Ju’rong To Take Pitta On Me

Our next Singapore birding sojourn took place two days after our previous bountiful visit to Bidadari. With sightings at Bida still being reported, we decided to start our day there and try to take in a second location after. We noticed there were significantly fewer people present compared to our previous visit and decided to make a short circuit beyond the usual busy centre to see what else may be around. Plantain Squirrels were very active among the branches, making us double-take every shaking leaf in case it was something a little more interesting. Our first clear sighting of the day was this Rufous Woodpecker, examining holes on a tree just above our heads.

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Busying among the trees were plenty of Oriental White-eyes. Tiny and constantly on the go, they have the same elusive nature as the Goldcrests we find back in the UK. We also spent some time trying to get a clear shot of an Asian Brown Flycatcher that refused to comply with our photographic wishes. Such is the vibrant bio-diversity of Bidadari that a new opportunity is never too far away.

One of the recent star species has been a Blue-winged Pitta, most likely a migrant to Singapore, although there have been sightings in the summer months to suggest some may have taken residence. We waited patiently at the cavernous bush that has been the bird’s chosen location. A single Common Skink appeared as we waited and we had a small bird paying regular visits to the interior of the bush. Despite the shade offered by the foliage, Mrs Sausage managed some record shots that enabled to us to make an identification. We think this is a Golden-bellied Gerygone but as always, we are open to expert opinion.

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As a ground dwelling and feeding bird, the Pitta can be shy and elusive; and we were prepared for only fleeting views if we were lucky. So we were most fortunate that we got more than a quick in and out show. Although the Pitta didn’t stray into the morning sunlight, it did present itself for some half-decent pictures, both on the ground and perched on a low branch.

IMG_0246 pic from Mrs Sausage

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Although we started off as the only two people waiting for the bird, there was soon a healthy crowd of observers around us enjoying this enigmatic bird.

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Having taken our record shots of this wonderfully colourful bird, our attention was drawn to another crowd scene not far behind us. We made our way across to be told that the source of excitement was a Changeable Hawk Eagle. We did see a Brahminy Kite briefly during a non-birding walk a few days before, but this was the first time we had seen a Changeable Hawk Eagle. The large bird of prey decided to perch high above us briefly, resulting in some almost neck-breaking positions in order to grab our shots.

IMG_0253a pic by Mrs Sausage

IMG_0254a pic by Mrs Sausage

The Changeable Hawk Eagle is so called due to the plumage variations throughout the species. There are two main kinds of CHE, a pale morph and a dark morph. The visitor to Bida was a dark morph, a very dark “plain-chocolate” brown bird that flew gracefully across to some trees and out of range after a short pause above us. Magnificent stuff.

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Having had some excellent sightings at Bida, we decided to try our luck over in Jurong at Japanese Garden, a site that gave us some excellent experiences last year. The lunchtime sun was beating down with a vengeance as we made our way into the largely quiet garden. Our first sighting was a familiar one, a single Grey Heron. Due to their hunting style of holding a freeze position, they make excellent camera subjects.

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Adjacent to the heron’s location was our first Singapore wader this trip – a lone Common Sandpiper.

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Bird activity both at Japanese and the adjacent Chinese Garden was at quite a premium. Not only were people largely absent, so were the birds. A few young Peaceful Doves allowed us to get very close for some intimate shots just before we left and some Pink-necked Green Pigeons posed high up for a family portrait.

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Other than these we had a single Collared Kingfisher, a handful of Asian Glossy Starlings and some very shy Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers. Rather than head back home, Mrs Sausage suggested we explore the area around Chinese Garden and we made our way around the edge of Jurong Lake. A few large House Crows momentarily made us think we may have been in for more raptor action but we were left bereft. All was not lost however as we found a couple of skittish Cattle Egret and some rather more stoic Great Cormorants.

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After a passing sighting of an Asian Paradise Flycatcher, we spotted a Common Kingfisher hunting by a large drainage channel next to Boon Lay Way. We watched as several quick dives into the water brought this technicolour angler many silvery rewards.

IMG_0275a pic by Mrs Sausage

IMG_0274a pic by Mrs Sausage

A solo Striated Heron skulking under the bridge seemed to be having less luck in the hunting stakes.

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Mrs Sausage also found these very interesting pink eggs attached to the side of the drain. Her research has found that these seem to be Golden Apple Snail eggs. An invasive freshwater snail species in Singapore, they have effectively usurped the native Apple Snail.

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From the excitement of Bidadari to the low-key pleasures of the gardens, things ended on an upbeat note in the drainage channels of Jurong. Proof if it were ever needed that exciting and interesting wildlife can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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