Tag Archives: Bidadari

Indian Pond Heron at Bidadari

The Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) is a common heron that is found breeding in the Indian subcontinent ranging to Iran. Its alternate name is paddybird, which is derived probably from its preferred habitat, marshy wetlands or in cases where these have been cultivated by human, paddy fields.

Indian Pond Heron
(The Indian Pond Heron standing still looking for its prey. Taken on 18 April 2015)

In the official checklist of the Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, there are two species of pond herons found in Singapore. The more common Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) and the rarer Javan Pond Heron (Ardeola speciosa) both which are closely related to the Indian Pond Heron. In fact, in non-breeding season, all three pond herons are indistinguishable from each other. It is only when they change into their breeding plumage that each of these species are easily separated visually. However this changeover into breeding plumage also signal their return to their breeding grounds away from Singapore. So there is only a small window in the season when they are around for us to ascertain their identity locally. In the case of the Indian Pond Heron, there have only been two prior records of their sightings in Singapore, one in Senoko and another in Pasir Ris Farmway 1. For some reasons, these sightings have not resulted in the Indian Pond Heron being included in the checklist yet.

So it came as a shock to me that I recognise this bird species while perusing through my friend Er Bong Siong’s pictures taken at Bidadari on 17 April 2015. As it was late in the evening when I first came upon them, I only managed to go to Bidadari the next morning after running some family errands. By that time, there was a already a group of avid birders and photographers searching for the bird and they managed to locate it before my arrival.

I managed to see the bird first resting on a tree, and subsequently perched on a bare branch before coming down to hunt for food on a grass patch below. Unfortunately it only stayed around until the early afternoon. The noise from tree cutting nearby and the presence of more people probably resulted in its early departure.

Indian Pond Heron
(Perching on a bare tree branch just next to the carpark at Bidadari)

Indian Pond Heron
(Stalking a prey on a grassy patch at Bidadari)

All in all, I managed to get some pretty clear photos and video of the pond heron. Hopefully this sighting and the previous ones will result in the acceptance of this species into our checklist. My opinion is that although rarer than the other two species of pond herons, part of the reason for the lack of records is due to the fact that most people overlook this species. The non-breeding and breeding plumages of these three ponds herons are confusing unless a birder knows what field marks to look out for.

Lastly, I just want to note that Bidadari, a place slated for development soon seems to continue to surprise everyone with the constant appearances of locally rare migrant bird species, underlining once again its importance as a stopover/refuelling point for many bird species in this region.

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Ruddy Kingfishers in Bidadari

The Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) is both a rare resident as well as an uncommon migrant kingfisher to the shores of Singapore. The resident subspecies (minor) is confined to the mangroves of Pulau Tekong, and not many people have seen them due to the restricted access.

The migrant subspecies (coromanda) on the other hand comes in small numbers in two waves during the migratory season. Once during the main influx in October to November and then on their passage home to the north between February and March.

I had looked at the recent records (2006 to present) to find the locality of their sightings. They have been sighted before at Jurong Lake district, Dairy Farm, Khatib Bongsu, Nee Soon Swampforest, Sungei Buloh, Malcolm Park, Lower Peirce reservoir, Pulau Ubin and even the Central Business District. The place with the most sightings is the former Muslim cemetery in Bidadari. The birds have been seen there annually since 2011.

Photographically, they pose a challenge as the bird tends to be skittish and can fly a good distance away once disturbed. However with patience, an observer can get close enough for a good look and photos.

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Tiger slaying Dragon

Tiger slaying Dragon or Dragon-slaying Tiger?

Tiger Shrikes (Lanius tigrinus) are a migratory bird species that winters or pass through Singapore. Normally in the autumn months, the juveniles will pass through in significant numbers, and the former Bidadari Muslim Cemetery is a good place to see them.

The lizards from the genus Draco (meaning dragon) are commonly called flying dragons. They have an outstretched membrane made of skin between their ribs that aid in their gliding. They too can be found in Singapore, and Bidadari is an ideal environment as there are plenty of insects that serve as their food.

Tiger Shrike
(A juvenile Tiger Shrike with a flying dragon, Draco sumatranus)

This is a story told in pictures about the encounter of the Tiger and the Dragon that took place in September 2011.

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A Changeable Hawk-Eagle meal

On a lunchtime break in December 2012, I decided to make a quick round to the former Bidadari Muslim cemetary, a prime birding area in Singapore. Unexpectedly, I was the lone person there. And for good reason. That day, the birds must have decided to take a break. Or perhaps they sense something else…

As I went along a more wooded area, and ready to leave the place, I saw movement of a large bird. Scanning the area and slowly pacing my steps, I chanced upon a raptor perched on a low branch and close by. Turned out to be a white-morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus). Now normally if the raptor sees a person nearby it will just take-off. But it stayed, so I slowly moved my camera and lens towards my eyes. Once focused on my viewfinder, I could see that it had something on it’s leg.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle

It scanned around, looking warily, but never made direct eye contact. I was sure it was aware of my presence and just awaiting for the moment to get away. I rattled a few shots quickly, and the noise from the shutter of my camera made it even more nervous. I decided to continue photographing nonetheless. One does not always get a chance to photograph a raptor with a prey. Once I was satisfied with the shots from the position, I wanted a different background, so I took a step…

Changeable Hawk Eagle

It then decided the that I have crossed the line and flew off for good, prey in tow. And that was the end of the encounter. No feeding shot after all.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle

So what was it that it was holding on to? A rat, crushed in the head by it’s powerful leg. A raptor in the city making a meal of an urbanized mammal, in a former cemetery that will soon be a fancy housing estate.

Asian Palm Civet in Singapore

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), also called toddy cat in English, and musang in Malaysia/Indonesia and sometimes luwak in the latter.

Asian Palm Civet

It is a nocturnal animal, that is good climber. It feeds on fruits mainly but occasionally eats smaller mammals and insects. It also feeds on palm flower sap which when fermented becomes toddy, hence the alternate English name.

It is the same animal that is the source of Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, one of the world’s most expensive coffee. Made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the animal, then passed through its digestive tract. It is the commercial production of this type of coffee that threatens the wild population of civets as increasing number are captured and ‘farmed’ for the coffee beans.

Asian Palm Civet

In Singapore, civets can be found in forested areas of Singapore and also near urban areas, especially the Siglap area. This particular civet was found at the former Bidadari Muslim cemetery at dusk in October 2012. It was probably the start of it’s evening food round.

Asian Palm Civet

Upon contact with with human, it quickly ran up a tree where it stayed around for a few moments before quickly disappearing into surrounding vegetation.