Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell to 2010

All good things must come to an end, and the year of 2010 is no exception. We have enjoyed a great 12 months of adventures and will be looking forward to more in 2011!
We ended the year with a short trip to Genting Highlands and experienced the “winter weather”.
Dawn over Genting Highlands
We did not get much time to explore the surroundings, but did manage an early morning up near the radar station, where it was cold and windy, with the mist rolling in, which did nothing for the visibility.
Social Spiders
We heard and saw some birds including observing a Bay Woodpecker, busily excavating  a nest hole.
Bay Woodpecker

A day before our trip, we heard the loud “keek keek” call and spotted a pair of Collared Kingfishers perched on our neighbour’s roof.  We had previously seen only the White-throated Kingfisher in the same spot so we were thrilled to see another species visiting our condo.
Collared Kingfisher
On that same day on our walk to Telok Blangah Hill, we got a good view of a Brahminy Kite.
Brahminy Kite
Happy New Year

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sunbird Nest building?

Each morning a pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds visits the flowers at our balcony and we have taken many photographs of the birds.  Recently we found they were biting off the Portulaca grandiflora petals.  We thought they were eating the petals (re July 2010 post) but we noticed the petals were still on their beaks when they flew off.  Perhaps they want the “white” to decorate their nest?   When all the flowers were taken away we put down small pieces of cotton wool on the plant to see if they needed more nesting material.  Sure enough the sunbirds took a piece and came back for more and very quickly took all the cotton wool away.
On the 9th we took a walk with Alyce to check out the new “Tree Trail” on Ubin, but we side-tracked behind the Malay Kampong that led to an abandoned prawn farm in the mangroves.  It was a nice quiet spot and we took a break to eat our snack. 
Coming back  from Ubin, we decided to check out the Sengkang River Park.   We spent a bit of time looking at the newly planted fruit trees, some of which had fruits hanging on the low branches.   Hopefully visitors will leave them alone for others to see.   We had a quick look at the artificial island but as it was getting late we will need to return to check out the marsh plants.  It is a very nice park to bring the kids and lots of families were out that evening.
As there is always much to see, we now bring our camera along during our walks and here we share some of the wild life we saw recently.    
HortPark                     Forest Walk                 Bidadari 15th                  Bidadari 17th

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Feeding Time

Monday’s inter-tidal walk at Chek Jawa proceeded in light rain and the visitors were not disappointed.   As we were leaving the mudflats, this Great billed Heron took advantage of the low tide and helped itself to a rabbitfish, which proved more than a mouthful as it tried to avoid the fish’s sharp dorsal spines.   Successfully it landed on the mudflats to a nice meal.  On our way back to the mainland, we were greeted by a beautiful sunset at Ubin’s jetty, a warm close to our wet afternoon walk.While the heron worked hard for its meal, the bulbul and sunbird have a easier time feeding on plant seeds and nectar. It was also interesting to see the oriole’s skill manoeuvring the prying mantis that it had caught in order to eat it.
Link to photos               Link to photos                     Link to photos                   Link to photos

Saturday, November 27, 2010


We had a pleasant drive to Bt Tinggi and stayed a couple of days at Colmar Tropicale and while we did not get to see the Silver-breasted Broadbill we saw lots of birdlife at the Botanic Gardens and other parts of the Berjaya Hills development. The star bird must be the "resident" Blythe's Hawk-eagle that was sighted over the 3 days we were there.
Link to Photos

