Category Archives: Bird Nestiing

Get Out of Our Tree Hole Nest!

Nesting Wars at Dairy Farm Nature Park

The tree hole “nest” near the top of a dead coconut tree at Dairy Farm Nature Park was the centre of a real estate war between a pair of Banded Woodpeckers, a Red-crowned Barbet and a young Monitor Lizard when I visited the park on 17 July.

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Mr. and Mrs. Banded Woodpecker inspecting the BTO nest hole at Dairy Farm.

This particular hole was most probably excavated by the woodpeckers. Both were seen putting in the finishing touches to the nest throughout the whole morning. Each woodpecker took turns to clear the interior and getting comfortable inside.

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Each woodpecker took turns to clear the interior of the nest hole.

But just after noon, a Red-crowned Barbet flew in and chased the woodpeckers away. There were no resistance. It seems that both the woodpeckers were afraid of the barbet and did not wish to pick a fight with it.

Changing shift

Changing shift.

But the barbet did not seem too interested in occupying the nest. It went inside for a short while before flying off. From its clumsy attempts to perch on the trunk and it appeared to be a young bird. So it may not be looking for a nest hole to breed.

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This surprising aggressive young Red-crowned Barbet chasing the woodpeckers away.

The woodpeckers returned only after the barbet left, happy to reclaim the nest. All this drama was being watched by a young Monitor Lizard at the base of the tree. Some friends told me that the lizard had been seen crawling into the nest before. My guess is that it was more interested in the eggs than the nest.

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The Barbet did not seem too interested in the nest.

As with the nest hole at Pasir Ris Park, the woodpeckers did not have an easy time reclaiming this nest. Only time will tell if they will be able to raise a family here.

PS. This tree hole nest seemed abandoned when I checked it a few weeks later. Glad if anyone can provide an update.

 

 

August’s Birding Moments.

August can be a quiet month for birding even though some early migrants started to  arrive. Most of us were taking things easy waiting for the onslaught of of the winter visitors from the Northern Asia in September.

It was not a productive month for me as well being away on holiday for the last week of the month. Here were some of the common species caught doing their things.

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The breeding period for these Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers is from February to August. This pair at Pasir Ris Park is either late starters or thinking of raising a second brood. Did not check if they eventually used this nest hole but it was hard work excavating this in early August. The flying chippings rendering some movements to the shot.

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Another late nesting was the Grey-rumped Treeswifts as previous nestings were in April. This mother was seen feeding a juvenile at one-north crescent in mid August. The small cup nest was built on the branch of a roadside tree. Previous nesting was also recorded near by at Kent Ridge.

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When the figs and other berries are not available, these Pink-necked Pigeons will come down low to feed on the dried seeds of the Melastoma Plant, a favorite of the Flowerpeckers.

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Now I know why the Grey Herons chose to nest by at the Jurong Lakesides. The water surrounding the gardens are shallow and they can wade around and hunt with ease. A bit of action in the shot with the water trails.

TEG

When a bird rests on a clean perch at eye level, you have to shoot it even though it is a common species and you have plenty of them in your hard disk. Showing the grassland habitat of TEG adds a bit more to this Red-whiskered Bulbul in the shot.

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Yes the tigers are back and good to see that they still dropped by Bidadari even though a large part of it have been cleared for housing. This area will be part of the 9 hectare Town Park which will be ready before the new owners move in. Lets hope they will keep coming back.

Bidadari

Did not have time to chase after these Yellow-rumped Flycatchers that started arriving by the end of the August. By early September, they were reported all over the island. Again we are glad that quite a good number were seen at Bidadari this season.

Reference: Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009

 

 

Little Terns at the Marina Barrage.

Breakwater at Marina Barrage
Very disciplined shooting session at the breakwaters by the Marina Barrage. Nature next to the CBD.

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.

Coming in to land.
Frontal flying shots will not be possible without knowing where they will land.
Fluffing up is part of preening to keep the feathers healhty
Preening and fluffing to keep their feathers healthy

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.

Dinner time.
Parent terns were able to demonstrate the art of catching small fishes to the juveniles near the breakwaters.

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.

The juveniles under the watchful eyes of the adult
The juveniles practise flying at the breakwaters under the watchful eyes of the adult

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.

Stop showing off.
Showing off landing to its siblings much to the delight of the parent on the right.

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.

Last feed for the juveniles
Parent tern still hard at work with the last feed for the day

Reference: A Field Guide to the Waterbirds of Asia. 1993 The Wild Bird Society of Japan.

The Grey-rumped Treeswifts of Bishan Park

The Grey-rumped Treeswift, Hemiprocne longipennis, is the only resident treeswift in Singapore. They were frequently seen hawking for insects over the Palm Valley of the Botanic Gardens up to a few years back. In May 2013, a pair was first seen nesting at Bishan Park (S.Ng in litt 2015). Since then, they have been reported using the low trees along the bicycle path to nest on a regular basis. Shirley Ng once counted four nestings at the park but only one juvenile fledged. She thinks that the low success rate could be due to the fragility of the nest cup, predation by crows and sterile eggs.

This year another pair was seen feeding a juvenile at its small cup shaped nest not too high above ground. The  nest was on an Aantoi or Cotton Fruit Tree , Sandoricum koetjape, (S. Ng). This juvenile appeared to be well over a month old. There was another older juvenile around, most likely from an earlier nesting. We hope to see more of these tree swifts making a home here at the park.

