Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The heat is on

When our friend, Prof. Tirso Paris, posted his bird photographs taken in Los Banos in the internet, we drooled. I was reminded of the comment the elderly lady made with regards to Meg Ryan's character at the deli scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally: "I'll have what she's having!"

So when another friend and budding birder, Peter Ting, asked where we plan to go birding on Saturday, I said "Los Banos" unhesitatingly. "I'll pick you up at 5 am", he said. I immediately communicated with Prof. Tirso and asked if he could show us where he got those fabulous photographs. He said yes. And even volunteered to take us inside the hallowed grounds of IRRI (International Rice Research Institute). Inasmuch as that is a research facility where they conduct experiments on the various strains of rice, access is understandably restricted. My wife and I already had quite an embarrassing experience at that place and so we were glad that our professor friend would be able to take us there. (Even then we always had an "escort" all the while we were inside their premises).

At 7:30 am, Tirso was escorting us towards the rice fields, he in his car and the three of us (me, Cynthia, and Peter) in Peter's SUV.  Prof. Tirso drove ahead and scouted the area, then he texted me: pratincoles and skylarks to my left. We followed and sure enough, those birds were there. I have never seen this many Oriental Pratincoles before, flying, simply standing or crouching on the dried rice fields.

That had been our course of action for most of the morning. Prof. Tirso driving ahead then texting me the kinds of birds that he just found. Soon we were also photographing the Oriental Skylarks and the Paddyfield Pipits. A Blue-tailed Bee-eater even perched on a nearby fence post for some good photo-ops.

Oriental Skylark
Paddyfield Pipit
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
This early in the morning, the heat has become almost unbearable. Peter turned on his car airconditioner even with the windows open (we were taking photos from the car) just so we can have some relief from the suffocating heat. 

Not surprisingly, most of the pictures we took of the birds show their beaks wide open in their effort to make the dry, oven-like temperatures more tolerable. 

We heard the low hoots of the Greater Painted Snipes but the blast from the morning sun kept them hidden under the rice stalks. The late-staying waders however seemed to be unmindful of the unusual warmth as they foraged in the ponds. Some were already in breeding plumage. Particularly lovely were the Little Ringed Plovers with their bright yellow eye-rings.

At past ten in the morning we all left IRRI and went to the APEC area but saw nothing! Where there used to be skylarks and pipits, an occasional buttonquail or even a rail crossing now was just an empty, simmering concrete road.

Even a foray into the forest near the TREES Hostel parking lot yielded nothing but a lone Stripe-headed Rhabdornis that perched at the tip of the dead tree. 

It was now nearing noon and we were all drenched in endless sweat. We bid our beloved professor goodbye and thanked him for being our host and guide.

Despite the 36 degree Celsius temperatures we still were able to get some good shots of the local birds of Los Banos. We may not have gotten as many and as good photographs as those that Prof. Tirso posted in the internet, but we were happy.

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