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Articles
Birds in My Backyard ó Punggol 21
Article reproduced with permission from James Wong


Since I moved to Punggol 21 in 2003, a new HDB estate in the NorthEast of Singapore, I have been fascinated by the nature around this developing estate. There are open grasslands, ponds and small patches of wetland all around me.

Before I started exploring deeper into these areas, I always chanced upon Egrets and Long-tailed Shrikes perching in the grassland along the roads. After an NPS outing to the Punggol grasslands led by Vincent Quek in 2004, I realised that Punggol is one of the places I could explore, with the added advantage that it is so close to where I live. In the weekends, I would usually wake up early and head down to the Punggol grasslands. The morning always began with a great view of the sunrise.
Great Erget
Great Erget
500mm with 1.4x 10D (shoot using manual focus. Taken by surpise when it start to flew by while I was strolling in the grassland)
Approaching the birds is difficult as there is very little cover for the photographer to hide behind. Nevertheless, I tried the 'on-foot' technique and also used my car as a hide. The recommended lens to use for such conditions was "500mm and above" with tele-converters on the standard 500mm lens. If you drive into the grasslands, you have to be careful not to get your tyres stuck into the soft mud especially after heavy rain.
Blue-Tailed Bee-eater
Blue-Tailed Bee-eater
500mm w2x 10D (I was actually shooting a Brown Shrike on this perch but it was chased away by the Blue-tailed, hence taking over its position)
Brown Shrike
Brown Shrike
500mm w 1.4x 10D
Longtailed Shrike
Longtailed Shrike
500mm with 2x 1DM2 (shoot using car as hide, a long wait is required)
Richardís Pipit
Richardís Pipit
500mm w 10D (This bird I can say is the most approachable speices around Punggol)
After 3 months of continuous exploration, species like the Black-shouldered Kite, Great Erget, Little Erget, Blue-tailed Bee Eater, Long-tailed Shrike, Brown Shrike, Common Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Pacific Golden Plover, Brahminy Kite, Richard's Pipit and Scaly-breasted/White-head Munia have been recorded. A very slow approach is required to get near to these birds as they are extremely sensitive to human presence.

Luck also plays an important role here as I recall a shot on the Blue-tailed Bee Eater with a prey in its beak. I was actually shooting a Brown Shrike on this perch but it was chased away by the Blue-tailed, hence taking over its position.
Common Redshank
Common Redshank
500mm with 1.4x 10D (shoot after crawling for 10m along the water banks)
Pacific Golden Pover
Pacific Golden Pover
500mm with 2x Canon 10D (shoot after crawling for 10m along the water banks)
For shore birds, one has to make a low approach. I usually crawl into position and stay put there until the birds are used to my presence before I start to shoot. Try to lighten your load by taking the necessary equipment when on foot but remember to bring drinking water, which is very important.

Punggol will remain my main ground for bird photography but as the development is still on-going, I predict that one day all the grassland will be lost. But until the day comes, I will never stop exploring this place where I believe more species will be found.
Grass-golden
Grass-golden
Backlit during sunrise 500mm w 10D (I am attracted by the golden glow of the grasses during sunrise)
 
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