Singapore Strait 06May17
From JSFacing 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!
- Bulwer's Petrel (Bulweria bulwerii) 1
- Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris) 1
- Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna grisea/tenuirostris) 1
- Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma monorhis) 14
- Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) 4
- White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) 1
- Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) 2
- Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) 6
- Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) 31
- Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) 3
- Common Tern (longipennis) (Sterna hirundo longipennis) 2
- Lesser Crested Tern (Thalasseus bengalensis) 7
- tern sp. (Sterninae sp.) 10
- swiftlet sp. (Aerodramus sp.) 10
- Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 1