We could see the dark clouds ominously gathering in the skies as we climbed the road to Mt. Palay-palay in Cavite. I was driving very slowly, both Cynthia and I scanning the trees alongside hoping to see some birds. We saw a lone Whiskered Treeswift earlier but it was too backlit for a good photograph. However a female Tarictic gave us some good views.
As we approached one of the many curves in the road, I saw a black bird foraging on the ground. Barred Rail I thought to myself. I eased our car to a stop and opened our windows. A blast of hot and humid air grabbed our faces. My wife's eyeglasses started to fog up. I brought the binoculars to my eyes and they almost popped out of the lenses. I urged Cynthia to start photographing this dark-colored bird while I with the least movement possible retrieved my gear from the trunk. Cynthia was a bit surprised at my actions thinking that this bird was just one those we have seen many times before. "Darling, this is a lifer for us!" I told her. "Plain Bush-hen!"
But the story didn't end there. Although it was one of those serendipitous encounters with a lifer, the strange events surrounding such encounter made us more than just a bit mystified. It's just that every time we saw this particular Bush-hen - and we spotted it at basically the same spot three times that morning - rain inevitably followed.
A few minutes after we saw our lifer, rain fell. Not just your ordinary pluvial downpour, this was hard, driving, torrential rain. It was as if we were driving under an endless waterfall. It was so strong that we had to pull over since visibility was almost zero despite the frantic to and from motion of our windshield wipers. About an hour later the rain stopped and the sun shone. Bright, warm sunshine greeted us as we arrived at the entrance of the Caylabne Resort. As I was stretching my body after driving for almost three hours, Cynthia yelled, "White! White! and pointed at something behind my back. I turned around and caught a glimpse of white on a tree at what seemed to be a kilometer away. I moved a few steps forward plunked my gear and peeped through my camera lens. A white-morphed Philippine Coucal! I took a couple of quick shots hoping to get at least a documentary shot before I attempt to get closer. Of course, it flew off the moment I took one single step forward.
We got back into the car and turned around, hoping to see more birds while it was still bright and sunny. Once again we saw the Plain Bush-hen not too far from where we first saw it. Just like before, it was completely oblivious of our presence. Then it rained. Another deluge. Another hour of sitting inside the car. When the skies cleared we returned to the Caylabne gate holding in our hearts a fervent hope that we will see the White Coucal again. Its non-appearance dashed our hopes into smithereens. While I was desperately seeking the enigmatic coucal, Cynthia was busy photographing something. "Elegant Tit!" she answered my unspoken question. I hurried and got my camera gear. As soon as I got to where she was, the tiny bird flew away.
Back on the road again. As soon as we passed by the Bush-hen territory it was deja vu as torrential rain fell from the skies. Forty-five minutes later the rain became a slight drizzle. Surprisingly that was when we saw the Philippine Falconets trying to dry themselves from the slowly emerging sun.
Further down the road we saw one flew over a coucal's nest (Please see my previous blog).
The trip home was punctuated by guess what? - interspersion of rain and sunshine. Even without a Plain Bush-hen in plain sight.
The Belted Piping Plover – Vol II # 5
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