Wednesday 28 July 2010

South Platte Park, Denver, Colorado

The sun had already got his hat on by the time I left the hotel at 06.00. I was heading to South Platte Park and stepped from the RTD light railway at Littlewoood/Mineral just before 07.00. A bridge took me across the line and into a Park ‘n Ride car park.
A Black-billed Magpie was perched on the wires in the overspill close to Carson Nature Center. The center is closed on Mondays, but the park is open from sunrise to sunset throughout the year.
The park consists of a complex of lakes with meadows and woodland. A cycle and walking path runs close to the South Platte River as it flows from southish to northish through the park. Only one pedestrian bridge, close to the nature center, crosses the river within the park.
A few Red-winged Blackbirds were at the feeders and in the meadows surrounding the center. There were lots of Common Starlings feeding in berry bushes here too and one Western Kingbird.
Above the river, some Cedar Waxwings were picking insects from the air, and I spent a fruitless half-hour trying to get a picture.
Not knowing any better, I elected to continue down the east bank with the river on my right as I headed upstream (southish). The road bridge at W. Mineral Ave., was festooned with Cliff Swallow nests; they were all quiet now (3rd week of July). Just beyond the bridge, a discrete path led away from the river to a wooden platform overlooking a damp patch full of small willows and cattails.  
I could recognise the “witchety witchety witchety” of the Common Yellow-throat and the rough, nasal calls from the Red-winged Blackbird.
A call prefaced with 3 sharp “tic”s betrayed the presence of a Song Sparrow, but the bird did not show.
Back by the river, I continued upstream and encountered my first hotspot of the day. The path had entered some woodland and the birdsong here was intense. Song Sparrows and Yellow Warblers were calling noisily and a pair of Downy Woodpeckers arrived, whinnying.
A Western Wood Peewee had sensibly found itself a perch in the shade. It was already hot, but that didn’t stop the House Wrens joining in with the chorus.
The path was quiet with only an occasional walker. It ran close to the river, occasionally veering into the trees. Another hotspot held more Yellow Warblers, Northern Flicker, House Finch and Black-capped Chickadee. A large shadow crossed the path ahead of me. I turned to look, expecting to see a Red-tailed Hawk or Turkey Vulture, but instead saw the flat-faced features of a Great Horned Owl. It crossed the river and landed in the trees opposite.
By now I had realised that what, on the map, looked like pedestrian bridges were in fact boat launching chutes. I would have already known this, if I had looked at the key on the map, but I hadn’t. I retraced my steps to the iron bridge at the nature center and crossed there. A young American Robin sat nicely on the way.
By contrast, the path on the western side was paved and a bit busier. Cyclists enjoy this path, but they were inevitably courteous and unhurried, unlike the House Finches which rushed off as soon as I raised the camera to my eye.
I looked for the owl briefly in the Mary Carter Greenaway. This area is protected and may only be viewed from the path or from a hide around the corner. The hide is not enclosed, it is just a screen with holes cut in it, but a cover provided some welcome shade from the sun which had brought the temperature close to 100F.
A House Wren was scolding something in a bush beside the blind and was too busy to respond to my pishing with much more than a quick, impatient glance.
A strident squeak caught my ear as I rounded a corner. A colony (known as a “town”) of Black-tailed Prairie Dogs had deployed a sentinel which had spotted a couple walking their dog. The guard was squeaking his alarm to the others who were feeding in the surrounding grass. The town extended on both sides of the path (without counting, I would guess that there were about 50 burrows in a small area) so that each time anyone walked along, the town was put on orange alert. I had seen these animals before, but from a speeding bus on the way to the airport, I was unable to positively identify them. An information board at the viewing screen gave me the confidence to use my red crayon this time. 
The sun was high and hot now. It would have been a good time to either rest in the shade or to go looking for dragonflies. Since there wasn’t much shade….
I followed the main path south again passing between 2 large lakes and found the following flying beasties.
Superficially similar are the Twelve-spotted (Libellula pulchella) and Eight-spotted (Libellula forensis) Skimmers. The difference is easily seen if you count the black and white blotches on the wing (you get the eggs and I’ll get Granny pucker’d up).
The Widow Skimmer (Libellula lucuosa) also has a few lookie-likies. It shares a similar yellow band on both sides of the abdomen with other species, but the broad dark bands on the basal half of both sets of wings is the characteristic feature to look for.
The one pictured is female. The male lacks the yellow piping, but the dark wing markings are a constant between the sexes. He develops a blue pruinose latter half of the abdomen and the wings include white blotches which may extend from the dark bands to the wingtips. I saw 5 females today, but no males which is the other way round to previous experience with other odonata.
This small damselfly was away from the water’s edge in a patch of seeding grass. Its identity is still under consideration. My first thoughts are Arroyo Bluet (Enallagma praevarum).
A Say’s Phoebe was hawking the same area of dry grass for a late lunch. I wonder what damselflies taste like? I have always thought that they would have a piquant flavour, but not quite as tangy as the Anisoptera. The phoebe returned to the post each time, but would not turn to face me and show its reddy, buff belly.
These are Sympetrum sp I believe, but the species escapes me at the moment.
This one is a Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum) which was seen over the water as well as high on bare tree branches and on the gravel path.
I am hoping that someone with a more experienced eye than mine could give me some guidance for this ode. I wonder if it could be a young Black Meadowhawk (Sympetrum danae)? All thoughts are welcome.While you are at it, why not venture an opinion on the two below. I am unable to commit myself on either of them.
A last look for the owl on the return journey resulted in a Black-chinned Hummingbird instead. Then I trod on my glasses and ruined them, effectively putting an end to my day. I had been labouring with a cheap pair of binoculars today after dropping my best Bushnells and decollimating them. I didn’t realise how important a good pair are until I had to revert to a cheap pair. Even now, in a darkened room, I feel twitchy knowing that I don’t have adequate optics. What would I do if something needed looking at?

