Monday, November 28, 2011

Things go better with Cuckoo

It's the real thing. I saw it. I got a picture of it. Unlike that self-loving, egocentric, narcissistic, and may I add, imaginary, flycatcher. Cynthia, myself and birding buddy, Ralf Nabong saw the Philippine Hawk Cuckoo in less than ten minutes after we got to the place where the naked woman stands. Unlike the black-and-yellow bird that purportedly stays in the trees next to the building where bibliophiles go but wasn't there the four times we've been there.

The pause that refreshes. After a frustrating, time-consuming, blood-boiling, wasted effort at waiting for something that never comes, it was a refreshing change to see an uncommon bird quite easily. It was a pause that became a catharsis to a soul darkened by a fruitless search.

It was a joy to discover that things indeed go better with Cuckoo. The uncool attitude of the Narcissus Flycatcher made the Philippine Hawk Cuckoo cooler. The day became brighter, our demeanors became more pleasant. So why don't you have a Cuckoo and a smile?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Long trip anatomy

At the end of the day we had: tired eyes, sore back, rubythroat.

The first two most probably are due to our, ahem, age. The last is sheer luck. We just came from a birding trip to Subic, some 220 kilometers away from home. It was a tiring but rewarding journey. Rewarding not just because of the birds seen but more importantly because of the company. With us were good friends Doc Clemn Macasiano, who was our host when we visited Dumaguete last September, Toto Gamboa, Tonji and Sylvia Ramos and Wency and Tina Mallari.

The road leading towards Hill 394 was quite birdy that morning. So birdy that we had to be at different places so that we can get a wide coverage of the area. Joining me and Cynthia was Toto. Sylvia, Tonji and Clemn went farther up the road while Tina and Wency trailed from behind.

It was here that I got the Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope). Toto and I were walking up the trail when I spotted a brown bird perched on a branch that had fallen to the ground. Without even thinking, I immediately took a shot at it. Unfortunately it flew off before Toto could get a shot.

Siberian Rubythroat
Once again, the three of us decided to split up so we could maximize the number of birds that we would be able to photograph. Regrouping later and looking at the results of our efforts, Toto had a Greater Flameback, I had a Guiabero and Cynthia had a White-eared Brown Dove.

My Guiabero
Cynthia's White-eared Brown Dove
The road to Nabasan trail gave us really good looks at Whiskered Treeswifts and Blue-throated Bee-eaters. Surprisingly the trail itself was very quiet.

Whiskered Treeswift
Blue-throated Bee-eater
Soon it was noon and we all had a great lunch at Gusie's thanks to Clemn's generosity. The after-lunch trip to Dinalupihan turned out to be a bad idea as we just wasted an hour's travel time for nothing. From there we proceeded to Cubi Point hoping our luck would change. We were all inside our respective vehicles mulling on our next move when Cynthia said, "Is that a crow?"

"Looks like it," replied Toto who was riding with us.

"But it has some orange coloring to it" my wife argued.

"Might be a Philippine Coucal, then."

That was when we saw the rest of the gang suddenly jump out of their respective cars and rush towards a fruiting tree. We quickly followed and there in front of us were a pair of Luzon Hornbills feeeding.

female Luzon Horbill
male Luzon Hornbill
The huge billed birds eventually got their fill and so did we in taking their photographs. It was starting to get dark but we still had one more place to go - the roosting place of the Blue-naped Parrots. And we were not disappointed! We even had a bonus of about seven Ashy Minivets that came and perched on a pine tree apparently to spend the night there.

Blue-naped Parrot
Ashy Minivet
The sun slowly sank in the horizon and we still have miles to go before we sleep so we bade our goodbyes and off we went for the long trip home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Going for the Keel

Bird photographers are, generally speaking, a persistent sort. If they failed to accomplish a mission the first time around, they will try again. As long as an opportunity to take a picture of a particular bird presents itself, they will be there. Sometimes that persistence pays off, sometimes not.

