Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Birdwatching on the ridge

Date: 16th Feb 08
Group: Goh Si Gium, Dexiang and me.
Equipments: 2 8x42 Opticron Binoculars
Route taken: A linear walk from Centre for Development in Teaching and Learning (CDTL) to Prince George's Park (PGP).

List of birds spotted:
1. Common Goldenback Woodpecker, 1 on dead tree in the background of forest facing LT32 and University Hall.
2. Sunbirds, about 4 or 5, recognised by their calls by Si Gium from the patch of the forest when we were walking through Ridge View Residences (RVR).
3. Swiftlets were seen throughout the sky from CDTL till PGP.
4. Flowerpeckers were noticed by Si Gium through their callings.
5. White crested mynahs punctuated our birdwtching session both with their callings and their appearance of quick flashes of black and white through the sky the whole morning.
6. A white throated kingfisher was recognised through its call by Si Gium, near the simpoh air bush at CDTL. who shared that there are 2 noises made by these species as compared to the rest of the kingfishers.
7. A cockatoo was heard at the point 270 water tank with its unmistakable calling. This is an escape species in Singapore. Later in the day, we heard and saw another one near the tembusu forest at PGP and suspected it being the same one.
8. Just past the stairs to S2, near the junction of Kent Ridge Road and the road leading to houses 9 and 10, 5 Black Bazas made our day by flying overhead, circling thhe sky and then making plunges near Pasir Panjang. Black Bazas are migrant, and to be able to see a flock of 5 really brightened up our day.
9. A Brahminny kite was seen circling the same area just after our excitement with the Black Bazas and was recognised by the pale underneath near the primaries. Another magnificent sight.
10. A blue-throated Beeeater was spotted by Si Gium on the dead tree behind house 10, which was just a black silhouette to me and was said that they do not fly far within a short time so we stood there, at the junction admiring the beeeater for some time.
11. Unknown to us, a quiet dollarbird was on the tree, at the junction, waiting to be spotted, and it was the dollarbird. I could not recognise it but trusted Si Gium as he is a far more experienced birdwatcher. I would have to wait till I see the undersides when it takes flight, which is going to take forever as it was just resting on the tree.
12. The singing of the sunbirds was suddenly disturbed by 2 large-billed crows in the sky, all agitated about something, which Dexiang said could be an eagle. Si Gium deduced the possibility of a crows nest on the tree in front of house 6 and something, if not a bird, was thretening the crows. The episode lasted for quite a while and the crows kept calling out to one another while circling the area.
13. As we walked on towards PGP, we saw and heard a Black-naped Oriole.
14. An Asian Brown Flycatcher, on a dead tree resting just in front of Brenner Centre for Molecular Medicine.

15. At the acacia dominated woodlands near National University Hospital (NUH), a Collared Kingfisher was spotted and did something spectacular before our very own binoculars. It left the branch it was on, swopped down at something in midair, and flew back to the branch almost immediately.
16 and 17. In the same small patch of acacia trees, 2 Striped Tit-babblers and a Tiger Shrike prettily perching in full view just a few meters away from us.
18. A Greater Racket-tailed Drongo was found in the tembusu forest patch just in front of PGP. The shy bird saw me pointing and shifted itself quickly to blend into the leaves.
19. The Common Koel was consistently heard the whole day.

Lessons learnt from this enriching day would be the firstly the technical skill. The usage of an 8x42 Opticron Binoculars as compared to Si Gium’s 10x25 is very different. An 8 times would be of lower zoom but a 42 is better in the sense that it lets more light in and hence better view in the dark and wider perimeter. However, it adds on to the bulk as well, and it would be more advisable to travel light. Another technical issue or rather, trick would be that a magnifying glass is redundant when one hold onto a binoculars. This is because, when inverted and seen through the other side, the binoculars automatically become a magnifying instrument.

Personally, I would not say I have picked up a great deal of the expertise of bird watching on my first ever trip but honestly, the excitement and interest rubbed off me. The ability to pinpoint the bird to the call from Si Gium also never fails to amaze me. The most inspiring part was that of the Collared Kingfisher in the acacia patch. Try as we could, me and Dexiang could never get its location until Si Gium’s intervention. Patience is one thing, but to be able to accurately and swiftly put a name to a silhouette or point out the exact location of a bird will really need more practice.
Looking for the Collared Kingfisher

Trying to spot the Collared-Kingfisher before Si Gium does, to no avail.


  1. C. Hails, F Jarvis, Birds of Singapore, 1987
  2. C. Briffett, A Guide to Common Birds of Singapore, 1986
  3. C. Briffett, Kent Ridge Environs: A proposal for conserving nature at the National University of Singapore Campus, 1991.

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