Tag Archives: Bidadari

Bidadari Hillock to be retained as a Bird Sanctuary.

9th June 2016.

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The boarded up “valley” section to facilitate drainage works. The hillock is on the left.

This morning members of the Nature Society (Singapore)’s Conservation Committee and Bird Group made a site visit to the old Bidadari Muslim Cemetery with the planners, architects, engineers and landscape contractors from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and staff from the National Parks Board (NParks). The purpose of the visit is to mark out the boundaries of the hillock where most of the migrant species were found. The hillock is centered around the “Bida Studio” at the western end of Bidadari.

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Dr. Ho Hua Chew, Vice-chair of the NSS Conservation Committee with Ms. Lim Shu Ying, Director (Urban Design Dept.) Research and Planning HDB and her colleagues at Bidadari and Leong Kwok Peng, Chair of the Conservation Committee NSS (in yellow). Photo: Alan OwYong.

The HDB had agreed in our previous meeting to retain and keep this hillock largely untouched as a natural sanctuary. It will be part of the main 10 hectare park. We showed and explained to the planners the importance of keeping the different clusters of bushes and clumps that are frequented by migrant flycatchers, pittas and kingfishers. The trees will be retained for the mid-level species like the cuckoos, shrikes and paradise flycatchers to forage. Some of the fringing Albizias will be cut down for safety reasons. On the ground level, the weeds and grasses surrounding the bush and clump clusters will be allowed to grow as buffers with trimming done only in the open areas. All these measures will hopefully preserve much of the original character of this core area for the winter visitors and passage migrants that stop over here during the migration season.

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Housing and Development Board’s landscape planner and engineers marking the trees  to be retained.

The “valley” parallel to Upper Serangoon Road and a diagonal stretch across the cemetery has been boarded up to facilitate the construction of infrastructural work for the estate. The hillock and the “studio” where we do most of our birding is still accessible from the Bartley Road side. Even when work starts at the lower section along Bartley Road in the coming years, nature lovers will be able to walk through this hillock sanctuary to bird watch and photograph them. Hopefully some of the regular visitors will still return to this part of Bidadari.

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Dr. Ho Hua Chew pointing out the importance of keeping some of the Albizias for the foraging Black Bazas, nesting Changeable Hawk Eagles and other passerines. 

Even though we were not able to save all of the Muslim section of Bidadari, at least this core area will be kept “wild” to provide a refuge for our winter visitors to rest and refuel during their migration.

Singapore Bird Report-December 2015

 

Narcissus FC Robin Tan

Narcissus Flycatcher Female, a national first from Bidadari. Photo: Robin Tan.

Our soon to be developed former Muslim Cemetery at Bidadari was the place to be in for the Singapore birder in December. It seemed that both migratory birds, especially flycatchers and the residents decided to pay their final homage to the place! We got a national first there on the 2nd Dec when Robin Tan, Hio John and Alan Ng photographed a female Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) (Link). Lawrence Cher photographed a blue-hued flycatcher which was initially identified as a Blue-and-white flycatcher. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a male of the very rare Chinese Blue Flycatcher, (Cyornis glaucicomans), which would be our second national record if accepted by the RC. On the 23rd December, Lim Kim Keang and Low Choon How found and photographed a Savanna Nightjar, (Caprimulgus affinis) and two Red-wattled Lapwings, (Vanellus indicus) at Bidadari. Both were new additions to Bidadari’s rapidly increasing checklist, bringing its total species count to 157 species. A Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus) was seen wintering there on 9th Dec by Vincent Ng. It stayed long enough for Noah Strycker to see it on the 27th Dec during his Global Big Year stop here. (Link). The Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida), returned on the 9th Dec (Alan Ng). See Toh Yew Wai photographed a rare Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, on the 20th December while Leslie Fung added the rare Japanese Paradise Flycatcher(Terpsiphone atrocaudata)on the 22ndDec.  Danny Lau and Tan Kok Hui reported a confiding Malayan Night Heron (Gorsachius melanolophus) on the 26th. Another wetland species, the Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) was recorded here on 23rd Dec by Lawrence Cher. One new national record, the second confirmed record of another species, two new locality records and the presence of several rare flycatchers and winter visitors shows just how important Bidadari is as a stopover site for migratory landbirds in the country.

Chinese Blue FC LCher

Chinese Blue Flycatcher, our second record also from Bidadari. Photo: Lawence Cher. .  

