Monday, 14 December 2009

Oriental Pied Hornbill in Toa Payoh!

15 December 2009

At 8 am today, the distinctive call of the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) made my ears prick up and I dashed to my bedroom window in tense anticipation. I had previously reported/photographed this hornbill at the Woodsville area opposite Bidadari, about 3 km from my house in Toa Payoh. It has been my dream to see it in Toa Payoh itself. Within seconds of hearing its call, the unmistakable black-and-white beauty landed on the roof just opposite my flat (I live on the 12th and highest floor). I rushed for my DSLR.

My visitor turned out to be an adult female, which I suspect is of the convexus subspecies. My photos show it perched on the roof (uncropped), and a close-up shot in bad light. Unfortunately, her (tell-tale) tail is obscured. Within three minutes of perching, she flew right across my view, in the direction of MacRitchie Reservoir (1.5 km away as the crow flies), to land on the roof of another block about 30 m from me (20 m from the SPH News Centre), where another OP Hornbill awaited her! Two hornbills for Christmas…I should re-write that song!

OP Hornbill on the roof of a TP flat.
My *#@&% camera refused to focus then, and by the time it did, she was alone as her mate (presumably) had already vamoosed. The good thing is that my sister who is temporarily staying with me, also got to see it as her lifer, from my bedroom window, fancy that!
My anticipated visitor, a female OP Hornbill, cropped shot. Taken on the Canon 100-400mm , handheld.

I have been monitoring the birdlife in TP estate for nearly four years now, and my backyard bird list has around 40 species, including uncommon birds like the Spotted Wood Owl, Hill Myna (a pair with spilt wattles regularly shows up, even in the rain), and the torquatus race of the Oriental Honey Buzzard. The Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot regularly zips past, and just the other day, I spotted the Blue-tailed Bee-eater sallying outside my windows.

Recently, somebody reported the Lineated Barbet at the fragmented secondary forest in TP West. This particular patch is very productive and if I have the time, I would monitor it more closely. Forest birds like the Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo and Hill Myna are regularly seen here. I believe that its proximity to MacRitchie Reservoir (less than 1 km away, separated by several roads) makes it an ideal spill-over refuge.

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