Pacific Swallow at the Chinese Gardens

My last entry involves just a single bird. A Pacific Swallow, I watched this particular bird fly down onto some paving just past the entrance into the Chinese Garden. It was quite obvious that the bird was in the process of gathering nesting material for the forthcoming breeding season. The Pacific Swallow is superficially similar to the Barn Swallow, the main differences are that the Pacific does not have such a forked tail as the Barn and no streamers, it also shows a larger dusky red patch on the forehead and show dark blotching on the vent. All these features can be seen in the shots below.

Pacific Swallow, Chinese Garden, 18 Feb 2010

Pacific Swallow, Chinese Garden, 18 Feb 2010

Pacific Swallow, Chinese Garden, 18 Feb 2010

Pacific Swallow, Chinese Garden, 18 Feb 2010

Steve Copsey

Little Heron at the Chinese Gardens

The penultimate Singapore entry is for the Chinese Gardens at Jurong. A very pleasant place to walk around with the family with the added bonus of plenty of birds. Both the Chinese and Japanese gardens which form one larger garden are nearly surrounded by Jurong Lake. Always a bonus for the wildlife.

Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010                                                                       Photo: Jake Copsey

Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010                                                                       Photo: Jake Copsey

The gardens are laid mainly to grass parkland with a good number of mature trees and flower beds. All around the gardens are oriental designed buildings which hold collections of Bonsai and other specimen collections. Needless to say the gardens have their accompanying birds. The highlights of the visit for me were the Little Heron and another Yellow Bittern, Numerous Brown Throated Sunbirds and a very confiding Pacific Swallow which will get its own entry after this one. Whilst at the gardens we had several short lived downpours and after each one there were 100’s of Swiftlets hawking over the trees.

Swiftlet sp, Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010

Little Heron, Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010

White Breasted Waterhen, Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010

Brown Throated Sunbird, Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010

Brown Throated Sunbird, female, Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010

Common Kingfisher, (not so common in Singapore) Chinese Gardens, 18 Feb 2010


Steve Copsey

Chinese Cemetery

On the Thursday I was up bright and early and jumped in a taxi and headed for the Chinese Cemetery at Bukit Brown.  I had been here once before in 2005 and thought it was worth another visit. When I arrived it was still quite dark but the sun was rising fast. The most common bird of the visit was Javan Myna. On previous visits I had this bird down as White Vented but I guess it has either been split or my original book was in error.

Javan Myna, Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, 18 Feb 2010

The Javan Mynas are everywhere in Singapore and the cemetery was no exception. A close second was the Pink Necked Pigeon. Most of these seemed to be engaged in courtship rituals so I guess breeding is not far away. Another Myna present at the Cemetery is the Hill Myna, far less common but I did have a couple of birds as I did on the previous visit. Laced and Rufous Woodpeckers also made it onto the trip list here. The latter just a flyby but enough to clinch id.

Laced Woodpecker, Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, 18 Feb 2010

I also had my only Crimson Sunbird at the cemetery. Photos never do this bird justice as far as I am concerned. Talking of photos, I found it quite difficult here to get any decent shots. The under storey was very dark, especially early morning yet any bird in the canopy was silhouetted by the very bright sun and sky. I over exposed quite a few of the birds in the trees just to get some detail but then the background tends to get washed out but it was the best I could manage.  Another couple of forest specialities encountered were Greater Racket Tailed Drongo and White Crested Laughingthrush. Neither picture does the birds justice.

Black Naped Oriole, Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, 18 Feb 2010

Crimson Sunbird, Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, 18 Feb 2010

Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, 18 Feb 2010

White Crested Laughingthrush, Bukit Brown Chinese Cemetery, 18 Feb 2010


Steve Copsey

White Bellied Sea Eagles at Fort Canning Park

One afternoon whilst the rest of the family were enjoying a brief siesta, I spent a pair of hours at Fort Canning Park. This park lies right in the heart of the city and is a great space for some of the more common birds of the island.  ‘Fort Canning Park was once known as "Forbidden Hill". This is because Malays in the 19th century believed that it was the seat of royalty for rulers of Temasek (or "Sea Town", an old name for Singapore) in the 1300s. Later, Singapore‘s colonial leaders made their residences there, and the hill became a military base during the Second World War. Today, ancient relics dating back to the 14th century have been unearthed and the Fort Gate, remnant of the fortress built in the 1860s, is a reminder of Singapore‘s colonial past’.

