Tag Archives: guided walk

EIA (Phase 1) of CRL announced: where do we go from here?

On 5th February 2016, Phase 1 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was announced by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The report concluded that:

  1. Site investigation works will have moderate impact on the environment, if mitigating measures are taken.
  2. As such, soil testing will still go ahead.

Soil testing works involves deep drilling into the ground of the forest, and is done to determine the soil composition of the potential construction site of the Cross Island Line (CRL), as part of risk assessment protocol.

While we, the BES Drongos and other concerned individuals from the Love Our MacRitchie Forest movement have been hoping for the forest to be left undisturbed, the fact remains that drilling will still go ahead.

However, as much as we are disappointed with the EIA outcome, our voices have not been ignored. Following concerns from various nature groups, LTA has decided to:

  • Reduce the number of boreholes from 72 to 16;
  • Confine drilling to public trails and non-vegetative areas; and
  • Employ more non-intrusive (no physical alteration) methods in soil investigation.

Furthermore, an alternative route first suggested by the Nature Society is currently being considered as a viable second option. The suggested route will skirt around the nature reserve instead of cutting directly through it, which means less direct disturbance to the forest ecosystem.

Original route (Green) and proposed alternative route (blue). Image: Today Online

So what can we do? Where do we go from here?

While we can’t reverse the decision made by LTA, if you are concerned about this issue, here’s what you can do to help:

  1. The EIA will be open for public viewing for the next 4 weeks; book an appointment to go down and view it.
  2. Help spread the news and raise awareness! Tell your friends, your family or anyone who you know cares about this. If lots of people go down to view the EIA, it will show LTA how much the public cares.
  3. Voice your support for the alternative route. The alternative route is now our best (and last) bet to reduce significant impacts on the forest.

You can contact LTA [Ms Michelle Chan (email LTA_CRL_CCNR_EIA@lta.gov.sg or call 6295 7437)] to view the EIA and give your feedback. Please note that you can view it by appointment ONLY, at Land Transport Authority, 1 Hampshire Road (Blk 11 Level 4, Room 2), Singapore 219428

In addition, to show your support for the alternative route, you can sign the petition here: http://www.tinyurl.com/lta-crl

The Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR) is home to 400 species of trees, 200 species of birds, 400 species of insects and 150 species of mammals and amphibians. If you’d like to learn more about the biodiversity found in the CCNR, please do sign up for our walks!

For more information on the CRL and CCNR, visit:

Love Our MacRitchie Forest

Straits Times: Measures to lessen impact of MRT works on CCNR




Glorious comeback: NEW walks

Sem 2 poster (first 3 walks)
Photo and design by Aw Jeanice

Mark your calendars for the new set of BES Drongos trails are here!

To kickstart 2016, come and join us on a remarkable adventure through the stunning forests in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve along the well-trodden Petai Trail!

Did you know that a walk in nature can relieve stress and improve physical well being? Besides, you get to know a lot more about the critters worth protecting in our reserves, while learning about the ecosystem they are living in and dependent on. Wait no longer! Share our walks with a few fun-loving friends and sign up on our EventBrite page without further ado.

Visit our Essential Information page for more details on the meeting location and duration of our walks, as well as other safety tips generally useful in any nature walks!

Stay tuned for our recent developments in forming a new committee and training new volunteer guides!

BES Dronglets Take Flight!

In August, the BES Drongos recruited six new members into our cause. After a training phase marred by the dreaded return of hazy weather, we are glad to announce that our newly joined members are ready to step up as Drongos!

Following traditional norms, the journey of our new Dronglets began with a class held by Training Head Emmanuel, where they were introduced to the various elements of the guided trail. The Dronglets were then led by Senior Drongos on their first steps into the Petai Trail, where they could finally see and appreciate the flora and fauna they have learnt in class.

However, learning is better gained from practice, and mastery can only follow when put to the test. The final step for our Dronglets was a proficiency test where they were assessed on their knowledge mastery and presentation fluency. Held over 2 days, 23rd September and 4th October, the test involved the Dronglets identifying and presenting their stations without assistance from their seniors. This led to some humorous situations where stations were accidentally forgotten by the Dronglets and left behind (our examiners remained silent INTENTIONALLY)!

Figure 1 23rd Sept. Donovan presenting the Common Mahang. Photo by Emmanuel Goh
Figure 2 Inside the Petai Hut on 23rd Sept. Angela presenting on the life cycle of the fig wasps to (from left) Juin Bin, Jacqueline, Alicia and Nadia. Photo by Emmanuel Goh.

