Singapore Straits Pelagic September 2018

Pelagic Birdwatching, September 2018.

By Mahesh Krishnan.

Cover photo: A lucky shot of an Aleutian Tern tossing its prey in flight.

“With luck, we may also encounter the Frigatebird!”, read the event description inviting registrations for Pelagic birding trip organised by the Nature Society. Having been on the trip last year, I knew this was going to be fun and so i signed up.

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Greater and Lesser-crested Terns, part of the flocks that were at the yellow buoy.

We left Sentosa Cove Marina just after 5.30 am in the dark and proceeded to the Western Immigration Anchorage for clearance. We had to wait for an hour for the Singapore Immigration to complete the necessary formalities before we could set out to the Straits of Singapore. At 7.00 am we finally see their boat approaching. The passports are handed over in a plastic packet by our boat captain to the officer in the other boat while we watch hoping it doesn’t fall in the sea. There were eight members, two trip leaders, the boat captain and his mate on this trip.

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The favorite resting perch for the Aleutian Terns at the Straits.

A pair of  Brahminy Kites fly close to the boat to entertain us but the light is still not ideal for taking pictures. Some of us are still grumbling about the delay when all of a sudden, I hear Lim Kim Keang shout “Frigatebird!!!”. Within seconds, we’re ready with our cameras pointed and firing off shots. The frigate bird flies overhead pretty fast and its gone within seconds. I can’t help thinking that we may have missed it had we cleared immigration sooner. After a close look at the pictures, Lim Kim Keang identifies it as a juvenile Lesser Frigatebird and shares that it’s been recorded only once before in Singapore!

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The second record of the Lesser Frigatebird for Singapore which we almost missed.

All charged up, we get our passports back and continue our trip to the high seas. We may have hit the peak of the migration of the Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels making their way to the Indian Ocean. More than 500 birds were counted. In the next seven hours, 6 species of terns including the visiting Aleutian Terns, swallows, swiftlets, a migrating Pacific Swift, a Great-billed heron, a  Common Sandpiper and an Oriental Honey Buzzard were seen.  I am very thankful to the Singapore Bird group for organising the trip, Lim Kim Keang and Alan OwYong for leading the trip, and finally to our boat captain and his mate for the wonderful boat ride!

Some pictures I took during the trip are included below. Hope you like them.

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Well over hundred Bridled Tern were moving eastwards towards the South China Sea.

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An adult and juvenile Bridled Terns sharing a floatsam.

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Lesser-crested Tern with its bright yellow bill.

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Great-crested Tern with a lighter yellowish bill.

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Mid to end September is the peak migration period of these Swinhoe’s Storm Petrels.

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A Little Tern against the Singapore Shoreline.