….and went birding with a bunch of locals, including myself and my wife. The three foreigners (henceforth collectively referred to as the "pureners") were tightly packed in the compact car of our friend, Irene Dy. Another birding friend, Jasmin Meren, was also with them hence the crampiness of the situation. We, including our buddy, Ralf Nabong, met this closely knit group at the McDonalds by the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and relieved them of the tallest purener, American Dick Norton. Dick, as we learned while traveling to Los Banos, was from Topanga, California and he knew many of our birding friends from that part of the world.
At the TREES Hostel parking lot in Mt. Makiling we met another group of birders from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). They were warming up for the long arduous hike up the mountain. Our group thought about joining them and actually even walked the first hundred meters or so but the weight of my camera gear was becoming a burden to my ancient shoulder. My wife and I paused as the WBCP group moved on. We noticed Linda Gocon, another member of the WBCP, looking up and pointing something to our foreign guests. They were some fifty meters behind us so we used this as an excuse not to continue with the expected body torture of joining the younger group going up the mountain.
Back to Linda…she was naming species after species as she pointed non-stop to tiny dots frolicking in the tree tops. Even with my long lens, those dots only became bigger dots. Enough though to be able to determine what kind of birds they were. Ashy Minivets were the biggest in the flock and therefore the easiest to see. Then there was the wagging tail that separated the Striped Flowerpecker from the rest. The other dots were most likely Olive-backed and Purple-throated Sunbirds, also Red-keeled Flowerpeckers and maybe even Stripe-headed Rhabdornis. Soon the mixed flock was gone.
A short visit to the ricefields yielded nothing much except for Oriental Skylarks and a family of Common Moorhens.
Ten in the morning and we were in a quandary. We've birded the area and there wasn't anything new anymore to show our guests. Why not try Villa Escudero? came the suggestion.
About an hour later we were met by resident birder, Carmela Balcazar, at the reception area of Villa Escudero. We all proceeded to the dining area by the waterfalls (and in the river) when the avian star of the Villa afforded us good looks and delighting our foreign guests.
Lunch, as usual, was delicious, and a new experience for our non-Filipino friends. Imagine enjoying native fare while the cool river waters flow over your feet.
Our next stop was to look for the Philippine Scops Owls nonchalantly sleeping within the comfort of the leaves of a huge tree. On the way there, a Grey Wagtail was itself busy having lunch.
From there we were entertained by a Red-keeled Flowerpecker feasting on the fruits of a ficus tree.
Carmela then issued a challenge to the photographers in the group - and that, unfortunately, included me. She will flush the Snipes in the field and we will try to photograph the birds in flight. The only way to properly identify a Snipe was by the markings of their tails…something that can only be seen when these birds fly. Please note that the flight of these species can only be described as abrupt and fast.
Let me just say here that despite the multiple attempts by all six of us, not one was able to successfully accomplish the task. When Carmela returned from her umpteenth and final attempt at flushing the Snipes, we all knelt before her and pleaded, "We all failed. We deserve to die!"
Magnanimous person that she was, Carmela pardoned us. Not only that she even showed us the Philippine Magpie Robin that hangs out near the parking lot as we were on our way out.
An American, an Englishman and a Singaporean birded with a group of Filipinos and we all had fun! Thank you Dick Norton, Brian Ellis and Micky Lim, our "purener" friends for a wonderful time.
|photo courtesy of Jasmin Meren|