Our mood was stygian as we drove home. It was as if a dark cloud constantly hung over our car as we wended down from Mt. Palay-palay. Very few words were exchanged between us for much of the two-hour travel. Lunch became more of a necessity than a time of relaxation and pleasant enjoyment of food.
The small talk we did were mostly lamentations of our disappointment. The birds were uncharacteristically few. Except early in the morning when we stopped by the bridge somewhere between the road to Caylabne and the newly opened tunnel to Nasugbu. There were bird calls - mostly from the Black-naped Orioles and the Philippine Bulbuls and some other strange trills. A Rough-crested Malkoha peeped briefly from among the hillside trees.
The area immediately before the tunnel again only showed Philippine Bulbuls and a group of Luzon Hornbills way out on the other side of the ravine. We went to the Caylabne Resort gate and on the way only saw Brahminy Kites thermalling above.
It was awfully blustery that morning we reasoned. The winds so strong that the usual Philippine Falconets and Whiskered Treeswifts were nowhere to be found.
At home that afternoon as I was processing the meager results of what we had photographed (less than 1GB for each of us) there were some shots of a bird that we thought was just oh, one of those Balicassiaos. However, looking closely, I noticed that the tail was not forked and the eyes were not red. I quickly consulted the Kennedy guide and the internet, my heart beating furiously. One of the sites I looked at was our friends Tonji and Sylvia's Smugmug page. Bingo! My suspicions were finally confirmed! They even photographed that bird at Mt. Palay-palay! I eagerly announced to Cynthia that our trip wasn't that fruitless after all.
"We got a lifer!" I told my wife, unable to curb my feeling of ecstasy.
"Really? What?" came the muffled reply (she was under the hands of a competent masseuse at that time).
"Blackish Cuckooshrike!" I said triumphantly.
I didn't know if she smiled or giggled or laughed. I was in a state of euphoria.
Sometimes things are not what they appear to be. What we thought was an extremely bad day of birding turned out to be otherwise. Behind every dark cloud lies a Blackish Cuckooshrike.