Monday, December 10, 2012

Still Ruff at the Edges

Cynthia was standing at the edge of a huge pond, patiently beckoning to me and Irene and Ha Luong, our friend from Vietnam. But we three were busy taking shots at the Striated Grassbird and Clamorous Reed Warbler who were drying themselves in the morning sun. Ha was fascinated by the Chestnut Munias glowing in the bright sunlight.

Striated Grassbird
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Eventually we relented and scooted over to where my wife was. In front of her were waders, lots of them and also way too far. We tried to move closer gingerly balancing our camera equipment as we negotiated the terribly uneven trail. Just as when we were relatively close, the birds flew off….but returned a few minutes later. Scanning the multitude, I was able to point out the most obvious Black-winged Stilts and a plethora of Marsh Sandpipers. However, there were these birds that were bigger than the Marsh Sandpipers but had a shorter bill. Flipping through the pages of the birdlist in my mind, a light bulb shone over my head.

"Ruff!" I shouted.

"Your skin?" Cynthia asked.

"Dog?" Irene looked around.

"Huh?" wondered Ha.

"No! Those waders over there, they're Ruffs!"

These uncommon migrants have been seen and photographed before by some members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) and we were hoping that these birds would still be here close to the edge of the concrete road.

Elated at adding another species to our lifelists, we proceeded to the Mayor's House. There we met up with our friend, Bong and his wife, Eve. I was about to go where they were staking out some birds when Ha said, "Pied Triller!" Cynthia repeated, "Pied Triller!" in case I didn't hear it the first time. I was about to ignore them (I have seen and photographed Pied Trillers many times already) when Ha shouted "White-shouldered Starlings!" Again my wife echoed, "White-shouldered Starlings!" albeit  in a louder, higher pitched tone. Irene was already doing her patented "Eeeek!" I looked and saw four, count-em, four starlings cavorting on the tree branches above us. 

I ran towards Bong and Eve and yelled "White-shouldered Starlings!" In a flash they were both beside us. Bong had been wanting to photograph this species for the past two years and now he was having his fill.

For our final mission, we went to where the ducks usually congregate. There they were, thousands of them, seemingly thousands of miles away. There was a small group preening a little bit closer to us. This bunch of snobbish Tufted Ducks avoided the mixed crowd at the other side of the pond. I took a "hail mary" shot of the huge flock. Later that night as I reviewed my photos, it turned out that that duck convention was composed mostly of Garganeys, some Philippine Ducks and a few Northern Shovelers.  However, when we were at Candaba viewing them, we could not distinguish the individual species much to Ha's consternation because she wanted so much to see the Philippine endemic.

On our way back to the Mayor's house, I saw a group of ducks flying not too far from us. I grabbed my binos and excitedly told Ha, "Philippine Ducks!" She grabbed her binos and was so happy to have finally seen what she wanted to see.

A beautiful way to end our birding day. Now to look for a great place to have lunch.

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