Friday, 29 March 2013

Singapore and Malaysia Trip Report

Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia
23 – 28 February 2013

23 February 2013
Siem Reap, Cambodia – Singapore

We touched down at Changi Airport in Singapore at 16:00 and were on our way to the hotel by cab at 16:45.
We had booked on line at the Changi Village Hotel for the first two night's stay and the night before departure. Due to a slight change of plans, we now needed to stay an extra night and had no trouble booking it at the same price.
When we got to our room we were pleased that we overlooked an area with numerous large trees, and birds were flying around. Unfortunately the window was so dirty it was hard to get a good view. The species that we were confident about were Red-breasted Parakeet, Common Myna, Javan Myna, Barn Swallow, Oriental Dollarbird, Tanimbar Corella, Yellow-vented Bulbul and Grey-rumped Treeswift.
Common Myna
Our room was quite acceptable but the hotel is starting to show some wear. There was a little mould around the bath tub and there was debris on the floor that had been missed by the cleaning staff. Curiously, there was not a single picture on the wall, the first hotel where this has ever happened in my many years of travel, not that it made the slightest difference of course.
For dinner we walked to the Changi Village Hawker Centre, a mere five minutes from the hotel, where there were many places to eat a wide variety of food – all at very reasonable prices. We went to Mr. Teh Tarik Eating House, where Miriam had Mi Wonton and I had Mi Laksa, both prepared right in front of us at the Sedap Noodle counter. The food was very good indeed.
We went back to the hotel where Miriam soaked in the tub to try to ease the itching from bites on her leg from Angkor Wat.

All species in Singapore 23 February – Tanimbar Corella, Red-breasted Parakeet, Grey-rumped Treeswift, Oriental Dollarbird, Barn Swallow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Common Myna, Javan Myna.

Accommodation: Changi Village Hotel Rate: Canadian $185.00 per night Including taxes Rating: Three and a half stars.

24 February 2013
Changi Village – Pulau Ubin – Bidadari Cemetery – Pasir Ris Park – Lorong Halus Wetland

Our Singapore guide, Lim Kim Seng, picked us up at the hotel at 06:45 and we immediately went for breakfast. It was raining lightly as we walked to Guru's Banana Leaf Cuisine for our first taste of a traditional south Indian breakfast.
We all chose Thosai, a pancake made from rice batter and black lentils. It was served with a fried egg and tiny, whole fried anchovies. Thosai is offered in a variety of options – Kim Seng's was plain, Miriam's with eggs and onions and mine masala. They were all delicious! We had hot, sweet coffee to wash it down.
Even sitting having breakfast we were joined by birds, including a Red-breasted Parakeet at a nest hole in a tree.
We went to the ferry terminal at 08:00 to catch a bum boat over to Pulau Ubin, a small, relatively unspoiled island a short distance from the main island of Singapore. We waited until twelve passengers were available to board and quickly made the short crossing to Pulau Ubin. A bus took us to the mangrove boardwalk where the birding was spectacular. The first bird we saw was a White-bellied Sea Eagle patrolling above the water looking for a breakfast a little larger than the anchovies we had enjoyed! We heard Red Junglefowl and ultimately saw one. Kim Seng explained that it is believed that these birds (and other species like hornbills) found their way across the straits from nearby Malaysia. We had marvellous close-up looks at Straw-headed Bulbul and there were numerous Whimbrel, a very common winter migrant, Grey Plovers and both Little and Black-naped Terns.

Olive-winged Bulbul

Pacific Swallows perched close to us and a Stork-billed Kingfisher wowed us with its huge bill.
Pacific Swallow
Stork-billed Kingfisher
We very much enjoyed three Oriental White-eyes, a species that has become wary of humans since it is so favoured for the cage bird trade due to the quality of its song. The same is true for White-rumped Shama,
I don't think that for our entire stay in Singapore/Malaysia we were ever without the company of swiftlets, but Kim Seng said that they were impossible to identify in flight. He referred to them as Edible Nest types and said that the surest way to know the species is to find the nest, where the colour of the nest and the amount of light in the preferred nesting location, differentiates Black-nest Swiftlet from Germain's Swiftlet.
Although we encountered Crimson Sunbird often, we were the beneficiaries of a dazzling display by a male, recalling the iridescence and beauty of the hummingbirds of the Americas; indeed sunbirds are their old world counterparts.
Before taking the boat back to the mainland, Kim Seng invited us to try coconut water drunk directly from the shell. It was really quite delicious and the thick green husk provided enough insulation that it was pleasantly cool. We then scraped out the flesh with a sharp-sided spoon and it too was very tasty. Kim Seng explained that as a child growing up on a farm he used to shinny up coconut palms to get coconuts for his mother. Many kids would take up a machete to cut off the fruit, but he watched how the monkeys twisted the fruit until the stem snapped and that is how he released the fruit.
We took the boat back to Changi and went for lunch to the Hawker Centre, to the Sarah Rose Restaurant. Miriam had Nasi Lemak Ayam (chicken) and I had Nasi Lemak (fish filet). All was excellent and we had an ice cold Sprite to drink.
We then went to the Bidadari Cemetery, a long established Muslim cemetery, with expansive grounds and large trees, but the birds were very quiet.
Kim Seng suggested that we move right away to Pasir Ris Park to see if we could do better there. The highlight of this location was a pair of Spotted Wood Owl perched very visibly in a tree overhanging the path. It really was quite remarkable.
Spotted Wood Owl
We also saw a Golden-bellied Gerygone busily involved in nest building. This bird was truly industrious. It would fly to a large bough on a nearby tree and strip off thin layers of bark, or perhaps it was lichens, and return to the nest under construction. This was done at a non-stop pace.
Moving along to a waterway in the park a couple of Striated Herons hunted along the banks and were joined by a Black-crowned Night-Heron, two Grey Herons, a dozen Little Egrets, two White-breasted Waterhens and a stunning Stork-billed Kingfisher. There were several large Monitors and numerous Mud Skippers.
When we left the park, Kim Seng pulled over to the side of the road at one point where we could look at a Long-tailed Shrike he knew frequented the area.
Our final birding area of the day was the Lorong Halus Wetland, a very productive site. We had great looks at two Yellow Bitterns. Other notable species were our only Javan Pond Heron, and three Little Egrets in breeding plumage. There were a couple of Pacific Golden Plovers and one Common Greenshank. Two species of cuckoo, Chestnut-winged and Little Bronze, presented themselves very well.
We returned to our hotel and arrived there around 18:15. Miriam showered and changed and we went out for dinner around 19:00. We found an Indian restaurant where we each had a glass of watermelon juice the size of a rain barrel! Miriam chose Butter Chicken Masala and I had Mutton Masala. This was accompanied by a dish of rice called Gera Rice, new to us but quite delicious, and we were happy to have selected it.
We were back in our room before 20:00.

All species 24 February – Red Junglefowl, Painted Stork, Yellow Bittern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Striated Heron, Javan Pond Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Grey Heron,
Grey Heron

Purple Heron, Little Egret, Great Egret, Crested Honey Buzzard, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, White-breasted Waterhen, Pacific Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Little Tern, Black-naped Tern, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Tanimbar Corella, Red-breasted Parakeet, Greater Coucal (H), Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Asian Koel, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Spotted Wood Owl, swiftlet sp., Oriental Dollarbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-throated Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher,
Collared Kingfisher
 Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker, Laced Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Common Iora, Long-tailed Shrike, Black-naped Oriole, House Crow, Straw-headed Bulbul, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-winged Bulbul, Arctic Warbler, Ashy Tailorbird, Oriental White-eye, Asian Glossy Starling, Common Myna, Javan Myna, Oriental Magpie-Robin,
Oriental Magpie-Robin
White-rumped Shama, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Brown-throated Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Baya Weaver, Paddy field Pipit.

25 February 2013
Central Catchment Nature Reserve – Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – A Golf Course – Kranji Reservoir – Singapore Botanic Gardens

Kim Seng picked us up at 05:30 so that we could drive to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and begin our walk through the forest in darkness. We arrived there at 06:15 and set off on our walk, looking for Brown Hawk-Owl and Sunda Scops Owl. We heard them both but were unable to see either species. It was a great sensory experience, however, to be in the forest as the sun came up, and to hear the progression of the dawn chorus. Greater Racket-tailed Drongo seemed to be king of the forest choir! We saw a variety of species, the highlight of which was very good looks at a Blue-winged Pitta, my best view ever of a pitta, in fact. Other notable species included Cream-vented Bulbul, uncommon in Singapore but common in nearby Malaysia, Purple-throated Sunbird, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker and Changeable Hawk-Eagle.
Just before 10:30 we headed out for breakfast and once again Kim Seng was about to introduce us to another local speciality. We stopped at a little strip mall with several restaurants and a supermarket, and went to Al-Ameen to eat. We all had Tissu Prata, which is a kind of paper thin roti. Miriam had hers plain and it is a wonder of creative cusine, sitting tall on her plate like a pyramid. I had mine with cheese and onion and it came with a dish of dipping sauce. Again we had hot, sweet coffee and sat and enjoyed a second cup before moving off again at 11:15.
Our next stop was Sungei Buloh Wetland, a gorgeous area. Here the birding was terrific and our first amazing sighting was of a Large-tailed Nightjar roosting on the forest floor.

