As my wife and I were standing at the edge of the concrete road, scanning the distant ricefields, we were hoping to find a particular kind of "itik". Tadorna tadorna, as it is known in the scientific community, is an extremely rare visitor to the Philippines. But one was seen by our friends right from the very spot where we were at that moment. Without the aid of a spotting scope and the morning's light not really that bright we were getting frustrated. The group of Philippine Ducks that our target bird usually associates with were so far away they might as well be in Africa.
Even the Ruff crowd that we saw last time were no longer there and thus our hopes for our other target bird, the Black-tailed Godwit, went down the drain. Or in this case the newly planted ricefields.
Cynthia, bless her heart, sensing the growing despair in me suggested we go to the usual birding spots at the Candaba Wetlands. "Maybe we'll see some interesting birds like the Purple Swamphen or the Black Bittern" she said encouragingly. We have not seen both birds this year yet so that is definitely a good incentive.
To make a long story short, we did not see both species. Not even a glimpse. So as we completed the loop, we just photographed, albeit halfheartedly, some of the local avian denizens that we encountered.
|male Pied Bush Chat|
|female Red Turtledove|
Before we called it a day, we decided to give the search for the Shelduck one more try. Cynthia called our friend, Irene (who was among the first to see this rarity), and asked for specific directions. As soon as she got off the phone, my wife pointed to a small structure sitting atop a berm. "If you go close to that thing, you'll get a better view of the ducks," she said. "But Irene said to be careful as it is not the easiest of trails."
I borrowed my wife's smaller and lighter camera gear and set off towards the horizon. Irene wasn't kidding! The trail was basically hardened mud and so uneven that it challenged my balancing ability. Rudolf Nureyev would have been proud of me. Finally I was at the point where I have a more panoramic view of the birds on the fields below. I can see clearly the flock of ducks huddled close together! Through my binoculars I looked at each and everyone of those hundred or so endemic members of the Anatidae family. Several times! None of them had a white body and a dark head and neck. Not. A. Single. One.
With an aching heart I reenacted my balancing act as I retraced my way back to where my wife was patiently waiting for me.
But wait! we did see a duck with a white body although it was not with the group huddled in the hinterlands.
It was with this bunch.
And in the end that's all itiks.
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