Saturday, December 31, 2016

Subic Birding - Day 2 - A Lifer to End the Year

We were hoping for a bleeding heart but got fowled instead. Yesterday, Chris Chafer, a birding friend, told me via PM that there were Luzon Bleeding Hearts at the Nabasan Trail. Bright and early in the morning Cynthia and I began our search for the rare pigeon. Halfway inside the trail I saw them - no, not the bleeding hearts but a family of Red Junglefowls. In my excitement (this was a lifer for us!) I forgot to adjust the settings of my camera and so I only got one documentary shot of the male.

After negotiating the entire length of the trail and dipping on our target species, we returned to the junction where we saw the White-bellied Woodpecker yesterday. It wasn't there this time. In its place was a Balicassiao and a pair of Green Racket-tails.

Surprisingly, there weren't a lot of birds. We moved on and went to Hill 394. Again it wasn't birdy at all although we were lucky that a Luzon Flameback dropped by.

From there we tried the area across the Treetop Adventure Park. Here we got good shots of a nesting White-bellied Woodpecker.

Philippine Bulbuls were quite active here as well.

A huge flock (about 20 individuals) of Ashy Minivets passed by stopping at the pine trees for a few minutes.

After lunch we went to the Waterfront area. Other than a couple of Lesser Sand Plovers (?), there were no birds on the seashore.

On the way to the Volunteer's Park, we encountered a Crested Myna along the way.

At the park, the hoped for Brahminy Kites were absent. I'm sure it was because some people were already exploding fireworks by the lake and a Karaoke system was in full blast. As a consolation, my wife was able to photograph a Clamorous Reed Warbler.

To end the year, we had an obligatory shot of the migrant Brown Shrike.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Subic Birding - Day 1, Only This and Nothing More

"Once upon a December quite dreary while I pondered weak and weary
Having driven quite a distance and my body feeling sore
Our car barely stopping when Cynthia heard a tapping
As of one urgently rapping, rapping that's for sure
Tis some woodpecker my wife was quite sure
Only this and nothing more"

I was reminded of Edgar Allan Poe's poem about the raven as we had an encounter with the White-bellied Woodpecker at the Nabasan Trail. We had barely parked the car when the loud tapping filled the morning air. We did not have any problem finding the bird and we got our shots right away. I hoped that that would be a good beginning to our birding trip to Subic. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way. We did see a lot of birds, but photographing them was a different story. The local avian population somehow seemed more skittish now. For the whole day that we spent birding we only photographed four more species aside from the White-bellied Woodpecker: White-throated Kingfisher, Whiskered Treeswift, Blue-throated Bee-eater and Philippine Falconet.

Only these and nothing more.

White-bellied Woodpecker
White-throated Kingfisher
Whiskered Treeswift
Blue-throated Bee-eater
Philippine Falconet

Friday, December 09, 2016

Coron Birding - 2016 Information

Inasmuch as our trip to Coron this time around was to accompany our birding friend Peter Ting and his Taiwanese guests, we thought it would be more practical to book a tour rather than make separate arrangements for hotel, transportation and guides.

Thanks to our neighbor and co-birding enthusiast, Chin Fernandez, we were given an awesome package which included: Pick-up to and from the airport (with birding along the way), room accommodations, bird guides (Anthony and Erwin), complete meals even while we were birding, a van to take us to the birding places, and covered the entrance fees to the Capayas Creek Bird preserve.

Let me just say that the service provided by both the hotel and the tour personnel were excellent! Our sincerest thanks to Iza Barcelona for handling the logistics and accommodations, to guides Anthony Araojo and Erwin Edonga for spotting the birds, and to driver Rodel for being always on the look out for birds while driving and for quickly stopping whenever he or we saw one.

One more thing: the food was sumptuous both at the hotel and even at the birding places. The term "packed" (breakfast or lunch) doesn't give credit to the quality and quantity of food that was served to us. The night before we were given a menu to choose what kind of breakfast we wanted "packed" for our early morning meal that we will have at the place where we will be birding. That included hot coffee! Lunch was composed of three entrees, rice and soup. The cold bottled water supply was unlimited.

If you are interested in going birding in Coron our advice is to avail of this type of tour package. You may contact either Darayonan Lodge at or My Blue Backpack at

Both are managed by our friend, Chin Fernandez.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Coron Birding Day 3 - Change of Luck

Since we have birded Capayas Creek the past two days we agreed that a change of venue would be practical and beneficial. So off to Villa Khadine Grande Vista Resort we went. My wife and I were fortunate to photograph the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and Spot-throated Flamebacks here four years ago. 

While having breakfast there a large flock of Asian Glossy Starlings settled in the nearby trees. They were joined by about 4 Ashy Minivets. It was still early morning so the birds we saw were practically just silhouettes and we weren't able to get really good pictures of them. After breakfast we roamed around the place but dipped on our target birds. Our companions suggested we just return to Capayas Creek. As we were about to leave we were met our friend Gigi Velasquez who owns the place. She said the birds usually appear around 8 am. It was only 7 but the Taiwanese couple still preferred to go back to Capayas Creek. 

Before returning to their desired birding spot, our driver, Rodel, suggested we do a quick visit to the Fernvale Subdivision. It is a fairly new housing area and most of the place still had trees and greeneries. Once again the birds were a no show. When we approached the gate on our way out Cynthia suddenly yelled "Woodpecker!" and pointed to a red spot on a tree across the street. We all jumped out of the van and ran towards that tree only to see the woodpecker fly. Luckily for us it landed on another tree that was even closer to where we were! We can't believe such a change of luck as we had our fill in photographing a very cooperative Spot-throated Flameback.

