Tag Archives: Crow-billed Drongo

Will Bidadari still be a haven for the birds?

Will Bidadari still be a haven for the migratory birds?

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Bidadari today is still a stop over and wintering ground for migratory birds despite the loss of a large part of its woodlands and forests. 

When the announcement that the old Bidadari Cemetery would be developed for housing, the nature and birding community were mourning the loss of yet another nature and birding haven. We have documented more than 155 species of birds here, half of which are migrants. In fact it is one of the best places to find some of the rarer migrant species in Singapore.

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The core of the 9 hectare park, with a lake and a creek added to the landscape. Photo from CPG Corporation. The beige colored road is the old Upper Aljunied Road which will be converted into a pedestrian and cycle “Heritage Walk” with all the large Rain trees preserved. 

Bidadari today is almost devoid of forest and green cover. There is only a patch of woodlands near to Mt. Vernon parlours that is semi-wild. This is where part of the 9 hectare park will be. If you go there today, you can see many of the transplanted trees growing in between the huge Ficus and Acacia trees. The old Upper Aljunied Road will be converted into a pedestrian and cycle “Heritage Walk” lined with spreading Rain trees. On the other side of the Heritage Walk, a new water body “Alkaff Lake” will hopefully bring in waterbirds to the area with the planting of wetland vegetation. Facing Bartley Road to the north is the one- hectare Albizia Hillock which will be left untouched. This is the highest part of Bidadari where most migrants make landfall. A “Bidadari Greenway” running from north to south will serve as a green corridor for both the residents and wildlife to move around.

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The one hectare Albizia Hillock will be left untouched. The Bird Group mapped this out as the migrant hotspot during a six month study. It will be linked to the park by green connectors and link bridge.

The landscape consultants will adopted a biodiversity enhancement approach by keeping as much of the present greenery and paths while adding in layered planting of suitable trees and shrubs similar to what was done at Gardens by the Bay. The HDB and NParks with contribution from NSS want to show that it can create a park that is rich and conducive to wildlife, to achieve their vision of “A community in Garden” living for Bidadari.  Will the migrants return? Only time will tell especially when all the buildings are up and the residents moved in. There will be more noise and disturbance. But so far this season 14 migrant species have shown a high sense of site fidelity and found their way back, even though their numbers were low.

The flycatchers led by the Asian Brown Flycatchers were the first to arrive. The Yellow-rumped and the Paradise Flycatchers follow suit. Last week we saw the arrival of the globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatchers. Bidadari is one of the best places to see this flycatcher in its wintering range.

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The Yellow-rumped Flycatchers were one of the first flycatchers to arrive at Bidadari. We get more females than males during Autumn.

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Both the Amur and Blyth’s Paradise Flycatchers  descended at Bidadari in good numbers. Amurs like this one outnumbered the Blyth’s during this period.

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Bidadari is one of the best places to see this Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher in its  wintering range.

The star for this season had to be this Ruddy Kingfisher that went missing for three years. It stayed for more than a week delighting many of its admirers and fans. We hope that the migrants will continue to come back and use the new Bidadari Park as their stop over wintering ground.

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List of migrants recorded so far this season at Bidadari:

  1. Arctic Warbler
  2. Eastern-crowned Warbler
  3. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  4. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
  5. Dark-sided Flycatcher
  6. Amur Paradise Flycatcher
  7. Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher
  8. Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher
  9. Ferruginous Flycatcher
  10. Tiger Shrike
  11. Brown Shrike
  12. Crow-billed Drongo.
  13. Ruddy Kingfisher.
  14. Drongo Cuckoo.

Source reference: Housing and Development Board

 

 

 

 

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A Christmas Cuckoo Present

A Christmas Cuckoo Present by Alan OwYong and Yong Ding Li.

Lim Kim Seng reported the sighting of the Chinese Hwamei at Siloso on the 19th December.  There has been no reports of this naturalised laughingthrush for a good part of the year. This led to Tuck Loong, Esther Ong and others to go and look for it on 23rd December.

They not only got the Chinese Hwamei but hit the jackpot when Tuck Loong spotted a small cuckoo perched high up on a high bare tree. From some of the early photographs taken, it looked like a possible candidate for a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculatus.

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Our Christmas present the female Asian Emerald Cuckoo turning up at Sentosa on 23rd December. 

Subsequent photographs obtained the next day confirmed their finding, effectively giving the whole birding community a timely Christmas present. All those who made the trip to the Siloso Skywalk over the following week went home happy with their tick.

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Ticking our presents, all the happy birders and photographers at Siloso Skywalk on Christmas Eve.

The bare tree in question is the Deciduous Fig Ficus superba, a fig species known to shed its leaves periodically. When the new shoots and leaves started to sprout, the Tussock Moths presumably the Clearwing, Perina sunda took full advantage of this by laying thousands of eggs on the tree. The result was an outbreak of it’s caterpillars. There were so many caterpillars that large congregations of them were to be seen on the ground, railings and nearby structures.

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The caterpillars of the Tussock Moths on the Ficus Superba attracted five species of cuckoos, an occurrence we  not witnessed before. 

It was this massive supply of food in the form of tussock moth caterpillars that attracted the cuckoos. The Asian Emerald Cuckoo, a rare migrant to the Malay Peninsula, naturally caused the most excitement as this would otherwise be the second record of the species for Singapore.  Another female cuckoo was sighted on the 29th December, and concurrent observations of both individuals confirmed that there were at least two Asian Emerald Cuckoos around, which is unprecedented! Other cuckoos partaking in this caterpillar feast included at least two Large Hawk Cuckoos, two Indian Cuckoos, two Chestnut-winged Cuckoos, and one Hodgson’s and Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo each. Other uncommon migratory birds seen in the secondary forest around the site included a Crow-billed Drongo, at least two Yellow-browed Warblers and a first winter male Blue-and-white/Zappey’s Flycatcher (Cyanoptila sp.).

Our first record of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo was a sub-adult female and juvenile observed at Seletar Reservoir Park on 31st May 2006. K.C. Tsang was the one who photographed them. Some of the diagnostic features were unclear in the photographs which resulted in conflicting identification answers from regional bird experts even after some consultation. The deliberations and discussions at the Records Committee went back and forth for two years before it was eventually included in the official NSS Checklist as a national first. There were two earlier records of females, both were turned out to be mis-identified Violet Cuckoos.

The Asian Emerald Cuckoo is widely distributed across the lower hills of the Himalayas (where it occurs as a summer visitor), eastward to southern China (Yunnan north to Sichuan) and much of continental Southeast Asia. There are few records in the Malay Peninsula and elsewhere in the Greater Sundas (e.g. Sumatra) where it probable occurs as a rare non-breeding visitor during the months of the northern winter. 

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. 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.

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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.