Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mockingthrash - part three of the Anger Games Trilogy

We were back in the game. Emboldened by the urging of our friend, Ketring, who saw lots of them just a couple of days ago, I, Kainis Poreber, and my lifetime partner, Osintiang Lupa, were back at the Table Lands. Determined to hunt down the Thrash with the Highbrow, we went to the place of the fallen trees but it was very quiet. We decided to scour the area below for some possible Peeta sightings. Along the way we met three of our friends, Eyering, Broom, and Catch. They were also looking for the Peeta with a Hoodie. They have their own mission and we have ours so we parted ways.

It wasn't long when we caught a glimpse of a pair of Green Stone Dubs. The male was very flighty so it was only the female that I was able to shoot.

The Assy Thrash was also near the entrance to the trail.

When the time that Ketring saw the Thrashes with the Highbrow two days ago came, we returned to the place of the fallen trees. However a pair of brightly clad humans were sitting on the log and unintentionally blocked the narrow trail. It was then that the mixed flock of Fried Pan Tails, Gerry Wents, and White-eyed Lowland dwellers came. The Thrashes with the Highbrows that was supposed to join them were missing though.

When the mixed flock had gone, we went to the fruiting palm trees hoping that the Thrashes would feast there as had been their habit before. A long time passed and no Highbrow came.

With heavy hearts Osintiang Lupa and I, Kainis Poreber, left the Table Lands. As we walked out we could almost hear the mocking laughter of the Thrash with the Highbrow who managed to avoid being seen by us in the four different times that we tried and yet showed themselves to those who were not even looking for them.

That mocking laughter will haunt us forever. And the anger remains.

To those who haven't read them yet:
Part One - Anger Games
Part Two - Catching Ire

The characters and creatures portrayed in this story are all fictional. Any similarities with an actual person or animal, alive or dead, are purely coincidental.

Or not.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


American baseball's Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, "It's like deja vu all over again." It certainly felt that way yesterday. 

My wife and I joined our friend, Peter, and his bird photographer guests from Hong Kong at Mt. Palay-palay in Cavite. Exactly one week ago, we three (Peter, Cynthia and I) were showing British birder, Tony Jackson the local avifauna here.

It was intriguingly a throwback birding trip because the birds we saw and the sequence with which saw them today were almost the same as last week. The theme of the TV series "The Twilight Zone" would have been an appropriate background music. 

We stopped by the entrance of the Puerto Azul Resort to unload our gear. Just like last Saturday, our guests were given fleeting looks of the very active Asian Glossy Starlings.

Continuing on our trip, I was driving ahead with two of Peter's four friends riding with me and my wife. It wasn't long before I saw some movement in a tree. I slowly parked my car by the roadside and Peter followed behind.

"Hornbill! Hornbill!" I shouted to my passengers as soon as I figured what was causing those movements in the tree to our right. The male hornbill popped its head out of the clump of leaves and peered at the gawking photographers below. It then flew across the road followed by its mate. We were all too stunned to realize that there were actually two of them that none of us were able to take a picture of the female. Deja vu indeed as this was also the very first bird we photographed last week.

Seven days ago we were thrilled to see a Coppersmith Barbet perch for quite a long time on a bare branch. Today while looking for the Philippine Bulbuls that kept calling from the dark side of the bushes, good ol' Barbet once again stopped by at the exact spot announcing its presence by its loud, hammering call.

Unfortunately, the Flowerpeckers were conspicuously absent this time. We also kept hearing the Sooty Woodpecker but it decided to stay out of sight.

Whereas last week we saw five Philippine Falconets, this time there were only a pair of them. And, boy, were they a pair! Doing the act of propagating their kind right in front of our cameras. Lest the photos might go viral on the social media, I will just  post their "smoking the cigarettes" pose, metaphorically speaking.

After lunch at Puerto Azul, we stopped by the roadside as we did before with Tony, hoping to photograph the Coletos. However, only the Asian Glossy Starlings were cooperative enough to pause from their frequent fly-bys to give us good looks.

It was also here that the soaring Brahminy Kites gave the Hong Kong crew many opportunities to get a BIF (birds in flight) shot.

By three in the afternoon, Cynthia and I bade our new friends, Wilson and Peggy Dring, Allwatin Choi and Tung Tse, and old friend, Peter, goodbye. They were all smiles and thrilled at the birds that they saw and photographed. For us, although we did not see any new bird, we did have fun in the company of fellow bird enthusiasts.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cheap Thrills

When it comes to controversies in the birding world I normally do not get involved. However, the ongoing brouhaha regarding the charging of exorbitant fees in order to see the Philippine Eagle in Davao hit close to home. 

