Stephen Burch's Birding & Dragonfly Website
Australia & Singapore: Singapore
to 4 October 2017
By Stephen Burch, England
The government website gives full details of all the nature reserves in Singapore and was a good place to find info such as maps, opening hours etc - see https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves . The small booklet - "Birds of Singapore" by Yong Ding Li et al also had short sections on all the main birding locations.
Prior to the visit, I had been in touch with the local birding guide Kim Seng Lim about a possible day or half day of guided birding, but for one reason or another this didn't work out, so we were self guided all the time.
On Friday evening, 29 September, this mega trip got underway as we boarded a Singapore A380 night flight from Heathrow to Singapore, which departed about 1hr late at c. 23:00 (due to the strange excuse of crew delayed by traffic in London!) but arrived on time some 13+hrs later at 18:10 local time, which made for a very short Saturday indeed! Having had a delay free transit through immigration and rapid baggage collection we emerged into the arrivals hall to find there was a long queue for the taxis but it moved quite quickly. It took about 20mins to reach the front, and then a further 30min to reach the compact but pleasant Wangz hotel. Here we were greeted by their very welcoming staff before heading quickly out for a hasty dinner in a Chinese restaurant very close to the hotel. We then had a further night to try to get some sleep!
Birding from the room's balcony the next morning at dawn was quite productive with distant Black-naped Oriole, Javan Minah, Olive-winged Bulbul, Swiftlets overhead (probably Bachman's) and an Olive-backed Sunbird briefly much closer. The very humid conditions were however quite problematic for optics - they immediately got fogged up with condensation the moment they were taken outside from the room with its A/C on!
Here is a chronological account of the birding sites we visited in the 3 full days we had at our disposal.
Somewhat further on we spotted our first interesting bird - several Asian Glossy Starlings in trees just outside the Orchid gardens. Going inside we found various sunbird species feeding on the numerous orchids including this most impressive Crimson Sunbird and Brown-throated Sunbird.
There was also a Yellow vented Bulbul in the Orchid garden and we came across a few White-breasted Waterhens by the Orchid Garden entrance, just as we were leaving. Nearby on the Symphony Lake there was a nice White-throated Kingfisher quite close in to the shore, but thereafter things went downhill...
With the weather threatening we headed east through the gardens fairly quickly, aiming for the Eco Lake where I was expecting to see various interesting water birds. We saw nothing en-route there and unfortunately nor was there anything to be seen at or on the lake either. It then started to rain heavily, so we took shelter, along with loads of other people, in a pagoda overlooking the lake until it eased off a bit.
From here we had a distant view of a Brahminy Kite flying past and some rather closer Waterhens, but that was about it. With the weather not looking good we made an early departure via the MHT station having seen only a handful of species. Perhaps later in the year is better for winter visitors, and all the people around on this Sunday morning certainly didn't help much either. Or maybe we just weren't persistent or sharp enough to find the birds here - but they certainly weren't making themselves very obvious!
On arrival reasonably early in the morning the place was quite quiet, but the pond in front of the Centre already had some dragonfly activity (and later we saw a Water Monitor there as well). We then headed through the centre towards the tidal pools that looked a promising place to start and were quickly "adopted" by a local who seemed keen to show us around, and point out birds - especially some Storks that came from the local zoo, and were hence of no interest to us! But he also found us an Asian Koel. There are several hides on the circular path that goes round these pools which were largely disappointing to us, as they only had very familiar waders such as Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank etc, although Pacific Golden Plover was more interesting but not a lifer. Not really what we were after at all! However one hide gave us distant views of Scaly-breasted Munia and round the far side (our "guide" having left us) we found some nice birds - Malaysian Pied Fantail - on the path in front of us, and a Pink-necked Pigeon sitting quietly in a tree. There was also an Ashy Tailorbird and an elusive passerine turned out to be a wintering Arctic Warbler - that I had only seen once before - in Northern Norway in 2015! A mega distant White-bellied Sea Eagle was also spotted (the first of many on this trip).
Having spent most of morning on the loop round the tidal pools, with fairly thin pickings for a site with a list of over 200 species, we returned to the Centre and managed to get some food from the vending machines there. We the tried the short Mangrove Boardwalk which produced brief, obscured views of Asia Paradise Flycatcher and Collared Kingfisher. Having been told that the track down to the other Visitor Centre was unlikely to be productive, we then returned to our hotel, having been somewhat underwhelmed by this site.
Looking at the map, it seemed worth trying a longer return route- using the "yellow" path down towards Dairy Farm Road. However we didn't realise until too late that this route was graded as "difficult" - presumably because of its steepness and very tall steps. At least this path was considerably quieter than the main "highway" and near the bottom we actually found a small collection of birds, the best being the only woodpecker of our entire trip (including Australia) - a Common Flameback, together with some more obscure passerines which we decided were Streaked Bulbuls. Open reaching the road, we decided to head east towards the MHT station via the Diary Farm Nature Park. This was a pleasant, quiet open bushy area with some trees. We even came a across a local birder who had, earlier seen all sorts of things, but not us! All we could manage was a Common Iora and a female Pink-necked Pigeon. Thereafter we returned to our hotel by MHT.
© All pictures copyright Stephen Burch