Tag Archives: Kranji Marshes

NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee.

Fresh Water Ponds at Kranji Marshes

Kranji Marshes. Two conservation proposals in 1985 and 1990 resulted in adoption by NSS and later developed as a Kranji Marshes Park in 2005 by URA.

NSS’s Response to Internet Comments on the Projects of its Conservation Committee:  (First published in NSS’s website on 10 September 2017)
A Review of the Facts
The views expressed below are endorsed by the following:
Dr. Shawn Lum (NSS President)
Dr. Geh Min (NSS Past President)
Dr. Ng Soon Chye (NSS Past President)
Mr Leong Kwok Peng (Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Dr. Ho Hua Chew (Vice-Chairman, NSS Conservation Committee)
Introduction
Nature Society (Singapore) [NSS] members have been disturbed by statements made in
certain blogs and websites that they feel are inaccurate or misrepresent the work of the
Society and in particular its Conservation Committee both in the Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch) as well as in its emergence as the NSS after 1991. These comments aremade in articles posted in Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG) blogs, Raffles Museum of
Biodiversity Research (RMBR)’s DNA website and elsewhere. We feel it is important for the good name of NSS and the work we do that we attempt to clarify and correct some of these inaccuracies by giving our version of events. What follows below is our review of these inaccurate and misleading statements and our comments on them.
A) Campaign Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
1) ‘The almost daily media confrontation was led by Dr Wee, who was then President of NSS when the Conservation Committee Chairman declined to take up the fight as the area was not rich in birdlife.” .” (DNA, undated)
2) “… I have requested the Chairman of the Conservation Committee Dr Ho Hua Chew to
take up the cause. He declined. As a diehard birdwatcher he was probably interested in areas where the birdlife was visually as well as audibly obvious — like Kranji Heronry, Sungei Buloh or Khatib Bongsu.” (BESG, 2017a)
3) “Nature Society’s Conservation Committee was similarly not involved in the late 1990s
when Lower Peirce forest was under threat of being cleared for a golf course. I was the
Founding President of the newly formed Nature Society (Singapore) then and I sent a
message to Dr Ho Hua Chew, Chairman of the Conservation Committee, to oppose the plan. He was not interested. So I took charge.” (BESG, 2017b)
NSS Responses:
1) Dr Ho, with Sutari as assistant, was co-ordinator for the bird surveys under the NSS Bird Group. This was acknowledged behind the cover page of NSS’s Proposed Golf Course at Lower Peirce Reservoir: an EIA report (1992). Together with Sutari, Dr. Ho invited Dr.
Wee, the then President of the Society, to visit the bird survey transacts, which he agreed to do. To claim that Dr. Ho could not care less because the Peirce Reservoir Forest is not “rich in birdlife” is false. If that is true, Dr. Ho would not have, together with Sutari, persuaded and brought the then President to visit and have a look at the field of battle at all.
2) The claim that Dr. Ho declined “to take up the cause” is incorrect. What happened was that he was asked by the then President to co-ordinate/collate the results of all the surveys done by the various groups. Dr. Ho thought and told the then President that he (the President) was the best person for the task as he was a botanist and plant life was the main-stay of the nature reserve. Also, he was close at the time to the various academic collaborators.
B) Signature Petition Against the Lower Peirce Golf Course Project (1992)
Internet Comments:
“There was also a spontaneous signature campaign … a campaign that was organized without the knowledge of the President” ( BESG, 2017a).
NSS Responses:
1) The signature campaign was organised with Dr. Wee’s knowledge and was not
“spontaneous”. In Wee and Hale, 2008, it is stated that: “A campaign was organized that
resulted in many thousands signing up, giving not only their names but their identity card numbers and occupations” to oppose the construction of the golf course … And further, in Wee & Hale 2008, it is added: “The almost daily confrontation in the media led to increasing public support against … the golf course”.
2) Dr. Wee himself had sent Dr. Ho a draft of the petition asking for his input. Dr. Ho
assisted to canvass for signatures in support of the petition. The signature collection was
impressive. NSS made extensive outreach to collect the signatures. It was not sent, as the
Government decided to shelve the building of the golf course.
C) NSS’s Conservation Proposals and their Aftermath
Here are a series of the internet postings on the Conservation Committee’s efforts at nature conservation:
Internet Comments:
1) “Flushed with success, the Conservation Committee of the society began a series of
campaigns to get government to protect the many areas listed in the Master Plan – as long as there was an abundance of birdlife. Filled with enthusiasm but lacking in behind-the-scene connections, the local leadership engaged in media confrontations when government failed to respond positively. Members were then new to conservation and more than a little naive, to say the least. Eventually every single non-gazetted area listed in the Master Plan ended up being developed.” (DNA, undated).
2) “Eventually, every one of the other conservation proposals in the society’s Master Plan
was rejected and till today, Sungei Buloh is the society’s first and only success in persuading the government to set aside any new area for nature conservation.” (Wee & Hale, 2008)
3) “This complements the Society’s earlier success, that of persuading government to set
aside an area for a bird sanctuary in Sungei Buloh. Until today these are the only two
successes the Society can be proud of “ (BESG, 2017a)

