Bird Encounters at the Northeast Neighbourhood

on 11th January 2013

“A bright Sunday morning, I decided to cycle to Pasir Ris Mangrove for the Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis). I Left my house in Punggol about 9:00 am, listening to the calls of Olive-backed Sunbirds (Cinnyris jugularis) around the flowering roadside trees. Reached the Punggol Waterway in about 5 minutes and saw an Olive-backed Sunbird taking nectar from a Indian torch ginger (Costus spicatus) and decided to take some shots. I love these little birds and can never get tired of them (above).

“Thereafter, I cross the Halus Bridge and reached the canal of Pasir Ris Farmway. Birds seen were, Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) (above), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Striated Heron (Butorides striata) and Little Egret (Egretta garzetta).

“This Little Egret just caught a relatively large fish (above and below). It was picking and dropping it and it seemed to have a hard time handling the fish. I thought it may be too large for the bird, but it proved me wrong with persistent efforts. At the same time, the Pacific Golden Plover was taking a bath (below) and I had to switch my aim between the two birds.

“After about one and a half hours I decided to leave the canal and head straight to the mangrove. Upon reaching the mangrove, I waited for a mere 20 minutes before the Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) showed up. It was ready to fish and made a total of three attempts before finally landing a catch.

“As I was leaving the mangrove, a flock of Mynas and Starlings seemed to be startled by something and dashed out from the vegetation in frenzy. One particular individual, an Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis), bashed into and through the fencing of the Sungei Tampines. It immediately fell onto the embankment of the canal (above). It was apparently it did not see the fence and I thought it might not survive the impact. I observed the bird from the other side of the fence and saw that it was semi-conscious and the tarsi might be broken. After approximately 5 minutes, it made an attempt to “standup”, but it is obvious that it is in trouble. There is little I can do to help as the bird is on the other side and I have no medical knowledge with regards to birds rescue. I decided not to give it further stress after another 10 minutes. It would either survive or end up in the monitor lizard’s stomach.

“On the way back, I decided to ride through Pasir Ris Industrial Park 6. I saw something from the corner of my eye on the right side and decided it was not something I have seen before in this area. Truth enough, it was a Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) (above). The first time I saw this bird was in Phuket and I have read that they are common in the western side of Singapore. Therefore, I was surprise to see this bird here and for the first time in Singapore. I decided to use the roadside truck as a hide to photograph the bird, but it discovered my presence easily and flew off into the middle of the grassland. I have learned in the past few months through experience that birds seemed more tolerant of my presence if I stay in a low position. Thus, I decided to move in a ‘squat and crawl’ position towards my quarry. True enough, it was more tolerant of my presence and allowed a closer distance for my shot. It was a tiring exercise but luckily I am a pretty fit fellow.

“Moving further along and just past the Serangoon East Dam, I saw two Paddyfield Pipits (Anthus rufulus), which I have not been seeing for some time (above left). Again I used the squad and crawl method and was able to take some close shots of the two birds.

“Moving deeper into Halus, I decided to wait alongside the “hidden Halus pond” for the Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) (above right). I have noticed that there seemed to be more of them lately and there are the presence of a few juveniles. Could that mean that they are breeding here? I don’t know, I would leave that to the experts.

“It was 2pm by then, well past my wife’s tolerance level, but I must say it was a Sunday well spent. Cheers!”

Lim Sheau Torg
24th December 2013

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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