Thursday, December 31, 2020

Band of "Barasers"

Lately, the town of Baras in Rizal province had become a favorite place for taking pictures of birds. So Cynthia and I decided to go there for our last birding day of the year. Not long after we arrived we met a group of fellow bird photographers. Here is the group photo of the Band of Barasers: Ferdie Llanes, Chris Ferrer, Russel, Elmer Budomo, and Joel Dayao. (Photo courtesy of Atty. Tim Calumpong)

The very first species we encountered were two Turtledoves. But there wasn't a Partridge in a Pear tree.

As the band of Barasers were waiting for the Philippine Cuckoo-Dove to show up, I saw a Red-keeled Flowerpecker feeding on a nearby "aratiles" tree.

Then from behind where we were standing a Balicassiao flew to a branch a below us.

Since the Cuckoo-Dove was a no show, the group moved to the place where a Rough-crested Malkoha was seen. And sure enough, it peeped through the thick foliage.

As if to congratulate us in getting shots of the Malkoha, a Coppersmith Barbet began singing its "pok pok" song.

Having seen the target bird, we all agreed to proceed to the clubhouse where a flowering African Tulip tree attracts several species of birds. Along the way, we came across a White-throated Kingfisher.

As we were about to enter the parking area, a White-eared Brown Dove was on the ground foraging for food. That was an unusual habit for this species.

The expected Philippine Hanging Parrot was at the top of the tulip tree.

During lulls between the appearance of the male and female parrots, I took an obligatory shot at a Golden-bellied Gerygone.

And of the Brown Shrike, of course!

Soon another hoped for bird, the Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, came and fed on the red flowers.

After a while, a Sunbird, which was definitely not an Olive-backed came. Ferdie thought it was a Handsome and I believed it was a Luzon. Chris Ferrer later confirmed that it was a Grey-throated! I think this was the first time that this species was seen here.

We waited for the Naked-faced Spiderhunter but it didn't show up. So we told our friends that we would roam around the area to look for other birds. We went to the "hill"  hoping to see some raptors, the cuckoo-dove and the Blue Rock Thrush. No raptors and no cuckoo dove. There was a bird high up in the tree and I took a shot at it. Later Ferdie came and told us that the Blue Rock Thrush no longer stays near the ground when there are people around and prefers to perch on the tree instead. Looking at the photo I took confirmed that it was indeed our target bird.

At the "subdivision" area, the Paddyfield Pipits were everywhere!

Passing by the bridge, I saw a sandpiper at the canal area. It was confirmed later by Rob Hutchinson (through the photos posted by Ferdie) that it was an uncommon Green Sandpiper!

Of course, Pied Bush Chats, both male and female, were all over the place.

Eastern Cattle Egrets were among the cattle, of course!

I told Cynthia, that we already got a lot of bird photos but none of the Grey Wagtail yet (which we always see on the road). So another obligatory shot was made.

It was already 11 am and we agreed to call it a day. On the way out, we encountered a Blue-throated Bee-eater.

It was another fruitful birding day in Baras made even more enjoyable by some uncommon birds we saw and the company of the Band of Barasers.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Post Christmas Birding

The day after Christmas - the sun was shining brightly and traffic was surprisingly light - a perfect day to go birding. Our choice destination was nearby U.P. Diliman. On the way, we decided to pass by the "canal" at the White Plains road for a possible Little Egret and maybe, who knows, a Common Kingfisher. Unfortunately, both species were nowhere in sight.  We moved on and along White Plains road, we saw a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker perched on the branch of a bare tree. It was a bit too high and the early morning sun was shining brightly at it thus resulting in only a "documentary" shot.

Below that tree, perched on an electric wire, was a Pied Triller! 

We've passed this road so many times before but it was only this day that we saw these birds here. There were even some Crested Mynas but they didn't stay long enough to be photographed. Also a Long-tailed Shrike showed up (another first in this place) but it was far and backlit. Anyway I'm certain we would get better photos of this species in U.P.

At the Hardin ng Rosas, we also were thrilled to see quite a number of species at the pond. First was a White-throated Kingfisher.

Black-winged Stilts - there were five of them - were already foraging the shallow waters.

A Common Moorhen was out in the open.

Another surprise was an immature Black-crowned Night Heron standing by the waters.

While waiting for the White-breasted Waterhen to come out from behind the Night Heron, I took an obligatory shot of the Yellow-vented Bulbul.

Finally the Waterhen, an immature, came in full view.

As we were leaving the Hardin, a Zebra Dove came right beside our car.

At the campus, we first had breakfast at Rodic's to enjoy the best Tapsilog there is. After enjoying our meal, we proceeded to the Astronomy Department Building where we are sure to find the Long-tailed Shrike. And of course, it was there.

