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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

 

 

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Panti Forest is about Butts too!

Hutan Panti Reserve just north of Kota Tinggi is still the closest birding site for the many of the lowland bird species that went extinct in Singapore over the past 50 years. Families like the trogons and broadbills come into mind.  But it is also a place for some of the rare forest butterflies that cannot be found here.

I wish I had spent time looking for them during those early years when we were birding there. But it is not too late as many of the rare species are still there.

Last weekend we spent two mornings there. It was quite birdy. Two Scarlet-rumped Trogons showed up and a flowering Syzygium attracted spiderhunters and a Red-throated Sunbird. Collectively we had a total of 80 bird species, many from calls. But unfortunately no lifers for me.

It was a good thing that we went looking for butterflies as well. We found some rare ones and some real stunners. Most are new to me. Yes lifers! Here are a few that I managed to photograph.

Malay Punchinello
This my favourite. The Malay Punchinello, what a nice name. I checked it up in the dictionary and it means “punch”. The colors certainly are punchy. There was a previous record in 2013 in Panti and a more recent one at Tioman. They normally rest with their wings half open. They are a little more common in Thailand. Wish we can have this in Singapore.

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The Arhopala trogon is rare but have been photographed at Panti before.  So easy to overlook we are just lucky to find it.

Redspot Marquis
I also like this Redspot Duke.  Nature decided to give it just a red dot to brighten its dull brown wings.

 

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The Sumatran Gem is uncommon in Panti, but rarer in Singapore, recently shot at Rifle Range Link.

Malayan Bush Brown
Malayan Bush Brown looks like most of our bush browns except for the two darker stripes across the wings.

Great Marquis

The Great Marquis is a family new to me. Uncommon resident of lowland forest like Panti.

Lesser Helen

The Syszgiun flowers also attracted this female Great Helen and other butterflies to it. My first photo of this large butterfly. Uncommon in Singapore.

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This badly shot oakblue is identified as the Large Metallic Oakblue. They all looked so similiar to me.

Ref: iNaturalist Butterflies of Malaysia.

 

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.

First Look at the new Leica Noctivid Binoculars.

I have been using my old faithful Leica 10×42 BN binoculars for more than 25 years and have resisted retiring it. When I heard that Leica is bringing out a new binocular this October I was anxious to get my hands on one to try it out.

I was delighted when Leica Camera Asia Pacific offered to loan the Noctivid 10×42 to me to test it out during the Raptor Watch on 6th November. It has a simple slim design, very compact and comfortable to hold. At 860 grams, it does not have the heavy feel.

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The slim compact design of the new Leica Noctivid 10×42

The first thing I noticed is the larger eye piece compared to my old pair. At 19 mm it provides a better eye relief for a comfortable viewing. However there was some vignetting even at the full extension of the eye cups. Which means that I cannot rest the eye cups on my eyes for viewing. A longer extension should solve this problem.

 

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The larger exit pupil lens of the Noctivid at the bottom compared with the older model.

It was overcast for most of the day over at Telok Blangah Hill and not many raptors were migrating. In spite of the less ideal conditions, all the members who tried it were impressed with the optics. The color rendition was good without much loss. I can make out the different shades of black of the plumage of Aerodramus Swiftlets, Swallows and a Glossy Swiftlet flying around. Light transmission was high due in parts to the special glass of the prism and non reflective coatings on the lenses. This was obvious when I use to look through the darker parts of the woods. Compared to my old pair the Noctivid is definitely brighter. Later in the afternoon, the sun came out long enough for me to check its true performance. It wasn’t glaring, still comfortable and vivid, just what you would expect from a high end binoculars. Close focusing up to 2 meters was sharp, another great improvement found in many of today’s optics.

My thanks to Leica Camera Asia Pacific for the loan of the Noctivid. Now all I need is a good excuse to ditch my old pair.

More information at https://sg.leica-camera.com/Sport-Optics/Leica-Birding/Binoculars/Leica-Noctivid.

 

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.

Fishing White-bellied Sea-eagle.

Platform 1 or Choo’s Platform at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is the favorite place to shoot White-bellied Sea-eagles, Brahminy Kites, Ospreys, Great-billed Herons, Egrets and Terns in action. It looks into the Johor Straits, the breakwaters, a tall mangrove tree and the floating fish farms.

The waters in between are teeming with fishes that either escaped from the farms or were attracted there by the free food. It has since become the best place to photograph these raptors and herons in all kinds of activities. Here are a sequence of a White-bellied Sea-eagle catching a fish from the straits. Excuse for the less than perfect shots as I was hand holding my old manual Nikon lens.   

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The low approach.

Both talons out in front
Both talons out in front
The bounce
The bounce
The Grab
The Grab

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The Prize.