by Geoff Lim & Isabelle Lee,
Tan Gim Cheong (ed.)
A Flurry of Flycatchers
Among the electrifying news this month were a flurry of flycatchers visiting our shores. This year, we had several reports of several Blue-and-White Flycatchers, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, more so than the Zappey’s Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatili. The former comes from the southern Kuril islands, Japan, the Russian Far East and NE China, and typically migrates through SE Asia, the Greater Sundas to the Philippines (Clement & Marks, 2020), while the latter originates from Central and East China, dispersing during migration to SE Asia and the Greater Sundas but scarce in N. Borneo (del Hoyo, Collar & Marks, 2020).
While this is purely conjectural, it is possible that the November’s weather patterns that brought several C. cyanomelana to Singapore also brought a female Narcissus Flycatcher, Ficedula narcissina, into Dairy Farm Nature Park on 19 Nov 2020 and reported by Alan OwYong. Birders would be more familiar with the Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Ficedula xanthopygia, whose males superficially resemble the males of the Narcissus Flycatcher, except that the later has a yellow eyebrow. Females are harder to identify. Prior to this sighting, there were only two previous confirmed records of a female each at in the lush greenery of Bidadari in Dec 2015, and Dairy Farm Nature Park in Nov 2017.
This rarity breeds mostly in Japan; and would overwinter in the Philippines and N. Borneo (Clement et al, 2020), a biogeographical distribution quite similar to the Blue-and-White Flycatchers. Hence, the La Nina of 2020 may have contributed to the dispersal of these “Japanese” birds, which typically overwinter in the Philippines and N. Borneo, to our part of the Greater Sundas. More research into this phenomenon would be needed.
Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR)
The heart of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve continued to attract species such as a Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher, Cyornis brunneatus, which was reported on 3 Nov 2020 from the Lower Peirce Reservoir Park by Oliver Tan. A juvenile Besra, Accipiter virgatus, was photographed on 10 Nov 2020 along Mandai Track 15 by Roger Boey, while an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ceyx erithaca, was seen at Venus Loop on 11 Nov 2020 by Oliver Tan and on 12 Nov 2020 by Lee Yue Teng. The fringe park also yielded a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 13 Nov 2020 which was reported by Terence Tan. Over at Jelutong Tower, a Pied Harrier, Circus melanoleucos, and a Brown-backed Needletail, Hirundapus giganteus, were spotted by Martin Kennewell on 20 Nov 2020.
Few brave souls would venture to climb to the summit of our tallest hill, but those who did, like T. Ramesh, would be rewarded with a sighting of rarities like eight Silver-backed Needletail, Hirundapus cochinchinensis, which he saw circling above the hill on 18 Nov 2020. Hindhede Nature Park, which forms part of the Bukit Timah foothills, yielded a Blue Rock Thrush, Monticola soltarius, which lurked amongst the rocky crags of the disused quarry on 24 Nov 2020 and discovered by Martin Kennewell.
Dairy Farm Nature Park continued to show its strength in hosting sensitive migratory species. Other than the Narcissus Flycatcher spotted on 19 Nov 2020, a host of other flycatchers were spotted, including a Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki, on 19 and 29 Nov 2020 by Ho Siew Mun and Leong Kai Kee, respectively a Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica, on 20 Nov 2020 by Khoo Mei Lin, a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 22 Nov 2020 by Lim Kim Chuah, a Zappey’s Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cumatilis, on 27 Nov 2020 by Dennis Lim, and a Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, on 30 Nov 2020, towards Singapore Quarry by Norhafiani A Majid. Two species of thrush were also reported, an Eyebrowed Thrush, Turdus obscurus, on 20 Nov 2020 by Low Chong Yang, and a Siberian Thrush, Geokichla sibirica, on 21 Nov 2020 by Swee Peng.
Just off the Park at the vicinity of Jalan Asas, an adult and juvenile Rufous-bellied Eagle, Lophotriorchis kienerii, were seen resting in some tall Albizia trees. The two birds were subsequently seen tumbling over Upper Bukit Timah Road on 25 Nov 2020 by Isabelle Lee.
Singapore Botanic Gardens (SBG)
There were notable sightings of various species of paradise and regular flycatchers at SBG. A Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Terpsiphone atrocaudata, was seen on 10 Nov 2020, by Oliver Tan, which was followed by the sighting of one Blue-and-White Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana, on 14 Nov 2020 by Kwok Tuck Loong, and two males on 16 Nov 2020 by Isabelle Lee. Subsequently, a Green-backed Flycatcher, Ficedula elisae, was spotted on 20 Nov 2020 by Jade Neo along the Red Brick Path, SBG, and on 26 Nov 2020, within the grounds of the Healing Garden, also by Jade Neo. Apart from the flurry of flycatchers, a Crow-billed Drongo, Dicrurus annectans, was seen on 14 Nov 2020, by Khoo Mei Lin.
