Singapore stopover (22-24 May 2000)

Subject: Singapore stopover (22-24 May 2000)
From: Alexandra Appleman <>
Date: Sat, 17 Jun 2000 10:31:36 +1000

On our way back from the UK (family business) and Paris (romance) Norm and
I stopped over at Singapore to catch up on some much needed sleep and some
birding. After the extraordinary prices of fuel in Europe (England unleaded
petrol 80p per litre = A$2.08 per litre; Paris unleaded 7.65f per litre =
A$1.90 per litre) Singapore prices seemed almost modest at A$1.15 per
litre. Our 3-star hotel - the Concorde in Havelock Road - was also half the
price of its equivalent in European capitals. This was my first trip to
Singapore and Norm's third, and I was pleasantly surprised at how chatty
the taxi drivers were. But onto birding....
DAY 1. After a sleepless night seated upright in a British Airways sardine
tin with 370 fellow travellers our first priority was to check into the
hotel, take a much needed bath then level out at an altitude of 2 feet 6
inches for a few hours. In the afternoon we ventured out into busy Havelock
Road where despite the good footpaths we were the only pedestrians. An
overbridge took us to a mound surrounded by remnants of secondary forest
where we ticked off a bird or two, before heading for the canal. This area
has been redeveloped with a walkway and side-walk cafes. It was time to
refuel and we had a few beers and chardonnays, a good pizza and a spirited
conversation with the very amiable waiter.


Rock Pigeon, Spotted Dove, ??Edible nest swiftlets (can't tell without
seeing the nest), Collared Kingfisher, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Black-naped
Oriole, House Crow, Asian Glossy Starling, Common Myna, Javan Myna (split
from the White-vented Myna which occurs further north)

DAY 2: Having shown Norm around Paris, Norm wanted to show me the resort
island of Sentosa though I don't think you can directly compare the two. We
took the cable car over to Sentosa, chugged around the island on the
monorail with hoardes of tourists then walked the Dragon Trail Nature Walk
- which we had to ourselves. 


Brahminy Kite, Little Tern, Asian Koel (female); Collared Kingfisher,
Pacific Swallow, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Black-naped Oriole, Asain Glossy
Starling; Javan Myna, ?Plain sunbird (female). 

By this time I was limping badly from a pulled calf muscle - a worry as we
had arranged a half-day's birding tour (lasting 7 hours) with local guide
Subaraj for the next day. Our hotel pointed us in the direction of a
reflexology massage parlour. There were 3 reclining chairs each with a
footstool and a Singapore national with a blank expression was already
having his feet vigorously worked on.  I took the middle chair, Norm
settled to my left and the masseurs set to work grinding their thumb into
every inch of our feet. The air was suddenly filled with  AAH. OOO. AAH AAH
AAH YAAAAAAAH interspersed with short silences during which I just gritted
my teeth. Norm hid behind a brochure on Sungei Buloh Nature Park and
pretended he didn't know me while the Singapore man continued to stare
glassily ahead. At the end of his massage he exhaled noisily, shook hands
paid up and left. Afterwards Norm said: "You would have told them anything.
You would have even told them things they didn't want to know."  Okay, so
I'm a wuss.

Subaraj rang to confirm the arrangements for the following day and
suggested we visit the Botanic Gardens at dusk to see the Spotted Wood Owl,
gave directions to tall trees by a side gate and described the call. In
some parts of the world public gardens and parks are not the best places to
be after dark, in Singapore the gardens are open until 11pm and the only
hazards we faced were being mowed down by joggers and tripping over
courting couples. The Botanics had the usual 'ornamental exotic' birds that
people like, plus a few specials. We found the tall trees and waited.. and
waited .. and waited. As usually happens with owls we heard one call after
we had given it away. We also saw our first Plantain Squirrel and Red-eared
Terrapin (introduced).


White-breasted Waterhen, Pink-necked Green pigeon, Asian Koel, Spotted Wood
Owl (heard only), Black-naped Oriole, Scaly-breasted Munia

DAY 3:    

Subaraj and Richard Ollington picked us up at 6am and we set out for the
Sime Forest where just before dawn Subaraj called up a solitary Brown
Hawk-owl. The bird called back but steadfastly refused to show itself
(situation normal). We moved on over duck boards protecting the swamp and
celebrated dawn at MacRitchie reservoir where the early morning mist gave a
surreal affect to the surroundings (a magical spot). This being Singapore
we were not alone for long as a man rode up on mountain bike, narrowly
missing the telescope, dismounted then proceeded to do push ups and leg
pulls in plain view. We never did work out whether he was posing or if he
had us under surveillance, and were too busy birding to care. MacRitchie
adjoins the Country Club golf course and Norm, a non-birder but keen golfer
was stunned by some of the worst golf shots he'd ever seen. He reckoned he
could make a fortune improving their game. 

Moving back through the forest the birds were coming faster than the
distractions - a team of school children with butterfly nets were herded
along by a teacher, and Norm wanted to know how Subaraj tweaked up a
platoon of Nepalese gherkas on a training run. Meanwhile we enjoyed
crippling views of one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen -  a
male White-rumped Sharma which danced and sang for us. Little wonder they
are sought-after as caged birds and I was thrilled to see one in the
natural environment. As well as birds we Slender and Plantain Squirrels,
Long-tailed Macaques, Cloudy and Water Monitors, and more Red-eared


Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Long-tailed
Parakeet, Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot, Violet Cuckoo (heard only); Swiftlet
spp, White-throated Kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher, Blue-throated Bee
eater, Dollarbird, Red-crowned Barbet, Pacific Swallow. Lesser Green
Leafbird, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Black-naped
Oriole, Asian Fairy-Bluebird, Large-billed Crow, Asain Glossy-starling,
Javan Myna, Hill Myna, Plain Sunbird, White-headed Munia. Not on the
Singapore list (as yet) a group of rainbow lorikeets flew over. Banded
Woodpecker and Common Flameback were heard only.

BIRDS AT SIME FOREST (Closed canopy habitat)

Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Brown Hawk-owl (heard only), Blue-winged Leafbird,
Olive-winged Bulbul, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Striped Tit-babbler,
White rumped Sharma, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Purple-throated and Crimson
Sunbirds, Orange-bellied and Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers.

On to Sungei Buloh for mangrove species. This time the non-birding
entertainment was provided by an entire school of Malaysia schoolgirls in
long pink dresses with the heads covered with white scarves who wandered
around chatting, some singing pop songs to us.     


Grey, Purple, Striated and Javan-Pond Herons, White-breated Waterhen, House
Swift, Stork-billed and Collared Kingfishers, Common Iora, Oriental
Magpie-Robin (another top bird!) Golden-bellied Gerygone, Common and Ashy
Tailorbirds, Pied Fantail, Copper-throated Sunbird, Baya Weaver and Javan

At 1pm we were dropped back to the hotel with just time for a shower before
catching the plane back to Australia. I can certainly recommend Subaraj for
his both his ready wit and great knowledge and love of Singapore's birds.
For me it was a great introduction to Oriental birding and gave Norm a
totally different perspective of a place he had previouisly visited as a

Alex Appleman
Townsville, NQ   

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