I first read about Bidadari in the July- September issue of Nature Society Singapore (NSS)’s magazine, “Nature Watch”. I was fascinated by the variety of birds that seemed to be coming to the woodlands that is a former cemetery and really wanted to visit it.
Georgina Chin, a wonderful bird photographer and author of “Birds in my Backyard” kindly guided my parents and me through Bidadari in the evening last week to see some rare, migratory birds that were passing through Singapore for only a few days. It was one of the best experiences in my life- and I learnt so much in a matter of few hours.
This was the route we took through Bidadari:
There were quite a few photographers with sophisticated cameras who had set up their equipment, and waiting and watching for something to come out from one of the bushes below a tree.
Georgina told us to wait nearby for a while. After about a wait for about half an hour, I was in for a treat. I saw the bird peek out from the bush and slowly hop on to the log in front of the bushes to feed on a few worms. It was one of the most beautiful birds I’ve seen in my life, the Blue-winged Pitta:
I was in awe of its brilliant plumage, its beautiful orangish-yellow breast, sea green and blue wings and a crimson red vent. It also had a beautiful black band around its eyes. After a bit of research, I found that it is found in a large range, commonly in South-east Asia, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. It visits Borneo and Sumatra in the winter, and is a vagrant to Phillipines, Java, Hong-Kong, Taiwan and Christmas Island and rarely to the northwestern coast of Australia. It mainly feeds on worms and other insects, but has also been seen eating hard-shelled snails.
It often stopped and cocked its head at all of us, giving us perfect shots! I still can’t believe that I saw this lovely creature.
But that was not it. I was in for another surprise! Georgina walked me over to another group of photographers and they were taking shots of this stunning Black-backed or Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher which was very calmly posing for them!! Again, I was amazed by the beauty of this little bird, especially its glowing bluish-black wings and its red and yellow beak. I was able to take only one well focused picture, because I was that excited!!
The Black-backed Kingfisher is found in many parts of India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and South-East Asia. It prefers to say near small streams in dense forests.
It was also my first time seeing a Tiger Shrike:
I also saw many Variable Squirrels that were so adorable!
We also saw a pair that were mating:
There were many beautiful and majestic Tembusu trees found throughout Bidadari. They produce yellow flowers that have a distinct fragrance. They bear bitter red berries which are eaten by birds and bats. I took this while lying down to capture the whole tree!
My experience at Bidadari was one unforgettable visit. Many thanks to Georgina Chin for guiding us patiently and showing us these beautiful birds that I only dreamed of seeing! I will definitely be going back soon!
“Careful recording by veteran birdwatcher Alfred Chia has documented over 140 Bidadari species (Chia, 2012), an impressive total for a piece of ‘wasteland’ that does not even contain remarkable water features”– Source- Nature Watch, Volume 21, Jul-Sep 2013
I was so amazed that such beautiful birds reside and visit Bidadari. Some of the birds that can be found in Bidadari include- Ruddy Kingfisher, Hodgson’s Hawk Cuckoo, Brown-chested Flycatcher, Black Baza, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Oriental Cuckoo, Orange-headed Thrush and the Japanese Sparrowhawk.
This rich habitat is a bird haven, and it is absolutely saddening to hear that Bidadari will be demolished for development. We will not only loose a heritage, but a habitat for these brilliant, elusive birds. They may not visit Singapore as they used to every year, or may struggle to find a place to rest their tired feet and wings.
Do join the Facebook group- Saving Bidadari for birds and people