It was hot and humid at the La Mesa Ecopark.
Ha Luong, our Vietnamese guest, wanted to see the Ashy Ground Thrush so she can add it to her life list. Earlier, as we were heading towards the mini-forest, we met Bram, a Belgian bird tour guide who resides here in the Philippines. Bram had just seen the Thrush and he obligingly joined us so he can show the place where he last saw the bird.
All four us were crouched, peering through the dark undergrowth as we showered in our own sweat. It was Cynthia (of course!) who first saw it. She pointed to where it was standing among the shadows. Bram saw it. Ha saw it. I didn't. For the life of me, despite using the binoculars that Ha lent me, I still could not see the Ashy Ground Thrush! And then just like that, it was gone!
We lingered around trying to re-locate the incredibly camouflaged ground dweller. I guess it was more for my sake that my wife and friends wanted to find it again. We spread out for better coverage. It was while I was fighting off those huge, black mosquitoes that I saw it! I fired off a few desperate shots. I emitted a soft whistle to call the attention of Bram and Ha. Luckily, the Ground Thrush remained on the spot until both of them got very good looks of our target species.
"We still have time to look for the Philippine Nightjar in U.P. (University of the Philippines)" I informed everybody, all the while praying that traffic would not be so bad. The Nightjar was also in Ha's wanted list.
On our way out, we passed by the spillway where Ha got another lifer - the Barred Rail.
It was no sweat finding the Philippine Nightjar at its usual roost. I could only say "no sweat" figuratively because we were all sweat, literally.
We tried waiting for the Philippine Scops Owl to come out of its nest but with all the commotion coming from the students getting ready to go home on a Friday night, it never showed up.
Earlier while we were still at Ecopark an issue had to be settled. The initial plan was for Ha to stay with Ruth for the night. Inasmuch as Cynthia and I are taking our Vietnamese guest to Candaba early the following day, we suggested that Ha stay with us instead. That would be the most convenient and logical way to go especially since Ruth was worried about some personal stuff that she couldn't find. After Ruth spoke with Ha advising her of our decision, Ha looked at me and Cynthia with uneasy eyes. Understandable because this was the first time we met face-to-face (we are Facebook friends) so to her we were a strange couple. I mean a couple of strangers. I can imagine what's going on in her mind. She probably was thinking, "Ok, they look like the older version of Brad and Angelina but what if they are modern-day Bonnie and Clydes? Or even worse, they could be Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in real-life."
To her credit she agreed to stay with us for the night.
Let's just say that on the day she earned her Thrush we also earned her trust.