"Stop!" Cynthia yelled.
Peter stepped on the brakes.
"Back! Back! Back!"
Peter slowly backed the car.
"Stop!" Cynthia once again commanded. "There!"
Peter and I looked. I tried to follow the direction of my wife's arm sticking out of the rear passenger window.
"There! Hurry!" she said urgently, fearing that the bird might fly away.
After so much squinting and head tilting I finally saw it.
"Do you see it?" I asked Peter. He nodded and slowly opened his door. With camera in hand he sneaked over to our side and started firing away. I was already shooting with my 500mm lens resting on the car window - not even bothering to get off the car.
That, basically, had been our modus operandi that Saturday morning. We were on the road towards Caylabne Resort in Ternate, Cavite - arguably the best roadside, dude birding site. (Note to the uninitiated: "dude birding" is bird watching or bird photography done with the least amount of effort - usually while riding a vehicle.)
As I was saying, it was pretty much dude birding on that gloomy, sometimes drizzly morning. Thanks to my wife's spotting abilities, we were able to see quite a number of birds. The routine was: Peter would drive at minimal speed while I and Cynthia kept our eyes open for possible bird sightings. In this regard, my wife had a distinct advantage over me. She has acute hearing capabilities. Moi, on the other hand, had lost that sense on the higher pitched sounds (which most bird calls are, unfortunately). This is a big handicap for me when it comes to looking for birds. At times however I use that to my advantage as an excuse to tune people out. Particularly on the boring ones and those that have "I" problems.
Where was I? Ah yes, spotting those feathered creatures while dude birding. I am truly amazed by my wife's ability to locate birds from a moving vehicle. I was sitting on the front passenger seat thus giving me a more panoramic view ahead and on the right side. Cynthia was behind me and despite her limited view she was always the first to see a bird perched on a branch filled with leaves about 50 meters away! Consider the following instances:
Here is an uncropped shot of the area where she saw the Philippine Cuckoo Dove:
Here's the cropped and final photo:
To his credit Peter Ting also acquired the same capabilities. We were inching along the road, both he and my wife listening for bird song.
"Do you hear that?" he asked Cynthia.
"Yes, it sounds like the beeping of a car going in reverse."
Peter stopped the car and looked at the slope on his side of the road. He turned to us with an incredulous look on his face.
"It's white" he whispered.
I peered through his window and felt my jaw drop to the floor.
"A white-morph Philippine Coucal!" I said excitedly.
Cameras were leveled at the insouciant bird who seemed more focused on drying its feathers than get bothered by some bird photographers.
Again, my wife's spotting abilities came through when she pointed at the trees farther up the slope.
"There's a bird there" she stated with unwavering confidence. "Hurry, look!"
I looked through my long lens and once more my jaw hit the ground. It was a lifer - the lovely Pompadour Green Pigeon.
Viewed through the lens (imagine seeing it with the naked eye)
Later on as we continued our drive towards the Caylabne Resort, deja vu. We were rounding a curve when Cynthia asked Peter to stop, back up a little and there! This time it was a White-eared Brown Dove. Isn't it uncanny that all the birds we saw via this method were of the family Columbidae?
Initial full view
We had to move back a bit more to get this
Of course, there were birds that would just be impossible to miss (although I almost missed this Luzon Hornbill had it not been for Cynthia's and Peter's "hurry, look!" gestures at me).
And, finally, thanks to the Caylabne Resort's staff who spotted the Philippine Ducks for us.