Wednesday, November 02, 2016

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!

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