Monday 30 January 2012

Back from Indonesia

Went on a quick weekend trip with some Canadians who are also in Singapore. I wasn't really pursuing birds - only stopped to look at the ones that I couldn't help but notice. Despite the terrible habitat (polluted waterways, very few trees, garbage everywhere...) I still came across 5 new birds of which 4 I identified: Javan Pond Heron, Common Tailorbird, Pgymy Cupbird/Wren-Babbler and Sooty-headed Bulbul. The first two I should already have in Singapore so it's only a matter of time before I get them here.

Most birds that I did see were caged birds like this Long-tailed Shrike:

And heard a few Gerygones singing from their cages:

It's understandable why this species is endangered - the song is so beautiful that it is highly desirable as a cage bird in SE Asia.

This trip involved almost no planning whatsoever. We searched for the cheapest flight from Singapore to any other city. Jakarta was the winner and we found ourselves walking around the slums, bathing our feet in sewage, watching people dig through garbage, the rats are numerous, saw that clubs are open "24/7 Thursday-Monday" and the drivers have a car-honking language.

But things aren't all bad there. The people are insanely hospitable. Walk around anywhere, look any bit like a tourist and someone is bound to walk up to you and show you where to go. And not only that we had 2 people pretty much become volunteer tour guides for us as we roamed around the streets. One person ended up taking us on a short hike up a volcano to see a waterfall and we ended up sleeping at his place that night.

Some people care about the wildlife around them:

Others want to keep it on their doorstep at all times:

 Hens grow strong with a diet supplemented by cigarette butts:

Waterfall on a volcano:

Wooden ship in the filthy water:

Thursday 26 January 2012

Off to the Unknown

Not a birding trip though.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Pasir Ris + Sungei Buloh

On Sunday I visited Pasir Ris park and saw my first owls since coming to Asia - a family of 3 Spotted Wood-Owls that have been there for quite some time now:

The juvenile:

And on Monday morning I did a short stroll around Sungei Buloh - didn't see anything new but got some more photos of some birds I have already photographed.

Long-tailed Shrike - in the exact same spot I saw it before:

Cool flower/plant:

Great Egret preening:

Monday 23 January 2012

2011 Summary - part 2

September - December:
For 4 months I had the opportunity to study in Denmark. Thanks to the lack of assignments/homework I had plenty of time to get out and explore the country.

I saw several species of shorebird, 22 to be exact including some that I had already seen in Canada:

Lots of beautiful rainbows:

An amazing trip to Norway with a few friends:

Beautiful sunsets:

A weeklong trip to Spain:

where I saw my main target bird, the Lammergeier:

I grew in love with long days watching the sea:

In November I switched to digiscoping and have been finding it a great endeavour so far. See my album of digiscoped photos here.

A Eurasian Pygmy Owl:

...and a White-throated Dipper became familiar faces on my blog:

On one of my last days in Denmark I finally managed to find 2 Black Woodpeckers. My most desired bird for Denmark and a great way to end the 4 months and the year!

I ended up with 154 species of bird in Denmark - I was lucky to have this opportunity to learn the birds of Europe and who knows... maybe I'll see some of the same birds back in Canada ;)

Throughout the year I saw 447 species of birds - I'm pretty happy with that considering I've only been birding for 3 years of which the first year wasn't nearly as serious as the last two.

Top 3 birding highlights from 2011:

3: Shearwater feeding frenzy in Newfoundland in August
2: Point Pelee in May!
1: Carden Alvar Surveys (May/June) - I really do love that place.

Happy New Year and thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog - I've been finding it to be a lot of fun :)

Sunday 22 January 2012

2011 Summary - Part 1

Considering that Chinese/Lunar New Year is tomorrow I thought it would be a good second opportunity to write this since I didn't write one during the Western (what should I call it?) New Year.

January - April:

During the first four months I was frequently traveling to Ottawa or in that general direction because my girlfriend, Mira, was working there. We coordinated our trips to visit each other with OFO outings, wherever rare birds were and also to try and explore the land between.

In early January Mira and I joined the Annual Waterfowl Inventory (Lake Ontario) where we met a bunch of local birders that I ended up seeing many more times over the next 8 months. The highlight that day was 2 female Harlequin Ducks.

Redpolls were irrupting in big numbers in January into southern Ontario allowing me to find my first of several Hoary Redpolls:

Two back-to-back weekends in Kingston region yielded 6 species of owl of which 4 were lifers for me and a Barrow's Goldeneye at Presqu'ile Park.