The other exciting find of the month was the elusive Barred Eagle Owl (Bubo sumatranus), which was discovered at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve by Kennie Pan on the 8th Dec. We have had sporadic reports of sightings of this large owl at CCNR, Pulau Ubin and BTNR in the past years. But this time it stayed long enough for a few photographers to get our excellent daytime shots of this owl here. A day before the year ends, Lim Kim Seng was surprised to find not one but three female Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus) swimming at one end of the MacRitchie Reservoir. Noting how much this species has declined since the 1980s, it was great to see these ducks making a comeback. Dirk Tomsa reported a Large Hawk- Cuckoo (Hierococcyx sparveriodes) at Coney Island on the 13th Dec. This could be the first record of this rare cuckoo on the island. On the same day Lim Kim Chuah reported a total of three White Wagtails (Motacilla alba) at the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course. Not to be outdone, Vincent Lao photographed another three White Wagtails at the Bishan Canal on 20th. One of them turned out to be an individual of the distinctive subspecies lugens. Except for a lone record of a black-backed spring adult reported in March 1993 (Wells 2007), this possibly constitute the second record for Singapore and the region. M. a. lugens is also known as a vagrant to the Philippines. We have to thank Alfred Chia for noticing this and getting expert confirmation quickly. (Link ).

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Rock Thrush at the Pinnacle @ Duxton. Photo: Con Foley.

A Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), this time a neat-looking male bird was seen again at the Pinnacle @ Duxton on 20th Dec (Vinchel Budihardjo and later by Lawrence Cher). This obliging individual stayed long enough for many others to see it and proved to be a lifer for many. A resident of Toa Payoh photographed a Malayan Night Heron, Gorsachius melanolophus, wandering around the open field there on the 18th Dec (reported by David Tan). This migratory heron is usually a very shy bird, like the one reported at Tuas on the 18th Dec by Francis Yap, so this individual may have been disorientated after a crash. Millie Cher photographed the confiding Black-browed Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps) at Jurong Eco Gardens on the 26th, a new addition for the gardens.

Red-billed Starling Seng Alvin

Red-billed Starling at Tampines Eco Green Canal. Photo: Seng Alvin

Seng Alvin posted a photo of a starling foraging with a group of mynas at the canal at Tampines Eco Green. It was identified as a Red-billed Starling Sturnus sericeus. The most southernly part of its wintering range is in northern Vietnam although there has been odd records in peninsular Thailand. The Records Committee will soon be evaluating its status. One of the few notable records of resident forest species for the month was a male Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, photographed by Chan Kum Chun at Sentosa. Our only previous records of this species on Sentosa were in 1990 and 2007 at the remnant forest patches at Mount Serapong. Good to know that it was still around.

From the numerous reports, it appears that there was an influx of the winter- visiting Watercock, Gallicrex cinerea. The first was a dead bird found at Mountbatten on the 7th Dec and reported by Robert Zhao, followed by one on the 9th by Sandra Chia and another at Turut Track on the 13th Dec by Lim Kim Chuah. A Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) was a first for Jurong Eco Garden thanks to Andrew Tan’s record on 20th Dec. As many as eight Long-toed Stints (Calidris subminuta) were seen at the Kranji Golf Course on the 19th Dec by Lim Kim Keang. The stints were first reported by Lim Kim Seng on 8th Dec when he reported seeing one stint. Due to the rapid disappearance of freshwater wetlands, the records of Long-toed Stint had declined over the years. Other interesting waterbirds include a Grey-tailed Tattler, Tringa brevipes was observed and photographed by Ann Ang at SBWR on the 26th  Dec.

Jedon's Baza at TEG Seng Alvin

Jerdon’s Baza at Tampines Eco Green. Photo: Seng Alvin.

Over at Punggol Barat, Lawrence Cher photographed six Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) flying over. Punggol Barat continues to deliver its open country specialties in spite of the disturbance caused by clearance works. Three White-shouldered Starlings (Sturnus sinensis) were photographed here by See Toh Yew Wai on 25th Dec and a Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica, was photographed in flight over Seletar North Link by KC Ling on the 27th Dec. Solomon Anthony was the first to record Black Kite, Milvus migrans, this season when he photographed one at SBWR on 18th Dec. Another individual was photographed by Lawrence Cher at Punggol Barat on the 29th Dec.  Other interesting raptor records for the month include a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) at Tuas on the 8thDec by Muller Lugman, Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, at Tampines Eco Green on the 19th Dec by Seng Alvin and a juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle, (Lophotriorchis kienerii) over at Dairy Farm on the 22nd Dec by Lim Kim Keang. The year ended with a Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga), over at Pasir Ris Camp at Lorong Halus. Serin Subaraj got his lifer during his BMT there on the 31st December.

