Monday, November 26, 2012

Ducks in the Back

Everyone who had recently been to the Candaba Wetlands were saying only one thing: ducks. "Thousands of them" was the unanimous description. With news such as that how can we not go to Candaba? As self-respecting birders shouldn't we also take in the breathless view of thousands of ducks  filling the morning sky?

Well, yeah.

Saturday was designated duck-day and we were supposed to meet up with friends Irene, Ivan and Micky at the wetlands. "Supposed" being the operative word because due to iterated misunderstandings, mostly on our part, we didn't get to see each other until about two hours later.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. While Irene and company were enjoying their breakfast watching the rising sun blocked by thousands of flying ducks, I was gingerly negotiating our vehicle over the deeply rutted "road" towards the Mayor's house with my wife spewing out all the cautionary words in her very deep vocabulary. 

Dawn, I dare say, is probably the time when birds are the least skittish. It is when all their attention and efforts are spent in shaking dry their moist feathers that had been saturated by the night's dew drops.

White-breasted Waterhen
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Zitting Cisticola
At the mayor's house and not finding our friends, we decided to backtrack and try another even more deeply rutted route. Which brought us lots of anxiety (we almost got stuck in the muck) and not a single bird to tally. Well we did see a couple..of humans. Mark Wallbank and Paul Bourdain came from the opposite direction and regaled us with duck tales. Not to be outdone I showed them my photo of, get this, an uncommon Island Collared Dove that I got earlier which elicited some "cracking shot you got there!" remarks from them.

Finally after several frantic text messages and phone calls, we met our friends and proceeded yet again to the mayor's house. From there we all crossed on foot the two concrete slabs that passed for a bridge. Ivan did a now-you-see-him-now-you-don't trick as he took his spotting scope to look for the - you guessed it - ducks! and promptly disappeared from view.

Now the four us, me, my wife Cynthia, Irene and Micky perambulated the rough road and gazed at the pond on our left.

"Quack! quack! quack!"  

"Ducks!" Irene yelled.

"Um, actually that was my ringtone" I said sheepishly. I checked my cellphone and it was just some nasty telemarketer reminding me to get a loan because interests are quite low.

We stopped under the shade of the trees alongside the road. While we were taking a breather, I saw an airborne flock flying towards our direction.

"Duck!" I shouted. My companions bent over and covered their heads.

"Philippine Ducks!" I corrected myself. Cameras were raised just in time to capture the magnificent birds as they flew almost overhead. Singaporean Micky was ecstatic because at last he was able to photograph his target Philippine endemic, at flight even.

That routine was repeated several times although on several occasions we were fooled by the Wandering Whistling Ducks who pretended to be the local species as they flew in the same formation in our direction.

Moving on, we went to a nearby mudflats where Little Ringed Plovers, Long-toed Stints, Wood Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts came to play. And where we almost fainted from the unshaded heat of the day.

Then the questions that had remained unasked so far finally came: "Where are the thousands of ducks?" 

I asked a couple of farmers and a frogger (one who catches frogs) on separate occasions and they were unanimous in saying "There at the back of those trees - thousands of them!" 

Since it has been assumed that Ivan was there (and possibly Mark and Paul as well) Irene and Micky decided to walk in that direction. To which two old, worn-out bodies politely declined. To us trekking to see the ducks at the back of the woods would bring so much displeasure to our backs. 

As we were leaving there was a loud "Quack! quack! quack!"

It was my ringtone.

1 comment:

trinket said...

love the bee-eater picture!
don;t worry bob, you still have around 2-3 months to have a second shot at the ducks of candaba!