Tag Archives: Buff-necked Woodpecker

Singapore Bird Family Grand Slams.

Singapore Bird Family Grand Slams.

12th May 2020

There is only so much HDD and balcony birding one can do during this CB period. With the release of the 2020 edition of the Birds of Singapore Checklist, I decided to go through my list of 359 species to date to see how many bird family “grand slams” (of 5 or more species) do I have. If you are doing this as well, do let us know what your “grand slams” are.

1-MacRitchie Forest

A magical place inside CCNR.  How insignificant are we? Photo: Glenda Heng.

Not that many as it turned. Only 11 out of a total of 26 families with 5 or more species in it. I was missing the Little Green Pigeon for the 14 Pigeons and Doves Columbidae  family. But now with the acceptance of the Oriental Turtle Dove, a national first, it will be that much harder to complete.

I though I have the  12 Rails and Crakes Rallidae family done and dusted but found out that the Eurasian Coot, a stray last seen in 1988, is in this family. Arrrrh……

Thanks to Francis Yap:) I “lost” the 13 Bulbuls Pycnontidae family when he photographed the Black and White Bulbul at Jelutong Tower in 2012.

A big thank you and shout out to all my friends, past and present for the timely alerts and help. Many of you will recall the happy memories of when we got these species together. Special mention to all my mentors and my long time birding friends Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee and Yang Pah Liang for being with me in this journey since the early 1990s. These are the stories of the sighting of the last species of each of the eleven families.

1. Ardeidae (Bitterns, Herons and Egrets) 19 species.

It was a late afternoon phone call from Vincent Ng that an Indian Pond Heron was seen at Bidadari Cemetery. Joseph Tan had photographed it on 11 April 2015 but did not processed it until Er Bong Siong posted his a week later. It was subsequently identified by Francis Yap. Link. Our first record was from Senoko on 20 March 1999 by Lim Kim Seng and Lim Kim Chuah. It was listed in Category D ( Wild birds but possibility of released or escaped cannot be ruled out). Since then, we had 8 more records from Farmway 3 in 2012 and 2016, Bidadari 2015 and 2018, Bishan Park 2018, Jurong Lake in 2019, Windsor Park and Transview Golf Course in 2020. This should not be a difficult family to complete.

Indian Pond Heron at Bida

The first Indian Pond Heron seen in Bidadari in 2015.

2. Charadriidae ( Lapwings, Plovers) 11 species.

I was late to tick the Grey-headed Lapwing at SBWR on November 2011, found by Lim Kim Chuah. But when news that one was scoped inside Kranji Marshes on 23 October 2016, we went running in to the tower to look for it. I remembered missing it by 5 minutes as it flew over the open field outside the Marshes. Geoff Lim and I decided to drive into Harvest Lane to look for it. We flushed it just after we got out of the car. For most the Common Ringed Plover will be your nemesis in this family.

Grey-headed Lapwing at KM
The Grey-headed Lapwing roosting with the Red-wattled Lapwings inside Kranji Marshes.

3. Cuculidae ( Cuckoos and Coucal) 19 species.

Asian Emerald Cuckoo Female
Asian Emerald Cuckoo Female

The last cuckoo was supposed to be the Lorong Halus’s Jacobin Cuckoo in 2015 but a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo turned up at Siloso, Sentosa in late December 2017 changed that.  Link . Topping this was our third record and this time an adult male in its full brilliance found by Kelvin Ng and friends on 23 March 2020 next to the Ulu Pandan Canal behind MOE Ghim Moh.

The adult female Asian Emerald Cuckoo was much easier to identify than the first juvenile female photographed by KC Tsang in 2006.



4. Tytonidae/Strigidae (Owls) 10 species.

Another successful nesting of this rare resident owl

January 2016. Another late afternoon phone call this time from See Toh that almost knocked me off my seat. A juvenile Barred Eagle Owl was spotted again at the car park at Bukit Timah NR. I missed the last appearance as I was away and was glad to have completed this difficult family which has the vagrant Short-eared Owl, Northern Boobook and the most sought after Brown Wood Owl in it. I had an old entry in my notebook of a BEO sighting on 16 Nov 1996 near the summit of BTNR during a survey, but I do not have any strong recollection of this sighting.


5. Alcedinidae ( Kingfishers) 8 species.

The migrant Black-capped Kingfisher is known to be super skittish, secretive and hard to find here. Most of the old records were from Pulau Ubin, hidden in between the mangroves. That was where I got mine. For many of the birders it was the most wanted kingfisher. Most should have this family grand slam by now with the Ruddy Kingfisher ever presence at Kranji.



6. Picidae (Woodpeckers) 8 species.


I was lucky to be birding when the White-bellied Woodpeckers were still around. Then the former resident Great Slaty Woodpecker made a spectacular reappearance on May 2018 at BTNR. But it was the Buff-rumped Woodpecker that eluded most of us until Adrian Silas Tay found one at Pulau Ubin on May 2019. Good thing it stayed around long enough for us to tick it.

This male Buff-rumped Woodpecker stayed around the same patch at Pulau Ubin.

7. Psittaculidae ( Parrots and Parakeets) 6 species.

The rare forest wanderer, Blue-rumped Parrot numbers have remained small all these years. They can be seen flying across the Central Catchment Forest in small flocks on good days. It was only the discovery of a fruiting Star Fruit tree at Venus Loop that we were able to see them close up. This should be an easy grand slam for all.


Nationally threatened Blue-rumped Parrot feeding on the Star Fruit at Venus Loop.

8. Monarchidae ( Monarch and Paradise Flycatchers) 5 species.


None of us expected to see an Indian Paradise Flycatcher here as it was not their usual wintering range. But Oliver Tan photographed one at SBWR on 2 December 2017 which was later identified by Dave Bakewell. Link. Our second and third records the following year were at SBWR as well.

The identity feature of this Indian Paradise Flycatcher is the long crest.



9. Hirundinidae ( Swallows and Martins) 5 species.

Sand Martin
Sand Martin

Both martins in our Checklist were hard to find, Surprisingly I got the rarer Asian House Martin before the more common Sand Martin. Both can be easily overlook unless you pay attention to any flocks of flying swallows.



10. Phylloscopidae ( Warblers) 5 species.

Sakhalin Leaf Warhler

The Dusky Warbler would be the missing warbler for this family for most but I was around when Peter Kennerley mist netted one at Tuas in 1994. Instead my warbler to complete this family was the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler that was heard calling along Dairy Farm Loop by Lim Kim Keang on March 2014. We had the Pale-legged Warbler in our Checklist, but the sub song was clear enough for us to replace it.

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler replaced the Pale-legged Warbler in our checklist.

11. Cisticolidae ( Cisticolas, Prinia and Tailorbirds) 6 species.

This is an easy family to complete as all the 6 species are our common residents. Among them the forest edge Rufous-tailed Tailorbird was the hardest to find and photographed for some time. But their presence at Dairy Farm and Venus Loop made it much easier now.

Rufous-tailed Tailorbird at Wilton Close

This Rufous-tailed Tailorbird was photographed along the railway track at Wessex Estate.

HDD Hard Disk Digging. CB Circuit Breaker, CCNR Central Catchment Nature Reserve, MOE Ministry of Education, BEO Barred Eagle Owl, BTNR Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, SBWR Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.


Lim Kim Seng. The Avifauna of Singapore 2009. NSS

Craig Robson. The Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia.


Panti Forest – Birds and More.

Black-banded Squirrel

The Black-banded Squirrel resembles our Plantain Squirrel, but it is the only squirrel with a black band across its lower sides. No signs of the Giant Cream Squirrels which used to be a common sight.


It had been sometime since I birded at Panti. So it was with great expectations when Lim Kim Keang suggested to pay the place a visit on 1st July. He brought along Veronica Foo, her husband Milton Tan and friend Patricia Tiang. My old birding buddies Jimmy Chew and Jimmy Lee made up the party. Group photo by Milton Tan (right)


The old entrance was blocked off and we had to use a new entrance to the Bunker Trail The calls of the Gibbons greeted us as we drove in. A Pig-tailed Macaque quietly moved back into the bushes as we drove by.

Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker

Rows of invasive Clidemia hirta or Koster’s Curse lined the sides of the trail. They were attracting many of the frugivorous species. Most of us got great eye level shots of the Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (left), Blue-winged Leafbird and Cream-vented Bulbuls.


Blue-winged Leafbird

The Blue-winged Leafbird is the most common leafbird at Panti. 

We headed for the Temple trail and met up with Millie Cher and her friends there. This is where the Rufous-backed Kingfishers were nesting recently but we were told that the the chicks were killed by the ants. This trail turned out to be a very birdy stretch. Three Buff-necked Woodpeckers were busy picking up the Weaver ants below its nest.


Female Buff-necked Woodpecker busy picking up the Weaver ants.

Earlier a pair of Checkered-throated Woodpeckers were foraging besides the trail giving us great views. The big bonus was this bathing beauty, a normally sulking Black-capped Babbler having splashing time in the open.

Checkered-throated Woodpecker

Black-capped Babbler

But Panti is not just about birds. The butterflies and dragonflies were also actively fluttering around. With the help of Kim Keang, we learnt to look for them under the leaves and along streams and shallow water puddles. We were not able to identify many of the dragonflies we saw.  It was easier for the butterflies. This lovely female Plush is uncommon in the lowland forests of Malaysia.


                      Dragonflies are especially attracted to the many forest water puddles                                         and streams at Panti.

                     The uncommon lowland forest female Sithon nedymond and the Malay                                     Viscount are among the many butterflies species found in Panti.

His eagle eyes spotted this tiny Water Scorpion in a small puddle of water. You can just see the water rings on the surface at the end of its tail which it used to breathe.

Water Scopion

One of the must stops is the first stream. The opening on the right is always very productive. We had the uncommon Finsch’s Bulbul (below) here.  Its small size and yellow throat are diagnostic. My first encounter with this bulbul was at the same place some 20 years ago!


Finsch’s Bulbul, vulnerable to forest disturbance and loss.

Other bulbul species includes the Buff-vented and Hairy-backed ( below) with its distinctive yellow patch around the eyes.

Hairy-backed Bulbul

All birding trips to Panti have to end with a yummy lunch. Today it was at the Public Restaurant at Kota Tinggi town where they prepared a delectable assam Ma Yeow Yu ( Ikan Kurau) for us. It was great meeting Ding Li, Nam Siang and their friends there tucking in to their steamed river prawns after their trip to Mersing Forest. Many thanks for the great company and the laughter and sharing the good old stories of Panti.

Reference: Craig Robson. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South East Asia. Asia Books Company. Ltd.