Abbreviations

BTNR = Bukit Timah Nature Reserve             RC = Records Committee.

CCNR = Central Catchment Nature Reserve

SBWR = Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

References: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng, 2009. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-east Asia. Craig Robson. 2000. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. 2013.

This report is compiled by Alan OwYong from the postings in various facebook birding pages, bird forums and individual reports. Some were not verified. We wish to thank all the  contributors for their records. Many thanks to RobinTan, Con Foley, Lawrence Cher and Seng Alvin for the use of your excellent photos and Yong Ding Li for editing this report.

Narcissus Flycatcher, a New Flycatcher to Singapore.

 

Contributed by Alan Ng, Robin Tan and Hio John. 24 Dec 2015.

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Browner upper parts and tinged upper tail coverts.

On the morning of 2nd of December 2015, Alan Ng went down to Bidadari Cemetery with his pals Robin Tan and Hio John to photograph the Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, last seen the day before at a ficus tree at the Maria Stella High School end of the cemetery. The first winter male Mugimaki was there and so was another flycatcher flying around at the lower branches. It looked very much like an Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa dauurica, But it had some rufous rump and the black bill did not fit the Asian Brown which they know so well. Good thing that they all took some shots and showed Robin’s photos to See Toh Yew Wai. See Toh knew straight away that this was a different flycatcher and asked for help. Ding Li and Albert Low then identified it as a female Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina, based on Hio John’s photo showing the rufous tinged wing coverts and rump. Albert Low got his global lifer when he rushed down after work. So did See Toh, Lim Kim Keang, Con Foley and others who went down that evening. By then the flycatcher was foraging much higher up.

Narcissus FC 2 John Hio

Whitish underparts with variable mottling on the breast.

Those of us who turned up the next morning were disappointed. Only the Mugimaki Flycatcher and a suspect Green-backed Flycatcher were seen. Another brownish flycatcher with a very similar looking upperparts was seen for a few seconds. Unfortunately Jimmy Lee and Alan OwYong could not see its wings and tail to identified it.  And that was the last of any trace of this flycatcher.

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The Narcissus Flycatcher was split into this nominate species and the Green-backed elisae ( King et al 1975). So far we have been getting the Green-backed Flycatcher confirmed and added into our checklist. The Records Committee has agreed and accepted this sighting as the Narcissus Flycatcher under Category A. It has been added to the 2015 Official Check List. This is the first record of a Narcissus Flycatcher in Singapore. Congratulations.

The Narcissus Flycatcher is native to Sakhalin through Japan, Korea and mainland China. Highly migratory it winters in South East Asia including the Philippines and Borneo ( Birdlife International 2012)

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. A field Guide to The Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Craig Robson. Asia Book Co. Ltd 2000. Photos: Hio John.

 

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. A photographer favourite, and is a migrant to Bidadari.

Birding Hotspot – Bidadari

Anyone headed in the direction of town along Upper Serangoon Road or Upper Aljunied Road may occasionally notice a little stretch of ‘jungle’ after passing the Woodleigh MRT station and some backdrop of flats. No more than just a patch of secondary woodland that has regenerated in an exhumed old Muslim cemetery (Goh, 2002), it is dominated by non-native Albizia (Falcataria moluccana) and Acacia (Acacia auriculiformis) trees.

Many local naturalists deem these species to be of minimal conservation value. Is this green patch not just one of the many botanically-similar ‘wastelands’ that dot Singapore’s landscape, its days perceptibly numbered and, who knows, awaiting impending transformation into spanking new blocks of condominiums? Certainly not, if you do bother to stop here and scrutinize the view. You will walk out amazed at nature’s diversity and resilience.” So began the article by Yong Ding Li (Nature Watch July-Sept 2013). It was itself an update and a continuation to a much older article by Goh Si Guim (2002). Bidadari’s history and its significance to birdwatchers and nature lovers goes back a long time. I remember having a chat with Leslie Fung, who birded in the place when it was still boarded up, and tall grasses hid snipes and other surprises.

Both the articles are hosted here (NatureWatch 2002) and here (Nature Watch 2013) for a more in depth look at the place, its history and its ecological significance. The Nature Society (Singapore) have also put in a conservation proposal here.

In 2013, when Ding Li’s piece came out, there were around 140 species of birds counted in the area. Two more seasons in, quite a number of new species have been sighted and photographed there. The newest species found there are as follows: Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Cinereous Bulbul, Oriental Scops Owl, Greater Coucal, Buff-rumped Woodpecker (2015), Buffy Fish Owl (2015), and Indian Pond Heron (2015). The Indian Pond Heron if accepted into our official checklist would bring the total to 153 bird species.