Friends from Houston visited on their way home from their 2-week diving trip to Manado and Sorong  in Indonesia, we took them to P. Ubin for a glimpse of Singapore as it was in the 1960’s.  It was a nice dry day and the friendly wild boars and oriental pied hornbills were out and about to the delight of Ross & Terri.  
Link to Photos
On 7th at Telok Blangah Hill, one of the NSS third Raptor Watch sites, there was a lot of cloud cover, that reduced our sightings considerably. Even though the raptors were few there were many other birds active in the vicinity.
Link to Photos
A friend mentioned he spotted the Spotted Wood Owl at the SBG so we met at the Jacob Ballas car park and were amazed to see this beautiful bird snoozing up in the tree.
Link to Photos
While many different birds have been earlier recorded feeding on the fruits of the Ficus benjamina at the Bukit Timah summit our trip on 23rd was not so fruitful as only a few bulbuls were seen picking on the few remaining figs.  However on the way up we sighted the Black-bearded Gliding Lizard and a female Colugo hugging a tree.   Nearing the summit we heard loud bird calls and found 2 White-Bellied Sea eagles on a romantic rendezvous.   Unfortunately in the heat of activity the male fell off leaving the female disappointed.
Link to Photos
On Thursday, as we were leaving Bidadari park at 8.30am we heard a few loud bird calls, looking up we saw about 4 barbets flying onto a tree,  followed by 3 larger birds that turned out to be the Oriental Pied Hornbills.  With such a good view and camera ready, we took many shots.  One of the Hornbills was trying to feed a female who did not show interest in the fig that was offered, while a 3rd bird was on another branch looking also not too interested in the male OPH.   For a few minutes the activity on this tree increased with a White Throated Kingfisher and some Yellow-Vented Bulbuls joining the congregation.   On the ground the Variable Squirrel that we had sighted earlier was busy eating.  We have not seen this species in other forest areas  that we have been and on checking we read this Variable Squirrel which is also known as Finlayson's squirrel could be escapees or released by pet owners.
Link to Photos

Sunday, November 21, 2010


was a busy month which left little time to update our blog until now. In the first week of October we were out early in the mornings helping with a bird count along the Southern Ridges and learned a bit more on bird calls and managed to capture a few images of some of these flitting birds that are commonly heard but hard to see.
Link to Photos
We made a trip to other bird spots in Tuas West and were thrilled to see a pair of Sunda Pygmy Woodpeckers and some migratory birds.
Link to Photos
On a morning walk in SBG, a Crimson Sunbird was confronting its reflection.
Link to Photos
Earlier this year we had visited the temples in Borobodur and Prambana that were built in the 9th century AD.  As we were keen to follow up with a visit to the ancient temples of Angkor we took a trip on 12th to 16th October to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh to visit the Angkor temples that were built in the 12th century AD.  While the Borobdur and Prambana temples were older, we found similarities at Angkor an example being the Ramayana stories carved into the stone blocks.   While Borobodur was built as a Buddhist temple and Prambana a Hindu temple, the Angkor temples had both Hindu and Buddhist influences as the times changed.  Of the Angkor temples uncovered, the most intact is Angkor Wat which is  the most well known.  We spent one day visiting the Angkor Thom temple complex and the Royal Enclosures where what remain are the Terrace of Elephants and the cut-off limbs of the statue that gave it the name of the Leper King. The next day we explored the famed Angkor Wat complex and also visited the Ta Prohm Temple and spent the late afternoon on the Bakheng Hill enjoying a sunset view of the Angkor Wat.  Apart from visiting the Angkor temples we also took a cruise on the lake, Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia and finished our trip with a visit to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.
Link to Photos
Back home we took part in the NSS Bird Race on Ubin where we were able to sight 25 species while others found more than 50 species in the 7-hour race.  It was tiring in the hot sun but an interesting new experience.
Link to Photos
At the end of October we drove across to Tanjong Piai with Alyce to checkout the most southern tip of mainland Asia. We found Tg Piai’s mangrove boardwalk a worthwhile location for a future trip.
Link to Photos

