aren't known to be early birds... but a group of Singapore's TV personalities
(from Television Corporation of Singapore - TCS) prodded themselves
out of bed, pried their bleary eyes open and joined sporting stars
(S-League footballers) for an early Sunday morning birdwatching race
in April. Humour writer Sylvia Toh Paik Choo must have said it for
all these local celebrities when she exclaimed,, "Must get up so early
hah?!'... "Yes, Ms Toh", she was told, "because it's the bright
and early bird(er) that catches the most birds" with their keen
sight and all for a great cause, naturally. Billed as the Celebrity
Bird Race, the goal of Nature Society (Singapore) was to raise as
much money as possible for the Society's Building Fund.
by Jimmy Chew
in Hot Pursuit of Birds
By Goh Si Guim
Photos by Lee King Li
(unless otherwise stated)
As the race progressed, the celebrities found that their participation
was an "eye-opener" in more ways than one. They weren't just having
fun while raising money for Nature. They were learning about the birds
and the bees, the flowers and the trees under the expert guidance
of some of NSS's most seasoned birders from the Bird Group. Many for
the first time too.
Sylvia Toh Paik Choo with Keith Hillier in the "Hornbills" team (each
team was led by an expert birder and featured a celebrity), sped to
Sungei Buloh Nature Park. She was bowled over... "First time ... never
knew it (Sungei Buloh) existed ... able to see so many birds. Did
not believe so many birds exist in Singapore." Her awed remarks were
echoed by many other celebrities, with variations.
The teams combed the island's prime birdwatching areas, from rain
forests to mangrove-lined creeks and from long-grassed areas to downright
unglamorous spots in ulu places. Yes, vibrant patches of wilderness,
home to resident and sometimes migratory birds, can be found even
in such unlikely places as refuse dumps. One such spot is at Lorong
Halus in Tampines.
The enthusiasm of our intrepid birders was infectious. Our guests
were visibly impressed. We could tell by the excitement on their faces
as our binoculars and telescopes brought the exquisite beauty of kingfishers
and other dazzlers up close.
"It was wonderful
and amazing... I never expected to find so many birds," enthused TCS
artiste Jamie Lee who was with expert bird and butterfly man, Lim
Kim Keang in the 'Terns'. Their team went looking for forest birds
in the wooded areas along old Upper Thomson Road and the fringes of
Popular TCS artiste, Ann Kok was touched by the love and caring showered
by adult White-bellied Fish-eagles on their nestlings in a nest on
a branch of a large tree at Sime Forest. Ann Kok was in the 'Pittas'
ably led by Lau Wong Soon.
Popular TCS artiste, Ann Kok
was touched by the love
and care showered by
White- bellied Fish-eagles
on their nestlings (at left)
Super support from
Back row from left: Wendi Koh, Terence Cao, Lisa Ang
and Darryl David.
Front row from left: Ann Kok, Emile M'bouh M'bouh, Hakan Soderstjerna
and Jamie Lee.
At left, TCS celebrity presenter,
Mr Darryl David campaigning
for unspoilt nature places
during his interview by
deejay and musician
Mr Vernon Cornelius
Mr Duncan Watt (second from left) with his "Sunbirds" team-mates
Celebrities being interviewed about the race by presenters
of "We Are Young",
a popular Chinese Youth programme on TCS 8
Ms Sylvia Toh Paik Choo
all set with her
snazzy blue binoculars
Richard Hale looks on as
Dr Wee Kim Wee gives out
presents to sponsors
Ann not only enjoyed
this heart-warming encounter but she was able to share it soon afterwards
with viewers on a TCS 8 programme 'Entertainment Beat'. What's more Arm
happily 'broadcast' her enriching experience to her Channel 8 colleagues
and reports that they were very glad to find some parts of Nature being
protected for birds to survive.
Just as impressed by the sight of so many birds flying free was Darryl David,
host of 'Pyramid Game'. "Birds should not be kept in cages" was this popular
TV personality's comment. Darryl David was a member of the 'Kingfishers'
who were led by the sharp-eyed Alan Owyong to the Sime Road forest, one
of Singapore's best birding sites. Like all the others he fervently hopes
that "still unspoilt nature places", such as the one he wandered through,
will be conserved.