This morning, I turned right out of the front door of the Denver Marriot onto California. Two blocks along, I turned right onto 16th St and walked a block to Stout where the 16th St./Stout station for the RTD Light Railway is located outside Walgren’s.
From here, the D-Line runs services every 15 mins from very early (I caught the 06.12 service), taking 35-40 minutes to reach Littleton/Mineral at the end of the line.
Cross the bridge and pass through the car park to reach South Platte Park and the Carson Nature Center. The nature centre has toilets and a drinking fountain. These were available despite the center being closed. Among the shops nearby at the Park 'n Ride were some eateries. Otherwise there are no facilities at South Platte Park.

Mammal Species; 3

Muskrat 1, Fox Squirrel 4, Black-tailed Prairie Dog 18.

Bird Species; 39

Double-crested Cormorant 6, Great Blue Heron 3, Black-crowned Night Heron 2, Canada Goose 8, Mallard 20, Turkey Vulture 1, Red-tailed Hawk 1, Cooper’s Hawk 1, Spotted Sandpiper 1, Mourning Dove 20, Great Horned Owl 1, Black-chinned Hummingbird 2, Belted Kingfisher 3, Downy Woodpecker 3, Northern Flicker 6, Western Wood Peewee 3, Say’s Phoebe 1, Western Kingbird 1, Tree Swallow 8, Northern Rough-winged Swallow 25, American Barn Swallow 35, Cliff Swallow 25, Cedar Waxwing 4, Northern House Wren 8, American Robin 25, Black-capped Chickadee 3, Black-billed Magpie 3, Common Starling 15, House Finch 20, American Goldfinch 15, Yellow Warbler 20, Common Yellowthroat 4, Song Sparrow 8, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle 20, Brown-headed Cowbird 6.

