by Geoff Lim, Morten Strange, Tan Gim Cheong & Lim Kim Chuah. Photos by Francis Chia.
The 35th Singapore Bird Race, which took place from 16-17 November 2019, attracted more than 130 participants who formed 43 teams – a record number. The participants included more than 60 students from Primary and Secondary Schools. The number of teams for the various categories were as follows: eight for Primary School, nine for Secondary School, five for Marathon, ten for Sprint, and 11 for Photographers.
The first ever race took place in 1984, and is today, one of the longest running citizen science events in South-east Asia. A key objective of the race is to promote the appreciation of birds and biodiversity to the public. It also brings people from different walks of life together, and get them to go outdoors to look at birds and nature.
The Marathoners kicked off their gruelling 20-hour race at 4:30pm on 16 November 2019, while the race for the Sprint and Photographer categories was flagged off at 7:30am on 17 November 2019, followed by the School category at 8am, at Mapletree Business City.
Highlights for the School category
The school teams were confined to race in parks close to the vicinity of Mapletree Business City. The parks included HortPark, West Coast Park, Kent Ridge Park and Mount Faber Park. And unlike previous years, some calls were allowed this year so as to encourage more birders to take an interest in bird calls. The winner of the primary school category, Yumin Champs One recorded a respectable score of 20 species while the winner of the secondary school category, Goated-Spotters from Dunman Secondary School topped the category with a score of 35 species. The students had plenty of fun along the way and for many of them, this was the first time they were visiting these parks. Also, for most of them, it was also their first time seeing interesting species such as Oriental Pied Hornbill, the globally endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (pictured on the event T-shirt and allowed to be recorded by call), our delightful ‘little red dot’ unofficial national bird the Crimson Sunbird and many raptors, including the migratory Japanese Sparrowhawk.
Champions of the School (Primary) sub-category
School – Primary (top 3 placings)
|1st||Yumin Champs One (Yumin Primary School)||20|
|2nd||Top Wing (Teck Whye Primary School)||18|
|3rd||Yumin Champs A (Yumin Primary School)||17|
Champions of the School (Secondary) sub-category
School – Secondary (top 3 placings)
|1st||Goated-Spotters (Dunman Secondary School)||35|
|2nd||Hwa Chong Hornbills (Hwa Chong Institution (Sec))||33|
|3rd||ISS Laughing Thrush (ISS International School (Sec))||26|
Highlights for the Marathon, Sprint and Photographer categories
The teams turned out a great set of results, including one team that exceeded 100 species of birds in a relatively short 20-hour period. There were also many close fights with placings determined by teams having just one more species than the next team. Indeed, the champions for the Sprint category edged pass the 1st runner-ups by just one species! The 1st runner-ups in the Marathon category also edged pass the 2nd runner-ups by one species. And the two teams in the Marathon category who tied for 4th place also lost to the 2nd runner-ups by just one species. The defending champions of the Photographer category were so well ahead of the pack that they were pretty close to the top three placings for the Sprint category, amazing.
Best bird of the race is arguably a rare Grey-headed Lapwing at Turut Track, spotted and photographed by a few lucky teams. The critically endangered Straw-headed Bulbul was recorded at the Kranji Marshes, Neo Tiew Woods, Gillman Barracks area, and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR). Dairy Farm Nature Park turned out to be a hotspot for uncommon birds such as the Jambu Fruit Dove, Greater Green Leafbird, Cinerous Bulbul, Blue-rumped Parrot, Red-crowned Barbet, Eye-browed Thrush and Siberian Thrush. Another rare bird recorded during the race was the Lesser Adjutant at SBWR.
Champions of the Marathon category
|2nd||Birds are Reptiles||93|
|4th||Tied – Drongoes & dududu||91|
Champions of the Sprint category
Sprint Category (top 3 placings)
Champions of the Photographer category
Photographer Category (top 3 placings)
|1st||Where Where Where?||61|
This year, we are privileged to have Mapletree Investments as our main sponsor. It is through the generous contribution of Mapletree that we were able to enable more schools to participate in the bird race. This is especially important as the young are Singapore’s next generation who will inherit the natural heritage we leave behind.
Thanks also to other sponsors – Leica, Swarovski Optik, PUB, NParks, John Beaufoy Publishing and Wild Vigil Networks. Thanks to co-organiser Birdlife International, and thanks to the organising committee and all volunteers (logistics, guiding, arbitrating, etc.) helping to make the bird race a success. Also, a big thank you to all the participants for making this year’s bird race the biggest ever. Special thanks to the following schools for their support: Juying Primary School, Singapore Chinese Girls School (Pri & Sec), Teck Whye Primary School, West Grove Primary School, Yumin Primary School, Dunman Secondary School, Hwa Chong Institution (Sec), ISS International School (Sec), and Unity Secondary School.
Thanks to Mr Edmund Cheng, Chairman of Mapletree Investments, for gracing the event as the Guest-of-Honour. Thanks also to Mr Wan Kwong Weng, Group Chief Corporate Officer for Mapletree; Mr Kenneth Er, CEO of NParks; Dr Shawn Lum, President of NSS; and Mr Vinayagan Dharmarajah, Regional Director (Asia), Birdlife International, for their presence during the award ceremony held at the end of the day at Mapletree Business Centre.