Four Kings, a Jar & a dash of Cinnamon

Our second day of birding in Singapore was one of spectacular sightings. Team Sausage, accompanied by Agent Cobra (our dad) made our way to Chinese & Japanese Gardens. This was a new site for us, the visit inspired by sightings logged on the various Singapore birding sites. A bustling Sunday morning, but we were nonetheless greeted by some very obliging Pacific Swallows. Unlike their European cousins, these birds would take a break from feeding on insects from the waters surface to perch quite openly above our heads.

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Mrs Sausage then had fleeting glimpses of a Scarlet-backed Flower Pecker before our attention was drawn by this Stork-billed Kingfisher, darting across the water and perching just in range of the camera. Not the greatest pictures, but having missed out on any at all last year, these will do as record shots.

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With so many people around Chinese Garden, we made our way along the path to the quieter Japanese Garden. Here we had Kingfisher number two making an appearance, this Collared Kingfisher, the most common of the kingfishers in Singapore.

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A Brahminy Kite soared overhead and busy, noisy Olive-backed Sunbirds flitted in and out of the trees. For a while we thought that was it. A few Grey Heron were perched motionlessly across the lake from us and like the weather, things were looking a little hazy and grey. Mrs Sausage then introduced some colour with a spotting of a Common Kingfisher perched very close to her. Another very obliging subject for the camera and an example I wish would be followed by its distant cousin residing at our local London patch, Cranford Park.

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This Plantain Squirrel crossed our path as we considered our next move. Although common in Singapore, they are quite engaging. As seen yesterday, they are distinctively marked with a cream and black stripe along the sides and an orangey red belly. Please see our previous entry for another view.

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We then noticed that the two Grey Herons were part of a much larger community in the garden. A tree a short distance down the path from where we were was residence to a full blown heronry of at least a dozen nests. As Mrs S and Agent Cobra made their way along a burst of feathered activity took my attention.

Firstly this Water Hen scurried, hid and re-appeared in a nearby drain. Agent Cobra informs us that locally, this is known as Burung Ayam-ayam (the chicken bird, as it were).

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I then noticed a lot of movement in the tree just above the drain. It was incredibly flitty movement and initially everything was disappearing into the foliage. A small amount of patience brought it’s reward however as I was finally able to capture a few half-decent shots of a new bird for me, Pied Fantails.

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I was just taking these photos of the Common Myna, distinct from the most frequently seen mynas around the island, when Mrs Sausage beckoned me over.

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She had been speaking to a photographer and fellow birder, Kevin. He had his large telephoto lens pointing into some reeds, patiently waiting for a clean shot of an elusive Cinnamon Bittern. Both Kevin, Team Sausage and some other long-lens operators would be frustrated by this elusive migrant. I managed a few record shots through the reeds and lotus plants though. Massive thanks to Kevin for sharing the sighting with us, and for explaining the story behind the Common Myna.

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Also stalking the Cinnamon Bittern was Zhi Xuan, a young photographer who casually asked us if we had seen a Nightjar. We hadn’t, at least not confirmed sightings. Zhi Xuan led us to a new location, telling us how this nocturnal bird was in an exceptionally good location for us to see. He wasn’t exaggerating either! A brief crawl under some low branches and there it was. Superbly camouflaged but almost within touching distance was our first Nightjar.

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With Agent Cobra and Mrs Sausage taking a view from the other side of the location, this whiskered bird which closely resembled a cluster of brown leaves, remained perfectly still as I took our shots. Without the generous gesture of Zhi Xuan we would never have known the bird was there.

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We believe this to be a Large-tailed Nightjar, with sightings reported in Japanese Garden fairly regularly in the recent past. An exceptional sighting for us.

As we made our way back towards Chinese Garden, we were drawn to a small crowd of birders almost dancing around a tree. This is usually the sign of something of interest and we joined in the merry-go-round. The source of the photographic excitement was this Pied Triller.

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Another first for Team Sausage and despite it’s rapid branch-hopping a few shots worth posting.

Having been “trilled” to bits at our sightings we made for lunch. Our next stop would be Little Guilin an old mining quarry where we caught up with Captain Jack and Agent Sim. Our main reason for visiting this particular site was due to well known local knowledge that this was home to a Grey-headed Fish Eagle.

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A full circuit of the quarry brought only Terrapins and this distant White-throated Kingfisher almost biting off more than it could chew.

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We were about to depart when I noticed a large bird perched in clear view on a branch jutting out from the stone face of the quarry. It was what we had come to this site for; one impressive, almost regal looking, Grey-headed Fish Eagle.

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Distance and light were once again not our friend but these record shots give some idea of why we wanted to see this resident raptor.

I don’t think we would have ever hoped to see both a Cinnamon Bittern and a Nightjar on the same trip, let alone the same day in the same park. A day when you see four kinds of Kingfisher, a Grey-headed Fish Eagle and still have more to write about is something quite special. We are thankful for the generosity we frequently experience from the Singapore birding community, our second day would not have been half as good without them. Next stop: Bidadari!

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