Monday, August 16, 2010

Rain, rain go away, little birders want to go to Palay-palay

First of all, I apologize for not posting to my blogsite as often as I would like to. When I was living in California, my blog got updated at least once a week. Now that I am here in the Philippines I realized that birding is not going to be a weekly activity. An important factor here is travel time. In America, I can be at a birding spot some 80 km (50 miles) away in about an hour. Which means I can leave Pasadena at around 6 am and be at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine around 7 am. That same distance would require about 2-1/2 hours travel time in the Philippines. Being a tropical country (which means an almost equal number of hours of day and night) birds get active quite early - usually before 6 am. Therefore, a birder must leave home before 4 am (and getting up from bed a bit earlier than that). Since it had been a while since I resided here, there had been a lot of changes in the street and highway infrastructure. In other words, it would be very difficult for me to visit the birding places on my own, even with the help of my wife, who had only been away for 5 years. In the United States, a GPS is a great help in taking me to places I have not been to before. Not so in the Philippines. From what I have heard (and seen, actually), a local GPS is not that accurate in navigating the roads and providing directions. So I rely on signs - some of which were not that accurate as well. Thankfully the local folks were always eager to help in giving directions.

Another factor in my not being able to bird as often as I could was the weather. We were now in the middle of the rainy season, and boy, when it does, it really pours. It would rain heavily for a couple of hours, then it would stop completely and the sun would shine through. But that condition is hard when out in the field. You just don't know when it would rain.

That said, Cynthia and I had an opportunity last Saturday to go birding. Two of our birding friends, Toto Gamboa and Dennis Alfaro, were going to Mt. Palay-palay, and we decided to meet up with them there. This will be the first time I will go there on my own. Armed with the directions given by another friend, Bert Madrigal (who drove us there the last time), my wife and I bravely set-off at 4 in the morning.

A little before 7 am, we parked near the entrance to the Puerto Azul resort. Toto and Dennis were already there stalking the Glossy Starlings noisily congregating on the treetop above us. Not seeing much, we decided to move on, leaving the two guys still photographing the starling flock.

Further up the road we noticed a Whiskered Treeswift family. I spotted an immature male perched on a branch above the road. The mom would fly in every now and then and give food to the young one which was already as big as the adult. Occasionally, the adult female would alight on a dead branch not far from the road and at an eye level even. This, of course, was the perfect photo-op, which I also experienced the last time I was here with my other birding buddies. Soon Toto and Dennis arrived in their car and after a little wait, they too, were afforded great views of the female Treeswift.

Once again, Cynthia and I moved on, leaving Toto and Dennis behind. This time we tried the new road going to Nasugbu. Here we got our only lifer of the day: A Pygmy Flowerpecker. As its name implies, this is a tiny bird (about 3 inches) but very active. Both male and female foraged in a fruiting tree, continuously making their "tip" "tip" call. Despite our diligent efforts, we only managed to get a few really bad photos of these little dynamos.

We met up with Toto and Dennis again at the gate of the Caylabne resort. Here a Philippine Coucal tried our patience by answering Toto's imitation of its call but frustratingly remaining hidden from view all throughout. Both guys were determined to get a glimpse of this bird and even hoped to see the White-morph version (which we saw here last time), so we bade them goodbye as we began our trip home. On the road down, Cynthia was able to take some shots of a pair Brahminy Kites soaring above us.

Back home, we were glad that we got a lifer and I was personally happy that I was able to make it to Palay-palay on my own. I am now wondering when and where our next birding foray will be. I guess that depends on when it will stop raining.

For other (less rainy?) birding blogs and photographs, please visit:


BirdingMaine said...

Some very interesting and beautiful birds Bob. Excellent posts and photos!

Birding is Fun! said...

awesome birds! My grandparents loved the Philippines. My grandpa was there in WWII and then again in the 1980's with grandma doing missionary service.

Larry said...

It sounds like an intriguing trip Bob. It's always an adventure traveling in a foreign country isn't it? Even with a native guide.

The Treeswifts are truly gorgeous! I would take the trip just to see them!