Thursday, December 19, 2019

Palawan Birding - Information

This was our third birding trip to Palawan and by far the most productive - adding 6 more species to our life list. That was because of the diligence of our guide, Totic Failana. He may be contacted through his Facebook address:


Our guide, Totic, provided for our birding transportation. 

The hotels we stayed in provided the pick up to and from the airport.


On our first day we stayed at the Princesa Garden Island Resort and Spa. It's a bit upscale but a good reason to stay here aside from the excellent service and great facilities is that a flock of Red-vented Cockatoos roost to spend the night in the vicinity.

On our second and third day, we booked a room at the The Legend Palawan. It's a 3-star hotel and close to the commercial district and the airport. Service is also excellent.


For birders, the Badjao Seafront Restaurant is the place to go. Not only do they serve sumptuous food, there are birds that can be seen in the vicinity such as Copper-throated Sunbirds, Pale Spiderhunter, and Stork-billed Kingfisher. We even saw some Common Ioras! The owner, Mike Mendoza, is very nice and is birder-friendly.

Although they call themselves a "fast food" place, Flavors and Spice Restaurant, is actually a dining place that serves authentic Filipino food. They are located in Irawan which is another prime birding area in Palawan.

In Sabang, the best place to eat is at the Cacaoyan Forest Park Restaurant. They offer  a delicious buffet lunch. Again, the premises is a good place for birding.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Palawan Birding - Day 3 - Two

Having checked off 5 of the 7 species in our want list the day before, our guide, Totic, was determined to get the remaining 2 on our last day. He picked us up at 5:30 from our hotel and proceeded to Barangay Bahile. After a somewhat strenuous (for us septuagenarians) climb, Totic told us to wait. A few minutes went by then a beautiful song came from the forest and soon item # 6 on our list appeared. The colorful Falcated Wren-Babbler displayed its beauty before us.

With such an auspicious start, we moved on. This time we took the famous road to Sabang. After about an hour, we stopped by the roadside. We were waiting for item #7 to show up. While doing so, an unexpected White-bellied Woodpecker flew by and landed on a nearby tree.

A few minutes later, a male Olive-backed Sunbird of the aurora race flashed its distinguishing feature.

Then they came. A small flock of Palawan Hornbills came flying in and gave us enough opportunities to photograph them. Woohoo! We finally got the last species in our list! 

Our next stop was at the Cacaoyan Restaurant. Our guide assured us that we would be getting good views of the Palawan Tit here. And indeed they came. At first the flock of about 5 individuals were flitting way up on the tree tops. Eventually, they moved closer until they came to about eye level. One even came to the ground!

After the Tits left, we stayed in the area since this was where we would be having our lunch. While lingering around, I saw a flash of red fly into the patch of forest nearby. "Red-headed Flameback!" Totic informed me. "I want!" I replied and we rushed to the place where we thought it landed. Unfortunately it seemed to have vanished in thin air as we never even caught a glimpse of that bird. Not even a sound. When we tried looking for the Flameback, Cynthia opted to remain near the restaurant. Good thing she did. When Totic and I returned from our unsuccessful hunt, my wife flaunted an awesome shot of the appropriately named Lovely Sunbird.

There was still ample time before lunch so I tried looking for the Sunbird to get photos for myself. It was during this time that a Palawan Bulbul decided to have an early lunch. Some red berries were at the bottom (!) of a palm tree and the Bulbul would fly in, grab a berry, swallow it, and then fly off again. This became such a routine that we were able to anticipate its moves.

After lunch we all agreed to continue on to Sabang and visit the Dabdab Resort and hopefully see the Pale Spiderhunter - a species that we failed to see at the Badjao Seafood Restaurant area the past two days. As fate would have it, the Spiderhunter was still a no show. In its place it was the Asian Fairy Bluebird that showed up.

On the way back we stopped by an elementary school where we hoped to see the Pale Spiderhunter. Once again, it never showed up. As a "consolation", a Copper-throated Sunbird gave us good looks.

