Monday, March 29, 2010

Dusk unto Dusk

The light was fading fast. It had been a gloomy day to begin with. Looking up at the branches of a tall acacia tree, Cynthia and I were searching for the source of the twittering sound emanating from somewhere up there.

We were at the campus grounds of the University of the Philippines in Quezon City. It had been 10 days since we arrived in the Philippines and we've never gone out birding yet. Trying to settle down and getting started again in our native country wasn't as easy as we thought it would be. But my birding itch had to be satisfied. We had finally bought a Nissan X-Trail from a birder-photographer friend that morning and I begged my wife to come with me to UP despite the fact that it was already late in the afternoon. I needed her because she's the one who knows the directions on how to get there. It's been a long while since I drove in the streets of MetroManila and a lot of changes had occurred since then.

There we were listening when suddenly we saw a brownish bird alight and began tapping on the branch. A Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker! A lifer for both us. I managed to get off a few shots of the bird silhouetted against the darkening skies. The photographs turned out to be of "documentary" quality only. As we continued to scour the tree branches for hopefully other species, a young man approached us. He turned out to be Bert Madrigal, another birder-photographer and a co-member of the Philippine Bird Photographers (PBP) group. When asked if he had seen the Scops Owl that was photographed in this area recently, he said that it had not been observed in the last 3 days. As dusk fell, we bade him goodbye and we went home happy that we have gotten a lifer.

Early the following morning, we were at Loyola Grand Villas at the invitation of JV Noriega, another member of the PBP. This time our target bird was the Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo that had been frequenting this area lately. We were soon joined by Ralf Nabong, another PBP member (and the guy who sold me his SUV). Two hours of vigilance but the bird was a no-show. A sumptuous breakfast at JV's home concluded our morning's sortie and erased the disappointment of not seeing the bird we came to look for.

Light was fading fast. It had been another gloomy day to begin with. This time we are in the company of Tonji and Sylvia Ramos and Tina Mallari (all of whom are also members of the PBP) as we staked out an open field in the Ayala Alabang Country Club. Camera gears all set-up we waited for the sun to set. Our target bird this time was the Savannah Nightjar. Three of them actually. 7 pm and the birds started flying in. The unmistakable white stripes in their underwings confirmed that Cynthia and I have seen another lifer. At 7 pm the area was just too dark for my camera to capture the nightjars. We dared not use flashes so as not to spook these intriguing creatures. After about 30 minutes, the nightjars flew off towards the trees. We gathered our gears and thanked our gracious hosts not only for showing us the Savannah Nightjars but also for their generous hospitality.

It was a long drive back home and although a part of me was a bit frustrated for not being able to photograph the birds, the birder in me was quite happy to add another lifer to my list.

For other birding blogs and photographs please visit:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hawaiian Endemics

We lucked out on the endemic forest birds of Oahu. However, we were a bit more successful in seeing the endemic Hawaiian waterbirds. Of these, only two are endemic species, the Hawaiian Coot (Fulica alai) which as far as we're concerned looks no different from the Coots we see everywhere in California.

And the other is the Hawaiian Duck (Anas wyvilliana) which is not that much different from the Mallard.

The are two endemic subspecies - again with no visible marks that would distinguish them from their mainland counterparts.

The Hawaiian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis)

and the Hawaiian Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni)

But the most intriguing of them all was the Hawaiian Crane (Cranus machinus) which we almost missed. Good thing its name was displayed prominently. :D

Please click on the photos to see a bigger size. Mahalo!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Fairy Terns Can Come True... can happen to you, if you're in Kapiolani Park.....

Cynthia and I went on a six day vacation to Oahu. Sort of to acclimatize ourselves to some tropical weather before we settle in for good in the Philippines.

One of the birds I wanted to see there was the Fairy Tern or as it is now known..the White Tern (Gygis alba). We were quite surprised to see one right on the very first day as we strolled through Kapiolani Park right next to Waikiki Beach. This species has such an ethereal beauty that I think Fairy Tern would be the more appropriate name. My wife, on the other hand, confessed that it reminder her more of Jack-in-the-Box (the iconic symbol of a fast food joint here in America). Maybe it was the white rounded head and thin pointy bill that gave Cynthia that notion.

We both agreed, however, that it is quite unique among the terns that we usually see at the mainland. It's flight had a certain degree of playfulness and elegance to it. And those eyes that seemed to be covered by long lashes were just so enchanting to behold.

The afternoon before we left, we once again passed through Kapiolani Park and were mystified anew by the pure whiteness of two Fairy Terns contrasted against the dark branches of a tree. It seemed that the pair were in courtship displaying such endearing affection to one another as if bringing to life some romantic fairy tale.

Frank Sinatra was certainly right when he sang that "fairy tales can come true when you're young at heart. "

We felt young at heart that evening as we watched a fairy tale unfold before us.

For other (as enchanting) bird blogs and photographs, please visit: