Went for a morning ramble to the Peirce Reservoirs with my wife this National Day. It was quiet at the Lower Peirce Boardwalk with a few families out enjoying the nature. But the old Thompson was pretty crowded. Long Tailed Macaques were lining up by the side of the road waiting for handouts from the stream of cars passing by.
Good to see they were wearing the national colors to celebrate the nation’s birthday at the Lower Peirce Boardwalk.
This pair of GRT Drongo siblings were still unsure about themselves. They were looking around for their parents and kept calling out to be fed.
This Slender Squirrel was moving up and down the trunk of this tree rubbing its face on the bark. I think it is leaving its scent on this tree to mark its territory.
Over at the Upper Peirce Reservoir, I found a rare butterfly, the Suffused Flash, the best catch of the day. There were no flowering plants around and it stayed on the same leaf for a long time. This forest butterfly can be found at the Upper Seletar Reservoir as well.
A small bush behind the toilet has a parasite plant growing on it. The Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers love the berries of this plant. This male was at eye level and presented a great side profile for me to shoot. Earlier I saw another Flowerpecker, a juvenile Orange-bellied inside the Lower Peirce Forest.
I think that the breakwaters by the side of the Marina Barrage was built to prevent erosion of the beach fronting the barrage. But it turned out to be a great place to study the post breeding behavior of families of the Little Terns, Sternula albifrons. Besides the Black-naped Terns,Sterna sumatrana, the Little Tern is the only other tern that breeds in Singapore, although we had some sporadic records of the Bridled Terns, Onychoprion anaethetus, breeding at Horsburgh Lighthouse.
Since early July, a few adult terns were using the breakwaters to teach their juveniles flying and survival skills of catching fish in the open waters. As the juveniles are not able to fly for long periods, the breakwaters is a convenient place for them to come in for a rest.
At first the parents will bring back the fish for the juveniles and then gradually entice the juveniles to follow them out to fish at sea. The parent birds will catch the small fishes and dropped them back to the water for the juveniles to practise fishing . By the end of July, a few older juveniles were seen fishing on their own having mastered the art of finding and catching the small fishes from the parents.
Unlike the period before the chicks fledged, the parent terns at the breakwaters were very tolerant of intruders. They allowed the photographers to come close knowing that the juveniles were able to fend for themselves. Those of us that tried shooting the young chicks at the open grasslands will tell you the ferocity of the adult terns dive bombing every intruder including House Crows that get too near to their chicks.
This in turn allow us to get some stunning photos of these terns in flight, fishing, feeding preening and fighting for food in a natural surrounding. This will not be possible if not for this breakwaters which is just outside the CBD.
Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. 1993 The Wild Bird Society of Japan.
Wuyaun at the north-east of Jiangxi province is a scenic tourist destination fame for its colorful countryside in summer and unique architecture of its houses. One of the main attractions is rafting down the many serene rivers. This is also our last stop of the trip with a critically endangered Blue-crowned Laughingthrush to tick.
The Barn Swallows were busy feeding its chicks with crickets. The Red-rumped entire nest is made from mud from the river banks.
Barn Swallow with cricket for its young
Red-rumped Swallow at nest
Finally it leaves me to thank Menxiu Tong, our guide for his bird knowledge and guiding expertise in getting the target species and ordering great food for us, Alfred and his wife for putting this trip together, birding friends Ju Lin, Ping Ling, Pah Liang for their great company and help and Tony Pang for sharing his knowledge of the local birds with us.
This was not on our itinerary. But since we ticked the Reeve’s Pheasant on the very first day, our guide Menxiu decided to take a detour to Poyang Lake, China’s largest lake in Jiangxi Province to try for the Marsh Grassbird, which we dipped. It meant that he had to go down to the train station to change our train tickets, re-book our hotels and organise a coach to take us there. We are most grateful to Menxiu for doing his best to maximise our birding.
The Dongzhai National Nature Reserve is situated in the northern slopes of Dabie Mountains in the province of Henan. It is largely covered by evergreen hill forests. It took a long seven hours train ride from Tianing to reach Xin Yang Dong, the nearest town to the reserve.