Behind the place was a small patch of "talahib" where Scaly-breasted Munias feed. They were a bit skittish perhaps due to the frequent passing of joggers and bikers. We waited patiently and after a while the flock came close enough for us to get good shots.

There weren't many birds at the usual birding spots in the campus so we both agreed to call it a day. On the way out, I spotted a Brown Shrike at the open field behind the oval.

A short stopover at the subdivision where we used to live only yielded another Brown Shrike.

We went to the White Plains canal again hoping our target birds would be there but still no luck. A Grey Wagtail was there but didn't stay long enough for us to get a photo. On the other hand, a Philippine Pied Fantail was more obliging.

It wasn't bad for a post-Christmas birding especially because of the number of species we saw particularly at the Hardin.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Baras Rings

It had been ages since I last used my 500mm prime lens. When I turned 70 four years ago, my aging body was already complaining everytime I hauled my camera gear to do some bird photography. So I bought the lighter Tamron 150-600 which I had been using everytime we went birding ever since.

Saturday, December 12, we planned to go to Baras. Inasmuch as birding there wouldn't involve much walking (most birds could be seen from the car), I thought, why not try using my old bazooka again. So I attached it to my old Canon 7D camera and to Baras we went.

I was still getting accustomed at using the heavy equipment so my first shots (at a Grey Wagtail) were below my standards. Our next encounter was with a pair of Pied Bush Chats, which surprisingly, were both on the road.



Paddyfield Pipits were all over the place. They were so unafraid of humans that I was able to get a full frame shot of one!

The Eastern Cattle Egrets were as usual quite plentiful.

At the waterway I was hoping to see the Blue Rock Thrush but it still wasn't there. I was surprised, however, to see two Little Ringed-Plovers! 

After that, there were fewer birds that we encountered. Now that I have gotten used to my heavy lens, this time I was able to get a full frame shot of the Grey Wagtail.

We also got better looks at the White-throated Kingfisher.

We went to the clubhouse where a flowering tree was said to attract various birds such as Philippine Hanging Parrot, Guaiabero, and Striped Rhabdornis. When we asked the photographers we met there what birds they were shooting at, they replied, "Yellow-vented Bulbuls". 

As we were about to go to the other end of the waterway, we met birder friend, Chin Fernandez. He told us where to find the Philippine Cuckoo Dove, Luzon Hornbill, Philippine Hawk-eagle and Violet Cuckoo. We thanked him profusely and proceeded to the place he mentioned. Perhaps it was the time (it was already mid-morning and the weather was sweltering) that we failed to see even one of those species Chin said were there.

As we made another round, we met another birder friend, Joel Dayao. He, too, told us about the place Chin referred to. So we made another attempt and failed once again. On the way down, we bumped into Chin again. He was taking photos of the Philippine Serpent Eagle perched in full view. We, of course, joined him.

I'd say it was quite a disappointing sortie for us, missing the star birds of Baras, which had been seen and photographed by the bird photographers who had been there. Not to mention my nemesis, the elusive Striated Grassbird.

Thankfully, the Little Ringed Plovers saved the day for us.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

U.P. to no good (but with nice ending)

Saturday, November 14, we again went to U.P. Diliman to do some birding. We had a sumptuous breakfast at Rodic's and not far from it on top of the electric posts were some Crested Mynas.


As we proceeded to the MSI, the Eastern Cattle Egrets were at their usual place near the museum.

The area in front of the MSI building was a disaster! Several of the tall trees were blown down by the recent typhoon Ulysses. Perhaps it was because of this that there weren't any birds around. The yellow flowers in front of the parking lot of the Child Center were also gone and because of that the Olive-backed Sunbirds that used to enjoy the nectar decided to stay on the top branches of the bare trees instead. Which meant that they were unphotographable. From there we went to the Astronomy Dome. Along the way the Brown Shrike was more cooperative.

At first we thought the resident Long-tailed Shrike had gone because we didn't see it at its usual hangout. Fortunately, we spotted it in the area near the street.

We made another round of the area and parked our car. It was then that I spotted a large brown bird on a tree branch. I took a shot at it despite being backlit and hoped I would be able to identify that mysterious bird. It was only when I was processing our photos that I found out that it was a Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo.

A short foray into the pond yielded a Collared Kingfisher.

Although we saw some species today that we hadn't seen in our previous trips here, it was still a not so good birding trip for us because most of the local birds were missing. Maybe it was because of the destruction of some of the habitats caused by the typhoon.

Thankfully, our birding ended quite well. Before going home Cynthia suggested we visit her daughter in Pasig. After parking our car just outside her daughter's gate, we noticed some bird activity at a nearby tree. While my wife was spending time with Jenn and her family, I brought out my camera and started taking photos of the Lowland White-eyes.