Large-tailed Nightjar

It was a real pleasure for us to see fourteen Common Redshanks perched on a tree branch out of the way of the water at high tide. There were at least three hundred Whimbrel present on the mud flats.

Kim Seng thought that one of the egrets didn't look quite “right” and in fact it was a Chinese Egret. Thank goodness he was there to guide us through the field marks of this rare winter visitor.
Chinese Egret
Both Milky Storks (probably an escapee from the bird park) and Painted Storks flew overhead. The highlight, however, was a pair of Copper-throated Sunbirds, which we were able to observe at will. The male is simply stunning – and best of all - they were constructing a nest, and we were able to watch their cooperative nest-building activities. All sunbirds are achingly beautiful but the male Copper-throated may be, for me, the one that takes the crown.
Purple-throated Sunbird

Copper-throated Sunbird
We took a late lunch at a country club, but I am not sure of the exact location. It was a fine place indeed, overlooking a golf course, with Yellow Wagtails on the greens. We all shared a pitcher of watermelon juice; Miriam and Kim Seng both chose Hokkien Mee in a dark sauce, served in miniature metal woks, while I opted for Yong Chow Fried Rice.
All of the food was of a very high standard. Throughout our entire trip Kim Seng's choice of places to eat was impeccable and we really enjoyed a variety of local cuisine, all of which was mouth-wateringly good.
After lunch we went to the Kranji Marsh, where we were greeted almost immediately by a rain shower. It was fairly brief, however, and didn't interfere too much with our birding. The highlight of this visit was a colony of Baya Weavers industriously working at their nests. We saw both Long-tailed and Red-breasted Parakeets and a Japanese Sparrowhawk was both a lifer and the only sighting of this species on the entire trip.
It was pretty noisy at this location as air force jets screamed overhead, engaged in some kind of military exercise we assumed.
In the wetland we saw Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Watercock and Yellow Bittern. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters were flycatching from a nearby snag. On the way back to the car we saw two Scaly-breasted Munias.
Our final destination for the day was the Singapore Botanic Garden, a wonderful place to visit and enjoy. Unfortunately it started to rain and we were driven out fairly early, not before great views of Blue-crowned Hanging Parrots, however.
The rain got positively torrential and Kim Seng had difficulties at times seeing the sides of the road. It was awful to drive in. When he dropped us off at our hotel after about an hour we felt really sorry for him since he had to drive to the other side of the island to go home. He told us the next morning that he had pulled over to take a break but still had to resume under terrible conditions. He said that it was the worst drive of his life.
Since we had eaten both breakfast and lunch quite late neither Miriam nor I felt particularly hungry so we decided not to venture out for dinner. We had a cup of tea and an energy bar and that sufficed.

All species 25 February – Milky Stork, Painted Stork, Yellow Bittern, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Chinese Egret, Western Osprey, Crested Honey Buzzard, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Japanese Sparrowhawk, White-breasted Waterhen, Ruddy-breasted Crake (H), Watercock, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove,
Spotted Dove
Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Thick-billed Green Pigeon, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Red-breasted Parakeet, Long-tailed Parakeet,

Long-tailed Parakeet

 Chestnut-bellied Malkhoa, Asian Koel, Sunda Scops Owl (H), Brown Hawk-Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Grey-rumped Treeswift,swiftlet sp., Oriental Dollarbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher (H), White-throated Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher,
Blue-eared Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater,

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Blue-throated Bee-eater, Red-crowned Barbet (H), Coppersmith Barbet, Banded Woodpecker, Common Flameback, Rufous Woodpecker, Blue-winged Pitta, Common Iora, Pied Triller, Black-naped Oriole, Black Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-winged Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Barn Swallow, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Asian Glossy Starling, Common Myna, Javan Myna, 
Javan Myna
Oriental Magpie-Robin, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Brown-throated Sunbird, Purple-throated Sunbird, Copper-throated Sunbird, Olive-backed Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Baya Weaver, Scaly-breasted Munia, Western Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail.

