Sunday, October 27, 2013

Back to Bukit Timah 2013-10-20

I went back to Bukit Timah for more calorie burning activity, following a 32km bike ride from Sembawang to MacRitchie and back a day earlier. I also wanted to test how fast I could reach the top at 163m from the visitor center at the base. After a non-stop hike, I recorded a time of 11 minutes 33 seconds. I believe I still have the capability to do it still a bit faster, but that's about my fastest record for now.

When I reached the top, I took a short rest before I continued exploring the side trails. This time, I took the Catchment path which basically leads down to the area that links Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to the Rifle range road connecting to Macritchie Nature Reserve. At one point along the path, I heard a knocking sound and saw a silhouette of a barbet borrowing a hole on a dead tree trunk for a nest. It was a big mistake that I usually don't have a tripod with me. The area is under a forest canopy and backlit. I tried to hold the camera as steady as I could, but I just couldn't get a sharp image. With an equivalent focal length of 840mm and an exposure of 1/200 at ISO1600, the image I got was a bit dark and unsharp, so I tried to find something to stabilize the camera. The best stabilizer I got was a tree trunk that I pushed my camera to by applying a force to stabilize the horizontal motion, but not vertical movement. It allowed me to do a 1/160, but I was not satisfied with the sharpness. The best result was not sharp enough even to my low standard and it was also a lifer, so I really wanted a good shot.

Red-crowned barbet

After a few minutes, I have to gave up even though I don't really want to. I also heard the sound of thunder earlier, which kept me from staying longer, since I don't want to be in the middle of the trail when it rains.

As I reached the end of the current trail, I found myself in another trail designed for bikes. A few meters from the intersection, I saw a black bird  which I couldn't identify properly because it's partially hidden and in a bad angle. I tried to take a photograph and came up with just one shot before it flew away. Based on the image, it looked like a drongo-cuckoo.


At the end of the bike trail, I reached a familiar paved road which I took a few months ago with my schoolmate. At one bend, I heard a woodpecker pecking at a branch. I managed to photograph the Common flameback, but it could have been better if I had a tripod.

 Common flameback

I followed the road, but unlike my previous experience, I took the side trail just before reaching the road. Along the way, I saw some bee-eaters, but the lighting was so bad and the birds are too far to get any good pictures.

This side trail took me back to the Bukit Timah visitor center. Just as I walked out of the canopy, I saw movements on the shrubs beside a house I got curious and tried to get a picture of it. As I approached, it went deeper so I stopped, took a couple of shots and observe. I initially thought it's a spotted dove. But as it moves, I noticed that it looks more like a bulbul. I tried to take more shots, but after 2 exposures, it moved deeper into the vegetation which I could no longer follow.

Straw-headed bulbul

I reviewed the images I got and only one turned out acceptable. I incorrectly identified it as an immature Olive-winged bulbul.

I continued walking to the bus stopped and took a bus home. When I got home, I was able to identify the barbet as a Red-crowned barbet. After posting the images online, a friend informed me that the bulbul is a Straw-headed bulbul, that makes it another lifer for me.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Night Bike Ride at Sembawang Park 2013-09-21

I wanted to do some stargazing since I haven't had any for several months already. The nearest park from my place that might be good for some stargazing is Sembawang Park. Since I haven't tried riding a bike at night, I decided to try both stargazing and night biking at the same time.

When I arrived, I immediate took some shots at Venus before it sets. Unknown to me, Saturn is just beside Venus. It was until I get home and check Stellarium that I found out it was Saturn.

 The place isn't really free from people even at night. Families gather there to have picnics and recreation.

I took some astrophotos as well, so as not to go home empty handed. :)

Before I left the park, the moon has just risen, so I took some shots of it as well to wrap up the night's activity.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bukit Timah to Dairy Farm Nature Park 2013-08-25

I went up the Bukit Timah Hill, the tallest point of Singapore, for some weekend physical activity. Initially, I was disappointed with the number of our avian friends. I saw nothing except those annoying Javan mynas.

When I reached the peak, I decided to stay a bit and explore the other side trails. I took the trail leading towards the dairy farm which I barely explored during my past visit there. At one point, I noticed a fork which, according to the sign, will take me to the Dairy Farm Nature Park. Since I've never been to there, without hesitation, I took the fork and found myself in another park. :)



At the park, I visited the exhibit building, drink some refreshment and stayed away from the hot sun outside. When I heard some bird calls, I ran back outside to look for it. There, I saw a couple of tailorbirds.