Dragonfly species; 6

Black Meadowhawk Sympetrum danae 1, Variegated Meadowhawk Sympetrum corruptum 3, Arroyo Bluet Enallagma praevarum 1, Widow Skimmer Libellula lucuosa 5, Twelve-spotted Skimmer Libellula pulchella 2 Eight-spotted Skimmer Libellula forensic 2

Thursday 22 July 2010

White-tailed Plover at Dungeness, Kent

In days gone by, planetary conjunctions were often thought of as propitious signs from the heavens. The rarity of alignment made them special events which lent them promise and potential.
Thus, it boded well when Her Majesty’s Court Service, the National Health Service, the Department for Education, and my employer all conspired to give me the morning off.
That this event should happen at the same time as a three star rarity visiting the neighbourhood, could only be a good omen. Mars is currently doing something retro with Capricorn and something else is passing through Aries like a dose of salts, so all the signs were good.
As usual, time is of the essence. I drop my son to school at 08.30. Dungeness is an hour away and I must return to fulfil my civic duty at 12.00. Realistically, I have about an hour for a big twitch.
A White-tailed Plover, (Vanellus leuceura) has been seen in the area, at the RSPB Dungeness Reserve on the ARC pit. It is more commonly to be found as a resident in Iran and Iraq, while others migrate between Russia in the summer and South Asia, Middle East or North Africa for the winter. The first time that it was recorded in Britain was in July 1975.
It has come via Seaforth, Liverpool (end of May), Rainham Marshes, Essex ( 7th of July) and Slimbridge,Gloucester (9th and 10th of July) on a z-shaped track, but I cannot find evidence of it’s whereabouts during June, though there is some suggestion of Solway.
From 11th of July it has been in Kent.
I arrived at 09.30 as I had hoped and stopped in the car park opposite the entrance to the RSPB site at Dungeness. The track is marked from here towards a screen at the North end of the ARC pit.
Using all my instinct, cunning and fieldcraft, I followed a steady stream of birders along the path to a group crouched behind a bank. They were not sheltering from the stiff breeze that was crossing the pit, but had found the plover and were taking care not to spook it by standing too high above the horizon. 
I might have spent some time scanning before I found it amongst the vegetation, so I was pleased to have it pointed out to me.
In the photo above, it is immediately beneath the lighthouse, just over halfway up the picture. It was showing well if you were looking from the correct angle, though it was a little distant with the light behind it. I have purposefully taken indistinct photographs to impress upon readers the rarity value of this bird. Perhaps it is time to try digiscoping, This would have been the perfect oppotunity to give it a try.

For decent pictures, seek out the ones from Seaforth where it seems to have been much closer to the photographers. Perhaps the photographers are more competent. Who knows? The most recent pictures from Dungeness are looking very nice. There is a gallery at
As ever, time was pressing. I was serving on a jury considering a case of dangerous driving this afternoon, so I did not want to stop too long and have to race back to court. Reluctantly, I left the plover in the hope of a quick glimpse of the Great Egret and Purple Heron that are close by, but my conscience kept whispering to me to get back to my civic responsibility and I had to leave them un-ticked for my British list and get back to court.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Oare Marshes, Kent, UK

I unexpectedly found myself with no parental responsibilities this evening, so I quickly responded to the call of the outdoors. A Hobby flashed across the road in front of me as I reached the top of the Southern Downs.
It was late, but I hoped for a chance of a Barn Owl perhaps at Oare Marshes. For other trips to Oare Marshes, see; ). Oare Marshes Reserve is run by Kent Wildlife Trust and features in  Consult this address for details and recent sightings.
A good number of Black-tailed Godwits were roosting on the West Flood, while other waders included Common Redshank, Avocet and a couple of Ruff with some breeding mottles on their flanks.
Common Shelduck were being very attentive to their brood and the Little Egrets were feeding into the gloom.
I did not manage any photographs of note except for a Little Grebe which was pointed out to me by a young man named Toby. While one parent sat with the brood of 5 chicks, the other ran relays to keep them nourished. 
 As it turned out, I did not see a Barn Owl, but in a most unlikely stroke of luck, a Tawny Owl flew across the M2, right across the front of my car.

Bird Species; 29

Little Grebe 3, Cormorant 8, Little Egret 2, Mute Swan 4, Greylag Goose 4, Common Shelduck 4, Eurasian Teal 4, Mallard 30, Common Pochard 6, Eurasian Hobby 1 enroute, Common Moorhen 2, Common Coot 20, Eurasian Oystercatcher 1, Pied Avocet 8, Northern Lapwing 6, Black-tailed Godwit 80, Common Redshank 12, Ruff 2, Woodpigeon 6, Tawny Owl 1enroute, European Swallow 8, Common Blackbird 2, Eurasian Magpie 4, Rook 6, Carrion Crow 6, Common Starling 12, House Sparrow 2, European Goldfinch 4, Reed Bunting 1.

