Monday, May 19, 2014

A Positive Few of the Situation

Birding in summer in the Philippines is really not a good idea. Still the three of us, my wife and I with our friend, Peter, hoped that our utter disregard for the weather would be justly rewarded.

Unfortunately, it was a bitter disappointment on our first stop. The area around the TREES Hostel was completely devoid of birds! The dead tree by the parking lot where we saw Falconets, Barbets, Rhabornis and even Balicassiaos before was as lifeless as can be. We silently blamed the throng of people who were preparing for an eco-run a few meters away for this.

The Dairy Park, thankfully, was more promising. We first saw a flock of Crested Mynas riding the backs of the grazing cattle. As we approached to get photos of the black birds, the whole herd decided to avoid the now blazing sun and moved to the shady part at the opposite side of the fence - far away from where we were standing. We couldn't blame the cows for wanting some relief from the heat, so while we were fuming at this latest setback I saw some swallows alighting near a puddle. We moved closer - under some shade, of course - and waited for the birds to do their thing. Once they have gotten accustomed to our presence, both Pacific and Striated Swallows came and pecked at the mud. I have seen this phenomena before and I thought these birds were using the mud to build their nests. However, in this case, there were no tall trees nor buildings nearby where the said nests are usually built. Besides, the same individuals would dip their beaks in the mud, fly off, circle back and repeat the routine. Could it be that this was their way of refreshing themselves to alleviate the rising temperatures?

Pacific Swallow
Striated Swallow
During one those times when the swallows would fly off, some Scaly-breasted Munias dropped by a nearby tree for a pause that refreshes.

From the Dairy Park we went to the Agripark where we anticipated seeing Pratincoles, Rails or even Snipes. Again, nada. Not a single bird! The same misfortune happened at the APEC area. The tall grass had been cut down so Buttonquails were nowhere to be seen. No Cisticolas either! Thankfully, some Crested Mynas were flying by and a few perched on the electric wires to take a breather.

We all agreed to try the Botanic Garden. Enduring the climb (Peter and I were carrying our big lenses) in the suffocating heat was a challenge. Only the hope of seeing some birds spurred us on. The lipote tree was no longer flowering so no birds can be found there. What was surprising was that the heliconias and torch gingers were in full bloom, but not a single sunbird appeared. At ten o'clock and still not even a shadow of a bird showed up so we decided to call it a day - with heavy hearts. In one of our many stops to catch our breaths, I spotted some movement on a banana-like plant. I thought at first that it was "just" a female Olive-backed Sunbird. Since we were starved for a bird photograph, we fired away. Looking at the results, I was now convinced that it was a female Purple-throated Sunbird!

It wasn't long that my suspicion had been confirmed when the brightly colored male showed up. Redemption at last! 

I believe that it was the first time that we have encountered such scarcity of birds in our outings. The sizzling summer heat made a negative impact on the avian population - even in an elevated place like Mt. Makiling. However, seeing even a few birds turned it into a positive situation.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Green and Bear it

The summer temperature was soaring into unbearable digits. Birding in this type of weather would be almost suicidal. Unless it was done in the mountains where the thermometer reading would be a few degrees lower.

Palos Verdes is a relatively small subdivision in the hills of Antipolo. And it certainly lives up to its name - there are more places with tall green trees here than houses! Thanks to our friends, John and Vivette Webb who reside in this verdant area, we were able to escape the baking heat of the lowlands and enjoy the birds at the same time.

It being summer, there weren't that many feathered creatures around, but for those that were present it was a time of love and war. Avian breeding season is the reason for this. Songs filled the morning as males staked their territories. Inevitably a fight would ensue whenever a trespasser comes or a rival to a prospective mate appears. We have witnessed many instances of this happening - from different species! 

The few birds that we managed to photograph were the common ones usually seen here. This time they were a bit bolder perhaps because they were more focused on reproducing their kind or defending their domains.

Black-naped Oriole
Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker
At this elevation, it was a surprise to see a Pied Bushchat diligently hunting for food.

As we were about to leave, the usually skulking Barred Rail paraded in front of us.

Finally it was time for us to return home. It wasn't long after we left the place of Green Trees that we had to bear with the sad realities of summer - traffic jams and excruciating heat.