Pink-headed reed snake (Calamaria schlegeli)

posted in: mimicry | 0

Reed snakes belong to the colubrid family of snakes. Read this and this to find out more about colubrid snakes. It is native to South East Asia. This reed snake is non-venomous and grows to about 40 cm. It is nocturnal in habit, burrows underground and feeds on lizards, frogs and invertebrates amongst the leaf litter on forest floor.  It has a bright pink head, black dorsally and white ventrally. It is thought that this colour pattern is a mimicry of the highly venomous blue Malayan coral snake (Calliophis bivirgatus) and the red-headed krait (Bungarus flaviceps). Read this and this to find out more about these two venomous snakes.

Black on dorsal surface and white on ventral surface. Attractive pink head.
A small non-venomous that mimics the venomous blue Malayan coral snake that has a red head and tail.

Video and photo credits: Francis Seow-Choen. Nature Reserve, Singapore. September 2021.


  1. Biodiversity of Singapore: An encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development © 2011 Edited by: Peter KL Ng, Richard T. Corlett and Hugh T. W. Tan
  2. A guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Singapore by Kelvin KP Lim and Francis LK Lim ©1992
  3. Poisonous snakes of Peninsular Malaysia by Lim Boo Liat © 1979

Common Sandpiper

posted in: birds, Migration-Migrants, Waders | 0

The Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) must be the wader with the widest habitat distribution when on migration.

I have seen it from the coast all the way to deep inland and along jungle streams. This solitary bird was on a river bank 3 km into an ex-logging trail with secondary forest. It was preening and stretching, allowing for a good view of the plumage.

The image below is a composite showing how the jizz of a bird can change dramatically.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: River in previously logged forest

Date: 5th November 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Common Greenshank – non-breeding plumage 

posted in: birds, Miscellaneous | 0

There were 6 Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) at this site (above, below).

The image below shows one preening with a clear view of the tail.

A short video clip of one of the birds feeding (taking small snails) here:


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Malim Nawar, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Ex-mining pools, fish farming, extensive wetlands

Date: 7th January 2021

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Swamp Eel (Monopterus albus) in Singapore Nature Reserve

posted in: Fishes, Habitat | 0

The Asian Swamp Eel (Monopterus albus), also known as ricefield eel, is a commercially important product associated with rice fields of East Asia and South East Asia.  Francis Seow-Choen encountered one such specimen in the Nature Reserve in Singapore. It can grow to 40 cm, lacks pectoral and pelvic fins possess rudimentary dorsal and caudal fins. Skin is without scales. It has an air-breathing apparatus in its hind gut and is able to obtain air through its skin.  Thus, it can survive out of water for a considerable length of time.

It is nocturnal in habit and possess tiny teeth in both upper and lower jaws.  Read  this account where Lee Chiu San recalls a little boy bitten by these eels and needed stitching in hospital. These teeth enable the fish to feed on aquatic invertebrates like worms, shrimps, crustaceans, insects and aquatic vertebrates like fish and frogs. The fish is in turn prey to humans and birds.  This is an account of a purple heron handling a swamp eel before devouring it.

Young fish are female and a small number of them turn into males as they mature. If female population drops, some of these males can turn into females again.

Care should be taken to cook these eels thoroughly as they are known to be infected with the parasitic nematode Gnathostoma spinigerum.

The swamp eel emerged from its burrow.


The video is by Francis Seow-Choen and the photo is a video screen-grab.


  1. Wiki account of swamp eel
  2. Wiki Gnathostoma spinigerum
  3. A guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Singapore by Kelvin KP Lim & Peter KL Ng © 1990

Crimson Sunbird – new food sources

posted in: birds, Feeding-plants | 0

I have missed posting some new food sources of Crimson Sunbirds (Aethopyga siparaja siparaja).

Post 1 – above

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Limestone hills at city fringe with secondary growth

Date: 12th November 2020

I observed a juvenile adult male feeding on the nectar of the flowers of the Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia blakeana). Exotic plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique.

