Thursday, December 28, 2017

Subic Birding - Day 3 - Best

Although we did not see a lot of birds on our third day, those we saw were very friendly. They would even come close that some of our shots were full frame!

First off were the Balicassiaos

Then a Guaiabero were as curious about us as we of it.

The highlight was when a Rough-crested Malkoha, normally a skulker, not only popped-put in the open, it was so close to us and even gave us several poses.

Not to be outdone was a Philippine Bulbul who even chose a flower (fruit?) to perch on.

When we went to the area near the bay, this Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker was so focused on finding its food sometimes just a few feet away from us.

Finally, a White-throated Kingfisher just sat on the wire as we took pictures of it from our car window. Which we found rather strange because the past couple of days, they would fly off as we try to approach it in our vehicle.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Subic Birding - Day 2 - Better

Although the weather was still inconsistent, we had better results in our second day of birding in Subic.

When we first saw this bird, I was surprised! I know that it was a White-bellied Woodpecker. However, it had a yellow-crest instead of the usual red. A few days later I consulted our friend, Desmond Allen, an ornithologist, and he said that it was most likely a genetic variation.

Another surprise was when we saw a Common Sandpiper standing next to a flower garden.

That afternoon we chanced upon a mixed flock of mostly dark-colored birds. It was Cynthia who got the better shots this time.

Bar-bellied Cuckoo Shrike
As we were about to leave, a very cooperative Philippine Bulbul posed for me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Subic Birding - Day 1 - Good

It had become some sort of tradition that we spend the year end here at Subic. This year was no exception. Unfortunately at the start of our first day, the weather was inclement. We saw birds, some even close, but the dark skies and occasional drizzle prevented us from taking good photos. The resulting images were either too dark or backlit that not even photoshop can fix them.

One interesting observation we had was when a male Luzon Hornbill confronted a Green Imperial Pigeon. I didn't think it was a hostile encounter, more like curiosity on the part of the hornbill. The pigeon was quite unperturbed anyway.

There was also another bird we saw that I believe was a Blackish Cuckoo-Shrike. As I said earlier, photos were not that good to give 100% confidence in its identification.

Weather was a bit better in the afternoon. This time we got a good enough shot of a Rough-crested Malkoha peeping through the leaves.

The star birds of the day were the Blue-throated Bee-eaters.

Our first day may not have have started well, but in the end something good still happened.

Monday, December 04, 2017

I Want to be Frank

When we arrived at the birding spot along the road to Infanta we saw them. Friends Irene and Wenxing, together with Mark and Frank were standing close to the edge and staring at something. I immediately parked the car. Cynthia and I quickly joined this group. Mark heard a "Hmmm!" He followed the sound and we all followed him. Then Frank pointed at something. "Flame-breasted Fruit Dove," he said so casually about the bird that we have missed seeing the past nine times we've been to this place. I looked at where he was pointing and for the life of me could not see the bird. Frank then gave a very detailed description of where the dove was perched. 

"See that think horizontal branch behind the long leaves? Just below it is the bird perched on a smaller branch."

Cynthia and I both followed the directions he gave and, voila! one lifer that frustrated us for the past 2 months or so, was finally captured by my camera. Wenxing who knew about the painful experiences given to us by this colorful species, congratulated us and jokingly said now we can go home. And this thanks to Frank. 

I want to be Frank because I want his spotting abilities.

In another incident, while their group was waiting for the appearance of another hoped-for bird, Cynthia and I wandered several meters away. It was then that I saw movement in a tree some distance away. It had the habit of a flycatcher darting from its perch and then coming back. I took some "documentary" shots and hoped that it was what I suspected it to be. When I had the chance, I consulted Frank and showed him the image I just took. "Blue-and-White Flycatcher," he confirmed my suspicion. Another lifer was added to our list.

I want to be Frank because I want his identification skills.

Finally, the bird that they were hoping to see appeared. Frank signaled to us to come closer. Waiting Patiently, Whispering Politely, Witnessing Pleasantly a Wow! Performance. We were rewarded with good photos of our third and final lifer for the day. 

I want to be frank.

But I can't.

Epilogue: We want to thank Irene, Frank, Wenxing and Mark for helping us add three more lifers to our list in a short span of two hours! We really appreciate it, dear friends.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

One Fine Day

Ever since we moved to our new place we have not been able to visit our favorite breakfast buffet place as often as we would have wanted. Cafe Sweet Inspirations now being twice as far as when we were at former abode was the main reason for that.

Friday night I was mulling on where to go birding on Saturday. Shall we go back to Infanta and hope that our recent luck would continue? I checked the weather forecast and it said that there would be rain on that part of the country. 

Then there were the recent postings of photos of the pair of Narcissus Flycatchers taken in U.P. Diliman. A male of this species was also seen there way back in 2011. Not seeing it after several attempts moved me into creating a sarcastic video.