26 February 2013
Singapore – Panti Forest – Kota Tinggi – Panti Forest – Kota Tinggi

Kim Seng picked us up a little after 05:30 to leave for Malaysia. We had arranged with the Changi Village Hotel to leave our suitcases at the hotel since we would be returning on the evening of the 27th. So we had only a carry on with just what we needed for a one night stay at Kota Tinggi.
We crossed from Singapore into Malaysia at around 06:15. There was little traffic for us but a staggering number of trucks heading from Malaysia into Singapore.
Soon after daybreak we stopped at a roadside restaurant for breakfast. Here we all had Prata, a flour-based pancake cooked on a flat grill served with a lentil-based dipping sauce. It was really interesting to watch them being made. We each had one plain and one with egg; Miriam and I had coffee, Kim Seng had tea.
After breakfast we drove on to the Panti Forest, our birding destination. We entered via what has become know as Bunker Road, so named because of the two World War II bunkers marking the entrance. An imposing sign proclaimed “Suaka Burung Panti Bird Sanctuary.” 

There was an administrative office, impressive looking and new, with the word “Information” prominently displayed in the window. It was closed, however, and Kim Seng says that he has never seen it open, nor anyone there to provide information.
Of late there seems to have been a haphazard system of issuing permits and collecting a fee. On this visit there was no one at the entrance and we entered without any problem and without paying a fee. Even when a fee is paid the amount varies and most birders strongly suspect that the money is going into someone's pocket.
At the time of our visit there was a joint military operation taking place between the Australian and Malaysian armed services, but it didn't affect us at all.
We drove along the road, stopping to bird whenever Kim Seng heard something interesting. There were lots of great birds, including Cream-vented Bulbul feeding on the road on palm nuts spilled from trucks, Violet Cuckoo, Tiger Shrike and two magnificent and well-seen Scarlet-rumped Trogons. This clinched the bird of the day early in the morning!
Scarlet-rumped Trogon
We had a pair of Grey-and-Buff Woodpeckers and another adult male with a fully developed red crest. Spectacular!
We saw two Raffles's Malkohas, two Lesser Fish Eagles, a perched Changeable Hawk-Eagle, three Bushy-crested Hornbills and both Orange-bellied and Crimson-breasted Flowerpeckers.
At 12:20 we left the forest to travel back to Kota Tinggi to have lunch and check into our hotel.
Kim Seng has a regular spot that he patronizes, but it was closed, probably as part of the ongoing celebrations for Chinese New Year. We found another restaurant, called Restoran Nurul Jasmin and had a great lunch there. Miriam had a Coke and I had soursop juice. Both Kim Seng and Miriam chose chicken briyani while I had Nasi Paprik (chicken and vegetables in a sauce served with rice). Miriam and Kim Seng had a side order of a salad of cucumber and carrot in a tasty sauce, and a curry sauce to accompany the rice. We were all well satisfied with our meals.
After lunch we checked into our hotel, The Rest Inn Hotel, quite new and very agreeable. We had a room with two single beds, a desk and chair, air conditioning, television, and a nice bathroom with a separate shower enclosure. Malaysia is a Muslim country, of course, and it was interesting to note an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca. We felt that our room was superior to that which we had at the Changi Village Hotel in Singapore, at a fraction of the price.

We rested until15:30 when we rejoined Kim Seng to go back to the Panti Forest.
Birding was a little slower than it had been earlier in the day, but we saw many of the same species. A couple of fairly severe rain showers sent us scampering back to the car. On leaving we saw two Malaysian Eared Nightjars. It was almost 19:30 before we headed back to town.
We found a seafood restaurant for dinner and shared several dishes. We had shrimp fried in butter, Chinese greens, tofu with egg in a sauce with steamed rice and the highlight of the evening, a whole grouper covered in a wonderful sweet and sour sauce. It was absolutely delicious.
Miriam had Chinese tea to drink, I had a couple of Thai coconuts and Kim Seng had Coca Cola.
Well fed, we returned to the hotel and settled in for the night.

All species 26 February – Grey Heron, Lesser Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Raffles's Malkhoa, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Violet Cuckoo, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Scarlet-rumped Trogon, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Brown Barbet, Grey-and-Buff Woodpecker, Banded Woodpecker, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Dusky Broadbill (H), Golden-bellied Gerygone, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Green Iora, Ashy Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Tiger Shrike, White-bellied Erpornis, Greater racket-tailed Drongo, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Grey-bellied Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Asian Red-eyed Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Yellow-bellied Bulbul, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Buff-vented Bulbul, Barn Swallow,Arctic Warbler, Rufous-necked Tailorbird, Black-capped Babbler, Horsefield's Babbler, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Sooty-capped Babbler, Common Hill Myna (H), Javan Myna, White-rumped Shama (H), Asian Brown Flycatcher, Lesser Green Leafbird, Blue-winged Leafbird, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Plain Sunbird, Purple-naped Sunbird.

