Tag Archives: Asian Openbill

Singapore Bird Report – December 2019

by Geoff Lim.
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)

Decembers are generally slow months with relatively fewer sightings as many birders are out of town with their families, and the wet weather doesn’t help. The last month of the year turned out to be an exciting one, with a possible first record of the Taiga Flycatcher, the spectacular irruption of Asian Openbills, mysterious appearances by the Japanese Tit and Blue Whistling Thrush, and the visitation at the end of the month by Himalayan Griffons.

Taiga Flycatcher at Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albicilla, is a dimunitive flycatcher which habitually feeds from low perches at the forest edge or thickets. It breeds in temperate Siberia and winters in Southeast Asia, Thai-Malay Peninsula and NW Borneo, among other places (Wells, 2007: 522-523). Largely uniform ash brown with dark upper tail coverts and flight feathers, the bird could be overlooked as an Asian Brown Flycatcher if it did not perch “cocked”, with its tail held at an angle from its body, showing off the conspicuous white on the outer edge of the tail feathers.

1. Taiga

Taiga Flycatcher photographed on 9 December 2019 at the Singapore Botanic Gardens by David Fur.

On 1 December 2019, news broke that a Taiga Flycatcher had been seen & photographed by a few birders / photographers (Lim Kim Seng, Roy Toh, & others) at the Singapore Botanic Gardens eco-lake the day prior. They had been looking for the Daurian Redstart, which failed to show, but were treated to a bird that had never been recorded in Singapore. On the afternoon of 1 December 2019, Mike Hooper spotted the bird at the same vicinity, and the bird was seen by many birders during the subsequent days. It was last seen on 13 December 2019 by Yang Chee Meng.

Local birders quickly realised that the bird could be Singapore’s first ever record, though Wells noted that the species is known to be a migrant to West Malaysia. Usually solitary, the bird is known to take insects by sallying from perches in habitats ranging from mangrove forests, coastal scrub, lowland forest clearings, and overgrown rubber gardens, though there have been instances of birds dropping to the open ground. Photographers affirmed these observations as the solitary flycatcher often remained close to the ground and within thickets. During my observation of the bird on 1 December 2019, I also noted that the bird dropped to the ground on several occasions, appearing to be feeding.

Asian Openbills over Singapore

On 6 December 2019, Oliver Tan found two Asian Openbills, Anastomus oscitans, at Jurong Lake Gardens, and on the next day, 7 December 2019, an airborne invasion of hundreds of Asian Openbills into Singapore’s airspace took everyone by surprise. Veronica Foo and Betty Shaw were at Kranji Marshes for the monthly opening of the Kranji Marshes’ core areas when they were stunned by the sheer number of birds that took to the air around 7:15am that morning.  A rough count suggested an estimated 300 to 400 birds were present. Based on records compiled by Martin Kennewell from eBird submissions by many observers, flocks of the Asian Openbill continued to be spotted all over Singapore, from Tuas to Sentosa, to Changi, to Yishun, throughout the month. On 12 December, Oliver Tan counted 1,500 birds over NSRCC Changi. The birds were reliably seen around the fields near Kranji Marshes, Neo Tiew Harvest Lane and Turut Track, given the abundance of apple snails in the waterlogged fields.  Subsequently, several larger flocks were seen, the largest being a flock of 5,000 birds flying over Eastwood Estate / Sungei Bedok, on 25 December 2019, recorded by  Oliver Tan.

aob

An Asian Openbill, showing its ‘open bill’, at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, 23 Dec 2019, by Tan Gim Cheong

2. AOB

Asian Openbills in flight over Kranji Marsh on 7 December 2019. Photographed by Darren Leow.

3. AOB eclipse

Asian Openbills over Marina Barrage during the annular solar eclipse on 26 December 2019. by Kwok Tuck Loong.

Prior to this irruption, Asian Openbills were a rarity. The earliest record was in January 2013 near Seletar Airport; Francis Yap’s account of his search for the birds when they were first reported on our shores. The second was of a solitary bird in March 2019.

