Raptor Watch

Henderson Waves Raptor Watch 2023

Every October to November, a wave of birds of prey (also known as “raptors”) pass through Singapore’s airspace to keep us birdwatchers excited. One of the best places in the nation to observe this phenomenon is along the Southern Ridges, and the Bird Society of Singapore just concluded our second instalment of our Henderson Waves raptor watch!

Our event was held across three Sundays, 22 October, 29 October and 4 November, and this was the first time round we were organising this event as a Society – we were still the Singapore Birds Project previously. On top of our silhouette ID chart and infographics improved from last year, we additionally prepared a brand new photographic guide for all of Singapore’s raptors and other diurnal migrants often observed from the bridge.

One of the highlights of our event was undoubtedly the completely unexpected Red-footed Booby that showed up on 22 October. This is the first ever individual of this species seen flying across Singapore from land – most of the records in Singapore are either seen at sea, or otherwise grounded and unhealthy, apart from a single record of a bird (which was possibly also weakened) back at Lim Chu Kang cemetery in 2011. This was also the one Red-footed Booby that was definitely seen by the most number of people in Singapore!

The more conventional raptor watch highlights were mostly in our second week, when we had a good count of 8 Grey-faced Buzzards, a single Greater Spotted Eagle, and a Common Buzzard of the vulpinus race. We also recorded a Peregrine Falcon each week.

One could say the raptor watching in general is a bit slower than last year, with no rare Accipiters (compared to all three of Besra, Shikra, and Eurasian Sparrowhawk last year) and very few harriers (double digits of both Eastern Marsh and Pied last year). Our counts generally reflected this, but we did still have some pretty good birds. It could get even better in the next few weeks – although numbers have probably peaked, it’s still a good time to look for rare raptors migrating through.

It’s always interesting to see how established migration patterns repeat themselves year after year. The above bar chart shows the bar chart of Grey-faced Buzzard observations over the last ten years. There’s a peak in the Oct 29–Nov 4 period, with a sharp decline on either side. We had eight on 29 Oct, and none on 22 Oct and 5 Nov. More or less the same story last year – two on 30 Oct, and none on 23 Oct and 6 Nov.

We had a great deal of fun sharing the many identification features and facts about the raptors of Singapore. There is still a lot about these birds that we are learning as a community, and in between our booths we also released an article discussing a potentially new identification feature that could be useful for sparrowhawk identification. Do let us know if you have any questions or ideas, and we hope that all of you learnt a thing or two from our booth, and most importantly we hope that all of you had a great time on the bridge. We’d like to extend a huge thanks to NParks for the support, and to all of you for dropping by.

See you again next season!

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