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Messages from the Cinereous and Streaked Bulbuls

In the winter of 2014/2015, Singapore experienced a flood of Cinereous Bulbuls and Streaked Bulbuls. An influx of some sort, it seemed. These typically uncommon bulbuls appeared all over the country, with observations including a flock of nearly 200 Cinereous Bulbuls at Pulau Ubin. During that period, many other surprises showed up: two separate Green Broadbills, Yellow-eared Spiderhunter, Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, and Thick-billed Flowerpecker to name a few. Most of them were species that are rare visitors to Singapore (the Green Broadbill especially, being the first two records since their extirpation in 1941) though common in the lowlands of the region, such as the forest patches of Johor just an hour’s drive by car, or the islands in Riau a boat ride away.

The next few seasons were lacklustre with regards to these groups of birds despite the rapid spike of birdwatchers in the country. Both bulbuls only appeared sporadically and in much smaller numbers, and regional lowland rarities (?) continued to be found but at a rather slow pace. In the 2018/2019 season, a handful of Cinereous Bulbuls appeared and were once again accompanied by some Streaked Bulbuls. Their numbers dwindled through summer, and the 2019/2020 season was a similar case.

Then in the winter of 2021/2022, Singapore observed a familiar scene of mass Cinereous Bulbul arrivals. Streaked Bulbuls followed suit, and multiple rare regional species showed up in Singapore as if their calendars were synchronised: two Black-thighed Falconets (the first since 1990), Green Broadbill (first since 2014), Scarlet Minivet (first since 2001), Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker (first confirmed record for Singapore).

The peaks and troughs of Cinereous Bulbul (blue), Streaked Bulbul (red), and locally significant Sundaic visitors (green) sightings in Singapore. Sundaic visitors are considered “locally significant” for the purposes of this illustration if they have less than 10 records in the last 10 years. The table below this article lists all the records of these locally significant Sundaic species from this illustration. Note that a single record is defined as an individual or group of individuals present at one site for a period of time. So although there were hundreds of Cinereous Bulbuls across Singapore in both the 2014 and 2021 peaks, the number of records is far smaller.

These sightings are more than just déjà vu; they possibly hint towards some form of ecological force driving the birds southwards that we are yet to understand (assuming they primarily came from Johor). Indeed, unorthodox movements of birds – be it at a large or small scale – are periodically observed. In 2019/2020 we had a spate of Indochinese birds arriving in Singapore, and just last season we were kept busy with species that typically winter in the Indian and Middle-eastern region (remember the Cinereous Vulture, Amur Falcon, Black Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher?).

Very recently in May we also observed a rush of regional species to Pulau Ubin, with Black-and-red Broadbill, Black-and-white Bulbul, Lesser Green Leafbird and Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker showing up. Strangely, Cinereous and Streaked Bulbuls were absent from the rave, and the birds were concentrated to Chek Jawa but not elsewhere in Singapore – perhaps the cause for the latest event differs from the seemingly periodic influxes we get. Could it have been due to land-use change in the region? Was there a particular tree in Chek Jawa blocked from our views that provided a very attractive food source? We don’t know, and these are at best educated guesses. However, with proper housekeeping of local bird records, we might eventually be able to search for the answers to these questions. For example, reliable long-term data coupled with environmental modelling showed that the Indian Ocean Dipole event (a phenomena where the Indian Ocean’s western section becomes unusually warmer than the eastern section) led to an influx of Red-necked Phalaropes to the region around Kenya in 2019/2020). Our continued and collective efforts to document Singapore’s birds will surely play a key role in advancing our knowledge in the years to come.

As for now, while our understanding is limited, the patterns suggest one thing: get your gears prepared and be on high alert when Cinereous and Streaked Bulbuls start showing up. These two species seem to serve as messengers for the rendezvous of regional birds rare in Singapore. There are many species on our checklist to look out for: Silver-rumped Spinetail, Whiskered Treeswift, White-bellied Woodpecker, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Malayan Black Magpie. Or perhaps other megas not even on the Singapore checklist – I’d like to place an order for a Brown-backed Flowerpecker please!