According to Dr Yong Ding Li, an ornithologist with the conservation group BirdLife International, the birds may have been driven south into Singapore by unseasonably dry weather in the Mekong basin (Straits Times, 8 December 2019).

Himalayan Vultures at Hindhede

Shirley Ng and her friends spotted two Himalayan Vultures, Gyps himalayensis, at around 6pm at Hindhede Park on 28 December 2019 while looking at the Oriental Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, in the pond. Birders and photographers venturing to the park were delighted to see the two birds the next morning, as the pair remained perched until the late morning, when they took off into the air, and were spotted at Jelutong Tower by Vincent Ng.

The Himalayan Vulture is the largest Asian Gyps vulture and is widespread in the mountains of China, South Asia and Central Asia (BirdLife 2013).  In a study conducted in 2008, two Asian ornithologists (Yong & Kasorndorkbua, 2008) noted that there had been over 30 records of the vulture’s occurrence in Southeast Asia between 1979 and 2008. The records for Singapore were clustered between the months of December, January and February, and were notably dominated by juveniles, including nine birds at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 12 January 1992. The authors opined that the dispersal could be attributable to climate change, deforestation and hunting, though natural patterns of post-fledging dispersal and navigational inexperience may have contributed to their appearance outside their regular range.

A compilation of Himalayan Vulture sightings since 1989 is appended below.

table

Table 1 – Himalayan Vulture Sightings in Singapore (adapted from Yong & Kasorndorkbua, 2008).

While the occurrence of the vultures in Singapore is interesting, their survival in Singapore is doubtful given the lack of carrion (see Latif & Osman, 2016, which reported that the bird discovered at Toa Payoh was found to be in a weakened state and the bones on its neck could be felt while the bird was covered with mites).

4. Capture HV

One of the two Himalayan Vultures taking off on 29 December 2019. Photographed by Danny Khoo.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks

Visitors to the CCNR and fringe areas spotted a variety of species. On 8 December 2019, a Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, was spotted on 8 December 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park (DFNP) by Russell Boyman.  A few days later on 13 December 2019, between 20 to 30 Eyebrowed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, were  flying in a southeasterly direction from the vantage of Jelutong Tower and was reported by Francis Yap,  who also spotted the locally rare Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Dicaeum agile, on 16 December 2019 at DFNP. Observers who subsequently looked for the canopy-dwelling flowerpecker reported about three birds, with at least one juvenile sighted.  Other than the two Himalayan Vulture first seen by Shirley Ng at Hindhede Park on 28 December 2019 and the Oriental Darter, there were two Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, seen on 29 December 2019 at DFNP by Oliver Tan.

5. TBFP

Thick-billed Flowerpecker at Dairy Farm Nature Park. Photographed on 21 December 2019 by Lee Van Hien.

Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)

Apart from the earlier mentioned Taiga Flycatcher, visitors also spotted a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, on 3 December 2019, which was reported by Kwok Tuck Loong, and a Christmas Eve sighting of a Hooded Pitta, Pitta sordida, on 24 December 2019 within the garden grounds by Art Toh.

6. HP

Hooded Pitta at Singapore Botanic Gardens on 24 December 2019 by Art Toh.

Central Singapore

The central region yielded reports of a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 14 December 2019, at Fort Canning, by William Mahoney, a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, on Christmas Day, 25 December 2019, at Bidadari by Norhafiani A Majid, and a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, on 27 December 2019 at Duxton Pinnacles by Chen Boon Chong.

Northern Singapore

A very rare Dusky Warbler, Phylloscopus fuscatus, was photographed on 22 December 2019 along Yishun Pond and within the grounds of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital by Keith Hutton. The Dusky Warbler breeds in Siberia and China, and winters across a wide range, including the Himalayan foothills, the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, South China and SE Asia, including Peninsular Malaysia, where it prefers the understorey and floor of various forest types such as mangroves and regenerated growths following disturbance (Wells, 2007: 266-267).  Singapore’s records have been sparse, in 1994 and 1995 only. Both had been records from the Tuas reclaimed land.

