Thursday, January 24, 2013

Do Ordeal

I gasped audibly when I saw the trail that we had to traverse to get to our destination. Not a gasp of thrill but that of fear. Our group (Irene, Brian Ellis, Paula, Charlie, Cynthia and I) would be descending into a ravine through a very narrow and slippery path. 

"Was it worth risking our bodies and camera equipment just to see the very uncommon Greenfaced Parrotfinches?" was the thought that I mulled upon as I gazed at the chasm ahead of us.

Well, considering that we woke up at 2:30 in the morning, had  breakfast on the go and travelled for almost  three hours it behooved that we indeed had to go through this physical ordeal.

Stinson, our guide, glided ahead followed by Irene. Next was 75-year old Brian (God bless his fortitude) who slipped not once but twice. Thankfully he was not hurt nor his Nikon with 50-500 zoom lens damaged. Cynthia and I followed inching slowly down and praying every single step of the way. Paula and Charlie brought up the rear.

on the way down (Photo courtesy of Irene Dy)
Upon reaching the bottom, we were alarmed to see Stinson now going up the other side! Sure the climb up would be shorter but we were now panting like dogs. Taking a deep breath we followed our guide. Soon there was a clearing and now we could hear the trilling of different birds as we finally rested our complaining bodies.

Birds, there were! A lot! But they were all so backlit that taking photos of them was an exercise in futility. Elegant Tits, Coppersmith Barbets, Philippine Bulbuls, various Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers, even a Black-naped Monarch competed in a songfest. A silent Grey-streaked Flycatcher joined the early morning crowd. But where are the Parrotfinches?

Stinson said they usually arrive at nine. I thought, "then why in Heaven's name did we have to come so early?" I kept that thought to myself, of course.

We were passing the time in various ways: sitting (Brian and Stinson), sleeping (Paula and Charlie) tinkering with equipment (Irene) staring blankly in the distance (me) and roaming around (Cynthia). Then, all of a sudden:

"They're coming! I can hear them!" my wife cried out loud as she rushed to where the rest of us were. 

Sure enough a flock of…..four Greenfaced Parrotfinches visited the bamboo grove across the ravine. Tiny green dots with tiny red dots behind. Another three individuals joined them flying from the grove closer to us (and we didn't even notice them until they flew). A few minutes later and they were gone. We photographers looked at each other with the unasked but obvious question in our eyes. Answered by the shaking of so many heads.

After about an hour's wait, Stinson was jumping up and down as he pointed two, count 'em, two! Parrotfinches perched on a nearby bamboo stalk. Irene, Charlie and Paula saw them, the older half of the group didn't. Paula was even able to take a quick shot at them.

Inasmuch as Paula and Charlie had some commitments later in the day, they left ahead of us. Another hour passed with no more sightings of the colorful birds. The worries that I have been trying to dispel now had to be acknowledged. We now have to climb the steep ravine on our way back. As before, it was Stinson and Irene leading the way followed by Brian, who slipped once again, but thankfully was not hurt. Cynthia and I came last stopping every so often to catch our breaths.

the way up (Photo courtesy of Irene Dy)
After what seemed like forever we finally overcame our ordeal. We thanked our patient and friendly guide then  drove off into the place of the golden arches. McDonalds never tasted this good.

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