by Geoff Lim, Alan Owyong (compiler), Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)
The Black-naped Monarch at the Botanic Gardens
The biggest find of the month was the extremely rare Black-naped Monarch, Hypothymis azurea, which also turned out to be the biggest disappointment, as it is in all likelihood an escapee. The monarch was first spotted at the Botanic Gardens on 18 October 2019 by visiting birder, Jan Lile, from Queensland, Australia. Her ebird record was picked up by Andrew Paul Bailey, who alerted birders on FB group ‘Bird Sightings’. Ramesh T. followed the lead the following day and found the bird, thereby alerting others to its continued presence. The bird remained at the Botanic Gardens until 24 October 2019, allowing many birders to see and photograph this great rarity, which unfortunately, turned out to be of captive origin.
A review of more than 60 photographs of the monarch showed evidence of unnatural feather damage, particularly to the tertials which were not only frayed, but also broken (tip of top left tertial); there were also unnatural wear to the tips of the primaries and especially to the tail feathers – indeed, the ends of three tail feathers were broken (see pic below); the mantle feathers were unnaturally messy – probably either through being handled or from flying against a cage; overall, the bird had a somewhat untidy appearance, hinting at its captive origin.
The Black-Naped Monarch had only been recorded on mainland Singapore once – on 1 January 2004. The species is rare on Pulau Ubin, and there are some records from Pulau Tekong; it is more usually encountered in the lowland rainforests, peat swamps, secondary forests and overgrown plantations in Malaysia (Wells, 2007:168-169).
Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) and Fringe Parks
Birders visiting the CCNR core reported the influx of migratory birds visiting or passing over the central forests. On 5 October 2019, a White Wagtail Motacilla alba was spotted by Adrian Silas Tay. A full adult male Siberian Blue Robin, Larvivora cyane, was seen at Venus Loop on 13 October 2019 by Felix Wong, while a pair of resident Short-tailed Babbler, Malcocincla malaccensis, were spotted within the same locality on 18 October 2019 by Alan Owyong. On 20 October 2019, a first-of-the-season Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, was recorded by Luke Teo at Mandai Track 15. Towards the end of the month, a Cinereous Bulbul, Hemixos cinereus, a non-breeding visitor, was spotted on 25 October 2019 from Jelutong Tower by Francis Yap.
A first-of-the-season female Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, was recorded on 22 October 2019 by Richard White, while another individual was seen at Thomson Nature Park on 25 October 2019 by Lian Yee Ming. On the summit of the Bukit Timah Hill, a Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Dicaeum chrysorrheum, was seen on 29 October 2019 by Alfred Chia, feeding in a fruiting fig tree. The next day on 30 October 2019, a first-of-the-season Grey-Faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus, was spotted flying over, by Fadzun Adnan.
Further away, a Crow-Billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, was seen on 24 October 2019 at Dairy Farm Nature Park by Joseph Lim, while a Ferruginous Flycatcher was spotted on 29 October 2019 at the Singapore Quarry by Francis Yap. The next day, 30 October 2019, a Blue-and-white / Zappey Flycatcher, Cyanoptila sp., was spotted at the same location by T. Ramesh.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Besides the Black-Naped Monarch, other birds seen include four Grey-headed Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus ichthyaetus – a juvenile and adult at the Symphony Lake, and two adult birds at the Gallop Extension on 26 October 2019 by Geoff Lim.
Despite a drastic reduction in area, Bidadari continued to support a number of migratory birds. The globally vulnerable Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, was spotted on 1 October 2019 by T. Ramesh at the area near the fallen tree at the former side entrance to the area, while a male Siberian Blue Robin, Larvivora cyane, was also seen on the same day by Deborah Friets. On 3 October 2019, a Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus lucionensis was spotted by Alan Owyong.
On 7 October 2019, an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, was spotted by Gan Lee Hsia, while a first winter Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, was seen on 7 October 2019 by Terence Tan. On 16 October 2019, a male white morph Amur/Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone sp., was spotted by Deborah Friets, while a Dark-Sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, was seen on 26 October 2019 in the afternoon after the rain, by “Trustmind Ng”. The next day, on 27 October 2019, a Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, was spotted by Low Chong Yang, who visited the former cemetery at 7am.
Other birds reported within Central Singapore included an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, that was found by Peng Ah Huay’s friend, in Ang Mo Kio Central, weak and not flying; a returning Chinese Sparrowhawk, Accipiter soloensis, that was seen on 27 October 2019 by Angela Yeo at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West; while a Blue-Winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was reported by Kwok Tuck Loong on 31 October 2019 at Geylang East Avenue 1 at about 7am.
On 1 October 2019, a single White-shouldered Starling, Sturnia sinensis, was seen along Seletar Club Road, flying from a tree to across the road with other birds, by Pary Sivaraman. On the same day, a mixed flock containing more than 100 Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea, and a Forest Wagtail, Dendronanthus indicus, were reported at a communal roost at Yishun by Khoo Mei Lin.
An Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, was reported to have crashed into a home at Recreation Road on 2 October 2019 by Janet Neo, and subsequently released, while a Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was reported to have crashed into a home in Minton Condominium on 10 October 2019 by Tan Tze Khing and survived.
Not so fortunate was a von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, that was reported dead at the foot of a HDB flat along Compassvale Road on 29 October 2019 by Zhang Licong, while a Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, was reported as having crashed into a home in Serangoon on 31 October 2019 by Charmiane Magnus Kuan, and subsequently released.
The eastern islands of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong had only two reports. We received a report of a first-of-the-season Long-Toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, on 3 October 2019 at Pulau Tekong from Frankie Cheong, while we had a report of more than 50 Swift Tern, Thalasseus bergii, on 4 October 2019 on Pulau Ubin from Tan Ju Lin and Tiak Lee.
The woods along a canal near Changi Business Park was reported to support two visiting Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, (1 October 2019, Mike Hooper), a Crow-Billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, a first-for-the-season Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus jotaka, and a Brown-Chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, (28 October 2019, T. Ramesh). Further away at Bedok Camp, more than 300 Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, were seen flying south on 27 October 2019 by Oliver Tan, while a Blue-Winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was spotted within Eastwood Estate on 30 October 2019 by Herman Phua. Over at Pasir Ris Park, Josh Spiler made an unusual report of a Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolata, which was spotted within the mangrove woods of on 12 October 2019.
A stray Spot-Billed Pelican Pelicanus philippensis on 3 October 2019 at Marina Barrage by John Marriott, possibly an escapee from our bird park, while a Drongo Cuckoo, Surniculus lugubris, was seen on 21 October 2019 at Gardens-by-the-Bay by Carmen Hui. Reports of the Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, at Pinnacle@Duxton continued to filter through on 3 and 6 October 2019 from Tay Kian Guan and Norhafiani Majid, respectively. Further west, a first-of-the-season Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, was seen on 11 October 2019 by Zacc HD.
The Henderson Waves proved to be a productive site during the migration season, not just for raptors, but also for other migrating birds. On 10 October 2019, ninety-three Red-rumped Swallow, Cecropis daurica, flying over the ridges were counted by Oliver Tan, who also spotted a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 14 Ocotber 2019. A Brown-Backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, was seen speeding over on 19 October 2019 by Zacc HD, as did an Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus, by Gayathree Arasu. Raptor watchers who persisted their vigil were rewarded by a first-of-the-season Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, on 24 October 2019 (Keita Sin), a first-of-the-season Sand Martin, Riparia riparia on 26 October 2019 (Martin Kennewell), four more Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus on 27 October 2019 (See Toh Yew Wai), and a juvenile Besra, Accipiter virgatus, on 31 October 2019 (Looi Ang Soh Hoon).
At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, a single Lesser Adjutant, Leptoptilos javanicus, was seen soaring over the park on 1 October 2019 by Tay Kian Guan, while a rare Chinese Egret, Egretta eulophotes, was photographed on 6 October 2019 by Teo Nam Seng. The charismatic Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, appeared on 27 October 2019, a first-of-the-season record reported by Art Toh.
A single Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, was seen preening itself in the evening at Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 by Francis Yap. Over at Kranji Marshes, a first-of-the-season record of an Oriental Reed Warbler, Acrocephalus orientalis was reported on 2 October 2019 by Wing Chong. A few days later on 6 October 2019, another first-of-the-season report of a Lanceolated Warbler, Locustella lanceolate, was made by Tan Yew Chong. On 28 October 2019, Veronica Foo accounted for a first-of-the-season Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Ixobrychus eurhythmus, as well as a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Locustella certhiola. Along Harvest Link just outside Kranji Marshes, a Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus japonensis, was reported on 12 October 2019 by Looi Ang Soh Hoon, as were 16 Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum, and two Long-Toed Stint, Calidris subminuta, (Alan Owyong), while 3 Pratincole were spotted the next day (13 October 2019) by Lim Kim Chuah, who also recorded a Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius. On the following day, 14 October 2019, an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, was spotted by Tay Kian Guan.
Over at Kranji Dam, White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus, were seen flocking with Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, on 1 October 2019 by Adrian Silas Tay, with eight of the latter flying towards Johor during last light. On 7 October 2019, a first-of-the-season record of an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, was reported by Chen Boon Chong, who noticed that it chased a Striated Heron out before flying back to the trees. The harrier later flew out in a south-westerly direction five minutes later.
A few adventurous birders ventured into Tuas and found a Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, on 5 October 2019 (Low Choon How), and a Jambu Fruit Dove, Ptilinopus jambu, on 28 October 2019 (Adrian Silas Tay).
This report is written by Geoff Lim, with records 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 Kelvin Ng Cheng Kwan, Francis Yap, Amin, Norhafiani A. Majid, Herman Phua and Alan Owyong for allowing us to use their photographs.
Wells, D. R. (2007), The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula Vol. 2, London: Christopher Helm.