Accommodation: Rest Inn Hotel : Rate: Canadian $33.45
Rating: Four stars.

27 February 2013
Kota Tinggi – Panti Forest – Kota Tinggi – Singapore Botanic Gardens

We met Kim Seng in the lobby at 05:00 and left after checking out to go to the same place as yesterday for breakfast. It was equally entertaining to watch the Pratas being made and they were just as good to eat.
We entered the Panti Forest in darkness, searching for owls, but we had no luck. Three Malaysian Eared Nightjars put in an appearance and we heard Large-tailed Nightjar also.
Shortly after daybreak we spotted a Black Hornbill and it perched in full view atop a tree, and stayed there for several minutes. Today was my seventieth birthday and I considered this as fine a present as I could wish for.
Black Hornbill
We saw a number of Glossy Swiftlets and it was pleasing to be able to record an actual species and not just swiftlet sp.
One of the target species for most birders visiting the Panti Forest is the strange, enigmatic Rail-Babbler. Kim Seng mentioned to us that he thinks the frequency of tape playing to lure in this bird is becoming clearly excessive. There are certain known likely locations and every guide makes a bee line to try to secure a view for his clients. Kim Seng played the tape once, and we heard the bird very clearly, sounding like the reverberating note of a piano tuner's fork, but we never did see it.
Most of the birds were a repeat of yesterday, which did not make the experience any less delightful.
Before leaving, we climbed an observation tower near to the non functional administrative office. The uppermost deck of the tower is at mid level, but it turned out to be a great observation point. There was a constant parade of birds and we had excellent, prolonged, repeated looks at Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Arctic Warbler, Purple-throated Sunbird, Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, Red-crowned Barbet, Streaked Bulbul,
Chestnut-breasted Malkhoa, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Ashy Minivet, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Green Iora and Eastern Crowned Warbler.
Just before 13:00 we got back into the car and drove back to Kota Tinggi for lunch. As we disembarked from the car, we heard the Imam issuing the call to prayer from the mosque, a new experience for us. We ate at the Restoran Baser, a favourite of Kim Seng and had roasted chicken, spiced rice, mixed vegetables, a kind of egg concoction resembling an omelette, a dish of chicken broth and chili sauce. There was not a scrap of food left on our plates! I had a fruity drink that tasted like chewing gum and was quite awful; Miriam had a can of “Outrageous Orange” which didn't taste much better!
When we left the restaurant at 14:00 it was raining quite hard, but we did not lose any time in heading for Singapore. We cleared the border at 15:00 and re-entered Singapore.
Before going to the Botanic Gardens we visited a bay facing Malaysia where Malaysian Plover is consistently found. Today it was not there, even though we waited for about a half hour. We had a great look at a Brahminy Kite however, as it patrolled the shoreline.
We moved on to the Botanic Gardens and did the tour of the orchid garden – a wonderful exhibit. We strolled around other areas and saw a variety of birds, but nothing new for the trip. It's amazing how common and how tame White-breasted Waterhens have become and we saw seven of them, including a couple of juveniles.
White-breasted Waterhen
It was back to the car at 18:45 for the drive back to the hotel. We bade farewell to Kim Seng, thanking him for a truly excellent guiding experience. We benefitted greatly from his sterling knowledge of the birds of the area.
Right after checking into our room we went out for dinner. Miriam had a prawn and noodle dish and I had Mi Wonton, the same dish Miriam had chosen on our first night in Singapore. We had a plate of fresh cut fruit for dessert.
We were back in our room at 21:15 to get ready to leave for home the next day.