We recently contributed an article to BirdingASIA to highlight these avifaunal records from our community during the 2020-2021 season and the possible implications behind them. As the national borders start opening up, many of you who picked up this obsession hobby of birding recently must be craving to, or might have already started to explore beyond Singapore. If you’re keen to read more about birding news from the Asian region, do consider subscribing to the Oriental Bird Club! You’ll receive two copies of BirdingASIA with more exciting articles from the region, as well as one copy of the Journal of Asian Ornithology where latest research on regional avifauna are highlighted. (Just for the record, the Singapore Birds Project is not affiliated in any way to the Oriental Bird Club. We do not get any commission or benefits from promoting them.).

Happy birding, and please do share your sightings if you happen to come across any of these rarities and submit your records to the Singapore Bird Database for proper archival!

Table of records of locally significant Sundaic species, as displayed in the chart above (2014-2021)

Species Date Location Count
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 27 Jul 2014 (imprecise) River Safari 1
Yellow-eared Spiderhunter Arachnothera chrysogenys 20 Nov 2014 to 22 Nov 2014 CCNR 1
Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile 22 Nov 2014 Central Catchment Nature Reserve 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 22 Nov 2014 CCNR 1
Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis 27 Nov 2014 to 29 Nov 2014 East Coast Park 1
Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis 25 Dec 2014 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 28 Jun 2015 Pulau Ubin 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 26 Sep 2015 Dairy Farm Nature Park 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 14 Feb 2016 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1
Little Green Pigeon Treron olax 16 Mar 2016 Jelutong Tower 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 09 Jul 2016 Lower Peirce Reservoir 1
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos 24 Aug 2017 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 20 Jan 2018 CCNR 1
Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus 02 May 2018 to 12 May 2018 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 06 May 2018 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 24 Sep 2018 Pulau Ubin 1
Little Green Pigeon Treron olax 12 Oct 2018 Windsor Nature Park 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 21 Oct 2018 Pulau Ubin 1
Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus 22 Oct 2018 Jelutong Tower 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 05 Jan 2019 to 21 Jan 2019 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 2
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos 20 Mar 2019 Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 22 Apr 2019 Dairy Farm Nature Park 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 22 Jun 2019 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos 07 Jul 2019 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 14 Jul 2019 to 21 Jul 2019 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 07 Sep 2019 to 18 Sep 2019 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 18 Oct 2019 to 24 Oct 2019 Singapore Botanic Gardens 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 29 Oct 2019 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 16 Nov 2019 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1
Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile 16 Dec 2019 to 25 Dec 2019 Dairy Farm Nature Park 3
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 16 Jun 2020 to 17 Jun 2020 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 25 Jan 2021 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius 12 Feb 2021 Yishun Street 21 1
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus speciosus 25 Feb 2021 Goldhill 1
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 15 Mar 2021 Jurong Lake Gardens 1
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 20 Mar 2021 Clementi Woods Park 1
Green Broadbill Calyptomena viridis 06 Apr 2021 to 22 Aug 2021 Pulau Ubin 1
Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius 30 May 2021 Goldhill 1
Malayan Black Magpie Platysmurus leucopterus 09 Jun 2021 Hindhede Quarry 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 21 Jun 2021 Chek Jawa 1
Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius 09 Jul 2021 to 11 Jul 2021 Jalan Mashhor 1
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 12 Oct 2021 to 13 Oct 2021 Central Catchment Nature Reserve 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 26 Oct 2021 to 14 Jan 2022 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1
Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike Hemipus hirundinaceus 05 Nov 2021 Pulau Ubin 1
Yellow-vented Flowerpecker Dicaeum chrysorrheum 22 Nov 2021 to 29 Nov 2021 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1
Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus thoracicus 29 Nov 2021 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve 1

References

Nussbaumer, R., Gravey, M., Nussbaumer, A., & Jackson, C. (2021). Investigating the influence of the extreme Indian Ocean Dipole on the 2020 influx of Red-necked Phalaropes Phalaropus lobatus in Kenya. Ostrich92(4), 307-315.

Sin, Y.C.K., Narayanswamy, R., Ng, D., Chia, S., Ng, E., & Kennewell, M. (2022). Beyond the pandemic: gems from Singapore in 2020-2021. BirdingASIA, 37, 101-108.

RAP301: What is that raptor?