NSS Responses:
1) Only two of these nature areas proposed for conservation “ended up being developed”; these are: Marina South and Senoko. The claim that there are “only two successes the Society can be proud of “(citing Sungei Buloh and the campaign against the Lower Peirce golf course) is again incorrect.
2) Here are the facts pertaining to the proposals submitted to the relevant authorities and their aftermath, stated in brief. The readers can judge the facts for themselves:
a) Kranji Dam Mangrove (MNS, 1987a): A proposal for its conservation was put in a small section of the Sungei Buloh proposal, formulated by the NSS Bird Group and Conservation Committee. Thanks to Clive Briffett, who identified the area as important and formulated the detailed proposal after the Buloh proposal was submitted (MNS 1987b), it was designated a Nature Area in the inaugural Singapore Green Plan (SGP, 1993). And it was subsequently named the ‘Kranji Nature Trail Park’ and incorporated into the management of Sg Buloh Nature Park by National Parks (NParks). In 2015, it was officially integrated into Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, dropping its former name.
b) Kranji Marshes (MNS, 1985 & MNS, 1990a): The Kranji Marshes was included with
five other Singapore wetland sites in the IUCN’s Directory of Asian Wetlands, emphasizing its ecological importance as “a fairly rare type of habitat in Singapore and the Peninsular Malaysia” (Hails, 1989). An outline proposal for the conservation of the freshwater marshland at the Kranji Reservoir was submitted as early as 1985 to the relevant authorities. An expanded and updated proposal was submitted in 1990. After the tussles with the Mediacorp Transmission Project (1990) and the Kranji Sanctuary Golf Course (2002), the remaining intact marshes, mostly south of the BBC station, were designated “Kranji Marshes Park” in 2005 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). NSS carried out an adoption programme here under the Public Utility Board’s (PUB) ABC Waters Programme from 1999 to 2014. After this, URA has, in consultation with NSS, made the Park more accessible to the public while also making it more attractive to the birdlife.
c) Senoko (MNS, 1990b): This bird sanctuary, a remnant mangrove area with aqua-culture ponds, was overwhelmed by the Sembawang HDB project. In response to its request to manage Senoko (NSS letter, 13 July 1992), NSS’s Conservation Committee received a reply from the Ministry of National Development (MND) stating that it had set aside 24 hectares of Senoko for conservation, but that the area boundary had not been finalised yet and they would revert back when it is done (MND letter, 6 October 1992). The Committee then requested a meeting to discuss the run of the boundary to include an important part of the habitat (NSS letter, 6 Nov 1992). The Committee was trying to do the best for the wildlife in the area, given that the authorities were not familiar with the habitat and its wildlife . In the meantime, the Committee managed to show NParks the area of concern in January 1993. While awaiting the MND’s reply, the then MND Acting Minister announced in Parliament that the Senoko bird sanctuary area will be developed for HDB upgraders.
d) Sentosa (MNS, 1990c): This report proposed Mount Serapong and Mount Imbiah for
conservation. These two areas were put into the Singapore Green Plan (1993) as Nature
Areas. This proposal has so far stayed the hand of Sentosa Development Corporation in its ,plans from eating into Mount Serapong and, to some extent, Mount Imbiah.
e) Marina South (MNS, 1991a): The NSS Conservation Committee’s effort to save the
marshy area with ponds for the wild ducks and other wetland bird species was overwhelmed by the government’s land-fill to prevent mosquito infestation. After the conservation proposal was rejected by the Ministry of Environment, the Committee requested that the marshland be filled up in slow stages to allow for the preparation of an adjacent, manicured pond in the Marina South Public Park for the wild ducks — as an alternative refuge (NSS letter, 20 May
1992). This was not acceded but, two decades later (2012), this park pond was enlarged and extended to form the Dragonfly Pond in the Gardens by the Bay.
f) Kent Ridge Environs (MNS, 1991b): This proposal covers the belukar forest of Kent
Ridge Campus. Still very much intact and put into the revised Singapore Green Plan as a
new Nature Area (URA 2003).
g) Pulau Ubin (NSS, 1992): Now a park under NParks management. This proposal was
based on an island-wide survey (1991) of the birdlife of Pulau Ubin by the NSS Bird Group when Ubin was a little-explored area in terms of biodiversity. The proposal was a pioneering conservation effort for Ubin. The Conservation Committee again re-emphasised its commitment to the future survival and viability of Ubin as a Nature Area in its Position Paper submitted in 2014 to NParks and MND. This report urged a Nature Reserve designation for Ubin, with one centralized management authority together with proposals for further protecting and enhancing its biodiversity assets. In 2016, NParks was assigned to be this central management agency, which will enable NParks to “respond more quickly and directly to queries and issues raised by residents and the public, instead of having to refer these queries to other agencies…” (NParks, 2016). This is a huge conservation step forward together with the URA’s shelving of its plan for the MRT connection as well as for housing and industrial development.
h) Sungei Khatib Bongsu (MNS, undated/a) and South Simpang (NSS, 1993): The Khatib
Bongsu proposal covers a mangrove area where the heronry of the Black-crowned Night
Heron was located. The South Simpang proposal is an expanded and updated proposal
which includes the heronry, and covers a larger area from Sungei Khatib Bongsu to the
eastern flank of Sungei Seletar estuary. The proposed area is mostly mangrove with some
wooded areas along its landward side included. It was designated in the Simpang
Development Guide Plan (1993) as a Nature Area to be integrated into the housing plan. Itis also mentioned in the budget speech in Parliament by Mr Lim Hng Kiang, the then MND Acting Minister, as a conservation site together with Sungei Buloh (refer Singapore
Parliament Report: 18 March 1994). The comment in BESG that “Sungei Khatib Bongsu was eventually canalized and the surrounding area reclaimed and developed into a reservoir” (BESG, 2017c) is incorrect. In 2004, on request from the PUB, the NSS Conservation Committee submitted a report on the important wildlife of the Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area (NSS, 2004). In response to the Committee’s report, PUB replied that there are no plans to develop SungeiSeletar Estuary, Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Sungei Simpang into a reservoir in the near future. Any reservoir development there will likely be in tandem with other developments in
the area (PUB’s letter, 5 April 2007). The lower reaches of the river are still uncanalised and the reservoir has been put on hold and only a slice of the forest at the landward area had to give way to a new road (Yishun Avenue 8) and an international college. Most of the mangrove and forest are still intact under MINDEF management (Lim, 2014). The
government will have to be reminded of their commitment here as planned in the 1993
Simpang DGP and declared by Mr Lim Hng Keang in Parliament.
i) Bukit Brown (NSS, 2011 & Ho, 2012): The position paper submitted was against the
development of the new 8-lane expressway through a part of Bukit Brown near Lornie Road.
Also built into NSS’s objection was that the expressway will overwhelm an important and
beautiful valley that has an interesting stream and birdlife — to which the government
responded by building a viaduct over the valley. According to a comment posted in BESG,
the trees at Bukit Brown “were common roadside species and the other plants were similarly common” (BESG, 2017d). However, the NSS Conservation Committee took an ecological view, regarding the wild vegetation proliferating there for decades as an extended habitat for forest wildlife. Over years of monitoring, the Bird Group and other birdwatchers have recorded at least 50 species of forest birdlife there, including 15 nationally threatened species such as the White-bellied Woodpecker, Violet Cuckoo, Black-headed Bulbul, Red-eyed Bulbul, etc. (NSS, 2011; Ho, 2012). Also, rare or nationally threatened forest butterfly species have appeared in the area like the Golden Royal and the Banded Line Blue, a new record for Singapore, (A. Jain, personal comm., Dec 2012) as well as the interesting Malayan Colugo (Flying Lemur).
To say that the area “had absolutely no conservation value” (BESG, 2017d) because there are no rare or nationally threatened plants is to take a one-sided perspective or dis-ecological view of nature conservation. The area provides sustenance for the many wildlife of the neighbouring MacRitchie forest of the Nature Reserve. To the question: “Does it mean that any areas or trees on which birds land regularly need to be preserved?” (BESG, 2017d), the answer is not obviously an outright “no”. Of course, they don’t have to be birds. If the area has many nationally threatened as well as uncommon wildlife, especially forest-affiliated species, the area is certainly worth conserving. Otherwise, it would be foolish to seek the preservation of Sungei Buloh for migratory birds three decades ago, when there was very little vegetation around the area at all, let alone any plants being rare or endangered.
D) Concluding Remarks
The above-mentioned efforts of NSS to save or to secure the long-term survival of
unprotected nature areas is only part of the work of the Conservation Committee under the Society’s auspices. That the Society, including of course the Conservation Committee, is committed seriously to defend the integrity of the Nature Reserves goes without saying. Recent evidence includes our position papers on the Cross Island MRT Line Project and also on the Mandai tourism project by Mandai Safari Park Holdings (MSPH), the latter involving NSS’s effort to expand the boundary of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) at its north-western sector to provide a viable buffer and wildlife connectivity along the Reserve’s almost negligible territorial ground there.

