Cynthia, myself and friends Ralf Nabong and Peter Ting were at Bangkong Kahoy at the foothills of Mt. Banahaw. We three guys stationed ourselves at the deck of Ramon Quisumbing's house waiting for the Plain Bush-hens to appear. Resort owner, Dion Pullan, placed some bananas at the walkway hoping to lure the elusive birds into the open. As we waited, Cynthia ventured into the nearby lawn following the bird sounds that she kept hearing.
Minutes passed. Ralf looked at the bananas through his binoculars and was surprised to see a huge rat feasting on it! No wonder the bush-hens chose not to show up. While we were shaking our heads at missing a possible lifer, Cynthia came and showed us a photo of a bird she had just photographed. It was in the trees near the lawn, she said, along with other birds. It was a Citrine Canary-Flycatcher.
We all darted to the lawn and sure enough, birds were all over! The wave had began. Aside from the Citrine Canary-Flycatchers were Blue-headed Fantails, Mountain and Yellowish White-eyes and Elegant Tits. Although I have seen and photographed these birds before, I was so glad that both Ralf and Peter were having a blast at taking the pictures of their lifers.
The wave came at least three times in a span of about three hours. During one of the lulls, I was wondering aloud why the Sulphur-billed Nuthatches seem to be absent from the flock. While I was about to descend to the lawn (coming from the main deck) I noticed something moving along the mossy trunk of a tall tree. At first I thought it was just another Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker which were surprisingly quite plentiful that morning. Looking through my lens, my heart skipped a beat as I realized that it was a Nuthatch! Two of them even. I yelled at my friends who flew from the deck to my side in an instant. And the photographic frenzy once again ensued.
Ten o'clock and lull time. We evaluated our situation. Having already turned down Ramon's invitation to explore the higher elevations due to time constraints, we all agreed to pack-up and head for Villa Escudero where Ralf's family is waiting for him.
We entered Villa Escudero via the Hacienda route which passes through some lush grassland and coconut groves. A preening Paddyfield Pipit greeted us at the rotonda. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and White-breasted Woodswallows were perched on the electric wires offering good photo ops.
As we proceeded to the lunch area, we met our gracious host Mela Balcazar, who regaled us with tales of awesome birding in Zamboanga City.
The lunch area which was next to a cascading wall of water was packed! Weekend vacationers were enjoying the sumptuous lunch while having their feet immersed in cool, running river water. We of course joined in and gorged ourselves with the delicious native fare.
After lunch, Ralf, Peter and myself staked out the Indigo-banded Kingfisher. The presence of tons of people prevented it from returning to its usual haunt. An insouciant Grey Wagtail however stayed close by and itself feasted on its own buffet of insects.
Even when the dining area eventually emptied out, the resident kingfisher remained distant. One glimpse of its silhouette was all that we got in almost three hours of waiting. As a consolation, two Philippine Coucals chased each other among the trees by the river.
At three in the afternoon we decided to call it a day. It was a good birding day for us, especially Peter who is quite new into bird photography. Practically every species that we saw were lifers for him. In my case, although I missed two out of three of my target lifers at Bangkong Kahoy (Plain Bush-hen and Island Flycatcher) I managed to get the third one (Green-backed Whistler). That made me whistle in delight.