By Max Khoo

There I was standing on Henderson Waves on a Saturday in October 2020. The sky was blue, the sun was scorching, and the bridge was packed full of big-name bird watchers and photographers. My friend and seasoned bird watcher Bryan Lim had invited me to join him here to catch the annual autumn raptor migration, but I arrived early. It was my first time here and I did not know anyone else. So, I found an empty spot by the corner of the “main pack” and avoided all conversations. The show had already started when I arrived: Birders pointing into the sky every few minutes, seemingly random, and screaming out names, abbreviations, and acronyms that sounded so alien to me. “Accipiter, above the DSTA building!”, “OHB, 12 o’clock!”, they hollered. I felt terribly lost. It was not only a challenge to spot the birds, but it was even more challenging to identify what species they were. Most of the birds were flying several to tens of kilometers overhead. They were small, and the rays of the sun shining on them makes it so that you can only see the birds’ silhouette most of the time. The birds all looked the same to me, and I was afraid to ask the very knowledgeable people around me as to how each bird was identified as I was scared to take up their time and too ashamed at my shallow knowledge. The three hours went by really quickly that day, and although it was utterly overwhelming, I was so captivated by the spectacle of flocks and birds flying past us continuously.

Raptor watching is not easy. The barrier to entry is high, and it is often said to be only for the “serious” bird watchers because identifying the birds is difficult. But it does not have to be this way, and I believe everyone can do so and enjoy the process. The two blog posts introducing the common and uncommon raptors of Singapore (RAP101 and RAP201) by Sandra Chia of the Singapore Birds Project team have helped me tremendously when I went back to catch the raptor migration for the second year in 2021. Based on the two posts, I had the idea of consolidating all the information together into a single-page guide so that it is even easier for anyone to refer to. So here it is, introducing the field guide to identifying raptors in flight based on its silhouette titled: “What is that Raptor?”. I hope this will serve as a useful resource for all who would like to pick up raptor watching, and even for the veterans who may want to brush up their knowledge before the annual raptor migration season.

PDF for download here.

Monthly Roundup: Jun 2022

June was a relatively quiet month, but with records of rarities like Black-thighed Falconet and Pied Stilt, it’s hard to call it a boring one!

Highlights

  • At Pulau Tekong, continued presence of breeding Pied Stilts. Will this be the year this species is finally observed in a publicly accessible site?
  • Eighth confirmed record of Black-thighed Falconet, at Lorong Halus.

All records for Jun 2022 (Show all records)

King Quail Synoicus chinensis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Seletar Farmway

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 20 May 2022

eBird
Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus (species writeup) Show 4 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 02 Feb 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

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

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Pulau Ubin–Jln Wat Siam

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon Treron fulvicollis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 12 Jun 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird

Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon at Pulau Ubin on 12 Jun 2022. Photo credit: Lee Chien Nien

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

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 08 Apr 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Highest count: 5 individuals

eBird
(not a complete list)
Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator (species writeup) Show 1 record

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

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 14 Mar 2022

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

Marina East

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 05 Jun 2022

RC decision: Accepted

Pied Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus (species writeup) Show 1 record

P. Tekong reclamation land

Highest count: 4 individuals

First recorded 14 Jun 2022

RC decision: Accepted

Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana (species writeup) Show 4 records

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 16 individuals

Earlier record on 03 Apr 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

Lorong Halus Wetland (inc. Serangoon Reservoir and former ‘Serangoon’)

Highest count: 4 individuals

eBird

Pulau Hantu

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird

Berlayer Creek Boardwalk

Highest count: 2 individuals

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

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 11 Dec 2021

eBird
Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster (species writeup) Show 1 record

Hindhede Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
(not a complete list)
Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Satay by the Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

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

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 22 Jan 2022

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 03 Feb 2022

eBird

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 07 May 2022

eBird

Windsor Nature Park including Venus Drive and Venus Loop

Highest count: 3 individuals

eBird
(not a complete list)

Hindhede Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Clementi Woods Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius (species writeup) Show 1 record

Lorong Halus Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 18 Jun 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird

Black-thighed Falconet at Lorong Halus Wetlands on 18 Jun 2022. Photo credit: Lee Chien Nien

Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus (species writeup) Show 2 records

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 26 Dec 2021

eBird

Windsor Nature Park including Venus Drive and Venus Loop

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 17 Jan 2022

eBird
Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea (species writeup) Show 1 record

Changi Bay Point

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 28 Apr 2022

eBird
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 3 individuals

Earlier record on 28 May 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Photo credit: Adrian Silas Tay

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

Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 6 individuals

Earlier record on 01 Jan 2022

eBird

Monthly Roundup: May 2022

The buzz at Chek Jawa continued into the start of the month, and more sightings of uncommon breeding species made this May one to remember!

