Perhaps it was because of habit that we woke up at 5 am. Normally at this time on Saturday mornings we are either already on the way to a birding destination or getting ready for one. Today, however, we did not have any plans to go birding at all. The reason for that is we will be attending a discipleship seminar at Ortigas Center at 10. We looked at each other and I subtly broached the subject of a quick sortie at the La Mesa Ecopark, after all it's just 15-20 minutes away sans trafic - to which my wife hastily agreed. We skipped breakfast (another deviation from the norm) and were at the park by 6:30.
Our primary targets were 1) the Indigo-banded Kingfisher and 2) Brown-headed Thrush. Although both species had already been seen and even photographed by us, the recent postings in Facebook by our friends sort of inspired us to make the same pursuit.
One look at the pond and I knew the kingfisher would be a no-show: the area "residents" had just awakened and were doing their morning ablutions and preparing breakfast. So I decided to pick on the thrush by positioning myself near the fruiting MacArthur Palm tree. Only to realize the vanity of it all. How could a self-respecting bird withstand the joggers, bikers and noisy crowds passing underneath the source of its breakfast?
Cynthia decided to roam around and try to look for other avian subjects. After an hour, she returned to where I was silently controlling my seething anger and told me that she got nada. Soon, our friend, Fr. Auckhs, came also with the intent of photographing the Indigo-banded Kingfisher. We apprised him of the situation but he had more confidence and patience than us.
At around 8, human activity waned to a tolerable level. I was still at the trail by the palm tree. I noticed some movement behind. It was the thrush I was hoping for. It was casing the joint, so to speak, trying to determine if it was already safe to pick some fruits. It was then that another boisterous crowd walked by and drove my target bird into hiding once again. Luckily I was able to get some shots, albeit a bit dark, before it was spooked.
At around 8:20, I told my wife that we have to go. We bade goodbye to Fr. Auckhs and informed him that we will go around the trail loop and head home from there. As I turned I saw the Brown-headed Thrush feeding on the palm tree! A short burst and then it flew off again. One shot turned out to be good enough.
We had a quick breakfast at nearby Jollibees and then an hour-long patience-trying, trauma-inducing drive back through a horrific traffic jam. Considering that we still have to go home, wash up and change our clothing, my wife and I did some thrush talking to alleviate our building anxieties (we're both punctual persons and getting late is something that we absolutely hate).
It was a miracle that we got to the seminar just in the nick of time.