Sunday, May 28, 2017

Singapore Strait 06May17

From JS
Facing stormy weather from the west, we headed out into the Straits of Singapore. Unlike last Saturday's outing, we had a mission to find a Swinhoe's Storm-petrel for Subaraj's client. Of course, the mission is only binding to Subaraj. We were just interested to find any birds that are passing through our waters.

We had a great start when Frank spotted an all-dark bird flying in the distance. Photos captured revealed a Short-tailed/Sooty Shearwater.

Next, we saw feeding Little Terns everywhere we go.

Just when things was starting to get quiet, we spotted four dark blobs on the water aka sitting ducks. It must a relief for Subaraj when the birds turned out to be Swinhoe's Storm-petrels. Great! A new tick for the diehard birder. Honestly, Singapore's waters are really good for this species - much to the boredom of the residents... Nevertheless, we have learnt to find joy in the subtle behaviors and one individual even went to the extent of feeding right before our eyes. It was tiptoeing on the water as it repeatedly bowed its head to scavenge floating "food". Alas, its "food" was the plastic waste strewn all over the waters. *:(( crying

Besides the four storm-petrels, we encountered a further dozen more and another single Short-tailed Shearwater.

That was the end of the five minutes of excitement. We floated around for another two hours without any notable sightings. Again, when things had gotten too quiet, eight terns flew passed our boat, heading westwards. Frank got a bit skeptical about their preliminary identity, Bridled Terns. Thanks to his skepticism, we found two greyer individuals among the eight and they were Common Terns of the longipennis race in breeding plumage, sporting an all-black cap and white tail streamers. Lovely!

Since it was past noon, we decided to head home. Facing St John's island, we spotted another all-dark bird, gliding above the surface of the water. The flight was rather slow with more gliding than flapping. My preliminary id of the bird was Short-Tailed Shearwater while Frank was leaning towards a Storm-Petrel. We were both wrong. It was none other than the area's third sighting of the Bulwer's Petrel.

The appearance of the Bulwer's Petrel brought life to the boat. Yes, the bird has been seen a week ago. But, who would believe that a pelagic bird would linger for a week? The id of the bird was cast in stone and the only questions in our heads were "was it in Singapore's waters?" and "are Bulwer's Petrels passing through our waters regularly?" Such trivial questions make the aftermath of seeing a bird more fun. The experience lingers longer when there is some reflection. Amazingly, the Bulwer's Petrel, a bird not recorded in our last couple of dozens of boat trips, was to be our last bird of this memorable trip. What a great closure!

  1. Bulwer's Petrel (Bulweria bulwerii) 1
  2. Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris) 1
  3. Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna grisea/tenuirostris) 1
  4. Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma monorhis) 14
  5. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) 4
  6. White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) 1
  7. Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) 2
  8. Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) 6
  9. Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) 31
  10. Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) 3
  11. Common Tern (longipennis) (Sterna hirundo longipennis) 2
  12. Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis) 7
  13. tern sp. (Sterninae sp.) 10
  14. swiftlet sp. (Aerodramus sp.) 10
  15. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 1

Singapore Strait 29Apr17

From JS
On 29 April 2017, we joined the pelagic trip (2x boats) organised by See Toh and Francis. Straits of Singapore is probably one of the last few frontiers for birdwatching in Singapore. There are still a lot of knowledge to discover concerning the movement of seabirds through this part of the world. With a bit of fortuity, a vagrant may appear - which is the case in other waters of the world. For birdwatchers seeking an additional tick for their Singapore list, the Straits of Singapore is the place to explore.

Setting off at 7am from Sister's islands where we had just cleared customs, we headed eastwards towards Horsburgh Lighthouse, our key destination for the day. For the first one and a half hour, we saw nothing. The weather was not favorable with dark clouds before us. Our first bird was a pair of Little Terns. Following which, we encountered an Arctic Skua in the distant. Thereafter, it was just Bridled Terns and Short-Tailed Shearwaters capturing our attention. To think that a couple of years ago, the latter was not even recorded and our count has exceeded 10 by the time we had reached Horsburgh Lighthouse!!!

