Jurong Eco-Garden

One of the unlikeliest places to stumble upon a lush green park with nature trails and forests, Jurong Eco-Garden is sandwiched in between the Nanyang Technological University and CleanTech Park, and is surprisingly popular among a wide variety of wildlife such as butterflies and migratory birds, and now nature-lovers and bird-watching enthusiasts as well.

Like many parks in Singapore – well-organized and immaculately maintained – Jurong Eco-Garden is systematically compartmentalized into thematic zones: the Summit Forest, the Wildlife Corridor, the Stream Ravine, and the Freshwater Swamp Forest.

The Freshwater Swamp Forest not only serves as a central retention pond for stormwater run-off from all over CleanTech Park, it draws the birds and other wildlife with its delectable assortment of food trapped within the scummy pond.

In particular, the Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) loves skulking in the tall reeds of the swamp pond, where he feels safe with the thought that nobody can see him.

Surprisingly, the Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) enjoys hanging out in the reeds as well, and seems to have no qualms about sharing the space with the bitterns.

One of the most common birds in our parks and gardens, the Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) can definitely be spotted or heard here.

The Ashy Tailorbird (Orthotomus ruficeps), another common bird, loves drawing attention to himself with his incessant chirp-chirp-chirps. For such a small bird, he does have a disproportionately loud voice.

If we’re lucky, we might also spot the juvenile Ashy Tailorbird out and about having a fun day with his parents. The juvenile is overall duller-looking and does not yet have the characteristic bright orange face.

Lording over the Garden is the White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), whose peculiar laughter is usually heard first before he is seen.

On warm and sunny mornings, he’d be perching contentedly in the open trying to catch some rays.

A kingfisher not so easy to spot is the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), who visits Singapore only during the winter migratory months from September to March.

An even rarer sight is the Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting), a resident of the Garden who shares his leafy perch with the Common Kingfisher whenever he comes to visit.

The two close cousins look so much alike and are often mistaken for each other, but the Blue-eared Kingfisher is smaller and has deeper blue colours compared to the turquoise blue jewel sheen of the Common Kingfisher.

Another tourist to Singapore, the Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) visits only during the winter months having flown here from as far north as Siberia.

Discreet and not easily sighted is the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus), who is usually silent and well-hidden among the dense foliage. He is a member of the cuckoo family, but looks very distinct with his metallic dark blue wings and tail, chestnut underparts, and eye-catching bright orange stamp on his face.

The Pied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula bicolor) may once in a while deign to grace visitors with a rare appearance looking all resplendent in her white gown with black trimmings.

Having been introduced as one of the free-ranging birds in Jurong Bird Park, the Pied Imperial Pigeon has now spread to various spots around Singapore, including Jurong Lake Gardens, Labrador Park, West Coast Park, and apparently Jurong Eco-Garden.

They seem to get along well with their cousins, the Pink-necked Green Pigeons (Treron vernans), sharing berries from the same tree.

That particular prolific berry tree seems especially popular with the birds, attracting not only the pigeons…

…but also the Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus)

…the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis)

…the Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis)

…and even the Coppersmith Barbet (Psilopogon haemacephalus).

Singapore is perennially warm and sunny, and it is perennially nesting season here. Love is always in the air!

With our aging population, everyone is encouraged to make more babies!

Just four days after observing the Pink-necked Green Pigeon babies in their nest, we were privileged to witness them fledge as they left the comfort of their nest. Look at how they’ve grown!

Located within the central area of the garden is the Ficus Lookout (so named because it is situated beside a Ficus tree), a raised platform where we can take in the view of the garden and the freshwater swamp.

Along the numerous streams meandering through the garden, many species of dragonflies can be spotted buzzing around or doing the couple dance chasing each other in endless circles, such as the Spine-tufted Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysis)

…or the less often seen Indigo Dropwing (Trithemis festiva).

Some of the unfortunate ones may end up as food for the birds. Such is the circle of life.

Tucked away at a discreet corner of the garden is the Summit Lookout, which provides a good vantage point to spy on some birds or simply take in a view of the Garden.

Being situated next to Singapore’s last remaining dragon kiln (Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle) might have something to do with the numerous ceramic artworks and sculptures that we see all around Jurong Eco-Garden.

What’s a garden without butterflies…and what’s a butterfly garden without attractive bushes decked out with sweet pretty flowers?

At the Butterfly Garden, we are presented with a challenge to try and spot all 26 species of butterflies that reside here.

The Common Birdwing (Troides helena), one of the largest butterflies in Singapore, invariably caught our attention with its large black forewings and golden yellow hindwings. Sadly, he is not one to sit still for a photograph.

We did, however, manage to get paparazzi shots of the Horsfield Baron (Tanaecia iapis puseda)…

…the Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia ida)…

…the very common Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus)…

…and several other unidentifiable species.

We did not expect to be trekking in the forest when we came to Jurong Eco-Garden, but we were pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the Nature Trail, which transported us from an immaculately manicured garden into a dark, creepy forest.

We were constantly reminded by helpful signs to mind the gaps, as the trail can get uneven at times.

We’d also have to keep a constant lookout for obstacles in our way.

The birds were having a hoot as we were wandering along the Nature Trail. The cacophony of bird calls all around us provided a delightful distraction and kept us from barreling through the trail like we normally would.

The strident calls of the Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri) challenged us to spot him high up in the trees, giving us a good neck exercise.

His close cousins, the Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri), seem to also enjoy hanging around these parts.

Often perched high up on a tall branch is the Oriental Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis), intently keeping a close watch on his surroundings.

The Lineated Barbet (Psilopogon lineatus), usually a shy and elusive fellow, came out for a quick peek before he made a hasty retreat back into the comfort of the dark forest.

We were alerted to the presence of a band of Rufous Woodpeckers (Micropternus brachyurus) by their loud and insistent calls, before we saw several rust red shapes flash past us.

These ingenious creatures are known to construct their nests within the nests of ants such as acrobat ants or termites. In our land scarce city where premium properties such as tree cavities are low in supply and high in demand, this idea of taking over someone else’s abandoned nest is simply brilliant.

If there were any ants left wandering in the nest, these would simply end up as food for the woodpeckers living inside. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

We were delighted to finally make an acquaintance with the Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus), not just the handsome red-capped male…

…but also his lovely wife.

She was most obliging in displaying her acrobatic skills as she negotiated the tree branch…

…and deftly picked out insects from the holes in the branches using her long and sticky tongue.

At the end of the 1-km Nature Trail, we found ourselves conveniently deposited back at our car. Free parking is available at the large car park beside the entrance to the garden.