Category Archives: Bird Sightings

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.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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

 

 

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.

SBG@SBG

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.