My wife and I will be in Davao next month primarily to attend her niece's wedding. Inasmuch as we will be there and there had been some awesome sightings of the national bird of the Philippines, I thought "Why not take some time off and visit the place?" Sounds very plausible, doesn't it? When I made inquiries as to the details, I was shocked to learn that there are some "fees" to be paid. Please note the plural. There is the "Barangay" fee which is 200 pesos per person paid to the local district. Then there is the 2000 pesos "Photography" fee for locals and 5000 pesos for foreigners. One look at me and I would definitely be classified as a "foreigner". I even have a foreign name. The fact that I was born and raised in the Philippines and speak Tagalog better than most Filipinos would just come to naught. Now add to these the 300 pesos "Porter" fees for the locals who will carry your gear for the 30-minute walk to the viewing site. If you stay the whole day you naturally will have to pay for lunch, something I'm not even sure would satisfy my gastronomical needs, picky about food that I am.

What was upsetting was that a group suggested these fees to the locals allegedly to help protect the eagles. It would have been nice though if they first consulted other birders, bird photographers and tour group leaders who would be definitely affected, before making this unilateral decision.

I was in this surly mood when I got an invitation from our friend, Irene, to go see the Philippine Eagle…Owl. 

It was still dark when the three of us arrived at the place. As soon as the skies cleared with the breaking of dawn, we saw our quarry. For two hours we enjoyed the beauty of the largest owl found in the Philippines. Should there be a national nocturnal bird, this species would be the hands down choice.

At eight in the morning, the place officially opened for business. We diligently paid the 20 pesos per person entrance fee. Prior to that we offered to pay the fees to the Security Guards. They politely refused to accept the money and told us to wait for the manager so he can issue us the official receipts. 

For just 20 pesos we saw a rare, beautiful, majestic raptor. The personnel were even helpful in pointing to us the owls (there were two of them) and provided information about the other birds in the area at no extra charge. 

Not only that I even saw a pair of Elegant Tits. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tony's Thrill

It turned out  that Tony Jackson, a birder from the UK, was easy to please. We offered a menu of possibilities to him and he was very eager to try them all.

Together with our friend, Peter, my wife and I brought Tony to Mt. Palay-palay to experience the local delights. As Peter and I prepared our cameras, a teaser came in the form of quick looks at Asian Glossy Starlings perking Tony's appetite for more. A few hundred meters uphill appeared an awesome aperitif as we all had good views of the Luzon Hornbill!

We stayed in that area for a while because my companions were all hearing a lot of bird song. Finally one of the sources of those songs became as curious at us as we were of them and showed up by the roadside. 

"Philippine Bulbul!" I yelled. Tony was the only one who got excited at seeing this quite common songster.

We moved on. In one of our stops Tony pointed at some movement in the trees by the ravine. A troop of monkeys was negotiating the tree trunk and one of them stared at us.

Up the road my companions again heard some  trilling from the trees. We stopped and all four of us scanned the trees on both sides of the road trying to locate the source of those sounds. A lull. Then we heard the giveaway "pok! pok! pok!" of the Coppersmith Barbet. Perched near the top of a bare tree was the colorful bird calling incessantly.

Eventually it flew off. Now the early morning was filled with tiny twitterings. Small, plain-colored birds danced on the bare branches. They may be plain-looking but Tony was thrilled at seeing the Pygmy Flowerpeckers though his binoculars.

A few minutes later I saw the main entree as it were. 

"Philippine Falconets!" I told Peter in the calmest tone I could muster. He parked his car by the roadside. We took out our gear and I gave Tony all the information about these tiny raptors from my *ahem* encyclopedic mind. Actually, even I was surprised to find five - yes, five! - of these Falconets in one tree. We jokingly referred to them as Jackson's Five.

I only got two of the Jackson's Five
There were other birds that we encountered along the way. The Brahminy Kites were a sure find here at Palay-palay. We even had a surprise encounter with a Philippine Serpent Eagle as it soared quite low overhead. Flowerpeckers were a-plenty. Aside from the Pygmys, we also saw Orange-bellieds and Red-keeleds.

After lunch at Puerto Azul, as we were leaving, we saw some Coletos and another encounter with the early morning teasers - the Asian Glossy Starlings.

We thought that was it for Tony who was very happy with all the birds he saw. However, as we were passing through the town of Maragondon, a Paddyfield Pipit by the road's edge was added to his list. To top it all, dessert was served in the form of Barn Swallows and Eastern Cattle Egrets.

