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A Report from

SINGAPORE.     15-16 OCTOBER, 1998,

Tim Earl

(This report appears with the permission of Bren McCartney of the Berkshire Birds Web-Pages - see links)

I had a two-day stop-over in Singapore on a birding trip to Australia. Because of the lack of time and my inexperience in Asia I employed a local guide Subaraj Rajathurai (Raj - e-mail: (Subaraj Rajathurai) - for one half-day and a full day's birding. His fee includes meals in local restaurants, refreshments all transport and a superb check-list for use as reference. Raj proved to be an excellent birding companion with humour and considerable knowledge to add to his extraordinary field skills. In the time available I could not have found half the sites or species without him.


A start at 6am when Raj collected me from my hotel and we went, with driver, to Changi Village for the short crossing to Pulau Ubin. We were joined by Oriental Bird Club secretary Brian Sykes at the ferry. There we explored the village area on foot, picking up flocks of long-tailed parakeets flying over, Red jungle-fowl, Common flame-back and Laced woodpeckers and a migrating Japanese Sparrowhawk. We then took to cycles, stopping to investigate bird calls, likely habitat and anything seen as we passed.

Raj's hearing is well tuned to the local calls and helped us get Straw-headed bulbul and Abbot's babbler in the dense secondary vegetation. On reaching the mangrove swamps we used tapes to try and pin down Mangrove whistler (with success) and Mangrove pitta, Pitta megarhyncha, which we did not get. This super habitat yielded a small party of birds which included Ashy and Dark-necked tailorbird, Asian paradise flycatcher, Magpie robin, Pied fantail and Brown-throated sunbird. With a little help from Brian I pulled out Common iora. A call alerted Raj to Stork-billed kingfisher and a stunning Scarlet-backed flowerpecker added to the fun. A tip-off ended the morning with a migrant and most obliging Ruddy kingfisher.

Birds seen in Pulau Ubin forest habitat:

Birds seen in Pulau Ubin mangrove habitat:


Another 6am start had us in MacRitchie Reservoir forest before day-break to get excellent views of Collared scops owl and Brown hawk-owl. It started to rain as we set off across the golf course and by the time it finished four hours later I was a little damp. However, we had picked up Greater racket-tailed drongo, Asian fairy-bluebird, Hill and Javan myna and stunning views of sparring White-bellied sea eagles and Brahminy kites. The forest edge yielded Forest wagtail, Striped tit-babbler and one of my all-time top five birds, Siberian blue robin.

MacRitchie Reservoir (forest and golf course)

Drying off, we went to Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, a magnificent piece of Singapore tourist attraction. Over brunch we were thrilled by a flock of 45 Oriental pratincoles migrating through with Himalayan swiftlets. From the hide, where we were again joined by Brian Sykes, Terek sandpipers were the top of my wader list (twitched while wringing out saturated socks) while White-fronted waterhens, a Yellow bittern and Slaty-breasted rail added nicely to the growing day-list. Broad-billed sandpipers, Limicola falcinellus, which had been seen in the morning would have been a close second but they had left for mud-flats as the tide dropped before we got there.

Once the rain stopped things started moving with Yellow-breasted prinia, Zebra and Emerald doves, Common and Rufous-tailed tailorbirds starring.

Birds seen at Sungei Buloh:

Early afternoon saw us at the Seragoon Estuary searching for Chinese egret (without success) and debating the local Whimbrels' apparent similarity with other Curlew species. lesser coucal and long-tailed shrike were in grasslands close to a river thick with White-winged terns hawking a fly hatch with Pacific and Barn swallows.

Birds seen on the Serangoon Estuary:

A visit to a sewage settling pond (which by now will have been filled in by the development work going on) produced Cinnamon bittern and White-browed crake (found by Brian and giving stonking views). Red collared doves were feeding with the local pigeons, watched by Scaly-breasted munias in nearby tall grass.

A few hundred yards away the grass habitat of long disused settling ponds were most productive with Black-headed and White-headed munias, Baya and Streaked weavers, Oriental pipit, Barred buttonquail, Pallas's grasshopper and Oriental reed warblers.

Birds seen at the old sewage ponds, Serangoon Estuary:

As the day drew to a close we stopped at Loyang Camp for brilliant performances by the following:

Our last stop was in forest near the Botanical Gardens where we had a second Ruddy kingfisher, Brown-chested jungle-flycatcher and a roosting Changeable hawk-eagle.

Birds seen in forest close to the Botanical Gardens:

Three hours later I was on an excellent British Airways flight back to London.

In total I had seen 122 species of which 70 were lifers.


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