"Let's go to Candaba this Friday", I told my wife with such conviction that she was momentarily taken by surprise. Cynthia has already gotten used to my waffling when it comes to deciding where to go birding. Perhaps it was the disappointment that I and my birding buddies Gabs and Edu experienced last Saturday that altered my decision making demeanor. My wife who opted to stay home that day was of course spared of such misery. When she noticed my unusual firmness she concluded, and rightly so, that I needed a redemption.
They say that you can tell how the rest of the day will go if the morning is started on the right path. Our right path on that cool Friday dawn turned out to be Cafe France. Yes, you read it right. Cafe France.
Let me elaborate on that for a while: Our prayer and fasting regimen (an annual practice by the Victory Christian Fellowship group of churches of which we are members) ended the night before. So here we are ready to take on a full course breakfast for the first time in seven days. Normally, on any trip to Candaba, Cynthia and I would have our early morning repast at Jollibees in Baliuag. However, on this particular outing my wife remembered seeing a Cafe France (one of our favorite restaurants) along NLEX and decided to splurge a little to commemorate the ending of our weeklong fast. The omelet and ham and bacon and eggs with crispy croissants, believe it or not, paved the way for a fruitful, or shall I say bountiful, day of birding in Candaba.
We entered via the "backdoor" to the Sanctuary. After parking our car, I headed toward the berm but stopped short because there was a bird quietly huddled among the grass. A pipit? It certainly looked like one and I hoped it was not the very common Paddyfield. But for now I'm happy even if it was so.
From the berm the flotilla of ducks can still be seen. As a matter of fact they are even closer now. The Northern Shovelers can easily be distinguished from the Philippine Ducks without the use of binoculars. The Chestnut Munias were once again quite plentiful only now they were less skittish.
A pleasant surprise was the presence of Common Greenshanks snoozing along with the Black-winged Stilts and Whiskered Terns. But the first "Woo-hoo!" of the day happened when a usually elusive Common Kingfisher alit at eye level thirteen meters away!
The adrenalin rush had barely dissipated when Cynthia, bless her super sharp vision, pointed a bird to me. I was driving slowly scanning the lily covered pond for Purple Swamphens. Cynthia yelled "Stop!" I stopped.
"Look!" I looked. But couldn't see anything.
I was waiting for "Listen!" but she was already frantically pointing at something "there!"
Sometimes I am just amazed at how my wife does it. She was sitting on the passenger side of our car and farther away from the pond. My body was even partially blocking her view. But she saw "it". Only after looking intensely at the dense vegetation on my left, where the Black-crowned Night Herons frolic, did I see "it".
"It" was a Black Bittern.
I thought everything would be sort of anti-climactic after these two fabulous photographic opportunities. But Candaba had more in store for us that morning. Maybe not as breathtaking as the Common Kingfisher and the Black Bittern but the additional birds we saw later certainly made up for the dearth of sightings last Saturday.
For one thing, the ducks were much closer now and I was able to get pictures of the Tufted Duck, a Green-winged Teal and a gorgeously patterned male Garganey!
We ticked off several more birds like Yellow Bittern, Island Collared Dove, several Pied Bush Chats, more calling birds, three Waterhens, two Turtle Doves and a Grassbird in a bare tree.
As we were driving home I was telling Cynthia what a difference birding was today from the last time I was here. Today was definitely better than before.
A Sinatra song even came to mind:
Birding is birdier, the second time around
Just as wonderful with both Rails on the ground
It's that second time you hear the Doves' song sung
Makes you think perhaps that birding like youth, is wasted on the young
Birding's more comfortable the second time you go
Like a friendly home with your dear wife in tow
Who can say what brought us to this miracle we've found
There are those who bet birding's just time spent
But I'm oh so glad we went
the second time around
Now who says Friday the 13th is bad luck?