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Singapore - May 2023 (1 Viewer)


Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
My other passion in life facilitated me being in Singapore on 13th May so I put an RFI on the forum asking for information on sites, guide books, etc., and received a lot of very helpful tips from dwatsonbirder - including links to a couple of useful Facebook groups, an introduction to a series of YouTube videos by James Tann and other advice based on his research for an upcoming trip - thanks again Dan, much appreciated.

Ticket for my event secured, I booked flights through Expedia, a hotel through Trivago, ordered some currency and set about looking into sites to visit and the practicalities of using public transport to get to them. For the latter, I recommend the Singapore Tourist Pass Plus which can be purchased at the airport for S$48 and covers the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) & LRT (Light Rail Transit) trains and public busses (plus some benefits for tourist sites that I did not investigate) - this lasts 3 days but can be topped up at machines in MRT stations after this period with an amount you wish (be aware there is no refund so don't put too much on it if you only have a few days of use left). Public transport is cheap, efficient, clean and easy to use.

If a UK citizen you will also need to fill out an online application for an electronic SG Arrival Card, as a sort of tourist visa, within 3 days of your arrival date. Again no problem and can be accessed via the Foreign Office gov.uk entry requirements website.

I bought 'A Naturalist's Guide to the Birds of Singapore' (Yong, Lim & Lee) second hand from Amazon - a small book ideal as an ID guide for in the field. This was the only country specific guide I could find and as I don't really like photographic ID guides I also bought 'A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore' (Jeyarajasingam & Pearson). I read the description and had a look at the example pages but obviously did not look closely enough as this is one of those annoying books with the plates all together but separate from the text descriptions and I have to say that some of the colours of some illustrations are very odd. It was useful to have back in the hotel for further reading but was not a necessary purchase.

I could find maps of the main tourist areas, 'city centre' and MRT network but not of the whole country / island. So I downloaded the relevant area on Maps.Me for use off-line on my phone and this worked very well.

So, on Tuesday 9th May I got an early taxi to Heathrow (T2) for a late morning flight with Singapore Airlines direct to Changi. There was a slight delay before taking off but not long and just over 13 hours later (and having overtaken the night) I was painlessly through passport control, collecting my bag and, having purchased my train pass, was soon boarding an MRT at the airport station to take the East West line a few stops to Aljunied, followed by a very hot and humid tramp to the hotel in the Geylang area. This took a bit longer and was a bit more of a struggle than I anticipated as, being used to GoogleMaps for navigation, it took me a little time to get used to the way Maps.Me worked. Once there, despite previously requesting an early check-in (it was before 09:00 local time), they wanted to charge me extra if I actually wanted to get into the room - so after getting a few essentials out of my hold bag I left it behind reception and set off back out into the heat to start the birding...
I am still not able, for whatever reason, to format posts on BirdForum, i.e. use bold, underline or italicise, so lifers will be followed by an asterisk *

Wednesday 10th May:

On the raised MRT on the way from the airport to the hotel the first birds seen were predictably Feral Pigeons plus an un-id'ed Corvid hassling an equally un-id'ed parrot species and a small flock of Eastern Cattle Egret taking off from the side of a river / canal below. The walk to the hotel and then back to the nearest station showed that the common urban species here were going to be Eurasian Tree Sparrow, House Crow and Common and Javan Myna *.

I thought it best to break myself in relatively slowly to tropical birding so I used the MRT system (East West line to Bugis then Downtown line) to get to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The common species included Red Junglefowl * (I know these here may be of suspect origin but I saw the 'real thing' later in the trip) scratching in the leaf-litter, Spotted & Zebra Doves on the paths, Yellow-vented Bulbuls * in the trees plus Pacific Swallows hawking low over the lakes with a few Glossy Swiftlet * mixed in and Asian Palm Swifts higher up. Whilst having some refreshment at a cafรฉ a White-breasted Waterhen was wandering around in a water feature. Even though it is a relatively small area surrounded by the city there is a mix of habitats from natural looking forest to manicured shrub beds, lawns and lakes so there is a good variety of birds and I soon picked up: Pink-necked Green Pigeon *, Collared Kingfisher, Coppersmith Barbet (heard only), Black-naped Oriole *, Ashy Tailorbird *, Asian Glossy Starling *, Common Hill Myna *, Oriental Magpie Robin and Olive-backed Sunbird. But I think my birds of the day were Yellow-rumped Flycatcher * and Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker *. A great place and well worth a visit especially if you have limited time in the country.