7. Dusky Warbler, 251219, KTP, Kelvin Yoong

Dusky Warbler at the grounds of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on 25 December 2019 by Kelvin Yoong

8. DW

Dusky Warbler, ventral view, at the grounds of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital on 25 December 2019 by Geoff Lim.

Other recorded sightings in the north were a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, and a dark morph Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhyncus, at Punggol Park on 28 December 2019 by Norhafiani A. Majid.

9. BWP

Blue-winged Pitta seen on 28 December 2019 at Punggol Park by Norhafiani A. Majid.

Eastern Singapore

On 2 December 2019, the Jurong Bird Park received, for treatment, an injured Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, that was found at Tanah Merah. Unfortunately, the owl succumbed to its injuries. On 7 December 2019, an Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, was spotted at the park connector from ECP to GBTB by Manju Gang. On the same day (7 December 2019), a Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, was seen at Pasir Ris Park by Michael Leong. While visiting the woods near Changi Business Park on 22 December 2019, T. Ramesh spotted a Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx sparverioides.

Across the sea, a Chinese Egret, Egretta eulophotes, was spotted on 20 December on Pulau Tekong 2019 by Frankie Cheong, while a Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malayanus, was seen on Pulau Ubin on 21 December 2019 by Martin Kennewell, who subsequently spotted two Lesser Crested Tern, Thalasseus bengalensis, along Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin on 28 December 2019.

Southern Singapore

An Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus, was seen on 29 December 2019 at the Southern Ridges by Dhanushri Munasinghe.

Western Singapore

Kicking off bird sightings in western Singapore were two House Sparrow, Passer domesticus, an introduced species, spotted on 1 December 2019 at Tuas South by Gahya Arasu. On 6 December 2019, a rare Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, was photographed at the Jurong Lake Gardens by Nigel Tan. A rare Stejneger’s Stonechat, Saxicola stejnegeri, was photographed by Lester Tan at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane on 22 December 2019, and present for the remainder of the month.

10. CHGP

Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon at Jurong Lake Garden on 6 December 2019 by Nigel Tan.

Apart from the spectacular sighting of more than a thousand Asian Openbills at Kranji Marsh and Harvest Link on 7 December 2019 by Veronica Foo and other birdwatchers, other species reported included a Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, on 23 December 2019 at Tuas South by See Toh Yew Wai, and a Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, on 27 December 2019 at West Coast Park by Tay Kian Guan.  On 28 December 2019, a Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, was seen along Turut Track by Art Toh.

Unusual Sightings

On 1 December 2019, Seng Beng posted a video of a Tit taken at Pasir Ris Park the day prior, asking if it was a Cinereous or Japanese Tit. Subsequently, good photographs obtained by Francis Yap and other birders showed that it was a Japanese Tit, Parus minor. It was seen by many on subsequent days, and the last report of it was on 14 December 2019, by Adrian Silas Tay. Most birders reported seeing only one bird, but Isabelle Lee reported seeing a second bird on 2 December 2019. Interestingly, the expected species is the Cinereous Tit, Parus cinerea, which is resident in the mangrove forests in Malaysia, while the Japanese Tit is known to be resident in northern Thailand and beyond.

11. JT

Japanese Tit photographed from Pasir Ris Park by Francis Yap, posted on 4 December 2019.

Another interesting bird sighted in December was the Blue Whistling Thrush, Myophonus caeruleus, spotted by Felix Wong on 7 December 2019 at Fort Canning Park. Interestingly, it was of the black-billed caeruleus subspecies, the nearest known wintering area being northern Thailand, with birds straying towards central Thailand. The whistling thrush, which had a broken upper mandible tip, remained in the same location for many days and was last reported on 24 December 2019 by Keita Sin. The crassirostris subspecies, which sports a yellow beak, is found in Peninsular Malaysia (Wells, 2007: 480-481); but they do not occur south of the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur.

12. BWT

Blue Whistling Thrush photographed on 8 December 2019 at Fort Canning Park by Francis Yap.

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Strait of Singapore

A pelagic trip along the Strait of Singapore (a multi-national stretch of water) on 14 December 2019 led by Martin Kennewell yielded three Little Tern, Sternula albifrons, Bridled Tern, Onychoprion anaethetus, Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana, and three White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus.

 

This report is compiled and by written by Geoff Lim and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, and individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified.

Many thanks to Art Toh, Danny Khoo, Darren Leow, David Fur, Francis Yap, Geoff Lim, Kelvin Yoong, Kwok Tuck Loong, Lee Van Hien, Nigel Tan, and Norhafiani A. Majid  for allowing us to use their photographs.

REFERENCES

BirdLife (2013). Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis. Archived 2014 Discussion. Accessed from the Internet at https://globally-threatened-bird-forums.birdlife.org/2013/09/himalayan-vulture-gyps-himalayensis-request-for-information/

Latif M. R., & Osman F. M. b. (2016). Himalayan Vulture at Toa Payoh. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2016:5. Obtained from the internet at https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/app/uploads/2017/04/sbr2016-005.pdf

Tan, A. (2019, December 8). “Hundreds of Asian Openbill storks spotted in Singapore.” Straits Times. Accessed from the Internet at https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/hundreds-of-asian-openbill-storks-in-singapore-in-rare-sighting-with-possible.

Wells, D. R. (2007). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol. 2, London: Christopher Helm.

Yong, D. L. and Kasorndorkbua, C. (2008). “The Status of the Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis in South-East Asia”, Forktail, 24:57-62.

 

2019 ANNUAL BIRD CENSUS REPORT

By Lim Kim Chuah

Asian Openbill by Geoff Lim crop

Asian Openbill at SBWR, 24 March 2019, by Geoff Lim

The 2019 Annual Bird Census (ABC) was conducted on 24 March. Weather was generally fine at all the 17 sites covered. Another three sites on Ubin which were counted on 10 March as part of the Comprehensive Ubin Survey Monthly Survey were also added. This brings the number of sites counted to 20. The three sites counted on Ubin represented the sites which were traditionally counted during the ABC.

A total of 5,575 birds was counted, a 66% increase (2,207) compared to 2018. The number of species counted was 143 species, an increase compared to 137 species in 2018. The increases in both numbers and species counted in 2019 compared to 2018 could be due to the increase in the number of sites counted, 20 versus 17.

Some highlights from this year’s census include:

  • Asian Openbill – 1 at Buloh Route 1
  • Ashy Drongo – 1 at Telok Blangah
  • Black Bittern – 1 each at Bishan Park and Dairy Farm Nature Park
  • Black-browed Reed-Warbler – 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Blue-rumped Parrot – 4 at Bukit Batok West (Sadly, this is likely to be the last year that this site will be covered as the place is currently being developed into the Tengah New Town)
  • Blue-winged Pitta – 1 at Lower Pierce and at Bukit Batok West and 3 at Poyan
  • Chestnut-bellied Malkoha – 1 at Poyan
  • Chestnut-winged Cuckoo – 1 at Halus
  • Cinnamon Bittern – 1 at Buloh Route 2 and 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Crested Serpent Eagle – 1 at Malcolm Park
  • Dark-sided Flycatcher – 1 at Lower Pierce Reservoir
  • Great-billed Heron – 2 at Buloh Route 1, 1 at Buloh 2, 1 at Lower Seletar, 2 at Ubin East
  • Green Imperial Pigeon – 1 at Pasir Ris Park
  • Large Hawk Cuckoo – 1 at Pasir Ris Park
  • Lesser Adjutant – 2 at Buloh Route 1 and 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Lesser Whistling Duck – 11 at Buloh Route 2
  • Little Grebe – 2 at Lorong Halus and 1 at Ubin East
  • Oriental Pratincole – 2 at Ubin West
  • Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler – 1 at Kranji Marsh
  • Straw-headed Bulbul – 46 counted at 8 locations with most of them from Ubin
  • Violet Cuckoo – 2 at Poyan
  • Watercock – 1 at Kranji Marsh

