Another birding year has just passed. 2014 was a busy year for me birding-wise, and towards the end of it, this blog was inactive as I spent my time finishing my Big Year.
A Big Year in birding parlance is a competition among birders to see the most number of bird species within a year (January 1 to December 31) and within a certain territory (in this case Singapore). Unlike other countries, Singapore is rather small so the adventure and logistics parts of it were rather tame in comparison to what the Americans do for example. To keep things interesting, I promised myself that I will only count a bird species if I managed to photograph it.
This was my second Big Year. In 2012, I participated and managed to finish joint fourth with a bird count of 260. That year, Lim Kim Seng managed a record-breaking 265 bird species. I thought I did relatively well and kept up with the leaders right until the last days of the competition. And I made lots of friends and learnt quite a lot about birds then.
On my second attempt in 2014, quite a number of the 2012 participants did not take part. Can’t blame them. It is a year long affair that really is very tiring. I am happy that there were a few bird photographers joining in the fun this time as well. While it was a competition, we never took it to extremes, and shared lots of bird sighting information amongst us. I felt good this time around, as my birding knowledge has improved compared to 2012 and social media made sharing of sighting information much easier.
So how did I do?
I managed to photograph 261 bird species. An improvement of 1 bird. But that was enough for me to top the competition this time around. Perhaps some of the others were feeling fatigue from doing yet another Big Year. In fact, it will be a very long time before I even contemplate another one. I do highly recommend that new birders attempt it at least once though. You will learn a lot about bird identification, their behaviour and their habitat.
The highlight of the year was the discovery that the wintering ground of the Sakhalin Leaf Warbler is in South-east Asia. My contribution to this was made during the Big Year, when I managed to record the song that it sang (which confirmed its identity), while photographing the bird at Dairy Farm Nature Park. It is not everyday that we make an ornithological discovery for the region!
Other highlights include the first Singapore photographs of the Asian House Martin and Gull-billed Tern, and the rediscovery of the Yellow-eared Spiderhunter that was last seen in 2006. Other participants saw the rare Chestnut-cheeked Starling, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Oriental Scops Owl and there were reports of Barred Eagle Owl, Lesser Adjutant and Malaysian Eared Nightjar.
On the other hand, 2014 also was marked with closure (permanent, temporary and imminent) of many places that provided good habitat for birds. This include Changi grassland, Punggol Barat, Bukit Timah summit, Kranji marsh and lastly Bidadari.
The album below is the complete 261 bird species photographed by me. Pardon the quality of some of them, which were often done in haste.
(Warning: The album / carousel may load slowly due to the number of pictures in the album)