Category Archives: Bird Sightings

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.

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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

 

 

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Around the Mulberry Bush

“Here we go around the Mulberry Bush

The Mulberry Bush, the Mulberry Bush,

Here we go around the Mulberry Bush

So early in the morning”  A Children’s Song.

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Morning shooting session around the White Mulberry Tree at Dairy Farm Nature Park. 

It is more than a Mulberry Bush at the Dairy Farm Nature Park that is attracting many of the frugivorous birds for the past two months. It is the White Mulberry Tree, Morus alba, a native of China. It is a fast growing tree cultivated in China for its leaves to feed the silk worms. It has adapted to the tropics turning into an evergreen here. It soft berries are sweet but bland and a favorite with the flowerpeckers and starlings.

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A female Asian Fairy Bluebird bending over for a ripe berry.

Over the months more than a dozen forest, woodlands and garden species have been seen feeding on the fruits of this tree.  Even some generalists like the leafbirds and fairy bluebirds were attracted to the white berries.

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A juvenile Greater Green Leafbird, a generalist likes the sweet berries as well.

So far four species of bulbuls have been photographed feeding on the berries on this tree. The Yellow-vented, Cream-vented, Olive-winged and Black-crested. Both the Blue-winged and Greater Green Leafbirds were frequent visitors, but no signs of the rarer Lesser Green Leafbird.

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A bit of the habitat shot of the White Mulberry attracting the garden and parkland Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker.

Both the Orange-bellied and Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers were the regular feeders on the soft white berries. The former would more often or not chased the intruding Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers away. They will pass out the seeds some else where and help to propagate this tree.

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The forest specialist Orange-bellied Flowerpecker is more aggressive of the two, often chasing away the Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker for intruding into its habitat.

The more common species like the Javan Mynas, Pink-necked Pigeons and Black-naped Orioles did not seem to like the berries as much as the figs that is available elsewhere in the park, but they will still fly in for a bite or two. I have yet to see barbets or squirrels feeding on them. The Long-tailed Macaques did seem interested at all.

For the photographers the tree’s small size and the low branches offered perfect opportunity and easier shooting of some of the less common forest birds.

Reference: 

Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore) 2009                            Yong Ding Li, Lim Kim Chuah and Lee Tiah Khee. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Birds of Singapore. John Beaufoy Publishing 2013.

 

The Mangrove Dwellers of Sungei Buloh.

The little of what is left of our mangroves is vital for the survival of many of our mangrove dependent birds, reptiles, butterflies and dragonflies. Without the mangroves they will simply disappear and we will be the poorer for it. On a short morning walk at Sungei Buloh yesterday, we came across some of these survivors there. Let’s hope that this protected wetland will be their home for many years to come.

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Out door nature workshops for the students during the school holidays. All lined up on the bridge waiting for the crocodiles to appear.

 

 

From top left, the Colonel is locally common at the Kranji Marshes. Kim Keang’s sharp eyes picked up the smaller and less colorful Scarce Silverstreak at a distance. My lifer the Full Stop Swift( bottom) was spotted by Richard White.

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First time I came across this beautiful Mangrove Shield Bug, seen along the boardwalk. Lena Chow posted a link from WildSingapore with the ID. Not only are they mangrove dependent, the larvae can only be found on the Buta buta trees where they will feed on the new fruits. The adults were often seen clustered together under the leaves.

Mangrove Dwarf at SB

The Mangrove Dwarf as the name suggested is a smallish dragonfly that is found only in the mangroves. This uncommon dragonfly lives and breeds in the saline waters of the mangrove.

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The Copper-throated Sunbirds, another mangrove specialist, are busy bringing up another brood to grace our wetlands. I had the wrong setting for this and had to brighten it.

Ashy Tailorbird at SB

The Ashy Tailorbird is also confined to the Mangroves. They are often jumpy or hiding behind the vegetation. Good to have this one out in the open posing for a shot.

Mangrove Pit Viper at SBWR

It is never easy to spot a small motionless snake that has the same color as the surface it is resting on. But Marcel Finlay managed to see this Mangrove Pit Viper along Route I. Small ( about 40 cm) but venomous, it likes to stay near water edges and wait for its prey. The rest of us were happily shooting away for another great encounter of the herpy kind.

Here we go again….

I ended with 209 species for the Big Year 2016 way below Lim Kim Keang’s winning total of 251. That’s fine as I was targeting 200 for the year. Thank you all for the alerts and help. You know who you are.

I decided to continue with BY 2017 partly because of the few rare species that was seen at Ubin on the second day. I needed the motivation to get off my butt to chase the goodies that will surely come around this year. And of course for the fun of the chase.

I have yet to hit the century this year while the leading pack are already in their 150 plus. But that’s ok, they are more hardworking. Good for them.                                                          Here are some of the characters I met in the first six weeks of the New Year.

MIP at Ubin

Mountain Imperial Pigeon. A SG lifer thanks to Kim Seng for finding it on Ubin on New Year’s Eve. Only our third record partly as this montane species is a resident at Fraser’s Hill. Three Pied Imperial Pigeons were seen flying over Chek Java on the 2nd morning and we also had reports of the Green Imperial Pigeons foraging in Changi Business Park as well. Three imperials at one corner of Singapore at the same time. Not bad!

Cinnamon Headed Pigeon at Ubin

Loke Peng Fai found a different looking pigeon near Ketam Quarry on the first day. It turned out to be a young Cinnamon-headed Pigeon. The next day when we descended to look for it, there were twelve of them on the same tree. Unbelievable! Where did they come from? The female with two males behind.

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I cannot resist going down to the Rain Forest of the Botanic Gardens to nail down these two gems that took up winter residence there. The bonus was a released Silver Pheasant and later on a Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. The nesting Black Cobra under the log was more effective in keeping us back than the notice out up by Nparks.