Friday 9 July 2010

Boston Whale-watch

The city of Boston steamed gently in the early summer heat. Despite it’s delightful appeal, Boston is still a city and therefore not the natural habitat for a Redgannet.
The Founding Fathers greatest gift to the city was to site it by the shore and within an hour on a fast catamaran, of Stellwagen Bank. This is a plateau that raises the seabed to within 30 meters of the surface on a line between Cape Ann and Cape Cod.
Here the cold currents are forced upwards bringing nutrients from the depths closer to their end users at the top of the food chain.
The New England Aquarium ( ) runs whale-watching trips twice a day during the season which runs from April through October.
I caught the trip leaving from the dock at the aquarium at 09.30 (high season schedule). Trips usually last for 3 or 4 hours. I was concerned that this might be a little tight for my early afternoon flight back to UK, but the morning trip must return on time in order to take the afternoon trip out at 13.30, so they are reliable enough.
My first birds of the day had been spotted around the harbour area while waiting for the boat. A Mourning Dove sat well while Common Grackles flew over and an American Herring Gull rinsed itself in the shallow of the harbour.

Once out on the water, a few more gulls were seen. A couple of ring-billed Gulls were outnumbered by occasional pairs of Black-backed Gulls. Double-crested Cormorants flew low across the water until we made it beyond the shelter of the islands and onto the ocean. Here an occasional Brown Booby was seen ( actually, they were far more likely to have been juvenile Northern Gannets. Please see comment below).
My first open-water bird was a Sooty Shearwater that flew abeam of us for a short way before crossing our bows.
Next was a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel which stayed distant and small in the lens...
It was this bird that I had in mind when I considered whale-watching for today. I would love to get a decent picture of this little bird, but that is now a project for next time as the photo above was as good as it got.
The most confiding bird was the Great Shearwater. This was the most numerous and the one that approached the boat close enough to make a picture. I had not brought my field guide with me and had to rely on the naturalist on-board to narrow my possibilities. I should have been able to identify the Greater Shearwater without help.
The combination of a narrow pale band on the rump, a white collar and a smudge on the belly is distinctive. The Sooty Shearwater, I felt fairly confident about and could think of no likely alternatives.
A sudden change of direction and a drop in the tone of the engines indicated that something exciting had been spotted. The public address struck up and informed us that a small group of whales were up ahead.
They were Humpback Whales, a mother with calf and an adult male. Their manner of movement suggested that they were feeding. The naturalist kept a commentary going while we stayed with the whales, describing their migration patterns and social interactions. He was very informative, but I had issues with the Captain who seemed to prefer to keep the whales at our 11 o’clock position.
We had agreed a system of locating whales whereby straight ahead of the boat was 12 o’clock. Directly astern was 6 o’clock. I was at a point on the starboard bow that might be described as 2 o’clock. Get the idea?
For some reason the captain would manoeuvre the boat so that the best view of the whales was from the 11 o’clock point. This resulted in a rush to that part of the boat. I thought that the whales would move about and appear on different sides of the boat, so I would get my chance to be in the best position if I was patient. Time and time again, the captain shifted the angle of the boat to put the whales off the port bow. It became apparent that this was her preferred position so I relinquished my place at the starboard bow and joined the throng on the other side. Only then did the whales move into the 2 o’clock position and I was left on the wrong side again. We stayed with the group for a few dives and enjoyed a few tails as they took a deeper dive.
Reports were coming in from other vessels about some Fin Whales which were being watched in the vicinity. A democratic round of applause, gave the captain her cue to break away from the humpbacks and go in search of the world’s second largest whale.
As we approached, I was pleased to see that the whales were on my side and that I was in pole position. Then the captain announced that she was going to manoeuvre the boat so that the whales were in the 11 o’clock position again. I was beginning to take it personally until I realised that there was actually a half-good reason for this. The Fin Whale is asymmetric with a pale streak that runs from the lower jaw on it’s right side and extends along the flank. The corresponding areas on the left side are dark.
The captain had moved the boat so that the pale area was visible to us and we could see the asymmetry.
I was about to make comment on how rare it is to find asymmetry in the animal kingdom, but I suddenly realised how wrong that would be. Zebras, giraffes and the spotty or stripy cats are all asymmetrically patterned. Flatfish have a left/right bias. Fiddler Crabs have one small claw and one massive one. New Zealand’s Wrybill and the Black Skimmer of the Americas both have bills with a sideways bent.
Anyway the captain was keen to show us the pale areas, so I was poorly positioned again. Nevertheless, we all had good views of a huge Fin whale and her calf. Eventually.
On the way back towards the shore 3 shearwaters flew across our starboard bow. I could see that they were smaller than the Great Shearwater and did not have the characteristic traits as described earlier. These were Manx Shearwaters. I have not seen any of these since I last went whale-watching in Boston.
Despite the temperature being very high in the city, it was cold out on the ocean. The Voyager 3 makes around 25 knots so it is windy too. The ride back to Boston was only made bearable by the Manx Shearwaters and some pleasant company from Wisconsin. I would advise a jacket or an inside seat whatever the weather.
The subway system in Boston has a stop right beside the New England Aquarium. The stop is called Aquarium, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.
The boat goes from the dock right beside the seal tank. Schedules vary during the season and at weekends. Bookings can be made online or by turning up at the ticket booth beside the dock 30 minutes prior to departure.
The boat boasts a snack bar and toilets with an onboard naturalist and spotters. A small education exhibit is located inside where there is plenty of room to shelter from the worst of any weather.

