloh Crescent on 29th by Derrick Wong, 4 Lesser Adjutants Leptoptilos javanicus, seen flying from Kranji Marshes Tower on 30th by Martin Kennewell and a Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea, at Sentosa on 30th by Lim Kim Seng. The White-rumped Munia is a new record for Sentosa but it’s status will required verification. The sighting of the 4 Lesser Adjutants was the largest for this former resident so far in Singapore. Lets hope they will re-establish here again.

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 Adrian Silas Tay, Terence Tan, Robin Tan, James Tann, Serin Subaraj, Veronica Foo and Lim Kim Seng for the the use of their photos. Please notify alan.owyong@gmail.com if you find errors in these records.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Counts of Pacific Golden Plover from 1990-2017:

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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 Con Foley, Danny Lau, 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.

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