I normally wear walking boots on a plane to save weight in the hold bag but as it was a long flight and weight wasn't an issue I had packed them and worn ordinary shoes for comfort. As I didn't want to do a major repack in the hotel reception, I still had on the shoes and given the heat and the amount of walking I was now suffering from blisters so headed back to the MRT system to take advantage of the air-conditioned trains. Via a quick tourist side trip to see the Marina Bay Sands building and visit Raffles Hotel I returned to the hotel early evening to eventually check-in and cool down.

I forgot to mention that two of the lakes each had an incongruous looking (and presumably introduced / captive) swan - 1 Mute Swan & 1 Black Swan.


1. Water Monitor;
2. Clouded Monitor;
3. View of one of the lakes at Singapore Botanical Gardens;

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Thursday 11th May:

I had anticipated some rainfall on most days, so as the forecast was for it to be dry today and there were a couple of scarce birds still being reported there I decided to head for Pulau Ubin, one of my more desired locations. So I walked to Kalang MRT station, took the East West line to Tampines, walked the short distance to the bus interchange, caught the 29 to Changi village and walked again a short distance from the bus interchange to the ferry terminal. Once there were enough passengers waiting (12 maximum) one of the boat operators called us forward and we crossed over to the jetty on the island.

I had seen the usual sparrows, mynas, pigeons, crows, etc., on the journey but not much from the boat. The first species on the island were a couple of Glossy Starlings checking out the visitors and an Oriental Pied Hornbill in the large trees behind the visitor centre. I set off eastward along the south coast and the first outlook over a mangrove channel gave views of two distant circling White-bellied Sea Eagles * and a Grey-headed Fish Eagle * just talking off low from the water with a fish in it's talons - a great start! Once further inland and deep into the rainforest there were more Red Junglefowl ('real ones') in the undergrowth and a Magpie Robin on the track. I had not really done enough pre-tip preparation in terms of studying calls, apart from a couple of key species, and the distant calls of birds hidden by a dense understorey or high up in the canopy began to make rainforest birding as frustrating as I had imagined it may be. I did, however, get good close views of Rufous Woodpecker *, Olive-winged Bulbul * and Dark-necked Tailorbird * plus brief looks at Black-naped Orioles.

I eventually reached the Chek Jawa coastal boardwalk and slowly ambled toward the half-way shelter where a group of photographers were obviously waiting for an appearance of the rare vagrant White-crowned Hornbill but apparently it had not bee seen so I settled down for a bite to eat in the shade and to wait for a bit but had no luck. Continuing on a little I was trying to get a good look at the small terns fishing and saw a couple on a sandbank that were Little Terns. A further scan resulted in a couple of White-bellied Sea Eagles hassling a Great-billed Heron * that had caught a fish and was valiantly defending its catch; beyond was another Great-billed and a number of Grey Heron plus a Little Egret; a few blurry waders were too distant for me to ID even with the scope. Just before going back onto the land a pigeon in the lower canopy showed well enough to confirm Cinnamon-headed Green Pigeon * rather than the more common Pink-necked Green. I also suspected some of the distant terns were Black-naped but was not sure. I next walked the mangrove boardwalk and in addition to the noisy Collared Kingfishers I flushed a Stork-billed Kingfisher for brief views. No sight or sound of my targets here but the tower provided further flight views of both eagle species.

After taking advantage of a vending machine in one of the shelters for some cold liquid I set off on the long walk back toward the centre of the island. It was quiet bird-wise but there were numerous Long-tailed Macaque. Near the village a more open 'farmed' area with a small pond produced Yellow-vented Bulbul in the scrubby trees, Pacific Swallow low over the water and Germain's Swiftlet * circling higher up plus some Large-billed Crows.

With the heat and distance, my sweat-soaked socks (very sorry for the horrible image) had set off the blisters again and I must have been favouring one foot which, with the weight of the scope and tripod, had tweaked a calf muscle. Still, I was determined to see more of the island so set off in the other direction from the village. At the Quarry Lake a Blue-eared Kingfisher * called and dashed across the road and an Oriental Darter sat drying in heraldic pose on a dead fallen branch over the water by the artificial perching structure that was packed with Grey Herons.

