Southern Ridges – A Bird’s Eye View

Southern Ridges from the Air.

Today the Jiak Hong Birder takes you up in the air for a bird’s eye view of the Southern Ridges, more precisely the Forest Walk section from Gillman Barracks to Telok Blangah Hill. These photos were taken with the Samsung 5 handphone.  The lucky residents of the apartments facing the Southern Ridges get to enjoy these million dollar views everyday. And what a view! I listed some of the birds that were reported at this part of the Ridges as a footnote. Be free to add in any that I missed out.

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Forest canopy walkway with the blocks of Telok Blangah HDB apartments in the background.

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Lush canopy of the Albizias trees where the Changeable Hawk Eagles and Parakeets roost. Below is where a pair of Red-billed Blue Magpies nested earlier this year. This part of the forest is the most productive for bird watching.

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Looking west towards Kent Ridge Park in the distance with Gillman Heights in the foreground and Depot Road in between.

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Is this a clump of Nibong used for the construction of Kelongs?

1-20180512_115148Looking north with the twin telecom towers of Bukit Timah Hill in the distance and the stacked Interlace Condominium on the left.

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This tree is in bloom along the canopy walkway. The flowers are growing from along the stem of the leaf. Anyone knows the name? (PS Pianggu. Horsefieldia irya id by Sg Beachbum)

Bird List reported along the forest walkway:

  1. Red Jungle Fowl
  2. Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker
  3. Rufous Woodpecker
  4. Banded Woodpecker
  5. Laced Woodpecker
  6. Common Flameback
  7. Lineated Barbet
  8. Coppersmith Barbet
  9. Oriental Pied Hornbill
  10. Asian Dollarbird
  11. White-throated Kingfisher
  12. Collared Kingfisher
  13. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
  14. Blue-throated Bee-eater
  15. Asian Koel
  16. Greater Coucal
  17. Coconut Lorikeet
  18. Tanimbar Corella
  19. Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot
  20. Rose-ringed Parakeet
  21. Red-breasted Parakeet
  22. Long-tailed Parakeet
  23. Swiftlet Spp
  24. Spotted Dove
  25. Zebra Dove
  26. Common Rock Pigeon (Ah Huay)
  27. Pink-necked Pigeon
  28. Pied Imperial Pigeon
  29. White-breasted Waterhen
  30. Slaty-breasted Crake
  31. Black Baza
  32. Crested Honey Buzzard
  33. Brahminy Kite
  34. White-bellied Sea-eagle
  35. Golden-bellied Gerygone
  36. Tiger Shrike
  37. Brown Shrike
  38. House Crow
  39. Large-billed Crow
  40. Black-naped Oriole
  41. Pied Triller
  42. Violet Cuckoo ( Keita Sin)
  43. Ashy Minivet
  44. GRT Drongo
  45. Common Iora
  46. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  47. Asian Glossy Starling
  48. Common Myna
  49. Javan Myna
  50. Common Hill Myna
  51. House Swift (Ah Huay)
  52. Grey-rumped Treeswift ( Keita Sin)
  53. Barn Swallow
  54. Pacific Swallow
  55. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  56. Olive-winged Bulbul
  57. White-rumped Shama ( Ah Huay)
  58. Common Tailorbird
  59. Dark-necked Tailorbird
  60. Oriental White-eyes ( Ah Huay)
  61. Arctic Warbler
  62. White-crested Laughingthrush
  63. Pin Striped Tit-babbler
  64. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
  65. Brown-throated Sunbird
  66. Olive-backed Sunbird
  67. Crimson Sunbird
  68. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  69. Scaly-breasted Munia
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The Critters of Dairy Farm NP

Joined my friends for a walk at Dairy Farm NP this Sunday morning after hearing of a sighting of the Black-crested Bulbul there by Geri Lim. But it did not show. A few of us had brief glimpses of the Greater Green Leafbird feeding on the White Mulberry. Other than that it was rather quiet. So we ended up looking for the other creatures at the Park.

Stink Horn Fungi

Thanks to Meilin Khoo for showing us this Stink Horn Fungi growing by the roadside. Unfortunately the sweepers unwittingly broke half of the “skirt”, but it was still a good find. The smell of rotting flesh of the spore head attracts flies and other insects, and they in turn help to disperse the spores.

DFNP

The Nephilengys malabarenis was first found at the Malabar Coast of South India. This particular specimen was spotted by Art Toh hanging under the pile of Tembusu logs at the hilltop at its web. It quickly moved away just as we were trying to get some shots.