Whiskered Tree Swift Juv.
The chick was sitting on the nest which is only 6 meters above ground just by the bicycle path. The nest is on a Cotton Fruit Tree.
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The father took up a perch close to the chick ready to fend off any would be predators.
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The cup shaped nest was about the size of a 50 cents coin, attached to a thin branch and opened to the elements. 
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The mother was earlier seen flying around hawking for insect over the river. We waited for an hour before it flew back to feed the chick.
Juvenile Whiskered Tree Swift
This juvenile started stretching and flapping its wings after enjoying a satisfying meal. Happy to catch it at full stretch.
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It is not the prettiest chick around but it will blend in with the branches.
Sub-adult Grey-rumped Tree Swift
This sub-adult was from an earlier nesting most probably by another pair.

Jurong Lake Grey Herons are at it again.

13 June 2015.

Heronery at JG
Bringing up a new brood. part of the seven active nests by the side of Jurong Lake.

The nationally threatened Grey Herons, Ardea cinerea,are at it again. But it is good news. They are bringing up another brood of offsprings high up in the Casuarina trees by the side of Jurong Lake. Fish from the lake must be plentiful. I counted 7 active nests yesterday.

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Both parents tendering to eggs in the nest built on a flimsy branch of the Casuarina tree.

Some parents were sitting inside the nest incubating their eggs while other just stand guard next to the nests. I can’t see any young birds in the nests and there were no feeding as well. From time to time one of the parents will do a fly around more out of boredom.

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Some of the parents are still in their breeding plumage as can be seen in this photo. Reddish legs and pinkish lined bills.

Some of them are still in their breeding plumage. When the chicks hatch, it will be a critical period for the parents fending off predators like the Large-billed and House Crows and even the Changeable Hawk-eagles from getting to the chicks.

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Large colonies of nesting Grey Herons are rare nowadays. They may be common but are still under threat.

They may be common but they are very choosy in setting up a heronry. For no good reasons they will abandon a site and disappeared. This happened the heronry at Sungie Buloh Wetland Reserves in 2002. The largest colony was inside the Seletar Camp with a few hundred birds ( Sinav 19.4). One of the earlier sites were by the side of Kranji Reservior and at SAFRA Club at Tanah Merah (Sinav 17.2). But now most of the colonies are small in comparison spread out over several places like P, Ubin, Pasir Ris Park and this one at Japanese Gardens.

Ref: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng 2009. 

Nesting Nightjars – Changing color of plumage for protection?

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Photo 1. The Large-tailed Nightjar can hide from predators by keeping still under cover from the weeds and grasses.

Ground nesting birds are always at the mercy of terrestrial and aerial predators. The Large-tailed Nightjar, Caprimulgus macrurus, is no exception. They lay their eggs on dry leaves on the ground often in some quiet open waste land. Lucy Davis flushed a nightjar from its nest accidentally while taking a walk at her Wessex Estate last week. I had a hard time trying to find it yesterday as it was sitting quietly in a small depression surrounded by grasses and weeds (photo above). Only its head is visible. You can be a few feet away and yet will not see it.

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It chose to nest among the dead leaves on the ground and changed it plumage color from dark brown to light brown to match the lighter color of the leaves. ( Original photo without toning or coloring). Photo 2.

Another strategy is to blend in to the immediate surroundings. In this case the nightjar chose to nest amidst the dead leaves on the ground as its normal dark brown plumage will make it look less noticeable. For any predators looking from above, it is almost impossible to pick it out among the carpet of dead leaves. But something does not look right.

P1292815This is a roosting nightjar I took at the Botanic Gardens last year (left). This is its usual color which is dark brown like most of the nightjars I seen in the field. Now take a look back at the one Lucy found ( Photo 2). It has a lighter brown plumage to match the color of the dead leaves to blend in better. Somehow this nightjar managed to change its plumage color to match that of the fallen leaves. This is something I have not come across before. Do the birds have this ability to change their plumage to that of the surroundings for camouflage like a Chameleon? Your comments are most welcome.

Olive-backed Sunbird’s unusual nesting behaviour.

Sunbird nest at Halus

Female Olive-backed Sunbird flying back to nest inside a drain.

The Olive-backed Sunbirds and the Yellow-vented Bulbuls often built their nests close to human habitats. We have seen many photos of Sunbird’s nests at apartment balconies and home gardens. I have even seen them building nest on plastic plants outside a school principle’s office! Maybe over time they instinctively knew that humans are not their natural predators. Then I came across this nest at a country side location. (photo above). It appears to be exactly where a nest should be built.

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It is the female sunbird that does the nest building (top) but for the Baya Weavers, the males are the architect and contractor ( bottom).

The nest is inside a concrete drain below the road level, away from prying feral cats, dogs and other would be predators. It is hanging from a flimsy grass stem too weak for any predators to use to reach the nest. It is just above water at its highest mark safe from ground animals. It is the prefect way for any bird to build its nest.

But this turned out to be another Olive-backed Sunbird’s nest. So why does this particular Sunbird took so many precautions to locate its nest while the urban sunbirds did the complete opposite? I will have to leave others to do a study on this behavoir. If you come across similar nests it will be good to document the location and maybe provide the answers.