A Blue-winged Pitta, Pitta moluccensis, was reported on 19 Nov 2020, from Woodlands, by Khoo Mei Lin.
Visitors to Pulau Ubin reported the sighting of a Crested Serpent Eagle, Spilornis cheela, on 11 Nov 2020, by Yap Bao Shen; a Gull-billed Tern, Gelochelidon nilotica, on 6 Nov 2020, at the Chek Jawa Wetlands by Martin Kennewell; a mixed flock of male, female and juvenile Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon, Treron fulvicollis, on 25 Nov 2020 at the Living Lab by T. Ramesh and others, as well as a White-rumped Shama, Copsychus malabaricus, on 30 Nov 2020 by Peter Wong.
Over at Changi Business Park, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus, was seen on 28 Nov 2020 by Andy Lee.
Raptor watchers who lingered along the southern ridges spotted species such as a Besra, Accipiter virgatus, on 9 Nov 2020 along Henderson Waves by Wong Wai Loon, a Booted Eagle, Hieraaetus pennatus, at the same venue on 10 Nov 2020 by Tay Kian Guan, a Jerdon’s Baza, Aviceda jerdoni, on 11 Nov 2020, at Telok Blangah Hill Park by Tan Gim Cheong, and a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, 15 Nov 2020, along Henderson Waves by Tan Kok Hui.
Two Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybrida, were spotted on 8 Nov 2020 along Marina Barrage by Kwok Tuck Loong, and a Greater Crested Tern, Thalasseus bergii, on 29 Nov 2020 along East Coast Park by Leslie Loh. Visitors to the breakwater along Marina East Drive reported seeing a Sanderling, Calidris alba, on 11 Nov 2020 by Art Toh; and a White-faced Plover, Charadrius dealbatus, on 15 Nov 2020 by Leong Kai Kee. Wang HM photographed a Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus flying together with a Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus at Marina East on 30 Nov 2020.
A Black Bittern, Dupetor flavicollis, was spotted on 30 Nov 2020, skulking within the grounds of the Gardens-by-the-Bay East, by Kwok Tuck Loong; while a dark morph Pacific Reef Heron, Egretta sacra, was spotted on 28 Nov 2020, on the island of Pulau Hantu, by Derek Wong KM.
Observers at the Jurong Lake Gardens reported the presence of a Ferruginous Flycatcher, Muscicapa ferruginea, on 11 Nov 2020 (Cheong Khan Hoong) and a Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus, on 27 Nov 2020 (Terence Tan).
Further afield, an Eastern Marsh Harrier, Circus spilonotus, was reported on 8 Nov 2020 from Jurong Eco-Garden by A. Fadzrun, a Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata, was spotted on 7 Nov 2020 at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) by Chew Ser Teck, to the delight of everyone who wanted to see this colourful but rare kingfisher. Two days later, a resident Buffy Fish Owl, Ketupa ketupu, was seen within the Reserve’s grounds on 9 Nov 2020 by Terence Tan; a Caspian Tern, Hydroprogne caspia, was seen on 17 Nov 2020 on the mudflats of Mandai by Yeo Suay Hwee; while a Sand Martin, Riparia riparia, was seen on 21 Nov 2020, hawking over the fields at Neo Tiew Harvest Lane by Pary Sivaraman.
Visitors to the farthest west reaches of Tuas spotted a Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, on 14 Nov 2020 (Martti Siponen) and a juvenile Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo, Hierococcyx nisicolor, on 30 Nov 2020 (Francis Yap).
This report is compiled/written by Geoff Lim and Isabelle Lee, 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 Zahidi Hamid, Joseph Lim, Lau Jia Sheng, Tan Gim Cheong, Isabelle Lee, and Geoff Lim for allowing us to use their photographs.
Clement, P. and J. S. Marks (2020). Blue-and-White Flycatcher (Cyanoptila cyanomelana) version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, (eds). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.bawfly2.01.
Clement, P., del Hoyo, J., D. A. Christie, N. Collar and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Narcissus Flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S.M. Billerman, B.K. Keeney, P. G. Rodewald, and T. S. Schulenberg (eds). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.narfly.01.
del Hoyo, J., N. Collar, and J. S. Marks (2020). Zappey’s Flycatcher (Cyanoptila cumatilis) version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, (eds). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.zapfly1.01.