Back at Capayas Creek our friends continued taking pictures of the friendly Blue-eared Kingfishers (there were now two of them). My wife and I, on the other hand, went to Erwin's backyard and got more shots of the Yellow-throated Leafbird and a female Olive-backed sunbird.

A quick walk along the road gave us a closer look at a Crested Goshawk.

At 10:30 we packed up. Time to head to the airport. Although our flight schedule is at 1:30 pm, we thought it be would be a good idea to continue birding along the way. Although we encountered only the common birds such as the Paddyfield Pipit and the Long-tailed Shrike, our friends from Taiwan wanted so much to take photos of the shrike since it was a lifer for them.

Paddyfield Pipit
Long-tailed Shrike
With still enough time to spare, Rodel took us to the river near the airport where he said he had seen a Stork-billed Kingfisher. We dipped on that as well. So we just had lunch there. After another awesome lunch and when we were approaching the airport terminal, a group of Eurasian Tree Sparrows (the trash bird of the Philippines) took off from a railing by the roadside and flew down to the grassy field. Among them was a strange bird with a purplish and black coloring. The first thing that came to my mind was a Brambling! We saw this species in South Korea and it sure looked similar. As luck would have it that bird never showed up again and because we had to check in for our flight we didn't have time to wait for it to reappear. Rodel and Anthony went back to that place after dropping us off but still did not see the bird again.

The final bird I photographed just before getting inside the terminal was a Scaly-breasted Munia. Not a bad consolation for the change of luck we just had.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Coron Birding Day 2 - Change has Come

On our second day it was decided that we just stay at the Capayas Creek Bird Preserve for the whole day. Our friends wanted better pictures of the Blue-eared Kingfisher and also hoped that the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher would show up. Inasmuch as my wife and I already had good pictures of both species the last time we were here, we opted to roam around the area with Anthony guiding us.

We walked towards the La Natura Resort birding along the way. It was Anthony's keen eyesight and sharp ears that enabled us to see the forest birds. Such as the Ashy Drongo

the Black-naped Monarch

and the Blue-headed Racket-tail

We had another sumptuous "packed" lunch at Capayas Creek and after that Cynthia and I joined our friends in photographing both kingfishers (the Oriental Dwarf also showed up). 

Blue-eared Kingfisher
Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher
Another challenge was the hyperactive, skulking, but noisy Rufous-tailed Tailorbird.

Around 4 pm we all called it a day. In our hotel room while waiting for our dinner which will be served at six, I was thinking how much has changed since we were last here back in October of 2012. Our 5-day stay in Coron then was one of the most fruitful birding trips we had in the Philippines. Back then, by just staying in the vicinity of guide Erwin's house, we had close encounters with some of the most beautiful birds of this island. Imagine Blue Paradise Flycatchers, Ashy Drongos, Black-naped Monarchs, Palawan Flowerpeckers, Lovely Sunbirds, Ashy-fronted Bulbuls and White-vented Shamas all frolicking just a few feet away, some at eye-level! The "3 kings" (Blue-eared, Oriental Dwarf and Ruddy Kingfishers) were easy pickings. We even got the Stork-billed when we went to the mangrove area near the Maquinit Hot Springs. 

In fairness, the Palawan Flowerpeckers, Ashy-fronted Bulbuls and this time the Yellow-throated Leafbirds were still there offering great photo opportunities. And of course, so did the two kingfisher species I mentioned earlier. Still, somehow, we felt that things have already changed in a less than positive way when it came to birding. Perhaps it was because of the new structures in the area and/or maybe it was the coming and going of noisy motorcycles every 10 minutes or so. 

I am glad that progress is happening in this beautiful island. However the negative impact on wildlife, particularly the birds, is somewhat saddening.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Coron Birding Day 1 - Change is Coming

It was totally unexpected. Our friend, Chin Fernandez, who is from here told us that there was an uncommon raptor seen by the road near the airport. So far only three people had photographed this species he said since the time it was first spotted in the area.

After having just arrived at Coron and while we were in the van that the Darayonan Lodge provided to pick us up that I saw some birds. Rodel, our driver, stopped the van and we all (me, Cynthia, our friend, Peter, and the Taiwanese couple) unpacked our gears. Our first official bird of the trip was the Pacific Golden Plover - about 12 of them strangely spending the early morning in a meadow.

Further down the road we encountered our first raptor: the Crested Goshawk. 

Both the plover and the goshawk were not lifers for me and Cynthia but this was the first time we saw them in the Philippines.

It was Rodel's sharp eyes that gave me and my wife our only lifer for this trip - the Changeable Hawk-Eagle! Together with our birding companions, there are now eight people who had successfully photographed this raptor here in Coron. Change indeed has come.

After a quick check in into our hotel - thanks to Iza Barcelona, the OIC of Darayonan Lodge - we all proceeded to the Capayas Creek Bird Preserve. With us was our guide, Anthony. At Capayas we were met by our old friend and local guide, Erwin Edonga. While Peter and Mr. & Mrs. Liao were at the tree house to await the Blue-eared Kingfisher, Cynthia and I went to Erwin's front yard were the banana and papaya trees were fruiting. Here we got some fantastic shots of the endemics such as the plentiful Palawan Flowerpecker.

the colorful Yellow-throated Leafbird

the Ashy-fronted Bulbul

and the Palawan Bulbul

Having our fill of these birds we rejoined our companions and was rewarded with getting shots at the tiny Blue-eared Kingfisher.

That afternoon, before heading back to our hotel, we decided to visit the area near Maquinit Hot Springs to hopefully see the Stork-billed Kingfisher. Unfortunately, we dipped on that and only got the very common Collared kind.

After a sumptuous dinner at the hotel we all retired to our respective rooms and got a very much needed sleep (we all have been awake since 3 am).