Eos softly wiped the darkness from the skies as we traversed the newly constructed highway towards Balagtas, Bulacan. Friends recommended this route because it has relatively less vehicular traffic. Well, that was true but what our friends didn't tell us was the abundance of people! - joggers, runners and even whole families taking a leisurely walk alongside (and dangerously close) to the road.
Nevertheless it was a beautiful dawn and as we approached the turn towards Baliuag, I saw the ends of a double rainbow.
I parked our car at the shoulder (carefully avoiding the throngs of people passing by) so that my wife and I can better enjoy the view. As I got off the car, lo and behold the rainbow was now a complete arch of colors! I can't remember the last time I saw one like this. I grabbed my cellphone and took pictures determined to capture the image of this wonder of nature.
A rainbow is certainly a good omen and Cynthia and I hoped that we will find what we drove some 80 kms for.
The road near the "back door" to the Candaba Wetlands were Bittern territory that morning. Typical of the this family, the bitterns would remain hidden from view and would only flush out when we are just a few feet from them. Thankfully some of them settled in full view at not too much of a distance, thus allowing us to take their photographs.
Near the ricefields a single Common Greenshank did not seem lost nor forsaken.
We entered through the "back door" and immediately saw swarms of Chestnut Munias. The usual Striated Grassbirds were already singing odes to Phoebus.
As we drove towards the Mayor's house we would stop every so often to look for birds. It was during one these stops that I noticed some plain-looking medium-sized birds that were neither turtle doves nor zebra doves cavorting under the leafy canopy of the tree beside our car. I raised my binoculars to my eyes and almost dropped them. White-shouldered Starlings!
"Quick, hand me the camera!" I told my wife who was sitting next to me. First, she handed me her lighter 300mm gear which was sitting on her lap. The starlings remained unperturbed after I had taken several shots so I asked her to get my 500mm which was sitting by itself in the back seat. More photos followed.
We parked near the Mayor's house and proceeded to the spot beyond the goat corral. Almost immediately we saw the bird we came to see. The GISS (General Impression of Size and Shape) - not to mention its coloring and skulking habit - definitely said "Dusky Warbler". Taking a picture of this rare bird was a challenge we were not able to meet. To make things even worse an Arctic Warbler appeared at the same area adding doubts to our earlier sightings.
Our way out was punctuated by sightings of the usual suspects: Ducks (yes, they're still there - mostly Wandering Whistling, Philippine and Tufted), Little Grebes and Zitting Cisticolas.
We had a noontime appointment in Magalang some 30 kms away so we had to cut short our birding activities that morning.
That afternoon as we rode towards the sunset, we saw another rainbow, albeit just a tiny portion of it.
I pointed it to Cynthia and said, "Confirmed?"
"Confirmed: Dusky," she agreed, "a rainbow will not lie to us."