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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 18:02   #1
Digbert Doobrey
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Singapore 22/10/2017-30/10/2017

My Gambia trip last year had wetted my appetite for seeing more of the world's kingfishers so the next step for me was to try and add some of the gorgeous members of that family from Asia to my list. Having had a tour to Goa cancelled a few years back I didnt want to risk booking another tour just yet plus I had to keep an eye on the budget so looking at my options Singapore seemed to fit the bill.

I had stopped over for a couple of days there on route to Australia over ten years ago before I became a birder and really liked the place and always wanted to go back to explore it more. Having researched plenty of birding sites/countries to potentially visit one day I noted that Singapore has four regular Kingfisher species plus four others that are considered rarities. Also Singapore has a great variety of other species to see and despite being a heavily built up city it still has some patches of rainforest and plenty of parks and wetland reserves. Almost all reachable by public transport or a small cab ride.

A hotel and flight booked on Expedia for a little over a grand and I'm all set. I opted for the Village hotel Changi as it is close to the airport, away from the hustly bustly urban centre, and in quite a 'birdy' part of Singapoe. Also, its very close to Pulau Ubin which is a small island off the coast of north Singapore which is largely untouched by the modern world and therefore still holds alot of natural habitat. I visited the island three times. I requested a room with a view over looking trees/parkland and they gave me a room on the 7th floor with a balcony. This was amazing as I had some of my best birding all week from my hotel room. White-bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites were constantly flying around. Other great birds seen from my balcony included Crested Honey-buzzard, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Dollarbird, Green Imperial Pigeon and Blue-tailed Bee-eater.

I did use the bus and MRT rail system to get around but after a while this felt like I was going to work every morning. The novelty of standing on the MRT with my bins and camera whilst being squashed up against Singapore's commuting workforce soon wore off so I opted for a cab a few times afterwards. There not that expensive anyway.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve was a place I'd dreamed of going for a long time. It took me about two and a half hours to get there on my second morning. When I finally got there I was I was greeted by hordes of........screaming school kids. I don't have a problem with school parties at nature reserves. We have to get the young people involved with nature. Its so important for future generations to realise the importance of preserving wildlife and wildlife habitat. When I was a kid I loved those trips and they are one of the reasons why I've had a lifelong interest in nature. However, cobblers to all that when I've flown half way round the world and was so looking forward to seeing hundreds of rare migrating waders and other wetland birds! Only kidding. Its a huge reserve and I soon escaped the crowds but sadly the birding was a bit dissapointing. The tide was out and perhaps I'd just picked a bad day but apart from a huge flock of Whimbrel and Redshank there wasn't a great deal else birdwise. There were however loads of huge Water Monitor lizards to see and also a salt water crocodile that, somehow, I had missed on my way into a hide but saw it on the way out. Now it was only around six or seven feet long but as they grow over twice that length it was slightly alarming to be that close to a wild croc. Fantastic creature though. Looking at its open eyes you really get a sense that you are looking at a wild animal from a family that has been around since before dinosurs. It wasnt until I'd walked a bit further around the reserve that I saw a sign saying beware of Crocodiles keep away from the waters edge. Perhaps that sign should be at the entrance not half way round!

The birdwatching around the rest of the Island is not easy but very rewarding. You will get a very sore neck as most of the action is high in the canopy. Some of the parks and reserves have canopy towers instead of hides. This has mixed blessings as, although its a great way to see the birds, I have a phobia for heights especially when some of the barriers are only waist height and the tower vibrates whenever someone is walking up and down the stairs. However, as long as you dont look straight down its just a case of mind over matter and if you dont mind heights its no problem anyway. Every day I walked about four or five miles. Places look smaller on the map as always but the adrenaline of finding new birds and other wildlife keeps you moving along. Finding a party of nine Smooth Coated Otters along the river at Pasir Ris Park was exceptional.

Being so close to Malaysia I booked a trip to Panti forest for a day. My excellent guide Kim drove me there and back and I picked up some wonderful species that would be difficult or impossible to get in Singapore. These included Blyth's Hawk-eagle, Whiskered Treeswift and Dusky Broadbill. Also it was great to birdwatch whilst listening to the calls of distant Gibbons in the background.

As for the kingfishers, well despite some much appreciated advise from a couple of members of this forum based in Singapore, I didn't manage to see any of the rarer species but did get excellent views of Collared, White-throated, Stork-billed and Common Kingfishers. All the local birders I met were more into the photography side of the hobby. In fact they didn't carry bins just their huge lenses. They just sat and waited really as opposed to actively seeking out birds. Ironically the bird they all seemed to be most interested in is the Common Kingfisher. This is because it is migratory in Singapore and therefore not as 'easy' as the other three regular Kingfishers. I do a bit of voluteering at RSPB Rye Meads reserve in Hertfordshire and that is a haven for photographers after the Common Kingfishers there so it was a bit bizarre to travel all the way to Singapore and encounter the same scenario amounst the local birders.

