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.