Thursday, 3 January 2013

More from Singapore 2012

So the festive season is over and another year starts. I'm still looking back at the moment though at my Singapore adventure last summer. I have hundreds of photographs and sketches to work through and remind me of the experience and every time I come to explore them I find something new and exciting. I am currently two thirds through a painting of a Striated Heron and there is another in development of a very special bird indeed. But more on that in later posts.

For now we'll take another trip onto the Hill. I suppose it would be possible to become accustomed to the common birds, given enough time but, just as it is in the UK, the same patch of ground can always throw up a surprise or two. Asian Water Monitors are common enough in Singapore and any walk around Sungei Buloh Reserve will be littered with them. Some are impressive beasts and lengths of about two metres are usual for adult males, more unusually they have been known to reach almost ten metres! They can be found anywhere there is water and that includes the canals and drainage channels that run through residential areas. There are no such channels up on the Hill, (It's a hill after all!), but on day two I was surprised to see one of these beautiful reptiles clinging to a tree trunk about eight metres from the ground. I knew that the lizards could climb but I didn't really imagine them getting that high for some reason. It had no difficulty holding on to the rough surface of the tree with its huge and devilishly sharp claws and, as it seemed perfectly at home and I was out early, I can only imagine that it had spent the night there.

Water Monitor

I was also fortunate to get some views of another new species for me; Hill Myna. Two sat for a short while high up in a distant tree but with the aid of my scope they were easily identifiable as the species commonly seen in captivity.

Hill Myna and White Collared Kingfisher

Although birds are obviously different all over the world it is often easy to recognise what families they belong to. The Laced Woodpecker for example is a pretty typical woodpecker and behaves in a very similar way to the Green Woodpecker that I am so familiar with at home, even the call is similar.

Laced Woodpecker hanging beneath tree branch

The Hill is my 'usual' patch whilst I'm in Singapore as it's literally just across the road and I can be there in five minutes, stay for a couple of hours and then get back in plenty of time to have a shower and then get breakfast with the family. Sometimes I rise earlier though and take a walk along the canal which runs through the area (Ulu Pandan). It is a popular area for joggers, walkers etc but the wildlife that lives there is used to all that and largely ignores the passers by. I do get approached by people, curious to know what I'm up to when I am sketching or watching through my scope, but the locals have all been polite and friendly and chatting with them has provided me with useful information about locations to visit etc. For me one of the most interesting birds to be found along the canal is the White Throated Kingfisher. These birds are distinctly different to the slightly more common White Collared Kingfisher and are a treat to see. They are a rich chocolate brown with a blaze of white on their throat/breast, reddish beaks and feet and an amazing, vibrant, electric blue back. One morning I found one sitting in a tree on the opposite bank who was quite happy to pose for me long enough to do a small field painting and fill a few sketchbook pages.

White Throated Kingfisher

I love the kingfishers in Singapore, they are great to watch and the colours are stunning. More later on my favourite kingfisher of all...