Monday, October 11, 2010

Inter-tidal walk – 10.10.10

On this special day we joined some 76 participants at the “Semakau Landfill” who were coming for a walk “between the tides” that would occur between 5 to 7 pm.  This afternoon we were guiding for RH who arranges the inter-tidal walks.  On arrival at the Landfill, half the group went for a presentation on the story of Semakau Landfill, a solution to manage Singapore’s solid waste taking into account of our limited land space.  The other half were taken on the buses for the landfill tour.
  At around 5 pm we were ready for the walk and the bus took us to the entrance of the forest trail to the mudflat.   Exiting the trail the view of the exposed mudflat, sea grass lagoon and reef beckoned. Everyone initially was looking down as they carefully stepped on the mud, but soon  the movements of little marine creatures caught their attention and their interest was aroused, muddy shoes forgotten. 
The many marine creatures exposed during low tide, kept the visitors busy snapping photographs or taking a closer look at the wonders of nature.  All too soon as the sun set, and the huge complex of Pulau Bukom became illuminated, we were once again reminded how close the marine life is to human’s industrial activities.   The presentation on The Semakau Landfill Story in conjunction with the inter-tidal walk, remind us of our impact on the environment and ways to protect it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fraser’s Hill, 24th-26th Sept. 2010

The CN Volunteers trip for 2010 to Fraser’s Hill was an early start with the bus moving off at 6:30am from Newton Food Centre.  After breakfast and lunch stops on the way, we reached the Gap at 3:15pm, just in time to catch the “up” traffic.  The 40-seater bus was not easy to manoeuvre round the tight bends that were built 90 years ago for much smaller vehicles. Our bus captain William made it look easy. Arriving at the iconic Clock Tower we were greeted by the bird chorus, cool air and our expert local guide Mr K. S. Durei waiting at the Shahzan Inn.  After a quick check-in, we had a briefing on our program which was to kick off with a night walk starting at 8pm. The night walk along the Hemmant trail opened our eyes to nightlife of the forest. Huge toads, a fern that glows in the dark after it has died, trapdoor spiders, and tarantulas. The following morning after breakfast we had a Birdwatching Workshop on the basics of participating in a Bird Race. After our briefing our “mini” Bird Race got underway at 10am and was to last 24 hours until 10am Sunday. Teams were formed in 2’s or 3’s, our team was ourselves and Kok Seng.  Most of us had already seen some of the more common residents, the Oriental Magpie Robin, Streaked Spiderhunter, Long-tailed Sibia and the beautiful Black-throated Sunbird. Our team started along Jln. Lady Maxwell down to Jln. Semantan and onto the Rompin Trail. While we recorded many birds, we also picked up some uninvited guests, namely leeches. Some of which were not discovered until later having lunch at The Smokehouse, when a couple were found nice and fat on the floor. After a short rest our team resumed the bird race at 4pm along Jln. Lady Guillemard and a short way on Jln. Girdle, but heavy rain cut our afternoon birding.  The rain stopped when we met for a BBQ dinner at Punchak Inn and it was followed by a presentation on nature trips at Kenong Rimba Park  by the Pahang Tourism office. Next morning after breakfast we met Kok Seng at 8am and headed for Jln Mager where we saw 3 species of Barbet near Kindersley Trail. As cut-off time was approaching we took a short cut down the trail, where Kok Seng picked up another leech but managed to dislodge it before it could start feeding. After the tally had been completed and Durei had judged everyone’s submission the results were announced.  Our team managed to make 4th place with 22 birds which was better than we had hoped for. A “new” bird was seen by Gerard’s team, a Diard’s Trogon which they photographed.  We left at noon for our long ride to Singapore, stopping for dinner at Jusco, Bukit Indah, 20 minutes from the 2nd Link. We had a great time and we thank everyone involved in organising the trip.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Birdwatching at Semakau with Dr Ho Hua Chew