It was becoming clear that my feet / leg were not up to comfortably getting me to where I was heading and back so I reluctantly turned around and headed back to the village where I ate and drank (loads) in the restaurant. It was mid- to late afternoon by now so I thought it prudent to get the boat back - from which I had a great close-up view of a couple of Black-naped Tern * flying up from behind and then right alongside. Back ashore I hobbled to the bus depot and got some relief on the air conditioned bus back to Tampines. I was looking out for the bus stop I had used on the way out but apparently you get off the stop before for the MRT and the service ends. The driver indicated to me I should alight and so I did so in a bit of a rush and as soon as the doors closed I automatically felt for my phone and realised it was not in my pocket but on the bus seat. I turned to see the bus drive off to the interchange. Whilst waiting for the outbound service I had noted that the 29 bus entered the depot empty, drove past the stop and parked up for a driver change or whatever so I struggled through a roadside shrubbery, crossed the depot apron, much to the ire of the bus drivers and staff, and got to my bus just as the driver had closed the door and was walking off - luckily he let me back on to reclaim my phone and I was mightily relieved my nightmare scenario of being abroad without it had not transpired. Even more hot and sweaty I got on the train to Kalang and limped back to the hotel to try to recuperate a bit for tomorrow!


1. & 2. Long-tailed Macaques;
3. Impressive rainforest tree.

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Friday 12th May:

Planning to take it a bit easier today, and as couple of nice birds were still being photographed and the evidence posted on the Singapore Birders Facebook site, I retraced my MRT route of yesterday but continued one station further to Pasir Ris. On leaving the station I walked around two sides of the Town Park adding the usual suspects to the day list plus a couple of fishing Little Terns from the bridge over the Sungei Tampines. I also heard many parrots but failed to get good looks at any. After crossing the road into the park proper a number of squawking parrots flew out of the riverside vegetation and settled in a dead tree on my side - smart Red-breasted Parakeets. As they flew off a large cuckoo-like bird replaced them giving great views of a female Asian Koel *. The more dense woodland held Pink-necked Green Pigeons, I flushed a White-throated Kingfisher and a Laced Woodpecker * flew in and clung to a nearby stem. From the tower I could see a distant White-bellied Sea Eagle circling and many House Swifts overhead. Walking through the more open parkland areas produced Pied Fantail, Black-naped Oriole, Glossy Starling, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and Brown-throated Sunbird * plus an unknown persistent call alerted me to a Pied Triller *. I had been hoping to see some groups of photographers to pin down the wanted species locations but there were none and I did not spot them myself.

By now at the western end of the park I noted I was sort of close to another of the sites I hoped to visit. I had already sussed out that it was a bit of a challenge to get from one to the other by public transport but saw a sign to the Connector (path / cycleway) linking the two areas. As the morning's slow stroll had been easy so far, and me being me, I decided to walk. It transpired construction works had diverted the connector and it turned out to be a long, hot and not particularly inspiring visually (to say the least) route but there were benefits in the shape of a Black-winged Kite flying right overhead and a group of Blue-throated Bee-eaters * both in flight and perched on a dead snag.

By the time I got to Lorong Halus Wetlands I was hot and knackered so made for the nearest shelter to eat, dry off my shirt and have a welcome lie down in the shade. Once recovered I had a wander around the reserve: Pacific Swallows low over the reeds / grassland, Palm Swift high up, a Long-tailed Shrike using one of the lamp standards as a hunting post, an Oriental Dollarbird * flopping over and perching on top of a tree and a Paddyfield Pipit * in the short grass.

Now late in the day and time to take a slow walk across the Red Bridge over the Serangoon river and through the suburbs to Kadaloor, the LRT to Punggol, northeast line to Serangoon, circle line to Paya Lebar and east west line to Kalang - plenty of time to wallow in the air conditioning; so much for taking it easier...

Sorry, no photos from today.
Saturday 13th May:

Up before first light this morning for a bit of a holiday twitch. Armed with more detailed information on the location for one of the nest stake-outs (thanks again Dan) I returned to Pasir Ris and headed to the area around Car Park D and the restaurant - on the way getting a brief glimpse of a Smooth-coated Otter by the stables, a larger animal than I had expected. Once in the correct area (about the only part of the park I did not visit yesterday!) I could see a small group of photographers and on joining them had good views of a juvenile Crested Goshawk * on its nest and one of the adults perched in the adjacent tree. None of the photographers had seen the owl that uses the same area as a daytime roost and I had no luck finding it either.

Happy I retuned to the MRT and via a change to the downtown line at Bugis headed to Beauty World and after a short walk was into Rifle Range Nature Park, soon picking up a cooperative Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. But bird-wise it was rather quiet and being a weekend it began to get busy, especially when I reached the main route up to the summit of Bukit Timah which was packed with people going up and down (in the latter case a significant proportion seemed to be doing it backwards for some reason) so I wasn't anticipating seeing too much. However, near the top a fruiting tree attracted a number of Pink-necked Green Pigeons and amongst them was at least one Little Green Pigeon * and I also pinned down a Cream-vented Bulbul *.

