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Monthly Roundup: April 2022

While April is usually the month when rarities begin to taper off and most migrants start returning to their breeding grounds for the summer, April this year was anything but quiet!

Highlights

  • At Chek Jawa, a series of likely visitors from Peninsular Malaysia: Large Woodshrike (second confirmed record), Black-winged Flycatcher-shrikeRuby-cheeked Sunbird (eighth confirmed record), Lesser Green Leafbird, and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker (second confirmed record)
  • Singapore’s sixth Red Knot, also at Chek Jawa
  • A rather lost Red-necked Phalarope rescued from a pond at Tampines Eco Green, the fifth confirmed record – unfortunately it did not survive overnight
  • One continuing Indian Pond Heron as well as one new record at Lorong Halus, taking the total number of records for the season to three

All records for Apr 2022 (Show all records)

Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka (species writeup) Hide 2 records

Changi Business Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus (species writeup) Hide 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 14 Mar 2022

eBird
Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus (species writeup) Hide 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 02 Oct 2021

eBird
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides (species writeup) Hide 1 record

Changi Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax (species writeup) Hide 2 records

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Lim Chu Kang SG-Singapore 1.44558, 103.72981

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor (species writeup) Show 2 records

Pasir Ris Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 30 Mar 2022

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu (species writeup) Show 4 records

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Jurong Lake Gardens (inc. Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden)

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
(not a complete list)

Petai Trail, MacRitchie

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 20 Nov 2021

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator (species writeup) Show 2 records

Jurong Lake Gardens (inc. Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden)

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 14 Mar 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

Changi Bay Point

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sg Buloh Wetlands Reserve

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 16 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 28 Jan 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres (species writeup) Show 1 record

Loyang Rock

Highest count: 11 individuals

Earlier record on 17 Mar 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)
Red Knot Calidris canutus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 02 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Red Knot at Chek Jawa Wetlands on 02 Apr 2022. Photo credit: Adrian Silas Tay

Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Tampines Ecogreen

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 02 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana (species writeup) Show 2 records

Northeastern Singapore (Pulau Ubin, Pasir Ris, Changi)

Highest count: 36 individuals

eBird
(not a complete list)

Telok Kurau

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Singapore Straits (including SG/Indo/M’sian waters)

Highest count: X

eBird
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 3 individuals

Earlier record on 04 Oct 2021

eBird
Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster (species writeup) Show 2 records

Hindhede Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 27 Jan 2022

eBird

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis (species writeup) Show 2 records

Satay by the Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 19 Dec 2021

eBird

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii (species writeup) Show 2 records

Lorong Halus

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 22 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird

Dover Road

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 19 Mar 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Indian Pond Heron at Dover Road on 12 Apr 2022. Photo credit: Sin Yong Chee Keita

Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa (species writeup) Show 3 records

Marina East (Gardens by the Bay: Bay East / Marina Barrage)

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 10 Feb 2022

eBird

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 11 Feb 2022

eBird

Berlayer Creek Boardwalk

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa

Highest count: 9 individuals

First recorded 04 Nov 2021

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
(not a complete list)
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela (species writeup) Show 5 records

Goldhill Ave / Malcolm Road: forest patch

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 20 Mar 2022

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 25 Mar 2022

eBird

Hort Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii (species writeup) Show 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 30 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Northern Boobook Ninox japonica (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 13 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus sumatranus (species writeup) Show 1 record

NTU

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 12 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
(not a complete list)

Barred Eagle-Owl at NTU on 12 Apr 2022. Photo credit: Yip Jen Wei

Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting (species writeup) Show 6 records

Kranji Marsh

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 18 Oct 2021

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 03 Feb 2022

eBird

Central Catchment Nature Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 25 Feb 2022

eBird

Tampines Eco Green

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Jurong Eco-Garden

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca (species writeup) Show 1 record

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus (species writeup) Show 5 records

Lower Peirce Reservoir Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 02 Oct 2021

eBird

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 3 individuals

Earlier record on 04 Oct 2021

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 07 Oct 2021

eBird
(not a complete list)

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 08 Oct 2021

eBird

Lower Peirce Reservoir Park

Highest count: 5 individuals

eBird
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 19 Apr 2022

Record under review

Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida (species writeup) Show 2 records

Rifle Range Link

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa Boardwalk

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 04 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
(not a complete list)

Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike at Chek Jawa Boardwalk on 16 Apr 2022. Photo credit: Adrian Silas Tay

Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 03 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
(not a complete list)

Large Woodshrike at Pulau Ubin on 03 Apr 2022. Photo credit: Adrian Silas Tay

Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea (species writeup) Show 1 record

Changi Bay Point

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 28 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectens (species writeup) Show 4 records

Sentosa Island: Nature Park area

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Tuas South (Tuas South Avenue 16 and surrounds)

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone affinis (species writeup) Show 3 records

Berlayer Creek Boardwalk

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Jurong Lake Gardens (inc. Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden)

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata (species writeup) Show 2 records

Berlayer Creek Boardwalk

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
(not a complete list)

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Cinereous Bulbul Hemixos cinereus (species writeup) Show 2 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 27 Mar 2022

eBird

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
(not a complete list)
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica (species writeup) Show 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica (species writeup) Show 2 records

Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae (species writeup) Show 3 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 27 Jan 2022

eBird

Rifle Range Link

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 20 Mar 2022

eBird

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki (species writeup) Show 4 records

Pasir Ris Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Jurong Lake Gardens (inc. Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden)

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens–Learning Forest and Swan Lake

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Lesser Green Leafbird Chloropsis cyanopogon (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa Boardwalk

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 15 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Lesser Green Leafbird at Chek Jawa Boardwalk on 3 May 2022. Photo credit: Adrian Silas Tay

Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus thoracicus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 23 Apr 2022

Record under review

eBird
(not a complete list)

Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker at Chek Jawa Boardwalk on 28 Apr 2022. Photo credit: Raymond Siew

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis (species writeup) Show 2 records

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 30 Apr 2022

Record under review

Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 04 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird at Chek Jawa Boardwalk on 23 Apr 2022. Photo credit: Adrian Silas Tay

White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata (species writeup) Show 1 record

Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 23 Oct 2021

eBird
Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Rifle Range Link

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Soaring all over Singapore: Himalayan Vultures in the 2021/2022 season

Written by Yip Jen Wei and Sin Yong Chee Keita

Editing by Tan Hui Zhen, infographic by Kee Jing Ying

In the winter migration season of 2021/22, our community was graced by five appearances of Himalayan Vultures Gyps himalayensis. These massive birds are rare but increasingly annual migrants to Singapore and never fail to spark huge hunts for a chance to see them perched or to witness their incredible wingspan in flight. 

No other species seems to unite the entire community in a truly islandwide effort as much as a flock of Himalayan Vultures slowly soaring across the island. Their size and slow flight means that regardless of where you are at the time of sighting, if they pass by your general vicinity, there is a chance you will get to see them. 