Another instant 'convert' was TCS 8 artiste Terence Cao who passionately
proclaimed that "birdwatching is the greatest (activity) and everybody
should try it." Terence Cao also had the extra thrill of being in the winning
'Coucal' team led by Sutari Supari whose experience enabled them to 'bag'
the most birds in one morning. But it wasn't just winning that enthralled
Terence. "Birds are beautiful, trust me, beautiful," he said to his
While the Celebrity Bird Race had served as a timely introduction to 'Nature'
for our city-bred local TV and sports personalities, for newscaster and
adventure novelist Duncan Watt, it was an opportunity to dip, once again,
into one of his favourite pastimes. Duncan Watt was in his element racing
with See Swee Leng in the 'Sunbirds' spotting so much more than mynahs and
Though a self-confessed "passive" nature lover and one who wished he
knew more about birds, Duncan has nevertheless toured nature reserves in
Africa and has also been in the rainforest of Malaysia's Taman Negara. More
than this, the multi-talented Duncan also writes a series of books for young
people. Titled The Wallace Boys, his books are full of nature information
and adventure. Nature often plays an important role in the plots.
Duncan generously donates some of the royalties he gets from his books to
Nature conservation organisations in Africa and Southeast Asia. Naturally
our Nature Society has been a grateful beneficiary.
At the end of a magnificent morning Duncan seemed to have spoken for all
the others when he said, he "really appreciated the expertise of our seasoned
birders." Talking to some of these appreciative celebrities, I feel that
this event has given them a much better understanding of not just birds
but all of Nature, and how nature habitats can be conserved with everyone's
The Celebrity Bird Race - a tribute to our unsung bird lovers
This "race" held on a glorious Sunday morning (April 6, 1997 , was
the brainchild of NSS's Vice-President, Richard Hale (former CEO of HongKong
Bank). Richard personally went around getting vital commercial sponsorship,
both in cash and in kind, from 21 companies. Supported by an energetic organising
committee, the event succeeded in raising $135,000 which (together with
money raised from earlier projects), brings the society nearer to its target
of $1 million for the Building Fund.
To ensure success, the committee had gone around getting some of Singapore's
best known artistes and personalities from the Television Corporation of
Singapore (TCS) and popular S-league footballers from local clubs to participate.
They were fielded in teams, each comprising one "celebrity" and three experienced
birdwatchers. Clearly the success of this event also rested on the turnout
by veteran birders from the society's Bird Group. Their participation was
strong and Richard Hale said he was "very happy" and also 'very glad to
see that all have done well."
Celebrity participants, while they clearly enjoyed themselves, may
be somewhat relieved to learn that this "race' was a short one compared
to the annual Singapore Bird Race (held in October) which is normally
a 24-hour affair. The race was brought to a fitting close by the former
President of Singapore, Dr Wee Kim Wee who, as gracious Guest-of-
Honour, presided over the closing and prize-giving ceremony.
commercial sponsorship for this event, both in cash and in kind were
from the following companies: Television Corporation Singapore, Bormill
Singapore Pte Ltd, Delta Overseas Investments Pte Ltd, General Accident
Insurance Asia Ltd, Golden Hill Orchids, Hong Leong Foundation, HSBC
Investment Bank Asia Ltd, Lam Soon Realty (S) Pte Ltd, Marco Polo
Developments Ltd, New York Plastic Co Ltd, Richard Ellis Pte Ltd,
Rich-Art Enterprises Pte Ltd, RSP Architects Planners & Engineers,
Shriro (Singapore) Pte Ltd, Singapore Environment Council, Mr George
EK Teo, Thakral Brothers (Pte) Ltd, The Hour Glass Ltd, Woh Hup (Pte)
Ltd, Jim & Hall's Construction Pte Ltd, Performance Motors Ltd, Singapore
Professional Football League Pte Ltd and Tiong Bahru United Football
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