Text and Photos by Mohamad Zahidi. 1st Oct, 2016.
There are a few places in Singapore we can go for shorebirds but I chose Yishun Dam as its close to where I live. For the shorebirds that flew thousands of miles from their Arctic breeding ground, the rich sand banks and mud flats provide a great refueling stop and a natural habitat to document them.
Some of the early migrants to Yishun Dam. Small numbers of the Lesser Sand Plovers were seen.(6 Aug 2016).
Increased in numbers in the following week. (15 Aug 2016)
I normally spend few hours playing the ‘waiting game’ under the hot sun and try to scan that area for some lifer or uncommon shorebird. The birds there also tend to forage for food at Khatib Bongsu and at some smaller island nearby.
Shorebirds shooting at low tide under the hot sun at the Yishun Dam. Photo: AlanOwYong
This year I am so determined to see the uncommon Greater Sand Plover. During my last Pelagic Trip in May, I was asking around about this Plover which I dipped during my unofficial Big Year in 2014. FrancisYap and See Toh suggested that I should go visit YD frequently in the month of Aug so that I can have a better chance to see the Greater Sand Plover there.
Lesser Sand Plovers at the sandbank. Background is the shoreline of Khatib Bongsu.
I finally decided to visit Yishun Dam (sandbank) somewhere in late July in order to see some early migrants with my birding kaki, David Tan. We ended up finding the Great-Billed Heron which Alan OwYong said was a new record for Yishun Dam (sandbank). The Western Osprey also made a brief appearance towards the end of our morning session there.
Great–billed Heron adjusting to a new standing position. (23 July 2016)
Western Osprey was seen hunting for fish (23 July 2016)
Western Osprey dropped its catch in mid-air (23 July 2016)
The news that a Great Knot landed in Yishun was sent to many by Francis Yap on a Saturday morning while I was at work. It attracted many photographers and avid birdwatchers to Yishun Dam again. It was time for me to get some new shot of this globally endangered star bird. There was a chance of getting the Greater Sand Plover as well.
Great Knot was seen flying with the Lesser Sand Plover (15 Aug 2016).
Finally, on 22 August Lawrence Cher alerted us about Greater Sand Plover spotted in Yishun Dam. I was eager to go down asap but only managed to do it on 26 Aug 2016 despite the haze that morning.
Greater Sand Plover foraging along the shoreline (26 Aug 2016)
Spotted another Greater Sand Plover at the sandbank. (17 Sep 2016)
Yishun Dam is a perfect place to see these great shorebirds and really hope that it will not be lost to development. I would like to thank Singapore Bird Group for the invite to write this article.
Below are some of my collection of birds taken recently at Yishun Dam.
Common Sandpiper with baby cobra in threat posture (22 Sep 2016)
A pair of Pacific Golden Plover (22 Sep 2016)
Terek Sandpipers foraging on sandbank. (22 Sep 2016), Their numbers are in decline over the years.
A juvenile Yellow Wagtail was spotted catching insects at Yishun Dam (5 Oct 2014)
Ruddy Turnstone (28 Sep 2014)
Close-up shot of Ruddy Turnstone (5 Oct 2013)
Reference: A Naturalsit’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. John Beaufoy Publishing Limited 2013.