Toa Payoh Town Park

Took a walk down memory the other day when I dropped by Toa Payoh Town Park previously known as Toa Payoh Garden. In its hey days in the seventies, it was probably the 2nd most popular place in Singapore for wedding photos after the Botanic Garden. Now it is a shadow of its past mostly deserted and frequented only by exercise enthusiasts on weekend morning and Myanmar maids.

Toa Payoh Park is a smallish 4.8 hectares park dominated by a pond with beautiful overhanging willow trees.

Time seems to stand still here. Practically all the iconic landmarks are still there. Good thing is looking at the paintwork, it appear that there has been regular maintenance and everything seems relatively well maintained. 

The restaurant is still there but now it is the famous Oasis Porridge restaurant that used to be at the old Kallang Lesiuredome.

One interesting thing about Toa Park Park is that despite having a small little pond, it has multiple bridges like this nice zig zag bridge

And a similar design but straight bridge

More unique is this stone bridge reminiscent of those traditional Chinese bridge in China

The most famous of all landmark is of course the 25 metre high Observation Tower. There are only 2 other similar towers in all of Singapore – the more famous Rocket Tower at Upper Seletar Reservoir, and the gigantic one at Jurong Hill. Unfortunately the tower is now locked and the public are not allowed to go up to the top for the view not that there is much of a view. A better view can be obtained from the Toa Payoh Hub and other HDB flats around the area.

The tower was given conservation status in 2009 so which means the park is probably going to be there for a long long time to come. Nice little place but probably have outlived its purpose.

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 →

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.

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. 

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.