Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Ends..cheers!

Another year ends and another is about to begin. For many it is a psychological boost to end/start something. For some it's just another day, same as the previous day. However anyone takes it, there is still an atmosphere of fun generally. People planning parties, sales events going on, people travelling, relaxing.

I have nothing planned for the year end because that's generally how my life is. I can almost never plan anything and stick by it. Everything I do has last minute changes and I am quick to adapt. Being at home doing my laundry or some other chore and then to receive a call and head off overseas is par for the course, for me. In the past I used to blog a bit, pen down my experiences, post pictures of all these planned and unplanned trips. Now I have become lazy. I spend much time on twitter, getting stuff done on Facebook related to all my Wildlife Conservation efforts and so on.

All indicators for the next year is that it is going to be super busy. I am not complaining, I like being super busy. In January we move into a new facility at Seletar Airport and I catch up with work and whales in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India. Side trips to Malaysia and Indonesia as well. February will have me grounded in Singapore, for the mid month culmination of the 100th year of civil aviation in Singapore and it all ends in a grand show called the Singapore Air Show. For sure, I'll be reporting from the event and posting pictures. I wrote about the Centennial Celebrations in an earlier blog in March 2011 when it all began. Read that post here.

For those who visit my blog and enjoy it, I will try and post more than I did in 2011. It will be about aviation and wildlife. It will be about Aircraft and Whales. Hopefully it will be interesting enough for my friends, I thank all of you for being with me, even virtually, over the years on my blog. Hope to see more of you in my new posts.

Have a great 2012 people!

Monday, September 19, 2011


This blog is about recent events in Singapore. We had the Singapore National Day celebrations on 9th August and preceding this event were weekends of rehearsals including Helicopter displays, fighter jets formation flights, marching bands and so on. Here are a few videos of one of the rehearsals, with Helicopter displays.

(Boeing Chinook Helicopter flies low over Marina Bay & drops off commandos into the water)

(Boeing Chinook Helicopter accompanied by Apaches flying Singapore flag over the marina bay area)

The month of August was the hungry ghost festival. I had described details of this festival in a blog that I posed in 2007, click on this to find that article. Following this "Ghost month", as they call it, was the Mid Autumn festival or the Lantern festival. Again, I had posted an article with information and photos of this event in 2007, click here to find that article. I am posting some of the lanterns that lined up Singapore river this year (2011).
(Lanterns lined up near Singapore River, Clarke Quay)

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is a famous new attraction/theme park in Singapore. They have many interesting things to see and do and also have a casino. The sad thing is that they are planning a marine park and had commissioned a Dolphin trader to trap Wild Dolphins from the Solomon Islands. Around 30 or so Dolphins were caught. A few died in captivity in their holding pens and the rest of the 27 Dolphins face a future where they are going to be trapped in a pool to entertain people. RWS claims that the Dolphins are for "education" but they have not responded convincingly to question put to them about their motives. I was part of the "Save the World's saddest Dolphins" concert last month and continue to support ACRES Singapore, an NGO fighting for these Dolphins, for their release back into the Wild. Here are some pictures and videos of that concert. We are not calling for a boycott of RWS but please avoid visiting the marine section when it opens. No imposition here, just an appeal. I am against incarceration of any animal and for Dolphins who are empathic animals, our cousins of the sea, it's like putting innocent people in jail.

 (Kids above holding pics of captive Dolphins with their own names, performances from local singers below)

(More performers at the free concert in aid of the Dolphins, "Let the Dolphins go" RWS was the theme)

Singapore Art Museum hosted a light manipulation show early this month, this involves lighting on the Art Museum Building that moves according to sound, it appears as if the building itself is speaking, expressing, moving. Here are some interesting videos of the event, enjoy the movements of light!

