Dairy Farm Nature Park

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 also be able to meet some of the forest’s sociable creatures, such as the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis)

…and the Clouded Monitor (Varanus nebulosus).

Listen out also for the Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) as he performs his daily vocal exercises.

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.

An even rarer resident of the quarry, the Violet Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx xanthorhynchus) can sometimes be seen around the area. Like many other cuckoos, the Violet Cuckoos are brood parasites and lay their eggs in the nests of other smaller birds such as the sunbirds and spiderhunters.

Other birds we are more likely to spot here include the Olive-backed Sunbirds, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Olive-winged Bulbuls (Pycnonotus plumosus)

…or even the Common Hill Mynah (Gracula religiosa).

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)

…the Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica)

…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. We can learn how to spot the durian trees (look out for leaves with golden undersides), or practice our side-stepping skills (in case one of these spiky fruits should happen to fall).

The area used to be a kampong, and old ruins can still be seen slowly being engulfed by the forest.

Look out for the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), who carries with him his two long racket tails everywhere he goes.

…or the Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra), always poking his long rostrum around the flowering plants…

…or the Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja), whose bright flashy red body is quite hard to miss…

…although his plain drab wife can be quite easy to dismiss as just another ordinary sunbird.

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, bird enthusiasts like us will flock here to see some of the rarer species of birds, such as the Thick-billed Green Pigeon (Treron curvirostra), who has a cultivated taste for this particular type of fig.

The Asian Fairy-bluebird (Irena puella) is another fig-loving bird that can be seen loitering around the fruiting fig trees. If we see the male Asian Fairy-bluebird…

…we’ll likely also see the beautiful female bluebird hanging around the same tree.

When the White Mulberry (Morus alba) trees along the Wallace Trail are fruiting, many fruit-loving birds will hang around and feast in these trees. Mulberry-loving birds that we have spotted here include the Blue-winged Leafbird (Chloropsis cochinchinensis)

…the Swinhoe’s White-eye (Zosterops simplex)

…the Red-crowned Barbet (Psilopogon rafflesii)

…and the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma).

We were happily observing a couple of Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers enjoying the sweet jelly-like 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.

As we saunter along Wallace trail, we might also run into the Common Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica), who loves to forage on the ground. He is a rather shy bird, and he tends to run away and hide whenever he sees us, so we have to approach very cautiously.

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 Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus), who is quite commonly seen in our parks and gardens.

A rarer visitor is the Orange-headed Thrush (Geokichla citrina), who usually hides and forages in the dark forest and wooded 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.