Here are the accepted records of Himalayan Griffons the 2021/2022 season, as per the Singapore Birds Database:

Sighting 1: 8 Dec 2021

    1. Flyby of a single bird over Dairy Farm Nature Park, by Feroz and KW Seah.
    2. Most likely the same bird seen flying by over Singapore Botanic Gardens that evening, by Marcel Finlay.

Sighting 2: 27 and 28 Dec 2021 (Novena flock)

    1. Five birds soaring over Novena in the evening, by Wong Weng Fai.
    2. Almost certainly the same five birds seen again the next morning at the same site and across Singapore.

Sighting 3: 29 and 30 Dec 2021 (SBG flock)

    1. Five birds at Singapore Botanic Gardens (possibly the same five?), along with Singapore’s first Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus seen by perhaps over 300 birdwatchers across two days before taking off on the morning of the 30th.

Sighting 4: 12 and 13 Jan 2022 (Punggol pair)

    1. Two birds seen soaring over Punggol by Daryl Tan, with one bird later observed being mobbed by crows at Pasir Ris by Emily Koh.
    2. The next day, one bird – likely one of the two seen the previous day – at Pasir Ris Park by multiple observers.

Sighting 5: 18 to 19 Jan 2022 (Bukit Batok flock)

    1. Seven birds seen over East Coast Park by Rachit in the afternoon, last seen roosting at Bukit Batok Nature Park by Francis Yap and JJ Brinkman. All 7 birds were seen flying off the next day.
A marvellous comparison of Singapore’s first Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus (left) and a Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis, 30 Dec 2021, Singapore Botanic Gardens. Photo credit: Trevor Teo.

The very unique result of all the excitement surrounding Himalayan Vulture sightings is that every aspect of their presence—how many of them, their behaviour, their flight path—is quite well tracked. Combine that with Singapore’s tiny country size and the recent massive increase in community size, we have an extremely high observer density: the movement of the birds across the island were particularly well-documented on 28th Dec 2021 (Novena flock) and 18 Dec 2022 (Bukit Batok flock). The Bukit Batok flock also allowed many who could not pop their heads out of the window during work to look for them later that evening and the next morning.

Annotated flight paths of sightings 2 and 5 starting from Novena and Bukit Batok respectively, recreated based on the collective information shared by birders of Singapore through various social media groups.

All sightings from this season were of immature birds, as are most records from the region. Young birds are typically known to wander around more so than adults, and in the cases for the birds that end up in Singapore, quite far off course from where they would usually be. Records show that there’s an increasing trend in their numbers arriving over the years too. Of course, we have to be careful about extrapolating too many conclusions from this: as the number of birdwatchers go up, so do the number of rare sightings, but could other factors have contributed to their increased sightings in Singapore? Climate and land use change are speculated to have increased their occurrence in the region over the past few decades. Additionally, a vulture restaurant has been set up in Phuket since 2019. Could this have allowed some birds to accumulate enough energy to make it further south than previously possible? There have been talks on introducing such a system in Singapore toohow could this potentially help or affect the birds? There are many more questions than answers for now, much of it requiring research and discussions beyond the scope of this article.

Another slightly easier question that comes to mind is: were this season’s sightings of the same flock flying around, or new birds arriving each time? Those birds that were seen on two consecutive days at sites they were known to roost are quite surely the same individuals, but what can we make of the separate sightings? We could attempt to answer this question by examining some photographs taken across the sightings.

Left: Himalayan Vulture over Dairy Farm Nature Park on 8 Dec 2021 at 1506h. Photo credit: Feroz, Right: Himalayan Vulture over Singapore Botanic Gardens on 8 Dec 2021 at 1713h. Photo credit: Marcel Finlay

As seen from the images, many of the birds have rather worn wings and tail feathers, making it quite difficult to ascertain individuals. However two birds did have comparatively “unique” wear.

Interestingly, it appears that one individual from the Novena flock photographed on 28 Dec 2021 had several matching features of wear and tear of plumage. This is strongly suggestive that at least one (if not all) of the 5 Vultures from the Novena flock reappeared in the SBG flock along with the Cinereous vulture. The case is even more compelling when we note that both sightings had 5 Vultures: perhaps the same flock left Singapore on the 28th at 1300h, only to return on the evening of the 29th at SBG?

Comparison between one of the five birds from Novena on 28 Dec 2021 and one from 30 Dec 2021 at Singapore Botanic Gardens. Note the long tear in tertials, as well as the matching notches in primary tips. Photo credit: Con Foley (left), Wee Aik Kiat (right).

Then we notice that one bird from the Novena flock with a somewhat unique missing secondary (giving it a very “long-looking” tear) could (??) have participated in the Bukit Batok flock.. If the two photographs taken were indeed of the same bird, it suggests that the bird could have hung around the region and returned to Singapore after three full weeks! As always, it is important to keep in mind that plumage wear is common in long distance migrants and that this singular feature is suggestive but not indicative. 

Comparison of one of the five vultures over Novena on 28 Dec 2021 and one of the seven vultures over Satay by the Bay that eventually made its way to Bukit Batok on 18 Dec 2022. could these two possibly have been the same individual? Photo credit: Yip Jen Wei (left), Siew Mun (right).

It goes without saying that many of the above deductions are based on guesswork, but exercises like this could bring us one step further to learning more about their behaviour in Singapore. When the vultures next arrive, taking ample photographs of them from multiple angles, will help to pin-point traits unique to individuals (if any) to help us estimate how long the birds typically stay around for.

Using plumage wear to identify individual birds is helpful in determining the number of otherwise rare migrants. The same technique was applied on an interesting case study this season elsewhere: we are quite confident that there were two Common Kestrels on the same day at Seletar Aerospace Drive. On 14 Dec 2022, one bird with strongly marked underwing coverts was photographed there by Lim Ser Chai. The next day, this species was seen again by Woo Jia Wei twice, but once at 1340h involving a bird with faintly marked underwings and broken primaries, and later at 1500h a bird that looked like the previous day’s individual!

Finally, the question that we all hope to know the answer to: what’s the best strategy to search for them again next season?

Five sightings is far from a good sample size, but the observations from this season might provide hints when searching for them again. First, if the birds are seen soaring late in the afternoon, chances are that you might be able to head down to observe them later in the evening or the next morning if they roost somewhere visible. These birds seem to have a tendency to remain in Singapore island overnight when detected later in the day. Given their massive size, they are highly reliant on thermals (rising hot air) to engage in soaring flight, making water bodies a possible deterrence for them. Perhaps this could be part of why the seven birds from the Bukit Batok flock chose to fly along the coast rather than further south to Bintan/Batam? For those aiming for flight shots, their take-off time is also likely highly dependent on the weather, though typically not too early in the morning. The Novena flock took flight around 0900h, the SBG ones around 1020h, and the Bukit Batok flock, around 1145h. Again the presence of thermals is essential for their flight, though where they might head off afterwards remains unknown to us for now.

