Famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley once wrote, "Hail to thee blithe spirit.." Those words could very well be an appropriate summary to describe our recent birding trip.
Calatagan is a small seaside town in the province of Batangas. We were hoping that we would see some waders and migrant shorebirds here. Little did we know that access to the shorelines was next to impossible. For one thing, land adjoining the sea were all privately owned! Then the only road (actually a trail) leading to the lighthouse was so narrow, muddy and overgrown with weeds that we dared not drive our SUV through for fear of getting stuck in the mire.
The resort where we were staying had coastal access but there was no "shore" so to speak. There was a low wall that separates the sea from land. However, the seawaters here were being used for seaweed farming. At low tide, the mudflats that emerge were about a kilometer away. To make a long story short, there were no shorebirds here at all.
Thankfully, adjacent to the resort is a grassy open space where the local cattle are allowed to graze. It was here that we saw Richards' Pipits, Yellow Wagtails, Cattle Egrets, and Striated Grassbirds. And Oriental Skylarks! At first Cynthia and I were unsure of their identity as we debated whether they could be Singing Bushlarks or even (gasp!) the uberrare Red-throated Pipits. But they were indeed Oriental Skylarks, a small flock that represented our only lifer of the trip.
On the way back we made it a point to stop next to the various paddyfields along the road hoping to see some migrants. The usual suspects of Little Ringed Plovers and Wood Sandpipers and an occasional Yellow Wagtail were the only birds we encountered there.
It could have been an uneventful birding trip for us. An utter disappointment. A frustrating outing. Thanks to the small, brown blithe spirits that forage nonchalantly on the grassy field, those Oriental Skylarks made our excursion to Calatagan worth it. Hail to thee blithe spirit!
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