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.

Birding @ Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Before coming to Lamma Island, i did some quick search on the birds available there and was excited enough to rent a 18 mm – 300 mm lens to cover the whole spectrum from landscape to birds. 300 mm isn’t really good enough for birdings but I guess I have to compromise. The first thing on our approach to the island that we saw was the numerous Black Kite in the sky. That got me all excited and I pull out the camera notwithstanding that we were in a rubber dinghy in the middle of the sea. Silly me. 

On landing, as we walked towards our apartment, the ladies spotted a bird in one of the bush. By the time I turned around it was gone. But that was the sign of more good things to come. After checking in, I got out the camera and walked around. Many bird calls but nothing that I can shoot. And it was getting dark. Blimey! But still I managed to shoot some Chinese Bulbuls on the beach and of course the Black Kites but nothing usable though.

Early next morning before setting off for breakfast, I got my first shot. Again with low light and the birdie so far away, it wasn’t a great shot but it was in birding speak, a lifer for me. A pair of White Wagtail! 

White Wagtail

This was taken from the patio of our apartment and heavily cropped. But this was the first of many lifers to come for the rest of the day.

Another bird on the beach was this black and white bird. Looked like a crow. In fact it was standing next to a crow. Discovered later that it is really a crow but a Collared Crow,  a species that I have not heard anyone mentioned as being sighted in Singapore.

Collared Crow

Walking towards Yung Shun Wan village,  we got our 2nd bird or should I say birds. This was the beautiful Red Whiskered Bulbul.

Red Whiskered Bulbul

This was probably the 2nd most abundant bird on the island beside the Black Kite. They were everywhere and after getting over the initial excitement, I had to tell the ladies that I got enough of this bid and not to point out to me! Sadly it is not the same in Singapore where the birds are now so rare drove to almost extinction by the pet trade.

Next was a more common familiar looking bird which I could positively identify as a Drongo. Another lifer!

Black Drongo

Next we spotted another common bird in Singapore.  The Oriental Magpipe Robin. It always a pleasure to see this beautiful bird.

Oriental Magpie Robin

At Yung Shun Wan village, despite the built up area, there were more birds among which was the most common bird in Hong Kong, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

At the Pier, there was a lone Little Egret

Little Egret

But what got me more excited was another lifer for me a pair of Pacific Reef Egret. 

Pacific Reef Egret

Apparently this piece of rock is its favourite perch for fishing cos there are many photos on the web of the same bird on the same rock!

On the way back from breakfast, and walking along the Family Trail, there was this bird which I managed to later identify as a Black Collared Starling. Another lifer!

Black Collared Starling

And then managed to see another Chinese Bulbul at much closer range compared to those on the beach.

Chinese Bulbul

Did saw another bird in the forest but it was too dark to have a proper shot. I think it is a Grey Backed Thrush though.

Grey Backed Thrush

Thereafter, it was pretty much either the Sparrow or the Red Whiskered Bulbul and of course the Black Kite up in the sky. Until we reached the other pier at Sok Kwu Wan. I was hoping to see a Red Throated Diver which has been reported sighted there but no idea. Instead I saw some myna on the boat. I was rather surprised since my understanding is that myna are mostly land birds. I ws sure they were myna though. They look alike and yet there was something different. Turned out I was right. These are Crested Mynas. 

Crested Myna

That was the last of the Lifers for me. Spotted more Red Whiskered Bulbul, Oriental Magpipe Robin and Spotted Dove and of course the Black Kite. Up to these points, I still haven’t got any decent shot of the Black Kite as they were mostly too high up. But as we climbed higher and higher on our way back, I finally managed to get some decent photos of them!

Black Kite

The 18 – 300 mm performed well enough to make me a happy man. I do not need crisp sharp photos suitable for joining contest or to blow up to A1 or even A3 size photos. Just good enough to take a decent photo and the 18 – 300 mm managed to did just that!