“On the 2nd day of the Lunar New Year, January 27th, a small group of us went birding at the reclamation area, at Changi. Besides the two of us, there was Martin Daniel, my wife Shamla and my two sons, Serin and Saker.
“There were lots of birds about and over 50 species were recorded during the three and a half hours that we spent out there. Highlights for the morning included 8 species of raptors (including 3 species of harriers), a male Common Stonechat Saxicola torquata, a party of one male and 4 female Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus and 2 White-faced Plovers Charadrius dealbatus.
“A male *Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus was quartering the grassland and we took the opportunity to observe and photograph it (above left). While we were doing so, another raptor came out of nowhere and dived at the harrier. It was a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and on closer observation, the individual was of the local, regional, resident race ernesti (above right). After the first dive, the falcon fluttered its wings rapidly to gain height, turned around and dived at the harrier again. It repeated this a few times until the harrier descended, temporarily, to the ground. The falcon then disappeared from the scene and a few minutes later, the harrier ascended and continued its hunting.
“Peregrine Falcons are not exclusive to grassland areas and are able to hunt in a variety of settings, including urban cities. It hunts birds in mid-air, often with a fast and spectacular stooping dive. This falcon is a powerful hunter and it can catch reasonable sized birds, including pigeons in the city, shorebirds on the coast or waterfowl on a marsh.
“Why did it mob the wintering harrier? Was it displaying aggressive, territorial behaviour toward a rival? F.p.ernesti is an uncommon but regular visitor to Singapore, usually during the northern winter months. It breeds in the region, including Peninsula Malaysia, but so far, there is no evidence (yet) that it does so in Singapore. Could the mobbing behaviour displayed indicate that it may be a resident after all? Or was it merely holding a “winter” territory? More study is obviously needed.
“Whatever the reason, we were lucky to have been present to catch this brief but thrilling display.”
Subaraj Rajathurai & Benjamin Lee
1st February 2009
Images by Benjamin Lee.
*Please see HERE.