The park has a reservoir in the centre but unfortunately this is fenced off and on the other side of a raised bank. Despite my best attempts I could not see onto the water. However I could see the myriad of Swallows Swifts and Swiftlets hawking in mid air above the banks. Pacific Swallow is quite common as is House Swift, Edible Nest Swiftlet and Black Nest Swiftlet. The latter two are very hard to tell apart in the air but I am reasonably happy I saw both. A few Grey Rumped Treeswifts were also hawking insects overhead. At one end of the reservoir is a tall communications mast. I was more than happy to find a pair of White Bellied Sea Eagles visiting a platform just below the top. I could see a few sticks at the platform’s edge so I am guessing there is a nest on the platform. One of the Eagles did go down as if onto the nest as I watched but given the height I could not see if any chicks were up there. I did not see the Eagles bring any food to the platform in the 30 minutes or so I watched. However I did see one of the birds bring in what looked like a plastic bag it had possibly picked up from the water. I have zoomed right in on the picture but I am still not 100% what the item was.

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Fort Canning Park, 17 Feb 2010. Carrying the bag ?

Any Ideas ?

White Bellied Sea Eagle, Fort Canning Park, 17 Feb 2010

Also came across a few Asian Koels at the park, these are down as an uncommon winter visitor in the book I had. These birds were very vocal and a first into the bargain.

Asian Koel, Fort Canning Park, 17 Feb 2010

Steve Copsey



Tundra Bean Geese and Water Pipit at Keyhaven

Managed to slip away from work this afternoon to have a look for the Tundra Bean Geese that have been seen in the Keyhaven area of late. I left Pompey in full sunshine but it was long gone by the time I arrived at Keyhaven. I initially walked up Iley Lane towards the refuse site but had no joy with the Geese. I did however have a half decent sighting of two Water Pipits along the fence line. It was chucking down at the time so I was not overly eager to get the camera out but it the end I grabbed a quick record shot of one of the birds. After walking up to the upper Balancing Ponds with no luck I retraced my steps back down the lane. It then started really lashing down so I ducked behind a small tree for a break and a brew. It was during the brew that I caught sight of the nine Tundra Bean Geese about 100 metres off the track to the west.

 I waited for a break in the weather which I got briefly and managed to fire off another few shots to get the record in. This was a Hants first for me, so very happy with the sighting if not the photos! If they hang around a little longer I will endeavour to return on a better day.

Water Pipit, Iley Lane, Keyhaven, 24 Feb 2010.  (Did I mention it was raining) !

Tundra Bean Geese, Iley Lane, Keyhaven, 24 Feb 2010

Steve Copsey

Hooded Pitta at Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are well worth a visit if you are interested in plants or birds, as both are well represented. We spent a morning walking around the gardens taking in all the pleasant vistas to be had. I was hoping for a few of the commoner parkland birds of Singapore to be present. The birds tend to be a little tamer in this type of environment. What I could not have possibly hoped for was rare winter visitor in the form of a Hooded Pitta.

Hooded Pitta, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

We were just approaching the National Orchid Gardens within the Botanic Gardens when I spied half a dozen locals with large lenses pointing into a patch of undergrowth. Needless to say I peered into the gloom to see a Pitta standing on a drain cover. Surprisingly enough I asked the locals which species it was and none of them knew. It was only after returning to our hotel room I discovered it was a Hooded Pitta after consulting Birds of SE Asia by Craig Robson. I managed a few shots of the Pitta in the dark under storey but they are not exactly outstanding but I was more than pleased with the sighting. Another good sighting in the gardens was a single Yellow Bittern stalking around the Eco Lake. I was hoping for plenty of Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers but the gardens were very busy, no doubt due to the Chinese New Year holidays and the smaller birds seemed to have thinned out.

