Monday, April 16, 2012

Take my word for it. Please!

I came. I saw. I photographed.

The wrong bird.

When fellow birder, Prof. Gerry de Villa announced that there was a Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Cynthia and I were there first thing the following morning. And saw nothing but the uber common Eurasian Tree Sparrows, those little brown birds that liked to impersonate the more uncommon species. We were at the parking lot next to the Vargas Museum approaching a state of despondency when I heard a quacking noise. "That's your cellphone," my wife told me. I recently got a new iphone and I thought it would cute, and quite appropriate for a birder like me, to have a duck's quack as the ringtone for my incoming messages.

I quickly pulled out my cellphone from my pocket and looked at my incoming text. "Lemon-throated is here" was the curt message. We ran towards where the statue of the naked lady was and saw Prof. Gerry standing beside it and looking upwards. "Listen to the melodious and continuous trilling," he told us while pointing at some object up in the trees. Since I am a bit hearing impaired, I looked at my wife for confirmation. She nodded vigorously and began pointing upward also. Soon both of them were yelling, "There! There!" And I was saying, "Where? Where?"

Then I saw it. A tiny brown bird warbling incessantly (I can tell by its open beak and vibrating throat) and flitting from branch to branch. It had a slight yellowish tint on its throat and rump. I was convinced that we found our Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler and began taking its photograph.

As soon as we got home, I posted the picture that I took in the internet. With a certain amount of pride, I declared that I, Bob Kaufman, was able to document the presence of an uncommon bird found in U.P. Diliman. Only to be told by the experts that the photo I posted was that of the similar-looking Arctic Warbler! To avoid further embarrassment, that image is no longer in Facebook, FYI.

The following morning, Cynthia and I, together with friends Jun Osano and Peter Ting went to La Mesa Ecopark. We saw the Red-bellied Pitta calling early in the morning and later the Ashy Ground Thrush on its nest. I even had glimpses of the Grey-backed Tailorbird. But please don't ask me for photographs of these birds, for there were none. None worth publishing, that is. 

Later that afternoon, my wife and I attended a friend's wedding being held at the Valley Golf Club in Antipolo. Inasmuch as the venue was in an open area, Cynthia and I were entertained by the calling of several Black-naped Orioles (yes, I heard them, too!) in the nearby trees. While waiting for the ceremony to start, Cynthia was socializing with the other guests and I was sitting by myself admiring the bright blue skies. It was then that a small flock of birds came gliding overhead. From the wing shape, manner of flight and white underparts, I concluded that these were White-breasted Wood Swallows. What surprised me was when a bigger bird, slightly bigger than a domestic pigeon, flew along with the small flock. It has the same manner of flight and wing shape as the Wood Swallows, except that the wing tips were black. I can pretty much tell that it was some kind of a raptor. Inasmuch as there wasn't a camera within grabbing distance, I committed that image into my memory.

That night when we got home, I hastily consulted the Kennedy Guide and narrowed the possibilities to 1) Pied Harrier or 2) Black-shouldered Kite. I'm leaning towards the Kite because of its size and habitat. However, since there were no photographs nor a second pair of eyes to confirm the sighting, I decided not to include this species in my life list.

And oh, on our way home that evening after the wedding party, I saw a bright object in the night sky. It had a disc-like shape and emitted an intermittent light. After hovering for a few seconds, it zoomed silently into the darkness. It could only be a UFO, I thought to myself.

Just kidding! - on the UFO, but you'll just have to take my word on the others.

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