Dated: 5th September 2017.
References:
BESG (2017a). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 8: Lower Peirce’. 2 April.
BESG (2017b). “Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 13: MacRitchie Forest. 20 April.
BESG (2017c). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 4: Khatib Bongsu’. 5 April.
BESG (2017d). ‘Nature Conservation and Nature Society (Singapore) 11: Bukit Brown’. 16 April.
DNA (undated). “Wee Yeow Chin” in The DNA of Singapore, Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research website.
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Hails, C. J. (1989), ‘Singapore’ in A Directory of Asian Wetland, edited by D.A. Scott. (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, World Conservation Union.
Ho, H. C. (2012). ‘Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown’. In Nature Watch Vol. 20, No 2, April – June 2012.
Lim, J. (2014). ‘A Paddle through the Magical Watery World Woods’ in the blog The Long and Winding Road: 30  July.
MNS (1991a). Conservation Proposal for Marina South. Malayan Nature Society ( Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
MNS (1991b). Kent Ridge Environs: A Proposal for Conserving Nature at the National University of Singapore  Campus. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990a). Conservation Proposal for Kranji Heronry and Marshes. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):  Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990b). Conservation Proposal for Senoko (Sungei Sembawang). Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch):
Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1990c). Conservation Proposal for Sentosa. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): Bird Group.  Unpublished report.
MNS (1987a). A Proposal for a Nature Conservation Area at Sungei Buloh. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore
Branch): Bird Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1987b). A Proposal for an Ecological Park at Kranji Dam. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch): The Bird
Group Conservation Committee. Unpublished report.
MNS (1985). Kranji Marshes: An Outline Proposal for a New Nature Reserve. Malayan Nature Society (Singapore):  Bird Group. Unpublished report.
MNS (undated/a). Conservation Proposal for Sungei Khatib Bongsu (Yishun Heronry). Malayan Nature Society
(Singapore Branch): Bird Group. Unpublished Report.
NParks (2016). ‘NParks to be the Central Management Agency for Pulau Ubin’. National Parks Board, 4 June.
NSS (2011). Nature Society’s Position on Bukit Brown. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
NSS (2004). Important Information on the Biodiversity of Khatib Bongsu-Sungei Seletar Estuary Area. Nature Society
(Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report submitted specifically to PUB, ( June 11).
NSS (1993). Conservation Proposal for South Simpang (covering Sungei Khatib Bongsu and Kampong Kitin Area).
Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee. Unpublished report
NSS (1992). Conservation Proposal for Pulau Ubin. Nature Society (Singapore): Conservation Committee.  Unpublished report.
URA (2003). URA Draft Master Plan 2003. Report of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Wee, Y. C. & Hale, R. (2008). “The Nature Society (Singapore) and the Struggle to Conserve Singapore Nature Areas’.  In Nature in Singapore 2008 Vol 1, 26 August.