(Simple manipulation above, more complex one below)

 Recently, last weekend in fact (17th September 2011) was the International Coastal Cleanup Day. This is a global event where volunteers and organizations engage in cleaning up rivers, beaches, mangroves, all coastal areas in order to rid the environment of various types of garbage. Plastics are among the most use and throw items in the World today. Sadly, we are poisoning our rivers and oceans with this debris and harming the marine environment. Many marine animals are trapped and die due to the trash that humans throw away carelessly. Data shows that there are around 45,000+ pieces of plastic in every square mile of Ocean!
(Above: Volunteers from Land Transport Authority filing off to do their bit near Seletar Mangroves)

(Our group of 6 public volunteers bagging trash caught in the mangroves)

(Look at the trash collected in our area of mangroves in 2 hours-bagged in biodegradable plastic bags)

(Our Group of coastal clean up crew L-R Vinodini, LiLin, Forgot, Self, Anjali, Melissa)

No Country is free or safe from trash. Singapore, among the more cleaner cities in Asia, isn't immune to improper trash disposal. We have a problem here, as big as any other place. So, on this day, 2400 odd volunteers (Including yours truly) all around coastal Singapore managed to clean up 13 kilometres of coastline, removing some 12,000 Kilograms of trash from the beaches and mangroves. Some of those pictures are posted here as well.
(Degraded beach and mangroves are overlooking Malaysia port of Pasir Gudang viewed from Seletar)

There's not much else to write about at this point. I'll blog more when time permits and something new and exciting happens. Meanwhile, my advice to all, please spread awareness about reducing unnecessary consumption, reduce the amount of plastics in your lives, use jute or cloth bags for your shopping always, dispose off trash responsibly. Do you little bit and maybe we can still save the planet or at least continue to maintain it habitable for all creatures including ourselves. Cheers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sungei Serangoon River - Singapore

Sungei means river, Serangoon is the name of the river we have in the North East part of Singapore where they have constructed a barrage to make it into a reservoir. What's more, the Singapore Government has linked two rivers, Sungei Serangoon (less than 10 minutes from where I live) with Sungei Punggol. This has created a large fresh water source for Singapore in addition to the many other such drinking water sources.

Sungei Serangoon was all wilderness untill 2 years ago when they started to clean up the area around and develop nice walkways cycling tracks, restrooms, boardwalk and a few restaurants overlooking the river at one spot at higher ground.

On the other side of the river from the housing estates is a wet land reserve, a haven for small birds and large ones like the Sea Eagle. Some wildlife enthusiasts have also encountered wild boar! In Singapore, where there are wet lands, there are water monitor lizards.

(10 minutes from my home - Monitor habitat!)

In 2007, I had blogged about a wet land reserve called Sungei Buloh and that is in the North West part of the Island. Water monitors grow very large in that neck of the woods and I had posted pictures of them in that blog. Clink on the link to visit that blog.

This evening we ran into a monitor lizard swimming lazily near the foot bridge and although the light was fading and all I had was a mobile phone, the beautiful animal is still visible clearly here below:

I will post more pictures of the Sungei Serangoon river, the boardwalk, the foot bridge over the river and the wetlands area in a few days. Watch this space!

Next Blog: Singapore downtown, Merlion, Beoing Chinnok Helicopter low over water downtown..all part of the National Day Celebrations of Singapore that happened yesterday, 9th August. Happy 46th Birthday Singapore!

Friday, April 08, 2011


As the title goes, this is a story about an American Bald Eagle. Before I tell you the story, lets find out a bit about these raptors in the first place. What's an American Bald Eagle? Its found in North America, has a white head and a National symbol of the United States of America. Its not really bald, just that the white head has given it that name. It is a magnificent Sea Eagle and can live up to 30 years or so in the Wild. In the late 20th Century it was in the endangered species list but they have made a remarkable comeback and now flourishing throughout the contiguous United States, Canada and Alaska.

