Monday, September 26, 2011

Dumaguete, Day 1 - Crimson Tide

Arrived at Dumaguete, met by the Tourism representatives, checked-in at the Royal Suites Inn and went birding. That pretty much summarized our early morning activities last September 21st. Jack, the tourism guy and great birder, took us to Forest Camp, a small resort just outside the city of Dumaguete. With us were friends Tonji and Sylvia Ramos,  Alex Tiongco and two birder friends from Singapore, Jimmy Chew and Ju Lin Tan.

As soon as we got off the van, Alex was already pointing at a bird. The photographers in the group frantically assembled their gear and simultaneously pointed them at....a Philippine Magpie Robin. Oh, ho-hum, whatever! 

It was then that Jack pointed at a tiny bird perched on a nearby tree looking at the strange amalgam of non-native Negrenses. And it was then that our ho-hums turned into woo-hoos. That tiny bird was a Visayan aka Black-belted  (judo expert, maybe?) Flowerpecker. Lifer number one barely 20 minutes into our birding sortie!

Forest Camp isn't a big place and after we've made the rounds and not seeing anything interesting we all sat under the huge canopy of a mini-stage. A rustling among the leaves grabbed our attention. That rustling was followed by an array of gaudy colors as three different kinds of sunbirds flowed like an incoming tide before us not unlike an avian fashion show. First was an immature Purple-throated - not yet attaining its very colorful full plumage but lovely nonetheless. 

Then a male Olive-backed Sunbird flashed its colorful throat hues enhanced by the morning sun. 

And for the finale, the piece de resistance, ladies and gentlemen, behold the Crimson Sunbird!

That would have made my day. Although not a lifer, seeing the Crimson Sunbird this close was, quite honestly, completely unexpected. After chasing after an unknown bird that Jack said he saw near the hanging bridge but sadly disappeared because a romantic couple decided that a view of some trees from a swaying span would bring magic to their already syrupy relationship, I returned to the resting area. At least I got a Philippine Bulbul to alleviate the disappointment.

I was wiping my sweaty brow when I happened to look up and saw a.. Cuckoo! I didn't know what kind, but it definitely looked like a cuckoo. I waved at Tonji and pointed to the bird silhouetted above us. Later on, he confirmed that what we saw was a Plaintive Cuckoo and my second lifer of the day.

After another rest period, our attention was aroused this time by a raptor that flew swiftly overhead. Apparently it caught something and decided to have its lunch on a tree branch some 45 meters away from us. Several identities were postulated from within our group until the bird gracefully turned around to face us and thereby settling the issue. It was a Chinese Goshawk. Lifer number three for me.

It was now way past lunchtime and the growling of our stomachs could no longer be ignored. Jack brought us back to the city of Dumaguete, and per request from Sylvia, who had been informed that some birders were already there, took us to the Kri restaurant. If there is anything that Dumaguete is known for (aside from being a great birding place) is its excellent restaurant food! Kri is among the best of the best.

After lunch we all went back to the hotel where Clemn and Marester Macasiano, our hosts, were already waiting for us. A brief breather and we were off again. This time to the Twin Lakes resort. This late in the afternoon, we were not expecting much, and this trip was more of a "casing the joint" foray. Thirteen kilometers from the main highway over a paved, not, paved, not, paved, not........road, Lake Balinsasayao was a sight to behold. It was here that we first saw the local subspecies of the Balicassiao, differing from the all-black birds found in Luzon by having a white belly.

At the end of the day and back at our hotel, exhausted and exhilarated, we just settled for a club sandwich and salad for dinner at the hotel restaurant. Cynthia and I then crashed into bed knowing we will have to wake up early (again) tomorrow.

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