Bird species; 12

Great Shearwater 20, Sooty Shearwater 5, Manx Shearwater 3, Wilson’s Storm Petrel 9, Northern Gannet 3, Double-crested Cormorant 40, Mallard 5, Ring-billed Gull 4, Great Black-backed Gull 25, Forster’s Tern 3, Mourning Dove 2, Common Grackle 12.

For other Boston Posts, follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated page for posts from various locations in USA and Canada

In response to a comment, I wanted to check my claim to have seen a Brown Booby. It would be a very rare event indeed to see one of these in New England waters Richard tells me.
After checking around I must concede that it was far more likely to have been a Northern Gannet. I saw a few of them and the chances that such a rare bird would appear in numbers is most unlikely, but....I am reasonably familiar with gannets and I recall the reason for choosing Brown Booby was the yellow bill and dark cleanly marked breast.
I did not realise the status of this bird at the time, so did not pay it any particular attention. I have no photos or notes taken at the time to refer back to, so it would be unrealistic to claim such a rarity.
I should hate to be the cause of birders flocking to Boston Cruises hoping to find a mega-rare bird, when in fact it was a mistake on my part. So, in this case I shall relinquish my claim on the Brown Booby in favour of a juvenile Northern Gannet.
Thanks to Richard for spotting the error.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Singapore. Botanical Gardens, Paser Ris, Central Catchment Area

