2016 - It was quite a good year birding wise - we got 6 lifers here in the Philippines (3 of which made it to the top 10) and got even more as we visited two new countries: Panama and Australia. Our top ten this year included not only some of the lifers we got but also some species that had a story to go with them.
10. Pigeon Guillemot. We saw one several years ago perched on a distant cliff near Santa Cruz, California. Last March we made a trip to Monterey. I was surprised to find this species swimming by the pier. Quite close even.
9. Spotted Wood Kingfisher. Not really a rare bird but what made this one special was when it stayed near the "Frogs" area in the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman. It lingered there for quite some time that our birding friends flew in from HongKong just to get photos of this kingfisher. And they were not disappointed!
8. Red Junglefowl. Our last lifer for the year. I had always been hesitant to claim it a lifer whenever we see this bird. It looks so much alike the domesticated chicken that it is difficult to confirm whether it is indeed a wild junglefowl or not. When we encountered this one, however, we were in a forest in Subic, kilometers away from the nearest human habitation. Not only that, this rooster had that telltale white spot on its cheek.
7. White-browed Shama. When news spread that this usually shy bird had been seen in the open prompted us to visit the town of Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan Province. Thanks to our host, Jonet Carpio, we got great photos of a lifer.
6. Changeable Hawk-Eagle. This was another serendipitous encounter. We were in a van that picked us up from the Busuanga Airport in Coron. Suddenly, Rodel, our driver, stopped the vehicle and pointed at a raptor perched on a tree. We quickly unpacked our gear and slowly approached the magnificent bird. Another lifer for us.
5. Rainbow Lorikeet. This is one of the most common birds in the Sydney area. These birds usually come in flocks and stay in the trees. There was a time though when a few of them came down and fed on the red bottlebrush flowers right next to the cabin we were staying in Lane Cove.
4. Powerful Owl. Thanks to our guide, Andrew, we were able to see and photograph this gigantic bird. Lucky for us, the time we saw it, it had its prey still in its talons - an Australian Possum.
3. Southern Lapwing. On the walls of the Radisson Hotel in Panama where we stayed was a picture of this species. All the photos of the birds on that wall had English names except for this one which they labeled as "Tero". I was skeptic that such a bird can be found in the premises of this hotel. I thought that Lapwings which are related to plovers inhabit places where there is a good amount of water. On our second day, as we walked towards golf practice area, I saw it! It had grown accustomed to this environment that it wasn't even bothered by golf carts passing by.
2. Bat Falcon. Another bird shown on the wall of the hotel. Once again I was skeptic thinking that falcons would prefer the forested areas. On our last day at Radisson as the sun was starting to set and we were getting ready to return back to the hotel after birding near the golf practice area that I saw a raptor fly overhead. I only managed to squeeze in four shots and thankfully one of them turned out to be good enough.
1. Narcissus Flycatcher. This species had been my nemesis bird for quite some time now. Five years ago one had been seen and photographed near the main library of the University of the Philippines. Several attempts at finding that colorful flycatcher all failed. Then in November this year news spread in the birding community that another male had been seen in a small garden near the Redemptorist Church in Baclaran. We went, we saw, we photographed. Nemesis bird no more.