Friday 17 May 2013

Sungei Buloh, Singapore, May 2013

Quick Response Standby requires me to be at the airport and ready to go within 45 minutes, so packing was of the “most likely scenario” style. Trips to USA and India are to be expected in these circumstances and I had brought field guides to suit. A trip to Sydney via Singapore was amongst the less likely itineraries that I may be needed for and the field guides were not easily to hand when the call came in.

Without a plan or a field guide, I had to fall back on my knowledge and experience, both of which were hopelessly inadequate. But if Singapore’s birds complied in some way with the natural urge to surge northwards in May, I reasoned, then perhaps Sungei Buloh would be a good bet. As the island’s premier birding hotspot, the managed pond and mangrove habitat is a joy to visit at any time of year and I felt confident that it would make a good plan for the first day.

The bus dropped me at the car park by Kranji Dam and I walked the half mile to the entrance of the reserve. For the purposes of eBird entries, I submitted the walk-in along Neo Tiew Crescent separately as there were almost as many birds seen here as in the actual reserve. A couple of notable birds that were seen on the short walk but not in the reserve included Pygmy Sunda Woodpecker, Pied Triller and Brown Shrike. Asian Glossy Starlings appeared reliably on both lists

There was a fruiting tree at the entrance to Sungei Buloh and a small flock were feeding here. As I crossed the bridge over the river, 3 Oriental Pied Hornbills flew by, stopping in a tree inland from the bridge. By the water’s edge, a Purple Heron was watching for fish being brought in and flushed from the mangroves by the incoming tide.

The tide was rising and due to reach its highest point at around 10.00 today. The incoming surge is managed by sluice gates and the water levels in the reserve are monitored and controlled. This visit coincided with a high-water management phase.
The trails around the mangroves are well maintained and screens and hides provided a vantage to look out across empty expanses of mud and water. During the winter, the area teems with Pacific Golden Plovers and Greater Sand Plovers, but today there were merely a few Whimbrel, Common Redshank and Common Greenshank.

A Crocodile was seen from the path leading from the mangrove boardwalk. It was necessary to retrace my steps back past this spot a short while later and the croc was nowhere to be seen. Pink-necked Pigeons called from the fruiting mangroves close by.

A couple of raptors soared above the freshwater ponds, but without a field guide I was hesitant in identifying them right away and had to wait until I got home to confirm that they were a juvenile and adult Changeable Hawk-eagle.
In the centre of the reserve is an observation tower known as The Eerie. From four stories high, it was possible to get a great view over the mangroves. The tide was at its highest mark now, but nothing had been pushed in from the flooded Johor Strait.

The best birds of the day came as I had almost completed my clockwise circuit. An Ashy Tailorbird called strongly and sat out long enough to have his picture taken. The male Copper-throated Sunbird was less cooperative, but the female stayed still, just for a moment.

Given that the crocodile was still unaccounted for, this Monitor Lizard had found a good way to sit out the high tide.

It might have been missing out however as the tide had brought in a dead fish which was eagerly seized by a smaller lizard.

Back at the visitor centre, the Oriental Pied Hornbills had found a convenient roost right by the entrance boardwalk. I assumed that these were the same birds as I had seen earlier. There were only two now and they sat closely together preening one another.

Birds seen; 42
Milky Stork 1, Yellow Bittern 1, Grey Heron 8, Purple Heron 2, Little Egret 60, Striated Heron 3, White-bellied Sea-Eagle 1, White-breasted Waterhen 4, Common Greenshank 8, Common Redshank 22, Whimbrel 28, Red Collared Dove 1, Spotted Dove 11, Zebra Dove 5, Pink-necked Pigeon 14 Asian Koel 3, White-throated Kingfisher 1, Collared Kingfisher 11, Blue-throated Bee-eater 2, Oriental Pied Hornbill 3, Coppersmith Barbet 1, Brown-capped Woodpecker 1, Common Flameback 1, Common Iora 2, Pied Triller 3, Brown Shrike 1, Black-naped Oriole 16, Pied Fantail 1, Pacific Swallow 1, Yellow-vented Bulbul 18, Common Tailorbird 2, Dark-necked Tailorbird 2, Ashy Tailorbird 6, Asian Glossy Starling 60, Javan Myna 60, Common Myna 2, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 3, Plain-throated Sunbird 1, Copper-throated Sunbird 2, Olive-backed Sunbird 8, Crimson Sunbird 1, Eurasian Tree Sparrow 5.

Getting to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve;
Take the SMRT (North/South, Red Line) train to Kranji. There is a bus and taxi rank immediately outside.
Bus 925 passes through an industrial estate before crossing the causeway between the dam and the Johor Strait. On weekdays its closest approach to the reserve is when it pulls into the car park (Google Earth ref; 1 26 17.37N 103 44 7.93E) just beyond the causeway. Walk from here by continuing along Kranji Way for 400m and turn right onto Neo Tiew Crescent. The reserve is 1km further on the right. On Sundays only, the bus continues to the reserve and stops right outside.
A taxi from Kranji SMRT Station will take less than 10 minutes, but there is no taxi rank at the reserve for the return journey.

Facilities at the reserve include a visitor centre with a small restaurant, toilets, library and interpretative exhibit. Hides, screens, boardwalks, a tower and directions are liberally scattered along the routes.

For previous posts from Sungei Buloh, follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated Oriental Page for more posts from Singapore, including Singapore Botanic Gardens and Paser Ris.


  1. Those are excellent pictures and what an awesome job you have, if I may say so! :)

  2. Nice blog post on Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. You should also check out the only hot spring in mainland Singapore

    Sembawang Hot Spring