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Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes 19.2.17

Birdwatching at Kranji Marshes on Sunday, 19 Feb 2017

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Members of Nature Society posing for a group photo at Kranji Marshes. Many thanks to Lee Ee Ling (squatting extreme right) for arranging and leading the walk, Yap Wee Jin ( squatting extreme left) and Wing Chong ( standing back left) for assisting. 

It was a cool and sunny Sunday morning when we arrived at the Kranji Marshes. A lush expense of greenery and cool waters greeted us when we stepped out of the bus. The hustle and bustle and noise of city life was replaced by the chipping sounds of birds all around. Everyone had their binoculars and cameras out ready for action when we started our walk at 8.15 am. This is one of the monthly walks to the core area of Kranji Marshes arranged by the Bird Group of the Nature Society (Singapore) with Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and National Parks Board. 

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The family of Red-wattled Lapwings have made Kranji Marshes their permanent home.

As we proceeded into the core area, less common birds such as the Red Wattled Lapwing and Daurian Starling were spotted. However, the highlight and top sighting for the day was the appearance of two Watercocks.  

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Highlight of the walk were the two Watercocks, a lifer for many of our members

Even though they only appeared for a brief moment, it was enough to make this trip worthwhile as they are uncommon winter visitor. A lifer for several members of the group who were obviously delighted with this sighting. ☺

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Bird watching in one of the many hides ensured that the birds were not disturbed.

Despite a brief moment of apprehension on seeing some black clouds in the sky towards the tail end of our walk, the good weather prevailed and our time passed quickly.

More pictures of birds sighted at the Kranji Marshes. 

Resident Ashy Tailorbird, Baya Weaver and a winter visitor Daurian Starling 

We ended our walk at 11 am with a good haul of 35 species much to the delight of all those who choose to spend the Sunday morning at the largest fresh water marsh in Singapore. 

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One of our many colorful Kingfishers, the White-throated poised for a catch.

Some additional information on our sightings:

Bird species sighted:                             Bird species heard:

1/ Purple Heron                                       1/ Yellow Bellied Prinia

2/ Javan Mynah                                        2/ Large Billed Crow

3/ Pink Necked Green Pigeon               3/ Collared Kingfisher

4/ Baya Weaver                                          4/ Common Iora

5/ Black Naped Oriole                              5/ Common Tailorbird

6/ Olive Backed Sunbird

7/ Common Flameback Woodpecker

8/ Red Breasted Parakeet

9/ Black Browed Reed Warbler

10/ Spotted Dove

11/ Red Wattled Lapwing

12/ Black Baza

13/ Lesser Coucal

14/ Blue Tailed Bee Eater

15/ Barn Swallow

16/ Long Tailed Parakeet

17/ Yellow Bittern

18/ Yellow Vented Bulbul

19/ Brahminy Kite

20/ Swifts

21/ Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

22/ Daurian Starling

23/ WaterCock

24/ Brown Shrike

25/ Asian Glossy Starling

26/ Pied Fantail

27/ Common Kingfisher

28/ Lesser Whistling Ducks

29/ Grey Headed Fish Eagle

30/ White Throated Kingfisher

31/ Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker

32/ White Breasted Waterhen

33/ Intermediate Egret

34/ Ashy Tailorbird

35/ Oriental Dollarbird

All Bird photos : Courtesy of Henrietta Woo

Birdwatching leader : Lee Ee Ling

Assisted by : Wing Chong, Yap Wee Jin

Report by : Yap Wee Jin

32nd Singapore Bird Race 2016 Review.

