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

Continue Reading →

Butterfly at Fraser’s Hill

Actually for my first oversea birding trip, I was just as excited that I can get to see butterflies and moths in addition to birds especially after reading posts from Butterfly Circle and others about the varieties there.  But the initial excitement quickly turned into disappointment when I didn’t spot that many butterflies as I thought will be able to.

Our first stop of the day after we reached Fraser’s Hill was the Jeriau Waterfall. I was hoping to see puddling butterflies along the banks but alas there wasn’t any, even though I walked up and down the length of the place many times. Perhaps the heavy dawn rain was the reason? I did see a few butterflies flying around – mainly Yellows and one or 2 Black/Blue butterflies but they were flying too fast for me to take any photos. Eventually we left the place around 11 am after the rest of the group gave up their quest for the Silver Breasted Broadbill. 

After lunch, the group went to a road junction for the Slaty Backed Forktail. And it was here that I finally got my first butterfly. Between trying to make sure I do not miss the birds and the butterfly, I had a hard time doing the balancing act but finally the egg was broken!

I think this is a Magpie Crow butterfly. There were a couple of them flying around near a small shelter and they were very skittish but eventually one landed on the ground just in front of me and I blasted away before it flew off. Incidentally, as this was a birding trip, I had only brought along a long lens certainly not very suitable for butterflies and other insects so all the photos are zoomed in from pretty far and crop to size for display purposes.

After check in, we went to the “Jelai Resort” which looks like a haunted house. But the butterfly hunt was looking up. There were a few flying around and eventually one settled long enough for me to take a decent shot. 

This is a Common 3 Ring if I am not wrong but it looks like the wings are pretty tattered.  I managed to snag another one later but it was in just as bad shape or maybe they are the same butterfly?

So day 1 ended with a big success for birds but not butterfly. The score was better for moths though but that will be for another post.

Next morning, we went back to Jeriau Waterfall. The group didn’t want to give up on the hunt for the Silver Breasted Broadbill and I was still hoping for more butterfly. Unfortunately again no puddling but there were a number of butterflies flying around. I managed some shots of them, most of them not very good photos though before I managed a slightly decent photo of a Grass Yellow.

I saw more of the black blue butterfly which I confirmed later to be Bluebottle but there is this other Black butterfly with a blue patch diagonally on its upper side which stopped briefing on one of the railings before it flew away. It came back later but all I managed to shoot was the lower side which was dull brown.

As far as I can cross reference from the Checklist at Butterfly Circle, this is a Horsfield’s Baron.  

I did see another butterfly. A Sergeant! And it was on the long lens of one of the group member. From where I was, I could only managed this awkward shot. 

And then on our way out, I finally got what I came for. Puddling butterflies! And at the carpark of all the place and not at the river bank. There were at least 4 species of butterfly including the beautiful Bluebottle.

There were also several Yellow coloured butterflies. 

Let me try and ID them: L-R Lesser Gull, Chocolate Albatross and Yellow Glassy Tiger (some expert reading this please correct me if I am wrong). I was so happy that I squat there and shoot and shoot until a car came and drove over the spot where the butterflies were puddling scattering all of them. 

Saturday was a good day for butterfly. After lunch, walking out of the Shahzan Inn, someone spotted a butterfly on a tree and started clicking. All of us joined in and this is a beauty. Remind me of a Discus fish.

I later found out this is a Pallid Faun and usually found up high in the forest and to see one so near and at eye level! I am a very lucky man. And to round off the day, I managed to get a nice shot of a nice Common 3 Ring butterfly. No tattered wings.

And that conclude my haul of butterfly for what is my first official birding trip and unofficial butterfly/moth trip (is there a equivalent term for butterfly similar to birding?). Not alot but still considering that I am a newbie at this and doing it along while the rest shoot birds, I am very satisfied with the results. 