I then headed down the Dairy Farm loop trail - despite the sort of cute pastoral name the steps are brutal! Once at the Dairy Farm Nature Park visitor centre I had a break in the shade for some food before doing the Wallace Trail and then returning to do the same again. I was a little surprised how quiet this route was. I then slowly wandered around the park but birding was slow until I found a group of three Straw-headed Bulbul * in the north west corner as I was heading for the exit - nice, as I had failed to find any on Pulau Ubin.

Time to head to Hillview station and retrace my MRT route back to the hotel to rest up, buying some food on the way and seeing a Brahminy Kite circling between the high-rise buildings while I was waiting to cross a road, before this evening's main event.

Sorry, no photos again.
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Sunday 14th May:

Another sought after location today so an early start to the MRT: east west line to Paya Lebar, circle line to Bishan & north south line to Kranji then a 925 bus to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. I had a quick look at the map at the visitor centre and chose to go over the bridge across the Sungei Buloh Besar to route 1. This path winds around various tree shaded embankments between water bodies with a number of viewpoints and many hides. Being a Sunday it was quite busy but there is plenty of space to spread out. The birding was a good but a bit quiet, with the few species seen consisting of those already on the trip list; Black-naped Oriole, Ashy Tailorbird, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher & Brown-throated Sunbird. That is until I got to the the main raised hide from which Great and Little Egret, Striated Heron and White-breasted Waterhen were all seen on the waters edge and Brahminy Kite & White-bellied Sea Eagle circling overhead plus Collared Kingfisher as usual making all the noise. Having completed the circuit at leisure I crossed back over the bridge and slowly wandered the mangrove boardwalk which was much less frequented by the public, the highlight being outstanding views of a male and female Copper-throated Sunbird * - stunning birds.

After returning to the visitor centre for cold drinks I took the coastal trail - again busy and few birds but a nice look at an Oriental Pied Hornbill. From the metal boardwalk out over the sea beyond the mangroves I saw a distant stork that very shortly flew in and fed at extremely close range. I know the status of Milky Stork * is a bit uncertain in Singapore but it was definitely not a Painted Stork (I have seen these well near Bangkok) and I could see no indication of hybrid features, so it is on my list. I carried on to the other visitor centre for further refreshments in the cool and then retraced my steps exploring all the trails including a return to the mangroves seeing a couple more male Copper-throated Sunbirds. On reaching the original visitor centre I spent some time tracking down a call from the tall trees around the car park and eventually got great views of a Lineated Barbet. One last visit to stock up from the vending machines before leaving for the next site and right by the entrance over the ornamental pool a shrub attracted a brief but incredibly close male Crimson Sunbird - again stunning.

I had chosen Sunday to visit as at weekends a shuttle bus service links both visitor centre car parks with Kranji MRT and Kranji Marshes. The bus turned up on time and I boarded alone to head for the latter, with thunder threatening. On arrival I slowly set off along the long, straight access road picking up mynas and a Magpie Robin on the road and overhead unidentified parrots but had a good look at a Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker * that flew in and perched up nicely. Arriving at the accessible part of the marshes I entered a bind overlooking a reed backed pool, where three photographers were waiting, just as thunder clapped and the heavens opened in a true tropical downpour; luckily there was a part roof on the structure that was just enough to keep the four us us dry. After about 20 minutes the stair rods abated a bit to heavy rain but entertainment was supplied by a large number of Baya Weaver * nest building and displaying and a Red-wattled Lapwing flying up from the grassland behind. Once the rain stopped completely I left the spectacle to the photographers and headed up the viewing tower - praying the lightening had really gone away. I was hoping a few species may be drying out in the upper canopy and this proved to be the case with a number of Javan Myna and Glossy Starling plus two Hill Myna in the top of a dead tree and Pink-necked Green Pigeons in the live crowns. I saw a very distant woodpecker shape in a far away dead snag which in profile had the stereotypical 'Woody Woodpecker' shape in silhouette but I could get no more detail. I was then distracted by a noisy flock of parakeets flying into the tree next to the tower; mostly Red-breasted but at least two were different - Long-tailed Parakeet *. A different raucous call and a Common Flameback flew into the same tree and posed. Time to wander back for the bus, a flock of Blue-throated Bee-eater overhead on the way.