Post 2 – above

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Limestone hills at city fringe with secondary growth

Date: 23rd September 2019

The Chinese Top Hat plant (Holmskioldia sanguinea) is a particular favourite and I have observed feeding numerous times. Exotic plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique. Adult male shown.

Post 3 – above

Location: Sandakan, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Habitat: Urban Environment

Date: 28th April 2016

I have reported this before but posting a new image for the benefit of some members.

Powderpuff Combretum (Combretum constrictum). Exotic plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique. Juvenile male shown.

I have also updated my list of plants I have previously observed Crimson Sunbirds feeding on:

  1. Cassava Flower; local name Pokok Ubi Gajah (Manihot esculenta) – native plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique
  2. Wax Mallow or Ladies Teardrop (Malvaviscus arboreus) – exotic plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique
  3. Hibiscus ‘Brilliant’ cultivar (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – native distribution is uncertain, nectar feeding, nectar robbing technique
  4. Malayan Mistletoe (Dendrophthoe pentandra) – native plant, nectar and fruit feeding, conventional technique
  5. Rusty-leaf Mistletoe (Scurrula ferruginea) – native plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique
  6. Starfruit tree (Averrhoa carambola) – native plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique
  7. Devil’s Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides) – exotic plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique
  8. Coconut (Cocos nucifera) – native plant, nectar feeding, conventional technique
  9. Feeding on spiders at spider web
  10. Feeding on an invertebrate/larvae


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone

Bar-tailed godwit ( Limosa lapponica)

The bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica, migrates from its breeding grounds in Alaska to winter in Australia and New Zealand. It makes the longest bird migration journey amongst all known migratory birds.  The birds store the largest amount of body fats before the migratory flight. The picture gallery below shows the birds in non-breeding plumage.  They were spotted on the mudflats probing for bristle-worms, shellfish and crustaceans on Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia. The observations were made in October 2015, close the Northern winter season. The probing is carried out in a very rapid manner and has been described as akin to a sewing machine.

The upturned bill is pink at the base and is black towards the tip. The long legs are blue-grey and the barred-tail differentiates it from the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa). 

Photo 1. Limosa lapponica directing long beak into mud to probe for food.


Photo 2. Beak is probing deep in the mud.


Photo 3. The bird preens itself in between looking for food.


Photo 4. A Limosa lapponica and a Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae (silver gull) co-existed peacefully on the mudflat.


Photo 5. This bird was busy probing the sand on the beach.


Photo 6. In between its probing activities, the bird sat comfortably in the sand hollow.


Photo 7. The bill was covered with sand after probing in the sand.


Photo 8. The supercilium (white line stretching from base of beak, over the eye and to the back of head) is very obvious in the photo.


Photo 9. The beautiful mottled brown pattern of its feather is obvious in this close-up.


Video shows a bar-tailed godwit probing the sand on the beach in similar rapid manner as it does on the mudflats.


The video shows another bar-tailed godwit probing the mud when the tide washes in.



  1. Birds of Australia by Iain Campbell, Sam Woods and Nick Leseberg © 2015
  2. Field Guide to Australian Birds by Michael Morcombe © 2004

Cinereous Tit

posted in: birds, Miscellaneous | 0

Presumed male Cinereous Tit.

These Cinereous Tit (Parus cinereus ambiguous) are common in some parts of the world but occur in very localised areas in Malaysia. I have only ever seen them in mangrove forests and coastal Casuarina tree clumps. I saw three different birds; once a single bird and on the other occasion a pair. I am posting images of the pair. At first I thought this might be a male-female pair but both look like males.

Presumed male Cinereous Tit – bird same as that posted above.

Using Handbook of the Birds of the World 2020 and Wells 2009, female are differentiated from males by:

  1. black ventral line  narrower and less intensely black
  2. blacks duller especially on crown
  3. fringes of greater coverts and secondaries greenish grey (not greyish blue)
  4. black on side of neck narrower or broken
  5. undertail-coverts more extensively white.

