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.

Bohol Birding - Day 1 - Azure Sighting

We arranged for our guides to pick us up from Panglao Airport at around 7:30 am. They were already waiting for us as we exited the huge terminal. From there we proceeded directly to the Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape. It was almost 9 am when we finally arrived at our destination. After paying the required fees, Phil, our driver, drove inside the forested area. Several minutes later, we parked, and Lando, our bird guide, asked us to follow him. It was quite a hike in the narrow trail surrounded by tall trees. Lando explored the surroundings and after a while beckoned us as he pointed to a red bird perched at quite a distance. Eventually, the Philippine Trogon flew a bit closer. Although not a lifer - we've seen the female in Davao and in Infanta - this was our first time to see and photograph the brightly colored male. 

We then continued our arduous hike on the steep trail. It was a challenge for this couple of septuagenarians but we had to endure as we were assured by our guide that we would be able to see the Azure-breasted Pitta. After what seemed like an eternity, Lando pointed at a tiny blue dot. We practically crept nearer to our target and after almost losing our patience, we finally got close enough shots of our lifer.

We then moved to where the Wattled Broadbill had been seen before. However the only species that showed up was a Yellow-bellied Whistler.

It was almost noon and so we proceeded to the Habitat Bohol Tourist Inn to have lunch. While waiting for our food to be served, we got some photos of a Red-keeled Flowerpecker foraging nearby.

After a hearty lunch, our guides took us to a place where once again they assured us of another lifer. After a short hike, Lando was so happy to point to us the Bohol Sunbird - a recent split from the Metallic-winged Sunbird. Yes it was a lifer for us.

From there it was agreed that they would take us to our hotel for our 3 pm check in. Along the way, we saw a White-throated Kingfisher and a Javan Pond Heron.

White-throated Kingfisher
Javan Pond Heron
After settling in at our huge suite at the Loboc River Resort, we explored the surrounding areas. Just outside the reception office was a Collared Kingfisher.

Further up the road a female Pink-necked Green Pigeon perched on a tree top. 

The grounds of our hotel looked promising bird wise and we both agreed to explore more of it before we checked out.

It was a good start to our birding foray in Bohol.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Egret Start

Aside from the harrowing traffic in getting to U.P. Diliman - what normally takes less than 30 minutes became more than an hour's travel - we had a great birding morning. We started off with really nice shots of two kinds of egrets - the Eastern Cattle Egret and the Little Egret.

Eastern Cattle Egret
Little Egret

We proceeded to the pond but drew a total blank. As a consolation, I just had to take a photo of the uber common Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

At the Pagasa station, or what we usually refer to as the Long-tailed Shrike Territory, the eponymous bird was nowhere in sight. In its place was a lone Zebra Dove that was unperturbed by the passing bikers.

Eventually the Long-tailed Shrike did show up as it hunted for prey on the ground.

Not too far from it, a Pied Triller played hide and seek with us as we tried to get its photo.

Our next stop was at the parking lot of the MSI (Marine Science Institute) Building. A pair of Olive-backed Sunbirds were feasting at the flowers but we only got a good picture of the female.

And to cap things off, we also took an obligatory shot of the common Yellow-vented Bulbul.

Thankfully the traffic along Katipunan Avenue wasn't that bad on our way back.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Up on the Rufous

Despite it being quite common, we never had a good photo of the Rufous Night Heron. The ones we had were taken in Olango and it was of an injured individual being rehabilitated at the local administration's office area.

Recent pictures of this species taken at the LPPCHEA (Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area) and posted in Facebook sort of prompted us to make plans to visit that place. Since a great majority of the population of MetroManila would either be visiting their departed relatives at the cemeteries/memorial parks or taking a vacation because of the long weekend on All Saint's Day (November 1), Cynthia and I both agreed that that would be the perfect time to go to the "beach" and hopefully bring up the quality of a Rufous Night Heron photo.

It took us less than an hour to get there, considering we made a few wrong turns and also almost losing our patience waiting for our breakfast order that took quite some time at an undermanned Jollibee along Roxas Blvd. 

It was not yet even 6 am when we entered LPPCHEA. After I parked our car, we started scouring the seashore. Cynthia pointed at some movement. My ancient pair of eyes couldn't see anything at all. My wife took a "documentary" shot just so she could point the area where there was supposed to be a wader. Looking at the image I was thrilled to discover that it was the species we came here for. We inched closer to where the bird was and finally I was able to get some shots.

As it turned out, it was a Rufous Night Heron morning. In our almost three hours of birding, we saw 8 individuals, ranging from juveniles to adults, standing on the shore or flying over.

Of course, there were other birds there too. Its close relatives, the Black-crowned Night Herons, were present. We even saw one flying above us with a fish in its beak.

Unfortunately, it was a gloomy morning with dark clouds foreboding some rain. Not only that, it was also low tide. My wife even jokingly said that we should have brought along some wellies (that's wading boots to you non-Brits) so that we could slosh towards the wading birds. That said, most of our photos were dark and the subjects quite far. Here are some samples.

Intermediate Egret
Common Greenshank
Common Redshank
Common Sandpiper
Grey Heron
Little Egret

Lesser Sand Plover
Pacific Golden Plover
After our walk along the shore, we decided to drive over to where the docks were. Along the road was the kingdom of the Collared Kingfishers. Every hundred meters or so we would see one perched on a rock.

It was while driving on the muddy road (it rained the night before and there were some small pools on the unpaved road) that we saw a brightly colored bird fly across. For several times the reddish-orange bird kept flying left and right until it completely disappeared into the dense foliage by the creek. I then realized that it was most likely the migrant Ruddy Kingfisher that had been seen here by some lucky fellow bird photographers.

Around 8:30 am and we were drenched with sweat from the extreme humidity. Inasmuch as we got what came here for and then some, we both agreed it's time to go back home. Near the entrance, as we were about to pack our gear, Cynthia noticed some movement at a nearby tree. To end our birding day, we obligingly got some shots of a Yellow-vented Bulbul and a Brown Shrike.

Yellow-vented Bulbul
Brown Shrike
Just like that morning, it took us less than an hour to reach our home despite taking some wrong turns, again! Somehow the Waze app was no longer as efficient as it used to be. How we wished that driving in MetroManila would be as traffic free as it was that day.