Monday, November 30, 2015

Driving me Mad

My wife and I are quite passive when encountering life's inconveniences. At our age we've gone through so much vicissitudes that we normally would not allow such things to bother us. But, and this is a big BUT, there are those occasions that get us fuming mad. So please allow me to vent out some of the frustrations we experienced in our latest birding trip.

The Candaba Wetlands is one of the prime birding areas in the Philippines. Or I should now say, "used to be".  Whereas before hundreds, if not thousands, of migrant waders and ducks can easily be seen here, now there was an obvious disparity since the birds we saw yesterday were much lower in number. Sure, there were hundreds of Black-winged Stilts but that's just about it. A few Wood Sandpipers here and there, fewer Long-toed Stints and a couple of Grey and Purple Herons. We did not even see a single Common Kingfisher! There were ducks, mostly the endemic Philippine, but they were too far off for a decent photograph. Good thing some Wandering Whistling Ducks found a place to settle that was within photographic range.

The primary reason for this, I believe, was because the watery area where these migrants settle are now rice fields, newly planted even. The local Black-crowned Night Heron colony population seemed to have dwindled as well.

Thankfully, the local avifauna was thriving well. The most ubiquitous among these were the Pied Bush Chat, Striated Grassbird, Chestnut Munia and Long-tailed Shrike.

Pied Bush Chat
Chestnut Munia
Long-tailed Shrike 
Striated Grassbird
The Rallidae family was well represented with the Barred Rail, Buff-baded Rail, Philippine Swamphen, White-breasted Waterhen and White-browed Crake.

Barred Rail
Buff-banded Rail
Philippine Swamphen
White-browed Crake
White-breasted Waterhen
Now let me tell you about the Bitterns. It was as if they were in connivance with each other because all three species - Yellow, Cinnamon, and Black - teased us in exactly the same way. While we are focusing on some other species, one of these sly birds would suddenly leap from where were looking, fly a short distance then dive into a clump of vegetation and completely vanish. That this happened about 10 times left us bitter. It was only when we were already on the way out and while enjoying the cooperativeness of some Blue-tailed Bee-eaters that one Yellow Bittern finally obliged to be photographed. It was a Bittern end to our birding in Candaba.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Yellow Bittern
What made Cynthia and I upset was the traffic we encountered on our trip home. We've birded Candaba many times for the past five years but this was the first time that we got stuck in such a horrendous jam. Candaba is some 60 kilometers from our home in Quezon City. It took us only one-and-a-half hours that morning to get to the wetlands whereas it was a maddening three-and-a-half hours on the return trip! I mean where did all these trucks come from? They were everywhere! - from the narrow two-lane roads in Bulacan to the streets from Mindanao Avenue to Katipunan Avenue. Trucks! 

When we finally arrived home my wife was so exasperated. She told me that this could be our last birding trip because we don't want to go through this nightmare again. "It's for your own sake," she said, "because you're the one driving." I'm afraid I had to agree with her. At my age - a year less than 70 - my physical endurance is no longer what it used to be. Considering that we had to wake up early, go birding (which involves standing for long periods, walking while carrying my heavy camera equipment, and sometimes even trudging over uneven trails) then having to sit for seemingly countless hours inside our vehicle waiting for the traffic to move inch-by-inch towards home, I don't think I can handle that on a regular basis. And that drives me mad.