Another early Sunday wake up as we met at 7:30am at West Coast Pier for a NSS birding trip to Semakau Landfill.  Dr Ho Hua Chew led the trip and we started our walk along the 7 km bund.  In the sky the  Brahminy Kite was soaring overhead, and numerous Swiftlets flying above the grasslands with Pacific Swallows and the occasional Barn Swallow. A White-breasted Waterhen scurried away, next we spotted Scaly-breasted Munias among the grasses and glimpsed the Zitting Cisticola as it "zinged" by.  The Paddyfield Pipit and the Yellow-vented Bulbul were seen as were the Spotted Doves along the walk.  On a tall tree a Black-winged Kite was perching while above a White-bellied Sea Eagle drifted in the warm air.  Nearing the re-planted mangroves, a Grey Heron accompanied by a Pacific Reef Egret were leisurly feeding, with a lone Common Sandpiper. Hua Chew explained the difference between the more stationary Reef Egret and the fast moving Chinese Egret.  An excited whisper was heard from Ee Ling when she sighted close by on the rocks of the bund a pair of Malaysian Plovers. Further in the distance we spotted 4 Wimbrels while a White-throated Kingfisher flew into the mangrove. As we neared the wet Cell 3, there were more Wimbrels and a small group of Greenshanks. We then walked into the forest trail, braving the gauntlet of the voracious mosquitoes disturbing another Brahminy Kite that had been resting in the trees at the forest edge, we also flushed an Oriental Magpie Robin which quickly disappeared back into the undergrowth.  Along the beach we heard a pair of of Brown-throated Sunbirds and stopped to take a look.  A Collared Kingfisher flew by.  As it was past noon and becoming very hot not many birds were in sight.  At this western part of Semakau island, Dr Ho pointed out the islands of Hantu, Salu, Sudong, Pawai, Senang and Raffles Lighthouse in the distance. We then finished our walk and took a welcome ride back in the waiting air-conditioned  bus.  Our boat was arriving at 12.30pm and took our group of 11 back to the West Coast Pier. Thanks to Hua Chew and everyone for a good trip.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Birding Panti Encore

After our last trip to Panti, we could not resist one more trip, as it seems there is always something new for us to see. We met up with two friends at the start of the Bunker Trail at 7am and off we went. The weather was clear and dry, perfect for a nice morning with nature. We were not disappointed as new (to us) species were seen. The Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Raffles Malkoha, Grey-bellied Bulbul and the Spectacled Spiderhunter were all new to us. So we enjoyed another good day in Panti. After lunch in Kota Tinggi it was off home, feeling well fed and a little sleepy but very satisfied with our trip.
Raffles's Malkoha (Rhinortha chlorophaea) female

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Birding with friends

Last weekend we met up with some friends at Sungei Buloh to take at look at the migratory birds. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperative as it rained most of the morning, but even so we managed to get some shots of the different shore birds that came to feed. 
Towards midday when the rain stopped we moved on to the Kranji Marsh area where we were greeted by a Black-shouldered Kite perched on a nearby tree. Walking along the track we saw a beautiful Changeable Hawk and at the reservoir's pumping station a Grey-headed Fish Eagle was balancing on a low post.
On Monday we went to Panti with the same friends for a change of scene. We were surprised but pleased to have the forest practically to ourselves. On this trip we saw some different species from our previous visits which goes to show that Panti may still have a good population of birds. The weather was good in the morning, but when we returned after lunch it changed and became quite stormy with strong winds. This was our cue to head south, and it rained very heavily on our drive home.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sri Lanka Birding Trip

Sri Lanka Blue Magpie or Ceylon Magpie (Urocissa ornata)