Bridled Terns

Short-tailed Shearwaters

At Horsburgh Lighthouse, I was honored to finally record the Black-Nest Swiftlet for my Singapore list. To do so, I had to spot the birds on the black nest built below the window ledge of the buildings on the outcrop. Tough work!

Another interesting sighting at the lighthouse was a pod of three Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphins including one calf. To demonstrate our delight for the sighting, we actually spent additionally time circling the outcrop two times in search of them. Alas, they did not show again...

Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphin

Heading back, we stayed close to the Indonesian side of the International waters. This rewarded us with further sightings of Short-Tailed Shearwaters, Bridled Terns, three White-Winged Terns (including one individual moulting to breeding plumage) and an Aleutian Tern in breeding plumage. Great sightings, especially the birds in breeding plumages.

White-winged Tern

Aleutian Tern

Hoping to find something different, we checked the yellow buoys off the coastline of Indonesia and found resting Lesser Crested Terns, a new bird for the trip.

Just as we were leaving the last buoy to head back to Singapore, we saw an all-dark bird gliding at the surface of the waters. The flight of the bird resembled that of the Shearwaters. Thus, I was too quick to identify it as just another "Short-Tailed Shearwater". Thankfully, See Toh was quick to point out something unusual about the bird - it had pale upperwing coverts. This was no shearwater, it was a passing Bulwer's Petrel!!! Out of our excitement, we actually made a U-turn and attempted to look for the bird. The bird was probably long gone by then but we just wanted so much to re-find it. The significance of the sighting was simply the bird has yet to be recorded in our Singapore checklist. Any sighting of the species could mean a step closer to its inclusion...

Bulwer's Petrel

After seeing 10 species of seabirds, including a potentially new species for the Singapore checklist, all the participants were in fine spirit. All of us would like the birds to come closer to our boats but as with any pelagic outings, nothing is certain. The potential of finding new birds or the risk of going home empty handed makes pelagic outings so interesting. With eagerness, we await our next pelagic adventure...

  1. Bulwer's Petrel (Bulweria bulwerii) 1
  2. Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris) 27
  3. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) 1
  4. Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) 1
  5. White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) 1
  6. Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) 2
  7. Long-tailed Skua (Stercorarius longicaudus) 2 - Species only seen by participants on another boat
  8. Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) 26
  9. Aleutian Tern (Onychoprion aleuticus) 2
  10. Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) 2
  11. White-winged Black Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) 3
  12. Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) 4
  13. Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis) 22
  14. tern sp. (Sterninae sp.) 36
  15. Black-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus maximus) 100
  16. Pacific Swift (Apus pacificus) 4
  17. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 3
  18. Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) 10

Pacific Swift

Dalat, Cat Tien 15-21Apr17

From Con

Nam Cat Tien National Park, Dong Nai, VN:

  1. 2 Scaly-breasted Partridge
  2. 1 Germain's Peacock-Pheasant
  3. 1 Asian Barred Owlet
  4. 1 Orange-breasted Trogon
  5. 1 Banded Kingfisher
  6. 2 Bar-bellied Pitta
  7. 1 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo
  8. 1 Stripe-throated Bulbul
  9. 2 Abbott's Babbler
  10. 1 White-rumped Shama
  11. 1 Tickell's Blue Flycatcher

Deo Nui San pass, Lam Dong, VN:

  1. 1 Speckled Piculet
  2. 2 Long-tailed Broadbill
  3. 2 Blue-rumped Pitta
  4. 1 Large Woodshrike
  5. 1 Maroon Oriole
  6. 1 Green-backed Tit
  7. 1 Black-throated Tit
  8. 1 Flavescent Bulbul
  9. 2 Black Bulbul
  10. 1 Ashy Bulbul
  11. 2 Black-headed Parrotbill
  12. 1 Vietnamese Cutia
  13. 1 Siberian Blue Robin
  14. 1 Black-throated Sunbird
  15. 2 Vietnamese Greenfinch

