Team Sausage are back in Singapore for our annual catch-up with friends and family. Of course, no trip can go without some birding adventures and exploration, and regular visitors to our blog will know that there is a wealth of wonderful birding to be done in and around the concrete and glass of Singapore.
With a fair few days dedicated to friends and family time, we were able to begin our birding at Bidadari on 3rd November. Over the last two years, we have expected each visit to this green oasis to be our last. Bida has been under threat of urban development for some time, but a recent fall in housing demand has resulted in a temporary stay of execution and so the site remains open for birding business, at least for now. Good thing too – with migration season in full swing, exciting and interesting sightings had been reported on the usual Facebook pages with much aplomb.
We arrived before 9am and found birders everywhere, familiar faces and many new ones. The Singapore birding cognoscenti were well represented by Bidadari stalwarts Frankie Lim and Zacc HD and we met the very friendly and knowledgeable Con Foley too. Sighting of a rare Chinese Zappy’s Flycatcher the previous day meant that the site was full of expectation. It took less than ten minutes before we had our first sighting of the day, when a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo cut a feathery swathe through the leaves and branches and posed most obligingly.
This migrant would put in several appearances throughout our visit.
There were crowd scenes of tripods and long lenses appearing across Bida as avian targets presented themselves in several places at the same time. While some focused on the visiting cuckoo, others were indulging in photographing this globally threatened Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher.
With Mrs Sausage joining the camera club, we now have double the firepower for our ham-fisted photographs. This Lineated Barbet from the upper levels of the trees is among the first of her photo contributions to the blog.
High on the popularity list were the Asian Paradise Flycatchers. Extremely mobile, they would flit around the canopy of the trees, descend to the lower levels to tease our cameras and move on as quickly as they arrived. Unlike last year at Japanese Garden, we were unable to get really clear shots so these are very much record pics.
With all this excitement, it would have been easy to pass up opportunities to enjoy some of the more expected visitors to Bidadari, but a soft spot for shrikes of any kind meant that both this Brown Shrike
and this Tiger Shrike were both welcome additions to our sightings for the day.
A new sighting for us at Bida was the Spotted Wood Owl. This was casually pointed out to us by one of the friendly regular birders. Sitting high up and seemingly quite relaxed about the steady stream of shutterbugs below was this most sedate of Spotted Wood Owls.
This was a real bonus spot for us too. We saw a pair of these large owls last year at Kent Ridge but it was well after sundown and our pics were very poor due to non-existent light. Conditions now were perfect and our study remained almost motionless save for the occasional head turn and look down to see what all the activity was about.
Our next two sightings were also new birds for both of us. The first was pointed out to us as we made our way back towards the Upper Serangoon Road end of Bidadari. Quite high up and very skittish were a couple of Ashy Minivets, a member of the Cuckooshrike family and another bird on migration in Singapore. We just about managed this shot for the blog before it was off again to forage among the greenery.
A few steps down the main path back into Bida and we joined two birders with lenses focused into a bush. Just about visible in the dark interior of the leaves and branches was a male White-rumped Shama. Consensus seems to be that this may well be an escapee as Shamas are very popular as caged pets, although I believe there are now wild populations established in Singapore (any local experts please feel free to correct me on this).
This particular individual was definitely not straying from the cosy confines of its leafy sanctuary just so we could take some pictures.
In around three hours, we had added several new birds to our life lists and had a fantastic start to our birding adventures. Despite the recent stay of execution, the sentiment expressed by most of those we spoke to was that the clock is still ticking on Bidadari. We have commented before on what a sad loss this oasis of wildlife will be for Singapore. It’s not only the rare and exciting migrants that will be affected, but a thriving range of local flora and fauna too.