Becoming the first person to find the vultures requires a little more serendipity. Initial sightings of Vultures are fairly unpredictable and highly dependent on being at the right time at the right place. However, knowing when to pay attention helps: previously, scarce sightings were from late December and January, but the 8 Dec 2021 proved a new early date, and no birds were detected past January despite the many occurences. For now, December to January seems to be the prime time to keep our eyes glued to the skies, and you can refer to the bar charts from our Singapore Bird Database for more information on when to look for them (and other rarities too!)

As the summer months approach, it is quite unlikely that we will see any more vultures before next season (but who knows!?). We’re approaching the season to search for possible Austral migrants and dispersals from Malaysia, but come December some of these birds might head here again. With so many pairs of keen eyes and quick cameras around nowadays, it has become easier than ever to track the habits of these vultures. The small bits of information we are able to piece together through social media may not seem like much, but as we repeat the process year after year, new insights into the birds’ habits may reveal themselves. It doesn’t take much to help: just share your sightings and submit your record to our database!

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Con Foley, Daryl Tan, Feroz, Herman Phua, Jared Tan, Justin Jing Liang, Lim Ser Chai, Marcel Finlay, Martin Kennewell, Siew Mun, Trevor Teo, Wee Aik Kiat, Wong Weng Fai and Woo Jia Wei for sharing excellent images of the birds. We also thank the community for sharing the sightings very promptly, allowing everyone to get exciting views of the birds. Last but not least we thank the Singapore Birds Project team for comments on this article.

References

Praveen, J., Nameer, P.O., Karuthedathu, D., Ramaiah, C., Balakrishnan, B., Rao, K. M., Shurpali, S., Puttaswamaiah, R., & Tavcar, I. (2014). On the vagrancy of the Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis to southern India. Indian BIRDS, 9(1), 19-22. pdf

Yong, D. L., & Kasorndorkbua, C. (2008). The status of the Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis in South-east Asia. Forktail, 24, 57-62. pdf and associated erratum  

Errata
18 May 2022: We previously mislabelled the dates for the Pasir Ris Park and Bukit Batok Himalayan Vulture photos, the map, and the first Common Kestrel photo.

Our first Monthly Roundup – March 2022

We’ve been getting a lot of great birds lately, all thanks to the enthusiastic contributions of birders in Singapore! More and more members of the community are also using eBird to record their sightings, which has made it easier to keep track of these sightings in a single consolidated source. So we believe now is as good a time as ever for the Singapore Birds Project to start publishing monthly bird roundups, summarizing records of rare and scarce species locally over the past month. This roundup is the first of the series, and it contains sightings posted on eBird as well as rarity records submitted to the Singapore Bird Database.

Highlights

  • First mainland record of Mangrove Blue Flycatcher in over six years, at Pasir Ris Park
  • Fifth national record of Dusky Warbler, at Changi Business Park
  • Two records of Indian Pond Heron; this species now appears to be an annual migrant with multiple records over the last few years
  • A photogenic Oriental Scops Owl at Thomson Nature Park at the start of the month

All records for Mar 2022 (Show all records)

Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus jotaka (species writeup) Hide 2 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 04 Feb 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

Changi Business Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus (species writeup) Hide 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides (species writeup) Hide 3 records

Lorong Halus Wetland (Reeds Area)

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Changi Business Park canal

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Pasir Ris Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax (species writeup) Hide 2 records

Rifle Range Link

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Pasir Ris Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Hodgson’s Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx nisicolor (species writeup) Hide 3 records

Tampines Eco Green

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Changi Business Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu (species writeup) Show 2 records

Sentosa Island

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 20 Nov 2021

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
(not a complete list)
Baillon’s Crake Zapornia pusilla (species writeup) Show 1 record

Marina East (Gardens by the Bay: Bay East / Marina Barrage)

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 15 Dec 2021

eBird
Watercock Gallicrex cinerea (species writeup) Show 2 records

Marina East (Gardens by the Bay: Bay East / Marina Barrage)

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Lim Chu Kang Lane 3

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator (species writeup) Show 1 record

Jurong Lake Gardens (inc. Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden)

Highest count: 3 individuals

eBird
White-faced Plover Charadrius dealbatus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Marina East Breakwaters

Highest count: 4 individuals

First recorded 09 Oct 2021

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 3 individuals

Earlier record on 03 Nov 2021

eBird
(not a complete list)
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 8 individuals

Earlier record on 30 Jan 2022

eBird
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (species writeup) Show 2 records

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 26 Feb 2022

eBird

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

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Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis (species writeup) Show 2 records

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

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Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 3 individuals

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Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum (species writeup) Show 2 records

Marina Coastal Expressway, Singapore, SG (1.285, 103.878)

Highest count: 1 individual

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Neo Tiew Harvest Lane

Highest count: 2 individuals

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Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans (species writeup) Show 1 record

Neo Tiew Road

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 12 Feb 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
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Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus (species writeup) Show 2 records

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 15 individuals

Earlier record on 04 Sep 2021

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Lim Chu Kang Lane 3

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 25 Sep 2021

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Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster (species writeup) Show 1 record

Hindhede Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 27 Jan 2022

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Von Schrenck’s Bittern Ixobrychus eurhythmus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis (species writeup) Show 2 records

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 11 Feb 2022

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Satay by the Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

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(not a complete list)
Malayan Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Changi Business Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Indian Pond Heron Ardeola grayii (species writeup) Show 2 records

Dover Road

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 19 Mar 2022

Record under review

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Peng Siang river

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 29 Mar 2022

Record under review

Indian Pond Heron at Peng Siang river on 29 Mar 2022. Photo credit: Alex Kang

Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa (species writeup) Show 3 records

Marina East (Gardens by the Bay: Bay East / Marina Barrage)

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 10 Feb 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 11 Feb 2022

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(not a complete list)

Admiralty Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes (species writeup) Show 2 records

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 04 Nov 2021

eBird
(not a complete list)

Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 2 individuals

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Jerdon’s Baza Aviceda jerdoni (species writeup) Show 4 records

pasir ris farmway 1

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Coney Island (Serangoon Island)

Highest count: 2 individuals

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Sentosa Island

Highest count: 2 individuals

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Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 2 individuals

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Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela (species writeup) Show 9 records

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 02 Feb 2022

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Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 11 Feb 2022

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Kent Ridge Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Pasir Ris Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Fragrant Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

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Changi Business Park canal

Highest count: 1 individual

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Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

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Choa Chu Kang Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii (species writeup) Show 1 record

Singapore Quarry at Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 28 Jan 2022

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Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 24 Dec 2021

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Northern Boobook Ninox japonica (species writeup) Show 1 record

Satay By The Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 28 Mar 2022

RC decision: Accepted

Oriental Scops Owl Otus sunia (species writeup) Show 1 record

Thomson Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 04 Mar 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
(not a complete list)

Oriental Scops Owl at Thomson Nature Park on 5 Mar 2022. Photo credit: Adrian Silas Tay

Barred Eagle-Owl Bubo sumatranus (species writeup) Show 1 record

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 09 Oct 2021

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Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting (species writeup) Show 2 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 02 Oct 2021

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Kranji Marsh

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 18 Oct 2021

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Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus (species writeup) Show 5 records