Close to 100 eager participants gathered at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves on 16th October for the 32nd Singapore Bird Race 7.30 am flag-off. 18 Photographer teams, 14 Advanced and Novice birder teams made up this record turn out for a chance to bird inside the conservation core of the Kranji Marshes. The change of format to a half day instead of a 24 hours race help to entice more new participants to get a feel of what a bird race is all about. All enjoyed the race and most will take part again based on the survey done after the race. Some even asked a longer race!

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A record turnout of close to 100 participants from 32 teams for the 32nd Singapore Bird Race.

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Shawn Lum President of Nature Society (Singapore) welcoming the participants.

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Lim Kim Chuah Chairperson of the Bird Group and organizer for the 32nd Bird Race briefing the participants on the Rules and Regulations before the start of the Race.

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We are most grateful to Simon Siow ( second from the right) for fielding not one but two teams from MNSJ for this year’s Bird Race. His team ( with Alyce Ang and Jimmy Lee) recorded a creditable 60 species in the Advanced Category. The Bird Group will be visiting Danga Bay with MNSJ to check on the waders wintering there in December as part of joined activities with MNSJ.

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Just after flag-off, all eyes peeled to the skies for the early ticks

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Teams in intense action inside the Conservation Core of the Kranji Marshes. Many thanks to SBWR for opening this area for the Bird Race.

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Teams at the main bridge at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves shooting egrets roosting on the mangroves.

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The Duck Hide inside the Kranji Marshes Core was a great spot to tick the Black-backed Swamphen. This is the first visit to the Core Conservation Area for many of the participants.

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Teams hard at work tallying up the day’s count before submission

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Team CAL taking a deserved break after a frantic morning of chasing ticks. From right Richard Lim,  Ang Kok Hwa, Chang Wei Hean and supporter Lim Chun King 

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Arbitrators Morten Strange, Albert Low, Francis Yap, Tan Gim Cheong and Lee Taih Khee checking on the entries of the various teams to determine the winners. Many thanks to all our arbitrators for helping out on their rest day.

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Time to tuck in to a sumptuous buffet after a hard morning’s work and swapping stories with other teams. 

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We are grateful to Dr. Lena Chan, Director of the National Biodiversity Center at NParks, for gracing the Bird Race as our Guest of Honor.

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Morten Strage author of several regional bird guides highlighting some of the notable species recorded during the race like the Bar-tailed Godwit, Long-toed Stint, Little Ringed Plover and Pacific Swifts.

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Albert Low talking about the bird diversity in South East Asia. He and Yong Ding Li recently launched their book “100 Best Bird Watching Sites in Southeast Asia” which was on sale on the day.

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Leong Kok Peng Vice President of NSS giving away prizes to Eyzat Amer of Team “Tiger Shrike” Winners of the Advanced Category with 75 species, a super effort. The team was led by Martin Kennewell with Richard Carden. Congratulations!

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Father and daughter Team “Sandpiper”. Dad Lim Kim Seng turned a family bonding session with daughters Nur Diana and Nur Nadia ( both not in the photo) into a winning affair taking second prize in the Advanced Category with 69 species. 

Team “Little Terns” Lim Kim Keang, Willie Foo, Wong Chung Cheong and Leung Wai Kee tied with the Malaysian Nature Society Johor Team 1 led by Simon Siow both with 60 species. “Little Terns” took third spot based on count back. 

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Team “Aim High” ( Richard White and See Toh Yew Wai with G.O.H Dr. Lena Chan) certainly did that. They came up tops among the 18 photography teams with 66 species photographed. This was a fantastic feat making them Winners of the Photography Category and third overall total for the day. Well done Richard and See Toh.

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Team “OOF” came in second in the photography category with 50 species. G.O.H Dr. Lena Chan with Leader Keita Sin, Goh Cheng Teng and Tan Rui Siang. A very commendable effort. 

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Dr. Lena Chan with team “The 3 Roosters” of  Laurence Eu, Alan Yeo and Zenon Kosiniak. They shot a combined 43 species to claim the third prize. Great effort for first timers, definitely something to crow about.

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Adrian Silas Tay led team “Weekend Birders” with Daniel Ong, Jerold Tan and Aung Mee to pick up the first prize for the Novice Category with 60 species receiving their prizes from Leong Kok Peng VP of NSS.  Great job guys. Congrats. You are hereby promoted to the Advanced Category next year.  

Another family team the “Banerjee Family” led by Anish with Atish and Debina came in second in the Novice Category with 51 species. A great family effort.