DFNP

Assassin Bug lived up to its name. This one found a male Golden Orb Spider. It will inject vernon to kill the prey and then suck out its dissolved remains.

Oriental Whip Snake DFNP

A pair of Oriental Whip Snakes by the Wallace Center provided us with some distraction. This one was moving its head up and I managed to catch a view of its underside. Mildly venomous, it can take small birds like the Pygmy Sunda Woodpecker.

St Andrew's Spider DFNP

St. Andrew’s Cross Spider rest with each pair of legs stretched out forming a cross. They also spin zig-zag whistish webs in the form of an X just where the legs rest like in this photo. Females are larger than the males.

Malay Viscount

A Malay Viscount, a common butterfly at the park looks very similiar to the Horsfield Baron.

Upper Seletar Reservoir Park Surprises

I seldom leave empty handed from visits to the Upper Seletar Reservoir Park. It is also one of the more accessible forest parks in Singapore. You can step right into the forest straight from the carpark. Even during midday, it can be rewarding if you venture into the nooks and crannies, away from the open areas.

The bird activity around this time was poor. Most were resting in the cooler shade inside the forest. But the butterflies loved the sunny day. One of the workers there was photographing this female Great Mormon and was kind enough to alert me. He seems to know his butterflies. Later he showed me hundreds of photos of butterflies and insects taken with his hand phone at the park. He even had a photo of the rare Plane. I was impressed!

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The male Great Mormon had to be the luckiest butterfly around. It had so many forms of females to choose from. This beautiful female is of the esperi form.

The find of the day had to be this 20 cm uncommon Variable Reed Snake. Serin Subaraj told me that reed snakes are like warblers, all of them are very similiar. He identified this by the black bands at the underside near its head, which is absent on the Pink-headed Reed Snake.

Pink-headed Reed Snake USR

The young Variable Reed Snake has a orangy red head which makes it looks like a Blue Coral Snake. According to Ecology Asia it lives in mature forests and is confined to the Central Catchment. It is nocturnal and not known to be venomous. 

Sapphire Flutterer USR

A treehugger hugging a wall, thanks to Lena Chow for the ID. Looks like the Sapphire Flutterer except that it does not have the bright blue on the base of the hind wings. 

USR

Singapore during the time of Raffles was a great place to collect beetles. It is not so easy to find them now unless you know where to look. I don’t and was happy to see this Bess Beetle out in the open. Their pair of antennae has many more smaller antennae. They lives in groups inside rotting logs and stumps. 

Brown Awl USR

Not the most spectacular butterfly this Brown Awl is still a good find as they stay still in the undergrowth.

Clouded Monitor. USR

Ended the day with a lazy Clouded Monitor Lizard out sauntering and sniffing around with its long tongue. These are forest lizards can be separated from the water monitor lizards by the snort position. 

So the next time you visit a forest park in Singapore, take your time to look around. You will never know what is lurking around the corner.

 

 

 

 

 

Longkang Birding-Ulu Pandan.

Ulu Pandan Canal

The bus depot had taken away many of the trees lining the canal leaving a narrower buffer.

The wild scape along the Ulu Pandan Canal fronting the Faber Crest Condominium was badly affected by three recent developments there. There is now only a small buffer of trees lining the canal due to the clearing of the forest for the building of the bus depot. The bird life has been impacted. This forest was where the Changeable Hawk Eagle had been nesting for years. Then the new IBP Road curved over another nesting site of the nationally threatened Purple Herons. Lastly a new condominium took away whatever greenery was left of the northern end. I used to see the Abbott’s Babblers here.

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The Pacific Swallows were feeding and flying low along the canal making them easier to shoot.

Luckily the pair of Grey-headed Fish Eagles still come back to hunt for catfish at the canal. We been getting lots of stunning photos of these eagle hunting here recently.

Ulu Pandan

A baby skink is as good as a fish for this White-throated Kingfisher.

I went down this morning to look for them but the fish eagles were not around. Either were the Pond Herons which should be foraging along the banks of the canal at this time of the year. Instead I recorded twenty-four other species in my one hour walk, a good number considering it was late morning. Most are the usual garden species but good to find a Grey-rumped Treeswift hawking for insects, a White-throated Kingfisher enjoying a baby skink, Asian Dollarbirds sallying overhead, a calling Drongo Cuckoo and a Brahminy Kite looking for scraps.

