Sunday, August 24, 2014

Robin's 'Hood

Yes, there were Lowland White-eyes. Scads of them as a matter of fact. But it was the Philippine Magpie Robins that claimed the place as their 'hood.

My wife and I were at the La Mesa Ecopark early Saturday nursing a slim hope of seeing the Rufous Paradise Flycatcher. At the parking lot we met fellow bird photographer Arnel Ceriola. He was the one who posted to Facebook a photo of the said bird last Thursday. He wanted to see it again and maybe get a better shot he told us.

We staked out the place where he last saw the bird. Cynthia, on the other hand, decided to explore the surrounding areas. Almost an hour passed and there wasn't even a twitter from the uncommon flycatcher. I texted my wife and asked if she found anything interesting. "Mangrove Blue Flycatchers" she texted back. I excused myself from the stake out and told Arnel I'd be joining my wife. It was not long after I met up with Cynthia that I saw the Mangrove Blue. "Told ya!" my wife said with a smug smile.

Overhead we could hear the constant "pi-piyaw" of the Black-naped Orioles.

Flocks of hyperactive Lowland White-eyes were constantly moving from tree to tree.

Still, as I mentioned earlier, the day belonged to the Philippine Magpie-Robins. Juveniles and adults were scavenging tidbits from the horse feed that fell on the ground. The bullying tactics of the Yellow-vented Bulbuls never fazed these black-and-white birds. It was, after all, their 'hood.

A little after 10 am, we decided to call it a day. On our way out, we met more fellow bird photographers who were intent on finding the fabled "paradise" bird. Bert and his friend, May, were lucky enough to get a photo of a Cuckoo (ID still to be confirmed). Rocky, Roy and Fr. Auckhs were starting their own stake-outs. Arnel decided to leave earlier satisfied at having photographed the immature Red-bellied Pitta.

Cynthia suggested we do a quick look from the view deck before leaving the park. The waterway was almost completely covered by grass and weeds and there were no birds in sight. We were about to give up when a small flock of Scaly-breasted Munias took a break from their flight and gave us enough time for some photo-ops.

Even though we missed on our "target" birds, we were happy with what we got and especially enjoyed the local 'hood.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Field Guide

The ricefields inside IRRI in Los Banos is a haven for birds. However, it being a place for experimental rice farming, access is limited to their employees and their guests. Luckily our friend, Prof. Tirso Paris, has that access privilege. It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning when my wife and I together with friends, Irene and Bong, met up with Prof. Tirso at the IRRI gate.

All four of us were excited to go birding at this place because we hadn't done much birding for almost three months now. As I mentioned in my previous blog, blame the burning hot summer days then followed by the season of torrential rains for that. Prof. Tirso warned us not to expect too much because migration wasn't in full swing yet. Still, photographing any bird in the lush fields of IRRI would be enough for us.

Although we missed taking pictures of our target birds: the Greater Painted Snipe and the Barred Buttonquail, we were nevertheless thrilled at the birds we photographed. Foremost of these were the Wood Sandpipers which were practically all over the place. Irene counted almost a hundred of them!

Next would be the Zitting Cisticolas. Their incessant twittering filled the morning air.

As expected in any ricefield, both Chestnut and Scaly-breasted Munias were busy feeding at some of the ripening grains.

Chestnut Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia
The usually skittish Buff-banded Rails were sunning themselves, trying to get rid of the moisture from the early morning dew.

A surprise was a Pied Bush Chat.

Another surprise was when we saw a Cinnamon Bittern performing what we presumed to be a courtship display. Inasmuch as we didn't see the female maybe this was just its way of drying itself from the previous night's dampness.

The usual denizens of IRRI brightened up our morning. The Paddyfield Pipit was diligently hunting for food.

While the Oriental Skylark was already feeling the heat of the day as midmorning came.

It was a fruitful day of birding for us. We owe it all to Prof. Tirso who was our "guide" to the field birds of IRRI.

photo taken by Irene

Sunday, August 10, 2014

There He Ghosh

Other than a short, half-hearted stint at the U.P. campus last July, Cynthia and I hadn't done serious birding in quite a while. Blame the summer heat and then the torrential rains that followed after that. Thankfully the weekend had a long awaited break in the weather and Saturday was a wonderfully sunny day.

I was so out of it that I couldn't believe I missed the Carmona exit at the SLEX! Two exits later we made a roundabout and finally got to where we intended to go. 

We were driving slowly towards Mt. Palay-palay when my wife's sharp ears heard the shrieking voice of the Luzon Hornbill. I stopped the car and we both jumped out with cameras in hand. Soon we were photographing the hornbill family - our first official bird after a long hiatus. The birds then flew to a tree much farther than where we first saw them. 

We were about to return to our car when we saw another SUV dislodge its passengers - all three of them carrying cameras with long lenses. "Birders!" I told my wife. As we approached them, two waved at us - they were our friends, Prof. Reuel Aguila and Anthony Balbin. They were guiding a birder from India. We introduced ourselves and we learned that he is Joyjit Ghosh. We told them about the hornbills and they decided to wait and hope that the big-billed birds would fly back. 

We moved on and were surprised at the apparent lack of birds. Towards Caylabne Resort just past the junction to the road to Nasugbu, was where we saw the Whiskered Treeswift. A few kilometers later we got the other "regular" of this place - the Philippine Falconet. 

Again, the scarcity of birds was quite intriguing: Where were the Elegant Tits? The Coppersmith Barbets? the Philippine Bulbuls? Even the Brahminy Kites were not as plentiful.

Turning back, we saw a familiar sight. "There he Ghosh!" I exclaimed, as we saw our new friend from India, sitting behind their SUV. He put his finger to his lips and motioned us to come quietly, then pointed to a tree beside the road. For the life of me, I couldn't see what it was he was pointing at. Prof. Reuel emerged from his hiding place behind a banana tree and told us that there was a pair of Philippine Green Pigeons there. After straining my eyes, I finally saw one. And then the other flew across the road and landed on another tree. Joyjit chased after it while I just contented myself with the one that stayed behind.

"We told the pigeons to stay because we knew you were coming," Prof. Reuel assured us. In turn we informed them where to find the Treeswift and the Falconet. Once again we parted ways as we planned on exploring the road to the tunnel to Nasugbu. That turned out to be a total dud.

A quick foray inside the Puerto Azul Resort only yielded terribly backlit photos of Asian Glossy Starlings.

I was unbelievably exhausted when we got home a little after twelve noon. I plopped on the bed and instantly fell asleep. Those long, lazy non-birding days definitely took the energy out of my body. We need to do more birding trips. Weather permitting.