Category Archives: Bird Report

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!


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




Magical Birding at Nanhui’s Microforests.


The clumps of short trees behind me are the so call Microforests of Nanhui. They are on the leeward slopes of the seawall. In the background are the inner mudflats where shorebirds use as their high tide roost.

If you are on a short business trip to Shanghai I would strongly recommend that you take a morning or a day off and head for Nanhui at the mouth of Hangzhou Bay for some great birding. Situated at the extreme south-eastern part of Shanghai, many birders considered this place as one of the best birding sites in China. Besides providing high tide roost for migratory shorebirds at the inner mudflats, clumps of forests on the leeward side of the seawall provide refuge from the strong winds for migratory passerines. These are the Microforests of Nanhui famed for attracting many of the warblers, flycatchers and thrushes on the way south during the migratory season.


Unlike our rain forests, the microforests of Nanhui is rather sparse with one or two species of  trees and low scrubs almost the prefect habitat for birding. 

The clumps of microforests are well spread out along the length of the inner seawall. You will be looking down at the birds as you walk along the road at the top of the seawall. It is so much more comfortable then cranking your neck to look for birds here. We saw many bird photographers shooting from inside their cars as they cruised along the road. The birds do not have a large area to fly to and will stay inside the same patch once flushed. It is almost like birding in an open aviary. The great company of Jimmy Chew, Tan Gim Cheong, Doreen Ang, Lim Kim Keang, Samantha Ang and Tan Ju Lin, made this another great birding trip for all of us. Many thanks to Alfred Chia for planning the trip and Tong Menxiu for finding the birds for us. Looking forward to more birding trips to come!


Black-winged Cuckooshrike is rather skittish but after a while it got use to our presence. Very similar to the Large Cuckooshrike but smaller, it breeds in southern China and Indian Sub-continent.

Rufous-tailed Robin

Rufous-tailed Robin is quite common often staying very close to the ground. They will come close to you if you stay still.

Yellow-browed Warbler

A head on view of the Yellow-browed Warbler, one of the most common leaf warbler here. The other leaf warblers were not easy to identify as they were not calling.

Mugimaki Flycatcher

There were more male Mugimaki Flycatchers around than females. Most come down to eye level for shots like this.

Blue and White Flycatcher female

Female Blue and White Flycatchers are rather drab.

We passed through Tiaozini on the way to Rudong. The forest on both sides of the long quiet road at Tiaozini was a magnet for passerine migrants. We enjoyed a very productive morning here as it was the only time when we had the sun out for most of the day.

Northern Hawk Cuckoo

This Northern Hawk Cuckoo looks very much like the Hawk Cuckoos that visits us in the winter. It may turn up here one day.

Lesser Cuckoo

The other cuckoo species that we came across is this Lesser Cuckoo. It breeds in Indian Sub continent Tibet and parts of China, winters in E Africa and visits Indochina. I will have a hard time separating it from the Himalayan.

Blue and White Flycatcher

Blue and White Flycatcher is always a great bird to have on your sensors especially the male. The Zappey’s occurs in China as well.

Daurian Redstart Female

This looks like one of those feeding station shots with this female Daurian’s Redstart holding on to what looks like a meal worm, but it was actually something it found on its own. We did not do any baiting. 


Orange-flanked Bluetail ( female) breeds in Siberia in the Taiga forests and winters all the way south to Northern Thailand.

References: Liu Yang, Yong Ding Li and Yu Yat-tung. Birds of China. John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd.





The Lovely Couples of Fraser’s Hill.

I last visited Fraser’s Hill eight years ago. Not much have changed except that more and more buildings are left to rot. This was rather depressing. The overall weather is definitely warmer. Global warming or over development? Bird life was disappointing as well. We encountered only two mini bird waves during our three days there. We did not see some of the commoner birds like the Green Magpie and the Niltavas. The Cutias and the Brown Bullfinches had gone for good long ago. At least we got to see the endemic Malayan Partridges, a species that was legendary difficult to see and get to meet some lovely couples there.

Rufous-browed Flycatchers

This pair of cute Rufous-browed Flycatchers can be photographed with a handphone.

Hill Partridges

A once impossible birds to see is now a matter of waiting at the right place.


The call of the Fire-tufted Barbets is always welcoming for visitors to the Hill Forests.


Long-tailed Sibias may not be that colorful but are still delightful birds to photograph.


Bronze Drongos do not need the long rackets to stand out.

