Tag Archives: Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin Nocturnal Bird Survey Report

Nocturnal Bird Survey Report at Pulau Ubin by Sandra Chia.

The nocturnal fauna of Singapore has long held the fascination of many nature-enthusiasts. From the inquisitive stare of the Buffy Fish Owl to the wide-eyed Sunda Scops Owl, nocturnal birds have been seen throughout the island, and garnered the attention of many. Several of us have seen owls on Pulau Ubin before, but how many are there exactly? And where?

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One of Ubin’s the Buffy Fish Owls. Photo: Sandra Chia.

To get a better understanding of the diversity and numbers of nocturnal birds present on Pulau Ubin, the Bird Group in collaboration with Nparks conducted its first ever Ubin night survey. On 22 July, while hordes of people were headed home after a long day at the beach, a group of us were headed towards Changi Point Ferry Terminal for a very different reason. Boarding a bumboat, 11 of us set off into the sunset for Pulau Ubin. Headed by an experienced leader, the group was further split into three teams of three to four surveyors each. Three survey routes were established, covering the east, west and central portions of Ubin.

Upon reaching the starting point of each survey route, the group embarked on a slow walk back to the kampong centre, that took about 2 hours. Whenever a nocturnal bird was encountered or heard, the species and coordinates of the encounter were jotted down and compiled into a datasheet thereafter. When nocturnal mammals were encountered, the species and location of the encounter were likewise noted down, on a separate datasheet.

In total, 16 individual birds were seen or heard. The most numerous were the Large-tailed Nightjar and Sunda Scops Owl, of which 6 individuals of each species were encountered throughout the survey. The Buffy Fish Owl and Black-crowned Night Heron were encountered once each, while the Savanna Nightjar was encountered twice. To our delight, Greater Mousedeer were seen by all three groups and one group even saw a herd of wild boar with 3 adults and 13 piglets!

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There is probably a much wider diversity and greater number of nocturnal birds on Ubin, based on historical sightings as well as the fact that there are many parts of Ubin our routes did not cover. For example, all species of owl known in Singapore are recorded on Ubin except for the Short-eared Owl. We hope to continue to conduct more nocturnal census and hopefully uncover more nocturnal birds on Ubin.

The Bird Group is grateful to all the survey leaders for leading the surveys and to all participants who assisted. The survey leaders included Lim Kim Keang, Willie Foo and Alfred Chia and participants included Sandra Chia, Emmanuel Goh, Dillen Ng, Lim Hong Yao and Tan Julin. We would also like to thank Robert Teo, Grace Ang, Joseph Lin and Jacky Soh from NParks for supporting our work.

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Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Ubin.

Straw-headed Bulbul Census at Pulau Ubin, 4 June 2017.
SHB Ted Ng
Pulau Ubin is without doubt the most important site for the Straw-headed Bulbuls. This photo of three birds taken at by Ted Ng at Hindhede NP will be hard to get elsewhere in the region. 
Few of the World’s endangered species have been more strongly associated with Singapore than the charismatic Straw-headed Bulbul. Wiped out from most of its Southeast Asian distribution by indiscriminate poaching, some of most significant populations of this largest of the world’s bulbuls have fortunately, found a safe home in Singapore. Pulau Ubin is without a doubt the most important site for the species.
 
To determine the size of its population on Pulau Ubin,  the Bird Group conducted a pan-island survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul in conjunction with Pesta Ubin. Led by an experienced leader, teams of 3-4 surveyors covered 9 different transects totalling over 18 km across Ubin. This was the first time a targeted survey of the Straw-headed Bulbul has be carried out in Singapore, and attracted over 35 volunteer surveyors, including a large contingent of enthusiastic students from the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College.
 
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Yong Ding Li back to camera briefing the surveyors at Pulau Ubin on the census. Photo: Lim Kim Chuah.
Along each transect, the teams stopped to record Straw-headed Bulbuls at defined points for five minutes. At the end of each ‘point count’ teams moved at least 250 metres from the previous point before conducted the next count. Datasheets were provided so that all surveyors could record their observations immediately.
 
So how many Straw-headed Bulbuls are there on Ubin? In total, the teams reported 68 individuals within a band of 100 m from their counting transects. Because some parts of Ubin were not surveyed, we expect the actual population to be even larger. The organising team is currently conducted statistical analysis on the dataset to calculate the densities of the bulbuls of the island. Building on the pioneering studies on the species carried out by veteran birdwatchers Ho Hua Chew and Trixie Tan, this survey confirms that Ubin remains a critical stronghold for the Straw-headed Bulbul and needs to be well-protected from poachers by regular ranger patrols. 
 
Once again, we are grateful to all the survey leaders for leading the surveys along their transects. They include Lee Ee Ling, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Movin Nyanasengeran, Sandra Chia, Trixie Tan, Wong Chung Cheong and Yong Ding Li.  We also thank Robert Teo and Germaine Leng from the National Parks Board for supporting our work.
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Ding Li YONG
PhD Candidate
Fenner School of Environment and Society
Forestry Building, Linnaeus Way
The Australian National University

Canberra ACT 0200
Thanks to Ted Ng and Lim Kim Chuah for the use of the photos.