They say that the early bird gets the worm, and I definitely felt as though I landed on a treasure trove on the morning of April 26th. As someone who lives in a relatively bustling neighborhood, I was quite startled to see how vibrant (both literally and figuratively) avian activity was during the entire 30-minute survey period. In spite of the fact that tree cover around my condo was comparatively sparse and fragmented (in relation to many of the other contiguous primary forests in nature reserves and the Botanical Gardens), it was fascinating to hear the cacophony of sounds emanating from each species of bird, and to revel in the beauty of all of the organisms. Even though I am an amateur bird-watcher, I think I have the license to say that all of the birds were simply stunning! Bird watching definitely doesn’t discriminate (though having experience definitely does have its merits), and I think just taking the time to bask in the early morning air and appreciate the diversity of Singapore’s fauna was a good respite from the uncertain circumstances surrounding all of us today.
However, having had faulty binoculars and an unparalleled knack for missing the subject every single time without fail (facepalms…) definitely made the observation process a little bit challenging. Discerning the physical characteristics of each bird was close to impossible for my untrained eyes. Perhaps this is my fault for my lack of preparation and contingency plans. But it was okay! To spare myself the aggravation, I instead conducted the survey using my ears by recording the pattern of sounds and using rough descriptions to articulate my interpretation of each species’ call. Having used the bird guide on SGBioAtlas, I was able to (for the most part) place a name to the call (some species had recordings of the call – a wonderful feature). As I begin exploring the plethora of birds during my walks, I hope to be able to identify at least some of the common organisms and teach the rest of my family!
As a rookie, I would give my future self and to others whom it may concern 2 pieces of advice. First and foremost, I recommend having fully functioning equipment, including binoculars, a keen eye, open ears, and an eagerness to birdwatch. Even for those who may feel misguided during this process, there is nothing more gratifying than capturing even a second of a specimen up-close. Next, familiarizing yourself with some of the common bird species in Singapore. While I indicated a couple of physical characteristics of the observable birds on my recording sheet, many of the birds share a similar plume or feather color. Perhaps knowing some of their calls or distinguishing features could have improved the accuracy of my assessment. I hope to continue this learning journey with as much zeal as many of the other ornithologists of this group.
*Apologies for the woefully inaccurate coloration of the birds in my diagram
Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa daurica)
- Its distinguishing features include a bright eye-ring and unmarked throat and underparts; generally, it appears shorter and plainer-winged that other similar brown flycatchers
- This species favors broadleaf forests, and can be found in forests, parks, gardens, wooded areas, and mangroves within Singapore
- Its song is a high buzzy trilling, and it whistles; calls include dry rattling and chittering
Black-Naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis)
- The breeding season for this species in Singapore is between January and July (generally speaking)
- Their nests are constructed with bark, twigs, grass and roots and are usually located on the forks of tree branches
- Two eggs, bluish-white with purple brown spots, are usually laid
- This organism can be rather aggressive during its breeding season, and have been known to mob other birds’ nests
- These are the only oriole species in Singapore; however, there are two subspecies which are relatively indistinguishable
- The black-naped oriole is featured on Singapore’s $500 notes of the “Bird Series” currency notes issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore between 1976 and 1984
- It was also featured on Singapore’s S$0.50 stamp from the 1991 postage stamp series “Garden Birds”, as well as S$1 stamp from the 2002 series on “Singapore-Malaysia Joint Issue: Birds”
Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)
- This bird breeds across central and eastern Asia; it is migratory, travelling south to India, southeast Asia and Indonesia
- Their diets consist most of insects and small birds and mammals; this species sallies from a prominent perch
- The adult male’s upper parts and crown are darkish brown; their faces are white with a typical “bandit-mask” through the eye
- Females are less contrasted and have a greyer crown