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Official Magazine of the Nature Society (Singapore)
  Bukit Batok's Musical Wonders
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It's been compared to Guilin in beauty, yet Bukit Batok Nature Park was once a granite quarry. What's more, the scenic park of dramatic rock outcrops is also home to a rich variety of wildlife as Ong Kiem Sian discovers. Photos by Ong Kiem Sian

A long abandoned quarry, which is also associated with the Japanese Occupation during World War Two, was transformed into Bukit Batok Nature Park in 1988. It is one of the most scenic parks in Singapore with its undulating and winding trails, which lead to vantage points overlooking the pond. Incorporated into the park is a playground and a foot-reflexology pathway for the health-conscious. During weekends the park is well-used by young and old, families, nature lovers and photographers.

Many large trees mean that the trails are well-shaded. The steep edge of the quarry adds a rugged beauty to the surroundings. The matured fruiting and flowering trees in the park provide food and shelter for insects, birds, small mammals and reptiles.

For the past 10 years, many birds that were not seen or recorded before have "appeared" in this park which is now their home. Some have been released or have escaped while others might have come from other areas of Singapore.

A noisy flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes have established themselves as gregarious residents and seem not to be disturbed by the many visitors. They have become a common feature and in 1989, Lineated Barbets were sighted and they, too, have made the park their home since then.

The population of these birds has increased and the Laughingthrushes are easily encountered during a walk.

While strolling along the trails, a loud and melodious bird call may greet you. Enthralled, you will be sure to stop and look up in the trees searching for the songster. Look hard into the dense foliage, for the Straw-headed Bulbul is shy and elusive.

Although rather dull-looking, these native Bulbuls are hunted and trapped for their beautiful song, which is a cause for concern. These birds have joined the list of globally endangered species as they have virtually disappeared from their homes in Thailand and Indonesia because of poaching.

So there was cause for celebration when a pair of Straw-headed Bulbuls was discovered to have built their nest in a fig tree. The young were fed with berries, spiders, forest cockroaches, stick insects and beetles. There was communal feeding as three adult bulbuis were seen queueing to feed the young chicks.

As responsible parents, the adults made it a point to remove the faecal sacs from the chicks regularly, in the way of changing diapers. The parent birds swallowed these faecal sacs!

All visitors were unwelcomed at the nest. To shoo them away, the adult birds would harass the Plantain Squirrel, Lineated Barbet, White-vented Myna and the White-throated Kingfisher when they came too close.

Straw-headed Bulbuls
a globally endangered
species that is threatened
by the caged bird trade

The Plantain Squirrel
can adapt to parks and gardens

Lineated Barbet
an introduced species that has become a resident of the park

The Straw-headed Bulbul
an exceptional songster

Straw-headed Bulbul
feeding its young

On the 16th day, one fledgling left the nest. The following morning the smaller one also flew off. Both continued feeding their young while they perched and learnt to fly close to the nest. This time, it was a successful breeding of the Straw-headed Bulbuls, but it may not always be so in the future.

Danger is always lurking around the corner from predators and bird-trappers. How wonderful it would be if visitors are greeted and serenaded at every corner of the trail by these magnificent songsters of Bukit Batok Nature Park.

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