Team “Rajawali ” led by Ann Ang with her Mum Cecila Mah and Pat Ong took it easy this year to claim a podium place with 47 species. They were past winners in this category. 

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Leong Kok Peng, Vice President of NSS presenting tokens of appreciation to our sponsors and friends. Top: Dr. Lena Chan, Director. National Biodiversity Center. NParks, our Guest of Honor; bottom: Klenn Koh of Swarovski Optics, Bird Race Sponsors.

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 Top: Chua Yen Kheng of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves, Venue Sponsors and bottom: Tony Wong Committee Member Malayan Nature Society Johor. The Bird Group thanked Andrew Chow for his generous donation of his beautiful bird paintings as prizes and tokens of appreciation to our sponsors. 

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Swarovski Optics, long time sponsor of our Bird Race with their latest scopes and binoculars for the participants to try out.  Many thanks to Swarovski Optics and Klenn Koh for your continued support.

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Lim Kim Chuah Chairperson of the Bird Group and Organizer of the Bird Race thanking our sponsors, volunteers and participants at the close of the race. Special thanks to co-organizer, Lee Ee Ling, Yap Wee Jin, Nisha and Delphin. See you all next year!

Photos credit: Yap Wee Jin. Many thanks.

 

 

From the lens of a rookie birdwatcher

A few months ago, Lim Kim Chuah, Chairperson of the Bird Group was asked to conduct a test for girl guides who aspire to have the Birdwatcher Badge. He took a student from MGS, Hao Yunrui under his wings, went over to her school one afternoon, pass her a pair of binoculars and also one of our field guide written by Ding Li and et al. He showed her the birds in her school, taught her a few things about birding and then gave her some assignments. The assignments were: 1) learn and write her observation on 6 species of birds that she can find in her school or around her home/park 2) to participate in one NSS Birdwatching activity 3) to write a reflection on her journey
Here is Hao Yunrui’s reflection:

After an eventful few weeks of dabbing into amateur bird watching, I’ve gathered some thoughts to share about this fascinating hobby. When I initially made the decision to take on the Bird watching Badge, I saw it as something to be done and then simply forgotten. Like ticking off the goods on the grocery list, it was just one of those things that I needed to try out once to clear it off my bucket list. Mrs Tham then brought me under the guidance of Mr Lim Kim Chuah, who then carried me through the course of my one month Bird watching Journey. His tasks for me were:

First, to make a bird watching journal covering my observations of 6 different species of birds

Second, to go on a Bird watching trip with the Bird Group members of Nature Society (Singapore).

Hmmm, that sounded easy, was what I thought to myself when I first saw the tasks assigned to me, and that marked the start of my fascinating journey of unveiling a new realm of experience whose door had previously never been opened to me.

To achieve the tasks, I made it a point to go to various nature reserves and parks to watch birds every Saturday. My aim on each of my solo trip was to spot at least one species of bird that is new to me (a lifer in birdwatchers lingo). I also jotted down my observations in a field logbook (which would later become my bird watching journal) and if those tiny flickering feathered friends would allow me, I would try to snap a picture or two.

Female Koel from Bishan Park.

Female Asian Koel from Bishan Park.Photo: Hao Yunrui.

During my early morning sojourns to our parks and gardens, I spotted a variety of birds some of which made calls which I have heard previously e.g. the Asian Koel. It dawned on me that all of us do cross paths with many types of birds in our daily life. We hear their calls, catch their silhouettes among the trees but we are usually so caught up with our busy schedule that we choose to ignore such beautiful creatures in our midst. Throughout this one month, I sometimes wonder, if only people could spare a moment to look at the flowers and trees around them instead of staring into their phones. Only then will they discover the feathered wonders among our midst – those eye-catching and bright yellow Black-naped Oriole and the ubiquitous loud and noisy Asian Koel. And if you care to look closely at the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, you will realise that the patterns on its back are actually intricately beautiful. If you observe a Javan Myna, it is not all black but has white patches on its wings when it flies. These are some of tiny details that many of us fail to notice but which is really visible if we could only spend some time to observe them. On the hindsight, I was also like one of these people. I am glad taking on this bird watching badge has taught me to be more observant of the nature around us.

White-breasted Waterhen at Kranji Mashes.

White-breasted Waterhen at Kranji Mashes. Photo: Hao Yunrui

Through this experience, I have managed to see a lot of rare and interesting birds. Mr Lim took the extra step to encourage me to join the Nature Society on a birding walk to Kranji marsh. It was really an eye-opener and a wonderful experience which will certainly open up my eyes and taught me to see our natural world especially our avian friends through a different set of lens.

Common Moorhen at Kranji Marshes.

Common Moorhen at Kranji Marshes. Hao Yunrui

These are some of the shots I’ve captured over the weeks. However, I wasn’t able to capture most of the birds that I saw as they were either too far away or flying. The graceful physiques of these birds were instead captured by my eyes with binoculars.

