Monday, February 18, 2008

15th February, 2008: Singapore Plover Trip

Following the discovery of at least 8 "White-faced" Plovers at Changi Cove, Singapore, by two British birders, Simon Cockayne and Martin Kennewell (Martin had recently been up to Penang to see the birds here), an expedition to try to trap the birds was hastily arranged by Singapore National Parks and Raffles Museum staff.

We decided to try to trap the birds with mist nets on the evenings of Friday, Saturday and Sunday 15-17th Feb.

On Friday morning Simon and I went to the Botanical Gardens to try to see the family of Red-legged Crakes that has been showing there recently. Only one juvenile was visible, but it proved remarkably confiding and unafraid of the many joggers, tourists and photographers that were milling around.

Er - should I be afraid of you?

Oh all right then, I'll run away a bit!

After the crake, we took a look at the swiftlets flying around over the Bonsai Garden. The light wasn't great for photography, but they did look big, longer-winged and fuller-tailed than swiftlets we see in Penang, with a more noticeable tail notch. Also the underparts seemed darker brown. Are they Himalayan? The debate continues, with the consensus being 'probably, but how to be certain?'

For much better pictures and more informed opinion, see here

At about three we arrived at plover site, a sandy spit almost completely encircling a coastal lagoon on some reclaimed land within spitting distance of the forthcoming Singapore Air Show.

The intrepid team of plover pursuers: from left to right - Simon, Martin, Eleanor, Ashley and Luan Keng, our leader and the only qualified ringer among us.

A quick survey revealed 9 "White-faced" Plovers sitting on the sandspit, along with a few other waders.

12 Sanderlings (and 11 Grey Plovers) were particularly good to see as both are rare in Penang.

There were also several Malaysian Plovers, an east coast speciality.

Under Luan Keng's expert tutelage, we decided on the best places to try to catch the birds, and got busy putting up the nets.

On our way to and from our car, we flushed several Savanna Nightjars, and I grabbed a few flight shots.

The white spots on the wings indicate a male, which is also supposed to have white outer tail feathers. They aren't exactly obvious are they?

After dusk, the calls of these birds indicated the presence of many males. Unfortunately, once dusk fell, the calls of waders were worryingly absent.

Our first net round revealed many ghost crabs, which had come up onto the beach to scavenge, but no birds. As it was low tide, we took a long walk to try to find where the birds were feeding, without success.

It was the same story till midnight, and we only succeeded in catching one male Malaysian Plover, which was duly banded and had a blood sample taken. Luan will use this to do DNA analysis, which will hopefully be useful to compare with that of the mystery plovers.

By midnight there were still no waders apart from Malaysian Plovers on the spit, so we called it a night. There was always tomorrow, and our hopes remained high, as high tide would be at 9.30pm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so JEALOUS of that Oriental come I didn't see it last week..........??