Yellow Bittern, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

 Pink Necked Pigeon, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

Magpie Robin, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

Spotted Dove, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

Lesser Whistling Ducks, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

Asian Glossy Starlings, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

White Breated Waterhen, Singapore Botanic Gardens, 16 Feb 2010

Steve Copsey

Memories and Egrets

Due to commitments on the high seas it has been a while since I placed a blog entry.  This hasn’t gone un-noticed by the other two amigos.  With this in mind I have delved into the archives.
This picture was taken onboard HMS Scylla in November 1993, just off the west coast of South America, as we transited north past Chile.  We had just finished a six month deployment around the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.

The Cattle Egret landed onboard early morning and spent most of its time around the superstructure of the ship. Later in the afternoon I was told it was on the flightdeck and as I sat watching, it strolled towards me. In fact the bird, at one point, walked between my legs, but in those days we didn’t have digital cameras, so the moment was missed.

Hopefully later this year I will have more photos of birds onboard my current ship as we deploy for warmer climes.

Slasher (on the left) with Cattle Egret, HMS Scylla, Nov 1993

Mark C.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Smooth Otters at Sungei Buloh

I pretty much expected to see the Malayan Water Monitors and was quite hopeful to see the Estuarine Crocodile which I knew had been seen around the reserve over the last few years. One animal that did take me by surprise was an Otter. Not just one but four Smooth Otters to be precise. We had just returned to the visitor centre which overlooks several large pools. I spotted movement in one of the pools and initially thought that it was another Monitor, but it did not look quite right. I then raised my bins to see an Otter swimming across the pond. I then searched around and found another three Smooth Otters. Judging from the size of the animals I assume it was a family group. One animal was bigger than the rest which I would guess was a Dog Otter and then there were two smaller animals which I would assume were youngsters. We watched the Otters for about ten minutes as they frolicked in the pond and then proceeded to have a groom before all climbing out onto the bank to have a siesta in the hot afternoon sun.

Smooth Otter, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Smooth Otter, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

The Monitor which had walked through the visitor centre just after we returned actually swam across the pool which the Otters had recently vacated. It then climbed up onto the bank where the Otters were snoozing. I kept a watch in case of any interaction but other that one of the Otters raising its head they seemed pretty much to ignore each other.

Smooth Otters and Malayan Water Monitor, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Steve Copsey

Malayan Water Monitors at Sungei Buloh

On each of my previous visits to Sungei Buloh I have encountered at least one or two Malayan Water Monitors if not a few more. However this time I was a little concerned about seeing one. The fact was I had told my two boys that we would ‘definitely’ see some huge lizards around the reserve. I just hoped we would see some as I knew they would get bored quickly if not. As it happened I need not have worried; within seconds of entering the reserve we had four Monitors on the first pool.

Malayan Water Monitor, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Malayan Water Monitor, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010     This individual had been showing a bit of interest in a Common Sandpiper feeding on the shoreline, to no avail.

These lizards are usually well over a metre long and some may even approach the two metre mark. A very impressive reptile to say the least. They used to be the top dog at the reserve but I guess with the Estuarine Crocodiles moving in they have had to give way. They are relatively common all over the island but are generally found close to water as the name suggests. In the mangroves they feed mainly on fish and crabs although as I found out they will eat anything they find washed in on the tide.

Despite its size the Monitor is usually quite timid and when approached will usually scurry off into the nearest vegetation. That said one four footer walking through the visitor centre had people stepping aside. The bite of the monitor is venomous due to oral toxin producing glands within the mouth.

The carcass is in there somewhere.

I’m guessing the fly was attracted to the stench.

The Monitor pictured in this last sequence of pictures had just finished off the carcass of a dead bird which it had found on the shoreline. The stench alone indicated the bird had been dead a long time but this did not deter the Monitor from having a feast. I did not actually see the bird just the after effects of the  swallowing which seemed to be not so easy so it could have been quite a good sized meal.