October 31 of 2016 we saw the female at Bangkong Kahoy. The day after that, a male Narcissus Flycatcher was reported seen at a tiny patch of woods near the Redemptorist church in Baclaran. That was one successful twitch we had. The curse had finally been broken.

So as I pondered that Friday night, since our beloved restaurant was not that far from U.P., then the conclusion was quite obvious. I turned to my wife and with all seriousness I could muster, I told her: Let's have breakfast at Cafe Sweet Inspirations tomorrow, then go look for the Narcissus afterwards. She smiled and hugged me in response.

Needless to say it was a most satisfying breakfast we had that Saturday morning. With stomachs full, we then proceeded to "Frogs" area in U.P. The first bird we saw was a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo.

After that we met University professor, and fellow birder, Carmela Espanola, who was so kind to show us where our target birds had been observed.

While Cynthia was stalking some birds down the trail, I stayed where the bamboo grove was. Somehow I felt as if someone was whispering to me, telling me to turn around. So I did. At a distance I saw a bird with an orange breast. Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, I thought to myself. I raised my camera to my eyes and as soon as I focused on the bird, I realized it was what we were looking for. "Narcissus!" I yelled to my wife. The moment she came next to me, the colorful flycatcher moved a bit closer to us.

Soon it flew away. My wife continued looking for other birds and I still remained hoping the male Narcissus would return. It didn't. But then the female showed up.

After that, we both agreed to now look for other birds in the campus. Not that far from the flycatcher area, we encountered a Red-keeled Flowerpecker picking on the fruits of the aratiles tree.

Driving around the Rotunda, I noticed a patch of grass and told Cynthia, "How come there are no Pipits here." I have barely finished the sentence when I saw two, yes two! Paddyfield Pipits. 

Then, of course, there was the obligatory shot of the friendly Long-tailed Shrike. This was taken from our car window and was almost full frame from my wife's comparatively shorter lens.

We then drove to where a Ferruginous Flycatcher was seen around this time of the year back in 2010. Seeing it again was a shot in the moon, a hope against hope kind of thing. Of course it wasn't there. On the way out Cynthia suggested, "Why don't you take a photo of the Woodswallow? You know, just to complete our day." So I did.

Starting the day with a sumptuous breakfast, getting our target birds, and then going home with the sun shining brightly and without the dreaded traffic. It was indeed one fine day.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Getting Caught in the Rain

Drizzle. Rain. Fog. Sunshine. Repeat.

That was the fickle kind of weather that welcomed us at Infanta last Saturday morning. Birding in that situation was challenging to put it mildly. It was during those gaps between showers that some feathered creatures showed up. Occasionally we would be rewarded by the passing of mixed flocks. These were usually led by Yellowish White-eyes which preferred the tree tops.

A bit lower where tiny berry-like fruits were plentiful frolicked the Flowerpeckers - both Bicolored and Buzzing.

As the sun peeped from the clouds, a Scale-feathered Malkoha peeped from the undergrowth. 

After another sequence of precipitation, mist, and clearing of the skies, we encountered another wave. While I was frantically trying to photograph the hyperactive Elegant Tit, my wife yelled "Olive-backed!" I quickly rushed to where she was because I knew she meant the Flowerpecker and not the Sunbird. This Flowerpecker had masterfully eluded us the seven times we've been to Infanta. So frustrated were we about this species (and knowing that its favorite berry was not yet fruiting at this time) we sort of put the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove and Whiskered Pitta ahead of it as our target birds for the day. So it was a God-given surprise that the one we were not expecting was the one we finally got to add to our life list!

Noontime and we called it a day. But first, we had to do the obligatory shot of the Grey Wagtail which was practically begging to be photographed.

It was one of those unforgettable experiences where getting caught in the rain was actually enjoyable. 

Like enjoying a Pina Colada? 

Actually just like enjoying Calamares and Sinigang na Baboy at the Gathering Restaurant for our celebratory lunch.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Getting Mud

The last time we went to Candaba was in January of 2016. I can't believe it had been that long! For one thing, that place was no longer as promising as it used to be. Most of the marshland where migrants spend the winter had been replaced by ricefields.

A little more than a week ago a couple of friends posted some birds photos taken from Candaba in Facebook. Photos of migrant waders and Philippine Ducks! So we went Saturday morning. But as luck (or the lack of it) would have it, it was gloomy on that particular day. Not only that because it had been raining the past few days, access to the marshy area became impossible. So we just birded along the asphalted road towards the town of Candaba itself.

Unfortunately, because of the recent rain, the water in the area near the road had become too deep for the migrant waders. Thus the Sandpipers, Stints, Plovers, and Snipes were gone. Only a couple of Grey Herons flew by, not even landing anywhere close. 