Since a lot of the activities these days have moved to Facebook, you may be interested in joining the Saving Bidadari for Birds and People Facebook Group, where you will find various postings of the wildlife in the area.

For the novice birdwatcher and nature enthusiast, the directions to Bidadari is simple. The embedded map shows the car park. The nearest MRT station is Woodleigh station. Bidadari is a wooded area, as such be prepared with proper footwear and drinking containers. There are no toilet facilities within the compound. The best time for birdwatching is anywhere between 7-12pm. As Bidadari is a migratory bird hotspot, the months between October to January are the best months to see the rarer migrants, but resident birds are around the whole year around. Go quickly, before another unique area disappear for good!

Let’s end this article by quoting Ding Li again in his article.

“Preservation of so-called degraded secondary habitats like Bidadari, Bukit Brown and Pasir Ris Greenbelt is a ‘tacky issue’ that has been hotly debated in our local conservation scene of recent times. We hope to persuade land-use planners to view such sites of apparently ‘low’ secondary value differently in a more holistic and robust approach to conservation.”

“Bidadari holds dear in the hearts of people who have perceived its uniqueness, one way or another. Future plans to replace the woodland with more concrete blocks and manicured lawns will mean the end of those precious Bidadari sights and sounds for jogging/strolling residents, photographers, birdwatchers and other nature-lovers. Are we happy to be left with fond memories and the mere name of a place? In the case of Bidadari’s wild denizens — a home vanished and gone forever?”

Photo Gallery

Singapore Birding Report – September 2014

Eastern-crowned Warbler by Joesph Tan

Eastern-crowned Warbler by Joesph Tan Kok Beng.

The excitement on the last day of August went up a notch in September when the migrants were coming in thick and fast. The former Bidadari Cemetery came alive with the return of the big guns. They were lured back to their favourite stomping ground by the appearance of the Flycatchers, Shrikes and Wagtails. The Ferruginous Flycatcher landed on 21st, a new extreme date, followed by the Dark-sided Flycatcher on the 24th and the globally threatened Brown-chested Flycatcher on the 27th. All uncommon species and great ticks for the Big Yearers. Besides these, the photographers had their pick of Asian Paradise Flycatchers (5th), Yellow-rumped Flycatchers (6th), Tiger Shrikes (6th) and Forest Wagtail (13th). The bonuses were a Crow-billed Drongo on the 19th and Siberian Blue Robin on 21st. Both were first winter birds. The Drongo stayed for less than 2 days but the Robin was happy with the handouts and stayed a little longer.  Other migrants seen at Bidadari were a flock of 40 Daurian Starlings on the 13th, Asian Brown Flycatchers and the Eastern-crowned Warblers. Other migrant passerines like the Arctic Warbler was recorded at Nee Soon during the FMBC on the 14th, Brown Shrike at Tuas South on the 20th and again the Eastern-crown Warbler at Sungei Buloh on 22th

Great Knots at SD by Zacc HD

Great Knots at Seletar Dam by Zacc HD

As for the shorebirds, a total of eight Black-tailed Godwits were counted at Sungei Buloh on the 1st up from the five seen the day before. The star bid of the month were the four rare Great Knots found feeding off the Pang Sua Estuary on the 27th morning (Lau Jiasheng). Two were still there in the evening but gave the chasing Big Yearers the miss by moving over to Seletar Dam the next morning (Zacc HD). They were not seen again. Over at Mandai Mudflats, Rufous-necked Stints, Ruddy Turnstone and a lone Broad-billed Sandpiper were recorded during the Fall Migration Bird Census on 14th. The Ruddy Turnstone also turned up at Seletar Dam on 21st and at Chek Java on the 27th together with the Grey Plovers. The Greater Sand Plover that was feeding at Seletar Dam last month made a one day cameo on the 28th.

Greater Sand Plover at SD by Rey Aguila

Greater Sand Plover at Seletar Dam by Rey Aguila.

The Marsh Terns were returning to the Serangoon Reservoir this month. Both the White-winged and the Whiskered Terns were seen on the 9th while the Swift and Bridled Terns were seen flying off Punggol on the 13th. An unusual large number of Black-naped Terns (100+) were seen off Tanah Merah on the 21st. This could be the largest flock of this resident tern seen near the coast of Singapore.

