Sunday, December 09, 2018

Better U.P.

We went birding at the campus of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) in Diliman last Saturday. It was way better than our last trip there. Our first stop was at the pond and right off the bat a very cooperative White-breasted Waterhen gave our birding day a good start.

Having done its job the waterbird then moved farther away from us. That was when we heard the non-stop hammering call of a Coppersmith Barbet. However, both me and Cynthia failed to locate the source of that sound despite our many attempts and experiencing a literal pain in the neck. Soon a mixed flock came into the fruiting tree. Unfortunately they were all at the uppermost area. My wife was on one side looking up and I was at the other side straining my neck trying to locate and identify the movements way up there. Eventually Cynthia got some photos of a Red-keeled Flowerpecker which I didn't see, while I got a shot at a Philippine Hanging Parrot, which she did not see.

Finally, after the mixed flock had left, the Coppersmith Barbet maybe realized that we have waited long enough and decided to show up, even obliging for some photo ops.

Then, the Black-naped Oriole which was part of the earlier group made a come back and posed long enough for me to get a picture.

As we were leaving the pond, I noticed a white thing on the bare branches across. Upon closer look, I was surprised to see a Little Egret perched there.

We then made a trip around the campus and stopped where the Long-tailed Shrike was always a sure sighting.

We even got a couple of bonuses in the form of a Zebra Dove and a Brown Shrike.

To cap it off, a pair of Philippine Pied Fantails were busy hunting for insects and didn't mind a couple of seniors taking their pictures.

8:30 in the morning and we heard some rumbling. It was our stomachs. They were accustomed to be filled at 6 am and it had been over 2 hours and they were already having that empty feeling. So off to Cafe Sweet Inspirations we went where a buffet breakfast would definitely put an end to that persistent noise within.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Dearth Birder

Two things: We haven't birded as often as we used to. The weather had not been cooperative this year - either too much rain or too hot to get out of the house. And then old age seems to have finally crept on me. I no longer have the energy to go on long drives (almost a necessity when birding in the Philippines). The other thing was that somehow there was a dearth of birds at the places we've been to lately.

Yesterday was a good example of that. The Palos Verdes subdivision in Antipolo is one of our favorite birding places. We've seen some interesting birds during the many times we've been there, such as the uncommon Slaty-legged Crake. We've seen two kinds of cuckoos here, Mangrove Blue Flycatchers, Pygmy Flowerpecker, Philippine Cuckoo Dove, Golden-headed Cisticola, Barred Rail, etc. 

We arrived a little before 7 am and were surprised that the usual Long-tailed Shrikes and White-breasted Woodswallows were not at their usual spots on the electric wires. I eventually found the Shrike - a very skittish one at that. 

On the other hand, Cynthia was trying to get a clear shot of a Pied Triller who was having its breakfast.

Another obvious dearth was that of the Scaly-breasted Munias. Whereas before we've seen flocks of more than 20 individuals feeding on the grass just a few feet away from us, now we only saw about five flying over and only two came down near to us.

Another round and this time we saw some avian activity high in the tree tops. Golden-bellied Gerygones were in their usual hyperactive mode. My wife had the better shots as I was having a hard time focusing on the tiny bouncing objects.

One other species that weren't as plentiful as before was the Spotted Dove. We saw one perched on a branch. I just got a documentary shot.

Next was the challenge of taking pictures of the Grey Wagtail. It just kept moving and most of the time was in the shade.

Then there was this Zebra Dove that was more obliging as it walked nonchalantly not that far from us.

And what would birding be at this time of year without taking photos of the common migrant, the Brown Shrike. We saw one feeding on an unknown kind of insect. We were both in the car and this bird was on Cynthia's side, so she had an awesome opportunity to record the feeding habit of this bully bird.

By 9:30 and not seeing any more new species, we went to the Holy Garden Memorial Park hoping to get both the Paddyfield Pipit and the Pied Bush Chat. We got the the first and not the latter.

But we got a bonus in the form of a Collared Kingfisher.

As the year is coming to an end, we hope that we could get more opportunities to go birding and to see more species. We don't want to be a dearth birder. May the force be with us.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Drongo Ashy

News about an Ashy Drongo seen at the La Mesa Ecopark spread throughout the birding community. This was the migrant subspecies salangensis which differs from the one seen in Palawan by its white face and grayer plumage. Although not a lifer for us - we've seen one in February 2015 near the main library building at U.P. Diliman (see my blog on that) - we still wanted to go find this one, hopefully to get better photos.

