Am I Heron You Right?

Our second visit to the Botanical Gardens was a late afternoon – early evening affair. This time, we were accompanied by the mum and dad of Mrs Sausage, whom we also armed with binoculars in order to increase our team of observers. We arrived at the gardens around 5pm, in the calculated hope the impending dusk would bring back large numbers of roosting birds to this little haven.

The footfall in the gardens was almost the same as when we visited earlier in the week with joggers and dog-walkers criss-crossing the paths. The airspace also had a familiar look to it as Pacific Swallows continued to launch raid after raid on the insects over Swan Lake while female Pink-necked Pigeons watched from the top of the swan statue at the far end of the lake.

Yellow-vented Bulbuls continued to tease our eyes from the leaves and branches, always promising to be something new and previously unseen, only to elicit a sigh at yet another sighting of something that seems to be almost as common as the Common Mynah.

We doubled back on one path just at the top end of Swan Lake and something caught my eye along the waters edge. Initially we thought it might either a Grey or Striated Heron, but zooming in with the camera revealed what seemed to be different bird altogether.



We agonised over the id of this bird after looking at the pics and have tentatively come to the conclusion that this is a juvenile female von Schrenck’s Bittern. However, there are conflicting images on the internet and we would welcome any experienced eyes correcting or confirming our call. In comparison with Bitterns seen in the UK, bitterns here are apparently quite bold and visible, as with most other birds. In the UK, they blend in so well with their reed-bed habitat and rarely show themselves so openly.

[Addendum: Our appeal for expert help ID-ing our mystery bird led to something of a debate on the Birders Group page. We had the initial correction that the mystery bird was a Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron. But the new consensus seems to be that this is a juvenile Striated Heron. Thanks again to all who have helped in this!]

As we turned away from the contentious bird, movement within an adjacent bush had us all scanning and training our eyes. A flash of colour here, some movement there, and then nothing. With hope fading of catching anything, our elusive friend finally revealed himself. A Brown-throated Sunbird, hanging around just long enough for this pic.

We were a little disappointed we only got to capture the top of the bird, as their chests and under-parts are a vibrant yellow and orange. Nevertheless, this was our second new bird in only a few minutes so complaining about small details is somewhat churlish.
As dusk approached much of the bird activity saw flocks of Glossy Starling making for the tall palm trees of Palm Valley. This was clearly their roosting spot, shared here and there with Spotted Doves, Pink-necked Pigeons, Feral Pigeons and the Common Mynah.

Another teasing sight was a few nests. These intricate, hanging balls of reed and dried grass look so ornate and unique and we have seen a few on our various trips so far. We have now been told that these are Sunbird nests.


With light fading steadily and not too many other sightings we made a decision to head for home.

We made our way back towards the main gates but for some reason Husbean’s eyes were drawn to the top of a very tall palm. There was a small but very mobile silhouette bobbing around the trunk. A quick camera zoom and three pairs of binoculars all came to the same, unmistakable conclusion, a Common Flameback.


We have had to lighten the pics a fair bit in order to show some of the colours of this curious woodpecker as both light and distance were against us here. However, this was our first Singapore woodpecker and for that reason alone deserves to go up for posterity.

5 responses to “Am I Heron You Right?

  1. The “bittern” is not Schrenck’s Bittern, but an aberrant juvenile Little Heron. The nest is a sunbird nest, not a weaver nest.

  2. Many thanks for the info, we have also been advised that the bird in question is Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron. Some internet research seems to confirm this too.

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