It was no laughing matter. Half an afternoon on the slopes of Singapore's second highest hill yielded neither sightings nor an echo of their rambunctious chatter. It was perhaps the thrushes' day off, as a prolonged watch at a known haunting ground drew a blank and blew a nose. Butterflies, however, were abundant, soaring out of reach on slow, smoky wings or fluttering by the path, never ceasing, never stopping to tease with flashes of sulphur and drops of blue.
Returning to the summit, an unauthorised ascent to the timber deck of a bowdlerised ship provided a handful of consolations in a flight of bee-eaters that made rapid sorties for buzzing prey from the bare limbs of a tree with a rust-red trunk. An immature sunbird lingered on a low branch to preen, while a flying dragon betrayed his keen sight by shying away, dewlap still on display, the moment a barrel was raised. An oriole bubbled, while a family of bulbuls gave chase to invisible thrills high in the canopy.
The lower level of the theme park vessel ringed a depression filled with stagnant water and green-shelled sliders. Basking on artificial terrraces, the turtles display no signs of discontent at their mucky home or the souls who loved them too little to bear the responsibility of a chelonian lifetime. Another, more agile, invader lurked on the wayside boughs, ready to change its colours to blend in or make a bold statement on the quality of uninvited talents.
By the Marang Trail, flocks of green pigeons were gathering at fruiting trees to gorge before the going gets dark. The ripe pickings also draw plantain squirrels that perform for their own pleasure as they navigate the fine line between sweet success and free fall. Tailorbirds crept in the tendrilled understorey, while ioras and tit-babblers searched the higher blades for hidden segments. Beyond the broken tree line lies the harbourfront, a low range of concrete waves and reinforced towers. It's a walk that deserves a better rep, but there is too much at stake for the moment to permit more than a passing jaunt in search of a bird that never fails to get the last laugh.