Hazy morning: Where have all the bulbuls gone?

The typical dawn chorus in my urban garden usually starts at around 0630 hours. On 27th September 2015, the haze, courtesy of the Indonesian forest fires, resulted in a subdued chorus but started 15 minutes later. However, the distinctive calls of the Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier) were totally absent.

One month later, on 30th October, the dawn chorus was very much more subdued, if there was any real chorus at all. At 0630 hours it was light, the sky was hazy and there were no signs of any birds at all. Soon, birdcalls were heard, but no Yellow-vented Bulbuls. The isolated noisy calls of the Javan Mynas (Acridotheres javanicus) replaced the chorus – see video below.

A Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) soon appeared and feasted on the succulent fruits of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum), contributing its soft, high-pitched calls to the “no show chorus”.

The gurgling calls of bulbuls finally were heard, coming most probably from one or a few birds, nearer to 0700 hours when one suddenly appeared to feed on the nectar of the newly flowered Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus).

In the absence of the chorus by the Yellow-vented Bulbuls because of the haze, we present a sound clip by Sun Chong Hong (below), recorded around 0900 hours on 2nd April 2011 and presented as video with visualisation of the sound waveform. It is the “morning has broken” song heard during the break of dawn, also heard at other times of the day.

Listen to Cat Stevens singing ‘Morning Has Broken’ HERE.

Contributed by YC Wee & Sun Chong Hong

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