Monday, February 27, 2017

Ricefields Forever?

Gone are the ponds. The place can no longer be referred to as "wetlands". In its place are ricefields, as far as the eye can see. Because of that thousands of migrant ducks and waders no longer come here. This is Candaba now.

In fairness, there were still birds. Chestnut Munias, Red Turtledoves, and Zebra Doves were plentiful.

Our trip with birding buddies Peter Ting and Wenxing Pan last Saturday was like a roller coaster ride. There were ups and downs. The downside being the absence of the ducks and waders I mentioned earlier. The whole time we were there, we only saw two Wandering Whistling Ducks, two Black-winged Stilts, one Long-toed Stint and one Common Greenshank. Wood Sandpipers, on the other hand, seemed to be more in numbers. Perhaps it was because now they tended to flock closer together in the watery gaps between the rice crops.

The upside was being rewarded with really close views of two kinds of bitterns: The Yellow as we were entering the site and the Cinnamon as we were leaving.

Yellow Bittern
Cinnamon Bittern
Then we had the up-and-down experience of trying to photograph birds in flight. First was a pair of Eastern Marsh Harriers. Each time we saw them they tended to fly farther away from us. We had to either wait for them to fly back or we leave the place then return when the raptors felt that there were no more people around and got more confident to fly closer.

The other challenge was the Oriental Pratincole. Surprisingly, there were lots of them, maybe close to a hundred, all ceaselessly flying overhead. Trying to focus on an individual is a test of patience and skills.

Without the ducks and waders, we had to cut our trip short. It was about this time last year when we twitched some rarities here: the Baikal Teal, Falcated Duck and Spot-billed Duck all seen at the pond close to the Mayor's house. Now there were just ricefields. Is it going to be like this forever?

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