The general trend seems to be wet mornings for Singapore this week. I spent 3 hours drinking tea at the cafe in the Botanical Gardens while the rain pounded down in real tropical monsoon style.
A brief window of opportunity at dawn produced only a few birds and notably, no Asian Koel. This bird is usually very vocal in the mornings, but I did not hear one until nearly midday today. Some Spotted Dove, a Pink-necked Green Pigeon, a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and a load of Javan Mynas were all I saw before retiring to the cafe as the rain set in.
By 10.00 the downpour had petered out into a light drizzle. I ventured towards the Eco Pond only to be caught in another sharp shower.
As I sheltered I had plenty of time to compare the whistling ducks on the edge of the pond. Some had the flank plumes of the Wandering Whistling Duck, whereas a couple did not. They also lacked any spotting on the breast and had a buff, not a chestnut belly.
The identification guides that I have show that Lesser Whistling Ducks may also have contrasting feathers on their flanks, indeed the “plumes” became more or less obvious as the birds preened. As I understand it Wandering WD has a rare status in Singapore so I would be interested to know from anyone else more familiar with them.
The rain finally stopped for a while and the sun even came out.
An Olive-backed Sunbird picked at blossoms on the plants by the water’s edge. A White-breasted Waterhen foraged along the shore.
A dragonfly that I had not seen before flitted past and settled on a snag nearby. If it had a popular name it would possibly be Bumblebee Skimmer or something similar. It’s black, yellow, black pattern on the hind wing makes it easily recognisable in flight. It is known among the world of Odonata watchers as Rhyothemis phyllis. It sadly did not present itself for a hind wing picture, but the bumblebee colouration is visible here.
In some short papyrus-like emergent bank-side plants, an Asian Pintail female, Acisoma panorpoides was waiting in ambush for tiny moths.
The boardwalk is closed here at the moment so I was round the lake quicker than I had planned. It is funny how events conspire to put one in a certain place at a certain time. The rain had delayed me, then I did not get a chance to linger on the boardwalk as I would have liked. In any other situation I would not have been on Cluny Park Way to see a small rallid run across the path about 10m ahead of me.
I knew immediately that it was a Red-legged Crake. To be brutally honest I have often thought this about glimpses of White-breasted Waterhens before now, but this time it was the real thing. I panicked and took a picture of my feet, dropped my tripod, then, having lost sight of the bird, fired a dozen shots into the concrete ditch and the undergrowth in the hope that I might find it later.
I understood these birds to be very rare and very shy, so I was thrilled when it came back down to the edge of the path and actually started towards me. I will also add that it was now 13.30 local time, so I can no longer support my long held misconception that rallids are crepuscular.
I will concede that the photograph is of a similar standard to the ones I have of The Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch. In one of my Singapore field guides, the authors, probably for lack of a decent photo, fail to even mention the crake.
It stayed for just a few brief moments before taking fright at something and scuttling away behind a fence. I looked for a while, but here was no sign of it at all.
A young Oriental Magpie Robin picked among the fallen leaves as the path slanted upward towards the Evolution Garden.
I was feeling rather full of myself, but soon my weak, Western Palearctic constitution was worn down by the strong sun and humidity of the tropics. On my way out of the park, I skirted Swan Lake and was rewarded with another new dragonfly. This one was also easily recogniseable as Pseudothemis Jorina. It would not settle for a picture, but our old friend Ictinogomphus decorates posed happily for me.
The Bus no. 7 still runs past the Tanglin Gate at the southeast corner on Napier and Holland Road for SIN$1.20, but a new MRT station is being built at the northwest border of the garden with an entrance immediately by Eco Pond.

Bird species; 24

Black-crowned Night-heron 1, Wandering Whistling Duck 12, Lesser Whistling Duck 2, Red-legged Crake 1, White-breasted Waterhen 10, Pink-necked Green Pigeon 1, Spotted Dove 20, Zebra Dove 6, Long-tailed Parakeet 1, Asian Koel 2, Little Swift 8, White-throated Kingfisher 2, Collared Kingfisher 3, Blue-tailed Bee-eater 3, Pacific Swallow 8, Yellow-vented Bulbul 5, Oriental Magpie Robin 3, Common Tailorbird 3, Asian Glossy Starling 5, Javan Myna 200, Olive-backed Sunbird 2, Plain-throated Sunbird 2, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 1, Eurasian Tree Sparrow 15.

Dragonfly species; 8

Orthetrum Sabina 6, Ictinogomphus decoratus 2, Brachydiplax chalybea 12, Acisoma panopoides 1, Neurothemis fluctuans 15, Pseusdothemis jorina 2, Brachythemis contaminata 1, Rhyothemis Phyllis 3.