Despite the increase in number of birds counted this year compared to 2018, the total is still below the last 10 years’ average of 7,356. This could be attributed to the lesser number of sites counted due largely to the lack of manpower which meant some key sites like Sungei Mandai had to be left out in 2019.

1

Chart below shows the total number of birds and species counted from 2010-19:

2

Chinese Garden turned out to be the site with the highest number of birds counted (432). And Kranji Marsh remained the site with the highest number of species counted (73).

Chart below shows the number of birds counted at each site:

3

Chart below shows the number of species counted at each site:

4

And again, it was not surprising that our ubiquitous Javan Myna is the most numerous birds counted, reclaiming its position from the Asian Glossy Starling which it relinquished to in 2018.

5

NSS Bird Group would like to thank the following volunteers for participating and helping with the census. Without their support, we would not have been able to continue to monitor the state of the birdlife here in Singapore all these years.

Lee Ee Ling, KP Teh, Alfred Chia, Veronica Foo, Wing Chong, John Spencer, Keita Sin, Danny Lau, Nessie Khoo, Alvin Seng, Terry and Jane Heppell, Francis Chia, Betty Shaw, Steven Shields, Alan Owyong, Con Foley, Yan Jiejun, Tan Kok Hui, Eunice Kong, Lee Bee Yong, Milton Tan, Beh Swee Hua, John Marriott, Woo Lai Choo, Cheng Li Ai, Pary Sivaraman, Arasu Sivaraman, Gahyatree Arasu, Lena Chow, Kong Lai Peng, Anandaraman Sivakumar, Patricia Lorenz, Jean-Marc Chavatte, Yong Jun Zer, Lim Jia Xuan and Lim Li Fang.

Singapore Bird Report – March 2019

by Geoff Lim & Alan OwYong, edited by Tan Gim Cheong

March 2019 continues to witness the return migration of birds back to their northern breeding grounds. We were also treated to the arrival of a solitary Asian Openbill, a small species of stork that last visited us in January 2013.

Asian Openbill, Francis Yap

The Asian Openbill photographed at Sungei Buloh on 23 March 2019 by Francis Yap.

Openbill Visitation

On 14 March 2019, an Asian Openbill Anastomus ocsitans was spotted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) by visiting Australian birders, Grant and Clare Morton, who sent an email to Nature Society (Singapore) to report the sighting. The bird was subsequently spotted again at SBWR,  sparking off an intense hunt for the bird in the days that ensued.

The first record of the species occurred three years ago, on 23 January 2013, when six birds were found feeding in a waterlogged grass patch close to Seletar Airport. These were thought to be part of larger groups of birds that flew southwards down Peninsula Malaysia. The appearance in 2013, along with the current record, represent the southernmost record of the species to date. Further information about the sighting can be found here.

Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)

Migrants continued to be observed within the CCNR in the month of March. A Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka was seen on 5 March 2019 from Jelutong Tower by Kelvin Ng while Eastern Crowned Warblers Phylloscopus coronatus were spotted at Venus Drive and Windsor Nature Park on 10 March 2019 by Benson Brighton and Russell Boyman, respectively. On 15 March 2019, a juvenile Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus was seen at Hindhede Nature Park as it stalked along the forest floor and was stumbled upon by Fadzrun Adnan and Richard White. The last time we had a publicly recorded sighting of the heron was at the Singapore Botanic Gardens in April 2018.

MNH, Goh Yew Lin

A Malayan Night Heron photographed at Hindhede Park on 15 March 2019 by Goh Yew Lin and discovered by Richard White.

