Category Archives: Milestones

Special Ks

It’s been almost nine years since I was diagnosed with keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition that result in blurred vision and acute astigmatism. Both my eyes are affected, with my left eye having a severe case that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses. That left me with my right eye (with a milder form that is correctable to a greater degree) to take care of all this vision thing that almost everyone else take for granted.

A recent check in November with an eye specialist revealed no substantial worsening or improvement on the condition. What prompted the visit was however more interesting, as I had a lump growing rapidly at the corner of my left eye. That resulted in a visit to the hospital and hence the check with eye specialists, and subsequently a day surgery. After the removal of the lump, histopathology test revealed that I have another condition called Kimura’s disease, a rare but benign chronic inflammatory disorder. There are still remnants of the lump after surgery but for now, the proliferation of the cells have abated. I should be thankful that things are what they are, and I can continue to go about my life somewhat normally. Not having good eyesight certainly have not stopped me from indulging in birding as a hobby, but getting a health scare does make one evaluate things a bit.

2016 was a relatively relaxed year for birding, similar to what it was in 2015. I’ve settled on routine weekly walkabouts at my regular birding spots, a few overseas jaunt, and the occasional scrambling when a local bird rarity appears. Since my last post a few months back, I’ve photographed a couple of new birds. The count is now 318 bird species photographed in Singapore. I reckon if I keep at this pace, 330 birds should not be a problem in the next few years. The goal now have shifted to getting better photographs of existing birds.

Last year, together with some birding friends, we started a community project to better document the bird species found in Singapore. The Singapore Bird Project website was launched with write-ups and photos of birds from a bunch of top bird photographers in Singapore. This informal group also went on to organize a few pelagic trips, resulting in the addition of a new bird species for the Singapore checklist, the Bulwer’s Petrel. The website itself is growing stronger with increased monthly readership over time.

Another new initiative in 2016 was to set up a new Facebook Group, Wildlife of MacRitchie & Central Catchment to showcase and raise awareness of the diversity of wildlife at MacRitchie and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve in Singapore.

To complement my existing personal Facebook Page, I have also set up an Instagram account to post photos of birds I have seen along the way. So all in all, it has been a very busy and productive year despite the special Ks getting in the way.

Let me end by posting a few photos taken in 2016. Here’s hoping 2017 will be an even more eventful year!

Advertisements

Six years of birding

The blog is still pretty much dormant since the last time I wrote. I’m still birding but more and more, the pictures and stories are shared in Facebook or Instagram. There are still stories to be told, birds behaviour to note down in longer format, and in more details, but I’ll leave that for another day.

I’ve just completed my 6th year of birding today. Travelled overseas a bit more this year and saw a few more local birds. Pretty happy with the hobby and hope I can continue further.

Below is a collage of all the bird species I have photographed locally in Singapore so far. All 310 species of them. All taken in tiny Singapore. Larger photos with description at my Google Photo album.

Singapore birds shot between April 2010 to April 2016.

Singapore birds shot between April 2010 to April 2016.

The quest for 300 Singapore birds

When I first purchased a telephoto lens and camera in April 2010, the main goal was to have a walk around set up in the neighbourhood and documenting the wildlife that inhabit it. Soon my focus turned specifically to birds.

Years ago, when I bought a DSLR to photograph my growing child, I had started learning about photographic techniques in a local photographic forum. I must have browsed through many photos in the forum looking for inspiration. Among them were truly well taken photos of birds from a small group of local wildlife photographers that travelled around the entire island looking for our feathered friends. I wished then that I had that luxury of time to pursue such a hobby.

Once I started focussing on birds myself, it was not long before I started doing the same chase. Neighbourhood walks turned to long car drives and then long treks. A handful of birds turned into 50 and then 100 birds within a few months. Months soon turned to years and my photo collection grew. Five and a half years later, I have photographed 303 wild bird species.

That’s not a big number. In Peru, a team of committed and well prepared birders saw a total of 354 species in a day! Nonetheless, I am pleased to break the 300 species mark in Singapore itself. There is no big celebration or announcement. I have participated in two Big Year competition against other birders in 2012 and in 2014, but this one was different. It’s a quiet personal journey with no definite time frame. I hope to and will work on seeing more birds in the future, one new species at a time.

If you are interested in the bird species I have photographed, the latest photos (one photo per species) arranged alphabetically is posted in my Google Photo album. The ones posted below are randomly placed.

Continue reading

The Singapore Big Year 2014

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)

Photo Album

The journey continues

It’s been three years since I last posted. The last post was celebrating my first year of birding and the accomplishments that went with it. It reads like a resume now rather than an article and I highlighted things big and small, but at the time it felt important.

I suppose in actuality not much have changed. I still pursue this hobby with goals in mind and in truth, with an even more determined mindset after the first year. But enough of listing ‘accomplishments’ as it seems rather self-indulgent. Instead, there are some stories to tell and memories to jot down.

So let me start by posting butterflies instead of birds. The Great Orange Awlet (Burara etelka) is a rarely seen butterfly as it prefers to be active during dawn and dusk. It’s hard to miss though if it’s around, due to it’s intense orange colour. I was lucky to have seen this one at Jelutong Tower in the early morning.

Great Orange Awlet

 

After Jelutong Tower, I went walking on the trails where I met the female and male Saturn (Zeuxidia amethystus). They’re really good at camouflage and will only reveal themselves by flying away when the intruder gets close.

Saturn

Saturn

 

And lastly, a Common Faun (Faunis canens). I don’t know much about this butterfly, but hopefully in the future will be able to write more.

Common Faun

First year of bird photography

On 29 April 2010, I bought a 300mm lens to try out for birds and butterflies photography. About two months in, I gave up on photographing butterflies but kept on photographing birds. Since then, I’ve kept track of this hobby more meticulously that I normally would.

Today marks the first year of this endevour for me. What have I accomplished so far:

  1. Discovered and photographed 2 new species of escapee birds (White-rumped Seedeater and Crimson-rumped Waxbill).
  2. First to photograph in the wild a new species of escapee bird (Black-and-white Mannikin), that was first discovered elsewhere captured for ringing purposes.
  3. Discovered a flock of Yellow-fronted Canaries (another escapee bird) that in the past have only been found singly.
  4. Explored and popularized a patch of land called Punggol Mini Grassland near Punggol East Road

First among my group to photograph the following uncommon birds:

  1. A flock of 3 Jerdon Bazas, a rare migrant to our shores (Lorong Halus).
  2. Sooty-headed Bulbuls flock (Punggol East)
  3. Black Swan cygnets (Singapore Botanic Garden)
  4. Little Grebes fledglings (Lorong Halus)
  5. Plaintive Cuckoos (Lorong Halus and Tuas Grassland)
  6. Male Banded Bay Cuckoo (Lorong Halus)

Photos and articles in Bird Ecology Study Group blog:

  1. Lineated Barbet Feeding Chick
  2. Black-and-white Mannikin Spotted
  3. Crimson-Rumped Waxbill, Another Exotic Canary
  4. Yellow-fronted Canary and White-rumped Seedeater Spotted
  5. Long-tailed Shrike and Fledglings
  6. Collared Kingfisher Catches A Froglet

My bird count stands at 170 identified non-captive birds photographed in Singapore, and 23 for birds captured in Fraser’s Hill bringing a total of 193.