Mammal species; 1

Plantain Squirrel 6

Green line train to Paser Ris, 25 mins Sin$2.60.
I skirted the fishing lake at Paser Ris this morning before moving on into the park. A small group of trees were hosting a “sunbird special” with Olive-backed, and Copper-throated varieties present. A monitor lizard may have been the reason for the fuss. I am told by Dave of that this one is a Water Monitor, Varanus salvator.
A Sunda Woodpecker landed on the trunk of one of the trees. I do not often see this endearing woodpecker, so was surprised to see three of them in the course of my walk through to Paser Ris Park. Sadly they were too quick for me this morning.
The water level was very low today and I suspect that it may have been a spring tide. As the river spills into the sea, an expanse of weed covered mud was exposed. I had never seen the tide this far out, possibly 200m beyond the farthest mangrove.
A Grey Heron had caught a fantastic fish and was determined to eat it, but was struggling to do so. 
Four Collared Kingfishers squabbled raucously in a tree above me. They may have been parents with a couple of demanding offspring.
On a couple of occasions today, I noted chickens. In the normal course of events, so close to human habitation, I would not count them, but it occurs to me that Pulau Ubin, a small island close by, boasts wild Red Jungle Fowl. So why not? They are free roaming, very shy and do not appear to be habituated in any way. I am sure that a couple of miles of water would not prove an insurmountable obstacle.
A monitor lizard, nearly a meter long cruised down the river as I crossed the bridge into the park.
The parkland is lightly wooded which proves popular with the White-breasted Kingfisher and on this occasion an Asian Pied Hornbill which sat, preening above one of the shelters.
The tower is always my aim in Paser Ris and I spent a happy couple of hours watching from a position elevated among the treetops. A flowering tree was attracting the sunbirds and I set myself the task of getting a nice picture.
The birds were more keen on feeding than posing, but I managed an acceptable one of a Brown-throated Sunbird as it alighted on a dead branch before it dived out of sight into the leaves and flowers. Black-naped Orioles, Ashy Tailorbirds and Pink-necked Green Pigeons passed over or stopped in the trees. The normally ubiquitous Yellow-vented Bulbuls were few and far between today.
Before heading back, I stopped at the freshwater pond to see if any exciting odonata were sunning themselves there.
Sure enough a Potamarcha cogener allowed me close enough for a picture. On a prominent stalk nearby, a Crocothemis servilia was drawing admiring glances from the ladies.

Bird species; 22

Grey Heron 15, Striated Heron 2, White-breasted Waterhen 1, Spotted Dove 4, Pink-necked Green Pigeon 6, Long-tailed Parakeet 2, White-throated Kingfisher 1, Collared Kingfisher 4, Northern Pied Hornbill 1, Sunda Woodpecker 3, Common Flameback 2, Pacific Swallow 20, Pied Triller 1, Yellow-vented Bulbul 4, Common Tailorbird 1, Ashy Tailorbird 2, Brown-throated Sunbird 8, Olive-backed Sunbird 8, Black-naped Oriole 3, House Crow 2, Asian Glossy Starling 10, Javan Myna 25.

Odonata species; 4

Potamarcha cogener 5, Orthetrum Sabina 1, Crocothems servilia 3, Acisoma panorpoides 1.