In summary Singapore is a welcoming and very interesting 'stand alone' city. I doubt it represents much of the rest of South-east Asia. Its a paradise if your favourite programme in the 70's and 80's was Tomorrow's World. Very futuristic if not a little over sanitised. However a stroll around the gorgeous Gardens by the bay (good for Yellow Bittern and Stork-billed Kingfisher) was the closest I came to doing the touristy bit. Every man, woman and child from six to sixty is surgically attached to their Iphone if they are not in conversation. For the hardcore birder who wants to add loads of birds to their lists they will no doubt be more interested in the birding delights of Malaysia, Thailand, Borneo and beyond. However for someone who had never birded this part of the world before it was a great introduction and I'm more than happy with my trip list of 98 species. With a bit more effort and research I could easily have added to that and there were many sites that I didnt get round to seeing even after eight days.
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 19:08   #2
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 19:12   #3
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 19:17   #4
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 19:21   #5
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Old Friday 3rd November 2017, 19:25   #6
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Sorry about the quality of the pics. I'm only using a bridge Canon sx60 which isn't a very good camera to be honest.

Yeah yeah I know. A bad worker always blames his tools....
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Old Saturday 4th November 2017, 19:32   #7
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Excellent report, Singapore is also high on my wish list.
Information are more important than pictures.
But with picture program like Capture, the pictures can be improved a lot.
If you agree, I can show example of improved pictures.
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Old Sunday 5th November 2017, 07:37   #8
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Originally Posted by albatross02 View Post
Excellent report, Singapore is also high on my wish list.
Information are more important than pictures.
But with picture program like Capture, the pictures can be improved a lot.
If you agree, I can show example of improved pictures.
Ok sure I don't mind. To be honest I'm not big on the photography side of the hobby I just like to take some record shots.

For example the shot of the raptor with its back to us was used elsewhere on this forum to identify the bird as I thought it was slightly large for a Sparrowhawk. Another forum member informed me it is in fact a juvenile Crested Goshawk so that gave me yet another lifer and increased my trip list to 98. I also filmed the bird as the sx60 takes far better video than it does pictures. A great record of a fantastic bird.
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Old Sunday 5th November 2017, 12:49   #9
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I used one picture on Capture NX2 from Nikon.
There are also many other programs even freeware.
I am also use DSLR D300S and Capture NX2 only in spartime.

At first I correct the brightness if picture to bright or to dark.
See example at picture 2.
It is also possible correct part of pictures e.g. only background.

In case of your picture, improvment of color saturation are needed.
Finally picture sharpness.
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Old Sunday 5th November 2017, 12:55   #10
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Another picture.
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Old Sunday 5th November 2017, 13:03   #11
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This improve this picture should explain someone who has more knowledge than me.
I improved color saturation carefully.
Add yellow color to picture and carefully red.
See picture 2.
Finally carefully picture sharpness.
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Old Sunday 5th November 2017, 16:26   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albatross02 View Post
This improve this picture should explain someone who has more knowledge than me.
I improved color saturation carefully.
Add yellow color to picture and carefully red.
See picture 2.
Finally carefully picture sharpness.
All good adjustments to the originals. I've got an auto adjust facility on my computer but I forgot to use it. I was too busy adjusting the size of the pics so I could upload them to the thread.
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 19:22   #13
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For the last picture, more improvement is possile, but with more knowledge than me.
I hoped someone with better knowledge will help.


Best regards
Dieter
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Old Thursday 9th November 2017, 13:19   #14
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Which program are you using to do your adjustments?

If it has the option to change the colour balance separately for highlight/midtones/shadows it can be worth doing different things in different categories - in the case of the forest picture for instance I'd actually move the highlights a little back towards blue to avoid having the colours be too flat. I would also say getting familiar with the exposure controls can make life a lot easier.

If you want a slightly more advanced technique for when you want to bring more focus to a bird (/object/whatever) in the foreground - duplicate the layer of the the picture, edit the new, upper layer purely to bring the bird or whatever into the colour range you like and then erase away everything else on the layer using a soft edged brush. You can also then independently tweak the background. I had a very quick go at your kingfisher (although my own monitor needs re-calibrating, so not 100% sure it'll look perfect on yours)
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Old Tuesday 14th November 2017, 07:18   #15
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Thanks for that advice. The thing is I'm really just happy taking record shots. I'm not that into the photography side of the hobby. Maybe one day when I retire and I've got more time on my hands.

All the tech side of it reminds me too much of a physics lesson at school.
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 04:26   #16
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A nice report.

The Heron in post five looks like interesting - I wonder if it might be Great-billed and whether you have any more shots?

Cheers
Mike
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Old Thursday 16th November 2017, 07:41   #17
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A nice report.

The Heron in post five looks like interesting - I wonder if it might be Great-billed and whether you have any more shots?

Cheers
Mike
The bird is a Great Billed Heron. I saw it at the Chek Jawa broadwalk on Pulau Ubin. It was tucked in behind the branches of some mangrove trees and that was about the clearest shot I could get.
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Old Friday 17th November 2017, 01:39   #18
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Thanks for the clarification - a nice record!

Cheers
Mike
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Old Saturday 18th November 2017, 12:54   #19
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Which program are you using to do your adjustments?

If you want a slightly more advanced technique for when you want to bring more focus to a bird (/object/whatever) in the foreground - duplicate the layer of the the picture, edit the new, upper layer purely to bring the bird or whatever into the colour range you like and then erase away everything else on the layer using a soft edged brush. You can also then independently tweak the background. I had a very quick go at your kingfisher (although my own monitor needs re-calibrating, so not 100% sure it'll look perfect on yours)
Very good advise, but i did not understand the princinple.
Maybe because to low knowledge or/ and to less English knowledge.
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