Now I will begin the story about this particular family of Bald Eagles. A group called the "Raptor Research Project" has positioned a video camera overlooking the nest of an American Bald Eagle family. Recently the mamma bird laid 3 eggs and that live stream was watched by hundreds of thousands of people Worldwide. In the past few days the eggs have hatched and the viewing interest was so great that the website crashed! Here is a link to the hatching event (video recording of hatching also available)and some details related. This post also has live cam feed of the Eagles as they are now.

I'll call Mama Eagle by the name Daisy and Daddy Eagle as Donald or Don for short. Thanks to the Raptor project, we are all able to watch this beautiful family 24X7. Daisy laid 3 eggs and the first chick hatched on April 2nd. The second one hatched the next day and the third chick hatched on the 6th of April and this is the time I started watching the family. If there was anything that got me down or made me tense at work or otherwise, I'd go back to watching the Eagle family. Not only was it therapeutic for me, it was also a source of education, to observe the interaction between Daisy and Don, how they cared for the chicks, their understanding, conversations, taking turns preening and shoring up their nest and so on. Don would fly in now and then bringing a fish to feed Daisy and the 3 chicks, I name them Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Their nest is huge. Its perched upon a tree 80 feet high, is about 5-6 feet wide and about the same dimension in depth. Apparently weighs over a ton! I saw Daisy shore up the nest yesterday with a large branch and the power of her beak was awesome to watch. Daisy and Don aren't new parents. They have been together since winter of 2007/2008 and experts put Daisy's age at that time as 4 years old. They had 2 eaglets in 2008, 3 in 2009 and 3 again in 2010. They have been a successful pair so far and know what they are doing. I have embedded the Live video on this blog for readers to watch. When I posted this, Daisy was curled up on her chicks and was sleeping (night time in Iowa, USA).

I'm looking forward to watching this present lot grow up, earn their wings and take their first flight. It will be an awesome experience, for me as an aviator, this is as good as it gets. We need to strap ourselves into a machine to enjoy what they feel like when flying and they are just born with it. The freedom to fly, the freedom to range and set down anywhere. Perhaps its this freedom, tenacity, intelligence, beauty of this magnificent bird, that emulates the spirit of the United States and has made it their National bird and symbol. Long live Don, Daisy and the Great American Bald Eagles!

Addendum: Yesterday (April 15, 2011) in the U.S., PBS aired a documentary on this Eagle family. Many viewers learned new things about American Eagles in general and this family in particular, thanks to PBS. Just to share a few things more about them, I have added this piece. I believe Daddy Eagle is around 12 years of age and mamma Eagle is 8. This is his second mate, his first wife died in a blizzard a few years ago and she was observed to be a one-eyed Eagle. This happy couple have been successful parents 3 times already. Daddy Eagle took 3 months to build this current nest and recent re-estimation puts it at 1,000 pounds heavy, built on this cottonwood tree. I thought some would like this update.

Update as on 19th/20th April: The live feed cam is encrusted with snow, it has been snowing at the Eagle's lair in Iowa and visibility is completely obscured. Its supposed to be spring now but Iowans have been complaining that winter persists, an unusually long spell this year it seems. Lets wait for better weather and snow melt so that we can observe the family Live again.

Update as on 20th May 2011: The three chicks have grown up, stand on their own feet and walk erect. I have seen them flex their wings and hop around. Very soon they will start "branching" and by mid June they are expected to take off in their first flight. The camera will be switched off in July when the eaglets have started flying out on their own. I will update this space when the branching occurs and subsequently report their first flight when that happens.

Update as on 16th June 2011: The Eaglets have branched. They are now hopping from one branch to the other flapping their wings. This is the final step before they take their first flight. It's been amazing watching them hatch, waddle around their nest like gray colored balls, become large enough to jump around their nest flapping wings and now they have branched. An event many of us Eagleheads were waiting for.
Next update: Their first flight!

