Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sweet Inspirations

It's been a while since we visited this place. 

Since I've been feeling somewhat lethargic lately plus the thought of going through horrendous traffic induced me to go someplace nearer than our usual forays. So off to U.P. Diliman we went. 

This was perhaps one of the least productive birding we had. We only managed to photograph five species, two of which were not even worth posting. So here are the results of 2 hours roaming around the campus:

Brown Shrike
Philippine Pied Fantail

White-breasted Waterhen
But allow me to let you in some secret. The trip to U.P. was basically just an excuse. Our real purpose was to indulge in a breakfast buffet at one of our favorite restaurants located not that far from U.P. Cafe Sweet Inspirations offered more choices for us than the Diliman campus did birdwise.


It's been a while since we visited this place.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Yes, No, and Not Yet

The dark gloomy skies of my recent heartbreaking experiences (see my previous blogs) continued to darken whatever enthusiasm I have for bird photography. The most recent one was our failure to see the migrant Chestnut-cheeked Starlings at the premises of the Avilon Zoo. Those birds were seen and photographed the before we came. The day after our visit, friends were once again able to capture the images of those starlings. I was in that kind of funk when I got a PM Thursday night from Mhark Gee, the guide at Avilon. He said that the starlings were now in a different area, are more plentiful, and can easily be seen as they feed on the fruits of the ficus tree. I took a deep breath, murmured a silent prayer and then consulted my wife. Cynthia agreed to go the next day. I quickly replied to Mhark telling him that we will try our luck again.

Friday morning we were at Avilon even before they opened. A little before 8 am, Mhark came and took us to the "site". He pointed at the ficus tree and assured me that our target birds will soon be there. After a few minutes, a female appeared, at some distance, and behind some leaves. Again, Mhark gave us the assurance that they will come closer and more in the open. After about an hour that seemed like an eternity, the female once again appeared, and as our friend said, was out in the open.

Then came a few boisterous Crested Mynas that caused the shy starlings to lie low for a while.

After the Mynas left, the emboldened Chestnut-cheeked birds continued their feeding on the red fruits. This time we were able to capture the image of the more colorful male.

Elated that we had finally overcame the pall of gloom over my bird photography, we consented to Mhark's suggestion that we look for the other "stars" of this place: the Spotted Wood Kingfisher and the Indigo Banded Kingfisher. We did see "Spotty" but it was partly covered and in a dark area and Indigo was a no-show. Although we missed both, it was not a disappointment for us since we already had good photos of the two species of kingfishers.

Around 11 am, we said goodbye to our friend and thanked him profusely for helping us - me, more so - to get over my miseries.

Spurred by the apparent turn of events, Cynthia and I agreed to re-visit the Infanta road the next day. It was drizzling when we left the house early Saturday morning. It even poured hard as we were having breakfast at Pico de Pino in Tanay. Eventually, the skies cleared up a bit when we reached our destination. There were moments when mist covered the hillside where the birds usually frolic. However, despite the help of friends Tonji and Sylvia, our target species - the Olive-backed Flowerpecker once again failed to appear. It was deja vu as none of our hoped for lifer still remained unticked in our list. It wasn't a complete disaster because thanks to another friend, Anthony, we saw a Changeable Hawk-Eagle high up on the hillside. This was the first sighting of this species in this area, as far as we know. 

As we endured the horrendous traffic going home, I remembered one of the preachings I heard at Victory Ortigas. The Pastor said that God answers our prayers in three different ways: Yes, No, and Not Yet. To me that explained the experiences I had the past couple of months. My heart is now at peace.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


It happened again. An impromptu twitch that resulted in another heartache. We saw our target bird alright, I even got a photo, albeit not even close to a "documentary" shot. Still the seemingly unending frustrating experiences lately had me reflecting deeply.

Our trip to the Avilon Zoo premises actually wasn't bad. Thanks to fellow birder and guide, Mhark Gee, we got a good harvest of bird photographs. The highlight of which was some close shots of an immature Rusty-breasted Cuckoo.

There were the usual birds that fed on the fruiting ficus tree.

Crested Myna
Immature Black-naped Oriole
Lowland White-eye
Red-keeled Flowerpecker
And of course, the "trash bird"..

Yellow-vented Bulbul
However, those uncommon migrants - the Chestnut-cheeked Starlings preferred the fruits behind the leaves and at a farther distance. Even Mhark was baffled by such behavior since they were out in the open just the day before.

Trust me that is a Chestnut-cheeked Starling.
And that was the reason for my self-reflection. This morning while I was doing my daily devotional, one Bible verse stood out prominently. It was God's answer to my introspections.

"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1st Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Monday, October 09, 2017

Acquiring Migrants

It was another disappointing trip to Infanta. The reason I could think of was that the fruits and the flowers were now gone. And the surprisingly late rainy season.

Our very first bird though was seen and photographed while we were still halfway to our destination. Rather the usual Barred Rails, it was the comparatively more shy Plain Bush Hen that posed at the roadside.

Although the usual wave of mixed flocks did appear around 10 am, they were now farther than where they used to gather and therefore much more difficult to photograph.

Thankfully, the migrants were more cooperative. Of course, one can never miss the Brown Shrike.

This Grey Wagtail kept flying over the road ahead if us then suddenly stopped and perched on a boulder. We wondered why it had one foot raised up all the while it was resting on the said boulder.

And finally, we were rewarded with some good views of a colorful male Blue Rock Thrush. We saw a female earlier, but it was on a tall tree branch and was terribly backlit.

Again, just like last week, our birding trip was cut short by a downpour.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Nothing New

Honestly, I had my expectations at zero level even before we arrived at Infanta. The past 5 visits to this place had been sadly disappointing. To dip so badly while others enjoyed good views, some even quite close, of uncommon birds, of species that would have been lifers for me and my wife was heartbreaking. And now the promise of another potential addition to our list brought us back here.

As if our previous torturous experiences were not enough, not seeing our target bird for today added to our misfortunes. Perhaps it was due to the inclement weather that only a few birds showed up. The sunbirds were nowhere to be found and the usual wave of mixed flocks never happened.

There were birds alright, but nothing new - two species of flowerpeckers, the Buzzing and the Pygmy and a couple of endemic raptors, both of which were either backlit or simply too far for good photos. Remember, the weather was gloomy and even had drizzles, so photography was really a challenge.

Buzzing Flowerpecker
Pygmy Flowerpecker
Philippine Serpent Eagle
Philippine Falconet
At around 11 the drizzle turned into rain. As we drove through the downpour, I pondered on what just happened again. My inner self whispered: It's nothing new.