Our last full day together in Singapore saw us return to another location where we had enjoyed some fantastic sightings earlier in the trip, the old Bukit Timah Railway.
We arrived late afternoon, hoping to catch some different birds using the area for roosting, especially Oriental Pied Hornbills which had so far eluded us, much to the chagrin of Husbean.
We had only been there for around ten minutes when a familiar call was heard, Lineated Barbets. Invisible to us on both our visits to Bidadari, new hope was sprung as Bukit Timah has a far more open tree line to scan. Our first sighting was cause for hope as well as we had our first Coppersmith Barbet of the trip.
Named the Coppersmith as it’s metronomic call is reminiscent of a copper sheet being beaten, this bird is a resident in Singapore and throughout the Indian sub-continent. This particular bird was also determined to be resident at the upper-most branches of the tree, testing my zoom to the maximum, hence the compromise in quality of the pics. It was nevertheless a first for both of us and well worth posting the record shot.
It was just as we were trying to get these pics that our quiet railway walk fell victim to what I can only call the Singapore Dog-walkers Boot Camp. We found ourselves festooned with noisy, shouty, stomping, hollering, coo-ing canine carers. Utterly oblivious to the activities of anyone else within their vicinity, they cascaded around and past us in a slow moving whirlwind of two and four-legged motion.
The dogs were almost silent, I suspect because they knew they wouldn’t get a bark in edge-ways as the calling and shouting of their owners shattered not only the relative peace of the area but also our chances of locating any birds by their calls.
Determined not to be beaten by the crowd, we patiently waited for the bulk of the crowd to move on and although they were clearly audible when some distance away, normal service was more or less resumed as we were once again able to pick up both the Lineated Barbet calls and some Dollar Birds opposite our location.
Sausage had been the one to suggest a late afternoon sortie and her local knowledge proved once again useful as we were now getting regular waves of parakeets over. These Red-breasted Parakeets settled just above us.
We then had a noise just below them that even surpassed the racket made by the dog walkers. A Tanimbar Corella was calling, almost screaming, as it moved along the branches. It looked very much like it was trying to either strip the bark from this tree or make a nest-hole.
This was our second Tanimbar Corella and I have since read that this a species in some decline, with a Near Threatened status due to regional deforestation and sadly, bird trade. There are more Tanimbar’s in captivity now than in the wild! This may be something of a silver-lining for the species though, as they have bred well in captivity and this may represent the best chance of preserving these birds. That being said, there is nothing better than seeing them in their natural environment as were able to on two occasions now.
Glossy Starlings, Myna’s (of course), Black-naped Orioles and more Red-Breasted Parakeets were all criss-crossing the pathway and jostling for position among the trees in anticipation of day-lights end.
Mrs Sausage then suggested we detour from the main path and up a slope that led beyond the tree-line. Skepticism and a reluctance to change from what was a proven good route the last time was proven to be utterly un-founded when a few minutes after making the ascent we were rewarded handsomely. Two Lineated Barbets sitting well out in the open on the exposed branches of a dead tree. I missed getting both in the same shot as one took off just as I had focus, however the remaining Barbet was more than happy to pose for us.
Singapore is home to three species of Barbet, the previously seen Coppersmith, the Lineated and Red-Crowned. The Bird Ecology Study Group of Singapore mentions that the Lineated is a recent introduction to Singapore via the bird trade of the ’90’s and is now settled as a feral species.
After teasing us with it’s calls and cloak of invisibility at Bidadari we were very happy to finally get a view of this whiskered bird.
More roosting action was happening along this track as well, more Red-breasted Parakeets and Long-tailed Parakeets were noisily congregating among the branches.
We worked our way back to our starting point as the light started to fade and it was now that sound overtook sight as the predominant sense. We managed to catch these fuzzy Blue-throated Bee-eaters before darkness descended and we made for the exit.
The sky was still alive with life despite the darkness, mainly with bats. Their seemingly random flight patterns sending them inches from our heads then away, catching invisible insects in the blackness.
Not a bad few hours to draw a close on our Singapore birding together, but like all good things you don’t want them to end. There is so much more to see and experience in Singapore, despite the high-rises, the increasing urban sprawl and constant “development” nature is clinging on here, much of it adapting to the urban environment it finds itself surrounded by. We will be back.