“The Jerdon’s Baza (Aviceda jerdoni) is rarely seen in Singapore and considered to be a rare passage migrant. I must be very fortunate to encounter a few Jerdon’s Bazas at Pasir Ris Park recently (above).
“During the first encounter on 23rd November 2013, five little specks were first noticed high overhead. Yes, five Jerdon’s Bazas were in the sky! Only managed to capture four of them together in one photo. A short while later, at least three folded their wings and came diving down into a patch of wooded forest.
“Trying my luck, I waited at the edge of the forest and was rewarded when the bazas were seen darting from tree to tree. They were foraging at the forest fringe just inside the wooded forest. Spotting them was a challenge as they were well camouflaged in the lush foliage. The only clue to their whereabouts was when they started moving. Photography was difficult. I had to make a detour to move closer to one of the birds that was perched but camouflaged by leaves (above). I had to shoot through an opening in the foliage to capture my first decent shots of this rare migrant. By now, I was quite positive that they were Jerdon’s Bazas. This should be an adult with its prominent crest of thin black feathers with white-tips, a dark mesial stripe down its white throat, and rufous-coloured bars on its underparts.
“Another feature that was missed in the field but shown in the processed image back home was the tooth-like notches on its mandibles (red arrow, above right; above left shows an adult) – see also HERE. The bird was skittish and flew away soon after discovering that it was being watched through the foliage. The highlight of this encounter was when one of the bazas decided to swoop down into another tree directly behind me (below). Shooting in haste, I was glad that out of quite a few continuous shots, one shot managed to be in focus. The head-on shot clearly captured the baza’s striking gaze and magnificent outspread wings.
“The next day, I returned to look for the bazas. They were still around but were shy and hidden from view. All that I managed were glimpses of them flying low over the canopies. They were probably foraging deeper into the wooded forest.
“Hungry for more, I revisited on 28th November 2013. Early that morning, 4 birds were spotted flying over Sungei Tampines into the wooded forest. At least 3 birds were later spotted foraging around the area. An adult and an immature were caught intermittently perching on bare branches with unobstructed views. Attached are 2 images, I think, of an immature Jerdon’s Baza; based on its shorter crest, smallish, tamer appearance and more obvious streaks on the sides of its neck and nape (above). On closer examination, they could be 2 individuals. The orange-coloured eye in one of the images was brighter compared with the duller eye shown in the other. Also, an eyestripe is visible for the brighter eye bird. Is this one single individual or could they be different individuals? The angle and degree of light falling on the bird may give us an illusion.
“The highlight in this third encounter was an adult feeding on a lizard; possibly the commonly found Changeable Lizard (above). The lizard, which had its front half already consumed, was clamped securely under both its talons. From time to time, the raptor was seen lowering its head to tear away bits of fresh with its hooked-like beak. It took about 5 minutes to finish off the hind part of the lizard. Immediately after the meal, the baza cleaned its beak on the near vertical stem near its perch before taking off.
“Who would have thought that the wooded forest areas at Pasir Ris Park, which is easily accessible, could be the hunting ground of the rare Jerdon’s Bazas? With evidence of the rare bazas’ regular visits to these forests, let’s hope that the authorities will save these forested areas and prevent the bazas’ loss of habitat. Already, many species have become extinct in Singapore due to human activities resulting in loss of natural habitat. Do we need to develop until we have nothing left to appreciate?”
Kwong Wai Chong
5th December 2013