All species 27 February – Grey Heron, Little Egret, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Booted Eagle, Brahminy Kite, White-breasted Waterhen, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Common Emerald Dove (H), Little Green Pigeon, Pink-necked Green Pigeon,
Pink-necked Green Pigeons

Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Long-tailed Parakeet, Chestnut-breasted Malkhoa, Banded Bay Cuckoo (H), Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo (H), Common Sandpiper, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Large-tailed Nightjar (H), Grey-rumped Treeswift, Glossy Swiftlet, swiftlet sp., Scarlet-rumped Trogon (H), Oriental Dollarbird, Stork-billed Kingfisher (H), Common Kingfisher, Black Hornbill, Red-crowned Barbet, Blue-eared Barbet, White-bellied Woodpecker (H), Banded Woodpecker, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Black-winged Flycatcher-Shrike, Green Iora, Ashy Minivet, White-bellied Erpornis, Dark-throated Oriole (H), Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Large-billed Crow, Slender-billed Crow, House Crow, Rail-Babble (H), Yellow-vented Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Streaked Bulbul, Barn Swallow, Arctic Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Grey-headed Babbler, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Horsefield's Babbler, Asian Fairy Bluebird, White-rumped Shama, Javan Myna, Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Ruby-cheeked Sunbird, Purple-naped Sunbird, Crimson Sunbird,
Crimson Sunbird

 Purple-throated Sunbird, Grey-breasted Spiderhunter, Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Accommodation: Changi Village Hotel Rate: Canadian $185.00 per night Including taxes Rating: Three and a half stars

28 February 2013
Singapore – Hong Kong – Toronto – Waterloo

We were up at 06:00 and had a granola bar and a coffee in our room.
We caught the 07:00 shuttle bus to the airport and arrived a scant twenty minutes later. For the first time ever our carry on luggage was weighed and we were both over the limit. However the check in agent was very good and allowed us to redistribute some of the contents and Miriam transferred some items to her back pack also. We were still over the limit but no charges were imposed.
Miriam had a coffee in the airport and I had a bowl of noodle soup. We boarded at 09:45 and were in the air by 10:35. The plane was not full so we had three seats between the two of us.
Our vegetarian lunch consisted of potato with onion, mixed bell peppers and spinach, a bread roll and a dish of fruit. Miriam had orange juice to drink, I had a glass of red wine.
We landed in Hong Kong at 14:10 and left for Toronto at 17:40. The plane was full so we had no extra space on this leg of the journey. During the fifteen and a half hour flight two meals were served, both fairly uninspiring.
Touchdown was at 20:30 and we quickly cleared customs and immigration. It was great to see Karen and John waiting for us in the arrivals lounge to whisk us home to Waterloo.

General Comments
We greatly enjoyed both Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore especially is a fabulous city, immaculately clean, and it runs like a well oiled machine. It is the only major world city where I did not see even one piece of graffiti. Despite having a population of around six million people on a relatively small island it is a very green city, although very little of its natural forests remain.
Malaysia is a Muslim country, but we felt absolutely welcome everywhere we went. We were never greeted by other than smiling, friendly faces and helpful people.
I would love to revisit both countries.

Our Guide

Lim Kim Seng might just be the best guide we have ever had, and he is a fine fellow to boot.
Having birded with Kim Seng, Nigel Collar was moved to remark: That day Kim Seng demonstrated to me that his knowledge of the Singapore avifauna was second to none.
We give Kim Seng our highest recommendation; if you are visiting Singapore hire him in the full knowledge that he will serve you well.

Field Guide

We used Craig Robson's A Field Guide to the Birds of South-east Asia which seems to be the de facto guide used by everyone in the region.
While certainly very helpful, we were not as enamoured of it as others seem to be, It suffers greatly from a lack of distribution maps and I found this to be a serious irritant. Furthermore, some of the illustrations are not especially well done, the drongos in particular being quite awful. There were other birds which we felt were not well depicted.


IOC World Bird List 2012.

Further Information

Contact David M. Gascoigne or Miriam Bauman 519 725-0866, email:

A spread sheet of all the birds seen with dates and whether they are lifers for David or Miriam can be made available on request.


  1. That was a great read David. It brought back many great memories of all these places that I also visited during my trip to Singapore.

    I must have seen the exact same Spotted Wood Owls as you at Pasir Ris Park.
    When I visited Panti Forest I too stopped at that roadside restaurant and had Prata, although I do not remember what kind it was.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this up!

  2. Hi,

    I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed the great write-up. However, I noted a few errors that needed attention.

    Firstly the photo you labelled as a Straw-headed Bulbul shows a pair of Olive-winged Bulbul.

    I also believe that your mention of multiple Wallace's Hawk-Eagle sightings is an error. The species has been extinct in Singapore for more than a century and is extremely rare in Panti with no definitive records in the last decade. I am inclined to believe that on both occasions you observed Changeable Hawk-Eagles which are readily sighted at both the sites mentioned.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. I will make these changes right away.

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