The reserve is the home of the Reeves’s Pheasant, another of the many beautiful pheasants in China. It is endemic to China. Found only around the central and eastern mountains of China, they have been introduced to Europe for gaming.
We got our target bird the Reeves’s Pheasant very early on the first morning. They were not very skittish but preferred to stay behind the undergrowth as much as possible. In all we saw ten pheasants in one morning of birding. This has to be the most satisfying pheasant hunt for us.
One of the parent bird sat on the eggs for most of the day and only flew out only in the late afternoon. Wish we had a better and longer view of this pitta.
We had a surprised visit from Cindy Zheng during our stay at the Reserve. She was spending the day studying the captive breeding of the Crested Ibis at the reserve with the Director of the Reserve Mr.Zhu ( extreme right). She was in Singapore to participate in 6th Asian Bird Fair last October with the Jingshan County Birdwatching Association. They will be hosting the 7th Asian Bird Fair this November in Jingshan County. She heard from Menxiu Tong (in a stylist grey pullover), that he was leading a group of Singapore birders to Donghzai and decided to drop by to say hello. It was so nice of her to come by and great to catch up again here of all the places. ( Photo: Alfred Chia)
My first encounter with a Lunar Moth at the center. Such a beauty!
Other birds outside the Donhzhai Reserve include the Collared Finchbill, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Vinous-breasted Parrotbill and the White-cheeked Starling. The Swinhoe’s Minivet is very similar to the Ashy Minivet that we are familiar with. But it has a grey crown and rufous wash underside. It may turn up in northern Malaysia one day.
On the way to the train station, we took a drive along the country roads to check out the birdlife around the rice fields. The Red-billed Starling is a very common here. This starling was just added to our checklist based on a sighting at the Tampines Canal last year. The Collared Crow is locally common but near-threatened. So it was great to tick it off as we did not see it anywhere else during the trip. The Crested Kingfisher was a bonus for all of us as we did not know that we can find it here. Many birders to Thailand had to spend hours waiting for this Kingfisher at Mae Wong National Park.
The Crested Ibis was thought to be extinct but thanks to captive and reintroduction program their numbers are now back in the low hundreds. This individual was foraging in its favorite habitat but we came across a nesting pair at the reserve the day before.
The Emiefeng Nature Reserve at Tianing County is the site for pheasants like the Elliot’s, Koklass, Silver and the Cabot’s Tragopan. It covers a section of the Wuyi mountains along the border of Fujian and Jiangxi. Tall bamboo forests dominate the lower slopes with denser deciduous types at the higher altitudes raising up to 1,700 meters.
We planned two and a half days of birding here to give us a chance to see all the pheasants, which the group did. We decided to stay in a small town at the base of the reserve after warnings of landslides.
The best way to see the pheasants was to drive up to the summit in the early morning when the pheasants come out to the roadside to forage and in the evenings when they roost among the trees.
Min Jiang estuary is about an hour’s drive west of the Fuzhou’s city center. In the summer, the world’s rarest tern, the Chinese Crested Terns made their way from their breeding grounds at Matsu Island to the estuary to perform their courtship and mate. There are only 50-60 breeding pairs clustered at two islands off the Chinese coast.
A short boat ride took us to the mud flats.
Our two intrepid ladies Ping Ling and Ju Lin rearing to go but not knowing what lies ahead.
It was raining when we got there at noon. The only shelter were these reeds and our tiny umbrellas. Luckily the rain stopped after 2 hours.
The Chinese Crested Terns flew in after two hours wait. It was both a relief and excitement for us. Menxiu, on the scope was also a relieved guide.
Alfred washing the mud off his wife’s leg after the muddy ordeal. Surprised none of us slipped and fell.
The Chinese Crested Tern was one of the top targets of the trip. It was also the hardest. The mud flats were quite extensive which means that we have to trudge through ankle and sometimes knee deep mud to get to the coast. The wet weather did not help.
Chinese Crested Tern has a black tipped bill and a black forehead during breeding.