So I asked friends, Mon and Ferdie who had already taken pictures of that bird, for directions. They replied with text messages and gave the precise location of the drongo. Armed with this information, we went to the site at 6:30 in the morning. The climb up to the zip line station was exhausting for these two senior citizens. We staked out the acacia trees. Half an hour and the bird was still a no show. We called both our friends to confirm if we were indeed at the right place. Thankfully, Ferdie told us that a friend of us his, Mark, had just seen our target bird. He told us to come down and go to our friend Anthony's shop and Mark would meet us there. As soon as we reached the street we met two friends, Ben and Conrad, who obviously had the same purpose for coming to Ecopark. We proceeded to the Bungee jumping area and there we met Mark. He showed us a photo of the drongo which he took not more than 15 minutes ago. He then took us to where he got that shot and it wasn't long when the uncommon migrant showed up. Although a bit far, it was definitely a drongo I see. Finally our patience paid off when our beloved Ashy Drongo perched on a branch, out in the open, and close enough for us to get some good shots.

A happy group having just photographed the Drongo.

Satisfied that our mission had been accomplished, we bade goodbye to our friends. A short trip to the mini forest yielded absolutely zero birds! With the humidity becoming more and more unbearable and our stomachs grumbling (we haven't had breakfast yet) we indulged in a buffet brunch at Cafe Sweet Inspirations.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Humid My Day

As I mentioned in my earlier blog, summer arrived late in the Philippines. It brought not only extreme heat but also excessive humidity. It was only 7:30 in the morning and my wife and I were already drenched in sweat as we birded the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

Our first stop at the pond near Beta Way was somewhat disappointing. Perhaps due to the high temperatures that the pond was almost dried up. The remaining body of water was covered by plants, mostly water lilies. In such a situation, no self-respecting kingfisher would bother to stay. The only birds we saw was the uber common migrant, the Brown Shrike.

the beautiful Pied Triller.

We also had some good views of a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker.

From there we moved to the area in front of the MSI (Marine Science Institute) building. Cynthia's sharp eyes got her a female Olive-backed Sunbird.

We heard the hammering sound of a Coppersmith Barbet. Again, it was my wife's patience and diligence that enabled her to see the said species.

I was not able to see the barbet because as Cynthia was photographing it, I was focusing my attention on a Black-naped Oriole picking some red berries..

Not seeing any other birds, we  drove around, first along Magsaysay Avenue. We saw the expected White-breasted Woodswallows and got photos of them. 

Then we went to the place where Long-tailed Shrikes were supposed to be sure sightings. Our first endeavour failed so my wife suggested we make one more round to the area. Of course, she was right. This time we got the shrike.

At the Biology building where we hoped to see the Philippine Nightjar yielded nothing but a Philippine Pied Fantail.

Near the faculty building which now had been razed to the ground was another place for a possible nightjar sighting. As we walked towards the place a pair of Zebra Doves flew down right in front of us. 

That turned out to be our last bird for the day. With the heat and humidity becoming more and more unbearable, we agreed to call it quits and head back to the comfort of our air-conditioned condo unit.

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Expected and the Unexpected

Hoping that our luck the day before would continue, I once again brought my camera as we did our early morning walk. For one thing, we were quite sure that the flock of Lowland White-eyes would come at around 6:30 am to the two trees next to the entrance of our condominium building. We noticed on several occasions that they had been pretty consistent with their foraging schedule. And we were right, at the expected time, about 20 individuals came. However, getting a picture was quite a challenge since they were constantly moving in search for the tiny insects under the leaves. I was lucky enough to get a few good ones.

After the white-eyes left, we continued our walk and had an unexpected encounter with a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker. As a matter of fact, this species is seldom seen here. And on those rare times, it was quite far or high up in the trees. This time it was different. The woodpecker was quite close and was obviously unmindful of us.

Other than that, it was just the usual suspects around the neighborhood. And as always, towards the end of our walk, the Philippine Pied Fantail is a must.

Two Doves Have I

I decided to bring along my camera during our daily morning walk around the premises of our condominium. Good thing I did. The usually shy - and often heard only - Spotted Dove finally showed itself to us. Out in the open even.

Then as if to say, "What about me?" it's smaller cousin, the Zebra Dove, flew down and alighted just a few feet from us. I, of course, obliged and took pictures of the friendly bird as well.

Earlier, at the lawn, the migrant Brown Shrike came down from its usual high perch and posed for us almost at eye level.

