Getting back to my hobby

0122I can’t believe three months of not bird watching can be excruciatingly painful. Ever since this hobby re-ignited in the beginning of 2017, I was fortunate enough to be able to bring my camera out at least once a month to shoot photos of wildlife, particularly birds. However, mid-year was a bit tough due to time and financial issues (I rent the Tamron 150-600mm lens when I go shoot birds).

The long Christmas weekend finally allowed me time to be back in nature. 3 full days of birdwatching around selected Singapore parks and reserves made me realize how much I needed peace from nature after all the stress from work and responsibilities. My hobby took me to Gardens by the Bay, Sungei Buloh Wetlands, Singapore Botanical Gardens and Pasir Ris Park.

Rusty from spotting birds after 3 months of bird watching inactivity and having to get used to the Tamron lens again, my shots weren’t up to par from previous trips although certain aspects of photography generally improved (understanding my camera and lens better, anticipating subjects and getting used to a non-tripod setup).

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Common Kingfisher on a lotus pod.
Canon EOS 760D 
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di Vc Usd @ 600mm.
1/1250, f6.3, ISO1600

It’s also amazing and a good refresh that I can completely shut off from the entire world and concentrate on being one with nature and wildlife. The complete removal of people’s voices and replaced with bird calls is a welcomed exchange. On top of all this, I got really lucky with having many personal first sightings of certain birds, some rare and some I have been patiently waiting to see in person although I’ve had better trips with more bird sightings. But hey, quality over quantity!

Day 1: Satay by the Bay – Bird Count = 7

I started my first bird watching weekend at Satay by the Bay, an area connected to Gardens by the Bay. Like birds, I am a creature of habit, preferring to explore the areas I am more used to, so starting the trip at SbtB (which I have never been to for bird watching) was something I was pretty reluctant but went on anyway. Maybe it was a lack of practice as I didn’t manage to spot as much birds as I expected even though the average bird count one can spot on a good morning is at 20-30 species. Or maybe I started out late at 3pm hence the very low species count. (I could only get my lens at 2pm). However, it all turned out good as I camped out at the pond and took dozens of a lone Yellow Bittern. After an hour or so, a Common Kingfisher appeared. The Common Kingfisher is a kingfisher species I have read often but never encountered and this find made for a successful trip even though I didn’t manage to capture good shots of it.

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Yellow Bittern
Canon EOS 760D 
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di Vc Usd @ 600mm.
1/1250, f6.3, ISO1600

Day 2: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – Bird Count = 15 – 20

0112

Little Egret taking flight
Canon EOS 760D  
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di Vc Usd @ 600mm.
1/1000, f6.3, ISO1600

I suppose it’s impossible to have a successful bird watching trip every time and today was one of those days. I saw no rares and I didn’t quite capture any good shots. I guess I was getting used to the lens again hence I couldn’t even get a good shot of the common Yellow-Vented Bulbul or Olive-Backed Sunbird. A good side to it was the higher number of bird count, most of which came from the waders in the wetlands. And i experimented with a couple of BIF shots (Birds in flight).

Day 3: Singapore Botanical Gardens – Bird Count = 12 – 15

0115

Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo
Canon EOS 760D
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD @ 226mm
1/500, f/5.6, ISO1600

On the last day, I realized how rusty I had become at bird spotting since my last trip 3 months ago. It was bad. I heard calls but couldn’t pinpoint the bird locations. I missed so much or was just too noisy with my steps and presence. Although the star of the long weekends were all found here. Since I started bird watching at the early age of 14 and stopped 2 years later, I have always wanted to see the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo. It was the one bird I fancied ever since I read a bird watching guide 20 years ago. Coming back to bird watching this year, I finally spotted it after 2 decades and it did not disappoint one bit! Other highlights were the Buffy Fish Owl and the Von Schrenck’s Bittern, 2 rare species I can finally keep in my archives.

Pasir Ris Park – Bird Count = 11

I moved off to Pasir Ris later in the day as I was pretty tired to walk back into the SBG (The Botanical Gardens is a huge 74-hectare park). I didn’t see much here probably due to lethargy and the heat. It was nice to return to PRP again as I honestly miss this place due to a previous successful trip that gave me a record of 30+ bird count in one day.

On a side note, I met a couple of nice fellow birders on all 3 days whom I had great conversations with, exchanged locations of birds and showed me their amazing photography. As a birdwatcher and nature lover, I hope to one day do my part on saving the wildlife by contributing information on the biodiversity and number of recorded species to the bird societies here, for them to present to our government and Singaporeans. Hopefully, these statistics can get them to create awareness for our feathered friends and their dwindling habitats.

I’m really glad to be back bird watching. If all goes well, I hope to continue over the New Year weekend. Here’s to a good start for 2018!

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