Cheers erupted as our plane smoothly taxied on the runway of Busuanga Airport. This was the same group of passengers that returned to Manila yesterday because thunderstorms over this runway presented some safety concerns from the pilots. Please see my previous blog. But now everything was just perfect. The beautiful morning was full of promises.
As we settled into our home for the next five days, our host, learning that we were bird photographers, suggested we visit Cabo (accent on the second syllable) Beach, where, according to her, there are lots of birds. Inasmuch as she could not even identify the Asian Glossy Starlings that frequent the trees in her yards, we took her suggestion with a grain of salt. OK, with a teaspoon of salt. Since she already contacted a tricycle that would bring us to the place where no birder had gone before, we prepared ourselves mentally.
It was the physical part that we did not anticipate. Cynthia and I have ridden tricycles before. Many times, as a matter of fact. But the road to Cabo was not just unpaved, it was full of ruts and as undulating as a camel's back. Being shaken inside a speeding tricycle on such a road was an unforgettable experience, to say the least. We were like the ingredients of a salad being tossed by an enthusiastic chef.
Despite that churning experience, I was still able to spot a bird. I saw something black fly up from the ground and landed on a low bush. I asked Vergel, our driver, to stop. I got off the tricycle cab, readied my camera and slowly stalked the black thing. It was a Hair-crested Drongo!
As I was returning to the tricycle after my photo session with the Drongo, I noticed another bird in the same vicinity albeit a little farther off. This time it was brownish in color. Binos were brought up.
"I got Cuckoo!" I announced.
"But you always are," my wife said somewhat seriously.
"Ah, but not Plaintive" I replied mournfully.
By now, Vergel, our driver, was drawn into birding as well. It was he who pointed out the Ashy Drongo frolicking in the acacia grove. And the White-vented Shama, singing melodiously from a nearby branch.
Finally, we arrived at Cabo Beach. It was practically empty of tourists except for a family of three. It wasn't long before Cynthia started to hear the twittering of several kinds of birds. Soon we were looking at Blue Paradise Flycatchers, the Palawan race (aurorae) of the Olive-backed Sunbird and Yellow-throated Leafbirds.
While I was photographing a lone Common Sandpiper, my wife was busy recording nature taking its course.
Having seen what Cabo had to offer bird-wise, we moved on to our next destination: Maquinit Hot Springs.
Maquinit Hot Springs is a favorite tourist destination here in Coron. People would dip themselves into the 37 degree waters for therapeutic purposes. But we came for a different reason. Not wanting to pay the P150 per person entrance fee (and not turn ourselves into boiled meat) we decided to try the area across from it. We were asking the locals about our target bird when once again the vigilant Vergel found it for us. Looking at the mangrove tree in front of me while I waded in ankle deep waters, my heart was stirred. So did Cynthia's who was looking at it from a different, albeit dryer, position. It was our first lifer of the trip and one of my sought-after birds - the Stork-billed Kingfisher.
As a bonus we even got a Collared Kingfisher. You know, sort of like having coffee after a sumptuous meal.
Somehow on the trip back home we didn't feel as shaken as before.