Update as on 21st June 2011: E1 (Huey), the first of the Eaglets has fledged. His first flight was spectacular and he/she is making frequent flights out circling the nest, landing on the meadows nearby and on the farmhouse roof top and so on. He is racking up his frequent flyer miles, as someone put it and looked like he had been flying for his entire life. Amazing how they learn by themselves and how they master their element. Now we are awaiting E2 (Dewey)and E3 (Louie) to fledge and it may happen anytime now. E1 took off within 11 weeks of hatching. E2 and E3 came out later and now have been seen taking short hop flights from branch to nest and so on.

LATEST UPDATE: As on 23rd June 2011: ALL the Eaglets have fledged and now flying freely! This has been the most amazing experience for me. From Eggs to flying magnificent kings of the sky. My best wishes to the family for a long and free life.

Last update: 12th July 2011: Eaglets are fine, flying free, being Eagles. The camera has been turned off for the season. Live feed is no longer available below. It will be back on again next season, perhaps sometime next year. Long Live the Eagles.

Live Eagle cam feed:

Online video chat by Ustream

Monday, March 28, 2011

100 Years of Aviation in Singapore

It's been a 100 years of aviation in many Countries around the World this year. For us in tiny Singapore, the 16th of March marked the 100th year of aviation here. On 16th March, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore organized a gala dinner program for aviators and Airlines based/operating into Singapore. The event was at the huge banquet hall of the new "Resorts World" at Sentosa. This blog is more like a news report, mentioning the event and the celebrations.

(Bristol Boxkite that flew from Belmont Race Course in Australia, also in 1911)

The evening began with audio visual presentation of what people thought about aviation in Singapore titled "People, Passions, Opportunities". It was on the evening of 16th March 1911 that a French pilot Joseph Christiaens piloted a Bristol Boxkite Biplane. He took off from the Old Racecourse at Farrer Park from an unprepared airstrip, offering rides to many people for $50 a head! Pricey it may have been, apparently it had many takers. Farrer Park is now just grassy area near the Farrer Park MRT station on Race Course Road. There is no Race Course here but the name remains. Race Course Road is now famous for many Indian restaurants and Singaporean Indian restaurants that are famous for signature dishes such as the "Fish Head Curry".

The Bristol Boxkite was first built in 1910 by the British & Colonial Aeroplane Company (later known as the Bristol Aeroplane Company). The Boxkite was powered by a 70 horsepower "Le Rhone" rotary engine. First flight of this model was on 29th July 1910 and later on became a highly successful model selling units around the World.

(Bristol Boxkite)

The program was well conducted, as expected, everything works with clockwork precision in Singapore. There was an aerial symphony with dancers climbing on long curtains and conducting graceful movements set to music. Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is also a former PM spoke on aviation and Singapore, keeping the speech brief and relevant. Then they collectively pushed a button to launch the start of year long celebrations called as the Singapore Aviation Centennial Celebrations which will end next year at the Singapore Air Show and that's going to be something special for sure. Watch this space for reports and pictures/videos that event.

Soon after the Minister's speech, another video presentation was shown on large screens set up throughout the vast hall, this one was titled "Our dreams, Our journey". This is particularly relevant to us here in Singapore, for growth of aviation here in future and for all the success of the past. Yes, its been a 100 years and tiny Singapore catapulted into the World stage far better than most other Countries with among the best Airports in the World in Changi and among the best Airlines in the World with Singapore Airlines.

The newly expanded Seletar Aerospace Park where yours truly has spent the last 4 years, is going to be the showpiece for General Aviation and Aviation technology leadership in the region. For Singapore to continue as a leader, it will have to innovate and come up with new concepts to forge a competitive aviation hub in this region. I suppose we all need to pull our socks up and get to work!

There was a musical finalé to the evening, songs were sung by locally famous artists Dick Lee and Ms Julia Abueva and she did sing very well indeed. All this while we ate a four course meal with free flowing drinks. As we left the hall, there were CAAS representatives who handed out large gift bag with a box in it, that turned out to be a scale model of the original Bristol Boxkite, made beautifully out of wood and thread. That's sitting on my desk right now as I write this piece. A fitting way to start off the Centennial year of Aviation. Cheers!