Friday, November 20, 2015

Stalking the Flames

Our friend, Anthony Balbin, gave us precise directions: As you enter the road to Nabasan, on the right side there is a dead tree about twelve feet high near the fence. The birds will come almost at eye level.

Armed with and encouraged by this information, we travelled to Subic early Tuesday morning. We proceeded directly to the place that Anthony described. Just as we made the right turn, we saw it! The male Luzon Flameback was digging a hole in the dead tree trunk! Cynthia and I both fired away. 

My wife got some some good shots while I had a few……oh wait! are those Sooty Woodpeckers?

Luzon Flameback
Sooty Woodpecker
Actually there was a mixed flock frolicking on the trees on both sides of the road. Black-naped Orioles were calling incessantly while the Rufous Coucals were doing their own vocalizations. 

The Balicassiaos were darting back and forth and then a solitary White-throated Kingfisher dropped by to say hello.

White-throated Kingfisher
Since I was um, er… "distracted" by the Sooty Woodpeckers earlier, we decided to stay across the dead tree trunk and stalk the Flamebacks. This time I got my share of Luzon Flameback photographs.

By 9 am, everything quieted down. We made another trip around the Nabasan trail loop and didn't see any birds. Birders, yes. We noticed a couple carrying cameras and looking up at the trees.  Birds photographers, Cynthia and I agreed. George and Manette Inocencio are still new into this hobby and are both very enthusiastic! It is interesting to note that every year since 2013 we've met birders (who became our friends) here at Nabasan. Last year it was Rannie Aguilar and his family. The year before that was Jens Hansen a Dane who had been travelling all over the world to watch birds. After some shop talk with the Inocencios we bade them goodbye because we will be checking in at Mango Valley, our hotel of choice for this trip. We later had lunch at our favorite restaurant, Cocolime. 

A few kilometers after we left our house that morning I already heard a noise coming from our left front tire. Cynthia thought it was just because of the road we were travelling on. However after lunch, the noise seemed louder. I told my wife that I'm getting worried about it and I will feel a lot better if we have it checked. We drove to  Yokohama Tire where they also had a repair shop. My worst fears had been confirmed - the wheel bearing of the left tire was damaged. The manager sort of hemmed and hawed with regards to getting the replacement part. We were adamant that we need to have it fixed asap because we will be returning to Manila the following day. After about 4 hours, the manager told us that the bearing had been replaced and that it was now ok. We left hurriedly so that we can still do some birding before it got dark.

A little before 5 pm, we were at Cubi Point. There it was mob rule by  a huge flock of Black-naped Orioles harassing the smaller Pied Trillers and the bigger Large-billed Crows. At the safer part of the community a lone Philippine Hanging Parrot tried to catch the last rays of the setting sun.

The times when we were here at this time of day, groups of Blue-naped Parrots would usually come and roost among the pine branches. However, this day we only saw one, peeping out of its home one last time before calling it a day.

Then came the Black-throated Bee-eaters, hundreds of them, flying from all directions and all settling down on the pine trees. It was a sight to behold but sadly the crepuscular light was not good enough for photography.

Early the following day we were at the area near the Jest Camp. A horde of Coletos were basking in the dawn. When the sun shone brightly a little later, that sort of signaled them to start their breakfast. The Coletos flew to a tree to gorge on the fruits. 

It was then that we noticed that one bird didn't seem to belong to the group. It was definitely bigger and was all black without the Coleto's distinctive fleshy part on the head. When I finally realized what it was, I was thrilled! Not only will this be the first time I will see this species in the Philippines, it is also the first time I am looking at (and photographing) the male Asian Koel!

From there we proceeded to the Nabasan Trail. Once again, the Sooty Woodpeckers were there. An angry looking male Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike made a brief appearance.

Here the Psittidae family was represented by the Blue-naped Parrot and the Green Racquet-tail.

Blue-naped Parrot
Green Racquet-tail
Of course, because this was really our main target in coming here, we started stalking the Flamebacks again. Like clockwork, the male came and began working on the hole while the female patiently waited nearby.

We made one more trip around the loop and this time we got the Blue-throated Bee-eater and the Whiskered Treeswift.

Blue-throated Bee-eater
Whiskered Treeswift
Then it drizzled. A White-throated Kingfisher was so indifferent to the raindrops as we got our last bird photo of the day. 

It was time to check out of our hotel and start the long trip home. After parking at the hotel grounds I noticed that our left rear tire has gone flat! As in totally flat! Thankfully the hotel driver was around to help replace it with our spare tire.

It was such a sad closing to our wonderful two-day birding in Subic. So affected were we that we both decided to bypass lunch and head straight home.

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