Category Archives: Nature

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!

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A Small Pratincole in Singapore

In early December 2012, the Big Year competition in which birders participated in finding the most birds in a year, was nearing its end. Birders were frantically finding the last birds for the year. One person in particular was missing a simple bird, the Oriental Pratincole.

The last sighting of the Oriental Pratincole was in mid-November that year at a place called Punggol Barat, a reclaimed piece of land next to an airport. Bare earth, thin patches of grass with a small pond made for an ideal location for the pratincole.

So on that sunny morning, the birder walked around alone to explore the place. With a lot of walking and a big dose of luck, he managed to see a pratincole sitting near a pond through his binoculars. It was a good find. Not wanting to disturb or flush it, he kept his distance and took some pictures instead, and left soon after. Being a fair birder, he decided that he will inform those that did not have the bird yet, so that they too have a fair chance of seeing it later.

Afterwards, away from the unbearably hot sun, he sat down to have a closer look at the photos he took earlier. Immediately it struck him that he was looking at a Small Pratincole (Glareola lactea), a related but much harder to see species in Singapore. In 2012, social media was already used to share bird sightings and so he quickly sent out a mass Whatsapp message.

At the other part of the island, I received the information. Without much thinking, I immediately dropped my work and drove off. I too was involved in the Big Year, and I have certainly not seen this bird before. The last time it came to Singapore in 1989, I was still schooling somewhere in Malaysia. Singapore was still a distant land then.

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Spotted Nutcracker in Bhutan

The Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) seems to have a wide range worldwide, and is pretty common within its range. But in tropical Singapore, we do not have the opportunity to see this species.

Spotted Nutcracker

I was happy to see this particular bird at eye level, as my previous encounters were with birds high up in the tree. This bird was also high up, but I was in a monastery in the mountains and the tree where this bird was perched was below it.

Spotted Nutcracker

This particular bird was perched on a unique looking branch, with hanging lichens (old man’s beard), which added much character to the picture.

Double rainbow

No extreme emotion on this one compared to some viral video somewhere in the Intertubes.

Double Rainbow

Nice to view a double rainbow over Kranji. Could not fit it into a single photo, so this is merged from a few photos. There are flaws in the stitching but doesn’t matter. It is as I remembered it, with the warm glow of the early morning sun illuminating certain part of the scene.

Rainbow-Jelutong

In contrast, this single rainbow was less eye-catching but the surrounding view at Jelutong Tower was definitely better.