That was a fitting end to our 3-day birding stint in Palawan. A million thanks to our very efficient guide, Totic Failana, for being able to show us all 7 species that we wanted to see - and more! Two thumbs up for him.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Palawan Birding - Day 2 - Take

On our second and third days of birding, we availed of the services of Totic Failana, a local bird guide. When he picked us up from our hotel, I handed him a list of the 7 species that we wanted to see and hopefully, photograph as well. The list included 3 Palawans (Palawan Flycatcher, Palawan Hornbill and Palawan Frogmouth) and 4 Babblers (Ashy-headed Babbler, Melodious Babbler, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, and Falcated Wren-Babbler). Out of those 7 items, 6 would be lifers for us (we've seen the Pin-striped in Thailand). I requested him to take us to the places where we can see those birds. But we also told him that our priority was to see as many kinds as possible and not to spend hours waiting for a single species.

The first place he took us was at the Irawan Eco-park. That place was birder-friendly: it had blinds at several places where one can sit and take photos of the local birds. The first one we encountered was a Blue-eared Kingfisher.

At another blind, we got our first bird on the list - the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler.

A Rufous-tailed Tailorbird showed up as well.

Then Totic alerted us. As we peered through the blind, our first lifer of the trip, and the number one on my wanted list, showed up.  It was an adrenalin rush as we took shot after shot of the Palawan Flycatcher.

Then came lifer #2 and another one in my wanted list, the Melodious Babbler.

As if that wasn't enough, the Ashy-headed Babbler, friendly lifer #3, posed for us.

From there we moved to the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (previously known as Crocodile Farm).  Here we got the Blue Paradise Flycatcher.

It was also here that there can be a sure sighting of the rare Palawan Peacock Pheasant.

Other birds we got here were the Hair-crested Drongo and the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.

After a sumptuous lunch at Flavors and Spice we headed to the home of another local bird guide (and Totic's friend) Randy Tibor. Within the premises we got Brown-throated Sunbird, Ashy-fronted Bulbul and the Palawan Flowerpecker.

Brown-hroated Sunbird
Ashy-fronted Bulbul
Palawan Flowerpecker
Late in the afternoon Totic searched for and eventually found the Spotted Wood Owl.

I thought that was the last bird of the day but Totic had one more surprise for us. He took us into a small patch of trees a little after 6 pm. We did a short walk in darkness lit only by our guide's flashlight. He stopped and after a few minutes showed us another lifer and another item in our wanted list - the Palawan Frogmouth!

In just a day, we got 5 out the 7 species in my target list. We really appreciate Totic for taking all the necessary means to fulfill our wishes.

Palawan Birding - Day 1 - Tick

Day one of our trip to Palawan didn't start well. Our flight to Puerto Princesa was delayed for over an hour. We were somewhat ticked off - we had to wake up at 1:30 am so we could be at the airport about 2 hours before our schedule departure - and then had to wait (inside the plane!) until the mechanical problem had been fixed and we were finally allowed to take off.

We arrived at Puerto Princesa at past eight am. Since we would not be able to check in at our room at the Princesa Garden Island Resort until 3 pm, Cynthia and I decided to check out the premises if there were some birds. We did see some but opted not to take photos yet. At 9 am we went to Badjao Seafood Restaurant which was not that far. The area in front of this restaurant is a good place to see Copper-throated Sunbirds, Stork-billed Kingfisher and Pale Spiderhunter. Unfortunately none of these species were present when we arrived. As we walked on the boardwalk towards the dining area we noticed something yellow flitting among the mangrove trees. It turned out to be three Common Ioras - a species that have not yet been reported being seen here before. One of them even posed unbelievably close!

After the Ioras left, there was once again a dearth in bird activity. There were two kinds of kingfishers, the Common and the Collared, that showed up but both preferred to stay at quite a distance resulting only in some very bad documentary shots. After a delicious lunch, we again staked out the parking lot. Still nothing. Cynthia suggested that she would go back to the dining area and wait for the Stork-billed while I would remain to wait for the Pale Spiderhunter. While I was roaming around I noticed a Grey Wagtail perched on a branch. Not far from it was a Grey-streaked Flycatcher hunting for insects.