AUGUST 7-18 2010 - SRI LANKA BIRDING.   Last month when we were at Pulau Ubin, a chance to join a guided birding trip to Sri Lanka came our way when our friend Lioe, asked if we would like to join a birding trip that Poh Bee had planned.  As she had contacted a well known orinthologist guide it was an opportunity for us, being new to birding to experience such a "holiday".  It was with some excitement of the trip that we met Poh Bee, Lioe and Gerard at Changi airport on the night of 6th for our midnight flight.  The five of us arrived at Colombo airport on the 7th at 3.00 am, after a very comfortable flight.  We were welcomed by our orinthologist guide, Upali, and we got underway in an 8-seater air-conditioned van driven by Renga who provided us a comfortable ride for the 12 days.  It was a 3 hour ride from Colombo to Kitugala where we started our birding while waiting for breakfast.  We stayed a night then south to Sinharaja via Ratnapura, birding along the way.  At Sinharaja our stay at Blue Magpie Lodge for 3 nights was a rustic yet comfortable accommodation with excellent service from the small staff of 4.  At Sinharaja we experienced the most adventurous part of the trip, as in this wet zone, even well-covered and wearing leech socks, we found to some bemusement that some of the group had donated their blood to the leeches. In this deep forest we were able to see many species of forest birds especially during the bird feeding waves. The highlight was seeing the Frogmouth that was found deeper in the forest that required the help of a local tracker whose footwear was a pair of flip flops and holding an umbrella for the rain.  Among the many birds that we were able to sight, one of the most spectacular was also the easiest to see. This was the colourful Blue Magpie. After the effort and excitement of the morning we were also fortunate to enjoy the hospitality of a tea farmer, offerring fresh tea with our packed lunch in his garden. We were also treated to "jaggery", a local sweet that he prepares from the fishtail palm.  Leaving the wet zone and heading south to the dry zone, we arrived at Udawalawe where immediately we felt the dry dusty air.  We saw different birds, waders, raptors and also mammals and reptiles in the reserve.  In Udawalawe / Tissa we saw the Asian Paradise Fly Catcher, and at Yala National Park more shore birds.  Our next stop was the highlands of Nuwara Eliya where the cool air was a welcome relief after the hot dry weather.  Our pre-dawn visit to the Horton Plains was cut short due to the persistent rain and the birds like us were also taking shelter and hard to see.   Nevertheless, Nuwara Eliya and the Horton Plains will be worth another visit to enjoy the cool mountain air and to explore the gardens and walking trails.   Our next stop was Kandy, where we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens and a birding visit to the Udawattakele Royal Forest Sanctuary.  It happened to be the first day of a Buddhist festival, "Esala Perahera" and the streets were blocked and crowded for the evening's parade of elephants.   Our last stop was Habarana where we stayed at an eco lodge, surrounded by trees. Our room was on the upper level and we could see the birds at eye level.  The Other Corner,, was so idyllic that we both decided to enjoy our last afternoon in Sri Lanka at the lodge and forgo the last birding spot at Sigiriya, hence another reason to return to enjoy what we missed on this somewhat hectic trip. It was amazing how Upali, could whistle the differnt bird calls inviting the birds to him and his hearing and eyesight are so acute that he could warn us of the birds presence way before we were aware.  It was easy for us to see the birds with his help, the more difficult task was ID'ing the photographs we took of the more than 140 species including residents, endemics and some migratory birds seen on the trip.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Out and about enjoying the drizzle

Even though we seem to be having unusually heavy rain with associated thunder storms the last couple of weeks or so, we found during periods of light drizzle it is nice and cool to go for a walk.  Walking in one of our regular haunts at Telok Blangah Hill Park we were pleasantly surprised last Friday and today to see that we were not the only ones enjoying the drizzle. A number of birds were also out and about. Here are some shots taken Friday and today:
Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus)

Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus)
White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bukit Brown Bird Walk

Chestnut-bellied Malkoha

SUNDAY, 25 JULY 2010 - a bird walk at Bukit Brown Cemetery. When we read NSS' newsletter on this walk, it was a new place for us to discover. Even though it was 7.30am on a Sunday, some 30 other participants turned up as eager as we were to find out what birds we can see. We learned from Sutari Supardi, the leader of the walk the history of the cemetery that it was named after George Henry Brown, a shipowner who bought this 85 hectares plot in the 1840s where he had a residence on the hill. The area is located between Lornie Road and Mount Pleasant. The area was then bought in 1872 by 3 wealthy Hokkien businessmen from the same village in China, They intended the area to be set up as a village for settlement and other uses by the Ong clan. However it was unclear how it became a burial ground for the Seh-Ong clan. The hill in the area was also known as Kopi Sua (coffee hill) due to coffee plantation at Mount Pleasant. To meet the needs of a wider Chinese community for burial ground, the Municipal government acquired sections of the grounds and the cemetery became a public Chinese cemetery on 1 January 1922. Portion of the area was acquired by the LTA for alignment of Lornie Road in 1965 and some 200+ graves were exhumed. The area was further divided into two sections due to construction of the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) in the 1970s. The other cemetery is called Mount Pleasant Cemetery. In 1973 Bukit Brown Cemetery was closed for burial. Although exhumations had taken place in 1965, many of the tombs remain, as we discovered in our walk. As we walked on the paved paths circling the hill we found grand old trees covered with epiphytes high up on the branches. Coming from the foliage we heard calls of many birds among which were the Collared Kingfishers and Long-tailed parakeets almost following us as we walked. Highlight for us was sighting two Chestnut-bellied Malkohas at close range.
More Photos from Bukit Brown

