Breaking the Bidadari trend for the first time this trip, we decided to investigate Pasir Ris Park on 6th November. Mrs Sausage in particular has been keen to add a Buffy Fish Owl to our list of life sightings, and this location in the east of Singapore has had recent reports of these nocturnal hunters visible during daytime.
We had some excitement even before we had left home. A new but not entirely unfamiliar high-pitched bird sound caught my ear as we were about to have breakfast. A look out of the window revealed one, two, three, then four dark shapes circling in the sky. Grabbing our binoculars and cameras, we zeroed in on them and I ventured to guess we had Oriental Honey Buzzards.
The pics are not great as they never descended low enough for clear shots but wing shape, the calls and the general silhouettes of the birds led us to the guess.
Pasir Ris was hot and sunny on our arrival and the blooming flowers allowed some of the best opportunities I have had in Singapore for butterfly photos. First up was this Common Mime.
This I believe is a Common Grass Yellow.
Mrs Sausage also got in on the act with this Peacock Royal.
Our attention was drawn away from this colourful garden scene by the distinct sound of a cockerel crowing. It was exactly the sound you hear in movies and adverts when they need a stereotypical “break of dawn” sound. We looked across and literally watched the chicken cross the road.
Well not exactly chicken. These were Red Junglefowl, effectively wild chickens. They are the untamed ancestors of our familiar domestic chickens and are diminishing in number due to poaching and inter-breeding with domestic fowl. Our splendid cockerel was marshaling a family of one female and three young as we approached and they were all extremely wary of our presence. All our photos were taken at a respectful distance as we didn’t want to distress the birds.
We had yet to reach Pasir Ris Park proper and we had already see two new birds. We encountered more Junglefowl as we entered the park; what appeared to be another family group but with two males accompanying them. The males really do have some striking plumage. By keeping a fair distance away we were able to get some shots in before they were spooked into taking cover.
Once in the park itself, we came into contact with more birds. This Common Flameback was a familiar species to us and at one stage, it came so close that I couldn’t actually get the camera to focus on it.
I also could not resist this particularly photogenic Javan Myna. It may be the most common of Singapore’s birds but this particular Myna was bold and very obliging.
The Tampines River here was hosting some Little Egrets and the statuesque Grey Herons. Skittish as ever, the Little Egrets remained too distant for a picture but you can always rely on the fearless Grey Heron for a good headshot.
Our main aim for being at Pasir Ris was, as mentioned above, to find ourselves a Buffy Fish Owl. With that in mind we made our way around the mangrove boardwalk, eyes and ears on full alert for our feathery quarry. It has to be said, the mangrove boardwalk was eerily quiet for large parts of our walk. Whether it was the smog, which was the heaviest we had seen it since our arrival, the threat of an imminent downpour or just one of those days, we were largely bereft of birds. This Collared Kingfisher was the only sighting we had for the first half of our boardwalk exploration.
The slightest sound or movement in the greenery had us pausing, straining eyes and ears in the hope of a sighting. We had already scanned the known Buffy locations for quite some time before moving on to explore the rest of the boardwalk. We had some reward though with our first sighting of an Olive-winged Bulbul. Credit goes to Mrs Sausage here for the excellent picture as this bird was quite hard to pin down.
Resigned to not getting our target bird, we took a stroll to the beach area. A couple of Milky Stork effortlessly flew across the Johor Strait and two noisy Red-Breasted Parakeets momentarily broke the silence as we planned our next move. As if to prove that there are noisier birds than the parakeets, a Tanimbar Corella screamed into some nearby trees. It was easily located by both its bold white plumage and the incredible racket it made.
We were now having the most sustained spell of sightings of the day. From the storks and the parrots we then had a Tiger Shrike “hedge-hopping” as it searched for insect meals. We only had to pause briefly for it to show itself in the open and allow us a few quick shots.
After a brief check back on the boardwalk which brought a few fleeting sightings of the iridescent blue of a male Koel, we began to make for home. A Stork-billed Kingfisher was a good reason to delay that journey briefly. It was almost at arms-length from us as we stood on the bridge over the river.
We only managed a few quick pictures before the heavens finally opened and some serious rain began to fall. We made for the nearest shelter to wait out the deluge. Whilst waiting, two more Red Jungle-fowl emerged from cover and took up their own shelter under a nearby tree. As the rain slackened they strode straight past us at their usual rapid pace, stopping only to poop on the walkway!
The Stork-billed Kingfisher was still present at the riverside as we made our way back. My favourite Singapore kingfisher, so I couldn’t resist a few more shots.
Our birding day ended as it began; back in the Buona Vista area, watching Oriental Honey Buzzards. As we walked from Buona Vista MRT station, Mrs Sausage noticed two large birds circling overhead. We reckoned that at least two of the OHBs from the morning were still around. Despite us now being on the ground, the raptors were giving some pretty good views. I managed some in-flight shots as they glided at around 20th storey level right above us.
These OHBs looked a lot less tatty than the ones we observed from the kitchen window in the morning.
Despite not getting our long-awaited Buffy Fish Owl, I think our two clear sightings of these migrant birds of prey went some way to making up for it, even if it meant getting the occasional strange looks from passing motorists as we stood by the roadside with our eyes and lenses to the skies.