Friday 4 May 2012

Singapore Summary

Another four months have come and gone and all too soon I'm leaving on a jet plane. The 12 hour time difference is ready to deal a heavy blow to me. But I've come with a trick up my sleeve. My remedy to jet lag?
Hangovers are a proven remedy for jet lags. They're the equivalent of an anti-jet lag.
But I'm not much of a drinker, so I've adjusted myself to the time difference 'gradually' over the last few days - I'm writing this at 5am, or is that 5pm ;)
I hope it works out!

Anyway, this is supposed to be about my last 4 months in SG.
I arrived in Singapore in early January without having studied the avifauna of the region in any detail. Every time I opened the field guide I was overwhelmed so I decided to just immerse myself without any practice and see how I came out!

On my first morning I had one of these guys chilling out on the side-view mirror of a car. It was a relatively easy identification as an Olive-backed Sunbird - I quickly learned to ignore this species in favour of others despite their good looks:

Later that day I took out my digiscoping gear in hopes of photographing something colourful. I was happy to find not 1 but at least 8 White-throated Kingfishers hanging out on a railing. It was nice to get this photo of one of them, but I expected that soon these birds will lose their appeal if they're going to be that common!

It turns out that I never saw many more White-throated Kingfishers. Maybe another 10 at most over the last 4 months. I don't know why they all seemed to congregate there on that one day (they shouldn't have been migrating at that time).

I also got this photo early on in my visit of a Collared Kingfisher (a very common species in SG):

By my second week I had already seen 2 Pitta species (I never did see anymore after that). Pittas are all the rage in Asia, they've been dubbed the jewels of the forest - and many birders bankrupt themselves in their attempts to see all 32 (or so) species.

Personally, I never took a liking to them. Their big beaks, and lack of honour and manners really turned me off - the 2 Pittas I saw were only too happy to gorge themselves full of handouts from the local photographers. They're 'supposed' to be deep in the forest, rarely seen, not eating mealworms from a plastic cup.

In after thought, the colours on that bird sort of look unrealistic. So I can see where their attraction lies.

I was lucky to come to SG this year because at least 4 local birders are doing an 'all out' big year, with several others semi-keenly following behind. Exciting birds are constantly being found and have been well staked out making the tickin' easy.

One birder found a pair of Greater Painted Snipes at a grassland near my campus:

It became my temporary patch, although I never did go all that often in the end. I did luck out in finding this Common Kestrel - which was one of the "rarities of the month" for March:

Not long after that I found this Buffy Fish Owl - a rare resident in Singapore. The bird showed up for a daily rendez-vous for 5 days straight, never to be seen again:

 Of course, being in SE Asia I took the opportunity to explore the region a little. Mira came to visit me in late February and we decided to travel to Thailand for a week of birding.
Spoon-billed Sandpipers was our "most wanted" bird, and we succeeded with 4 individuals:

The other main success was finding this Asian Dowitcher after sunset on our last day in the area:

In the end I saw or heard 181 species in Singapore - I was hoping for more than 150. I really don't think I would have reached that number if the SG Big Year wasn't this year, so I owe them all a big thanks!
Of the ~2800 species of birds documented in Asia, I have seen 290.
And my year list is at 303, last years was ~450, so it should be easy to pass that mark, maybe even by the end of the month?

Tomorrow I'll be in Canada chasing after warblers - the jewels of the boreal forest - at least they don't have big ugly bills, and for the most part are very principled in their ways.