Bittern In The Chestnuts

With so many locations left to visit and a good number of our target birds yet to be seen we were determined to make the most of our last week despite changeable weather and our social obligations. 8th January early afternoon saw us arrive at Venus Drive for a look around Windsor Nature Park and some of Central Catchment.

Our first sightings came with a number of busy Olive-winged Bulbuls, seemingly pairing up and definitely carrying nesting material, preparations were well under way for 2018 broods.

As with every other location we visited, there was an Asian Brown Flycatcher, without doubt the most frequently seen of the migrant species.

A long walk to Jelutong Tower was mostly un-eventful aside from a long and ultimately frustrated attempt to photograph a single Eastern Crowned Warbler. Another lifer for us but so, so difficult to track down among the leafy surrounds of the forest walkways. Excellent views through our binoculars offered enough clarity to confirm the species but our slow-fire bridge cameras just couldn’t keep up. Equally devoid of good sightings was our 30 minutes atop Jelutong Tower. Aside from a fleeting show from a Cream-vented Bulbul, an Emerald Dove and plenty of busy parakeet and starling species we were denied in our hopes for Leafbirds and Fairy Bluebirds et al. You are however always guaranteed Long-tailed Macaque sightings and a big troop wandered among us as we inadvertently strayed into the realms of the Singapore Island Country Club.

This individual certainly cradled his trophy of a tin of condensed milk as if it was the most precious of curious treasures. The Macaque’s were certainly more civil towards us than the buggy-borne security guard from the Country Club who demanded we jump into the bushes and the nearest drain as we were not supposed to be on Island Club Road!

The following day (9th January), we headed east to Pasir Ris Park for a morning sortie. Things began encouragingly with a skewer (collective noun alert!) of Cattle Egret feeding on the grass just outside the bus station at Pasir Ris MRT.

A few individuals were just starting to show early hints of their rufous-buff breeding plumage too.

A lone Common Flameback was pretty much as we found at Pasir Ris Park itself and with cloud cover growing, we took a chance and hailed a cab for Lorong Halus.

Our taxi uncle (as is so often the case in Singapore) was a very convivial host for our short journey and lamented that all the construction work around meant that his boyhood fishing spots had started to disappear. The Punggol Riviera area was full of very intense construction activity but I’m pleased to say fishing still goes on. At least it does if you are a Striated Heron.

In the open, un-shaded environs of Lorong Halus, the sun shone with a degree of burning intent. It was by far the hottest day of our visit and we were in the most exposed, shadow-free location we had visited. We were being well and truly roasted as we explored Halus but there was plenty to focus our attention away from sizzling skin. The most obliging Long-tailed Shrike was sat at knee height right next to us as we made our way along the trail.

Shrikes are one of my favourite bird species and we had a lot of time with this confiding individual.

Mrs Sausage also found one of Halus’ resident Sooty-headed Bulbuls and a Pied Triller.

Then came some real excitement as we spotted a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo sitting on the longkang railing along the Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park road.

Some very patient stalking by Mrs Sausage earned her a few closer views but this individual was nowhere near as comfortable being in the open as our previous sighting at the Botanic Gardens.

A slow, sun-burned walk back found a single White-throated Kingfisher and a high altitude fly past of a small flock of Black Baza’s.

The price paid in sunburn (especially by your melanin-deficient author) was well worth it. Our second confirmed Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Black Bazas and some quality time with the Long-tailed Shrike certainly justified our decision to cab it from Pasir Ris to Punggol.

Our next excursion took place on 10th January as we took the opportunity to show some other visitors to Singapore the lovely surroundings of the Botanical Gardens. In a case of what a small world we live in, Mrs Sausage had a colleague visiting Singapore and a late morning rendezvous at the Botanic seemed the perfect location to share some urban birding experiences. We started our visit at the site of our previous “hot spot”, the small bridge at the end of Swan Lake. Movement in the reeds was the first thing that caught our eyes and it took no time at all to discover a Yellow Bittern patiently hunting among the tall overgrowth.

A little patience and working a few angles and we were able to get some ok shots as it took full advantage of the cover the environment offered.

As if on cue and beyond any realistic hopes we had, the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo from our first visit re-appeared. As bold and unconcerned as it was when we came across it nearly two weeks ago, we were happy to indulge our lenses one more time with this compelling subject.

With this likely to be our last visit to the Botanic Gardens it seemed completely fitting that the bird that started our birding break was still around to keep our birding appetite well and truly whetted for our last few days.

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One response to “Bittern In The Chestnuts

  1. Good read. You and the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo are inseparable!. Many more arrivals at SBG these days including the Hooded Pitta and the Orange-headed Thrush.

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