Okay, so here I was rather content on my photographs of the very uncommon Naked-faced Spiderhunter - you know those that show the entire underparts of this hyperactive bird - when to my surprise there appeared in facebook a whole plethora of fantabulous shots taken by my fellow bird photographers the day after we were at La Mesa Ecopark. What a difference one day made!
I was envious! I was jealous! All those sins of vanity darkened my brooding heart. I went to bed that Saturday night with heaviness of spirit. A text message in the middle of the night got me jumping out of bed. It was my birding buddy, Neon. He said he will be going back to the Ecopark Sunday morning. Apparently he, too, was hit hard by those nicely-posed pictures of the spiderhunter and he, just like me, wanted to have the same. He will even pick me up from my home, he volunteered.
Now I am not a religious freak but I do know my spiritual priorities. So I politely declined Neon's proposal and went back to bed feeling at peace with my decision. Sunday morning I told my wife, Cynthia, about what transpired the night before. She suggested that we can go to the evening service instead of the 8:30 am one that we normally attend so that we can be with Neon to look for the spiderhunters. But I was firm. I texted Neon advising him that we will just meet up with him at the park at around 11 am and to please wait for us.
A little before 11 am we were at Commonwealth Avenue. Cynthia called Neon to confirm if he was still there and to ask for directions in getting to the park. We arrived about 10 minutes later. I was about to register and sign the waiver (required if taking photographs in the park) when the lady at the counter waved us off saying our friends already signed the waiver on our behalf. Next came the queue at the booth where the entrance fees were paid. Inasmuch as senior citizens residing in Quezon City are admitted free we bypassed the booth and just nodded at the guard at the entrance, who nodded back amiably.
Finally reaching the orchidarium, that quaint enchanted place where the naked-faced spiderhunter poses for photographers, we bumped into fellow birdnut DocMando who said that our quarry had been there about 10 minutes ago and now it's gone again.
Undaunted by this somewhat depressing news we joined the rest of the group: Neon and his wife Aphine, Bong, Bert, Mark, and Doc Chito. Although they already had some good views of the spiderhunters (there were two of them) earlier the gang was still hoping for more (and better) photo opportunities. For more than an hour we waited, sometimes under a soft drizzle, regaling each other with our avian encounters. At one point when I was feeling the onset of despair, I turned to my wife who was chatting with Aphine and gestured to her to pray. I uttered a silent one myself. At half past twelve, we were all getting antsy. Bert and Mark said they couldn't wait any longer and packed up their gears. We that remained behind looked at each other and came to an agreement that we will all leave at quarter to one regardless. Five minutes after Bert and Mark left, the sun peeped through the gray clouds. I told my buddies that the stage was now being set for the spiderhunters to come down to the orchidarium. It was then that we saw Doc Mando who was at the other side of the fence, point to the heliconia bush in front of us. Lo and behold the Naked-faced Spiderhunter was there and for the next five minutes or so gave us the looks that we all have been waiting for. By 12:45 the enigmatic feathered creature was gone, leaving five bird photographers breathless and exhilarated.
With that we turned our focus on our next endeavour...having lunch. As Cynthia and I were driving home, I was thinking, was it Divine providence that the spiderhunter showed up just as we were getting ready to leave? Was it Divine providence that the sun shone albeit briefly just at that precise moment? Did I mention that it rained rather heavily right after we left? I am not a religious person but I know that prayers do get answered.
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