Glossy Swiftlets

I was told that there are two species of Glossy Swiftlets at Fraser’s Hill. This species will very soon be renamed.

Bidadari here we come!

3rd October 2016.

A good portion of Bidadari near the Mount Vernon side have been cleared and fenced up. A really sad and sorry sight. Fortunately the studio hillock and the forest facing Bartley Road are still intact. Last Friday Lim Kim Keang went down to Bidadari to see if any of the passerine migrants are still dropping by. They were!

20160402_113120The Albizias at Bidadari are very important in giving shelter and refuge for many of the returning migrants.

He saw an Eastern-crowned Warbler, an Asian Brown and a female Yellow-rumped Flycatcher. Zacc was there to photographed a sizable flock of Daurian Starlings on a bare tree. Despite his best efforts inside a light room, he cannot find any with a chestnut cheek, Good try Zacc.

Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher Bida
Last year’s file photo Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher at Bidadari, one of the most reliable places to see this globally threatened species in its wintering range.

The next day Richard White had better luck. He came back with three more flycatchers. A  juvenile Dark-sided, a Ferruginous affectionately dubbed “Iron Boy” and the globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher. His shot of the day was a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo, a non-breeding visitor.


When word got out, birders and photographers were out in force crisscrossing the forest looking for more migrants on Sunday. I went down and joined them to find out if the remaining green patch is still “birdable”. The HDB will leave the hillock untouched. Will this be big enough for the migrants to spend the winter here? I hope so.


The Tiger Shrikes, all juveniles and the Asian Paradise Flycatchers were every where. Invariably we were all asking if they are Amurs or Orientals. The split was recent and the literature are still being defined. But safe to say that the ones we saw are mostly migrants.


We added a first winter Crow-billed Drongo and an Arctic Warbler to the list on Sunday. This was a great start and I am sure we will be getting more dropping by in the coming weeks. Do pay Bidadari a visit before more trees and greenery are being cleared.

Reference: Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beafoy Publishing Ltd. 2003. 



National Day Ramble

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.

Slender Squirrel at LPR
The Slender Squirrel stays close to the Central forests

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.

Suffused Flash at UPR
Suffused Flash 

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.

Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker at UPR
Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker 

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.


The wait is finally over.


Barred Eagle Owl at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 12.1.2016

In early 1997 a group of us (Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee and others) trudged up Bukit Timah Hill at night to looked for the Barred Eagle Owl (Bubo sumatranus). This was my first attempt to try to see this rare owl which was believed to be resident in Singapore. Our attempts was a follow up to a record of an individual heard and seen close to the summit on November 1996 (Peter R. Kennerley in litt,1996)).  Looking for owls at night with hand torches was not the most effective way of locating birds. We can only hope that it called, which would then lead us to its perch. It was not to be.

The Barred Eagle Owl was a former resident that was thought to have gone extinct (Lim K.S. 1992i). We received several reports of possibly the same owl at the Nee Soon Swamp forest from 1998 to 2008. It was placed in Category B for wild birds that were not recorded in the last 50 years. It has since been upgraded to Cat A based on a definitive record by Marcus Chua who photographed it on 17 Jan 2009 on Pulau Ubin (Lim K.S.).

On 11 Feb 2012, another group comprising of Alfred Chia, Albert Low, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Seng, Yong Ding Li and myself mounted a night owl hunt to the western part of Pulau Ubin to find the Brown Wood Owl ( Strix leptogrammica) and the Barred Eagle Owl. We had then received reports that students from the National University of Singapore photographed the Barred Eagle Owl near to the Outward Bound School area a few weeks back. Bashing around the forest in the dark without hearing any owl calls was frustrating to say the least. Another failure! (Although Kim Keang, Kim Chuah and I managed to see the Brown Wood Owl and its chick a few months earlier, thanks to Robert Teo’s alert).

In mid-January 2013, Anna Deasley with a British bird group videoed (Link) a Barred Eagle Owl in the daytime at the Central Catchment Forest near to the Tree Top Walk. This was followed shortly by a sighting by Yong Ding Li and others during a survey for mammals in the reserve two weeks later. Nevertheless, we had to go and check it out. It was like looking for a needle in the haystack. Another TKO!

Barred Eagle Owl by Er Li

Barred Eagle Owl along the Summit Path by Lee Li Er in 2014. She reported that the Drongos were seen attacking the owl as well. 