The Dronglets were also in great luck as they saw some really fascinating wildlife. On the first test date, the test participants and examiners were treated to some thrilling (and dangerous) moments when a large Malayan water monitor lizard was observed chasing 2 other smaller monitors away from a dense undergrowth of branches and roots. It is likely that the female was being protective of her nest in the messy clump, which would indicate the presence of monitor eggs.

Figure 3 23rd Sept. The mother Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator) observes the other monitors from the thick undergrowth, preparing for further aggression against the potential poachers. Photo by Emmanuel Goh

A nest of termites was also seen relocating across the boardwalks, allowing freelance photographer Nicholas to utilise his macro lens to astounding effects.

Figure 4 23rd Sept. Termites moving across the boardwalk (termite is approximately 6mm long).Photo by Nicholas Lim.

The first test date was concluded on a high when a magnificent Stork-billed Kingfisher was also observed roosting above the water near the Petai Hut!

Figure 5 Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis), the largest kingfisher in Singapore. Observed near the Petai Hut on 23rd Sept. Photo by Emmanuel Goh

The day of the second test was equally fascinating. This time, the Dronglets witnessed a nightmarish scene, where a much larger swarm of termites were relocating using woody lianas and the boardwalk’s hand-railings. Things took a happier turn when a green-coloured cicada was observed perching on a nearby tree.

Figure 6 Cicada observed on 4th Oct. Photo by Emmanuel Goh.

The walk back to the Mushroom Café upon the completion of the second day of testing revealed something adorable! A juvenile Clouded monitor lizard was seen hiding in a tree-hole just beside the concretised path. Most of the passers-by failed to notice it until the Drongos began snapping away with their professional DSLRs. A small crowd then began to form to observe the monitor lizard (which no longer seemed to be camera-shy and was becoming quite used to its job as our ‘model’). Such in situ observations of wildlife is pretty rare, and the public’s silent amazement could be felt even as we focused on photographing the lizard.

Figure 7 A juvenile clouded monitor lizard (Varanus nebulosus) resting in its tree-hole along the running trail on 4th Oct. Photo by Emmanuel Goh.

Thus concludes the graduation of our 6 Dronglets into Drongos! It is hoped that this period of training will have sparked our new Drongos on an eye-opening journey not just into the natural world of MacRitchie Reservoir, but to the entire natural heritage of Singapore. After all, the best tool a guide can have is experience, which is priceless and irreplaceable.

Figure 8 Outside the Petai Hut. Chen Lin (centre) presenting the fig station to Cheryl (left) and Sandra (right). Photo by Emmanuel Goh.

That’s’ all folks! So keep an eye out for our newest guides on the trail!

Words by Emmanuel Goh.

A Guided Walk with Tony & Subaraj at CCNR: Aw, that poor puddy tat! (and other cool birds)  

We managed to snag a walk with super-experienced guides Tony and Subaraj and it was awesome! They were incredibly knowledgeable and we learnt an incredible amount from them.


They gave us so much interesting information that we can’t possibly cover it one post. So, here’s the first part of the three part series of our guided walk at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve (CCNR).

We’re off on an adventure!


This colourful Blue-crowned Hanging parrot (Loriculus galgulus) was spotted perching high up on this Casuarina tree (Casuarina equisetifolia). As you can guess from its name, this adorable bird, like bats, can be seen hanging upside down. In fact, they are one of the three native parrots that can be found in Singapore.

These fascinating birds usually roost high up in trees and can be tricky to spot. One way to identify it is by observing its flight. Parrots, like finches, have an undulating flight pattern: fly and drop, fly and drop. They almost seem to fly in a vertical zig-zag pattern. Weird right?


Guess who else we found on the same tree? The Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia). Despite its bright yellow plumage and widespread population across our island, people usually do not spot this bird as it hunts high up in the canopy.

Though you might not think so, we actually do share quite a few characteristics with these birds. Like humans, they are one of the few species (less than 10% in the animal kingdom) that are monogamous, meaning that they only have a one partner. While humans have our Grand Romantic Gestures, the Common Iora have elaborate courtship displays. Though we might never know (unless one day a universal translator is invented) if these birds feel and love as we do, they still “date” and “marry”. We might have more in common with these birds than we think.


