Birds at Fraser’s Hill

After butterfly and moth, finally get around writing about the real purpose of the trip to Fraser’s Hill – the birds. This was a birding trip after all.

We reached Fraser’s Hill early in the morning. It was raining and we waited at Punchak Inn for the rain to stop. But that didn’t stop some in the groups from dashing out to take photos when they heard bird calls from around the car park area. Think those were Laughing Thrush and a Green Magpie. After the rain, we made our way to our first birding stop of the trip, the Jeriau Waterfall. Seems like there is a Silver Breasted Broadbill spot in the area. We went all the way in to the end and indeed the guys quickly spotted it. Everybody, including M got a shot of it before it flew off. Everybody except me. [sad] I was looking around for butterfly instead! But as a consolation, I managed to shoot a Slaty backed Forktail while the rest were waiting for the Silver Breasted Broadbill to return. Which it did not. And after a long long futile wait, we finally decided to leave and go on to the next site.

Next site is a road near to Bishop Trail. Apparently the birds here are so used to human that they will just appear. It seems photographers have been feeding them or baiting in the industry lingo and the birds appear whenever human turn up. And boy, did they turn up. A Spectacled Laughing Thrush was the first one to appear. This was followed by a few Ruofus Browed Flycatcher. Cute little bird.

Rufous Browed Flycatcher

Next was a Niltava but I missed that as I was walking around with M, looking for monkeys and butterflies. M spotted a Mountain Bulbul though, a fairly common bird in the area.

Mountain Bulbul

Going back to the main birding area which was actually a drain culvert, I managed to shoot a White tailed Robin. Beautiful blue Robin. At least very different from the very common Magpie Robin.

White Tailed Robin

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Kranji Marshes – the Conservation Area

I been trying to get to the Conservation area of Kranji Marshes since my last visit to Kranji Marshes in June last year. But because Nparks only allow for guided tours and that only once a month, I have not been successful in getting there until last weekend. Nature Society Singapore in conjunction with Nparks was conducting guided tour and I was lucky enough to secure a place. Turned out it was the last guided tour for this period and the next one will only be held towards the end of the year! Whew!

We started our guided tour from Sungei Buloh Wetland Extension and were brought straight to the back gate of Kranji Marshes at Turut Track saving us the 1 km+ walk in from the Visitor Centre.

Once inside the gate, immediately I saw 2 birds on a palm tree. Turned out to be a Spotted Dove and a Green Pigeon which nobody was interested in since they are pretty common. The same birds were still there when we came back this way 2 and a half hour l

There was also a Grey Headed Fish Eagle on a perch but it flew away before anyone of us can take a photo. What a great start!

We next spotted a Purple Heron. Interestingly, that was the only Heron we spotted throughout the tour. No Grey Heron. Seems like bird of the same feather flocked together and this is Purple Heron territory and the Grey Heron knows how to stay away. 

Next  I saw a bird up high and took a snap. Turns out to be a Pink Neck Green Pigeon.

Walking along the edge of the marshes, we saw many Scaly Breasted Munia. It is just amazing how these birds can hang on to the thin reefs without bending them down with their weight.

Just a short distance away, we came upon an injured Barn Swallow lying on the floor inside one of the hides. The bird is either totally exhausted and dehydrated or is injured. Our guide decided to bring it along with him and try to save it but unfortunately it died shortly after.

Just before we reach the public area of Kranji Marshes, we saw a Lesser Coucal, or at least that what I think it is. Again it is amazing how these birds can just hang on to a few stalks of thin plants without bending it downward.

We reached the public area of Kranji Marshes. There were many Barn Swallow flying around and I tried to snap some photos. Nothing came out well. They were too fast, too far and too tiny.

Didn’t see many birds here although we certainly heard many. As we were walking back to the coach, we were treated to an aerial duel between a Brahminy Kite and a Crow. The audacity of the crow trying to attack the much bigger Kite!

The next bird we saw was outside the fence but it was a beautiful Long Tailed Shrike which apparently is a resident bird.

Just before we reach the exit, we were treated to the sight of a big group of Lesser Whistling Duck and Red Wattled Lapwing. Unfortunately they were on the far bank of the marshes and all i could manage with my puny little lens was this heavily cropped blurry shot.

I saw a Sunbird. Think it is a Olive Backed Sunbird, more Purple Heron and a Stork Billed Kingfisher.

And just before we board the bus, we got a final treat. A very rare Black Capped Kingfisher. Unfortunately this again was too far for my lens and even binocular and after cropping, all I got was this.

So it was a good trip. Our guide from NSS told us all in we spotted more than 40 species of birds although I think with my poor eyesight, I didn’t spot even half of that. And while I didn’t get to see what I was hoping for – the Moorhen, I am still pretty happy to have seen so many birds in one short morning. 

The bonus was that back at the carpark of Sungei Buloh, I saw this bird high up in one of the tree. Another very heavily cropped photo but I got a Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker!  It has been a great trip and I hope to go back there again and hopefully I get to see some more rare birds.

Singapore Garden Bird Survey

Signed up to participate in the bi-annual Singapore Bird Survey and got assigned to Changi Beach Park. Not the usual one where all the picnickers go to but the more ulu one opposite the Changi Cargo Complex.