 Ashy tailorbird

I explored to a bit, walk some trails and decided to leave after an hour or so of exploring without many birds on my list: an immature crimson sunbird, spotted dove, asian glossy starling and olive backed sunbirds.

Immature crimson sunbird

Spotted dove

I took the road to the park's nearest exit, but found it is not the kind of road that I wanted to take. So I turn back and took the trail that will lead me to another exit near the Singapore quarry. Along the way, I heard a racket-tailed drongo and some tiny bird which, upon closer examination, reveal they were orange bellied flowerpeckers.

 Racket tailed drongo without the rackets

 Orange bellied flowerpecker

When I reached the exit, I wandered around a bit to find the nearest bus stop where I took the bus to Yishun, have lunch there before heading home.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dollarbird at Sungei Buloh 2013-08-18

I went back to Sungei Buloh for some bird photographs and entertaining nature walk. It was a typical visit to the site with some typical fauna like the ashy tailorbird, olive backed sunbird, monitor lizard, pink-necked green pigeon, etc. I walked all the 3 routes trying to find any unusual birds. In a pond along Route 3, I saw a big white bird resting in the middle. I initially thought it was a typical egret, but when I took a shot, I noticed that the beak looks different. It was a milky stork, another lifer for me.

Milky stork

I saw 3 raptors circling the reserve and identified them as white-bellied sea eagle.

On my way back from route 3 to route 1, I noticed a dollarbird on a branch. I decided to approach it cautiously and luckily, I was able to get a decent shot of this bird.

Here are some of the other birds, I was able to photograph.

Brown throated sunbird (female)

Crow sp.

Scaley breasted munia

 Ashy tailorbird

 White breasted waterhen

Oriental whiteeye

Friday, August 23, 2013

Admiralty Park Birding 2013-08-10

I usually scan the map online for some green areas to visit. This time it leads me to the Admiralty Park. From Woodlands MRT station, I walked about 10 minutes to get to the park. My initial impression of the park was a family friendly park, but not friendly to nature. Man-made pond, paved road, wide staircase, etc. It looks more an urban park than a nature park.

Since I'm already there, I might as well took a stroll around. The first bird that signals their presence were 2 loud blue-collared kingfisher. I tried to follow it until it decided to fly to a distant tree across the street.

As I went deeper through the park, the surrounding area starts to change a bit. Man-made structures start to disappear. I even saw a family of monkeys there. At one point, I noticed some movement on the grasses and saw an immature white-breasted waterhen trying to cross the road.

Then on a distant branch, I spotted a dollarbird in a typical dollarbird-pose - sitting still on an open branch turning its head around looking for food.

There's a section where the paved road seems to end. But later I found out that it must be unfinished, since after about a hundred meters or so, the road is paved again.

The park runs straight until it reaches a street. Opposite the street is another park, the Woodlands Waterfront which covers the sea shore overlooking Malaysia.

 It was already midday when I reached this park and the weather was getting hot. I took a short break from the hot sun, cool myself and proceed to the seashore where I can see the opposite bank.

 There were a few olive-backed sunbirds and zebra doves there.

When I grew tired of staring blankly at the sea while savoring the fresh sea breeze, I decided to head back. Because it was hot and there's no way I could avoid the hot sun, I decided to walk faster on the way back. I didn't bother to look at the trees because I know the birds must be hiding too until I reached a shaded area. While cooling myself, I heard a few bird calls on a tall tree which I couldn't identify. I initially thought they were flowerpeckers or flycatchers, but after I took some shots, I identified them as the Common Iora due to my previous experience with this species of bird at Sungei Buloh.

 Near the exit, I also saw some sunbirds feeding on a flowering shrub.

As I move closer to admire their beauty, I heard the pygmy woodpecker's TI-RI-RI-RI-RIT call.

 Then I also saw a scaley breasted munia hiding from the sun.

On my way back to the MRT station, I also saw 2 raptor hovering above at a distance, I assume they were white-breasted sea-eagle, but can't be sure. I wasn't able to observe them too long because of the blinding sun and before I could photograph them, they were gone.

I ending my birding activity with a nice bowl of Laksa (coconut milk) noodle soup for lunch before heading home.