Highlights

  • At Chek Jawa, more likely visitors from Peninsular Malaysia, continuing the influx which began earlier this year: Black-and-white Bulbul (second confirmed record), and Black-and-red Broadbill (sixth confirmed record)
  • The reappearance of the Black-and-red Broadbill at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, over three years after it was originally ringed
  • Another sighting of the Brown Fish Owl at Hindhede Nature Park is still under review by the Records Committee (past records have been categorized as escapees)
  • Very popular Violet Cuckoos at Dairy Farm Nature Park attracted large crowds this May

All records for May 2022 (Show all records)

King Quail Synoicus chinensis (species writeup) Hide 1 record

Seletar Farmway

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
Violet Cuckoo Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus (species writeup) Hide 2 records

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 3 individuals

Earlier record on 15 Nov 2021

eBird
(not a complete list)

Violet Cuckoo at Dairy Farm Nature Park on 18 May 2022. Photo credit: Vincent Ng

Jambu Fruit Dove Ptilinopus jambu (species writeup) Hide 3 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 3 individuals

Earlier record on 08 Apr 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Arcadia Balcony Birding

Highest count: 1 individual

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

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 20 Nov 2021

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator (species writeup) Hide 1 record

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

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 14 Mar 2022

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

Changi Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Aleutian Tern Onychoprion aleuticus (species writeup) Show 1 record

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

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus (species writeup) Show 1 record

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

Highest count: 15 individuals

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

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 10 individuals

Earlier record on 03 Apr 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)

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

Highest count: 15 individuals

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

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

Highest count: 80 individuals

Earlier record on 24 Apr 2022

eBird

White-winged Tern at Singapore Straits on 01 May 2022. Photo credit: Francis Yap

Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 10 individuals

Earlier record on 08 Nov 2021

eBird
(not a complete list)
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Lorong Halus Entrance

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 09 May 2022

Record under review

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 2 records

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii (species writeup) Show 2 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 03 Feb 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird

Lower Pierce Reservoir

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 10 May 2022

RC decision: Accepted

Brown Fish Owl Ketupa zeylonensis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Hindhede nature park

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 26 May 2022

Record under review

Brown Fish Owl at Hindhede Nature Park on 26 May 2022. Photo credit: Jared Tan

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

Bollywood Veggies

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 17 Dec 2021

eBird

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 22 Jan 2022

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 03 Feb 2022

eBird

Jurong Eco-Garden

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 26 Apr 2022

eBird

Upper Seletar Reservoir Park (USRP) inc. Mandai Road Track 7 / Nee Soon Swamp Forest

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
Blue-rumped Parrot Psittinus cyanurus (species writeup) Show 2 records

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 5 individuals

Earlier record on 01 Nov 2021

eBird

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 04 Nov 2021

eBird
Black-and-red Broadbill Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos (species writeup) Show 2 records

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 15 May 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Chek Jawa

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 19 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida (species writeup) Show 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 16 Apr 2022

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)
Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea (species writeup) Show 2 records

Changi Bay Point

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 28 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Changi PCN – Bridge

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Cinereous Bulbul Hemixos cinereus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 2 individuals

Earlier record on 24 Apr 2022

eBird
(not a complete list)
Black-and-white Bulbul Microtarsus melanoleucos (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 02 May 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Black-and-white Bulbul at Chek Jawa on 02 May 2022. Photo credit: Francis Yap

Black-headed Bulbul Brachypodius melanocephalos (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Changi Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 01 May 2022

RC decision: Accepted/Escapee

eBird
(not a complete list)
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica (species writeup) Show 1 record

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica (species writeup) Show 1 record

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 05 Nov 2021

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

eBird
(not a complete list)
Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus thoracicus (species writeup) Show 1 record

Chek Jawa

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 23 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

eBird
Ruby-cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis (species writeup) Show 1 record

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 2 individuals

First recorded 30 Apr 2022

RC decision: Accepted

SBP (subrecords)
eBird
(not a complete list)

Ruby-cheeked Sunbird at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on 28 May 2022. Photo credit: Chen Boon Chong

Our second guided walk with the Biodiversity Friends Forum!

