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.

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.

Pheasants at the Singapore Botanic Garden

Sometime late last year, there was a big excitement for birders when a male Silver Pheasant made an appearance at the Singapore Botanic Garden. Silver Pheasant are native birds of mainland Asia and not South East Asia. So how it one appeared suddenly in the Botanic Garden.

Speculation was that it is an escapee from a private collector or the Jurong Bird Park which seems very unlikely as the bird was there for quite a long period of time and the JBP or owner could have certainly claimed it back very early on once words got out of its appearance. The mystery deepens when a female Silver Pheasant also appeared subsequently. Both birds were seen with a visible ring tag on its leg so it was definitely not a wild bird.

Subsequently, as I understand, the female Silver Pheasant was “rescued” by ACRES as it was injured and the male Silver Pheasant disappeared only to be replaced by a Lady Amherst’s Pheasant in another part of the Garden!

Now the Lady Amherst’s Pheasant is another bird found mainly in mainland Asia and definitely not Singapore or even Malaysia. So how did it get to the Botanic Garden and will we also see the appearance of its female counterpart soon?

My guess is that these 2 species of beautiful Pheasant were released in the Botanic Garden by the Jurong Bird Park and Nparks as sort of a collaboration to celebrate the Year of the Rooster. Both birds are tagged birds and appeared to be fairly tamed and not afraid of human. Fact that they are in Botanic Garden and not say areas closer to Jurong like Clementi Woods, Kent Ridge or Mt Faber or Sunview appeared to be that they were placed there deliberately. The one argument against this is the lack of a signboard promoting the collaboration which should be the norm where our normally kiasu government agencies are involved.

But if and that is a big if, this is the case – I can’t wait for the appearance of the next pheasant – maybe a Golden Pheasant?