Tag Archives: Bukit Timah

A Cold-blooded Encounter at Bukit Timah

Hiking up Bukit Timah Hill in Singapore with a long lens setup is never a truly enjoyable experience for me. The weight of the system, the steep climb and the general lack of any bird life on the way to the top meant that I am often staring at the road ahead instead of looking at the trees. The reward is often at the summit itself where birds tend to congregate.

So it was on one fine afternoon in late January 2012, that I found myself once again attempting to climb the summit. The climb was uneventful as things go and I was almost reaching the top. As is my normal routine, I tend to quicken my pace near the end just to get it over and done with.

Out of the blue, on the last big curve towards the top, a frog jumped out from the bushes by the side of the road. It hopped towards my direction and as my eyes was trying to keep track, something even bigger rushed forward towards me as well. I was so stunned by what was happening that I did not move any part of my body, except for my head that was tracking two things moving towards me, and then away from me. Had it been anything dangerous, I would have been toast. It took maybe 1-2 seconds before it registered in my mind that a frog was being chased by a snake. Almost instinctively, I raised my camera system that was slung on the side of my body towards my face, dialed the shutter speed knob of the camera a few notches clockwise and started tracking the two creatures. By the time I locked focus, they must have been 10 meters away. It was just a matter of clicking the shutter continuously while tracking their movement. Not an easy task considering that I was half exhausted from the climb, but the adrenaline rush helped somewhat.

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Sunda Flying Lemur at Bukit Timah

The Sunda Flying Lemur (Galeopterus variegatus), also known as the Malayan Flying Lemur or Malayan Colugo, is a species of colugo found throughout South-East Asia. In Singapore, it can be found in the Central Catchment area.

At night when it is in search for food, it can glide across the forest canopy. This because it has a gliding membrane that connects from the neck, extending along the limbs to the tips of the fingers, toes and nails. Hence the name, flying lemur although it is neither can truly fly nor a true lemur.

During the day it is often found resting. I have seen this species previously at Lower Peirce.  This time around I manage to see it in February 2012 at Bukit Timah near the visitor centre. It was clinging on to a palm tree.

Sunda Flying Lemur

The flying lemur was clinging on the lower part of the palm tree, so it was easy to position myself closer to it. It’s looking warily at the people gathering to see it.


Sunda Flying Lemur

It decided that it needs to be up higher, so it started climbing. You can see just how flexible the membrane is.


Sunda Flying Lemur

As it climbs, particles fall down from the tree on the left side,  and you can now see it elongating it’s body further.


Sunda Flying Lemur

As it reaches the top, I walked to the side to photograph the other part of the animal. You can see why it was wary of human. It has a baby in it’s membrane’s fold, with it’s head jutting out in curiosity. The baby can take up to six month to be independent from the adult. During this time, it clings on for protection and food.


Further reading:
Encyclopedia of Life Online

Juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher

Somewhere in the middle of this tiny island lies a pond. A byproduct of a granite quarry long abandoned. Beside it, the highest peak in the entire island, with a name belying its past potential.

I was there for the hill hiking and hopefully some wildlife photography along the way. The pond was besides the point. But at the end of the hike I had nothing to show for my effort. So it was natural that I made my way to the pond, hoping for some change of luck.

The view was good, the water was calm. In the half and hour there, there were numerous birds passing by. Dollarbirds and bee-eaters were swooping through the water looking for food. Bulbuls were flying around. An eagle was soaring above. Quite a sight.

But the light wasn’t favourable and my photographic skill somewhat lacking, so the photos were mediocre at best.

Luckily for me, all was not lost. Calling loudly and incessantly at one side of the bush besides the pond was a juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher. It was quite far away and tree branches obscured its view. But I managed to capture a few photos nonetheless. Technically imperfect, but it was a rare sighting and it’s a cute bird.

Juvenile Stork-billed Kingfisher

And below is the parent which I caught the next day (I just had to return to confirm their presence!). Notice the difference in the colour of the blue plumage and of the tip of the bill .

Stork-billed Kingfisher flying sequence

Stork-billed Kingfishers as the largest resident kingfishers in Singapore.  They are not very common, but can be found where there is a large body of water. And they are solitary birds, but this pond is home to a family!