The following week yielded reports of flycatchers in Singapore’s central green core. A Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia was spotted at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 17 March 2019 by Zhang Licong, as was an Asian Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone species, which was fleetingly seen at Lower Pierce by Vincent Lao, who did not have sufficient time to identify it further. A Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda was seen at Venus Link on 22 March 2019 by Richard White, while a Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis was spotted at the Singapore Quarry on 24 March 2019 by Veronica Foo.

YRFC, ZLC

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher photographed at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 17 March 2019 by Zhang Licong.

Residents species observed include an Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster on 11 March 2019 at the Hindhede Quarry by Richard White, quite possibly the same bird as the one seen at the Singapore Quarry; three male Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus chasing and calling to a female for more than 30 minutes in the high boughs of a stand of Albizia trees in Hindhede Nature Park on 16 March 2019 by Alan Owyong; and a male Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu on 24 March 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Vincent Lao.

Jambu, Vincent Lao

Jambu Fruit Dove at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 24 March 2019 and photographed by Vincent Lao

Northern Singapore

A Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea was seen around the vicinity of Seletar Camp on 13 March 2019 by Timothy Chua, who also spotted a Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica on 17 March 2019 at Woodlands Town Park.

Eastern Singapore

Birders at Pasir Ris Park noted the movement of cuckoos during the month of March. A Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor was seen on 8 March 2019 by Wong Sangmen, as was another spotted on 26 March 2019 by Alvin Seng. Three sightings of a Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus were made on 17 March 2019 by Feroz, while a Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparveroides was seen on 19 March 2019 by Fabius Tan. The last week of March yielded a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia on 26 March 2019 by Wong Sangmen, a Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki on 28 March 2019 by Khoo Mei Lin and a Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythymus on 31 March 2019 by Wong Keng.

LHC, Fabius Tan

The Large Hawk Cuckoo photographed on 19 March 2019 by Fabius Tan.

Further afield, two Jerdons Baza Aviceda jerdoni was spotted at the Pasir Ris Farmway 3 on 10 March 2019 by Vincent Lao, while a Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes was seen on 23 March 2019 on Pulau Tekong by Frankie Cheong. Rare non-breeding visitors reported from this regions included a pair of Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis species on Pulau Ubin on 7 March 2019 by Chris Sanderson.

Central Singapore

A Hodgsons Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor was spotted lurking in the remnants of Bidadari on 10 March 2019 by Mike Hooper.

Southern Singapore

The southern green lung that is collectively formed by Gardens-by-the-Bay and Satay-by-the-Bay attracted several species of migratory and resident birds during the month of March 2019. On 2 March 2019, a Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus was spotted in the Gardens by Martine Ruane. A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax was seen at the pond next to Satay-by-the-Bay on 14 March 2019 by Veronica Foo, while a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting made its appearance in the canals near the Meadow on 25 March 2019.

BEKF, Siew Mun

The Blue-eared Kingfisher at Gardens by the Bay. This photograph was taken on 27 March 2019 by Siew Mun.

A Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata appeared in a tree near the pond next to Satay-by-the-Bay on 26 March 2019 as reported by Andy Chew. This is an unusual location for the species which is usually seen/heard around the central forests only. It continued to be seen over the next few days until the last report on 31 March 2019 made in social media.

BHO, Herman

Brown Hawk Owl by the Bay and photographed in March 2019 by Herman Phua.

Farther afield, we received a report of a Pacific Swift Apus pacificus over Henderson Wave on 5 March 2019 by Keita Sin, who also reported movement across the hills of Kent Ridge Park on 8 March 2019 of one Common Buzzard Buteo buteo and three Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indus.