Presently, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserves is partly closed for upgrading works but we were aware of sporadic reports of weekend visitors seeing a large owl, probably the Barred Eagle Owl, near the Visitors Center. On 30 March 2014, Lee Li Er and her husband were trekking up the summit path at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve when they heard the Greater Racket-tailed Drongos dive bombing a large owl. They did not realised at that time it was the rare Barred Eagle Owl. But it was not until a post by Kennie Pan on 8th Dec 2015 that the hunt for this elusive owl was over for many of the birders here. See Toh Wai Yew rushed down that late evening and found the owl perched high up inside the boarded area. Co-incidentally he also reported that the Drongos were attacking the owl as well.  By an unfortunate twist of fate, I was taking to my grandson to the Clique de Soliel show “Totem” that same evening, and had to grind my teeth at this missed opportunity. Those who went down were rewarded with some decent shots. I went down first thing the next morning hoping that it will be using the same tree as a daytime roost. You got it. The guard told me that the owl has gone. Just like that, my fifth dip. This was a hard one to swallow. So close and yet so far away.

I was working on the Singapore Birds App at home on a late afternoon on 12 Jan 2016 when a message from See Toh Yew Wai popped up on my screen.”BEO at btnr same tree now“. I almost fell off my chair. This time, I tried not to drive beyond the sound barrier to get there as quickly as possible. See Toh had his lens pointed at a dark brown shape perched high up in the tree when I got there. At last, I was actually looking at a Barred Eagle Owl in Singapore. See Toh told me that he was about to go to the Hindhede Park side to check but decided to take a look at the same tree. He could not believe his eyes when he found the owl perched at almost the same position as the last sighting. The bonus is that I completed my owl list for Singapore with this sighting, thanks to See Toh’s prompt alert.

Ref: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. The Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Craig Robson 2000. Thanks for the additional information and editing from Yong Ding Li.


Foothill birding at Janda Baik


Excellent sub montane forests at the foothills of Janda Baik.

Those who drive up to Bukit Tinggi and Genting Highlands along the Karak Highway will be familiar with the turnoff at Genting Sempah to Janda Baik. The foothills along this stretch are dotted with resorts, rest houses and a large private estate of Tanarimba, rising up to 2,000 ft asl. A largely Chinese community is clustered at the Kg. Baru Bukit Tinggi where a few very good Malaysian style Zichar and Seafood restaurants served up great dishes at a fraction of the prices here. For me the must eat is the honey jackfruit from the corner restaurant. It is grown from their own farm and not available elsewhere.  The numerous fruit stalls by the roadside sells fruits that are plucked ripened. Both the papayas and longangs we bought were very sweet and fresh.

Durian Orchard Villa
Durian Orchard Villa at Radiant Retreats.

My grandson enrolled in a weekend eco camp at Radiant Retreats nestled in a matured durian plantation. I followed them there to explore the birdlife around the foothills.  I was quite surprised that the forests were in excellent condition. Gibbons can be heard almost daily. Though the density was not great but the diversity is much higher than Bukit Tinggi side. The presence of a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills at a fruiting fig indicates a good forest. The developers have been sensitive not to destroy the habitat. No highrise were allowed and the bungalows are well spread out. Most owners tried to retain if not improve on the greenery.

Birding from the car was easy, stopping at spots where mini bird waves and calls were seen or heard. The cooler and less humid weather makes it even more comfortable. These are some of the birds that I managed to photograph during the few days when I was there.


The more energetic can go for the one hour trek to the waterfall at Lata Carok. The water from the falls turned into a stream for rubber tubing at Santai Riverside. It was here that I photographed this beautiful Green Metalwing and Grey Sprite. The former is believed to be extinct in Singapore while the latter is uncommon, found only in a few locations.

Moths were everywhere at night but I was fascinated with this as it used the floor of our villa to camouflage itself. Appreciate ID from anyone.

Moth using the floor to camouflage itself.

I have not been to Genting Highlands for more than a decade and was keen to see what the place and birdlife was like. I was disappointed. It was a concrete jungle up there. It seems that they want to build a metropolis up at the top. The road up to the the telecom towers was quiet. I had to drive down to the Temple and Awana area to get to see some of the familiar montane species. I was quite happy with the birding at the compound of the temple. Some of the common species seen (below). A calling Whistling Thrush refused to show itself.

If you are tired of birding at Bukit Tinggi, this would be a good place to spend a day or two if you have nothing better to do. There are enough out door attractions for the rest of the family to do while you bird.