The Black-winged Stilts were plentiful but they were at quite a distance where presumably the waters were shallower. A few Intermediate Egrets strayed a bit closer.

What was interesting was a territorial dispute between a Whiskered Tern and a Little Egret. Sort of "King of the Pole" game.

Whiskered Tern: Hey, I got here first!

Little Egret: Yeah, right.

Little Egret: Nana, nana, nana!

Also interesting was the lack of Rails. No Barred nor Buff-banded ever showed up. The White-browed Crake and White-breasted Waterhen were present but both were extremely skittish.

Oh, and no Kingfishers as well. Other than that, the Passerines were at their usual haunts.

Chestnut Munia
Paddyfield Pipit

Pied Bush Chat - male

Pied Bush Chat - female

Striated Grassbird
At about 9:30 we decided to call it a day. As we were boarding our car, we noticed mud! On our shoes and stuck on the tires and the underparts of our vehicle. Surprising because, as I mentioned earlier, we were mostly at the asphalted road. Only in some occasions that I had to park on a grassy roadside. It was so bad that we had to stop by a Shell station in Baliuag to have our car washed. And it took about two hours to bring back the spick and span to our car, thanks to the perseverance and diligence of the person who did the washing.

As we were driving along EDSA, guess what happened? It rained.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sweet Inspirations

It's been a while since we visited this place. 

Since I've been feeling somewhat lethargic lately plus the thought of going through horrendous traffic induced me to go someplace nearer than our usual forays. So off to U.P. Diliman we went. 

This was perhaps one of the least productive birding we had. We only managed to photograph five species, two of which were not even worth posting. So here are the results of 2 hours roaming around the campus:

Brown Shrike
Philippine Pied Fantail

White-breasted Waterhen
But allow me to let you in some secret. The trip to U.P. was basically just an excuse. Our real purpose was to indulge in a breakfast buffet at one of our favorite restaurants located not that far from U.P. Cafe Sweet Inspirations offered more choices for us than the Diliman campus did birdwise.


It's been a while since we visited this place.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Yes, No, and Not Yet

The dark gloomy skies of my recent heartbreaking experiences (see my previous blogs) continued to darken whatever enthusiasm I have for bird photography. The most recent one was our failure to see the migrant Chestnut-cheeked Starlings at the premises of the Avilon Zoo. Those birds were seen and photographed the before we came. The day after our visit, friends were once again able to capture the images of those starlings. I was in that kind of funk when I got a PM Thursday night from Mhark Gee, the guide at Avilon. He said that the starlings were now in a different area, are more plentiful, and can easily be seen as they feed on the fruits of the ficus tree. I took a deep breath, murmured a silent prayer and then consulted my wife. Cynthia agreed to go the next day. I quickly replied to Mhark telling him that we will try our luck again.

Friday morning we were at Avilon even before they opened. A little before 8 am, Mhark came and took us to the "site". He pointed at the ficus tree and assured me that our target birds will soon be there. After a few minutes, a female appeared, at some distance, and behind some leaves. Again, Mhark gave us the assurance that they will come closer and more in the open. After about an hour that seemed like an eternity, the female once again appeared, and as our friend said, was out in the open.

Then came a few boisterous Crested Mynas that caused the shy starlings to lie low for a while.

After the Mynas left, the emboldened Chestnut-cheeked birds continued their feeding on the red fruits. This time we were able to capture the image of the more colorful male.

Elated that we had finally overcame the pall of gloom over my bird photography, we consented to Mhark's suggestion that we look for the other "stars" of this place: the Spotted Wood Kingfisher and the Indigo Banded Kingfisher. We did see "Spotty" but it was partly covered and in a dark area and Indigo was a no-show. Although we missed both, it was not a disappointment for us since we already had good photos of the two species of kingfishers.

Around 11 am, we said goodbye to our friend and thanked him profusely for helping us - me, more so - to get over my miseries.

Spurred by the apparent turn of events, Cynthia and I agreed to re-visit the Infanta road the next day. It was drizzling when we left the house early Saturday morning. It even poured hard as we were having breakfast at Pico de Pino in Tanay. Eventually, the skies cleared up a bit when we reached our destination. There were moments when mist covered the hillside where the birds usually frolic. However, despite the help of friends Tonji and Sylvia, our target species - the Olive-backed Flowerpecker once again failed to appear. It was deja vu as none of our hoped for lifer still remained unticked in our list. It wasn't a complete disaster because thanks to another friend, Anthony, we saw a Changeable Hawk-Eagle high up on the hillside. This was the first sighting of this species in this area, as far as we know. 

As we endured the horrendous traffic going home, I remembered one of the preachings I heard at Victory Ortigas. The Pastor said that God answers our prayers in three different ways: Yes, No, and Not Yet. To me that explained the experiences I had the past couple of months. My heart is now at peace.