A female Black Bittern walking along the Parade Square

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“On the morning of 22 January 2019 at around 0700 hrs, I received a call from our Operations Manager (OM) Mr Tan, informing me that there is a big bird walking along the parade square in my school. Students were starting to stream towards the parade square for morning assembly.

“This female Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) seemed to be unwell as it wasn’t able to unfold its wings fully to fly off. Miss Lye gave our Wildlife Rescue partner ACRES: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore) a call to ask for assistance.

“OM Mr Tan decided to place it in a paper carton box and left it in the General Office while waiting for ACRES to come by later in the day to pick it up from our school.

“At around 1030 hrs, since ACRES wasn’t here yet, Miss Lye and I decided to bring the bird to The Wetland in our school and try release it and see if it would take flight, after a few hours of rest in the General Office.

“The Black Bittern came out of the box on its own and walked towards the edge of The Wetland and started sipping from the water.

“And before we knew it, it went deep under the bushes and out of our sight.

“I ran up to the staff room to change into my boots and waded into The Wetland with a stick to lead the Black Bittern out of the water while Miss Lye stood in the vegetation next to the edge of the water, ready to get hold of it.

“At around 1130 hrs, we handed over the Black Bittern to ACRES.

“There wasn’t any physical injury as we have examined, just that we noticed a chip off at the tip of its beak, a sign that it might have collided into our building or a reflective glass surface.

“It was probably stunned by the impact from a collision. After visiting the vet and a night of rest, we have received update from ACRES that this female Black Bittern was successfully released back to the wild the following day.

“The Black Bittern is a heron, where the male has black upperparts while the female has dark brown upperparts, whitish throat, whitish breast with dense dark streaks, and yellow neck-patch. It’s status in Singapore is an ‘Uncommon Migrant’, and is most likely part of the northern population that is wintering in Southeast Asia.

“Since we are still in the midst of the migratory season, there is heavy traffic of migratory birds coming through Singapore as a stopover for their escape journey from winter. The heightened awareness for biodiversity in our school might be the reason why we seem to have quite a few cases of wildlife alerts.

“Incidentally, we recorded a death of a male Black Bittern in our school on 31 Oct last year, where its body was found on the grass patch between the carpark and Design Space LINK. The cause of death was inconclusive based on the evidence available.”

Jacob Tan Guanrui
Senior Teacher (Biology)
Commonwealth Secondary School
25th January 2019

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