Sunday, September 22, 2013

They're All Plover the Place

Any faint-hearted birder probably would not have gone through it. All the discouraging signs were there: target bird not seen the day before, heavy rain falling early in the morning, strange sounds coming from the car when driving over 80 kph, me not feeling too well…

But we had determination. We got faith. We pressed on towards our goal.

At seven in the morning our friend, Prof. Tirso Paris, was escorting us inside the fallowed grounds of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). He led us to the fields where the rare migrant, the Oriental Plover, had been seen and photographed. Tirso was telling us that just two days ago these uncommon birds were quite close to where they parked their cars. Today, so far, nothing. However, Oriental Skylarks seem to be everywhere! Cynthia and I have never seen so many of these tiny brown birds in a single place!

At the next stop, Prof. Tirso pointed out a tiny speck among the green grass. It was our target bird allright but unfortunately too far and too hidden for passable photographs. Looking through my binoculars I even discovered there were actually two of them, one still sporting traces of its breeding plumage.

Tirso decided to scout the nearby area to see if there would be more of these birds (there were supposed to be about seven of them) while we stayed put and photographed the more oblivious Wood Sandpipers. 

Soon we got a call from our friend saying he found them. We rushed to where he was and there three Oriental Plovers were busy hunting for food. They stayed at a distance unlike in the past but still afforded us some good enough shots.

After having our fill of the Plovers we took a break to have a snack with our host and to enjoy the Birds of IRRI exhibit were most of the photographs on display were taken by our beloved Prof. Then we explored the lowland area where Oriental Pratincoles were quite plentiful. Today must have an "Oriental" theme, what with lots of Oriental Skylarks, Oriental Pratincoles and even a few Oriental Plovers.

Soon Tirso was pointing at a smaller wader mingling with a Black-winged Stilt. "Marsh Sandpiper" he informed us. It was somewhat unusual for this species which prefers coastal areas to be inland and even on a ricefield so we added that to our list of birds photographed that day.

Rain started to fall again so we all agreed that it was to time to go. Our heartfelt thanks goes to our dear friend, Prof. Tirso, not only for accompanying us inside IRRI but also for locating our target birds for us.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Spotted Would Not….

It wasn't the first time it happened to us. Still, it was a bit frustrating. Seemed like every photographer in town had seen and taken a picture of the male Spotted Wood Kingfisher at the La Mesa Ecopark. Everyone except us, that is. Oh yes, my wife and I saw it. I even pointed it to two visiting Singaporean bird photographers, Simon Quek and Wang Bin. But photographs? Not me. The bird was on a high branch and was terribly backlit (or backlighted. Whatever!)

And sooo, Cynthia and I just contented ourselves with the now dirt common Ashy Thrushes. The Red-bellied Pitta that our Singaporean friends purposely came to this place for was sadly a no-show. 

However, there was a consolation. And what a consolation it was! It definitely more than made up for the disappointments with the Spotted Wood Kingfisher which would not stay on a lower level (like it used to do) nor the Red-bellied Pitta which never showed up at all. This time a very cooperative pair of Mangrove Blue Flycatchers posed close enough and long enough for us to take some really good photos of them.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Seize the Cola - the bright-capped One!

For me having a Coca-cola during lunch is almost a given. Saturday while setting the table for our noontime meal I heard my wife say "I'll have a Coke too." My eyebrows crept towards my hairline. Then she followed that with, "the one in the bright-colored can." She meant the Regular, of course, while I, on the other hand, preferred Coke Light. (And yes, we have both in our refrigerator.)

Perhaps my wife's sudden craving for that popular soft drink was triggered somehow by our short birding foray that morning. And I mean short. Two hours more or less. It was drizzling as we drove to our destination. We were undeterred, having had this kind of experience many times before. As we approached our birding place the gloomy skies gave way to a bright morning which we knew somehow would happen.

Long-tailed Shrikes seem to be everywhere. Here and there the newly arrived migrant Brown Shrikes were already hunting for food. The usual suspects were there and a Barred Rail even crossed the road ahead of us. Twice. Once when we were entering the area and then again as we were leaving.

What made the day for us was that we got some really good looks at some Bright-capped Cisticolas. At first we thought that they were just Scaly-breasted Munias which were quite plentiful that morning as they fed on the wet, tall grass. But when Cynthia heard the distinctive song we knew without a doubt - Cisticola!

Soon rain started to fall again. We already had our moments of brightness, in more ways than one, so we both agreed that it was time to head back home.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Wane Manner

"Holy costume, Batman!" exclaimed Robin. "Why are you taking off your mask and cape?

"I'm tired, Robin," Batman explained. "We've been doing this for quite some time now. Besides I feel that age is already creeping in on me."

Batman sighed. "Remember our last crusade? Towards the end of the week I can barely move. It was only through sheer willpower that I was able to accomplish our goals. Of course carrying the batarangs and all those weapons made it even worse."

"I want to go back to just being Bruce Wayne again," he continued, "and spend most of the time relaxing at the Wayne Manor."

"Have you lost all interest in what we were doing?" Robin was curious.

"In a manner of speaking I say it is waning somehow. Mostly for physical reasons, I would think" replied the caped crusader "but also it seems that the other guys in the Justice League appear to be cooling off as well."

"When you make plans for our future adventures, go for the easier ones" Batman told Robin. "I know you're doing this just because of me, so next year let's do something that you would enjoy. Let us not go as Batman and Robin but as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson."

Dick looked at Bruce. He had known his friend for a long time and he can tell that Bruce was really serious. Dick hugged his buddy.

"Everything's going to be alright," Robin assured Batman.