Finally we had the obligatory shot of the Philippine Pied Fantails at their usual spot above the wall.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We Came, We Saw, We're Happy

We went to the Avilon Zoo for a single purpose: to photograph two endemic kingfishers. (Note: Although this was a zoo, both species seen here were uncaged, free-flying, wild birds.)

While Mhark, the local guide, were looking for the Spotted Wood Kingfisher to show Dev, our guest from Shanghai, Peter and I just decided to stay at the restaurant area by the pond. After a while Peter pointed to the spot at the far end of the pond. "There it is!" he said. He was referring to the Indigo-banded Kingfisher, the other target bird we came here for. It didn't take long before it flew closer to us. 

After we had our fill, Mhark came and told us that they found "Spotty". In return we told him that "Super Boy" was there by the pond. So we went to where the Spotted Wood Kingfisher was and took a lot of shots at it. 

Meanwhile, Mhark took Dev to the pond area so he could get photos of the Indigo-banded Kingfisher. About noon and we all got our target birds and were happy that we did. Next on the agenda was lunch.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Beginning and the End

It was a nice beginning and a beautiful ending. The sad part was what happened in between. Or to put it another way, nothing happened in between.

My wife and I were inside our car which was parked near the stream where the Cream-bellied Fruit dove had been lately. We were also waiting for our friend, Peter, and his guests from Shanghai. By the road we saw our first bird..the Grey Wagtail.

It wasn't long when it was joined, or shall I say, bullied by a Blue Rock Thrush! 

We thought that such unexpected sighting would augur well for the rest of our birding day. It didn't. It wasn't long when our friends arrived. So we staked out the area by the brook and waited for the hoped-for lifer. Nada. Even the Philippine Bulbuls and Philippine Fairy Bluebirds decided to stay at places beyond our photographic distance.

And that continued for the whole morning. We would hear the bird calls. And that was about it. Heard only. The usual mixed flock were surprisingly missing.

After lunch, we all agreed to call it a day. Peter and company said they would go ahead since Cynthia and I would be doing some car washing before heading home. After that we drove slowly still hoping that we would encounter some birds. Then we saw Peter's car parked by the Sidlakan area. We parked behind it and looked for them. We saw Peter shooting at something. "Flaming Sunbirds" he informed us. That was the beautiful ending to an otherwise heart-breaking briding sortie.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Answered Prayer

We always look for birds everytime we do our walk around our condominium grounds. Yesterday afternoon while watching a pair of sunbirds feast on the orange flowers we noticed a bird near the parking lot which looked different from the usual birds we see here. It was even unperturbed as I came a bit closer. "Ferruginous Flycatcher!" I exclaimed. I couldn't believe that this beautiful migrant would choose a parking lot to hunt for food. I grabbed my cellphone and took its photo to document such rarity.

That night before going to bed Cynthia and I prayed that the flycatcher would still be there. The next morning as soon as we woke up we both uttered the same prayer. After breakfast, I brought along my camera and did our regular morning walk. 

The first species that caught our attention was a female Olive-backed Sunbird feeding on the same orange flower but at a different location, albeit much lower and at eye level.

Then a bonus! We heard some Zebra Doves calling. While we were trying to locate the source of that call, I saw a bird which very seldom comes out in the open. A Spotted Dove was walking on top of the wall!

Thrilled at this unexpected sighting, we then proceeded to the place where we saw the flycatcher the day before hoping it would still be there. My hopes were diminished because we saw a driver standing idly just a few feet away from where the bird was yesterday. We walked past him, peered behind the parked cars and voila! our prayers were answered! It was perched on a wire and obliged me with some close shots. After a while it flew to the tree behind as if to say "you want a better background?" It flew off after I got its picture. As we  turned our attention to munias on the tree across. Our friendly flycatcher flew to the group of low trees next to the building. Satisfied that it had given us the answer to our prayers, it flew off once again to parts unknown.

This time the male Olive-backed Sunbird returned to its usual feeding ground so to speak.

The Philippine Pied Fantails were as you would expect them to be.

As we were nearing the retail area, a Eurasian Tree Sparrow flew between us as if saying, "you got photos of all the birds here except us!" and then perched on top of the gate just a few feet away. I, of course, consoled the poor bird and took an obligatory shot.

We made a second trip to the flycatcher site. Along the way, we got photos of the Yellow-vented Bulbul and the Zebra Dove.

Unfortunately our dear Ferruginous Flycatcher was no longer at its hangout.