This pair of Scaly-breasted Munia (Ionchura punctulata) was found resting on a branch. The one in the foreground is the male, bearing his namesake “scaly” breast.

Their beaks might look unusually large and conical-shaped, as compared to the pointed bills of mynas. Like Darwin’s famous finches, their beaks have evolved to feed from a certain niche of food. Their short and powerful beaks are shaped to pluck and crush grass seeds and small grains. Because of their particular diet, farmers who own paddy fields and other grain crops consider them as pests. This is just one example of the many wildlife conflicts that exist in the spaces when humans and wildlife coexist.


We also saw a Collared kingfisher (Halcyon chloris), roosting on a tree, which was easily recognized by its distinctive turquoise head and back with a black streak bordering its white collar – which makes it look like it is wearing a bright blue jacket!

They are one of the few birds that have successfully adapted to an urban environment and have done so in two main ways: their diet and their breeding sites. These are perhaps the main reasons why they are the most common genus of kingfishers found in Singapore.

Firstly, they don’t just feed on fish. They feed on a wide range of organisms ranging from lizards to prawns to earthworms. This has allowed them to survive beyond water sources.

Fun fact: the name kingfisher is somewhat a misnomer as majority of the kingfisher species don’t even feed on fish. Instead, they feed on small invertebrates. Not exactly what you thought a “typical” kingfisher is like, is it?

Secondly, they have adapted to nesting in rather unconventional ways. They have been spotted building their nest in a Styrofoam box or in nest holes along the walls of our ‘long kang’ (the colloquial term for canals).


Other than the Collared Kingfisher, we also managed to spot this Stork-billed Kingfisher (Halcyon capensis)! Despite being the largest Kingfisher in Singapore and brightly coloured, they are less commonly sighted than the Collared Kingfisher. These colorful birds, with their large coral-red bill, orange-yellow under parts and bright blue wings, are more shy and less noisy than other kingfishers, making them more difficult to spot. There is something to be said about being quiet and stoic.


Speaking of Storks and other large shorebirds, this white medium-sized wader was seen stalking along the water bank. It is the Intermediate Egret (Mesophoyx/Egretta intermedia)! They are less common than the Little or Great Egrets (as you can tell, Zoologists are really creative people). As you can probably tell from the name, the Intermediate Egret is smaller than the Great Egret and bigger than the Little Egret.

Fun fact 2: Egrets are actually just white herons. Both Herons and Egrets come from the same Family Ardeidae. The word Egret comes form the French word “aigrette”, meaning silver heron, referring to the lacy breeding plumes of white herons. The distinction between Egrets and Herons seem to depend more on appearance than any morphological differences and this differentiation arose due to the huge market for white feathers in the past. Why? Find out more about plume hunting.


Another heron spotted with its neck stretched high was the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea). It is one of our more colorful herons with its purplish-brown plumage (again, zoologist and their penchant for creative names). Though it might not seem so, its plumage acts as a great camouflage and keeps its well-hidden among the reeds.

Though it is a common resident bird (meaning that it resides in Singapore throughout the year), like the Stork-billed Kingfisher, it is a shy one. They are crepuscular, which means that they enjoy hunting along the riverbanks at dawn and dusk. Unfortunately, they seldom perch, making it difficult for them to be spotted. So the next time you go for a walk at dawn or dusk, keep an eye out for these shy birds!


This pair of White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) was seen, wings spread riding thermals high up in the sky. It is the largest raptor found in Singapore and like the Common Iora, appear to be monogamous. Once mated, they remain with the same partner for life and are often seen in pairs, just like the picture above.

These cool birds have an odd call that sounds like a loud goose-like honking. The Brahminy Kite (Haliatur indus), another common bird of prey found in Singapore also has a strange call, described like a baby crying. Not exactly the spine-chilling shriek that you would expect from such fearsome raptors.

Now you know that Singapore, a veritable concrete jungle, is populated by birds other than mynas, pigeons, sparrows and crows. However, many of these birds are dependent, to different extents and in a variety of ways, on our Nature Reserves. This highlights the importance of preserving what’s left of our nature reserves as they serve as vital “strongholds” (Game of Thrones reference anyone?) for these beautiful birds.

Many thanks to Tony & Subaraj for the wonderful guided walk:)

If you want to learn more about our natural heritage, do sign up for our guided walks and we hope to see you soon!

Words by: Melissa Wong