A Malaysian Pied Fantail. Photo: Zachary Chong

Back in Bishan-AMK Park, the Singapore Birds Project held a second guided walk for members of the Biodiversity Friends Forum (BFF).  As part of the Biodiversity Roundtable, BFF aims to provide opportunities for members of the nature community to take action and learn about Singapore’s biodiversity. 

On 22 May 2022, led by Movin, Sandra and Zachary, our group of eager birdwatchers set off. While the walk was not conducted during the migratory season, it provided us with an opportunity to focus on resident birds that we often overlook. Here are some noteworthy sightings on our walk!

The walk started with a flash of colour. A Stork-billed Kingfisher flew past gracefully, before perching out of sight. As Singapore’s largest resident kingfisher, this charismatic bird was an excellent introduction to the wealth of avifauna found in Singapore.

As the Red-breasted and Rose-ringed Parakeets chattered up in the sky, a female Common Flameback flew across our path while uttering its distinctive and rapid call. This woodpecker is commonly seen in parkland habitat, like that of Bishan-AMK Park! Nearer to the waterway, a Purple Heron perched atop a tree. While many may associate the Purple Heron with the consumption of fish, herons are able to swallow small mammals – up to the size of a rabbit – whole. 

The ever-present Black-naped Orioles and Common Ioras impressed participants with their repertoire of vocalisations. Not to be left out,  pairs of Brown-throated Sunbirds and Ashy Tailorbirds chased each other in the trees.

An Ashy Tailorbird. Photo: Zachary Chong

Blue-throated Bee-eaters and Pacific Swallows sallied from their perches to catch unsuspecting insects while a grumpy-looking Pacific Swallow juvenile sat and eagerly awaited its food. When the parent flew close, the juvenile took off, initiating food transfer in mid-air. Acrobatics!

A Malaysian Pied Fantail harassing an Asian Koel. Photo: Sandra Chia

Wrapping up the walk, we observed a Asian Koel as it sat stoically, before getting ferociously attacked by a pair of territorial Malaysian Pied Fantails. Numbers proved to be too much for the koel to handle and it made a tactical retreat. A fantastic spectacle for us, not so much for the poor koel though.

Zachary wrapping up the walk with a quick debrief. Photo: Sandra Chia

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all the participants for joining our guided walk and 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

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the team for their comments on the article.

8 resident bird calls you should know from Singapore’s parks

  1. Sin Yong Chee Keita, Kee Jing Ying, Tan Hui Zhen

Singapore’s urban landscape hosts various wildlife ranging from birds, butterflies, to otters. These animals are often appreciated visually, but one of the less-discussed aspects that make birds unique  is their songs. The wide range of vocalisations that birds have fill up most  of nature’s soundscape and are actually quite easy to learn! Knowing the sounds of different birds can also make you a better bird-spotter. Here are the calls of 8 common birds in Singapore’s parks with mnemonics (some are a little stretched, but we tried xD) that you’ll definitely be able to remember.

Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis

Black-naped Orioles have highly variable calls ranging from meows, shrieks to their namesake: the “O-RE-O”. The melody of their songs are quite variable but are typically characterised by having a fluty tone unique to them. Oftentimes you will see these bright yellow birds around the mid to high canopy, especially in fruiting trees. 

Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis

The high-pitched “tsu-it!” of the Olive-backed Sunbird call can be frequently heard in gardens and parks, especially in the early mornings. They can often be seen enjoying nectar from flowers. Male Olive-backed Sunbirds are easily recognisable from their bright blue throat, yellow body and olive coloured back. During courtship, they display their orange pectoral tufts to attract females. Females lack the blue throat but can be distinguished from other sunbirds in Singapore by their white tail tips.

Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis

Oriental Magpie-Robins light up various urban parks in Singapore with their songs. They like to sing for prolonged periods of time from open perches especially in the mornings, and have melodious and joyful-sounding songs. Their songs sound less “rich” than Black-naped Orioles because of their generally higher pitch. The beautiful songs they possess are a double-edged sword as it makes them prominent to traders. In fact, this species once suffered a population crash due to heavy poaching and the current population are survivors from introduced birds.

Collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris

The highly nasal song of this bright blue kingfisher can be heard in almost every corner of Singapore. Although they are named kingfishers, they eat insects too and can sometimes be found away from water. They can frequently be seen in parks and sometimes even along canals.

Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus

Every person in Singapore would know the Asian Koel. They are unfortunately disliked by many due to their loud and persistent “KO-EL!” songs. Despite being large and loud birds, they can be surprisingly hard to see as they like to perch on the top of tall dense trees! Try finding them next time they are calling – their bright red eyes are actually pretty cool looking.

Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus

The Large-tailed Nightjar is a nocturnal species that is typically most vocal during dawn and dusk. They have a unique “tiu? tiu? tiu?” that sounds like no other local bird. This species is commonly encountered in Singapore’s parks and is also sometimes found sleeping on the ground in the day.

White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus

The White-breasted Waterhen is common along the water bodies in Singapore and can often be found hiding amongst reeds or the edges of ponds. Their most frequently heard song is a croaking “chu-guoo chu-guoo” song. Males have red on the forehead while females don’t. This species, like other rails, can be heard singing at night time too during certain times of the year.

Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier

The Yellow-vented Bulbul is one of the most common parkland birds and their dawn chorus can be heard from almost everyone’s homes. Their song sounds like a bubblier version of R2-D2 (a Star Wars character for those unfamiliar).

Photos

Francis Yap: Black-naped Oriole

Keita Sin: Oriental Magpie-Robin, Collared Kingfisher, Olive-backed Sunbird, White-breasted Waterhen & Yellow-vented Bulbul

Tan Hui Zhen: Asian Koel, Large-tailed Nightjar

Sound recordings

Keita Sin

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to our Singapore Birds Project teammates (especially Sandra!) for help and comments.

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

eBird
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis (species writeup) Show 2 records

Pulau Ubin: Chek Jawa Wetlands

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 3 individuals

eBird
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum (species writeup) Show 2 records

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

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Neo Tiew Harvest Lane

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
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)
eBird
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus (species writeup) Show 2 records

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 15 individuals

Earlier record on 04 Sep 2021

eBird

Lim Chu Kang Lane 3

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 25 Sep 2021

eBird
Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster (species writeup) Show 1 record

Hindhede Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 27 Jan 2022

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

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 11 Feb 2022

eBird

Satay by the Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

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

Changi Business Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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

Dover Road

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 19 Mar 2022

Record under review

eBird

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

eBird
(not a complete list)

Admiralty Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
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

eBird
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

eBird

Sentosa Island

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 2 individuals

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

Pulau Ubin

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 02 Feb 2022

eBird

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 11 Feb 2022

eBird

Kent Ridge Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Pasir Ris Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Fragrant Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Changi Business Park canal

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Choa Chu Kang Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
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

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

Telok Blangah Hill Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 24 Dec 2021

eBird
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

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

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 02 Oct 2021

eBird

Kranji Marsh

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 18 Oct 2021

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

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 4 individuals

Earlier record on 11 Sep 2021

eBird

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 26 Sep 2021

eBird

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

eBird

Dover Forest-Ulu Pandan

Highest count: 2 individuals

eBird
Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida (species writeup) Show 3 records

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 25 Feb 2022

eBird

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Goldhill Ave / Malcolm Road: forest patch

Highest count: X

eBird
Mangrove Whistler Pachycephala cinerea (species writeup) Show 1 record

Berlayar Creek Boardwalk

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 09 Oct 2021

RC decision: Accepted

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

Dairy Farm Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 09 Jan 2022

eBird

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

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 20 Feb 2022

eBird

Rifle Range Link

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 27 Feb 2022

eBird

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Thomson Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Changi Business Park

Highest count: 1 individual

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

NTU

Highest count: 1 individual

First recorded 22 Oct 2021

RC decision: Accepted

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

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 26 Feb 2022

eBird

Thomson Nature Park

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Satay by the Bay

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
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

eBird

CCNR–Jelutong Tower

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
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

eBird

Bukit Timah

Highest count: 1 individual

Earlier record on 05 Feb 2022

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Nanyang Technological University including National Institute of Education

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

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

eBird
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

eBird
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

eBird

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird

Changi Business Park canal

Highest count: 1 individual

eBird
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!