Bird photographers are, generally speaking, not easily discouraged. If they fail to photograph a target bird they will shift their focus (pun intended) on another species. Bird photography, after all, is almost always a challenge - something that bird photographers, generally speaking, crave for.

A very good example was what happened to a trio of bird photographers last Saturday. For Neon, Bong and myself, the desire to capture the image of a male Narcissus Flycatcher still burned deeply in our photographic souls. We failed in our first attempt about a week ago. Persistent folks that we are, we were back at the area next to the Main Library of the University of the Philippines in Diliman hoping that our luck would change.

It didn't.

Bird photographers are, generally speaking, quite adept at making lemon juice out of sour lemons. During our vain vigil for the vagrant flycatcher, there were occasions when we turned the proverbial lemons into lemon juice. There was the time when our better halves (who accompanied us into this birding foray) spotted a Coppersmith Barbet nearby. Lenses were aimed and shutters clicked at the colorful bird.  

Then there was the focusing challenge presented by a flock of frolicking Flyeaters.

Or compensating for the backlit image of a Long-tailed Shrike grabbing a lizard by the head.

The real adventure came later though. When we were pretty much certain that it would be no use waiting for the Narcissus, Neon suggested we go for the Flowerpeckers reportedly flying friskily close to the Post Office building. Did I mention that bird photographers, generally speaking, love challenges?

Facing the mistletoe tree, the three of us spread out and observed the comings and goings of those tiny, active, feathered creatures. "Red-keeled Flowerpeckers!" Neon informed us. It was quite a surprise to learn that these dainty birds thrive in this semi-urban landscape. It was a trying experience photography-wise, yet exhilarating as well.

All the while that we bird-photographers were having our adrenalin rushes, our faithful partners decided to sit it out and killed time by munching chestnuts and sharing spousal stories.

The adage "time flies when you're having fun" certainly rang true for us that special sunny Saturday. Soon it was almost noon and it was time to go.

We were all thankful that we decided to go for the keel. And got keeled!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Angry Birds - a photo blog

It's not that I ran out of words (perish the thought!), it's just that sometimes pictures speak louder...

White-throated Kingfisher -When will this @#% rain stop?

Snowy Egret -You want a piece of me?

Ashy Drongo - It's AsHy, not AsSy Drongo, aight?

Osprey - Did you just say I have a fishy smell?

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch - I'm just pissed that I had to eat upside down, ok?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Long tale sighs

It all came down to sessions of telling tales and photographing shrikes.

Early morning found Cynthia and myself at the Main Library grounds of the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Already there were Tonji and Sylvia Ramos and Tina Mallari - friends and fellow bird photographers. Soon Rey Sta. Ana and his buddy, Rocky Sison joined us. Professor Gerry de Villa showed up briefly and gave a short, albeit very informative lecture on the whys and wherefores of our target species. Then came Gabs Buluran. The catalyst, if you may, of our being there. It was Gab's photograph of a male Narcissus Flycatcher - taken at the very spot where we are now gathered - that precipitated this event. Later in the day we were joined by Maia Tanedo and Jops Josef, friends and birders as well.

For about three and a half hours we waited patiently for the black and yellow-orange bird. Those long, lingering hours were spent in recounting birding experiences punctuated here and there by sighs of frustration as our longed-for flycatcher decided to forage elsewhere. Every so often our conversations would be interrupted when a Long-tailed Shrike or a Brown Shrike or a Pied Triller would fly in and land in a closer-than-usual perch.

Sometime in the midst of this seemingly interminable wait, we were briefly entertained by a dramatic staging of a lover's quarrel by a pair of Colasisis (Philippine Hanging Parrot). Unfortunately this intriguing scenario was held high up in the canopy of a fruiting tree.

At around 9 am Gabs left for work. One hour later, Cynthia and I had to call it quits inasmuch as she has a lunch appointment with her childhood friends. 

Later that day we learned that the Narcissus did a total no-show attitude even to those who decided to remain behind.

Well then, allow me to show you a Long-tailed "Narcissus" Shrike:

And Cynthia's Brown "Narcissus" Shrike