Thursday, January 08, 2015

Sighs and Whiskers

To start off the new year, Cynthia and I went to Davao City - primarily to attend her niece's wedding - and of course, inasmuch as we were already there, to go birding as well. Our beginning of the year's birding experience can only be described as having ups and downs - sometimes literally. Please allow me to break it down in a few short stories.

Silvery Moan

Among our target birds here in Davao was the Silvery Kingfisher. One of the places where it's almost guaranteed to be found is at the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos. Despite our previous disappointing experiences in that place (we've been there twice and had only a fleeting glimpse of the kingfisher once) my hopes were still high. We decided to spend the morning of Saturday at the Eagle Center. We were greeted by a Philippine Hanging Parrot displaying just above the pond. 

Cynthia and I took turns at staking out the said pond. Grey was the mood as I meandered around the area photographing only a Grey-streaked Flycatcher and a Grey Wagtail (or is it Yellow?). 

My wife, on the other hand, had a Chestnut Munia and an Olive-backed Sunbird.

Three hours slowly passed and there was not even the sound of a wheeet nor a silvery feather. Not getting one of the top birds on my want list was heartbreaking. I can only moan in despair as we returned to our hotel.

Loth and Found

Monday morning we were picked up by our friend, Pete Simpson. He will be taking us further up Mt. Talomo to show us another bird in my want list - the Whiskered Flowerpecker. There will be some strenuous hiking involved, he told us, and I would definitely need a porter to carry my long lens and tripod. Prior to the climb, we met up with Loth, our porter and eagle-eyed birder. Pete, of course, was the expert and really great at spotting birds, but despite being relatively new at birding, Loth indeed had sharp eyes as well and there were times when he was the one who found the birds first. He also helped me direct my lens to my avian subjects because my vision had become somewhat antiquated and I had problems differentiating birds from leaves. Thanks to both Pete and Loth, the Whiskered Flowerpecker was quick tick.

The problem, however, was the ambient light. It had been mostly greyish with just a few bursts of sunshine. Despite seeing lots of birds - or in our case, silhouettes - photographing them was next to impossible. Even though we saw lifers, I could not technically include them in my lifelist simply because I did not see them clear enough to confirm the species (regardless of the assurances of Pete). Therefore, Cinnamon Ibon, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Olive-capped Flowerpecker and Short-tailed Starling, I hope to see you again preferably in bright, sunny weather next time. 

Pete, Loth and me
As we were leaving the place, we were rewarded by excellent views of a Coppersmith Barbet in glorious sunlight. Although the ones found here are of a different subspecies (mindanensis) they still look very much the same as those found in Luzon.

Hidden in Eden

In our spare time, while we were checked in at the Eden Resort, we spent them at the Mountain Trail. The Mountain Trail was that exotic place where we easily chalked up two lifers (Cryptic Flycatcher and Philippine Trogon) nine months ago. Aside from those two at least two more species made our visit to that place really worthwhile - the Ruddy Kingfisher and the Black-naped Monarch. This time though it was a complete dud. We were there in the afternoon and saw nothing but a skittish Grey Wagtail. We came back early in the morning and again saw nothing but that same old skittish Grey Wagtail.

The places around the resort were also disappointing. Birds were scarce and when we saw some interesting species (such as a Turquoise Flycatcher), the light was not cooperating and we saw silhouettes all over again. It seemed like the avian residents of Eden were hidden.

Sighs and Whiskers

Perhaps it was the time of year. Or it could be the weather. But our birding trip to Davao this time was filled with sighs of disappointment. Were it not for the sighting of the Whiskered Flowerpeckers, it would have been a complete disaster. 

We just hope and pray that this experience would not replicate itself for the rest of the year. We look forward to more lifers for us and that our bird photography would be more rewarding.

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