Shiny Dollars & Yellow Bills at Lorong Halus

Our next set of adventures started with a rather bird-poor morning spent at Kent Ridge. Fauna in general was mostly elusive on the overcast morning. When something did show well, they were the usual suspects. 20 minutes was spent stalking one bird with a very distinctive 6-note descending call, but it failed to show. Before the heavens opened in a mighty deluge, we managed a single Flying lizard, one suspected Changeable Hawk Eagle over and a good walk. Some days are just like that, par for the course for the pursuit.

The following day, we held out hope for interesting things as we made an early start for Lorong Halus. One of our favourite birding locations in Singapore, it rarely fails to bring something interesting. We asked our taxi to drop us a little further up along the area rather than the visitor centre entrance – there is so much vegetation, we thought the walk down may bring us something interesting. This move turned out to be a great one as about half way down the walk, our presence flushed a small heron out of the long grass near a drain. It hid a little too well for our cameras, and we retained a careful distance in order to stop if from going deeper into the reeds and grass. While our pictures from this first encounter were not particularly great, we were sure what we had was a Yellow Bittern acting all shy on us. Another lifer for us – and little did we know there would be much more of this bird to come on this day! Record shots taken, we continued down to where busy Baya Weavers hung on blades of grass;

And a shy Pied Triller hid from us in a tree.

Just before turning into the reserve proper, we had another Yellow Bittern fly from right in front of us into the greenery. Two in less than 20 minutes, and a much more obliging photographic subject!

This individual was less skittish than its companion further along, posing confidingly. I suspect it thought it was better hidden than our view suggested.

Lorong Halus itself was something of a letdown. The pathway that runs alongside the Punggol Serangoon Reservoir was full of mechanical diggers, cones and bright plastic barriers as workers were paving the pathway. We have now learned that turning up at reserves here is no guarantee of quiet and escape from great big noisy machinery – the march of concrete goes where it pleases. The associated activity, noise, general hubbub and man-made flooding made hearing, let alone seeing birds extremely difficult. A single Common Palm Dart was all we got as we walked along the waterlogged half-paved path.

Birdwise, we did manage to spot Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Baya and Golden-backed Weavers, one Koel, some Grey Herons on the buoys, Pacfic Swallows and White-winged Terns. Nothing was hanging around for pictures though, but our luck would change as we turned right at the end of the path though.

The tree-lined road leading out of the reserve was active with Common Iora, Olive-backed Sunbirds, House Crows and one very prominent Dollar Bird.

Mrs Sausage found it first, perched out in the open and quite low down for a Dollar Bird; we are more used to seeing these fairly common birds at the very tops of trees singing away.

One of the first images taken shows the Dollar Bird with food in mouth in the shape of a grasshopper.

A few moments of careful watching would reveal that nearby was a nest where our low down Dollar Bird was making regular food visits. Once we spotted the location we were actually able to hear the young birds calling out incessantly for their next meal. With no intention of staying too close to the nest or being the cause of any delay in feeding the brood, we took some pictures in excellent light and made our way.

We were really fortunate that the bright, clear morning allowed the iridescent plumage of the Dollar Bird to literally shine. From a distance they always appear somewhat dark and corvid-like in their plumage, today we were able to enjoy a different side to the Dollar Bird.

All the bird life, it seemed, was happening around the wetland reserve rather than on it, so we decided to complete a loop around and finish by retracing our route of earlier in the morning. Again, a choice well made as we watched Scaly Breasted Munias carrying materia to a nest, an Olive-backed Sunbird building its nest in a longkang:

Overhead we watched a Black-winged Kite mobbed by House Crows and an unidentified white and black bird with what looked like long ribbon tails making occasional appearances from the greenery on either side of the road. This alone is enough to warrant a second visit sooner rather than later. As we drew closer once again to the reserve itself we spotted an Asian Brown Flycatcher in the trees adjacent to us, very mobile and preferring the darker sections of the trees, we had to be patient for these shots.

As we repeated our dawn route we found one of our earlier Yellow Bitterns still present and couldn’t resist another few portraits.

Just as we were about to cross Lorong Halus Bridge we found a lone Long-tailed Macaque feeding. We were allowed to get reasonably close too – I suspect our lack of attractive, rustling plastic bags made us of little interest to the single simian.

Our last sighting of the day was a collection of Scaly-breasted Munia along Punggol Promenade.

Another really rewarding day of birding, another lifer and some lovely sightings. As we said, there is always something happening at Halus!

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