Fort Canning Park

Most major cities in the world has a park in the city.  Singapore has several but actually most of them are like giant garden with its manicured lawn, sculptures, nicely trimmed hedges and small puny little trees and shrubs. The only place that come close to being a park in the city is the Fort Canning Hill Park. This is a 18 hectare park situated on a hill overlooking the Singapore River with a very interesting history so interesting that the Heritage Board or whatever authorities had an archaeological dig there and part of the dig site has been left for visitors to view.

In the old days, Fort Canning was also known as the Forbidden Hill where in the early days the Malay rulers were supposingly buried there.  Hence the place became a sacred hill. Even till today, there is a shrine or Keramat of one such ruler, Iskandar Shah.

Interestingly beside the Keramat which is Malay in nature, there is another cemetery on Fort Canning and this one belongs to the European. 

When Sir Stamford Raffles came to Singapore, he set up his base at Fort Canning and Fort Canning became Government Hill and all things associated with the earlier colonial rulers including cemetary sprung up there. In the later year, the British set up a fort there to “defend” against the Japanese. And because it is a fort, naturally there are bunkers Continue Reading →

Night Herp Walk

Went for another night herp walk. The first one was this.

This time round with more knowledge gleaned from the previous walk and some other training in between, thought I have a better shot of seeing some snakes and other reptiles. But sadly despite Singapore having more than 60 species of snakes, we didn’t spot any at all. How disappointing! The other groups did saw a python, a Oriental Whip Snake and a Paradise Tree Snake though!

Anyway, despite it being a fairly dry night, we did see quite a number of frogs and toads 

Asian Toad

Four Lined tree frog

Banded Bull frog

Beside frogs and toads, there were gecko aplenty. They were all over the place once we know where to look. Most of them ran away when we shine our torches on them and armed only with a basic camera without any flash or diffuser, most of the photos of the geckos didn’t turn up well just like this one with a moth in its mouth.

Spiny Tailed Gecko

The highlight of the walk was seeing this big lizard – the Tokay Gecko. Never knew we got such big gecko in Singapore. We saw 3, with the first being almost 1 foot long. These 2 are smaller. 

Tokay Gecko

Tokay Gecko

Interesting time. Now looking forward to the next walk.

 

 

 

 

Windsor Nature Park

Singapore opens another “nature” park – the Windsor Nature Park which is actually what to me used to me part of the MacRitchie Reservoir entering from the Venus Road side. And naturally knowing how authorities’ fixation on clean and neat, what used to be a nice semi-wild trail is now very sadly sanitised.

Like this broadwalk here. Previously it was just a nice trail with railings at the side to prevent people from encroaching into one of the few remaining natural stream left in Singapore. Now there is this nice broadwalk. Oh well, I suppose if it helps to keep the people from trampling all over.

The stream that goes into the forest. When the kids were younger and I was not into this nature protection thingy, we came here to catch the little longkang fish like guppy, mosquitoes fish, cichlids and the occasional barbs. Nowadays, activities like that are forbidden and carry a heavy fine which is good as we need to protect the little bit of nature that we have left although I must said most of the fishes there nowadays are not “local”. 

In addition to the broadwalk from the Venus Road carpark where there is now a Visitor Centre and a toilet, there is another new broadwalk, the Drongo Trail running almost parallel with the old trail adjacent to the SICC road. This broadwalk is above ground level and allow visitors to see at least the mid level of the trees and its inhabitants. This will leads to MacRitchie Reservoir.

From Venus Road entrance, there is another trail called Venus Walk but this is a cemented path and leads to the Windsor housing estate. It does look very nice though and very “runnable” hahaha.

Fortunately, my favourite part of this trail which is now officially known as Venus Loop has been left largely untouched and there is still this beautiful canopy tunnel as well as the winding trails for me to run through.

Overall I must admit Nparks have done a good job of striking a nice balance between keeping the place as natural as possible and yet protecting the environment. The expected popular area have been reinforced with the broadwalk and most of the trees and plants appear to be left untouched.

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.