Chasing Jaegers and Frigatebirds at the Straits of Singapore

Second NSS Bird Group’s Pelagic Survey of 2015 on 26th April.

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A lone Lesser Crested Tern in the Straits of Singapore at dawn. So peaceful!

6 am. We left Sentosa Cove in semi darkness for the Western Anchorage.  It was still drizzling. For a change, we cleared immigration within 10 minutes and powered out to the Straits of Singapore just as dawn was breaking.

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The “hard-working” Pelagic Team from left:  Francis Yap, Con Foley, See Toh Yew Wai, Lawrence Cher, Yong Yik Shih, Jane Rogers and Colin Poole. Not in the photo, Albert Low and Lim Kim Keang.

Colin’s sharp eyes caught a Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel skimming across the waves just after 7 am. Then it was literally “jiak hong” time for the next hour. Nothing was flying around except for some Swiftlets.

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Mostly Lesser Crested Terns, many in breeding plumage, taking off from the yellow buoy. 

We reached the yellow buoy at 8.13 am where around 30 Lesser Crested Terns, some in breeding plumage were resting.

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Then it was 2 hours of cruising before we came across a flock of 36 White-winged Terns feeding among the anchored ships. Many have acquired the black summer plumage, something we don’t get to see inland. Francis Yap managed to shoot one picking up a Jellyfish from the surface of the water. In between we had a few Aleutian, Birdled and Swift Terns.

Lesser Frigatebird

At 11.30 am just as we were about to head back, Colin picked out a tiny speck way out towards Horsburgh Lighthouse. As luck was with us it flew towards our boat most probably to check us out. “Frigatebird” the call everyone was hoping to hear. It flew over the boat for some good photos. It is a juvenile and will tax the experts’ identification on whether it is a Lesser or Christmas Island Frigatebird.

The trip back was as usual quiet. Most of us tried to catch up on our lost sleep.  That was until 2 pm when Colin, who else, spotted a “bulky” looking seabird flying East near the port limits. Luckily “quick-hand” Francis Yap was ready with his Canon to capture it.  An adult Parasitic Jaeger. Finally after so many pelagics, I ended up with two of the most wanted families of seabirds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Lesser Crested Tern (right) is one of the six species of terns seen today.

A great day’s work chasing Jaegers and Frigatebirds out in the middle of Singapore Straits.

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