Presumed male Cinereous Tit with tail in moult.

Presumed male Cinereous Tit with tail in moult – bird same as that posted above.

Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Mangrove forest

Date: 20th August 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Emerald Dove– nesting material

posted in: birds, Nesting matarials | 0

This Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica indica) bird surprised me the most in the mangrove forest as I seldom see it there. This male hopped up from the ground onto the board walk carrying nesting material.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Mangrove forest

Date: 20th August 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Fiery Minivet – social group

posted in: birds, Miscellaneous | 0

Took a break from all the Covid-19 prevention activities I am involved in, for a forest walk.

Fiery Minivets (Pericrocotus igneus igneus) are considered near-threatened. They are an uncommon bird to see and the last time I saw them was at this same location in the forest on 25th July 2010. I wonder if there is some local or altitudinal migration to account for such close dates?

I saw 5 today, a mixture of males and females. As usual very high, at the top of the forest canopy, where they were feeding. A limited flight image shown above.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Trail along primary jungle

Date: 23rd July 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone


Common Myna – nest

posted in: birds, Nests | 0

Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis tristis) in the city often nest in man-made sites. The old disused junction boxes of street lights, located 5 meters up, are a particular favourite; as non-functioning street lights. Breeding pairs will have fierce and bitter fights to take ownership of such ‘prized’ nesting sites. I find this choice of nesting site odd as it is very hot and exposed; but they seem to breed with little difficulties.

A pair has been nesting in a junction box in my neighbourhood for some years (above). Sadly the street light malfunctioned and the repair men who came, removed their completed nest and discarded it.

I was able to retrieve it for inspection and measurements (above and below).

The nest is a long structure, trailing out of the box. It is made predominantly of dried grass with some leaves of the Azadirachta indica (Neem tree) and Syzygium grande (Eugenia grandis), interspersed with raffia. The nesting cavity is filled with plastic strips, string and feathers.

Dimensions (above): Total length 43 cm (minus some trailers); internal cavity dimensions 14 x 12 cm; External nest dimensions 21 x 16 cm.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Urban environment

Date: 25-26th July 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone



26 Responses

  1. kris

    I just found a young dollarbird in the garden.. It seems to have left the nest too early and cannot fly yet. How am i to keep and feed it for a few days untill it can fly.???

  2. Iwan

    We have a small pond in our garden surrounded by trees and steep bedrock. The other day we saw a heron flying over and attempting to land – I guess to try to eat our small stock of fish. We managed to frighten it away before it landed, and have since installed trip wires around the pond in order to dissuade the bird. The amount of shelter around the pond means that a heron would have to land practically vertically. Does anyone know whether these birds have the agility to hover and land in this way, or do they always need a “glidepath” in order to land successfully?

  3. Khng Eu Meng

    Today, at the former Bidadari Cemetery, there was a buzz about a sighting of a Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka). I heard some birders say this nightjar isn’t commonly seen in Singapore. After some hunting, we spotted it asleep on a tree branch, some 15 m above ground. This was rather interesting as my previous encounters with nightjars have been on either terra firma or on low branches.

    Is this perching so high up the tree normal or is it unusual? I have posted a photo of it on my Facebook Timeline:

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

    1)Which is the best spot in Bidadari cemetery for bird watch?

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

    3)What are some of the rare bird species that can be found at Bidadari?

    4)Where is the particular hot spot for the hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and some of the rare migratory bird?

    5)Which part of Bidadari are richest in it wildlife?

    6)Can you name me the 59 migratory bird species found?

  5. YC

    Why not search the website using the word ‘Bidadari’ to obtain the information you need. There should be sufficient info in past postings to satisfy you.

  6. Firdaus Razak

    Hai, I just want to ask did anybody had an experience bring bird from oversea via MasKargo? Did the bird will stress at high altitude?

  7. Chung Wah

    Hi, I am new to bird photography! Could anyone advise a good pair of binoculars to get for this hobby?

