Tag Archives: Seletar Dam

Pacific Reef Heron at Seletar Dam

I have written previously about the Pacific Reef Heron (Egretta sacra) here before.

The last time I saw a dark-morph Pacific Reef Heron at Seletar Dam was in 2012. So it was a pleasant surprise when I bumped into it again a few days back. The tide was receding in the evening at the beach and I was monitoring the waders there. Nonetheless it was still a bit high when I arrived. The heron saw me and promptly flew away to the jetty near the patch of mangrove. Hidden away, I didn’t track its presence, but instead sat down to await the waders arrival.

As one Common Sandpiper landed at the mangrove area, my binoculars pointed to that direction and next to it was the heron, neatly camouflaged by its greyish colour. I approached nearer to photograph it, but the soft mud prevented me moving too close.

A few minutes later, it decided that the tide was sufficiently low for it to start feeding so it flew considerably closer and I had to retreat to the nearby rocks. As I sat there, it went about its business of wading in the shallow waters to look for food. A few unsuccessful pecks yielded seaweed, and so it decided to be closer to land and came towards me at the rocks. It was searching for food and it seem more successful picking up foodstuff between the rocks. I could not see what it was picking up, but it spent quite a long time moving between the rocks and pecking away.

At times, it came too near me and I had to signal to it my presence by standing up. This prompted it to retreat slowly.

As the tide retreated further, it started flying towards the sandier part of the beach and again started looking for food. I saw it picking up a few pieces of organic material but no crustacean so it threw them away. By that time, I was more interested in the waders that was streaming it, so I left it to feed by itself.

In all the time I was watching it, it alternated between the mangrove patch, the shallow waters, the rocks and the sandy beach. When not looking for food, it stood on rocks or trees. Once it was active, it preferred a hunched appearance, walking calmly and deliberately with its eye scanning intently.

 
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The Terek Sandpiper in Singapore

August and September marks the start of search for migrant birds in Singapore for most birders. And shorebirds are the first to arrive. During this time, similar looking shorebirds start appearing mainly at our mudflats and our limited shoreline. It is a confusing time for the new birders, as sorting out the various species is not helped by the fact that their plumage and size does not differ much. So here is a short introduction of one of the easier species to pick out, the Terek Sandpiper.

The Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) is a smaller sized wader that migrates from their breeding ground that stretches from Finland all the way to Siberia. They make a journey of anywhere between 3500km – 4800km to their wintering grounds in Africa, India, the Malaysian Peninsula and Australia. The female starts their journey first in early July and the males and females follow in August. They reach Singapore as early as late July although more commonly seen by September.

The bird itself is rather distinctive. It has short orange legs and a prominent long upcurved bill that is orange at the base. As the scientific specific name implies (cinereus means grey), this wader has a grey back, face and breast in all plumages. Behaviourally, it is a busy looking bird that walks briskly pecking at the surface or probing in shallow water, on soft wet intertidal mudflats and even sandy beaches.

Where can one find the wader and do they appear in large numbers? Normally the Terek Sandpiper will appear at Sungei Buloh, Mandai Mudflats, Seletar Dam. They also appear along Changi Coast, but that location is currently off limits. As they are listed as an uncommon winter visitor, one does not expect a large flock, but perhaps a few birds here and there in any one locality.

This year, one Terek Sandpiper was already reported at Sungei Buloh on 31 August. There will be more to come, as is usually the case.

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Oriental Plover in Singapore

The Oriental Plover (Charadrius veredus) also known as the Oriental Dotterel is a long-legged, medium-sized plover. Its breeding range covers southern Siberia, through northern and eastern Mongolia and into north-eastern China. Post breeding season, it migrates southwards to the Greater Sundas and Australia. En-route it may pass by Hong Kong, the Korean Peninsula, Japan, the Philippines and parts of Southeast Asia.

In Singapore, it is considered a rare winter visitor/passage migrant. Since 1985, there have only been 5 records of this species locally. The most recent one was from October 2012 at a small strip of beach with an area of mudflat next to Seletar Dam.

On the early evening of 1 October 2012, I stopped by this area, en-route to check out a migratory Black-backed Kingfisher that normally bathe in the late evening at Lower Peirce. I had some time to kill. As I was checking out the beach inhabitants, two birders that I did not recognise came over and told me they think they have seen the Oriental Plover and needed me to get some photo evidence. I asked them to show me where the bird was and through their scope I could see a very distant and tall plover. I rushed back to my car to get a longer lens. Standing beside them, I managed to get a few shots. Then I decided to climb down from the roadside to the beach proper to get a closer view. Unfortunately during my descent, the plover flew off. So I went back, reported the sighting with small record shots to show. The next day, many birders came to try their luck, but the plover did not show up. I chalked that up as a lucky lifer, being at the right place and at the right time.

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