Grey Wagtail
Grey-streaked Flycatcher
While I was taking shots at the two greys, I heard a loud clapping coming from the motorcycle parking area. I looked and it was one of the caretakers. He was frantically waving at me and pointing to a nearby tree. I ran toward him and as I got close he directed my attention at some movement among the tiny orange flowers. It was a male Copper-throated Sunbird!

At 1:30 pm we returned to the hotel and thankfully we were allowed to check in. After resting and taking a short nap, we returned to the area behind the hotel. This time we took pictures of the birds seen there: A Great Egret, a Little Egret, and a White-bellied Sea Eagle.

Little Egret
Great Egret
White-bellied Sea Eagle
A little after 5 pm, my wife went to the restaurant to order a take out dinner. It was during that time that a flock of Red-vented Cockatoos (one of our target birds) came flying in. They tried to perch on the tall palm trees but because of the blustery winds blowing from the sea, they had a difficult time doing so. Most of them did some thermalling and showed off the reason for their name. I called Cynthia and excitedly told her that the Cockatoos had arrived. She ran to where I was and began taking photos herself.

It was already getting dark so we decided to return to our room. Despite a bad start, our first birding day in Palawan ended well as we ticked off our first photo lifer.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Bohol Birding - Information and Logistics

This was our first birding sortie in Bohol. During our 3-1/2 days stay there we saw 41 species of birds, 5 of which were lifers for us.

Birding Places:

The prime birding area is the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape. Our first two days were spent here. There is an "entrance" fee amounting to P155 per person. Then there is also a birdwatching fee of P500 which is good for 5 persons. It is also required that a bird guide (provided by the park) accompany the birdwatchers. Admittedly birding is not easy and requires a lot of patience and hard trekking. It was also probably because it was already past the nesting season when we arrived in mid-November.

There is an area inside Rajah Sikatuna called Magsaysay Park where guests are allowed to feed the local monkeys. There is also a fee for that activity. Not really our cup of tea. Check out their Facebook page:


We stayed in two places during our visit to Bohol. The first was at the Loboc River Resort - our home for 3 days, 2 nights and then at the North Zen Villas in Panglao Island. 

Loboc River Resort is about halfway from the Panglao airport to Rajah Sikatuna. We were given a "suite" and it was spacious! Access to the cabins is via a boardwalk. Complete with amenities, our "suite" had a bedroom, a livingroom, a kitchen, complete with microwave oven and a refrigerator, and a terrace with a river view. The food at the restaurant was awesome! The staff very friendly. The owner even greeted us personally as we were about to check out. We also saw a lot of birds in the surrounding area. We highly recommend this place. Their website:

Tourists usually chose beach resort hotels in Panglao for obvious reasons. We, on the other hand, chose North Zen Villas, because of the mangrove forest within its property. We presumed that such habitat would harbor a number of bird species. Sadly, we only saw a few.  That said, the room we got, and the breakfast we had, were excellent. We even got a free 30-minute massage. The staff were also very nice and friendly. Their facebook page:


Prior to our arrival to Bohol we arranged for us to be picked up from the airport and then proceed to Rajah Sikatuna since our Cebu Pacific flight would be arriving a little before 8 am and the check in time at Loboc River Resort is still at 3 pm. We hired Dean Mike, but it was his father-in-law who came to drive for us. He is also a good bird guide and helped us find birds in Rajah Sikatuna. Their facebook page:

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Bohol Birding - Day 3 - Down by the Riverside

On our third day in Bohol we planned to go birding within the grounds of the Loboc River Resort where we were staying. We had surveyed that area the first couple of days and we both agreed that this place was promising birding-wise.

Bright and early we were out exploring the premises of the resort. Not far from the pond we noticed some movement among the trees. To our surprise it was a Yellow Wattled Bulbul!

That sighting augured well for us because just a few feet away, the male Purple-throated Sunbird displayed its awesome colors to us.

Walking further up the road, I noticed another colorful bird soaring against the bright blue sky. "Bee-eater!" I yelled. When it landed on a branch I confirmed that it was the Blue-tailed Bee-eater.

