Monday, December 23, 2013

Twitch and Shout

Twas the twitch before Christmas. 

Thanks to fellow birders Linda Gocon and Brian Ellis we just learned that there were two (which later on became three) Black-faced Spoonbills at the Candaba Wetlands.

Black-faced Spoonbills! A species whose population in the entire world numbers less than 3,000 individuals! Birds that usually only migrate as far south as Taiwan and Hongkong! Nevermind that one was seen once last November in Olango but never seen again. We thought that was just an abnormality in the ways of nature.

But in Candaba?! An easy two-hour drive from MetroManila? Well now, this had all the qualities and promise of a potential mother of all twitches for 2013.

Like many self-respecting birders, off we went together with our pal, Peter, to where Black-faced birds frolic among the Black-winged Stilts. Not more than ten minutes after we got to the spot described by Linda, we saw them!

"Yes!" and other similar expressions of joy were shouted into the crisp morning air.

A lull. Soon we were joined by birding friends Jops, Maia and Jon. Again it did not take them long to discover the prized twitching object.

Shouts of "Woo-hoo!" floated over the wetlands.

One hour later, the Spoonbills moved to an area that was even farther from their already distant foraging grounds. Our three friends wanted to twitch another bird, the Siberian Rubythroat, so we moved on.

The road to the Mayor's house (near where the Rubythroat hides) was peppered with the avian fauna usually seen in the Candaba Wetlands. We would stop every now and then to photograph them.

Like this Common Kingfisher.

A surprise was a very confident Long-toed Stint. 

While Peter and I were busy photographing this little brown job, Jon told us that there were Snipes, too. Six of them, as a matter-of-fact.

At the junction, we stopped because Peter wanted to take some pictures of the Wandering Whistling Ducks at the pond and the Philippine Ducks that were flying overhead. Jops and company went ahead to the Rubythroat spot.

We joined them later and after getting specific directions (via cellphone) from Mike Anton, who earlier got some very nice photos of this bird, we staked out the area. Unlike before where it was seen perched on a tree branch, this time it behaved in a, shall I say,  "more natural" way. And that was skulking beneath the brushes. Patience eventually paid off. Jops, Maia and Jon got their lifer and even a good photo. I didn't and Peter didn't (the long lens were more of a disadvantage in this situation). My wife, Cynthia, got a not-so-good one.

At around eleven, we all agreed to call it a day. A successful, twitchful, shout-for-joy kind of a day. We bade our friends goodbye and wished them a Merry Christmas. 

As we headed out I encouraged Peter to take the backdoor route. It turned out to be a good decision. We encountered ducks galore!

We went back to the Spoonbill spot hoping to get another view. This time we met another birder friend, Kitty. Cynthia told her where to look and soon we heard the now expected "Yehey!" shout resulting from a successful twitch.

It turned out that the day wasn't really over for us. Leaving Kitty behind to further enjoy the Spoonbills, we encountered a group of waders determined to sleep off the noon day heat. Amongst the Common Greenshanks were at least two Common Redshanks! Really? Redshanks? I thought to myself, wondering why supposedly die-hard shorebirds were in an inland marshy area.

A surprise came much, much later as I was processing my photos at home and I noticed another wader that looked different from the Greenshanks and the Redshanks. I intensely researched my books and the internet.

"Woohoo!" "Yehey!" "Yes!" "Woot-woot!" "Yabba-dabba-doo!"

"Why are you shouting?" my wife was curious.

"Black-tailed Godwit! A lifer for us!" was my enthusiastic reply.

"Woohoo!" "Yehey!" "Yes!" echoed from the other side of our room.

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