Sunday, January 31, 2016

Owl of the Above

Even before Cynthia and I went to the University of the Philippines' campus in Diliman, we already inquired from friends Bim and Jonas the exact spot where the Philippine Scops Owl family could be found. At 6:30 am on Saturday, the 30th of January, we met up with our birding buddy Peter and new friend Wenxing at the parking lot of the Marine Science Institute (MSI) Building. From there we immediately proceeded to the "frogs" area where we were told the owls were.

Look for the white droppings, we were told, but as we searched the place there were droppings everywhere! Then from Jonas' advice all four of us looked up at the group of bamboos beside the blue water tank until we got cricks on our necks and still unable to find even a single owl. That these nocturnal birds were a pain in the neck became literal. Although we were all looking up, ironically things were not really looking up. My wife and I took a break and said some quick prayers. It was then when we met fellow birder Allan Fernando who also said that the owls were supposed to be on that bamboo clump. He also said that there was also a Spotted Wood Kingfisher in the area. Not to mention a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo by the opposite end of the paved trail. Encouraged by this report we once again began to search above the tangle of bamboo stalks. 

"There it is!" yelled my better half with eagle-sharp eyes. "But there's only one and it's the baby!"


There high above the bamboo on a branch and practically covered by twig and leaves was our quarry fast asleep. Nevertheless we all took turns at (it can only be seen from a very limited vantage point) at photographing the slumbering bundle of cuteness.



While Peter and Wenxing were taking turns, Cynthia as was her wont went exploring the surrounding areas. Soon she was motioning to us and silently pointed at something in front of her.  We all hurried to where she was and were totally flabbergasted at the sight of the friendliest and most cooperative Spotted Wood Kingfisher ever born on this earth!



Having fulfilled its mission of appeasing the owl frustration of four bird photographers, the kingfisher flew off. We all returned to the bamboo area. This time the baby owl was a bit more in the open but was still off in dreamland. 



Our next mission was to look for the  Blue Rock Thrush at Miranda Hall and the Philippine Nightjar at the Faculty Building. Scratch the Blue Rock Thrush because there were some guys working on the roof of the Miranda Hall...you know, where the thrush usually hangs out. The nightjar was as its usual roost in front of the Landbank ATM.



A quick trip to the Main Library for the Java Sparrows but they were at their usual habitat which was on the topmost ledge of the building. Way too far even for our friends' long lenses.

Once again we were back at the "frogs" area. After all, (or shall I say, after owl?) the owls were our main purpose for coming to U.P. that morning. We looked up and lo and behold the baby's eyes were now wide open as it stared down at the three people staring back at it (Wenxing left earlier for some personal matters).



"There's the other owl!" it was my wife, as expected, who first saw it and pointed at the adult sleeping way above the bamboo grove. "There's the other baby next to it!" she exclaimed a few minutes later.  Again, taking turns at photographing both, we finally achieved our goal. We got owl of the above.