The trip to Kranji Marshland was really eye-opening ( quite literally ). It’s the first time I am visiting a marshland. And I felt privileged to be able to visit the core area of this park which is yet to be opened to the public. I initially felt really awkward and out of place because everyone else around me were equipped with gigantic, state-of-the-art bird viewing equipment and most participants were in their 40s and 50s. However, it was evident that they were really passionate about what they were doing as they could call out the names of all the birds that came within our view. Some could even spot birds miles away with their sharp eyes and telescopes were also on hand to allow close views of distant birds. It was quite heartening to see a handful of young adults mixing in the crowd because it truly shows that this hobby is not just for the “old” but the young as well. It was the first time I ever felt so close and intimate with nature, as though I were a part of it and it a part of me. Watching our feathered friends in such a quiet place gave me a sense of connection. When the White-bellied Sea Eagle stared intensely into my eyes through the binoculars, I could almost feel it whispering to me. Seeing nature fully at work was very magical, because everything seemed to be in such perfect balance without the interference of man. We spotted a Purple Heron poking its head out of the water hyacinths in search of prey. It made me realised that nature can function by itself perfectly and does not need our help to survive, but rather we are the ones who constantly seek help from nature. We should treasure of whatever nature we have conserve it to the best of our ability.

Bird watching is no longer something to be simply tick off my bucket list. I hope to be able to visit such places again and be acquainted with its many fascinating birds.

My thanks to Mr. Lim Kim Chuah for his guidance, time and sharing his knowledge with me, Mr. Wong Chung Cheong and members of the Bird Group for showing me the birds at Kranji Marshes.

Reference: Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds Of Singapore. 2013 John Beaufor Publishing Limited.

2nd NSS/NParks Kranji Marshes Bird Trip

Contributed by Alfred Chia. All photos by Yap Wee Jin 20 March 2016.
Yap Wee Jin 2
The 2nd NSS/NParks collaborative birdwatching trip to the Kranji Marshes was organised on 20 March. 23 who signed up for this still sought-after trip were treated to a good show of birds on a sweltering hot morning.
Black-backed Swamphen Yap Wee Jin
The Black-backed Swamphen peeping out of the water weeds. Good to see it back.
We managed to garner all wanted species: Black-backed Swamphen, Common Moorhen, a preening White-browed Crake, Red-wattled Lapwing and a perched Grey-headed Fish Eagle. The uncommon but pretty Black-capped Kingfisher was also a good find. In total, we had 5 species of kingfishers. Besides the Black-capped, there was also the Collared, White-throated, Stock-billed and Common Kingfishers. In the reeds, Pallas’s Grasshopper & Oriental Reed Warblers were heard but not seen.
Common Moorhen Yap Wee Jin

Common Moorhen is not so common due to the loss of fresh water marshlands.

Both Blue-throated & Blue-tailed Bee-eaters provided colour to the morning while the air was constantly filled with the incessant calls of both the Long-tailed & Red-breasted Parakeets. Not to be outdone too were calling Banded Bay & Rusty-breasted Cuckoos while at the Raptor Tower, a lone Lineated Barbet called desultorily.

 

White-browed Crake Yap Wee Jin

White-browed Crake is another shy wetland species that is hard to see.

It was also at the tower where ironically, we had unblocked view of a single Black-backed Swamphen, seen feeding far away on one of the island in the marshes. Prior to this, while making our way to the tower, some of us had fleeting flight views while some had just one-two second type of look when it momentarily appeared from the thick vegetation.

 

BCKF Yap Wee Jin

Uncommon winter visitor Black-capped Kingfisher wintering at the marshes.

We ended the trip with 50 species of seen birds and another 8 species heard. All agreed it was a morning well-spent, sweat and the intense heat notwithstanding!

Kranji Marsh Walk-28 February 2016

By: Lim Kim Chuah & Lee Ee Ling. 

NSS led a public walk to Kranji Marsh core area on 28 February. We were fortunate to have a nice balmy morning. The group of 22 participants was immediately greeted by a grand fly pass of 13 Black Bazas at the start. And it was continuous wave of action after that. Blue-throated and Blue-tailed bee-eater displayed openly on a bare tree. And not to be outdone were Red-breasted Parakeets and also a beautifully “litted up” Dollarbird under the warm morning light. However a rather skittish and distant Banded Bay Cuckoo had other ideas and could not be persuaded to keep still. And skulking Pallas’ Grasshopper Warbler could be heard calling in the dense reeds and as usual refusing to show. In the marsh, the usual Red-wattled Lapwing did not disappoint. Some lucky birders also had good views of the specialty here – the Black-backed Swamphen. Then there were the usual hoard of bird foraging in the marsh –  Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Intermediate Egret, Yellow Bittern, Stork-billed, Collared and Common Kingfisher. To add some excitement, a lone “Swintail” Snipe left birders puzzled over its identity and an “unripe” Pond Heron generated some discussions on whether it is a Chinese or Javan (or maybe even an Indian).  In the fenced up open field, there was a small flock of Pacific Golden Plover. The brownish plumage blended nicely to the colour of the ground and took the sharp eyes of some birders to pick them out. There was also a lone Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover and several Paddyfield Pipit roving around the field. And finally to end the walk, some of us were treated to an insomniac Savanna Nightjar calling and flying low over the marsh.