In late February Mira and I did a gas-guzzling trip from Ottawa through Algonquin Park and down to Long Point. We picked up some of the Northern specialties and managed to see the Spotted Towhee near Monarch's landing.

In mid-March I had some commitments in Waterloo allowing me to see the Varied Thrush that had been hanging around for about 3 months!

In late March Mira and I visited her grandparents in Cornwall where we found time to search the countryside for Snow Geese. We quickly found a large flock of several thousand Snow Geese, later that month others had reported over a million from the same area! On the same weekend we also re-found 2 Ross's Geese in the Ottawa region.

In late March it was King Eider season in Toronto. 3 individuals were within 100 meters of each other at one of my favourite birding locations - Leslie Street Spit. When word got out that there was an adult male King Eider local birders swarmed the park like never before! I had spent many cold winter days out wandering around rarely seeing any other birders during the previous 3 months so it was a surprise to see so many birders.

A Western Grebe was reported in Toronto and I rushed down to see it after work:

In late April Mira and I birded Prince Edward County where we found many of the early migrants as well as 32 American Avocets at Presqu'ile P. Park.

May was definitely the best month for birds throughout the year (as expected) - especially because I was at Point Pelee for 3 weeks every day working as a guide for Friends of Point Pelee. Along with meeting many birders I had heard a lot about I also saw many new birds.

Some of the highlights for me:
35 species of Warbler (missed Prairie and only heard Connecticut).
Meeting plenty of birders.
Watching shorebirds begin their night-time migration from  Hillman Marsh in the evenings.

One of my favourite species:

I pretty much saw all the birds that others had reported at PP during that month except for Swainson's Hawk, Fish Crow, Western Tanager and Lark Sparrow. But I wasn't disappointed; I had seen some other good birds.

Bell's Vireo:

In late May Mira and I helped out with the Bird Surveys at Carden Alvar - I had been there once or twice before and was very impressed. This trip sealed the deal making me fall in love with the area. I cleaned up on all of the grassland birds I hadn't yet seen in the year.

June - August:

In mid-June I returned to the Carden for another great Bird Survey where my group found 3 singing Golden-winged Warblers.

The prairie smoke was in full bloom:

Later in the month I concentrated more time on the other things in life - insects and amphibians:

I also did a bit of taxidermy for the Royal Ontario Museum

In early August I did a weekend trip around Ontario looking for migrating shorebirds. I didn't find anything unexpected but did manage to finally see a Least Bittern at Presqu'ile P. Park as well as an amazing sight of thousands upon thousands of Swallows swarming the sky during sunset. It truly was a spectacle and I was surprised that there wasn't anyone else out there enjoying it - nor had I ever heard of this massive congregation before. I hope to be able to go back next year... but it'll be exam time so maybe that will be difficult to squeeze in.

A week-long trip to Newfoundland with Mira involved an amazing shearwater feeding frenzy:

And a feast of mushrooms:

Preparing all of this makes me miss Ontario and Newfoundland! But I suppose that once I'm back I'll be missing Singapore/Denmark!

Part 2 to come tomorrow (I had to break it up into 2 parts, otherwise this would have been way too long... it already is).

Saturday 21 January 2012

More Birding

I made another effort to see the Greater Painted Snipe this morning without success but still managed some unexpected birds such as this Scaly-breasted Munia/Nutmeg Mannikan:

To be honest, I don't really know what to expect here. I'm just taking things as they come and trying to identify everything I see.

The early morning sun made for some nice images with the many spider webs:

On my way back I managed to find a Lineated Barbet which saves me a trip to find them at another park in S'pore.

After a few hours of studying I headed back out the door in the afternoon in search of more shorebirds. This time was a little more successful.

I visited Mandai again where last time I didn't see a single shorebird. Today I timed things well with the tide and was surprised to see some expansive mudflats:

Perfect for Horseshoe Crab hunting if that's what you're into:

I managed to find 7 shorebird species before an impressive rain storm arrived forcing me to run for cover.
200 - Pacific Golden Plover
1500 - Lesser Sand-plover (lifer)
5 - Common Sandpiper
50 - Whimbrel
30 - Common Greenshank
20 - Red-necked Sting
2 - Broad-billed Sandpiper (lifer)

C. Greenshank:

Lesser Sand-Plover with Common Sandpiper:

I'll probably be back before the long weekend is over in hopes of finding more. I didn't have much time to sift through all the birds today.

Pacific Swallows are common in Singapore: