There stood a tourist, likely a Siberian, in front of me.


Just in case you didn’t read the prequel to this post, see what happened when I went in search of raptors last Saturday i.e. 1st Dec’18.

Now that you know the background you can feel what my mind went through at the undreamed-of sight that the goddess of nature presented before me the very next morning.

It was already 7 am when I woke up on 2nd Dec and I would have to take a cab to reach my Sunday haunt, Sungei Buloh wetlands, early to be able to witness any natural dramas unfolding there before the arrival of joggers, walkers and visitor groups. So, by 7.20 am I closed my house door behind me and was hurrying towards the lift when my eye detected an unusually large pigeon perched on the water tank atop the apartment block directly opposite to mine. As the bird was silhouetted against the brightening eastern sky its facial details and colors were not much distinguishable. But then the bird gave its identity away by popping its head up, down and side ways in typical raptor fashion. I felt the raptor-kind sensed my disappointment the previous day and was kind enough to send one of their kin to fulfill my wish. I assembled my camera quickly and ran to 16th floor of my building from my 11th floor so as to be closer to and more level with the bird. What I saw through the fully zoomed lens – the aquiline beak and fully-feathered legs – confirmed my guess that its a raptor. At first glance it looked like an osprey but it is unlikely that an osprey to perch on top of a building leaving its more familiar, tree-lined canal banks. 

Meanwhile, as if to confirm that the bird was a predator a bee-eater hovered around the big bird for a while and – 

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– settled on top of my building.

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After I took several pictures of the bird it suddenly plunged down from the roof top and disappeared from sight. I left for the marsh lands feeling elated that mother nature had acknowledged my passion for her non-human offspring. Upon returning home that afternoon I started viewing enlarged pictures of my morning visitor in attempt to identify its exact identity. I tried to associate with various members of raptor family that can be found on this little island but was unable to pinpoint the species of the bird. I finally went for a google photo search and in no time confirmed it to be a Oriental Honey Buzzard. What I learnt about the bird surprised and thrilled me for days. Oriental Honey Buzzard happens to be a winter migrant to Singapore from anywhere between Siberia and Japan. It specializes in preying on bees and bee-hives. Now I know the reason for its presence in my neighborhood. I see honey bees almost everyday hovering around the corridor lights of our apartment block. I saw the bird two more times perched once on a multistory car park beside my block and on top of another building farther away the third time. I think it has taken up its residence in this neighborhood till its time for it to return to its home land. Winter season in Siberia / Japan lasts from December to March and the timing of the bird’s presence here suits that well.orienta honey buzzard    

🦅 🕊 🦅 🕊 🦅 🕊 🦅 🕊 🦅 

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Went in search of Raptors 🦅 & found a Reptile🐍


Last Saturday I made up my mind to visit Choa Chu Kang Cemeteries – been postponing it for sometime due to my inherent aversion for such places – in the hope of sighting some raptors there. I heard Jerdon’s Bazas, Common Buzzards and flocks of Oriental Pratincole were seen around this area before. I reached the place, simmering under 2 O’ clock sun with beautiful blue skies and mountain-like silky white clouds.

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As soon as I stepped on to the path 7, I saw something moving in the adjacent grass patch and it turned out to be an Indian Pond Heron.

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Indian pond heron
Indian Pond Heron

I wasn’t stealthy enough to prevent it from flying off with just one clear shot of it.

After that, all that I saw were an unidentified  raptor that looked like a black kite, a pair of white-throated kingfishers, a pair of bee-eaters and two butterflies. Except for the butterfles – a Dark Brand Bush Brown & a Common Evening Brown – all else were far off.

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Common Evening Brown 👆🏿

 

 

 

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Dark Brand Bush Brown 👆🏿

I left the spot and walked the footpath along the busy Old Choa Chu Kang road scanning the roadside vegetation for signs of avian life. But saw none other than the ubiquitous myna.

I was walking back to the bus stop where I alighted at first when I felt like clicking at some cute looking wild fruit 👇

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I caught sight of a yellow creeper almost underneath these cute, little fruit and realized that the “creeper” was actually a yellow Oriental Whip snake which seemed to throw all caution to winds before falling asleep on the open road side where it would be visible to those with bird’s eye view. Anyways, I was happy to be blessed with my 4th snake sighting in about two months and second of a whip snake in two weeks.