Dalat Plateau, Lam Dong, VN:

  1. 4 Hodgson's Frogmouth
  2. 1 Indochinese Barbet
  3. 1 Dalat Shrike-Babbler
  4. 1 Orange-breasted Laughingthrush
  5. 2 White-cheeked Laughingthrush
  6. 2 Collared Laughingthrush
  7. 1 Large Niltava
  8. 1 White-tailed Robin
Images at:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bekok 15Apr17

From JS

On 15th Apr, we went to check out the birding site at Bekok. This is the site where photographers had taken images of the Black-and-Red Broadbill nesting, the Rufous Piculet nesting, the friendly Horsfield's Babblers, the impressive Brown Wood Owl and the charismatic Crested Jays and shared extensively on FB. There was favorable feedback from birdwatchers as well. Although we have seen these birds previously, they are still a sight to behold.

After navigating through the towns and oil palm estates at pre-dawn, we arrived at the entrance to Bekok at dawn. We were late, considering that the photographers were already waiting in position with their gears. Since our focus was to check out the site, we decided to start from inside and bird to the entrance.

Unfortunately, we didn't follow the plan. Instead, we stopped where the stream crossed under the tarmac. The first bird that we saw was a flock of Cinerous Bulbuls. It has been a while since our last sighting of them when the species had a mass migration southwards one season ago.

Next, we stopped at a spot where we heard a calling Striped Wren-Babbler. It did not show. Nevertheless, at the same spot, we saw the reunion of a pair of calling Black-Capped Babblers. They were calling persistently before one individual (maybe the female) made the frantic flight across the tarmac road to reach the other. Wow!

As we made our way to the waterfall, we heard a familiar high-pitch whistle. It was from a Rufous-Chested Flycatcher. However, it took a while to show.

During which time, we were entertained by a pair of the charismatic Crested Jays.

Thereafter, we spotted the gorgeous male Rufous-Chested Flycatcher flicking its tail and singing its high-pitch whistle. What a sight!

Since we had such great encounters with some scarce forest denizens, we decided to check out the activities of the photographers. Gathering below the nest, the photographers were waiting for the nearby adult Black-and-Red Broadbills to return to the nest. Yet, on a tree facing the nest, one of the birds watched nervously with twigs in its bill. Honestly, this was not a good sign.

Losing interest on the activities of the photographers, we returned to our plan and bird all the way to the entrance. The distance of 2km was too short in our opinion to have sufficient bird activities to last the whole morning. Nevertheless, we enjoyed sightings of our first Grey-Throated Babbler (a species more commonly associated with mountain slopes) in Johor. The bird was seen at the same spot as where we heard the Striped Wren-Babbler earlier. It gave a call that we could not recognise initially. Thankfully, we managed to mimic a bit of the call and the bird came forward. The white moustachial spot, white brow, streaky crown and grey throat was diagnostic and instantly, we knew what it was - the Grey-Throated Babbler. Very interesting!

Having already seen some good forest birds and a new bird for our Johor list, it seems like our visit was meaningful even if we had more than two hours to noon. We tried to find more birds but the efforts did not reward. I had flushed a big, dark brown, short-tailed bird at the swamp by the entrance. However, the lack of access into the forest meant that we could not spend more time with this unknown bird.

Definitely, the site has some potential given its connectivity to Endau Rompin but with only 2km of tarmac road to bird, it feels like there are more limitations than potential. Regardless, we did see some scarce forest denizens and if they are worthwhile to see, a trip to Bekok would do no harm to the chance of seeing them.