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The more common Collared Kingfishers are well adapted to small forests patches and a fresh water canal for food.

Telok Blangah Walkway

The hollow tree branches of the Albizias that lined the canal made good nesting holes for the Dollarbirds.

List of birds recorded from 10.30-11.30 am 31 March 2018

  1. Black-naped Oriole
  2. Pink-necked Pigeon
  3. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  4. Asian Dollarbird
  5. Common Iora
  6. Pacific Swallow
  7. Asian Glossy Starling
  8. Swiftlet Spp
  9. Javan Myna
  10. Brahminy Kite
  11. Common Tailorbird
  12. Drongo Cuckoo
  13. Spotted Dove
  14. Asian Koel
  15. Brown-throated Sunbird
  16. Red Jungle Fowl
  17. Olive-backed Sunbird
  18. Blue-throated Bee-eater
  19. Lineated Barbet
  20. Red-whiskered Bulbul
  21. Grey-rumped Treeswift
  22. Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot
  23. White-throated Kingfisher
  24. Pied Imperial Pigeon.

 

 

 

Rifle Range Link Ramble.

 

Went down to Rifle Range Link this morning trying to get some photos of the Chestnut-winged Babbler, one of the more elusive forest babblers.  It was calling and came close but moved too fast for any shots. Well just have to try again some other mornings.

RRL

Don’t know why the False Tapioca plants and the Leea indicas that used to cover the stretch of the Rifle Range Link were cleared. This spot was the most reliable place to find the Van Hasselts Sunbirds and Lancers and Skippers.

Walking down this trail is never a waste of time if you keep your eye peeled for the slightest movements. This was how I came across this Black Scorpion out foraging by the track. It belongs to the genus heterometres, spending much of its time hiding under dead logs and crevices. We have two very similiar species in our forest, the Malaysian Black Scorpion and the Asian Wood Scorpion, the largest of scorpions found here.

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This Black Scorpion was about 10 cm long. Not usual for it to be out in the open like this.

Further down the trail, an Emerald Moth was resting quietly on a green leaf, which makes difficult to find. This is part of their survival strategy to bend in to the habitat. This is another first green moth for me.

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But the female Arch Duke is more conspicuous with its speckled brown wings.  It used its fast flight to evade its predators. Most of my photos of this butterfly is from the top as they are normally seen feeding on the ground. Happy to get a shot of the underside.

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The recent hot weather also affected the Bat Lilies in the forest. Just about every plant is blooming. The flowers are unique in their shape and color, with two petals pointing up and long whiskers flowing down. The flowers are in between. This one even has a double flower, which is rather unusual as they do not bloom so easily. Do go down in the next few days to witness this mass blooming.

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Among the leaf litter on the ground, this purple fungi stands out. It is quite large for a mushroom but the head is not the usual dome shaped.

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Of Pho and Rice Paper Rolls

Of Pho and Rice Paper Rolls, a travelog for a change.

The port city of Danang is a convenient stop for groups touring between Hanoi and Ho Chi Ming City. But it can be a worthwhile destination by itself if you include visits to the World Heritage town of Hoi An and the ancient city of Hue. Hoi An is just a 30 minutes drive south of Danang while Hue in the north takes a good 2 hours to get there. Bach Ma National Park an hour inland is a great birding destination for highland species.

Went there to jiak hong for a week early last month and was surprised by the temperate weather (read cold), rich historical and natural diversity there. Here are some snapshots of the people and places from the trip. Our thanks to Dang Tien Hy for showing us around Hoi An and Hue.

Dragon Bridge

We chose the 3 star Vanda Hotel right next to the iconic Dragon Bridge. This area is lined with hipster cafes, pastry shops and the in place for the young. The surprise was the $3 taxi transfer from the airport. the cheapest ever!

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Entrance to Thien Phuoc Dia Cave, next to the Marble Mountains, a must visit in Danang. The vast interior houses the deities, statues of Buddha and shrines.

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This simple BBQ place is voted as one of the top ten places to eat in Danang. A fresh seafood and meat meal with beers for under $10 per person. Unfortunately your hair and clothes smell like smoked chicken after the meal.

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Not only you can buy and eat just about everything at the Han Market, you can also get a shampoo and blow dry.

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They have elevated the Civet or Luwak coffee to Weasel grades 1,2,3.

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The Thu Bon River that runs through the Unesco town of Hoi An. Across the waters is the landmark 18th century Japanese Bridge built to connect the different communities on both sides.