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I wrapped up my nature walk for the day with a hope that I would have greater luck at Sungei Buloh wetlands the next morning. I would have to wait before a raptor decides to grant my wish. Little did I know that a member of the raptor community was going to fulfill my wish the next morning …. just as I was stepping out of my home on that Sunday morning …🦅😍

A Winged🐦Zebra, A Jogger🏃 and Me🙋‍♂️


By the time I reached the point where our neighborhood rain water canal drains into Kranji reservoir I had some interesting moments with a White-bellied Sea Eagle, a Collared Kingfisher and a Common Iora who seemed to be unusually itched by something for he was so busy scratching himself that he wasn’t alarmed at all by my presence hardly 20ft. away.  I am not going to share those encounters here as I want to share something else that excited me more today.

So, when I reached the meeting point of the canal and the reservoir and looked back I saw this cute Zebra dove perched on the canal-side railings and looking away from me. I also saw a jogger coming along the path I just came by. I am not sure if the dove at this moment was aware either of the jogger or me.

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I am not known, nor will I ever be, for my IQ or quick reflexes but today, thanks to this flying Zebra my hopes of possessing some IQ revived. How?  Just read on.

My IQ, – no no, I would rather call it my wild instinct, told me the dove will take off as soon as it noticed the jogger coming towards it and it should present me a chance to snap a shot or two of the flying bird with its take-off wingspread frozen in time. Now, I think I got more than that.

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There was less than half-a-minute before the dove could get alarmed enough to fly off. And it will be a fraction of a second before the bird gets out of my D5600’s field of vision with its Sigma 70-300 tele-lens in full zoom. Please don’t take me to be a camera expert looking at my language. I am not. I hardly know more than aim, zoom and shoot although its more than a year since I acquired a D5600. (Now you know the reason why I prefer the phrase wild-instinct to IQ when it comes to my reflexes). I got to be quick enough to make my dream shot. I randomly reduced the zoom to give the camera some extra seconds to capture the bird in the way I wanted to. I just waited with my finger on the trigger. At the back of the mind there was an uneasy feeling that the jogger might think that I was covering him in the picture. But there was no time for thinking any more, seethe dove had already become alert to the presence of humans on either side.

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It turned its head twice, possibly to assess the best direction to make its escape. At the same time I too adjusted my position so that the jogger would not enter my picture. By the time he disturbed the bird he probably knew I was not out to make a documentary of his athletic pastime but most probably did not realize the fact that I was using him to trigger my dream snap. Everything went well. The zebra took off and was in no time over the canal making it to safety from the double jeopardy that it could have felt it was in. I did not count how many snaps I made and was not sure if the critical moment was captured or not.

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I was in for a pleasant surprise back at home while viewing the pictures on laptop. My wild instinct worked, though half-a-second’s delay could have sent the bird out of the frame. The picture captured not just the wingspread but also the quick maneuver it made, its expression while making an in-flight decision and the multiple hues of a Zebra dove’s underside.

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Let me elaborate a little.

The dove had to make a quick maneuver after taking off because it probably thought of taking off straight ahead and realized rather late that there were trees blocking its flight path (see first pic with jogger). So, it had to turn right and back as soon as it took off to fly over the canal.

The expression in its blue-hued eye seemed to disclose, to me at least, a momentary panic of a micro-second maneuver and an immediate relief of finding a safe way out.

Zebra dove gets its name probably from the zebra-stripes-like patterns its feathers give its exposed back. Other than the brown and white of zebra stripes, only other color one can see is aqua-blue, the color surrounding its eyes. But this, my dream shot, reveals to me all different hues the zebra is painted with. Copper-like shine under the wings, grey on the wing tips, a distinct, black V on the under side of the tail, aqua-blue of the eye-patch, slightly pinkish feet and of course a sprinkling of the zebra pattern mingled with the whitish-grey of the belly.

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This innocent, cute bird together with that unknowing jogger has today gave me one of the best pictures I have ever taken in my less-than-a year’s journey with bird photography.

🌹🌹🌹