As we said goodbye to our British friend, we can tell from his look that Tony had his fill and he had a real thrill.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

It's a Good Day to go Birding

We went to Antipolo City basically because Cynthia had some business with our friends, the Webbs, who reside there. Their small subdivision had a lot of trees and greenery which naturally attract a number of birds. We've birded this place many times before and they were always delightful experiences.

Although this time my wife and I were still reeling from our disappointment at missing the Eyebrowed Thrush at La Mesa Ecopark so our expectations on this particular day were purposely set to low. But Palos Verdes lived up to its reputation. Even though most of the birds we saw were the usual suspects, some of the usually more skittish ones somehow were friendlier here. 

Like the Golden-bellied Gerygone

.. the Pied Triller

and even the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker

What was even more exciting was when we saw some uncommon birds. This was the first time we've seen both these species here. Cynthia who was always quick on the draw was able to photograph this immature Blue Rock Thrush.

I, on the other hand, was more willing to go through vines and tangles to get a good angle on the Philippine Serpent Eagle. 

As we were driving home on that bright sunny morning, it was my wife who summarized our adventure at Antipolo, "We had a good birding day, didn't we?"

I couldn't agree more.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Catching Ire - part two of the Anger Games Trilogy

In our previous episode, the three of us - I, Kainis Poreber, my life partner, Osintiang Lupa, and our friend, Bong Tarat-Tarat were angered by the apparent indifference of people who sauntered loudly by as we were stalking our prey- the Assy Thrash.

One-and-a-half years later, our trio were back to the same place for basically the same reason - to look for Thrashes. Bong for the one with the Scales and me and my partner for the one with the Highbrow. This time we were joined by three more hunters: Teban Would, Chin Chirin Chin and Bids 'n' Pisses. All wanting to get the Thrashes.

Many hours passed and not a single Thrash showed up - not the Assy, not the one with Scales nor the Highbrowed one. With one exception. Bids, the newest in the group wandered around the forest while the rest of us waited near the fruiting palm tree. As Bids was roaming he stopped for a while to answer the call of nature. That's when he saw the now flighty Mang Groblu catcher of flies. As he was shooting it, he heard a call. Following the sound he noticed a brown bird fly to a nearby tree. Later on when he asked me what it was I was incredulous! It was the Thrash with the Highbrow! Bids saw it without even looking for it while Osintiang Lupa and I, Kainis Poreber, had been searching for it the whole week!

That got my ire. Not at Bids but at our misfortune. Nevermind that we all got good looks at the friendly Guy Abero, it was my frustration along with that of my partner that caught us seething in disgust.

Which was further aggravated when throngs of loud, noisy people went traipsing the trails where we were waiting for the Thrashes and therefore cutting short our stake out.

Catching the ire caused by such inconsiderate acts we all walked out the forest with anger in our hearts.

The characters and creatures portrayed in this story are all fictional. Any similarities with an actual person or animal, alive or dead, are purely coincidental.

Or not.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

"The Scream" Birding

The story goes that when Edvard Munch, the famous Norwegian painter, was walking with two friends, and as the sun was setting the sky suddenly turned blood red. He paused, and feeling exhausted, leaned on the fence. His two friends walked on and he just stood there trembling with anxiety and sensed a scream passing through nature. That inspired him to create an art masterpiece which he titled Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature).

My wife and I were back at the La Mesa Ecopark yesterday (Friday, January 31). This was our third visit in a week. Again our primary purpose was to look for a lifer - the Eyebrowed Thrush. We staked out the possible places where we hoped the thrush would appear. We were soon joined by fellow birders, Bong Nabong, Steve Albano and Chin Fernandez. Another fellow birder and new acquaintance, BJ Capacite, also joined us. Three hours passed and no thrush showed up - not even the resident Ashy. BJ, who had been going around the area, showed me a photo of a bird that he, being a newbie, wanted me to identify. 

"Mangrove Blue Flycatcher," I said congratulating him on his find.

"There's another bird that I saw right after this," he said showing me the photograph. My eyes fell out of their sockets.

"Eyebrowed Thrush!" I shrieked. "Where'd you find it?"

"Not far from where we are now," he replied and quickly led the way.

"There was where I saw the flycatcher, then I heard a bird call and there (pointing to a fruiting tree) was where the thrush was!"

All six of us stood there with our cameras pointed at the tree that BJ referred to. Half an hour dragged by. Not even a sound came from the trees. An hour passed. The mini-forest was now filled by loud voices of school children having a field trip. We all agreed to call it a day.

As Cynthia and I slowly trudged along the trail on the way out it seemed that the sky just turned blood red. Our companions walked ahead. I stopped by the fence feeling exhausted, trembling with frustration and sensed a scream passing through nature.

I felt what Edvard Munch experienced 121 years ago.