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Another easy tick was this young Jambu Fruit Dove feeding at Chinese Gardens. The trees were short and the berries were low hanging which means eye level shots. Can’t asked for more.

VonSchrenck's at SBTB
Went down to Satay by the Bay to look for the returning Black Bittern but instead found this confining adult VonSchrenck’s Bittern behind the undergrowth. This is new for the Gardens.

 

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This juvenile Yellow Bittern definitely agrees with the saying ” No fish got prawns also can”. At the Chinese Gardens.

Oriental Scops Owl at DFNP Grey Morph.
Only the grey morph Oriental Scops Owl was still around Dairy Farm this week. Could this means that the two met here? This shot was taken on 10 Feb. Last seen on 12th.

 

Blue and White Flycatcher at DFNP
Only a poor record shot of the Blue and White Flycatcher at DFNP. Good thing Francis Yap and Con Foley were able to get great frontal shot of this adult flycatcher to confirm its ID. The small white side of the tail seen in this shot is one of the features for id.

 

Eastern Crowned Warbler at DFNP
Thanks to Kok Hui for this record shot of the Eastern Crowned Warbler at DFNP. It was very vocal and its sub song and yellowish undertail gave away its id. Time to check on the Sakhalin Warbler.

I was too lazy to drive to Bedok for the Crested Goshawk since I had some good photos of them from Bishan Park some years back. Same with the Green Imperial Pigeons at Changi Business Park. The snipe and the Grey Nightjar at Chinese Gardens left by the time I got around to visit. I have yet to visit Kranji Marshes and CCNR this year and will have to find an excuse to get my butt there… one of these days.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

 

 

Marina Gardens and Barrage-Birding Hotspots Downtown.

3rd September 2016

Decided to dropped by the Gardens by the Bay this Saturday morning to check out if any other passerine migrants have arrived following Danny Khoo’s report that a Common Kingfisher was seen there on 31st August.

Instead I got this uncommon resident Ruddy-breasted Crake that was moving around the gardens some months back. This shot showed its long toes which are needed to walk on the floating vegetation in the water.

Ruddy-breasted Crake at GBTB
Ruddy-breasted Crake looking for earthworms.

I never get tired shooting sunbirds because you get both the colorful sunbirds and the bright flower. The Brown-throated Sunbird has its own iridescent beauty.

Brown-throated Sunbird at GBTB
The yellow Canna flowers certainly add color to the photo.

Glad to run into Siew Mun who showed me this friendly Laced Woodpecker. How not to take a photo when it was showing it best profile to us. The red crown stripe of the male always made a great photo. This is the only woodpecker that comes down to the ground to forage for food.

Laced Woodpecker Male at GBTB
The male Laced Woodpecker with its red crown stripe. 

Siew Mun sharp eyes picked out this Common Frangetail, a rather large common dragonfly in our parks and gardens. It seems to be eating one of its own after mating. Any dragonfly experts care to comment?

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I have not photographed a Common Myna for years. I am surprised to see them here by the food court as the White-vented Mynas have driven most of them to the outskirts of the city. This one seem to have a attitude and was giving orders to others.

Common Myna at GBTB
Common Myna at the Food Court.

It was high tide around noon so I decided to swing over to the Marina Barrage to see if there are any visiting terns flying around. Didn’t know that there were Pokemons to catch at the breakwaters.

Didn't know there are Pokemon at the Marina Barrage.
Catching Pokemons at the breakwaters at the Marina Barrage?

A family of Little Terns were still around with the juveniles practicing how to catch fish from the surface of the water.

This sub adult has lost some of its juvenile feathers that gave it the scaly look.

Little Tern Non breeding
Little Tern moutling into non breeding plumage.

Good to see our resident Malaysian Plovers roosting around the barrage after breeding. To be able to see them so close to the city without venturing to Tuas or Changi is a bonus. This female is feeling very at home among the pool of water on the bund.

Malaysian Plover Female at Marina Barrage
Malaysian Plover Female at Marina Barrage.

Gardens by the Bay is becoming an oasis for migrants based on the many that dropped by last season. It is getting a lot of attention from birders and photographers partly to its accessibility and being right in the center of the CBD. Lets seen which rare migrant will be coming for a visit this season.

A Family of Abbott’s Babblers at West Coast Park.

 

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Still very vocal close to midday. An unmistakable musical call that lights up the dark forest floor.

Babblers are one of the most challenging bird families to photograph. They forage under the forest canopy close to the ground. Light is always a premium. They are always on the move jumping from one twig to the other. If not for their calls, it will be hard to find them.

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An underside view of the Abbott’s Babbler.

When Francis Yap found a family of Abbott’s Babblers, Malacocincla abbotti, at the Marsh Gardens at the West Coast Park on 16th May 2016, I cannot pass up a chance to redo some of my old shots. He recorded one there two years ago. The nearest I seen them was at Labrador Nature Park in the late 90s. They were also recorded in Kent Ridge Park by Angus Lamont in the mid 90s. The other reliable location on the mainland is at Venus Loop, a forest edge habitat favored by these babblers. Another liable place to see these babblers is at Pulau Ubin.

It shares almost of the same native ranges with the Short-tailed Babbler,  Malacocincla malaccensis, from across South East Asia to Sumatra and Borneo. But the Short-tailed Babbler is largely confined to the Central Forest here. The Abbott’s is listed as uncommon resident while the Short-tailed was classified as common in the 2015 Checklist. Hopefully if they continue to adapt and spread across to some of our less manicured parks, their status will change.

Abbott's Babbler @ WCP
Not the ideal pose but how often you get them out in the open?

 

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

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