Steve Copsey

Crocodiles and Sunbirds at Sungei Buloh

We visited Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Monday. The reserve is 130 ha of mangroves, mudflats and secondary forest. I timed the visit so as to arrive at low tide and as we walked around the reserve the tide would push into the mangrove swamp. The plan worked and after de-steaming my camera lens we set off.

The first animal of note was a Dog Faced Water Snake, which was spotted in a mudflat pool by one of my sons. Around the snake were a number of Mudskippers. There are 12 species of Mudskipper within the reserve. At low tide they climb onto the mud and as the tide rises they tend to climb onto mangrove roots. Every time I see these fish I am amazed as they clamber out of the water.

Dog Faced Water Snake, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Blue Spotted Mudskipper, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

We crossed the main bridge over the River (Sungei in Malay) Buloh from where the reserve gets its name. It was from this bridge that we saw our first Estuarine Crocodile. These have been seen on and off for a few years now but this was a first for me so I was well pleased. Within 10 minutes my wife picked up another. This one about an eight footer was just off the footpath basking on the shore edge.

Estuarine Crocodile, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Between the two Crocodile sightings we had watched a few of the scrapes and had decent views of Marsh Sandpiper, Pacific Golden Plover, Whimbrel and Greenshank. Grey Herons were common around the reserve as were Little and Great Egrets. Due to time constraints I did not have too much time to spend looking for the smaller birds but on the walking circuit we did pick up several Brown Throated Sunbirds, and had brief views of a single Ashy Tailorbird and a Copper Throated Sunbird the last two are mangrove specialities. Black Naped Orioles were calling from all around the more wooded areas. Quite strange how a Blackbird sized bird which is a striking golden yellow can be so hard to find in the tree tops. Another very common bird was the Yellow Vented Bulbul, not just in the mangroves but all over the island.

Copper Throated Sunbird, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Brahminy Kite, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010


We also came across several species of lizard. The most numerous were the Malayan Water Monitors. A very impressive animal which I will talk about more in another entry. We also had great views of a Green Crested Lizard through a lady’s scope. The lizard was only about 15 feet away but looked superb close up. I could have taken some decent shots of this lizard but unfortunately my camera was completely steamed up after getting out of the air-conditioned cab. The five minutes I had to wait for the de-steam was enough for the lizard to disappear.

Mangrove Cicada, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

After we returned to the centre for a well earned drink at the café we were treated to some superb views of a party of Smooth Otters, again I will post an entry about this sighting later. The only drawback to a great day was the fact that the café was closed for Chinese New Year. Typical.

Black Naped Oriole, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Yellow Vented Bulbul, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Tree Climbing Crab, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Black Capped Kingfisher, Sungei Buloh, 15 Feb 2010

Steve Copsey

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Singapore Holiday

I have just returned to Hampshire after spending a pleasant and ‘slightly warmer’ week in Singapore with my family over half term.  Whilst primarily a family holiday, I did get the chance to get a bit of birding in during the week.

Javan Myna, by far the most common bird on the island

Malayan Water Monitor, common around most wetlands.

A morning at the Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve was the real highlight as far as wildlife was concerned but visits to the Botanic Gardens, the Chinese Cemetery and even Sentosa pulled a few goodies out of the bag. Compared with nearby Malaysia and Indonesia Singapore is rather light on species due to the amount of urbanisation and population, but that said it is a great place to visit with a family. Very safe, very clean and very friendly. Over the next week I will add half a dozen or so entries detailing some of the places I visited and the wildlife seen.

 Singapore’s position in SE Asia

 For anyone who is unsure Singapore is an island situated 85 miles north of the equator and is positioned at the base of the Thai/Malaysia peninsular. The climate is very tropical with temperatures round 30 degrees Celsius all year round. Humidity is always around the 90% mark. Very sticky!

Blue Spotted Mudskipper.

Yellow Vented Bulbul, another common resident.

