Saturday, October 23, 2010

Recommended read: Birds seen at the Istana

Birds seen at the Istana
How often are you able to roam freely in the grounds of Istana (Malay for Palace) to do a spot of birdwatching? Answer to that is -highly unlikely ! The grounds (or some portion of it) are however open during major religious public holidays for all Singaporeans and visitors to enjoy its lovely gardens.

The other alternative is of course to buy or borrow this book, " Birds seen at the Istana" -first published in 2005 by Singapore Environment Council.

The Istana building, grounds and gardens are beautifully illustrated in watercolours. This and the lovely pictures of birds captured on the grounds of the Istana provides us lesser fortunate mortals a glimpse of the splendour of the place. The book starts of with some background write-up on the Istana building and the other prominent buildings that surround it. That chapter ends with the various theme gardens that surround the Istana. I just love the time and effort spend by the artist to illustrate this in watercolour.

The following chapters shows all the lovely "residents" and "migrants" caught by the photographers privilege enough to have access to this place.

What i really like about this book is the chapter on the variety of flora and fauna that attracted this birds in the first place and more importantly the efforts by Istana to ensure this flora and fauna are maintained to ensure this birds continue to thrive and some take "resident" within this enclave.

You can borrow this book from the library.
Alternatively, try any good bookstores near you or Nature's Niche.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Smooth Otters in Sungai Buloh

This is a very short video i took off a family of smooth otters near the visitor center. The otters were oblivious to the human attention and continued their playful antics in the pond and the sand bank for at least 30 minutes before disappearing into the main river. Apparently not the first time sighted there as well as there were similiar videos (but taken on different occasions) by other people as well.

I took some photos of this cute creatures as well, during their "playtime" at the pond.

The last picture was taken on the same day but at another river within the reserve. This time, of a solitary otter hunting for fish and finally catching one. 
1 otter feeding (at Sungei Buloh Kechil)

Previous Post: Birding in Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve

Birding in Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve

Another fun day in Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve and its never boring especially during the migratory season (end Sept - end Feb). The pictures of the Milky and Painted Stork were taken at Bird Observation Hut No 2D.

The cute thing was seeing a huge mangrove crab coming out from its muddy hideout as the Milky Stork was feeding nearby it. (probably felt threatened by the huge yellow beak probing around !)

Milky Stork with giant crab 

Painted Stork (left) with 2 Milky Stork (right)

  1. Milky Stork
  2. Painted Stork
  3. Grey Heron
  4. Terek Sandpiper
  5. Broad-billed Sandpiper
  6. Common Redshank
  7. Marsh Sandpiper
  8. Mongolian Plovers
  9. Pacific Golden Plover
  10. Whimbrel
  11. Little Egret
  12. Intermediate Egret
  13. Scarlet backed flowerpecker (male)
  14. White-breasted waterhen
I also spotted 3 otters near visitor center pond and 1 feeding at Sungei Buloh Kechil were also spotted. I will write about that in a separate post.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bird watching in Bukit Brown Cemetery (October)

Lineated Barbet

3 Grey headed Woodpeckers

Back to Bukit Brown for a walk and some birdwatching. I do highly recommend this place if you want some peace and quiet in addition to the beautiful bird life. Not much people today. A few joggers, but they are ok, they don't make much noise. Well, just a couple of minutes into the walk, it rained ! 

That's something you can't predict nor stop, RAIN..and its nature way of telling you, take a break and get wet. I carry with me a $1 plastic rain coat. Made of plastic,(...sorry ah, if this word makes you nauseas) its very light weight and can be reuse again and again till it rips. That and the trees provided some shelter from the torrential rains.  

Laced Woodpecker

  1. Lineated Barbet (1 feeding on fruits on a tree)
  2. Laced Woodpecker
  3. Grey headed woodpecker
  4. Hill Myna
  5. Red Breasted Parakeet
  6. Long-tailed Parakeet
  7. White breasted Kingfisher
  8. Collared Kingfisher
  9. Black-naped Oriole
  10. Crimson Sunbird
  11. Purple Starling(s)
Manage to spot also 2 Flying Lizards and a Cobra

Related Post
Birding in Bukit Brown Cemetery

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oriental Pied Hornbill Artifical Nest

Nest Boxes

This "artificial" nest have become a common site both in Ubin Island as well as on mainland Singapore. The picture i took is from a tree along Henderson Waves in mainland Singapore.

Part of the Singapore Hornbill Project that started in 2006, this project has been a resounding success in maintaining a stable population of Oriental Pied Hornbill in Singapore.

Without suitable mature trees with the right cavities required for hornbills to nest in urban Singapore, this substitutes have become a life saver as well as  assisting ornitologist in their research work, providing rich information on their lifecycle and nesting behaviour.

I hope to see a day we can see more species of hornbills (such as the Rhinoceros Hornbills ) thriving in Singapore and the efforts by individuals and organisations finally rewarded by the presence of this "Farmers of the Forest".

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pasir Ris Park - Grey Heron Nests and Black-crowned Night Heron

Pasir Ris Park is located at the North-eastern part of Singapore and accessible via a 10 minutes walk from Pasir Ris MRT. During the park's creation, somebody wise had the foresight to preserve some of the existing mangrove ecosystem and retain two of the rivers, Sungai Api-api and to a lesser extend, Sungai Tampines.

There is a boardwalk that allows the park users to experience the mangrove forest without getting "muddy".

Often spotted here is a strong colony of Grey Heron nesting along Sungai Tampines (similar to the nesting colony seen across the channel at Pekan Quarry at Pulau Ubin) and when i was there, there was a number of "nature photographers" with their equipment taking pictures of the colony.

Nest with 3 Grey Herons

Here are some shots of this colony and a Black-crowned Night Heron which flew and landed quite close to me before taking off again.

I am amazed how this nesting colony is able to tolerate the noise that comes from the Downtown East Resort next door, but it seems they are pretty used to it.  
Grey Heron (with breeding plumage) with wings in flight mode

I was even told that there were sightings of otters in Sungai Tampines, a testament to great work and efforts of the various nature organisations in keeping this mangrove area alive and more importantly a sustainable ecosystem that supports multiple types of wildlife.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

The Juvenile Black-crown Night Heron seemed impervious to human presence and landed very closed to where we were and allow many of the nature photographers to snap with their huge lenses and comment how beautiful it was.

It stood on the horizontal prop roots for about 1-2 minutes before deciding, "ok guys -i think i had enough of the camera clicks and attention!" before flying of to the opposite side of the river away from the prying eyes of the photographers.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Reflections in Bukit Brown Cemetery

I am in a contemplative mood today. Going through some of my photos of Bukit Brown and after watching and readings the news on the passing of Madam Kwa Geok Choo (Mrs Lee Kuan Yew), some reflection on this i think is normal. My blog post is not on the latter, as much is already covered in the press on her life and legacy. Rather, the focus on this post is on Bukit Brown itself.

Other than being a great place to do birdwatching, Bukit Brown is a good place to reflect on a time long past. A number of well known people in the Chinese community were buried here as well and there are many tombs here engraved beautifully and decorated with the traditional chinese symbols popular at that time. There are some more "modern" ones as well which consist of Sikh guards.  

As you walk among the one's resting in eternal rest, you take time to reflect that you are looking at your eventual fate as well. As i look at the faces & names at the gravestones, i do sometimes wonder, what kind of live have they led, the legacy they left behind.

Sikh guard
  One of the few more "modern" gravestone, whereby the guardians consist of sikh or punjabi guards. The more traditional graves will consist of guardians of chinese mythology such as lions and nymphs, etc.

How did she die? Did she die young? As she been forgotten by the ones close to her? As time weathers away the gravestone and the chinese characters, will she be forgotten forever...? or will the march of development one day awaken the asleep, whereby Bukit Brown Cemetery shares similar faith with others such as the Bidadari and Bukit Timah Cemeteries.

As time marches, mother  nature slowly takes over and engulfs some of this memorials that have been forgotten by its descendants. Left unattended, they too, will soon disappear.
Fern covered grave

Freed ?

Depending on ones belief, we await the day when the soul will be freed from the decaying flesh..Free from the bondage of sin to transcend to a higher plane.

Till then, the shades of the branches of the Rain tree and the maid guardians are their loyal companion.
Maid deity

I shall be by your side forever

Previous Post: Birding in Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Birding in Bukit Brown Cemetery

Yes, you heard me, cemetery.

Bukit Brown (also known as Kopi Sua or Coffee Hill) cemetery is one of the few rare cemetery's left in Singapore still not encroached by the ever growing development happening in Singapore.  No longer in use since the 1970's, the Chinese graves and the surrounding area are left untouched and nature continues to thrive here and support bird life.

It's sleeping residents, are disturbed only by joggers, horse riders (there is an equestrian club nearby), 4D punters (no kidding) and finally nature lovers. During the 7th month or Hungry Ghost Festivals, filial family members pay repects to their ancestors resting here. This can sometimes be seen with certain graves and their surrounding well maintained and tombs refurbished or tombstone characters re-inked while other graves remain overgrown by creepers and characters disappearing, weathered by the sands of time.

However time is running out for this quiet enclave. Development is already at its doorsteps with a mass-rapid transport station (part of the circle line) been built. How long more before that happens? Only time will tell. In the mean time, i will try to come here as often as i can.

History of Bukit Brown
From National Library's Infopedia

Getting there
It is located off Lornie Road at the junction of Sime Road in the diection of Kheam Hock Rd

View Bukit Brown Cemetery in a larger map

Most of the trails are tarred and goes in a circle (so can't get lost -lah ). There are also many other dirt trails and for the more adventurous- this trails do sometime reap you rewards of spotting the more shyer birds. (lol)

Chestnut bellied Malkoha

Actually 3 of them !

a pair Chestnut bellied Malkoha

The 3 Chestnut bellied Malkoha was a lucky find after i spot 1 of them and followed it after it flew off to a second tree along a dirt trail. The investigation was rewarded with the shots you now see as well as the fact that there are 3 of them !

Then it got me thinking as well-  they must known we were observing them for quite sometime, but still they did not take flight. The answer came minutes rained !!! So, in the end it was us that took flight ! lol.

White-throated Laughing Thrush
Orange-breasted Pigeon

Brown Shrike (juvenile)

Forgive me for taking bad shots, but i do wish i could have taken better shots of the Shrike. This migratory visitor are so cute. The one we saw had a head and eyes that seem so much bigger than their body.

Birds spotted
  1. 3 Chestnut-bellied Malkoha,
  2. 2 juvenile Brown Shrikes
  3. 1 Oriental Honey Buzzard (adult morph)
  4. 2 Common Flameback Woodpeckers (female)
  5. White-throated Laughing Thrush(s)
  6. Pink-necked pigeons
  7. Orange-breasted pigeons.
  8. Collared kingfisher
  9. White throated Kingfisher
  10. Crimson Sunbirds
  11. Lesser racket tailed Drongo
  12. Purple Starlings