Started at 7 plus a.m. There were 4 locations where we have to stand and observe the birds around us for 10 minutes.  The first point was a disappointment. Could hear some birds but didn’t see much. The next point further away was much better. There was a big group of mynahs and crows in a feeding frenzy over some food waste threw on the ground by humans. But the highlight was catching sight of this Common Flamed Back Woodpecker peering at itself in a car mirror.

There were a lot of mynahs and crows. Saw a few ioras, many Collared Kingfishers

Also heard and saw many parakeets which I think are the Rose Ringed Parakeets and not the more common Red Breasted Parakeet.

It has been an interesting experience and I rather enjoyed myself although I wished we could have spotted more different birds. But we did see this beautiful White Bellied Sea Eagle on our way back. 

Nature Lover or just greedy photographer?

Many times when I go on my nature jaunts and take bird photos, I have been irked many times by the irresponsible behaviour of some of the photographers. One time in Sungei Buloh, there was this guy who was playing a taped bird call that was so loud that I can hear it from 50 metres away! Another thing that irked me is when photographers go beyond the trail and venture into the forest. Not only are they causing unnecessary stress to the birds but they are also unfairly denying other photographers of a clear shot. So I was particularly happy to read this report that a photographer was fined $3800 for baiting and trespassing. Co-incidentally I think it is the same guy in my earlier blog post.

Are these people nature/bird lover or just photographer? I like to believe that if they are geniune nature lover, they will naturally know how to behave and act responsibly. In this particular case, I think these people are just photographer interested in getting that trophy photo at all cost. So to do that, they have no qualms and will bait the birds, do stuff like tie the legs of the bird to prevent it from flying and cruel thing like putting styrofoam in fish to bait birds. All for the sake of getting a photo which they can post on some Facebook page. And let face it, after all the effort, the photo is still going to be nothing and pales in comparison to those taken by professional. These photographers are a disgrace to the birding community and brings a bad name to the genuine caring nature lover and photographer. 

I hope that people in the community will speak up whenever they see fellow photographers behaving irresponsibly and unethically. And the admin of the various group like Birds, Insects N Creatures of Asia; Singapore Bird Group; Birds Sighting; Wildlife of Pasir Ris and Vicinity to name  a few, will banned these people and not allow them to post their photos on their page. Collectively, perhaps then such unethical behaviours can be monitored and stamped out.

Chinese Garden, Singapore

Surprisingly I have never really been to the Chinese Garden at Jurong. I was there a few years ago to take photo at an event but that was in the evening and I went off soon after and never did get to explore the place. 

So on a recent weekday when I had a day off, I went there to look see look see and to see if I can find any nice birds. The Chinese Garden is part of the Jurong Lake area. The Chinese Garden is supposed to be a replicate of a typical Chinese park with pagodas, water boats house and pavilion. and next to it is the Japanese Garden, another imitation of a typical Japanese garden but I didn’t have time to visit that. There is ongoing renovation work going on to upgrade the Jurong Lake so only the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden is opened to visitors although it certainly didn’t seems like looking at the hoardings all over the place.

This is the main entrance to the Chinese Garden.

There is a typical arch bridge behind it which leads to the main building, just like a Chinese Palace but instead of a palace, it house a Tortoise Museum.

In the 13 hectare garden, there are the typical Chinese structures. Typical of the kiasu Singapore to throw everything in. The highlight is the 7 storey high Pagoda.

There is also 2 smaller Pagodas next to the lake which I think look so much more nicer.

And every Chinese Garden must have a stone boat house over looking a lake.

Scattered around the garden are many pavilions, stone statues of Chinese historical people and other sculptures. 

Sadly I didn’t get to see what I wanted, which was a Chinese Pond Heron but I did get to see many garden birds and as a consolation, a Common Sandpiper.

Generally a nice place to walk around in the early morning or late evening. Rest of the time it is too darned hot.

Learning Forest @ Singapore Botanic Garden

One very annoying thing about Singapore’s tourist attractions is that there is always some ongoing renovation work. But that can also be a good thing like the renovation brings a new and fresh touch to what could otherwise be an dated place and concept. Take the Singapore Botanic Garden for instance.

In addition to developing the Bukit Timah core, and not contended to just maintain its status as an UNESCO World Heritage site, it has recently done up the Tyersall Core and opened it up as the “Learning Forest” featuring giant trees and wetland.

The 10 hectare site is built on the old regenerated forest. Looks like a big chunk of it was cleared to make way for the boardwalk and the artificial wetland but still it looks pretty good. The boardwalk is elevated about 8 metres from the ground allowing visitors to walk among the canopy and have a closer look at the life around that height. For birders, hopefully that will allow a closer look at the many birds that can be found in the garden.

The Learning Forest is divided into 5 segments, the SPH Walk of Giants, the Lowland Rainforest, Keppel Discovery Wetlands, Bambusetum, and Wild Fruit Tree Arboretum.  This is the view of the Keppel Discovery Wetlands from the top of the boardwalk.

Unfortunately it started to rain and our visit had to be curtailed. But a bonus was I managed to get a shot of the beautiful and rather rare Blue Winged Pitta just before the start of the Learning Forest trail.