Across from the bee-eater, a Pied Triller was enjoying its early morning repast.

Then we saw something green fly by. We eventually located where it landed and was thrilled to add the Philippine Hanging Parrot to our birds of the day.

We continued our walk and as we rounded the bend, we were surprised when a group of birds suddenly took off from the river. Because of the curved road, we didn't realize that we were approaching the river and even more so that there would be waders there. Some Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Egrets and even an immature Common Moorhen got spooked as we came by. They all disappeared from view and therefore we weren't able to take any photos at all. But all was not in vain because a small flock of Philippine Ducks simply moved a bit farther but still were close enough for us to get a few shots.

As we neared the resort's restaurant another unexpected species showed up. A single Chestnut Munia flew across and perched on a branch almost at eye level.

That was a fitting end to our birding by the side of the Loboc River. We also four different kinds of doves: Spotted Dove, Red Turtle Dove, Zebra Dove and Pink-necked Green Pigeon. There was even a Grey-streaked Flycatcher but it was perched quite far and high that we could not get a good photo of it. 

We then went to the restaurant and had one of the best breakfasts we ever had.

As were about to check out, the owner of resort, Zing, came out to greet us. We told her that we were birders and that we saw a lot of birds in their premises. We then told her that we encountered several lovebirds roaming freely in their grounds. We did see a huge cage with nest boxes in it but the wire covering was already removed. Zing told us that they already set the lovebirds free but the birds decided to stay in the area. Here are a few photos:

Lutino Lovebird
Black-masked Lovebird
Peach-faced Lovebird

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Bohol Birding - Day 2 - Start Trek

We started our second birding day trekking in search of the Everett's Scops Owl. Our guides took us to a cemetery to meet up with Tripon, a local who knows where the owls are. Tripon said that our target bird could be seen from only a meter away. However, on that particular morning, it got spooked and flew to another place. A place where there was no path nor trail that leads to it. So as we followed our guide we had to weave through tall grass and low trees using our arms to create a way through the thickets resulting in some serious scratches. As we were about to give up due to sheer exhaustion, Tripon stopped and silently directed us to a small gap in the foliage. We got the owl.

From there we moved on to the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape again hoping to see the Wattled Broadbill. A long wait and still the broadbill refused to appear. Driver Phil heard some commotion across the road. "Coucal!" he said while pointing to the source of the said commotion. Indeed there was a coucal but it was such a skulker that we only saw portions of its body. Its constant movement eventually revealed its head that showed what kind of coucal it was. The Black-faced Coucal was now added to our life list.

Lando and Phil then took us to the place where a pair of frogmouths had been seen recently. Again, after some trekking, this time on a steep trail, we got the male and female Philippine Frogmouth huddled close together.

After having a delicious lunch at the RDJ Mountain View Resort, we returned to Rajah Sikatuna. This time the focus was on finding the Northern Silvery Kingfisher. It was there but to be able to get good sights of it Lando suggested we go down to the creek. The getting down part was daunting for these senior citizens. Negotiating an 80 degree slope without anything to hold on to would be nothing short of suicidal for us. I informed our guide of that predicament, so Lando tried looking for other options. He went to the opposite side of the creek and after much searching, he waved at us. We hurried to where he was and stooped low and pointed at the kingfisher perched on a limb. Now stooping was another problem for me because once I am at that low position, getting back up would involve some groaning and straining. But I had to do it otherwise I would miss a chance to see a lifer. Thankfully, both Cynthia and I made it and got some passable shots.

The other lifer that was supposed to be in the same area was another challenge. The Yellow-breasted Tailorbird did show up but it was constantly moving and never stopped even for a second for us to take a shot at it. We then returned to the broadbill site. We waited for more than hour and it was still a no-show. Our guides gave up and we called it day. On our way out a pair of Brahminy Kites were hovering above the rice fields.

This was the last day that we would be going to Rajah Sikatuna. We thanked both Phil and Lando for their efforts in showing some lifers to us. I think that we were a couple of weeks too late since the nestlings of the Wattled Broadbill and the Yellow-breasted Tailorbird had already fledged and therefore both adults and young ones were on their own.