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A photo of a photo of Hoi An under water. This happens almost every year. The waters can reach up to the first storey.

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Front paddle drive, a Vietnamese woman at home on the river.

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Homes transformed into quaint rustic cafes in Hoi An.

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Up market Vedana Resort and Spa with lagoon view backed by a green hillside is half way between Danang and Hue. Good Feng Shui!

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Tourist enjoying a photo opportunity moment at the sand spit a the Dam Ha lagoon.

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Walkway into the classy Pilgrimage Hotel and Spa at Hue. It’s ancient wooden architecture is set against lush greenery. My kind of stay.

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Hue has one of the smallest Botanic Gardens I know.  Even the taxi drivers cannot find it.

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View of the Perfume River from top of the pine forested hill. Plans are in place to build proper tourist facilities to turn this into a tourist spot.

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Rice fields dominate much of the countryside around Hue. Vietnam is one of the rice bowls of Asia.

Olive-backed Pipit

Olive-backed Pipit, a common winter visitor to Vietnam, one of the few birds I managed to get on the sensors.

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A popular seafood restaurant with the locals and tourists by the side of the Dam Ha lagoon. The prices here is a fraction of what you pay in Danang.

Big Year 2018.

Big Year 2018

My target was 100 species for January to kick start my fifth Big Year. A certain Mr. K. had a 100+ on the first day (hats off to him), so it should be easy peasy. Wrong! I was not even half way by mid month. Lim Kim Seng initiated the first Big Year in 2014 as a friendly competition to see how many species we can see in a calendar year. It turned out to be a case of who was the first to find the rarer species and share it with the rest as soon as possible. Meals and outings with wives and girlfriends were often interrupted when a mega rare bird turned up.

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Nice of the Asian Emerald Cuckoo to stay over the New Year.

The key to a good start was to tick off the rare visitors before they made their way back and chase down the hard to find residents. First thing we did was to tick the Asian Emerald Cuckoo before the caterpillars were gone. It may not be coming back anytime soon. The erratic Chinese Hwamei may not be around for long, so getting it was a bonus. I was a day late and dipped on the rare Yellow-browed Warbler, one of the rarer visiting tree warblers. Well you cannot win them all. The Booted Warbler looks like it will be included in the 2018 Checklist and may not be coming back anytime soon. So ticking it early is a no brainer! The bonus at the Kranji Marshes was the super sensitive Black-capped Kingfisher.

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The Booted Warbler is getting use to our presence. It often flies down to the lower thicket to forage giving us a chance of getting open and topside views like this.

I revisited Kranji Marshes on 27th to celebrate Jimmy Chew’s birthday with the rest of his friends. Ended up with a male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and a hard to find resident Greater Coucal at the car park.

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This Yellow-rumped Flycatcher is on its way back north but decided to drop over the Kranji Marshes for a rest.

Things were looking better after a visit to the flooded grasslands along Bulim Avenue. In one morning, we had a Von Schrenck’s and Cinnamon Bittern, Greater Painted and Common Snipes and a Watercock, thanks to Goh Cheng Teng, Lester Tan and Adrian Silas Tay. I don’t have many of these last year.

Swintail Snipe at Bulim

A Swintail Snipe over Bulim Grasslands. A Swinhoe’s Snipe was shot there last month by Lester Tan.

A few days later, I returned and was very surprised to find a Black Kite resting in the open field, a species I have not seen for over 20 years.

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A rare Black Kite thermaling over Bulim on a hot morning. It was seen flying past a few days later. A lucky find!

I went to chase the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo at the Learning Gardens, thinking that it would be an easy tick. But it turned out to be my jinx bird. Luckily all was not lost. A of small flock White-rumped Munias were feeding on the dried bamboo flowers at the Bambusetum. These are rare residents but its wild status is not certain even they are the correct sub species found here.

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Are these wild munias or released birds? At least they are the right sub species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then Meena Vathyam got us a global rare tick in the form of a Band-bellied Crake by the Symphony Lake. This is only our second record.

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A great opportunity for those who missed the first record to get this globally rare crake at the Helliconia Gardens, thanks to Meena Vathyam.

As I will traveling, I will be ending the month today at 108 species with a Drongo Cuckoo at Hindhede Quarry. Thank you all for your sharing the news and the alerts with me. Welcome to the Big Year and Happy Birding all!

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May be a resident Drongo Cuckoo taken at the Hindhede Quarry. 

Ref: Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing Co, 2013