Caught the shuttle bus back to Kranji MRT and to make best use of the air conditioned comfort stayed on the north south line to City Hall, ate a McDonalds in a mall and then took the east west line back to Kalang and retuned to the hotel.

Photos - all at Sungei Buloh Wetlands: [Sorry the order changed on posting]

1. Oriental Whip Snake - thanks to Hotspur & THE_FERN for the ID.
2 & 3. Mangrove aerial roots;
4. Mudskipper;
5. Many-lined Sun Skink - thanks to Val35 for the ID - it dropped form a boardwalk handrail onto a spider with a body nearly the size of it's head and tucked in;
6. Zoomed in snakes head.

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Hats off to your dedication. Tramping around Singapore at any time of the year is a hot and sweaty business, let alone going equipped with scope/tripod etc. To anyone new to the tropics - I really wouldn't take this lightly. Fortunately there are lots of neat birds that can be seen with just binoculars, and a lot often happens early - from sunrise to about 9.00 or so - and late.

PS. what is your other passion in life - chasing Asian birds? :oops:
Hats off to your dedication. Tramping around Singapore at any time of the year is a hot and sweaty business, let alone going equipped with scope/tripod etc. To anyone new to the tropics - I really wouldn't take this lightly. Fortunately there are lots of neat birds that can be seen with just binoculars, and a lot often happens early - from sunrise to about 9.00 or so - and late.

PS. what is your other passion in life - chasing Asian birds? :oops:

Yes, I stopped carrying the scope after the first day - lesson learnt.

I had thought about early & late birding sessions but when I'm somewhere new I tend to be out all day long every day to see as much as possible.

As for your PS, yes, you are close in a way ๐Ÿ˜‡ - watching live performances of a particular K-pop girl group!!
Monday 15th May:

Armed with more detailed location information from Dan (thanks again) for the target Pittas, I returned to Pulau Ubin today. Not wanting to repeat the whole walk again after my first visit I considered hiring a bike but by luck arrived on the same boat as a group of 3 local photographers who kindly allowed me to share their minibus taxi from the quay to Chek Jawa. I then spent the whole morning slowly walking the coastal walkway, searching for a glimpse of the visiting Hornbill, and the mangrove boardwalk, looking and listening for Pittas. Many of the species seen previously were present, including Great-billed Heron, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Black-naped Tern, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Common Flameback & Dark-necked Tailorbird. Unfortunately the Hornbill remained hidden. I searched hard for Blue-winged Pitta and happened to be passing as an Aussie birder played the call and we both heard a distant response and I later heard distant calls in the same area on another circuit but the bird(s) remained stubbornly elusive. A visit to the top of the tower did produce a nice view of a Changeable Hawk Eagle circling over the canopy.

By mid-day I gave up and began the walk back, hoping that a returning taxi may be at the drop off point as I passed. I stopped a while at the shelter to eat, sit in the shade and use the vending machines but with no luck so set off on the walk back to the village. Half way back I passed another photographer who had taped in a smart male White-rumped Shama that sat and sang very nicely in the roadside understorey for some time. Carrying on there was a warbler singing in the reeds in the small pond just before the village; I could not see it but suspect Oriental Reed Warbler. On reaching the village I was sort of going strong so carried on past where I gave up previously, spurred on by a pin from Dan for a recent location of the other Pitta - I wandered slowly along the road flanking the mangroves and sat in the shade quietly snacking but neither heard nor had sight of my quarry. Reluctantly, I returned slowly back to the quayside and got the next boat back to Changi. Walking the short distance from the ferry terminal back to the bus interchange a Tanimbar Corella * flew down a street between tall trees.

As it was nearby, I decided to have another try for the owls at Pasir Ris, thinking perhaps they may be a bit more active around dusk. As I was walking in on the now familiar route, I crossed the bridge over the Sungei Api Api and as usual glanced upstream to see if there was anything about and there were 5 heads swimming directly toward me and right by the bridge a group of Smoot-coated Otters emerged from the water and wandered along the embankment, paying very little attention to the nearby people. The park had the usual common urban species plus Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Red-breasted Parakeet, Dollarbird, Collared Kingfisher, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Pied Triller & Black-naped Oriole but once again I failed to spot the owls by the time it was nearly dark.

After a long day, back on the MRT and to the hotel. A bit of a frustrating one I guess but there are far worse ways and places to spend a day.


1. Smooth-coated Otters - Pasir Ris;
2. Rainforest behind flooded Pekan Quarry, Pulau Ubin.

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