Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Candaba Trilogy, Part I - Road Railing

It was a very interesting half-day birding in Candaba in the sense that three unique stories were born out of it.

Let's start off with a strange early morning experience with the Rallidae family. We planned to go to the sanctuary via the "backdoor" route - a narrow dirt road bordered here and there with overgrown weeds. It rained the night before and even now the skies were filled with clouds pregnant with rain. As we were parked by the side of the road to Paralaya wavering whether to throw caution to the winds and tackle the very likely rain-soaked, muddy trail or heed good ol' common sense. We were in this state of deep and serious ponderation when a local jogger who probably noticed our dilemma clouded faces, suggested that we take the other route near the school instead. That one is paved most of the way and certainly wouldn't pose a problem for our vehicle he assured us. We thanked our "angel" profusely and promised to heed his advice. And as we would discover later, very grateful that we did.

However, it was during our moments of cogitation that we noticed the rails. Lots of them! By the side of the road. Even crossing to the other side with such bravado when the mood strikes them. So we decided that before going to the sanctuary (via the paved ingress) we should drive a little further along Maharlika Avenue and get intimate with those supposedly skittish marsh birds.

Now imagine a video loop where a piece of action gets repeated over and over but without the ennui of monotony. For in this case the main subject kept changing in a surprising way. We parked the car on the grassy shoulder, got off and prepared our camera gears. A few yards ahead of us a member of the Rallidae family would be feeding by the roadside. In one case it was a White-breasted Waterhen in the company of a flock of Eurasian Tree Sparrows. 

Not far from it another family member, this time a White-browed Crake, would ungainly walk - not run - across the street with its disproportionately huge legs. 

At the other side of the road, the third member, this time pairs of Buff-banded Rails would insouciantly saunter by. 

Switch these three species into those different settings and you get an idea of what we were up against.

Cynthia and I agreed that we would get more coverage if we stationed ourselves away from each other. So we would attempt to get near our subject rail of the moment, stalk it, get a picture until a speeding vehicle or a roaring motorcycle or a bike rider or a curious pedestrian would spook the bird which would then dive into the nearest clump of bushes. We would wait a few minutes and when our subject has determined that the coast was clear, it would reappear and resume its feeding thus beginning the loop once again.

After a while as human and vehicle traffic increased as the morning wore on and resulted in shorter photography sessions, we tried a new tack. We resorted to mobile photography with good results as well. 

To say that it was an exhilarating start of a birding morning was an understatement. We have never seen so many White-browed Crakes, White-breasted Waterhens and Buff-banded Rails ever before. And they were in such close proximity to one another right at the edge of a provincial road! Viva Rallidae!

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