Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cloudy with a chance of Woodswallows

Bad weather = bad birding. And if you're into bird photography, it's even worse! With grey clouds covering the skies, what could be the chances of seeing birds?

Such was the case when my wife and I made an impromptu decision to go birding in Antipolo. Surprisingly, there were quite a number of birds taking advantage of the pre-rain atmosphere. The few species we photographed that were not black images in our screens were shaking off the dew from their feathers:

Pied Bush Chat - male
Tawny Grassbird
The rest were mostly silhouettes and were quite a challenge in post-processing (of which I am admittedly not very good at).

Perhaps it was because of the gloomy weather that of the once plentiful Scaly-breasted Munias, only one individual showed up and didn't stay long even. 

What surprised us was the great number of Artamus leucorhynchus. We've seen several of these birds snuggle together on an electric wire or on a bare branch..only to suddenly fly off as soon as we approached. Nevertheless, we were glad that the White-breasted Woodswallows were there inspite of the cloudy skies.

An hour-and-a-half later, it started to drizzle. Time for us to head back home as we're sure that the birds would themselves seek shelter from the oncoming rain.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Here's Looking at You...

Of all the birding places in the world, we had to be here at the campus of the University of the Philippines (U.P.) in Diliman. The proximity to our home, of course, was the perfect excuse. However, this particular Saturday morning, something seemed to be a little weird. That was why I was wondering what stroke of fate brought us here at this particular place to experience this strange phenomenon: most of the birds we photographed were staring directly at us!

a Black-naped Oriole

a Long-tailed Shrike

a Pied Triller

and a Striated Grassbird

Thankfully, as my wife and I were about to leave, a Coppersmith Barbet was just too busy gorging on the berries that it never even paused to give us that dreadful glaring look.

Still shaken by being stared at by several birds, we decided to have a buffet breakfast at the nearby Cafe Sweet Inspirations, so that, you know, we can shake off that eerie feeling. This time it was the two of us that were gawking at such an array of delicious food.

Here's looking at you fried rice, chicken and pork adobo, fried longanisa, crispy danggit, champurado, lugaw, endless coffee, .....

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Imagine This

Imagine this: An uncommon black and yellow-orange bird that is so lovely that birders and bird photographers alike dream of seeing one. It is a migrant so chances of it being seen can only happen from October to March.

Imagine that this bird appeared in such unlikely places as near a school library or inside a subdivision.

Imagine a bunch of birders seeing it and bird photographers getting photos of this beauty. Except me and my wife.

For 5 years we never saw it despite several attempts.

So painful was my frustration that I even created a video using Adolf Hitler as my alter ego ranting that the Narcissus Flycatcher was only a figment of imagination. 

Please click the link below to watch the video.

Imagine how we felt when we learned that another male was recently seen and photographed at a small garden near the Baclaran church!

November 1. All Saints Day. A holiday. Which means very minimal traffic. I can no longer hold my excitement. I told my wife we had to go. Now! We arrived at Baclaran from our home in Quezon City in half an hour. Via EDSA. Imagine that!

Imagine how easy it was to finally see and photograph our dream bird. 

Thanks to dear friends Ruth, who informed me about this, Maia, for encouraging me to go and also to Conrad Olayres for diligently looking for and showing us the male Narcissus. Thanks to new friends Tony Lim and Dan Galvan, and old birding pal, Sean Melendres, for keeping us company.

Imagine Hitler now smiling.

Halloween Birding

October 31. Halloween. The eve of All Saints' Day. This is when ghosts, ghouls and various evil spirits supposedly celebrate their allotted time before the saints take over the following day.

This was also the time when four birders decided to try their luck at the valley between Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal. For me and my wife it was the desire to add two more lifers to our list: The Luzon Sunbird and ver rare Von Schrenck's Bittern. For our companions Ruth (who kindly did the driving) and Doc Cha, it was getting back into the thrill of watching birds once again.

Just before the resort parking area we saw the brothers Lepatan, along with the local guide Jason, photographing something. We joined them and were informed that there were both male and female Narcissus Flycatchers in the trees in front of us. Perhaps it was the halloween spirit that haunted us because we only saw glimpses of the female and none at all of the more colorful male (which I have failed to see despite several attempts for the past 5 years).

When we asked Jason about our target birds he informed us that we had to follow some protocol regarding the bittern. The space where it can be seen was quite limited and also they prefer that no more than 4 people be there at the site at any given time. Since there was already a group that was ahead of us, we were asked to wait for our turn which would depend on how satisfied the present viewers would be.

The Luzon Sunbird, on the other hand, had not been seen for about a week now. The flowers that they feed on were no longer in bloom, Jason said. But we can still give it a try he encouragingly told us.

While the Lepatans were waiting for their two more brothers to join them, Ruth, Doc Cha, Cynthia and myself were entertained by a Rusty-breasted Cuckoo atop a tree near the restaurant.

With the group now complete we all hiked to where the Sunbirds were last seen. It was also near the place where Jason would be showing the White-browed Shortwing to the Lepatans. 

While waiting for the brothers to return from the shortwing site, a Turquoise Flycatcher gave us some good view, although a bit far.

Then it was Ruth's and Doc Cha's turn to see the Shortwing. We didn't go with them because we've already photographed this species in the same spot about 3 years ago. While they were there my wife and I kept looking at the red flowers that the sunbirds supposedly feed on. No such luck however. Only a Red-keeled Flowerpecker showed up and it was so high up that we were not able to get a decent photo.

We did see other birds while we were waiting for our guide to return from the shortwing site. One of them was a Philippine Serpent Eagle flying over. 

It was also while we were in the "waiting area" that it rained off and on. In between downpours birds would reappear. That's when we saw a flock of Mountain White-eyes, and a Buzzing Flowerpecker.

Mountain White-eye
Buzzing Flowerpecker
After everyone had seen the shortwing, Jason got news from his brother Chris that the Von Schrenck's had not showed up yet. We hiked back to the restaurant and since it was almost noon we had our lunch.

After lunch we had a debate whether the bird we saw near the restaurant was the very common Brown Shrike or the rarer (and possible lifer) Mountain Shrike. We hadn't come to a definite conclusion yet so any suggestions would be appreciated.

Since news that the bittern was still a no-show, we tried for the Narcissus Flycatcher again and got the female this time.

At 2:30 pm it appeared that we would never be able to get the chance to see the bittern. With heavy hearts we all decided that it's time to go home.

It was a disappointment for me because I dipped on my two target birds for the trip.

Well, it was Halloween so all I could say was: Boo!