A short stint at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos resulted in below par as far as expectations go. The fruiting tree next to the TREES hostel was still fruiting but apparently not as much as before. Aside from the noisy bulbuls (both Philippine and Yellow-vented) there were no other birds to speak of. Well, there were a couple of Tarictics who preferred the fruits on the far (and hidden) side and therefore were not seen. Let me rephrase that: they were seen, albeit so briefly, but were not photographed. Let me rephrase that further: They were photographed, albeit so badly that it didn't really count. So there.
What saved the day for me and my wife was that we got two lifers and one photo-lifer (seen before, but photographed for the first time). It all began when Fred Serrano (a Philippine Bird Photographer Forum member) and his daughter, whom we met at the TREES hostel grounds, invited us to visit the Agri-Park where he said tons of Oriental Pratincoles had been observed. Now Oriental Pratincoles are on the top ten, no, make that top five, of my want-to-photograph list. When we got there, my heart stopped as there were....zero, none, nada, not a single Pratincole. Or any bird for that matter, except for a couple of Intermediate Egrets and a Brown Shrike. We were in a state of percolating disappointment when my wife pointed at a black bird perched on a wire in the distance. "I think that's a Crested Myna", she said hesitantly. My binos confirmed that it was and sensing an opportunity for a photo-lifer, I immediately set-up my gear..the one using the 500mm lens (with a 1.4 extender, mind you). Let me explain at this point that the Myna was perched on a wire above the middle of a ricefield and that the closest I can set my tripod on was at the road's edge a thousand feet away. But a photo-lifer is a photo-lifer even if the subject was a mere dot on my camera's viewfinder.
Back at the hostel grounds our moods became gloomier harmonizing perfectly with the darkening skies. Families of Philippine Falconets and Coppersmith Barbets all sharing the same dead tree failed to revive the elan we once had.
It finally rained when we decided to have lunch just outside the campus grounds. It stopped when we returned to the TREES' premises. We sat forlornly as we waited for the skies to clear up. I glanced at the pine tree near the road and noticed a clump of green. Couldn't be a pine cone I mused. Again, using my binos, I almost slipped on the wet mossy surface of the hostel parking area as I realized I was looking at a Guaiabero! A small chunky green feathered ball way up in the tree, way out there by the roadside. A lifer! ...and it was not only far, it was backlit. Don't you just love it when we bird photographers have a term for a picture that is well below our acceptable standards. We call them "documentary" shots. Photos taken for documentary purposes only...just to prove that we indeed saw this particular species. And believe me these are documentary shots of a Guaiabero at its very essence.
The third, and final, super far-away, dot-in-the-screen photograph we got was that of another lifer - the Stripe-headed Rhabdornis. When the Falconets and Barbets finally abandoned the tall dead tree, the Rhabdornises came. These are unobtrusive, tiny, brown-and-white birds that blend so well against the tree trunks where they hunt for grub. Needless to say, all we got were some gorgeous documentary shots of our newest lifer. (At least we also got pictures of the tiny flies swarming at the Rhabdornis' head).
In golf, three under par is a really good score. In our case, three and even though they're far, were good enough scores as well. Actually we could even claim four or maybe even five and-they're-far pictures but that would really stretch the analogy. Let me just say that we had pun while it lasted.