The first migrant raptor was an Oriental Honey Buzzard seen over Bidadari on the 5th. Four Japanese Sparrowhawks were spotted flying through Tuas South on the 16th, the first for this Autumn. Subsequently the home owner at Blk 20 Dakota Cresent woke up to find a Japanese Sparrowhawk perched on his balcony on the 22nd. Another was reported flying over Japanese Gardens on 30th. This was where a Crested Serpent Eagle was photographed on 21st. There were reports of earlier sightings of this Eagle. Chaiyan later pointed out that this particular eagle was the burmanicus and not the malayensis race. It is larger, more rufous than black. Could most of our previous record of this eagle been this race and not the Malaysian resident?

Interesting reports of our resident species include a hard to find House Swift flying over Seletar Dam (27th) and a feeding Pacific Reef Egret there on the 15th. First record of a pair of Lesser Tree Ducks at the pond at Labrador Park and a tame Java Sparrow feeding with the Mynas at Old Airport Road Hawker Center, a recent release no doubt. Over at the Japanese Gardens, a Cinnamon Bittern was foraging at the lotus pond ( 2nd) and an uncommon non-breeding visiting  Malayan Hawk Cuckoo picked out on 24th.

Contributing Observers: Tan Boo Eng, See Toh Yew Wai, Francis Yap, Zacc HD, Lau Jaisheng, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng, Rey Aguila, Frankie Lim, Low How Choon, David Li, Lawrence Cher, Toh Yuet Shin, Albert Low, Christina See, Lim Ser Chai, Goh Juan Hui, Geoff Lim and Alan OwYong.

Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Rhinomyias brunneata

Brown-chested Flycatcher at Bida

I bumped into Eric Tan this morning at Bidadari. Eric, a long time bird photographer, was on a home break from his work in Queensland. He was photographing the Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher at the OHT area with other photographers. He happily told me that this was his lifer. It just reminded me how precious and rare this flycatcher is even though we get to see it every year at Bidadari.

It is listed as a rare passage migrant and winter visitor to Singapore, but we think that the numbers passing through may be higher. It is globally threatened and served as one of the criteria for an Important Bird Area (IBA). It breeds in SE China and passes through Thailand on way to winter in Peninsular Malaysia. This particular genus Rhinomyias has two others, the Fulvous-chested Jungle Flycatcher, R. olivacea and Grey-chested Jungle Flycatcher R. umbratilis in it. They are residents of Greater Sundas for Fulvous-chested and Sumatra and Borneo for Grey-chested. Rare residents in Southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia.

Interestingly, there were no records of this Flycatcher before the 70s. Our first record was on 4th Jan1980 at Ulu Sembawang reported by Lim Kim Chuah. There were only ten records between this sighting and 1992. The earliest photo was one taken at Nee Soon Swamp Forest on 9th October 1994 ( Alan OwYong, Kenneth Kee and Alfred Chia) followed by others at Bukit Timah and Sime Road Forest in the subsequent years. Other sightings were at Tyersall Avenue, Kent Ridge Park and again at Ulu Sembawang.

When Bidadari gives way to HDB housing in a couple of years time, will we get to see this dainty Flycatcher returning to its favorite wintering ground again? I hope so.

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

 

Confusing Species: Crow-billed Drongo and Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo

It is not often that two species from different families can be confusing. More so when they share the same common name as in the case of the Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans and the Squared-tailed Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris. Both are black and have more or less the same structure as each other.  But look closer and you will find distinctive features in each species to tell them apart. The Crow-billed Drongo is a winter visitor and passage migrant to Singapore while the ST Drongo Cuckoo is a breeding resident with a few visiting during the winter months. If you see one during the summer months, it will be the Squared-tailed Drongo Cuckoo. They are very vocal all over our forests in May during breeding.

Crow-billed DrongoOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First Winter Crow-billed Drongo                         Adult Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo

From the above photos, the differences are quite easy to pick out. First look, the Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo has a slimmer look giving it a longish appearance. The Crow-billed Drongo looks broader.

The bill of the Cuckoo is thinner and slightly decurved, typical of all cuckoos, while the Drongo has an unmistakable broad bill from whence its name is derived.

Only the underside of the tail of the Cuckoo has scattered white barrings on it like most cuckoo species while the tail of the Drongo is unmarked.

The last feature is the shape of the tail. The Cuckoo has more or less a square tail sharing the characteristics of all cuckoos while the Drongo has a forked tail flaring outwards quite a bit.

A first winter Crow-billed Drongo on passage was photographed at Bidadari on the 19th of September by Lim Ser Chai. This is the first arrival for this season but stayed for less than 2 days.