  1. Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) h
  2. Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela) 1
  3. Raffles's Malkoha (Rhinortha chlorophaea) h
  4. Violet Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus) h
  5. Banded Bay Cuckoo (Cacomantis sonneratii) h
  6. Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris) 1
  7. Malaysian Hawk-Cuckoo (Hierococcyx fugax) h
  8. Brown-backed Needletail (Hirundapus giganteus) 10
  9. swiftlet sp. (Collocalia/Aerodramus sp.) 30
  10. Grey-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis) 5
  11. Rufous-backed Dwarf-Kingfisher (Ceyx rufidorsa) h
  12. Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo pulchella) h
  13. Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis) 1
  14. Crimson-winged Woodpecker (Picus puniceus) 1
  15. Maroon Woodpecker (Blythipicus rubiginosus) h
  16. Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot (Loriculus galgulus) 1
  17. Black-and-red Broadbill (Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos) 2
  18. Banded Broadbill (Eurylaimus javanicus) h
  19. Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) h
  20. Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike (Hemipus hirundinaceus) 2
  21. minivet sp. (Pericrocotus sp.) 5
  22. Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) 1
  23. White-bellied Erpornis (Erpornis zantholeuca) 5
  24. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) 2
  25. Crested Jay (Platylophus galericulatus) 2
  26. Black Magpie (Platysmurus leucopterus) h
  27. Slender-billed Crow (Corvus enca) h
  28. Cream-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus simplex) 1
  29. Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus) 2
  30. Grey-cheeked Bulbul (Alophoixus bres) 3
  31. Ashy Bulbul (Hemixos flavala) 5
  32. Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis) 1
  33. Common Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) h
  34. Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis) 2
  35. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird (Orthotomus sericeus) h
  36. Pin-striped Tit-Babbler (Mixornis gularis) h
  37. Fluffy-backed Tit-Babbler (Macronus ptilosus) h
  38. Rufous-fronted Babbler (Cyanoderma rufifrons) h
  39. Chestnut-rumped Babbler (Stachyris maculata) h
  40. Grey-throated Babbler (Stachyris nigriceps) 1
  41. Sooty-capped Babbler (Malacopteron affine) 3
  42. Scaly-crowned Babbler (Malacopteron cinereum) h
  43. Rufous-crowned Babbler (Malacopteron magnum) 1
  44. Black-capped Babbler (Pellorneum capistratum) 2
  45. Short-tailed Babbler (Pellorneum malaccense) h
  46. Striped Wren-Babbler (Kenopia striata) h
  47. Brown Fulvetta (Alcippe brunneicauda) 2
  48. Oriental Magpie-Robin (Copsychus saularis) 2
  49. White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) h
  50. Pale Blue-Flycatcher (Cyornis unicolor) 2
  51. Rufous-chested Flycatcher (Ficedula dumetoria) 2
  52. Common Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa) h
  53. Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati) 2
  54. Blue-winged Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis) 8
  55. Grey-breasted Spiderhunter (Arachnothera modesta) 1
  56. spiderhunter sp. (Arachnothera sp.) 4

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Kranji Marsh, Hindhede 14Apr17

From KH

Today, Con, Danny and I went to Kranji Marsh.

Some of the resident cuckoos were very vocal: Rusty-breasted, Banded Bay, Violet. The Blue-eared Kingfisher was still around.

Female Blue-crowned Hanging-parrot hanging around

Male Pink-necked Green-pigeon enjoying the morning sun

One of the resident pair of Large-billed Crow checking me out

A Blue-winged Pitta called briefly. Will it stay to breed?

A Yellow Bittern was still hiding in the reeds.

Same tree, different perch. Left: Brown Shrike, right: Yellow-vented Bulbul

A Japanese Sparrowhawk was heading north.

Riding the thermals high up

The resident Black-winged Kite was friendlier.

After lunch, Danny and I went to Hindhede to look for the Sunda Scops-owl family, and Danny found the 2 fledglings!

You can't see my sibling just beside me!

The other interesting sighting here was a family of Straw-headed Bulbuls feeding their fledgling.

Feed me, feed me!

Colugo:"Whatcha looking at?!"