Sunday, 14 June 2009

2008: Bukit Timah, Singapore

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Sungei Buloh is Singapore’s nature reserve. True, there are patches of green elsewhere and a whole complex around the central reservoirs but the glory birds hang out far to the north and off the public transport map. I settled for Bukit Timah instead, an apparent short walk through a park from Bukit Batok station.

A blue-tailed bee-eater, hawking insects from one of the city’s immaculate tower blocks – Singapore doesn't do slums the way we do – greeted me at the edge of the park. Lifer number 855.

Then the day nudged downhill. A “Closed” sign barred the only path I could find across the park, which in reality was a bloody great hill. I dithered, looking obviously lost enough that a local informed me a landslip was to blame.

The detour took me at least two miles along the busiest roads on the equator to fetch up at a shopping centre, where I lunched on Nasi Goreng. It could have been Mee. I don't mind: I’m a big fan of the Goreng family. I also sank an indecent quantity of Coke to replace what I had sweated. I had only shucked my jumper off half-way through the previous day and was beginning to regret not also switching into shorts.

Another mile got me to the edge of the reserve, where unexpected monkeys ambled the lawns of neighbouring residences. I had been following an elevated railway for a good half of the way and was relieved that I wouldn’t have to walk the return journey. Now I just had to find the entrance.

In quick succession a couple of birds of prey drifted over. I had no chance with the first bird's identification but the second showed enough field marks for me to make a stab at changeable hawk-eagle.Changeable Hawk-eagle The name, from its variable plumage, supersedes crested hawk-eagle but frankly a great many hawks and eagles must have been in the running for the “changeable” title. The raptors’ ranges of morphs make their identification such a challenge. And don't even get started on where a hawk ends and an eagle begins, let alone a buzzard.

I walked on, expecting to find trails, sign boards, maybe a visitor centre. The latter may have been in a construction site bearing a notice about renovations to be complete by 2009. It looked like another case of bad timing. In my wanderings I managed to pick up red-rumped swallow, oriental pipit and Asian glossy starling for my 856th lifer but the ghost-site failed to deliver my hoped-for bonanza.

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