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Singapore Garden Festival-2010

TUESDAY, 20 JULY 2010- While helping out on some days at SGF 2010, a biennial event, held at Suntec Convention Centre from 15 to 22 July, we took some photographs of some of the garden designs. Looking forward to SGF 2012 at the new venue, "Gardens By The Bay".
Photos from SGF 2010

Phuket Holiday

White-throated Kingfisher

MONDAY, 5 JULY 2010- PHUKET is not just about the sea and sand. This time we decided to experience something different and during our stay we spent a day birding with a local guide, Ms Games, who picked us 6.15am from our hotel lobby. Our first stop was around the Ton Sai Waterfall which is located near the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park's headquarters. We sighted the Common Iora, Greater Flameback and some flowerpeckers, moving on to Thalang area and the mangrove swamps we were treated with sights of the Lesser Coucal, Indian Roller, White Throated Kingfisher, Brahminy Kite, Pied Fantail, Striated Heron, Gerygone, Collared Kingfisher, the Greater Coucal, Red-wattled Lapwing and Cattle Egret. We saw different Bulbuls - White Vented, Yellow Vented, Red Eyed and Red Whiskered at different spots. Towards the late afternoon at the Laguna area we saw the Paddyfield Pipit, Blue-winged Pitta and Scaly Breasted Murnia. Thanks to Ms. Games from Thailand Birding for an enjoyable day.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cyrene's Gems

TUESDAY 13 JULY 2010- CYRENE REEF. Having heard a lot of Cyrene's marine life we were excited to get this opportunity to go. Even though we had to get up at 3.30 am to meet the schedule it was more than worthwhile.On landing, it was amazing to be standing almost as if in the middle of the sea surrounded by the bright lights of the nearby petro-chemical facilities. We had little time to admire the profusion of lights as we were reminded that we have only a couple of hours before the tide will reclaim the reefs.

As this was our first visit Chay Hoon took us under her wing. Looking down on the sand we were greeted by the outline of numerous sand dollars and before we could count the dollars we saw lots of Common Sea Stars. While taking photographs of the usual 5-arm stars we also saw a 4-arm and a 6-arm. While marvelling at such a lot of stars we could see a few meters further an amazing array of knobbly sea stars of various sizes, shapes and colours. As we took photographs of each knobbly we discovered each star is unique which meant we could not help but take photo after photo of every knobbly we came across. Our attention was also captured by other marine life that share the sea grass area. We saw some sea cucumbers, a flathead/crocodile fish, flatworm, a red eye purple crab, the poisonous Mosaic crab, some spiny fishes cleverly hidden in the jagged rocks. As we carefully locate the sandy parts amongst the rocky and grassy terrain to walk, we saw a beautiful long horn cow fish in a pool and later a discodoris nudibranch. There were carpet and peacock anemones and lots of zoanthids. As the dawn was breaking we switched off our headlights and made further discoveries. A few more interesting finds by Chay Hoon were the cushion stars and the star of our trip - the pentaceraster sea star which apparently was a long way from its usual habitat in the Indian ocean, but a most welcome discovery for our first trip.

Cyrene’s beautiful marine live that we saw on this trip (thanks to Ria) is unbelievable, given the heavy industry and container traffic at such close proximity of the reefs. Truly nature and industrialisation can co-exist. Any visitor would be mesmerized by what we saw.

Cyrene is a "gem" which shows that Man and Nature can co-exist as we progress, through our actions to preserve Nature whenever we can.