Monday, January 31, 2011

U.P. and About Again

The recent incident in our home certainly put a damper to my birding enthusiasm. All my bird photographs since 2005 gone..just like that. So I thought a hiatus from birding (and reporting them in my blogs) would be appropriate until I have gotten over the shock resulting from that unfortunate event.

My friends, however, kept egging me to get back in the groove, so to speak. And then I got this email saying that my blog has been chosen as one of the top 30 bird-blog sites. Now how can I go on a hiatus with such support and encouragement?

Saturday morning my wife was pleasantly surprised when I told her that we will be going to the University of the Philippines (U.P.) campus in Diliman to do some... you know..birding. She hugged me like I was Lazarus coming back from death.

The first area we visited was the parking lot of the Marine Science Institute (MSI) Building hoping to find the visiting Blue Rock Thrush.  Which unfortunately was not there. Maybe the band of workers noisily paving the parking lot scared the poor bird. Now behind the MSI building was a different story. We followed the calls of the Black-naped Orioles but failed to see them too. However, the Shrikes, both Brown and Long-tailed, were bold enough to let us come reasonably close.
Brown Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
At the grass patch in the middle of a small circular road, a couple of Striated Grassbirds were looking for insects. 

Cynthia then pointed to a black-and-white bird soaring above. I couldn't believe my eyes when I realized that it was a White-breasted Wood Swallow! I thought these birds only preferred high elevations. But when two (count 'em, two) of them perched on a bare tree I was flabbergasted!

Our next stop was the "frogs" area where we saw absolutely nothing! Thankfully the Philippine Nightjar was where it usually roosted during the day near the Zoology building.

The grounds around the Tabujara school, the Vargas Museum and Human Kinetics all yielded zero birds, except for Golden-bellied Gerygones and Pied Fantails cavorting in the treetops, way too high to be photographed.

It wasn't a very birdy outing for us but at least I had a few good photographs to jumpstart my collection again. Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes of its death, I am starting to feel strength returning to my wings. Perhaps it won't be long when I'll be soaring above the storms of the past.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Short Recap of 2010

January, we started the year so fine
Williamson’s Sapsucker pecking on a pine

February, we took whatever it will take
to find the Tropical Kingbird at nearby Legg Lake

March, our trip to Oahu was full of bliss
When a Fairy Tern granted our wish

April, we moved to the Philippines, my wife and I
Where we saw new birds like the Lowland White-eye

May, at Coron, Palawan in the southwest
We got 20 lifers, birding was at its best

June, to see the Indigo-banded Kingfisher, where to go?
Where else but to the lovely, friendly Villa Escudero

July, to Palay-Palay an early morning foray
Gave us Whiskered Treeswift to brighten our day

August, in Lipa City through patience, hope and faith
A Red-keeled Flowerpecker showed up after a long wait

September, at Davao City for the 1st Asian Bird Fair
Good food, great friends, plenty of birds everywhere

October, a flock of Oriental Skylarks feeding on the grass
made worthwhile our trip to Calatagan, Batangas

November, the Ferruginous Flycatcher made everybody’s day
until a beliigerent Brown Shrike chased the poor bird away

December, lovely Naked-faced Spiderhunters created a spark
as birders and photographers thronged at La Mesa Ecopark.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Marsh Fourth

There we were huddled inside his car. Neon at the driver's seat and I at the back behind him. Our long lenses resting on our respective windows and pointed at my first lifer of the year. It was an Island Collared Dove. 

We were at Candaba marsh on the fourth day of January. I was thrilled when Neon contacted me the day before inviting me to go with him to what had become a favorite destination of birders lately. As a matter of fact, Neon had just been here two days earlier. Apparently his experience was that good that he wanted to return.

And indeed it was. At the end of the day, I tallied four lifers and also had gotten better pictures of some species that I have already seen but were only able to obtain "documentary" shots then.

We took a break around noon and while we were resting, I reminisced about my past birding experiences at the beginning of each year. That was in California. My wife and I usually avoided the madness of the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena by going birding elsewhere. The farther the better - like Benicia last year and Salton Sea the year before that. I chuckled as I recalled all the eating and partying we did this past holiday season that made me quite enervated at the start of the new year and therefore unable to plan (or even think of) any birding activities.

My reveries burst like soap bubbles when Alex and Marts (both members of the Wild Bird Club of the Phillipines) who joined us later that morning, simultaneously shouted, "Geese!" They were referring of course to the Greater White-fronted Geese which are the current celebrities of Candaba as far as birdwatchers are concerned. Neon and I were a tad slow to react and thus were unable to photograph the lovely birds as they flew almost directly overhead. Nevertheless, we were so happy to note that there were now 15 individuals to the flock where there used to be only 13.

The afternoon seemed to drag on as there no longer were any exciting birds to rev up our energies. The hope of seeing an Oriental Pratincole in the fields along the way as we drove out of Candaba kept Neon and myself sufficiently energized even if we ended up not seeing any at all.

Back home Cynthia was surprised to see me tanned, red-eyed, apparently exhausted, yet smiling. How could I not when I just had a successful first-of-the-year birding. Thanks to my friend, Neon.

Now for the birds:

Island Collared Dove

Purple Swamphen

Wandering Whistling Duck

Striated Grassbird

Little Grebe

And for the piece de resistance....Javan Pond Heron

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Eve's Dropping

New year's eve afternoon. I was facing a dilemma. Shall I spend a couple of hours birding or taking a nap? The latter seemed the more logical, sane thing to do. Especially knowing that later that night I would be carousing in the celebration of the coming year with family, food and fireworks. Which of course will end at way past midnight. I mean really, waay past midnight!

But birding on the last day of the year was much too tempting to resist. Especially knowing that my birding buddy, Gabs, was also on his way to the campus of the University of the Philippines to do the exact same thing. Nap be darned! A-birding I will go.

Gabs was already ensconced inside his car behind a camouflage netting and shooting at something when I arrived. "Collared Kingfisher!" was his whispered reply when I asked him what was the object of his rapt attention. He silently handed me another camouflaged netting and pointed at the two kingfishers several feet away. I crept back into the driver's seat of my SUV , draped the netting over my lens, and peered through my camera. Blurred image! Oh wait, the netting was covering the front of my lens. I fixed the netting and peered again, the two kingfishers were now just one. The other one apparently flew as I was returning to my vehicle. I focused on the remaining kingfisher. Click. click. I looked at what I have gotten so far. Ho hum images. I should have taken that nap I thought to myself. As if reading what was on my mind, the kingfisher itself gave a huge yawn. Aha! Got that!

Minutes passed. The bird was still there barely moving. Then, whoosh! it flew to a nearby bush, grabbed something and returned to its original perch. I peered once again through my camera. A praying mantis was in its beak! But wait...the praying mantis got something in its mandibles! A tiny butterfly! Talk about a predator becoming a prey!

Everything was sort of anti-climactic after that. Gabs and I went to look for the now ubiquitous male Blue Rock Thrush and found it quite easily. Except that it was perching on an unphotogenic lamp post.

To wrap up our bird photography efforts for the year, we both settled for gratuitous shots of the Brown Shrike.

It was almost 5 pm when I got back home. Too late for even a short nap. Coffee never tasted this good. Three cups in a row? Even better!