Monthly Archives: December 2010

Black Swans

No, this is not a movie review. Rather, this is a post on the real Black Swans. The kind that turns from ugly ducklings to handsome creatures upon adulthood.

I suppose most people have heard of the existence of Black Swans. In Singapore, they are an ornamental species introduced (from Australia) to the Singapore Botanical Garden no doubt due to their unusual appearance. Armed with the knowledge of their existence, I made my way there to have an actual sighting and hopefully some nice photographs.

What I did not expect, and for which I was very fortunate to witness was that there was a swan couple who just started a family!

Black Swan family

The couple with four recently hatched cygnets

Black Swan family

What I didn’t know was that the cygnets are actually white in colour!

Black Swan cygnet

A closer look at a cygnet. Isn’t it cute and fluffy? Not ugly at all.

Black Swan cygnet

Cygnets feeding.

From what I gathered, this is the first time that the Black Swan is raising a family. Mind you that these photos were taken more than a month ago. So by now, the cygnets would have been much bigger. I hope that they manage to grow up safe and sound.


In the parlance of birding, escapees are non-native birds that have ‘escaped’ from captivity and are now living independently in the wild. In Singapore there are quite a number of escapees birds as we do have a bird trade going on and of course there are many people who release captive birds for religious purposes on certain occasions.

On the whole, here and there we will have reports of sighting of 1 or 2 exotic birds either introduced or maybe a rare winter migrant that will trigger the call to action for many bird photographers. News indeed travel fast in this small island.

It is rarer to see a flock of exotic escapee birds though. I mean, it’s Singapore. Where do they hide from prying eyes for long? Do escapee birds of a feather somehow flock together? Do they breed and soon become a feral population?

Near where I stay, there is a small flat field that has been leveled and is probably slated for development, perhaps in anticipation of future demand for HDB flats. In the meantime, lalang and other grass species have sprouted in place of the bare ground. Mimosa bushes and acacia trees have grown as well. The place is wholly uninteresting to most people as there are many such plots of land nearby. To me however, it is a quiet, nearby training ground to learn bird photography.

I have noted for a long time the presence of a flock of Sooty-headed Bulbuls (Pycnonotus aurigaster) that have made this field their home. Well, just so happen this is a escapee species introduced here and have started breeding. They are considered a breeding feral population and just so happen, this plot of land is an excellent site to observe them.

Sooty-headed Bulbul - IMG_5451

Sooty-headed Bulbul - IMG_5400

Recently I made another discovery. Apparently there is another flock of birds that are also pretty exotic. When I first met them, I had trouble identifying them as the local bird guide book did not contain their description. With the help some bird ID experts, I found out that not only did I managed to find one species of bird, but actually two!

The first bird is the Yellow-fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus), a native of Africa that is traded and prized as a song bird. Pictured below eating grass seeds.
Yellow-fronted Canary - IMG_5118

The second bird is the White-rumped Seedeater (Serinus leucopygius), a relative of the Yellow-fronted Canary that is also an African song bird.

Racial Harmony Day

These two kind of birds somehow escaped from captivity, found each other in a tiny plot of land, and now live together peacefully.

There are currently 6 of them, three Yellow-fronted Canaries and three White-rumped Seedeaters scurrying around and foraging together in this grassland they call ‘home’. I hope they manage to survive and prosper.

Smooth-coated Otters Part 3

Sometimes, just when you think you can regularly encounter something, Mother Nature has other plans. Since my last encounter with the otters back in September, I had made many trips to Sungei Buloh to try to observe them again. No luck whatsoever. Perhaps they have found a new home at a more inaccessible place away from the prying eyes of human beings. Or maybe they were all eaten up by water monitors and crocodiles. Who knows?

Last Sunday morning, instead of going to my usual place, I decided to have a short stroll in Pasir Ris Park. Somewhere nearby. My goal was to find the Red Junglefowl which I had photographed previously next to Sungei Tampines, which runs through the park. By the way, the Red Junglefowls are believed to be the ancestors of the domestic chickens.

Within minutes of walking along park, I heard the distinctive “cock-a-doodle-doos” of the male junglefowl. In fact I heard two different calls at two locations. They sounded like they were having a dueling competition of some sort. I managed to catch a glimpse of the closer male bird near the mangrove swamp, but I really wasn’t that motivated to trail it through. I thought, maybe I will see them again later.

I proceeded to one of the observation point that overlook Sungei Tampines. Back in July, I encountered Grey Herons that were starting to build their nests there. It has been some time and I heard that it is now a thriving heronry, with chicks growing up nicely. True enough, when I arrived, there were heron nests with adults and chicks at various stages of development.

What caught my eyes though was a figure quite far away that was bobbing in the waters of the river. It was either a monitor lizard or an otter. I took some shots and zoomed in on my camera LCD panel. It was an otter!

I monitored it as it came closer. I beckoned to some photographers there who were engrossed with the herons about the presence of the otters. Everyone switched focus. And the otter seemingly obliged by swimming to the river bank just opposite to our observation point. I took a few quick snaps.

It later moved on to another spot and I gave chase. By the time I arrived though, it decided it wanted to move to another place. Oh well, I suppose I will leave it alone, as I was pleased and pleasantly surprised to have encountered yet another otter at a different location!

Photos below. Nothing spectacular. No eating, no playing. Just a single otter.

Smooth-coated Otters - IMG_4795

Smooth-coated Otters - IMG_4804

Smooth-coated Otters - IMG_4806

Smooth-coated Otters - IMG_4808