This morning I visited Macritchie Central Catchment Area with an intention of stalking through the forest and staking out the treetops from the Jetaling observation tower.
Striped Tit-babblers moved acrobatically through the treetops reminiscent of Great Tits. At one point a bird was dangling by it’s beak, from the beak of another. Whether this was courting, feeding or mucking about, I could not say.
The forest was noisy with babblers accompanied by a few other species. Notably a Green-winged Leafbird, Pink-necked Green Pigeon and Greater Racket-tailed Drongo.
The path (known as the Golf Link) runs from the entrance to the golf course at Sime Road through the forest for a few hundred meters before opening up with the fairways on one side and Macritchie reservoir on the other. It is sometimes difficult to watch your step and birds at the same time. Bring sturdy boots.
Joggers are common along the path which could describe a circle if you wished. It would be about 11 kms around.
The rain started as I emerged from the forest, but a red crayon Lestes praemorsus damselfly made me indifferent to it. This species was very common today and is likely to be more so in the future from the look of it.
Water on both sides had emergent grasses and strategic points for perching odonata.
Also in the margins were Ceriagrion cerinorubellum,
Pseudagrion microcephalum and Brachydiplex chalybea
The trees here held Collared Kingfishers and a Clouded Monitor Varamus bengalensis, monitoring.
A White-bellied Sea-eagle pair nest in a tall tree on the course. Much to the chagrin of the groundskeeper, who stopped to chat, they can frequently be seen catching the ornamental carp that he stocked in the lakes and carrying them up to the hungry chicks
Soon enough the path leads back into the forest. A boardwalk raises the path above a wet area with a stream to the right. A Greater Racket-tailed Drongo was very vocal. It flew into an open tree and I thought it might make a photograph when I saw the reason for its noise.
A Brown Hawk Owl was roosting on an exposed branch. Birds took it in turn to harass the owl, but it was unconcerned. Merely opening it’s eyes slightly and turning it’s head was enough to keep the passerines at wing’s length.
Thunder was rolling all around me as I approached the tower. I had to consider if climbing a four-storey metal structure was advisable in the circumstances. I felt vulnerable enough carrying a metal tripod over my shoulder, so decided against it. My umbrella has aluminium spokes in it. How well does aluminium attract lightening I wonder? As the rain was still only light I opted to weather it for the moment.
The boardwalk has been quite a productive area for me in the past with nightjars, cuckoos and the like. Today it gave me the owl on the way out and a Drongo Cuckoo and a White-rumped Shama on the way back. The Drongo Cuckoo was calling with it’s distinctive upward cadence. The bird flushed from about head height just ahead of me and alighted on a small branch just long enough for me to get a look at it. The shama was in deep shade in a big tangle. It flew off as I approached, but continued it’s fluty song from nearby as I stood and listened.
Back by the water a dragonfly, perched in a patch of long grasses proved to be a Trithemis pallidinervis. As I was taking a picture, a group of men approached and said “hello”. I was feeling rather full of myself again and told them about the owl and the crake that I had seen in the Botanic Gardens. My bubble didn’t burst so much as develop a slow leak when one of my new friends told me that the crakes in the gardens are known for being quite approachable and that I had missed a Malayan Night Heron which had recently been seen in the gardens and had been extremely confiding.
Ah well, I have something to look forward to already for my next visit.
A Diplacodes nebulosa watched for passing insects from a partially submerged stem. A Rhyothemis Phyllis gave a better look and enabled me to get a better angle and shoot the hind wing pattern.
To return home, I turned left out of the forest onto Lornie Road to the bus stop a short way along. Any bus going in this direction is likely to go close to one of the MRT stations.

Some other dragonflies that I saw during the day are pictured below. I am hoping that someone will recognise them and help me with identification.
 Thank you very much to Ian at who has pointed me towards Orchithemis pulcherrima for the above and confirmed my suspiscions for the ode below as Urothemis signata.
 Ian was also able to tell me that the picture below is of a pair of Pseudagrion microcephalum.
I wasn't able to give him enough information to go on in order to identify this one below, but he reckons that it is potentially a young male Orthetrum.

  David from the glorious blog, digdeep1962, has given me the name of the scaly one above as a Many-lined Sun Skink Mabuya multifasciata. He also provided me with the correct ID for the monitors.
This ode above and below, was found in deep shade over a small stream and Ian has confidently identified him as a young male Tyriobapta torrida
Thanks again to Ian and David.
Bird species; 16 Visit the dedicated Asian page for more posts from Singapore, Including Sungei Buloh and The Central Catchment Area

Spotted Dove 2, Pink-necked Green Pigeon 4, Blue-rumped Parrot 2, Asian Drongo-cuckoo 1, Brown Hawk Owl 1, Collared Kingfisher 2, Pacific Swallow 6, Yellow-vented Bulbul 4, Blue-winged Leafbird 1, White-rumped Shama 1, Common Tailorbird 2, Striped Tit-babbler 35, Copper-throated Sunbird 2, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 4, Asian Glossy Starling 12, Javan Myna 20.
Odonata species; 9

Lestes praemorsus 60, Ceriagrion cerinorubellum 4, Pseudagrion microcephalum 12, Urothemis signata 1, Brachydiplex chalybea 4, Trithemis pallidinervis 2, Diplacodes nebulosa 1 Tyriobapta torrida 1, Orchithemis pulcherrima 2.

Visit the dedicated Asian page for more posts from Singapore including; Sungei Buloh and the Central Catchment Area