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 11 Sep 2021

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Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 26 Sep 2021

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Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 5 individuals

Earlier record on 07 Oct 2021

eBird
(not a complete list)

Thomson Nature Park

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 05 Feb 2022

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Dover Forest-Ulu Pandan

Highest count: 2 individuals

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Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida (species writeup) Show 3 records

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 25 Feb 2022

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CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

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Goldhill Ave / Malcolm Road: forest patch

Highest count: X

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Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea (species writeup) Show 1 record

Berlayar Creek Boardwalk

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 09 Oct 2021

RC decision: Accepted

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Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectens (species writeup) Show 7 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 09 Jan 2022

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354 Tanglin Road, Singapore, SG (1.295, 103.814)

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 20 Feb 2022

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Rifle Range Link

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 27 Feb 2022

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Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

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Thomson Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Changi Business Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus nigrescens (species writeup) Show 1 record

NTU

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 22 Oct 2021

RC decision: Accepted

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Blyth’s Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone affinis (species writeup) Show 3 records

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 26 Feb 2022

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Thomson Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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Satay by the Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

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Cinereous Bulbul Hemixos cinereus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
Black-headed Bulbul Brachypodius melanocephalos (species writeup) Show 2 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

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Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus (species writeup) Show 7 records

Satay by the Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 27 Dec 2021

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 28 Jan 2022

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Bukit Timah

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 05 Feb 2022

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Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

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Nanyang Technological University including National Institute of Education

Highest count: 1 individual

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Tampines Eco Green

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird

Jurong Lake Gardens (inc. Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden)

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus (species writeup) Show 2 records

MED

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 27 Dec 2021

RC decision: Accepted

eBird

Changi Business Park canal

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 10 Mar 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
(not a complete list)

Dusky Warbler at Changi Business Park canal on 10 Mar 2022. Photo credit: T.Ramesh

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides (species writeup) Show 1 record

Singapore Botanic Gardens, Learning Forest

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 06 Mar 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata (species writeup) Show 1 record

Kent Ridge Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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White-shouldered Starling Sturnia sinensis (species writeup) Show 2 records

Seletar Aerospace Crescent

Highest count: 3 individuals

Earlier record on 20 Feb 2022

eBird

Tampines Eco Green

Highest count: 3 individuals

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Orange-headed Thrush Geokichla citrina (species writeup) Show 1 record

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 16 Feb 2022

eBird
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica (species writeup) Show 4 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 21 Sep 2021

eBird

Labrador Nature Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

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Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

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Changi Business Park canal

Highest count: 1 individual

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Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pasir Ris Park

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 13 Mar 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Mangrove Blue Flycatcher at Pasir Ris Park on 13 Mar 2022. Photo credit: Herman Phua

Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana (species writeup) Show 1 record

NUS

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 15 Mar 2022

Record under review

Zappey’s Flycatcher Cyanoptila cumatilis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Eco Green Main Pond

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Green-backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae (species writeup) Show 2 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 27 Jan 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata (species writeup) Show 1 record

Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 23 Oct 2021

eBird

Exploring birds on this day in history

Ever wondered what rare gems were found in Singapore on this day in past years? With the Singapore Birds Project’s new On this day page, you can do just that.

Drawing on our collection of nearly 1,500 records and counting, this page highlights past records on this day in history. As always, every record is accompanied by details and photos where possible.

We hope this will be a valuable resource for birders keen to find megas not seen lately (like this White-throated Rock Thrush, recorded at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on this day 11 years ago).

And as always, we’re working to develop more similarly useful tools for the community, so stay tuned, and happy birding!

Our first guided walk!

Left: Javan Pond Heron. Right: Jen Wei showing participants some cool birds. Photos: Adrian Silas Tay

The first of many Singapore Birds Project Guided Walks was held at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (BAMK Park) on 13 and 19 March 2022. Here are some highlights from the walk!

Soon after we set off at 8am, our safely distanced groups came across the most widely-recognized category of feathered friends – chickens! Most chickens found in Singapore are domestic chicken/Red Junglefowl hybrids, and their level of domestic introgression can be estimated by observing traits highlighted in Wu et al. (2020).

Just a few minutes later, a group spotted a Common Flameback up in one of the trees lining the path. As its name suggests, Common Flamebacks are one of the more common woodpeckers found in Singapore and are often heard before they’re seen. Listen out for their raucous ‘kik-kik-kik’ call as they swoop from tree trunk to tree trunk.

The cacophony of loud screams also brought our groups’ attention to the introduced Rose-ringed and Red-breasted Parakeets that have both comfortably made Singapore their additional home. As we were observing them, a White-throated Kingfisher swooped past us in hunt of prey, to the delight of our 6 and 9 year old participants.

Keita sharing with participants about the various introduced birds that fly around Singapore. Photo: Kee Jing Ying

The wetland that replaced old concrete canals during the development of BAMK Park has provided some habitat for waterbirds. As we neared one of the main streams running along the length of BAMK Park, our keen-eyed participants spotted some Grey Herons, Purple Herons, a Chinese Pond Heron and two Javan Pond Herons. Herons are frequently found wading in longkangs and wetlands, and use their long, pointy beaks to expertly swipe fish from shallow bodies of water. 

As we continued with our walk, spring was in the air, and we observed many pairs of residents such as the Common Ioras, Black-naped Orioles, Pied Trillers and Yellow-vented Bulbuls moving around in pairs at times, displaying courtship behaviour. 

Common Iora and Pied Triller seen during the walk. Photos: Adrian Silas Tay

Not to be outdone, the winter migrants like the Pallas’ Grasshopper Warblers were practicing their songs all along the meandering river in preparation to breed when they return to breeding grounds. Close to the end of our walk, we noted a group of fellow birders staking out a section of the river bank hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive warbler.

Just before we ended our walk, Adrian’s group was treated to an awesome observation up close. A Black-naped Oriole flew onto a tree trunk to pick off a huge caterpillar. The family of 4 were awed by the action happening 1.5 metres in front of them. The Oriole put up an excellent show as it flew up and perched just above the family. It started bashing the caterpillar and before gobbling it up all in view of our young participants and their parents. What a way to conclude an amazing morning!

Black-naped Oriole eating a caterpillar. Video: Adrian Silas Tay

Thank you to all the participants for joining our guided walk and we hope that you had a great morning birding with us. If you missed out on this walk, no worries! Do keep an eye out for future walks on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

All smiles with Adrian, Jing Ying and Sandra after two sunny, successful walks! Photos: Adrian Silas Tay, Kee Jing Ying and Sandra Chia

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the team and Jin Rong for their comments on the article.

References

Wu, M. Y., Low, G. W., Forcina, G., van Grouw, H., Lee, B. P. Y-H., Oh, R. R. Y. & Rheindt, F. E. (2020). Historic and modern genomes unveil a domestic introgression gradient in a wild red junglefowl population. Evolutionary Applications, 13, 9. Link.  

“How to start birding in Singapore?”. An article by Eldon Ng.

How to start birding in Singapore? 

ELDON NG speaks to bird photographers and members of the Singapore Birds Project to identify birding tips and tricks.

By Eldon Ng How Wei 

Buffy Fish Owl photographed at Hampstead Wetlands Park by Mr Adrian Silas Tay, who has been spotting and photographing birds for over 11 years.

You hear chirping noises all around you. You see something darting around. Before you know it, it’s gone. You look up and about. However, you just can’t seem to spot these birds. 

You wonder to yourself, “What does it take to spot birds in Singapore?” 

To get you started in birding, here are three species of birds recommended by Ms Clarice Yan Pei Ling and Mr Zachary Chong Zhe Kai, members of the Singapore Birds Project. These unique and uncommon birds can be found in Singapore year-round, making them great choices to kickstart one’s birding journey! 

  1. Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu)
Buffy Fish Owl. Photo credit: Dillen Ng
  1. Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela)
Crested Serpent Eagle. Photo credit: Dillen Ng.
  1. Short-tailed Babbler (Pellorneum malaccense)
Short-tailed Babbler. Photo credit: Keita Sin.

Here are some tips to follow so that you can spot these birds easily! 

  1. Do ample research 

Read up all about the bird. Knowing the type of habitat the bird resides in, past sightings of it and where it has been seen recently will increase your chances of spotting the bird.

Here are some locations where the Buffy Fish Owl, Crested Serpent Eagle and Short-tailed Babbler are commonly sighted. 

Buffy Fish Owl: Hampstead Wetlands Park, Jurong Lake Gardens, Nanyang Technological University, Pasir Ris Park, Singapore Botanic Gardens, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Ulu Pandan Park Connector.

Crested Serpent Eagle: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Goldhill Avenue, Ketam Quarry, Kranji Marshes and Southern Ridges.

Short-tailed Babbler: Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Rifle Range.

Additional information can be found from this bird list curated by the Singapore Birds Project. 

Another key thing to note is the call of a bird. Familiarising yourself with the sound of the bird will make birding much easier when you are out in the field. 

“The [Short-tailed] Babblers are quite hard to spot because they usually duck around the undergrowth, but you can listen out for the call and locate it by the call,” says Ms Yan. Some calls can be relatively distinct and easy to pick up, like that of the Short-tailed babbler.

[Recording of the Short-tailed Babbler. Sound recording: Keita Sin].

A place you can visit to learn such information is xeno-canto, a website that shares recordings of birds across the globe to familiarise yourself with bird calls. 

  1. Join the birding community

Facebook is a common platform used by birders in Singapore. Bird Sightings is one of the Facebook groups that provides a platform for birders to share their sightings openly. To date, the group consists of 10,400 members. 

“[Bird Sightings] is a community of sharing where we try and promote bird watching by providing everybody with an equal chance to access the birds,” says Mr Adrian Silas Tay, 41, one of the admins of the Facebook group, “if you are new to [birding], you may not have a lot of contacts or networks to help you in your journey. The Facebook group would then help you.” 

The community of birders in Singapore is very open in sharing about birding. So don’t be afraid to ask questions! This also applies to Mr Tay himself. 

When he doesn’t recognise the species of a bird, he posts a picture of it on the Facebook group, where other birders will assist in identifying the bird. 

  1. Equipment and attire 

After doing research and getting to know the community of birders around you, you are almost set to go out in the field and spot these birds. However, you will need the right attire and equipment to do so. 

Here are some essentials that you’ll need to bring along with you:

  1. Binoculars/Spotting scope
  2. Water bottle 

Binoculars are extremely important. Birds are usually up in the trees far away or darting around. Additionally, most birds are skittish. 

“They do not like people to come too close to them. When you get too close to them, their behaviour would change and they might not be as natural as before,” says Mr William Tan, 57, a wildlife photographer who has mainly been photographing birds these two years due to the pandemic.

A birder observes birds from a distance through his binoculars. Photo credit: Joy Wong

There is no set attire for birding, but here are some recommendations: 

  1. Dark colours
  2. Long pants
  3. Sports shoes/Boots 
  4. Hat

Wear darker colours so birds do not spot you easily. Wearing long pants is also recommended to avoid getting bitten by bugs. Covered shoes like sports shoes are a must. However, if you are visiting a forest area that can get muddy, boots are recommended. 

  1. Go out and have fun 

Now, you are all set to go out in the field and spot these birds! Just remember to observe the birds from a distance to avoid stressing them out and lastly, go out there and have fun spotting! 

“Don’t stress over bird watching. It’s supposed to be a cathartic, relaxing experience,” says Mr Chong.

Checklist Revision for February 2022

Prepared by the Singapore Bird Records Committee

The latest update of our checklist, version 2022-1, has been published. It can be accessed at our Downloads page.


Since the last bird list revision in September 2021, our team has voted on over 100 records of rare species in Singapore. Although our latest votes are always available at our Recent Decisions page, we will continue to publish regular updates to keep our readers updated on the latest avifaunal developments, including recent advances in taxonomy. 

Along with this update, we are also launching a live version of our checklist! For the past six years, the Singapore Birds Project has published checklists every half a year. However, with the growth in observer effort and information available, the combined knowledge of Singapore’s birding community is rapidly increasing. Within a short span of five months since our last checklist update, the checklist has seen a net gain of seven species. We will continue to release half-yearly checklist updates in Excel format, but latest developments can be tracked in the live checklist.

There are now three versions of our checklist: the simplified live list on our main website, the more detailed live checklist on our Records Committee site, and lastly, a snapshot of the checklist published at regular intervals, accessible at our Downloads page. The first two are updated as the Records Committee evaluates new records, while the snapshot is typically updated twice a year along with IOC taxonomic revisions.

Our downloadable checklist now also comes with new information on each species, including status in the Singapore Red Data Book, as well as rarity status (based on our Rarities List), local status, checklist category, and links to our Singapore Bird Database for relevant species.


Added to checklist

Ashy-headed Green Pigeon Treron phayrei [Record 10001]: The committee deliberated extensively on this bird recorded at Dillenia Hut from 9 to 11 Oct 2021. This species is not known to occur south of the Isthmus of Kra, with no records in Malaysia, but Treron pigeons are known to wander widely in search of fruit sources. The final decision was to accept the individual as a wild bird and place the species in Cat A (for species that have occurred naturally in the wild within the last 30 years), a thorough discussion of this record is available in this article and at the link above.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata [Record 10002]: One record at Kent Ridge Park from 15-29 Oct 2021. While there are recent records in the Philippines and Taiwan, this is the first record for continental Southeast Asia. The committee voted unanimously to place this species in Cat A.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis [Record 10005]: A single bird off Clementi Road, 19-31 Oct 2021. Like the Spotted Flycatcher, this species is a long-distance migrant with most of the population wintering in India and Africa. Regarded as a vagrant and placed unanimously in Cat A.

Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris [Record 10082]: One record of a single bird at Marina East Drive from 13 to 15 Dec 2021. A known vagrant with records in Malaysia and further north, as well as Borneo, but this is the first national record. Placed in Cat A on a unanimous vote.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros [Record 10069]: One record at Pasir Panjang, first seen on 28 Nov 2021 and subsequently by many observers; still present as of Feb 2022. Age, sex, and subspecies remain unclear as of writing, but further observation of the bird may provide more insight. Regarded as a vagrant and unanimously placed in Cat A.

Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus [Record 10106]: A vagrant individual with Himalayan Griffons Gyps himalayensis at Singapore Botanic Gardens, 29-30 Dec 2021; subsequently found weak and unable to fly near Holland Road. Rescued, rehabilitated, and released early this year. Placed in Cat A on a unanimous vote.

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes [Record 10030]: One record of a vagrant present from 12 Nov to at least 3 Dec 2021 at Macritchie Reservoir was unanimously accepted and the species placed in Cat A. This species is a regular winter visitor to Thailand but is believed to be rarer than the visually identical Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. borealoides further south in the peninsula.

Previous records not accepted, but species maintained in checklist

Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta [Record 10032; Record 748]: A previous record in April 1991 was reviewed by the committee and not accepted as the descriptions provided do not conclusively rule out Dark-sided Flycatcher M. sibirica. However, a single bird present from 9-17 Nov 2021 was accepted as the first national record and the species was therefore retained in the checklist in Cat A.

Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus thoracicus [Record 10056; Record 10055]: Upon review by the committee, a record from 1 Jan 2015 was not accepted due to lack of supporting evidence. The record of an individual at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve on 29 Nov 2021 was, however, accepted and the species was retained in the checklist in Cat A.

Considered for inclusion

Long-eared Owl Asio otus [Record 10042]: After much deliberation, the committee decided on a split vote that the single sighting of this bird at Marina East Drive on 20 Nov 2021 most likely pertained to a ship-assisted individual rather than a wild bird. For more detailed discussion of this record, see the record linked above.

Removed from checklist

Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii [Past records]: As the last record of this species in Singapore was in Oct 1984, it exceeds the 30-year threshold for inclusion in the checklist. The committee placed this species in Cat B1 (for species which would appear in Cat A, but without records within the last 30 years).

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra [Past records]: Like Temminck’s Stint, this species has not been recorded locally in the last 30 years and was therefore assigned to Cat B1 and removed from the checklist.

Still pending review

Christmas Frigatebird Fregata andrewsi [Record 10163]: A record in May 2013 was outside Singapore’s territorial waters; the most recent confirmed record within Singapore’s geographical boundaries was in May 1986, which exceeds the 30-year threshold for inclusion in the checklist. If the record from Marina East Drive (see record linked above) is accepted, the species would be moved from the Annex to Cat A.

Other minor change

Stejneger’s Stonechat is renamed to Amur Stonechat following taxonomic updates by the IOC. 

More ways to interact with Singapore’s rare bird data

Struggling to come up with your next birding destination or your next target bird? Want to find out the best time of year to look for a certain species?

Using past records as a guide is often the best way to make more productive birding journeys, so the team at the Singapore Birds Project has been working on what we hope will be a useful resource to help inform our readers.

Introducing the new, improved Rarities List page, in which we document locally rare species – now with added tables and bar charts which summarize past records. For an example, see the image below.

Clicking the bar chart icon brings up the species chart for Northern Boobook – most records are in early November but a sizable number occur in the spring too… so keep an eye out in the weeks ahead! Clicking on each bar brings up a summary of all the records during that time of the year, and you can click on those rows in the table to view more details on each sighting.

You can also click the table icon next to the species name to show all the records of that species in a tabular format.

Our database now contains over 1400 records and counting – and all this wouldn’t be possible without your support. Thank you, and keep those submissions coming!

Happy Lunar New Year to all those celebrating, and here’s to more megas in the Year of the Tiger!

[UPDATE 10/2/2022] The computational technique used to place individual records in different weeks was modified slightly and the screenshot above was replaced with the newer format.

FLY101: Identifying Little Brown Jobs of the genus Muscicapa in Singapore

Written by Clarice Yan and Zachary Chong

Worldwide, there are 26 extant flycatchers belonging to the genus Muscicapa. In Singapore, six species of the genus have been recorded here during the migratory season. Here, the Asian Brown Flycatcher M. dauurica is the most commonly sighted in relatively large numbers; Dark-Sided Flycatcher M. sibirica, Ferruginous Flycatcher M. ferruginea and Brown-streaked Flycatcher M. williamsoni are uncommon migrants occurring in smaller numbers. The Grey-streaked Flycatcher M. griseisticta is a very rare vagrant with the single record found at Sembawang this season. Lastly, the Spotted Flycatcher M. striata is also a vagrant with the single record this season at Kent Ridge Park.

Undoubtedly, these ‘brown jobs’ as they are affectionately termed are hard to differentiate. If we bump into them in the field, how do we know if we are looking at just another Asian Brown Flycatcher or the next mega sighting?

Ferruginous Flycatcher M. ferruginea

First, let’s look at the flycatcher most distinct from the rest – the Ferruginous Flycatcher. Often called “Iron Boy” by local photographers, this nickname is derived from its characteristic slaty-grey head combined with its orange-brown colouration and rusty-rufous fringes on its coverts and tertials. The rufescent rump, upper tail-coverts, tail and pink legs are also dead giveaways for the Ferruginous Flycatcher. In addition, the Ferruginous Flycatcher generally prefers dark, usually damp undergrowth in Singapore, unlike the other Muscicapa species mentioned, barring the occasional Dark-sided Flycatcher.

Key features of identification for a Ferruginous Flycatcher. Photo: Francis Yap. Infographic: Zachary Chong.

Spotted Flycatcher M. striata

One of the easiest features to pick out in the field for the Spotted Flycatcher is its thin, buff eye-ring as compared to the more white eye-ring in other flycatchers. The paler forehead, buff lores and distinctly streaked crown are also clear characteristics that separate the Spotted from other Muscicapa flycatchers. 

Key features of identification for a Spotted Flycatcher. Photo: Francis Yap. Infographic: Clarice Yan.

Asian Brown Flycatcher M. dauurica

The Asian Brown Flycatcher is an ashy-brown/grey-brown flycatcher with a bulky and strong-looking bill compared to other asian Muscicapa flycatchers. This species has broad white lores, and typically, a conspicuous and complete white eye-ring. The throat of this species is rather clean and the edge of its tertials are greyish-white. 

Key features of identification for a Asian Brown Flycatcher. Photo: Keita Sin. Infographic: Zachary Chong.

Brown-streaked Flycatcher M. williamsoni

In contrast to the Asian Brown Flycatcher, the Brown-streaked Flycatcher is warm-brown. This flycatcher also has less contrasting white lores, giving it a “plain-faced” appearance. Juveniles usually tend to have more defined brown streaks on the breast, upper belly and flanks (streaking may fade on adult Brown-streaked individuals). Its dusky throat, bulky bill with a more extensive yellow/orange bill base, and the occasional buffish eye-ring separate this species from the Asian Brown Flycatcher. The edges of the upper wing coverts of the Brown-Streaked Flycatcher are buffy. However, this trait is typically less distinct for adult individuals. Adult individuals tend to have less pronounced streaks on their breast and thinner fringes on their upperwing coverts.

