Last Updated on 20 June 2022
Picture this: a bunch of Fresian cows basking in the tropical sun and grazing on the green fields in the backyard of Bukit Timah. Sounds surreal? This could very well have been a typical scene back in the day when there was a functioning dairy farm with real milk cows right where Dairy Farm Nature Park now sits.
Today, the only clue of the existence of those cows is in the name of the park and the main road running alongside it. The area now hosts a network of hiking and biking trails that traverse through thick jungle vegetation and lead to the summit of Bukit Timah Hill or to Singapore Quarry.
There are ample parking options at either of the two car parks (A and B). Parking is charged by the minute at $0.60 per 1/2 hour. For the early birds, free parking can be enjoyed between 6.30am to 8.30am.
The tarred paths and packed gravel trails that lead to Singapore Quarry are suitable for runners, strollers, and shamblers alike. Bikers have their own dedicated trail.
On a particularly brilliant morning when the sun’s rays pierce through the woods, we are able to enjoy nature’s artwork in its various shapes and forms.
On a good day, we might be able to meet some of the forest’s sociable creatures, such as the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)…
…and even the vocal ones like the Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus), who is more affectionately known as the “uwu bird” or “alarm clock bird”.
While straining our necks to look for the resident birds, we’d have to be careful not to neglect looking where we’re treading, else we might find ourselves crossing paths with the resident snake.
Singapore Quarry is set in a rustic wetland environment and houses a myriad of interesting flora and fauna that will entice nature lovers to keep coming back.
Most people would enjoy perching on the viewing platform and be entertained by the antics of the colourful koi and mischievous catfish frolicking together.
Skimming the waters are the monitor lizards, constantly studying their breakfast menu.
Once in a while, the celebrity Stork-billed Kingfisher (Pelargopsis capensis) might make a glitzy appearance and show off his flashy outfit complete with his buff-orange suit, royal blue cape, and bright red shoes.
If we’re lucky, we might even spot the visiting migrant Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster), who loves to hang out in the quarries and hunt for fish. His long snake-like neck and pointy bill are well-designed for spearing fish, which he does while submerged under water.
Other resident birds we are likely to spot here include the many species of bulbuls, such as the Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus)…
…and the critically endangered Straw-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus)…
…as well as the very vocal and charismatic Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), who carries with him his two long racket tails everywhere he goes.
Many species of dragonflies are known to dominate the area as well. A common resident of the quarry lake is the Scarlet Skimmer (Orthetrum testaceum), whose bright red abdomen is not difficult to spot.
Even if we don’t spot the dragonflies, we will surely spot their attractive bright pink eggs looking like delicious dollops of caviar.
When heading back to the carpark from Singapore Quarry, be sure not to miss the sign for Dairy Farm Pass. This little blue marker will lead us to Dairy Farm Quarry.
What? Two quarries in one nature park? Yes, indeed. And if you can’t get enough of them, head over to Hindhede Nature Park to check out the Hindhede Quarry.
While most of the other quarries in Singapore were left as craters and gradually filled with rain water to form the pools that we see now, the Dairy Farm Quarry was filled with earth. So we could walk right up to the quarry wall and touch it. It’s no wonder that Dairy Farm Quarry has become popular with the rock climbers.
The grassy field around the quarry is also popular among our fine feathered friends, such as the Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata)…
…and the Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis).
The lush forest surrounding the quarry has also become a playground for the family of wild boars (Sus scrofa). We were graced by their presence one morning while visiting the Dairy Farm Quarry, and paid them due homage while slowly and cautiously retreating from their territory.
On the east side of Dairy Farm Nature Park, the Wallace Trail (named after Alfred Russel Wallace who is known for his contribution to the theory of evolution) is a short forest hike where we can get to enjoy more rustic forest scenery.
The Wallace Trail brings us up and down stairs through thick forest vegetation dotted with Wallace’s favourite fruit – the durian. Along the way, we learnt how to spot the durian trees (look out for leaves with golden undersides) and practiced our side-stepping skills (in case one of these spiky fruits happen to fall).
The area used to be a kampong, and old ruins can still be seen slowly being engulfed by the forest.
During fig fruiting season, we can see many of the small round green fruits bursting from the tree trunks in bunches. Little did we know that there are actually 48 species of native figs in Singapore! Four common species can be found along Wallace Trail: the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), Malayan Banyan Fig (Ficus microcarpa), Common Yellow-stem Fig (Ficus fistulosa) and Common Red-stem Fig (Ficus varigata).
Whenever the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) tree along Wallace Trail is fruiting, fig-loving birds will flock here to feast on the fruits while bird-loving people like us will flock here to feast our eyes on the birds, such as the Thick-billed Green Pigeon (Treron curvirostra), who has a cultivated taste for this particular type of fig.
Next to Wallace Centre are a bunch of Pink Lime-Berry Trees (Clausena excavata) – also known as the False Curry Leaf Tree because it looks like the Curry Leaf Tree – which is a magnet for the birds that love the tasty fruits.
Some of the birds that we have caught feasting on the Pink Lime-Berry fruits are the Jambu Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus jambu)…
…the Red-crowned Barbet (Psilopogon rafflesii)…
…and the Asian Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus).
When the White Mulberry (Morus alba) trees along Wallace Trail are fruiting, many birds will also hang around and help themselves to the juicy fruits. For that reason, the tree is affectionately known among birders as the “magic mulberry tree”.
White mulberry-loving birds that we have spotted here include the Blue-winged Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis)…
…the Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati)…
…the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma)…
…the Asian Fairy-bluebird (Irena puella)…
…and the Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus). We were happily observing a couple of Olive-winged Bulbuls enjoying the juicy fruit of the mulberry tree one day…
…when a family of pesky monkeys came and chased them away, and started demolishing the mulberry fruits themselves.
Even the squirrels can’t resist getting their hands on some of these delectable treats.
During the winter migratory season, we are always on the lookout for the winter migratory birds who make their way from the far north to Singapore every year for their winter holidays. One such migrant bird is the Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica), who has a favourite perch and would always hunt for insects and return to the same perch.
Other flycatchers who have their own favourite perches include the Green-backed Flycatcher (Ficedula elisae)…
…and the Ferruginous Flycatcher (Muscicapa ferruginea).
An uncommon visitor is the Orange-headed Thrush (Geokichla citrina), who usually forages on the ground in the dark forested areas of the nature reserve, making it quite difficult to spot him.
Also a rare winter visitor is the Oriental Scops Owl (Otus sunia), who seems to have found the bed-and-breakfast at Dairy Farm Nature Park much to his liking, and he keeps coming back to the same spot year after year for his winter hols.
If the Oriental Scops Owl does decide to check-in, it won’t be too difficult to find him because we will definitely spot his entourage of bodyguards.