All Good Things & A Great End: Kranji Marshes

Finally we come to the last of our Singapore blog posts of our 2016 visit. Our last two adventures took place at a new location for us, Kranji Marshes. One of Singapore’s more recently opened reserves, Kranji Marshes is 56.8 hectares of freshland marsh, woodland and grass habitats. Our first visit on a quiet Thursday 8th September was fantastically rewarding. Apart from some contractors working, the two of us and the creatures had the place pretty much to ourselves.

With the very noisy frogs greeting us at the main entrance we were able to tune our eyes and ears in immediately. Mrs Sausage was the first with a sighting, albeit just a Common Iora.

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We made our way toward the path that runs alongside Neo Tiew Woods where we had a very quick sighting of two Red-whiskered Bulbuls. Yet another first for us but sadly they did not linger long enough to have their pictures taken. Our hot, sweaty walk down towards the Marsh Station was full of noise and fleeting activity. Dragonflies and butterflies were zipping and fluttering all around, Glossy Starlings, Scaly-breasted Munias and Black-naped Orioles all represented the more common local species. Camera action soon arrived though as a Brahminy Kite circled over us and landed in some treetops just above where we were standing.

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After this nice piece of raptor indulgence, we arrived at the Marsh Station where the sound of a constantly calling young bird was filling the air. Both pitch, volume and it’s ceaseless nature dominated the sound environment here and our eyes were busy trying to match the sound with a location. Although we couldn’t pin down the location of the call we were able to find the over-worked parent. A Yellow-bellied Prinia (another first for us) was zipping across on food runs, appearing, disappearing and re-appearing again.

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We were even lucky enough to get some shots showing the meal it was about to deliver to it’s constantly calling camouflaged fledgling.

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The Yellow-bellied Prinia is a small but as we saw, fast moving bird, and is a common resident in Singapore. A member of the Cisticolidae family, it builds a small nest at the base of long grasses – which may well explain why we were having trouble finding the youngster.

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Having enjoyed the Yellow-bellied Prinia, we explored some of the other busy inhabitants of the area. Mrs Sausage in particular was lucky to have some good lens time with this Laced Woodpecker.

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From the top of the Raptor Tower, we were able to get some long distance views of the Red-wattled Lapwings (yet another new species for us) on the East Marsh (we counted around 20 birds.)

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From this elevated position we also saw a single Grey Wagtail visiting the ponds below us.

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The only dark cloud we had was a thick, black acrid one which came with some very loud machinery revving up at the PUB Pumping Station. Both the smell, thick clouds of smoke and the loud machinery shattered what was an idyllic morning of birding.

Our walk back to the entrance saw a few interesting insects grab our attention too. A Common Sailor butterfly was this first, an elegant, gliding or sailing style of flying giving it the name.

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We also found ourselves plenty of Blue Skimmer dragonflies, especially on the greenery located at the main entrance.

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We had already found enough encouragement for a return visit during this morning foray when an all too brief sighting of a Lesser Coucal convinced us that our next free morning would see us back at Kranji Marshes for our last outing of our trip.

Our early morning arrival on 10th September saw us greeted with a flypast of three or four raptors as we stood at the main entrance. With the light still low as the sun was just rising, we could pick out a Brahminy Kite and a White-bellied Sea Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite and Mrs Sausage claimed a possible Osprey. With a Lesser Coucal and Whistling Duck as our main target birds of the morning, we set off for the Marsh Station area.

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The pathway brought us a clear sighting of a Black-shouldered Kite flying over by the Woodpecker Shelter. We also had noisy Long-tailed Parakeets adding to the growing dawn chorus that was building to a crescendo around us.

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We had only been in the Swamphen Hide for around five minutes when our hoped for Lesser Whistling-duck calmly sailed into view right in front of us.

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A very elegant and graceful bird, this was our first duck sighting in Singapore (not including those sampled at various hawker centres from time to time).

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As if this was not enough of a perfect start, appearing in the midst of East Marsh was our Lesser Coucal.

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Early morning mist, hazy sun and the long distance meant our bridge cameras really couldn’t do justice to a bird I think is very strikingly smart. Despite a corvid-type appearance, Coucals are species of cuckoo with a lovely black and chestnut plumage. They are fairly secretive birds, preferring to stay hidden within the long grass cover, occasionally topping the grass. Despite being part of the cuckoo family, Coucals are non-parasitic.

We had heard from a few local birders that there was also some excitement at seeing the Common Moorhen at Kranji Marshes. A bird we all but ignore back home in the UK, it goes to show that our lup sups are of considerable interest in this part of the world.

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We were also able to conclude a piece of unfinished business as Mrs Sausage found the fledgling Yellow-bellied Prinia among the long grass.

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Our return journey was none too dull either. A party of Common Waxbills were climbing reeds and long grasses by the Kingfisher Burrow.

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We had plenty of non feathered interest as well, from this spiny green Changeable Lizard:

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To this staring contest with a grasshopper.

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Finishing off our butterfly sightings of the trip was this lovely Lesser Dart (it may be a Ganda Dart so any butterfly experts please comment).

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We also had a dramatic fly-past from a gliding lizard, rather inelegantly and noisily crashlanding into a tree just by our heads. The Scaly-breasted Munias were also very active in the early morning, allowing us a few pictures as they plundered the grasses for seeds.

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Our final bird sighting at Kranji Marsh was made by Mrs Sausage with this Pied Triller.

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Our morning at Kranji Marshes was one of those rare experiences when everything you hoped to see appeared, almost to order, and new sightings and experiences came one after another. Looking back from a grey, rainy London it was quite possibly our best Singapore birding excursion. Methinks it’s time to plan next year already!

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