Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Lipa Faith

The brother of my wife's friend owns a resort in Lipa, Batangas but it was not yet open to the public. Inasmuch as he and his wife were in town (they reside in California) we thought it would be a good idea to visit them in their "farm". Cynthia had been there before, about six years ago, and she remembers the extensive forest cover that still exists in the resort grounds. She wasn't into birding then and she wasn't sure if there would be a lot of birds there.

Armed with a lot of faith and hope, we arrived at the resort owned by Andy and Agnes Puno. They welcomed us warmly and offered us fresh buko juice and sweet banana. When we informed them that we would be looking for birds, they told us that we are free to roam the 6 hectares of woodland at our own pace and convenience.

The first hour was quite discouraging. The resonant calls of the Coucals filled the morning air, but the birds were nowhere to be seen. Our hearts jumped when we saw a flutter of wings in a nearby tree. Our hearts then sank as quickly when I discovered that those fluttery wings belonged to a couple of Yellow-vented Bulbuls. I thought to myself, "We drove a hundred kilometers for this!". Now Yellow Vented Bulbuls are second only to the Eurasian Tree Sparrows in terms of ubiquitousness. They inhabit even the densest urban areas as long as there are a few trees nearby.

As we approached the house of our host, Cynthia heard the unmistakable call of a kingfisher. Looking up at the branches of the tall acacia tree, we finally saw the White Collared Kingfisher. Again, this is a bird that we almost always see at the University of the Philippines campus near our home. So far, not very encouraging at all, birding-wise.

After resting a bit, we resumed our tour of the wooded areas of the resort. I contented myself at just taking pictures of the numerous butterfly species that flitted around. Suddenly Cynthia grabbed my arm and pointed at the coconut tree in front of us. Olive-backed Sunbirds were in search of food and creating a ruckus.

Things are starting to look good. Up the trail, we stalked a female Common Emerald Dove as it preened in the dark undergrowth.

Then Cynthia heard the quaint tap-tapping of a woodpecker. Sure enough a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker decided to drop by not far from where we found the dove.

On the return route, we came upon a fruiting Macopa tree. The macopa fruit is bell-like in shape (hence the name) and is bright pink in color. Apparently it was also a favorite among fruit-eating birds. Well, at least, with the two species we saw feeding on them. One is the (ho-hum) Yellow-vented Bulbuls and the other is....the Red-keeled Flowerpecker! I can now honestly say that it was well worth the one-hundred-kilometer drive for this! With this tiny dynamo, we just got a lifer.

Happy that our faith and hope had been answered, we returned to the veranda overlooking the forested ravine. I was scanning the tops of the coconut trees with my binoculars when I saw something red move among the stems. With bated breath I fixed my attention on that particular tree. A few minutes passed and then it came into full view - the exotic male Purple-throated Sunbird! I told Cynthia to keep an eye on it while I fetch my big lens (all this time I had been using the 100-400mm zoom). At more than 20 meters away, even my 500mm could not do justice in capturing the gaudy colors of the male sunbird. Eventually the lovely bird flew off and it was then that we realized that it was almost noon.

As we were packing and getting ready to leave, we were glad that even though we did not see a lot of birds, we were still rewarded with a lifer. We even resolved to return and maybe stay overnight at the guest house so we can bird really early in the morning. Now that is something to look forward to.

1 comment:

Chris Petrak said...

Wonderful collection of beautiful and exotic birds. Exciting!