  8. Geam Liang

    I ‘acquired’ a female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 5 days ago – was in a public place when the bird flew overhead hit the wall and dropped right in front of me dazed. I picked it up, it appeared unhurt but could not sustain it’s flight. I have since constructed a fairly large ‘cage’ for it, about 4ft x 2fx x 2ft and placed it there last night. I temporarily placed her in a normal bird cage until I had completed the build.
    From what I have read up, it’s a fruit, seed and insect feeder and also nectar, flower buds. It’s doing as well as it can on bananas, papaya, jack-fruit (didn’t touch the grape) and seeds (black and white sunflower and other smaller ones). It loves to bathe so I’ve gotten it a tray and from what I read it’s important to keep things clean as it easily succumbs to infection.
    Does anyone else have any useful experience and sharing on it’s upkeep? I suspect this bird is an escapee – as far as I can read up, it’s not common, if at all, found in Georgetown, Penang where I am. I’m also not optimistic that it can survive if I were to set it free – assuming it can sustain it’s flight and not go crashing down and if there were dogs/cats around that would be the end of it.
    I can attach some pictures but not sure how to do this…

  9. Lee Chiu San

    The blue-crowned hanging parrot, even though very closely related to the lovebirds, is a nectar feeder. You would raise it the way you raise a lorikeet – which is a messy process. And because you are mixing batches of food for just one little bird, whereas I used to do it for about half a dozen pigeon-sized lorikeets each morning, I don’t know how you are going to get the portions down to manageable sizes. Anyway, here goes, with my recipe for feeding big lories. You can adjust the proportions down accordingly for your little bird.

    The staple diet would be a couple of slices of soft fruit (papaya, apple, grapes, even though I am surprised that you said the bird would not eat any) and a mixture of cooked rice sweetened with nectar mix.

    How to make nectar mix? Go to a pharmacy and get a can of food for invalids or infants. I use Complan, but I am sure any good baby formula would do. I usually make up enough to fill a beer mug, but there is no way you need that amount for a day’s feeding. If in doubt, make the mixture thinner, not thicker. Birds cannot digest baby formula that is too thick. If it is too thin, they simply have to consume more to get the required amount of energy. Then to this mug, add half a teaspoonful of rose syrup. Also stir in about a cup of cooked rice, well mashed up.

    In the case of your bird, I suggest that you pour this lot into an ice-cube tray, freeze the mixture, and defrost one cube to feed it each day.

    Now, you said that this bird eats sunflower seeds. This is most unusual for a blue-crowned hanging parrot. Are you sure that this is actually the species you have? Could it be possible that you have actually got a pet lovebird that escaped? There are so many different artificially-created breeds of lovebirds in so many colours that you might have been mistaken.

    If you actually have a lovebird, feeding is much simpler. Just go to the nearest pet shop, buy a packet of budgerigar or cockatiel seed of a reputable international brand, and offer it to the bird. You can supplement this with a couple of slices of fruit each day, and that will be all. Plus of course fresh water and a piece of cuttlefish bone to nibble on.

  10. Lee Chiu San

    About nectar feeding birds. I forgot to add that feeding nectar is messy, and it goes rancid very quickly in our tropical weather. Feeding containers have to be removed and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day. The birds also splatter the mixture and wipe their beaks on perches and the bars of the cage. All my lories and lorikeets used to be housed in outdoor aviaries which were hosed down daily.

    If Geam Liang does not think the bird will survive if released, I really hope that it is a case of mistaken identity, and that you have a lovebird, rather than a blue-crowned hanging parrot. In our part of the world, all available lovebirds are domestically bred, take to captivity readily, and are easy to feed with commercially available seed mixtures. Yes, and being domestic pets, they would not survive if released.

  11. Geam Liang

    Thank you Chiu San for your inputs. Thus far, bananas and papayas work well. I’m not sure why it did not take to grapes – will try again. Am I supposed to peel it? I didn’t the last time, basically skewered a couple of grapes to a satay stick and positioned it as I did for the sliced and skinned papaya and peeled bananas.
    I have yet to try rice and certainly not nectar but will try out your concoction – have half a mind to go to a pet shop to see if they carry nectar for birds. The ice-cube freeze method is a good one, will try that. I might be mistaken on the sunflower seeds… not touched but it did eat the much smaller roundish, mixed colored seeds. Will remove the sunflower seeds.
    I’m sure it’s a female blue crowned hanging parrot.. it sleeps like a bat every night.

  12. Lee Chiu San

    When feeding local birds which are unfamiliar with imported fruits such as grapes, it helps to split the fruits to expose the edible parts. As to your remark that the bird sleeps hanging upside down like a bat, yes, that is the way blue-crowned hanging parrots sleep.

  13. Geam Liang

    Thanks… I need to think like a bird – yup. She has probably not seen a grape much less know that it’s edible, unless the previous owner has fed her with grapes… even then… Today she’s done pretty well making the most of the banana and all of the papaya plus quite a bit of seeds. Will try the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup.
    Will regular honey do instead of rose syrup?

  14. Lee Chiu San

    About making nectar to feed birds. Most aviculturalists do not use honey for two reasons: 1. It is expensive and does not seem to give any added benefits. 2. Honey is made by bees, and the composition varies wildly. Some honeys are also known to cause fungal infection in birds.

    If you do not want to buy a huge bottle of rose syrup just for one tiny bird, there are cheaper alternatives. The first is plain table sugar, though most don’t seem to like it very much.

    What many birds will accept quite readily as a sweetener is condensed milk – the type with sugar that coffee shop owners use.

    Many, many birds have a sweet tooth (or should I say sweet beak?) Besides the usual suspects of lories, lorikeets, sunbirds and hummingbirds, for whom it is an essential part of the diet, nectar mixture is readily consumed by mynahs, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, barbets, doves, parrots of all kinds, and a whole host of other species.

  15. Geam Liang

    I tried the condensed mild, placed in in a small bottle cap.. only the ants showed interest. Am I supposed to dilute it? I didn’t =( I took you advice and refrained from honey. Have yet to find Rose Syrup from the shelves of TESCO… will try to mix the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup/sugar syrup this week…

  16. David Thackray

    Can anyone help me identify a bird I saw in Singapore last week. Size of a smakll dove or thrush. Dark metallic back. Grey breast with red throat, chest.

  17. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers

  18. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers.

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

    One of best souce for the bird watcher’s enjoying knowledge about ornithology

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

    I am a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at a University in Switzerland and I urgently need to get in touch with photographer Chan Yoke Meng, who takes beautiful photographs of birds near Singapore. Would you please mail me the email address of this photographer!


  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

    Trust this email finds you well. We chance upon your photograph on your website and found the amazing image of the Laced Woodpecker and durians. We would like to explore the possibility of getting permission to use them for a new Bird Park in Singapore.

    Spacelogic is a company based in Singapore and we have been contracted by Mandai Park Development to carry out design and build works relating to the exhibition interpretive displays in this new Bird Park.

    Some background of the new Mandai Bird Park project; it will build upon the legacy of the Jurong Bird Park – by retaining and building upon a world-reference bird collection and creating a place of colour and joy for all visitors. The new Bird Park will have a world-reference ornithological collection displayed in a highly immersive way with large walk-through habitats. To enhance visitors’ experience with storyline and narrative of the bird park, transition spaces are added to display exhibits that provide a varied type of fun, intuitive, interactive and educational experiences for all visitors. One of the habitats features the Laced Woodpecker on a flora panel It is in this flora panel that we are seeking your permission to feature the Laced Woodpecker. We are looking to use the first image on the link here.
    Link can be found here:

    We would like to ask if this is something that we can explore further and if yes, how can we go about with putting through a formal permission request. Thank you so much for considering our request and we look forward to hearing from you.

    Warmest Regards,
    Wee Ming
    SPACElogic Pte Ltd

Leave a Reply to Lee Chiu San Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.