Day 5 - Where the birds are...
..the birdnuts will be there. Cynthia and I together with some fellow members of the Philippine Wild Bird Photographers group, otherwise known as "birdnuts" had an agreement yesterday that we will be up early today, Sept. 25th. The reason? To do what birdnuts love to do, go birding! Our destination: the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) with the hope of seeing and getting photos of the Silvery Kingfisher.
It was just a little after 6 am when we got there and thanks to a prior arrangement with PEC Executive Director Dennis Salvador, we were allowed inside the premises at such an early time. All seven of us (Tina and husband, Wency; Tonji and Sylvia, Cynthia and I, and Neon) stood by the pond and waited for our target bird to show itself. Other than a few Pacific Swallows, the kingfisher never appeared.
So we fanned out into the other parts of the center, leaving my wife behind who decided to sit it out by the pond to wait for the kingfisher and because she was having some slight back pains. I joined Tonji and Sylvia who were postioned beneath a fruiting tree. There species after species came to feed. First were the Coletos which were then followed by the Philippine Bulbuls and even some White-bellied Munias. It was then that Neon joined us and immediately announced that there was a Yellow-wattled Bulbul in that tree also. I looked hard, and indeed there it was albeit partly covered by the branches. I still counted it as a lifer, nonetheless. When bird activity in that tree abated somewhat we moved on to where Tina and Wency were admiring the beauty and majesty of the Philippine Eagle.
Then a White-throated Kingfisher flew into a clump of bamboo which of course attracted our attention. Thanks to Neon for giving me excellent tips on photographing birds in the shade and even taking me to a good vantage point, I got some pretty good shots. Shots which I would normally have botched given the lighting circumstances.
Cynthia, meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, had been quite lucky by just sitting near the pond. She was able to get a picture of a Philippine Serpent Eagle that flew by and of a Yellow Wagtail that stopped by above her as if to say hello. When she said that she thought she saw a kingfisher-like bird stop by the pond, Neon and I rushed to the site. Like a phantom the Silvery Kingfisher remained unseen. On the way back, we were consoled by seeing a Little Spiderhunter which was another lifer for me. Later I would find it again feeding on top of a red flower.
Philippine Serpent Eagle
Neon went on to join Tina (Wency decided to sit this one out also), and I was about to join Tonji and Sylvia when I saw them shooting away at something. Following their line of vision and right in front of me, some 30 feet away was a White-eared Brown Dove nonchalantly eating some berries at almost eye level. I just picked up my eighth (and final) lifer of the trip!
After the dove had its fill and flew off, we also joined Tina who was very excited about some bird that was frolicking among the red flowers. It was a sunbird she said, but it had red coloring on both sides, something she hadn't seen before. As the tiny bird popped out from the flowers, a burst of shutter clicks filled the air. Later when we were able to look at our photos more closely, we all came to the conclusion that it was an immature Purple-throated Sunbird still in molting stage.
Pretty soon it was lunch time. Despite having quite a productive birding day, we were still disappointed that we did not see the hoped-for Silvery Kingfisher. (Tina and Wency finally saw it the following day when they returned with the bird fair group).
We stopped by Dencio's Hilltop restaurant for lunch. While waiting for our food to be served, we had fun trying to take pictures of the White-breasted Wood Swallows nearby.
Back at the hotel, the bird fair was coming to a close. Booths were being disassembled and the people manning them were heaving sighs of relief for it had been quite humid on both days and visitors which included hundreds of school children had been quite plentiful.
That evening we attended the turnover ceremonies where yet another buffet dinner was served. The delegation from Taipei, where the 2nd Asian Bird Fair will be held next year, hosted the event.
Day 6 - Time to say goodbye
I stood at our veranda the morning of Sunday, Sept. 26th. I can see that some of the participants in the bird fair were already getting ready to board the bus that would take them to the Philippine Eagle Center and then to Eden Nature Park for some birding activities. Then I saw James Biron, a Wild Bird Club of the Philippines member, aiming his long-lensed camera at the palm tree close to the room where Cynthia and I are staying. My curiousity was satisfied when I saw a Collared Kingfisher fly and then land not that far from where I was standing (which was on the second floor). I quickly grabbed my camera and took advantage of this welcome opportunity.
After breakfast and since we still have time to kill before Chito would pick us up, my wife and I agreed to try to get some photos of the Chestnut Munia that we keep seeing on the fair grounds. Sure enough there they were, unperturbed by the previous day's activities, they have resumed their nesting duties.
A short trip to the breakwater yielded (what has now become) the usual suspects: Common Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler and Whimbrel. This time they were joined by a pair of Zebra Doves. It was a delight to watch them as sometimes all four species would be on the same line of sight, as if they themselves were discussing the success of the events that transpired two days ago.
Around 11 am Chito came and drove us to Davao International Airport. Then came the goodbyes. And the promise to return. The Silvery kingfisher better be there when we do.
We had a good time on this trip to Davao. Cynthia was re-united with her brothers, the Asian Bird Fair was a tremendous success and the birding was great. I smiled as I thought about the 8 lifers that I racked-up and the 8 lbs I gained from all those buffets.
At the end of those six memory-filled days in Davao, all I can say is WOW!