The fig tree at Bukit Timah: 1. Efforts at documentation
A figging fig tree is heard long before it is actually seen. This is exactly the situation with the old fig tree growing at the summit of Bukit Timah. This Benjamin fig or waringin (Ficus benjamina) figs rather irregularly. But each time it figs, the tree attracts numerous birds, in terms of number of birds as well as number of species. At such times the tree generates great excitement among local birders. They all flock to it to watch the birds having a feast, to record the number of species that are attracted to the tree and to make a count of each species.
This has been going on for years and generations of birdwatchers continue to get excited by the event. With so many species of birds congregating in one tree, trampling around the countryside to see the different species becomes unnecessary. And each time the tree figs, one or a few enthusiastic birders will make available a list of species that visit the tree.
This year's figging happened during the last week of September and lasted for less that two weeks. The tree is once again silent. This time Yong Ding Li, an enthusiastic new-generation birder who provided the list, enthused: “The famous fig tree at the summit, known to be of sacred importance to many birdwatchers 'fruited' the last three days and activity is still on with massive clumps of orange red figs. The bulbuls and bluebirds are actively making their gastronomic pilgrimage there, and so should we! (avian pilgrimage I mean).”
Ding Li's list of the birds and their numbers (in and around the vicinity of the tree), recorded on 25th September: Oriental Honey Buzzard 1; Japanese Sparrowhawk 2; Great Hornbill 1; Rhinoceros Hornbill 1; Thick-billed Green-Pigeon 2; Himalayan Swiftlet 5-7; Edible-nest Swiftlet type 20-30; Asian Fairy Bluebird 15; Lesser Green Leafbird 2; Greater Green Leafbird 2; Blue-winged Leafbird 5; Red-eyed Bulbul 12; Cream-vented Bulbul 6; Olive-winged Bulbul 8; Black-crested Bulbul 2; Asian Paradise Flycatcher 2; Yellow-rumped Flycatcher 3; Arctic Warbler 4; Eastern Crowned Warbler 18; Hill Myna 10; Tiger Shrike 1; Chestnut-bellied Malkoha 2; Dark-necked Tailorbird 2; Crimson Sunbird 1; Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker 2; Orange-bellied Flowerpecker 3; Greater Racket-tailed Drongo 2; Large-billed Crow 2; and Blue-throated Bee-eater 2.
This is an impressive list of 29 species of birds that joined in the fig feast or were around the area. I am sure birdwatchers are appreciative of his efforts.
Thank you, Ding Li for compiling the list. Image of the tree (top) and longi-section of a ripe fig (bottom) by YC.