Steve Copsey

Bean Goose and Scaup at Keyhaven Marshes

   I had a thoroughly enjoyable stroll around Keyhaven Marshes this morning in the sunshine.  Despite the fact I had to leave at lunchtime so I would not miss the 1700 performance of ‘Chicago’ at the Southampton Mayflower Theatre I saw everything I hoped to see.  

   The target species was Tundra Bean Goose.  Although I had seen a single Bean Goose near Ringwood FROM Hampshire last year, that was amongst a large flock of Greylag Geese 200m West of the county border in Dorset, I knew that it was a controversial ‘county tick’ – not that I can get too anal about such matters.  However, there is now no question about the validity of my ‘tick’ because I found the nine Bean Geese that have been present since 7 Feb 10 in the regular spot West of Iley lane at 0920 shortly after my arrival. 

Tundra Bean Goose (1 of 9), West of Iley Lane, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

Tundra Bean Goose (3 of 9), West of Iley Lane, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

   The Bean Geese were still present at 1000 when I left for a loop of Keyhaven Marshes. 

Lower Balancing Pond, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

Barnacle Goose, Lower Balancing Pond, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

   On the way towards Lower Pennington Lane I spotted the reported Egyptian Goose.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to ignore the fact that it had a BTO metal ring on the right leg (Serial Number 1420649). 

Egyptian Goose, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

Egyptian Goose, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

Adult Mediterranean Gull, Quarry, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

   As I walked from Lower Pennington Lane towards the seawall a Spotted Redshank flew in and landed on the floods North of Fishtail Lagoon.  Redshank and a Greenshank were also present. 

Flood behind Fishtail Lagoon, Keyhaven Marshes – 20 Feb 10

   The other highlight of the visit was good views of the two Scaup (moulting first-winter male and female) on Keyhaven Lagoon.

1st-W male and female Scaup, Keyhaven Lagoon – 20 Feb 10

1st-W male and female Scaup, Keyhaven Lagoon – 20 Feb 10

   A Kingfisher East across Fishtail Lagoon was also worthy of a mention. 

Good birding,

Tony Tindale   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)

Green-winged Teal and Ferruginous Hybrid at Budd’s Farm SW

   I visited Budd’s Farm Sewage Works for the first ever time this morning to ‘twitch’ the reported male Green-winged Teal.  From the high ground to the South of the sewage works at 1015 the bird could be seen at roost in the lee of the northerly wind on the far bank of the lake. 

Budd’s Farm Sewage Works -13 Feb 10

Green-winged Teal (centre chest on), Budd’s Farm SW – 13 Feb 10

   Although clearly awake the Green-winged Teal remained motionless until a Coot approached.  It then took briefly to the water and showed really well before it returned to roost in the same spot on the bank. 

Green-winged Teal (right of centre), Budd’s Farm SW – 13 Feb 10

   I also spotted what I assumed to be a Ferruginous Duck hybrid (Pochard x Ferruginous?) against the far bank.  Other wildfowl present included Pochard, Gadwall and Tufted Duck.  

? Ferruginous Duck hybrid, Budd’s Farm SW – 13 Feb 10

   Before I returned to the car I scoped Langstone Harbour from Budd’s Wall and spotted Goldeneye (6 male and 8 female) and several Red-breasted Merganser amongst the Wigeon offshore.  

   Back at home the single Fieldfare appeared regularly when the Blackbirds weren’t about. 

Fieldfare, Fareham garden -13 Feb 10

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)  

Fieldfare returns to garden

   This evening while I looked out on the garden over a cup of tea I spotted a Fieldfare fly in.  It was the first one I had seen in the garden since the recent freeze.  The bird appeared to be very alert and restless as it flew intermittently around the garden to eventually land beside an upturned apple half under a shrub.  I got the impression that the bird knew exactly where the partially eaten apple was all along.  Was it trying to avoid giving the location of a tasty morsel away? 

Fieldfare, Fareham garden – 11 Feb 10. 

   The Fieldfare fed for over twenty minutes initially on the relatively fresh apple half and then on the remains of a much older one next to it. 

Blue Tit, Fareham Garden 31 Jan 10.  Frequently seen feeding on apple

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) Geosci (Open)