Thanks to Ee Ling for coordinating and organizing the walk.

Kranji Marshes 28 Feb 2016 Chung Cheong

Birding at Kranji Marsh.  Picture by Wong Chung Cheong

Kranji Marshes Chung Cheong

Klenn Koh showing participants how to take pictures through the telescope using a mobile phone. Picture by: Wong Chung Cheong

Blue-tailed Bee-eater Kleen Koh

Some bird pictures from Klenn’s “phone-scoping” technique: A Blue-tailed Bee-eater basking under the morning light

Red-wattled Lapwing Kleen Koh

One of the stars of Kranji Marsh – Red-wattled Lapwing. Photo: Klenn Koh

Wood Sandpiper Klenn Koh

A lonely Wood Sandpiper – becoming increasingly difficult to see this species in Singapore. Photo: Klenn Koh.

Many thanks to Klenn Koh and Chung Cheong for the use of their photos.

Kranji Marshes, a New Haven for Waterbirds

 

 

 

 

Desmond Lee opening of Kranji Marshes LKC

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Mr. Desmond Lee declaring the Marshes open with URA and NParks CEOs and Directors. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.

Contributed by Alan OwYong and Alfred Chia. 1st February 2016.

Two years ago, Senior Minister of State for National Development & Home Affairs Mr Desmond Lee visited the Kranji Marshes. After touring the place, he saw the potential benefits that can be reaped if the marshes can be protected & properly managed. His vision and support on the project finally turned into reality when the Kranji Marshes was officially opened by him on 1 February 2016.

The fully covered marshes 21 March 2014 before work began (left). The marshes today with open water patches for the ducks and moorhens. Photos: Alan OwYong.
The Nature Society (Singapore) [NSS] was involved as early as 1985 when it proposed to the authorities to conserve the marshes. But it was not until 2008 that the society was finally allowed by the authorities to adopt & manage the marshes under the PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters Programme (ABC). This was the first time that NSS was tasked to manage a nature area, a ringing endorsement of what the society had managed to accomplish over the years.

Pond Maintenance under NSS management, 12 Jan 2013. (left). Heavy dredgers needed to clear the vegetation to open up the marshes 21 Feb 2015. Photos: Alan OwYong.

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A Pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles have made their home at the Marshes taking advantage of the aquatic life in the open ponds

With help from both Bloomberg and various student groups, weeds were periodically cleared. Small islands were also built to entice back the waterfowl. Soon, resident birds like the Black-backed Swamphens, Lesser Whistling Ducks & Common Moorhens returned. Migrant waterfowl like Watercocks & snipes also made Kranji Marshes their wintering ground. Passerines like reed and grasshopper warblers also made their visits.

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SMOS Mr. Desmond Lee with Lim Kim Keang, Wong Tuan Wah and Lim Kim Chuah touring the marshes. Photo: Alan OwYong

The culmination in the opening of the marshes is a result of long term planning & vision of statutory boards like the National Parks Board (NParks) and Urban Redevelopment Authority. It is to be lauded. The Bird Group of NSS is glad to have played its part in the planning of the marshes by offering its input on design and planning. It will continue to do so after the opening when it partners NParks in conducting guided tours to the public.

Albert Low of NParks showing the Purple Heron to the students from Raffles Institution. Bird Group Chairman Lim Kim Chuah scanning for waterbirds. The lush Lotus Pond from Bee-eaters Blind with photo panels by Lee Tiah Khee. Photos: Alan OwYong.

Marsh Hawk-Eagle?

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Can you see the head of the Changeable Hawk-eagle popping out above the water hyacinths.

We are used to seeing Marsh Harriers flying low over marshes and open grasslands looking for food. But earlier this week we saw a dark morphed Changeable Hawk Eagle, Nisaetus cirrhatus, diving into a pond at the Kranji Marshes. The pond was covered by water hyacinths which would have look like dry land from above. It disappeared from view for some minutes. We thought that it may be in trouble  having mistaken the hyacinth carpet for a hard surface.

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We were relieved to see it jumped up and not stuck in the mud.

Finally it popped its head up above the water hyacinths and start flapping its wings. We were not sure if it was stuck in the soft mud at the bottom struggling to get out or looking for food among the water weeds.

Finally to our relief it jumped up and flew low over the surface of the pond. It then scoop down again as if to pick out something before flying off to a Rain Tree near by.

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It is hard to tell even from this zoom image what it is in its talons.

This frame showed that it had caught something. Does it looked like a small terrapin? It must have dropped it as there was nothing in its talons in the next frame. This is very possible as it cannot sink its talons into the harder shell of the terrapin.

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We think that it may have dropped whatever it caught as there is nothing in its talons.

The open Albizia and Scrubland behind the marshes have been cleared for agricultural farms. It may be that the Hawk-eagles main preys like changeble lizards, small mammals are gone. Are they now changing to aquatic animals to survive? Further observations will be needed to see if this is true.