Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Trip to the Munias

Saturday, my wife and I decided to take a trip to see Scaly-breasted Munias. Actually, or plan was to go birding at the Palos Verdes subdivision in Antipolo City - a place only 15 kms away from our home though roads that relatively has lesser traffic (emphasis on the word "relatively"). And the species that could be seen there with certainty was the Lonchura punctulata.

Sure enough as soon as we entered the subdivision we were greeted by a flock of these tiny brown birds. Throughout the two-and-a-half hours we spent there, we encountered flock upon flock of munias.

Of course, there were other birds, too. Another species seen here regularly is the Spotted Dove. This one was limping as it crossed the road ahead of us. Other than that it looked healthy enough and even flew quite well.

One surprise was a Chinese Sparrowhawk being harassed by four Black-naped Orioles. I was only able to get a couple of shots (and not good ones either) as it quickly evaded the bullying of the yellow birds.

I was telling Cynthia that the migrant Grey Wagtails seem to have not arrived yet but as we turned a corner, there on the ground was one aggressively looking for food.

One of the highlights on that day was the Golden-headed Cisticola. A few of them were singing their hearts out as they enjoyed a beautiful sunny morning.

The other highlight was the Pied Bush Chat. This species is not that common here and we were surprised to find a young male.

Near the gate we got the mature male.

Later, after leaving Palos Verdes, we decided to go to the Heritage Park Cemetery to try for the Paddyfield Pipit. Target acquired just a few minutes after we got there. 

Even before we saw the pipit, a female Pied Bush Chat completed our family portraiture of this flycatcher.

We planned a trip to the munias but ended up chatting along the way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Date with the Colasisi

"Colasisi" is another name for the Philippine Hanging Parrot (Loriculus philippensis). It was derived from the Tagalog word kulasisi which, interestingly, also had a different connotation: It means "mistress" or "the other woman". Inasmuch as the kulasisi was (and sadly, continues to be) a favorite cage bird because of its beautiful colors, the name was applied to a woman other than the wife. She was considered as a "pet".

Our birding friend from China, Wenxing, still did not have a good picture of this species. When our other birding friend and frequent companion, Peter, informed us that these colorful endemics were a sure find in a park within their subdivision, we all accepted his invitation to go there. We set Monday, September 12, as our date with the Colasisi.

At 6 am, as if on cue, three colasisis feasted on the trees with yellow flowers. For about an hour-and-a-half Wenxing and I had our fill at photographing these tiny gems. It was an enjoyable experience photographing them in this urban environment.

Here are some photos taken there.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Road Less Birded

It had been quite a while since I last saw postings of bird pictures taken from Mt. Palay-palay. That seemed strange because this place is one of the birding spots close to MetroManila. Perhaps these days birders were being drawn to the "more productive" sites such as Subic, IRRI, and recently, Bangkong Kahoy Valley.

When friends Peter and Wenxing suggested that we try Mt. Palay-palay on Saturday, I hastily agreed. This is basically roadside birding stretching from Ternate going up to the Caylabne Resort. We've had good experiences here before so we hoped that we would be seeing multitudes of bird species. Thus began our trip to the road less birded.

Our first encounter was the endemic Philippine Falconet - one of the world's smallest raptors. Lots of them! At one point there were 7 birds perched in a single tree! A bit far but who's complaining.

After the falconets, birds were as scarce as snowflakes in the Sahara. We just saw one (!) Luzon Hornbill and even failed to take a photo because it was too high in a tree and didn't even stay long for a photo-op! The Brahminy Kites were there alright but they were soaring so high up. 

On our way back I was lucky enough to photograph one perched on a tree across the road.

The only other birds of note were the swallows/woodswallows.

Pacific Swallow
White-breasted Woodswallow
While Peter and Wenxing were "kiting" (taking pictures of the Brahminy Kites) a small flock of Striated Swallows perched on the electric wire above where Cynthia and I were taking refuge from the scorching sun. The swallows were taking turns flying off then returning to their perches. My wife and I thought this would be a good opportunity to practice our BIF (birds in flight) shots. Once again, I was outshot by my better half and thereby living up to that description.

We got photos of the Coppersmith Barbet, the Coleto and the Stripe-headed Rhabdornis. However, the shots were only of "documentary" quality because these birds were all perched at quite a distance from us.

As we prepared to go home, I took some photos of the Long-tailed Macaques roaming the area. Somehow the look on the face of one of them reflected the mood we were in.

Leaving Mt. Palay-palay it became clear to me why this 17 kilometer stretch had become the road less birded.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Watch Me Nine Nine

About two years ago a rapper named Silento became famous because of his song/video titled "Watch Me Nae Nae". Indeed the beat was so captivating that one can't help but dance to its pulsating rhythm.

Now what has that got to do with birding? Nothing really except I just wanted to make a pun of the title. Inasmuch as today is the ninth of September (9-9), and I (with my wife, actually) was out watching birds in our neighborhood, I thought that would be an appropriate title.

We did see some of our target birds such as the Chestnut Munias. We saw three of them - an adult, one that is molting into adulthood and a juvenile.

The Golden-bellied Gerygones were still frolicking at the lower branches and even perching on the electric wires.

The migrant "boss" was now even more conspicuous.

Finally, the Olive-backed Sunbird showed up quite late again.

We missed some species like the Philippine Pied Fantail and the Blue Rock Thrush and those Black-naped Orioles that kept mocking us by constantly announcing their presence and yet not exposing themselves. They would then suddenly fly over us and disappear once again from view. For these birds a fitting title would be "watch me nay nay".

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Empire Shrike's Back

The emperor went to the highest point, looked around at his domain, and proclaimed that he is back! He had always been known as a tyrant, a bully even, chasing away intruders in his territory. He had travelled thousands of miles after spending the warm days of summer in the northern part of his empire. Now for the next 7 - 8 months he will rule his chosen realm with power and arrogance.

Today was the first time my wife and I saw the migrant Brown Shrike. 

Learning from yesterday's lesson where we saw several birds, some even at close range, in our regular walk around the village, and not bringing along my camera thus missing some great photographic opportunities, this time I was ready. Good thing I did.. because I was able to document the belligerent shrike as it announced its presence.

To our surprise, it wasn't the only migrant in our village. Back at its hangout (where we first saw it last year) was a female Blue Rock Thrush!

Of course, the "locals" were up and about. Interestingly the Golden-bellied Gerygones were quite plentiful and uncharacteristically even frolicked among the lower branches of the trees. Perhaps avoiding being harassed by the emperor.

On the other hand, the Philippine Pied Fantail, another aggressive species, was doing its usual business.

The Zebra Dove was at its usual nonchalant attitude.

The Olive-backed Sunbird appeared a little bit later than it normally does.

Another surprise was the Chestnut Munia. We did see it yesterday at its bamboo habitat and Cynthia and I were hoping that it would show up again today. Their (there were more than one for sure) appearance in this area had been irregular and there were times that we don't see them for weeks. Today, it seems that another brood of young ones would soon be populating our neighborhood. This adult had been picking up pieces of bamboo leaves and then bringing them inside the thicket.

Finally, a gratuitous shot of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, a juvenile even.

No photos of the Yellow-vented Bulbuls this time as they appear to be very antsy because their nemesis, the emperor shrike, is back.