Western Singapore

The Kranji Marsh-Neo Tiew area continued to yield reports during this month as well. Social media continued to report the presence of wintering Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus at Harvest Lane, while five Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum were spotted on 22 March 2019 at the same location by Deborah Friets. Twelve Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola were also spotted at Harvest Lane on 24 March 2019 by Alan Chou, as was a “Swintail” Snipe Gallinago sp. on 26 March 2019 by Gabriel Koh, and a Stejnegers Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri on 29 March 2019 by Alan Owyong, which is later than the previous extreme date of 28 March for this species (note: the individual was still around well into April). Within Kranji Marsh, a Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa was spotted on 23 March 2019 by Lim Kim Seng.

STJ Stonechat, AOY

Alan Owyong captured this Stejneger’s Stonechat on 29 March 2019 at Harvest Link

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) continued to support shorebirds and waterbirds. Apart from the spectacular report of a solitary Asian Openbill mentioned above, the Reserve continued to attract species such as Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinerus on 23 March 2019 by Gabriel Koh, Khoo Mei Lin and friends, the regular congregation of Great Egrets Ardea alba reported on 30 March 2019 by Lee Van Hien, one male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher  Terpsiphone artrocaudata on 31 March 2019 by Marvin Heng, and five thermaling Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, also on 31 March 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay.

Birders and photographers drawn by the Grey-headed Fish Eagle along Pandan Canal reported other species. A Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus was seen on 3 March 2019 by Steven Wong, as was an Abbotts Babbler Malacocincla abbotti and Little Bronze Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus on 20 March 2019 by Alan Owyong. A Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata was reported on 29 March 2019 by Ash Foo, a new record for the location.

Other species reported from this region include a pair of Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus sauluris on 6 March 2019 at Tuas Naval Base by Kerry Pereira,  a first for this part of Singapore. Within the compounds of the Jurong Bird Park on 31 March 2019, two Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis were seen together before one of them surreptitiously flew to an embankment and waited for about a minute and a half or so before walking into the undergrowth and disappearing into the thick scrub, leaving Geoff Lim to wonder if they were nesting.

Breeding-related activities

Nesting by Collared Kingfisher Todirhampus chloris was reported on 10 March 2019 at Queens Drive by Cheng Li Ai; another pair was followed by many bird photographers in Clementi during the same period, reported by Khoo Mei Lin, and the chicks fledged on 19 and 20 March 2019. Other breeding behaviour reported include the sighting of the critically endangered Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus on 9 March 2019 at Bukit Batok Nature Park by Lim Kim Chuah, who saw a pair with a juvenile, suggesting that breeding had taken place within the Park.

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

This report is written by Geoff Lim based on listings compiled by Alan OwYong, and edited by Tan Gim Cheong. We are grateful for the birders and photographers whose postings in various Facebook birding pages, bird forums, individual reports and extracts from eBird make up this report. This compilation is not a complete list of birds recorded for the month and not all the records were verified. 

Many thanks to Francis Yap, Goh Yew Lin, Zhang Licong, Vincent Lao, Fabius Tan, Siew Mun and Alan Owyong for the the use of their photos. 

List of Species seen:

Family Species Date
Ciconiidae Asian Openbill 14-Mar-19
Asian Openbill 17-Mar-19
Lesser Adjutant** 31-Mar-19
Ardeidae Von Schrenck’s Bittern 31-Mar-19
Black Bittern 24-Mar-19
Malayan Night Heron 15-Mar-19
Black-crowned Night Heron## 14-Mar-19
Chinese Pond Heron 3-Mar-19
Javan Pond Heron 23-Mar-19
Great Egret 30-Mar-19
Chinese Egret 23-Mar-19
Anhingidae Oriental  Darter* 11-Mar-19
Accipitridae Jerdon’s Baza 10-Mar-19
Grey-faced Buzzard 8-Mar-19
Grey-faced Buzzard 13-Mar-19
Common Buzzard 8-Mar-19
Scolopacidae Swinhoe’s Snipe 26-Mar-19
Wood Sandpiper 24-Mar-19
Terek Sandpiper 23-Mar-19
Glareolidae Oriental Pratincole 22-Mar-19
Columbidae Jambu Fruit Dove* 24-Mar-19
Cuculidae Greater Coucal 31-Mar-19
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 30-Mar-19
Violet Cuckoo## 16-Mar-19
Little Bronze Cuckoo 20-Mar-19
Plaintive Cuckoo 17-Mar-19
Large Hawk-Cuckoo 19-Mar-19
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo 8-Mar-19
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo 10-Mar-19
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo 26-Mar-19
Strigidae Brown Hawk-Owl 26-Mar-19
Caprimulgidae Grey Nightjar 5-Mar-19
Apodidae Pacific Swift 5-Mar-19
Alcedinidae Ruddy Kingfisher## 22-Mar-19
Black-capped Kingfisher 29-Mar-19
Collared Kingfisher 10-Mar-19
Collared Kingfisher 20-Mar-19
Blue-eared Kingfisher## 25-Mar-19
Picidae Buff-rumped Woodpecker 7-Mar-19
Dicruridae Black Drongo 17-Mar-19
Monarchidae Asian Paradise Flycatcher 17-Mar-19
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher* 31-Mar-19
Pycnonotidae Straw-headed Bulbul##** 9-Mar-19
Phylloscopidae Yellow-browed Warbler 2-Mar-19
Eastern Crowned Warbler 10-Mar-19
Eastern Crowned Warbler 10-Mar-19
Pellorneidae Abbott’s Babbler 20-Mar-19
Muscicapidae Oriental Magpie-Robin## 6-Mar-19
Dark-sided Flycatcher 17-Mar-19
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 17-Mar-19
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 26-Mar-19
Green-backed Flycatcher 22-Mar-19
Mugimaki Flycatcher 28-Mar-19
Stejneger’s Stonechat 29-Mar-19
Motacillidae Grey Wagtail 13-Mar-19

Asian Openbill-Singapore’s 2nd Record

On 17 March 2019, Beng Neo’s facebook post of an Open-billed Stork, Anastomus oscitans, taken at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve caused a stir among the birding community here. The next day birders and photographers lined up on the main bridge, hoping to tick off their lifers. They were not disappointed and all went home happy with great sightings and shots.

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Beng Neo’s shot of the Open-billed on the 17 March at SBWR.

Apparently Clare and Grant Morton, visiting birders from Australia first spotted this stork flying over the main hide on 14 March. They reported by email to the Nature Society (Singapore) and later confirmed it with a photo on the 19 March. Their sighting constituted only our second record of this stork in Singapore.

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Heavily cropped shot of the Openbill flying over SBWR on the 14th March by Clare and Grant Morton.

Our first record was on 23 January 2013 when six birds were spotted feeding in an open flooded field at Seletar North. They were part of a larger flock that made its way down south from Thailand along the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. This movement may be due to the dry conditions back in Thailand and the lack of food sources.

Mei Ling Khoo

Mei Ling Khoo’s shot of the balancing stork taken from the main bridge. This month there were several postings of this stork on the Wild Bird Club Malaysia Facebook pages. 15th at Bota Kiri and Kinta NP on 3rd both in Perak and Tanjong Karang, Selangor on 11th. According to Tou Jing Yi they can be found in many parts of the West Coast and are still supplemented by migrants.

Mahesh Krishan

Mahesh Krishnan caught it flying towards him at the main pond. The Asian Openbill is a common resident of India and parts of Indochina. Hundreds can be seen roosting in temples in Bangkok.

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The abundance of mollusc at the main ponds will hopefully prolong its stay here. This photo made it look like they are using the gap to crack the snails but they actually pick out the flesh with the curved tip of its mandible.

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A curious Monitor Lizard checking out the new arrival.

Reference: B.W. Low et al. First Record of the First Asian Openbill in Singapore. 2013.

Many thanks to Beng Neo, Clare and Grant Morton, Mahesh Krishnan, Khoo Mei Ling and Alan OwYong for the use of their photos and to Clare and Grant Morton for their record.