Monday, February 18, 2008

16-17th February, 2008: Singapore Plover Trip

After a lie-in and a morning making snares we arrived at the plover site in the late afternoon, being delayed somewhat by cracking views of three Pied Harriers and a number of Oriental Pratincoles.

Here's an adult female Pied Harrier, showing the greyish bases to the primaries and pale underwing typical of this plumage.

This is a subadult male, with a few adult feathers coming through on the mantle, lesser coverts, face, rump and tail.

When we arrived at the sandspit, the tide was very low, and good numbers of waders were feeding on the exposed mud banks. We took this opportunity to set some snares along the spit where we hoped the plovers might move to roost at high tide. The flock of Grey Plovers did roost on top of the snares, and we could see them awkwardly lifting their feet, as if to avoid getting caught, which they did most successfully!

In late afternoon the wader ringing group from Sungei Buloh, headed up by James Gan and Ramakrishnan, arrived with a team of seasoned and willing helpers. In no time at all, they had set up a labyrinth of double-shelf nets all over the spit, in what we hoped would be an unavoidable combination as far as the plovers were concerned. While they were setting up the nets, a flock of Lesser Sand Plovers sat nearby, seemingly unperturbed. But, as soon as dusk fell, as if to mock us, they flew off! At dusk I removed the snares, afraid of what the ghost crabs might do in the dark to any bird caught in them.

Once again, despite the high tide, the birds steadfastly avoided the sandspit after dark. We wondered whether the predatory crabs might be the deterrent factor.

Once again, we caught a solitary Malaysian Plover - a first year female this time - and this bird was banded and leg-flagged with the Singapore colours - green above white.

Tagged and ready to go!

Around midnight we were surprised to find a Collared Kingfisher in one of the nets, especially as we hadn't heard or seen one in our time there.

Despite hourly checks of the nets, there were no more catches till just before dawn, when several flocks of Sand Plovers returned to the spit. We caught two Lesser Sand Plovers.

Just released, sporting Singapore leg-flags!

The day dawned bright and sunny, and there was quite a passage of Barn Swallows and swiftlets, as well as an arrival of Oriental Pratincoles and Pacific Golden Plovers.

At about 8, with the nets now fully visible, the "White-faced" Plover flock arrived and sat in front of the nearest net! We counted 14, which is the largest number seen at one time to date.

"White-faced" Plover and a mist-net - unfortunately not very close to each other!

Three "White-faced" Plovers (right) with two Kentish Plovers.

The "White-faced" Plovers seemed to like to sit in the hollows created by our feet - note the two birds in the foreground with just the heads visible.

A male showing a typically broad supercilium and isolated black eye in a white 'face'.

We might have felt a bit more aggrieved at not catching the plovers had we not caught sight of an even more exciting visitor among the newly arrived Pacific Golden Plovers...

Spot the odd one out - a fine spring-plumaged male Oriental Plover!

I believe this is only about the fifth time this species has been recorded in Singapore.

Photo by Lin Yangchen. Just the tonic you need after spending a night with the sand-flies on the beach!

It was barely nine o'clock, and we mused that we had already seen every plover species on the Singapore list that morning - can't be that bad!

Eventually it was time to pack up the nets and admit defeat with the "White-faced" Plovers. Despite our best efforts they had eluded us again, and we concluded that there wasn't any point in putting up nets on the spit the following night. Back to the drawing board!

As we packed up we were treated to a free preview of the Singapore Air Show, and watched in awe as an A380 Airbus, the largest passenger aircraft in the world, performed amazing stunts overhead.

Hope they don't do this when there are passengers inside!

On our way for breakfast, a shower and bed, we stopped to admire some Oriental Pratincoles in pristine plumage.

A fine male Red Turtle Dove - not a bird we see in Penang.

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