Key features of identification for a Brown-streaked Flycatcher. Photo: Keita Sin. Infographic: Clarice Yan.
An adult Brown-streaked Flycatcher (left) which lacks streaking on the breast and flanks, which is similar to the Asian Brown Flycatcher (right). Photos: Keita Sin.

Dark-sided Flycatcher M. sibirica

The Dark-sided Flycatcher is cold grey and possesses a fine and small bill, which separates it from the other flycatchers. This species can have an incomplete eye-ring, which is more prominent at the back of the eye. The lores of the Dark-sided Flycatcher are also “dirtier”. The Dark-sided has a smudged greyish-brown breast and flanks, with heavy and dark streaking.

Key features of identification for a Dark-sided Flycatcher. Photo: Keita Sin. Infographic: Zachary Chong.

Grey-streaked Flycatcher M. griseisticta

The Grey-streaked Flycatcher is a cold grey coloured flycatcher, also possessing fine white lores and bill. Although similar to the Dark-sided Flycatcher, the Grey-streaked Flycatcher’s bill is longer than the Dark-sided, when viewed properly. This species can have a less conspicuous eye-ring. The Grey-streaked has defined, long pencil-like streaks on the breast and flanks, which differ greatly from the Dark-sided or Brown-streaked. The juvenile plumage for the Dark-sided and Grey-streaked Flycatchers are highly similar. In such cases, do consider the other traits listed above.

Key features of identification for a Grey-streaked Flycatcher. Photo: Francis Yap. Infographic: Clarice Yan.

Given that the aforementioned four Muscicapa species, namely the Asian Brown, Brown-streaked, Dark-sided and Grey-streaked flycatchers, are relatively more difficult to tell apart, here is a table for summary.

Trait ABFC BSFC DSFC GSFC
Plumage colour Brown Warmer brown than ABFC Cold grey Cold grey
Bill Bulky bill, orange on bill base Bulky bill, more extensive orange on bill base than ABFC Fine, short bill Fine, longer bill than DSFC
Eye-ring Conspicuous white eye-ring Occasionally buffish Less conspicuous white eye-ring, may appear incomplete in comparison to ABFC Less conspicuous white eye-ring, may appear incomplete in comparison to ABFC
Lores Broad and clean white lores Buffy, dirtier lores compared to ABFC Dirty lores Fine white lores
Chin White Dusky White White
Streaks on underparts Generally absent Heavy brown streaking on juveniles, less conspicuous and sometimes absent on adults Smudged flanks, sometimes smudged streaking on breast Fine, distinct streaks on breast and flanks
Edges to upper wing coverts Greyish-white Distinctly buffish Buffish-white Whitish

Further Traits:  Wing Length 

Wing length (and wing/tail ratio) increases from Asian Brown and Brown-streaked to Dark-sided and then Grey-streaked (Harris et al., 2014). This also leads to a progressively more pointed wing shape which can be observed; Asian Brown and Brown-streaked tend to have a more rounded wing shape and appearance.

Comparison of the wing lengths and wing to tail ratio of the Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-streaked Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher and Grey-streaked Flycatcher. Photos: Dillen Ng, Francis Yap, Keita Sin. Infographic: Clarice Yan.

One other Muscicapa possibility 

Now that we’ve covered the flycatchers that have been sighted in Singapore so far, we can turn our attention to a potential flycatcher that may someday make its way down south to Singapore. The Brown-breasted Flycatcher M. muttui is resident to India, China, Sri Lanka and is a visitor to Thailand, Tonkin, Myanmar, Laos (Robson, 2015). It is superficially similar to Asian Brown but is larger and has a broad whitish eye-ring, rufescent upperparts, greyish-brown crown and ear-coverts and warm greyish-brown breast/flanks. It could potentially show up in Singapore so keep a look out for this next possible mega!

Brown-breasted Flycatcher in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: Raghav Narayanswamy.

We hope that this article helps in differentiating the many Little Brown Jobs you may encounter in the field in the coming months! Do keep a lookout for future articles about other Little Brown Jobs, and happy birding!

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the team for their thorough comments and help with this writeup, and also for providing the photos.

References

Harris, J. B. C., Rasmussen, P. C., Yong, D. L., Prawiradilaga, D. M., Putra, D. D., Round, P. D., & Rheindt, F. E. (2014). A New Species of Muscicapa Flycatcher from Sulawesi, Indonesia. PLOS ONE, 9(11), e112657. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0112657

Leader, P. J. (2010). Brown, Siberian and Grey-streaked Flycatchers: Identification and ageing. British Birds, 14. Link: http://britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/V103_N11_P658%E2%80%93671_A.pdf

Robson, C. (2015). A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia Second Edition. New Holland Publishers.

 

Further notes:

  1. Edited 16 January 2022: The comparison photo of the adult Brown-streaked Flycatcher and the Asian Brown Flycatcher was edited (adjustment of white balance) to better reflect the warm tones of the adult Brown-streaked Flycatcher individual.

My Accidental Sprint Year

Written by Max Khoo

If you asked me a year ago in November 2020, I would have told you that I’m a photographer and not so much a birder. Well, I could identify the common garden birds, but saying I could confidently identify anything beyond that would be a stretch. 

I know many who got into birding as a hobby (or obsession) because they were first mesmerised by a particular colourful bird or an interesting behaviour of a bird. However, what really got me started birding seriously in 2021 wasn’t really about the birds. It was about the sense of exploration, the wondrous feeling of being outdoors and surrounded by nature, and the need to escape somewhere during my free time due to an especially stressful start to the year at work. I give all credit to the transient ponds of the now-gone Neo Tiew Harvest Lane that ignited that spark in me. That place was magical at sunrise: Chilly air filled with the dawn chorus of birds, with not a single building or soul in sight, and the birds just happened to be there and I really wanted to know what they were. Whenever I was there, I felt like I was transported overseas and free from any worries.

20 Dec 2020 – Neo Tiew Harvest Lane. These ponds were created as part of the land preparation works before the agricultural farm that now sits atop them were built.

Since I was already spending my weekends outdoors exploring places like Neo Tiew Harvest Lane, I decided to take birding a bit more seriously, with a methodical approach. The eBird app helped me do just that, allowing me to diligently record all my trips and sightings. The species write-up pages of the Singapore Birds Project were also like my bible, where I constantly referred to them to check if I was identifying a bird accurately.  

Heatmap of the birding sites I visited in 2021. As I recorded most of my birding trips on the eBird App this year, I could extract the information and see which sites I visited the most. No surprise that Marina East, my current favourite birding site, came out on top.

In the first half of the year, I was birding at my own pace. I went birding alone, and visited where I felt like rather than twitching (exceptions: when the extremely rare Green Broadbill and Black-thighed Falconet were sighted) or heading to sites where I could see some birds that could only be seen during a particular time of the year. Towards the second half of the year, my good friends, seeing that I have seen a good number of species so far, began seeding the idea that I should do a ‘big year’ (this involves the ‘simple’ task of seeing as many species as possible in a year). As generational talent Albert Low puts it, I resolutely refused this idea for various reasons. I never felt like I was good enough and ready to do it since I just started my first proper year of birding, and I’ve already missed many rare birds early in the year (e.g. rarer resident birds that are easier to see during the breeding season; seabirds along the Singapore Straits on pelagic trips). But perhaps it was my love for challenges (challenging myself to become a better birder, as well as to see if I could claw my way up and catch up to Jen Wei (fellow big year birder) who was leading by leaps and bounds at that point) and the pandemic (when else would I be stuck in Singapore for almost the whole year?!?) that I decided to commit to this mammoth task starting September 2021. From here on, my accidental sprint year was born, with an initial target of trying to reach 220 species.

There are too many stories of this accidental sprint year to tell. However, one of the most memorable would definitely be making more than 5 trips at the start of September, trying to see the lone Greater Sand Plover amongst the rest of the Lesser Sand Plovers at Yishun Dam, and finally deciding to give up (and be at peace with it mentally) after I walked away from Yishun Dam on the fifth trip. In the end, I managed to see the bird atop floating solar panels in the reservoir beside where my car was parked, away from where it would normally be, and this was what really gave me the push and confidence I needed for the sprint. The remaining of the four months was a whirlwind of trying to chase every passage migrant, twitch every rare bird like a crazy headless chicken, and visit many new places in Singapore that I never knew existed. Along the way, some birds were easier seen than others where oftentimes I got really lucky, while some eluded me even after I tried my best. 

Can you spot the Greater Sand Plover (my 191th bird of the year) amongst the Lesser Sand Plovers? Check below for the answer! I dedicate this species as my bird of the year not only due to the time I spent trying to find it, but how it was a technical challenge for me to identify it in the field: I could not sit around and wait for the bird to appear as it could be right in front of me amongst the tens/hundreds of tiny Lesser Sand Plovers that frequent the mudflats, and I had to know the features well enough to be able to distinguish the species in the field.
Click to reveal where the bird is hiding!
Greater Sand Plover!


Fast forward to the last week of December, I managed to tick 4 new species by 30th December to reach my 266th bird, way beyond my initial target. However, I was determined to see if I could give it a final push to hit 270 species, and drew up an elaborate plan for new year’s eve. I was joined by the esteemed Albert Low, where we tried and failed to see the
Pheasant-tailed Jacana at Marina East at dawn, before successfully seeing the skulking Lanceolated Warbler in the fields of Central Boulevard at mid-morning. The unforgiving north-east monsoon rain then came storming in, but we still managed to find the Plaintive Cuckoo at Jurong Lake Gardens by early noon. We then tried for the Orange-headed and Eyebrowed Thrush at Hindhede Nature Park, Greater Coucal at Bukit Brown, and the Phylloscopus warblers at MacRitchie, but the weather did not hold up. We were just out of luck, and were almost ready to give up at 6pm. Somehow, the skies cleared with the last hour of daylight remaining, and we decided on a last minute attempt to return to Bukit Brown for a second try for the Greater Coucal (also a bogey bird that I missed all year). Upon reaching the site at 6.55pm, there it was, atop a roadside tree, singing at the top of its lungs for a few seconds, before flying off into the distance. That was my 269th bird of the year, and a great end to my accidental sprint year (click here to see a breakdown of my list)!

Left: My 267th bird of the year, a skulking Lanceolated Warbler which appeared for a few seconds. Right: My 268th bird of the year, an adult Plaintive Cuckoo in the rain.

To be able to evaluate my report card of 269 bird species seen in a year, I was curious to know how many species were recorded by the whole of Singapore’s birding community in 2021 (or even other years for comparison). All I knew was that 2021 has been an exceptionally good year for birding in Singapore, with eleven new species being recorded for the first time. However, no such data was available, and so I took it upon myself to figure this out. With the help of eBird, I was able to find the records of every species. What made it even easier was Martin Kennewell’s immense effort to log every rare sighting that appeared on other social media platforms into eBird as well. Thank you Martin! The Singapore tally for the year was a total of 326 bird species recorded (see here for the complete list)! This meant that Jen Wei saw 89.6% of all bird species that were in Singapore this year with his record-breaking big year run of 292 species! Truly impressive (and superb)! A score of 269 meant I saw 82.5% of all species recorded, not too bad I think. 

In most years, many of the rarer birds will appear in Singapore after September as the temperatures in the northern hemisphere begin to fall, triggering the start of the southward migration of many bird species to or through Singapore. This got me thinking as to how many bird species were recorded in the 8 months of January to August 2021 vis-a-vis September to December 2021 alone. What would the number of species I would have been able to see if I saw all of them since September, given my big year truly only started then? Can the next person give it a shot for a big year by having only to sprint for the last 4 months? Again, after dabbling with the data, the last 4 months of 2021 saw an impressive 303 species recorded, 18 more than the first 8 months combined! The numbers would possibly have been even higher if trips out to Singapore Straits to observe pelagic birds were not cancelled due to the Covid-19 restrictions.      

Total number of bird species recorded in Singapore in 2021, and a breakdown of it from January to August and September to December. Birds featured in the illustration, clockwise from top left: Siberian House Martin, Cinereous Vulture, and Black Redstart. Reference images used for illustration by: Francis Yap
Blue: The total number of species that I saw at the end of each month in 2021. Dark grey area shows the progress from September to December when the sprint was on! Green: Total number of species that I saw at the end of each month counting only the birds I saw from September.

2021 has been an incredibly enjoyable year of birding for me, and I’d like to think that I’ve improved quite a bit and can now call myself a birder. I hope my journey and this article can inspire many others to start their own big year journey, even if it means not having a lot of birding experience or sprinting for just 4 months. Remember, a big year is not about the competition, but more about the challenge to better yourself!

Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way this year. They include my “well-intentioned” friends Albert Low, Dillen Ng, Bryan Lim, Sandra Chia, and Benjamin Lee, who have been patiently guiding, correcting my IDs, showing me spots, and supplying me with real-time updates of sightings and megas; the Singapore Birds Project team for running an excellent resource page and Facebook group and helping me with the birds in the field (Francis, Keita, etc.); birders who use eBird (thereby allowing me to closely follow the ‘recent visits’ and ‘rare bird alert’ pages) especially Martin, Jen Wei, Raghav, Subha and helping with the exact locations as well as in the field; and everyone in the community who were so willing to share bird sighting locations and spotting the birds (Oliver, Frank, Ramesh, Jacky, Alan, Movin, Kim Chuah, See Toh, Li Si, Clarice, Tuck Loong, Lester, Rovena, and many more that I’ve missed). 2021 was a great year that will be etched deeply in my memory, and it would have been nothing without the company and guidance along the way.