Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tuba Rich

We attended a wedding in Tuba, Benguet last Saturday. Prior to the ceremony Cynthia and I had ample time to go birding around the premises of the place where we were staying (Green Valley Village). Inasmuch as that place was a subdivision, we didn't expect to see a lot of birds. After a few minutes of walking we saw a patch of greenery. As we rounded a corner we spotted the migrant Blue Rock Thrush perched below a water tank.

As soon as we reached the patch of greenery, we noticed some bird activity on some bare branches. To my surprise, it was a female Red Crossbill with some fledglings.

After a while the crossbill family left. This time the activity was on a small tree across where the crossbills were. A small flock of Warbling White-eyes were busy hunting for food.

At the opposite corner a Turquoise Flycatcher perched almost at eye level.

We needed to get ready for the wedding ceremony so we started to walk back to our lodge. That was when we encountered a Long-tailed Shrike basking in the morning sun.

My wife heard some twittering and looking back to where we saw the Turquoise Flycatcher, there was a male Olive-backed Sunbird on an electric wire, singing loudly.

Along the way, I did the obligatory shot of the common Eurasian Tree Sparrow. I even thought of posting that picture in Facebook and jokingly labelling it as the Benguet Tree Sparrow.

Not far from our lodge there was a house that was still under construction. On it we saw a pair of Pied Bush Chats.

The wedding was held at a different place where we were staying. It was at the Picmar Heritage Lodge also in Tuba. The place had some greeneries as well and even had a vegetable garden nearby. Before the ceremony started we did a quick look at the said garden and saw a flock of Crested Mynas.

After the ceremony, we once again went to the garden area. This time it was a flock of Large-billed Crows that showed up.

The following morning, we again tried the area near our lodge. Somehow the birds were sparse. So I took a shot at the Yellow-vented Bulbul.

Some activity on a low tree attracted our attention. It was a very active tiny brown bird and it was quite a challenge to get a good shot at it. Reviewing my photos after we got back to our home in Pasig, I asked my friends to help me ID that bird. The answer I got was that it was an Arctic Warbler.

It was a really short time birding in Tuba, but I'm glad that despite being in a subdivision, the place was rich with birds - more than we expected.

Contrast that with our birding foray at the Camp John Hay Eco-trail the following day. The only bird we saw was a Sulphur-billed Nuthatch and it was just too far to be photographed even with my long lens.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

'sno White

The current attraction among birders and bird photographers is the White's Thrush at La Mesa Ecopark. Being an uncommon migrant, it drew a lot of attention among avian enthusiasts, at one time as many as 20 individuals who tried to a get a photo of this skulker.

Saturday morning, Cynthia and I decided to join the White's Thrush fan club. Not a lifer for us, as we've seen and even got good pictures of this species 6 years ago. We were there a little after 7 am and we joined fellow bird photographer Nes Santiago in the quest for the star bird. We also met young birder, Chet Chua, who took every effort to look for the legendary thrush for us. Unfortunately we were always too late getting to the place where Chet had seen the bird. 

The Brown-headed Thrush, another uncommon migrant, however, was more cooperative since it enjoys feasting on the red fruits of the Mac Arthur palm trees.

Soon other bird photographers came, Rey Ibay, Marc Capistrano, and local birdman, Ferdie Llanes. Ferdie told us that to be able to see the White's Thrush, we have to wait patiently with minimal movement and talking. Half past ten, and my wife getting only a butt shot, we agreed to call it a day.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Short Sighted Birding

I must admit that it was sort of an impromptu decision to do our first birding trip of the year. Saturday morning, my wife and I both woke up somewhat earlier than usual, so I suggested we go birding at Infanta. To my surprise and delight, she agreed.

Our first stop at the area near km 94 was unbelievably disappointing - there were no birds in sight and not even a single chirp was heard! We continued the drive and all along the way no bird sounds were heard. Beyond the small chapel (which was always our last stop) I saw some movement at the hillside. A Blue Rock Thrush was slowly moving down!

After having taken a few shots  of the migrant bird, it started to drizzle. For almost two hours it rained - sometimes just a trickle and sometimes a complete downpour. When we asked the locals (whom we've made friends with in our previous trips here) whether there were birds in their neck of the woods, the answers were unanimous - none. It was because of the constant  rainfall they told us. With such a predicament,  Cynthia and I agreed to call it a day. While driving, we spotted a Grey Wagtail along the road and even got a documentary shot.

Somehow the skies cleared up as we arrived at the Sidlakan Adventure Resort. There we got some really good shots of the friendly Flaming Sunbirds - both male and female.

Soon the skies darkened again foreboding more precipitation. Time for us leave - it was our plan to have lunch at the Gathering restaurant in Tanay anyway. As soon as we passed the arch that says welcome to Infanta, the weather became gloriously sunny. Was it only in Infanta that the rain falls unceasingly? 

At the Gathering before having our lunch served, we added two more species to the list of birds photographed that morning putting the total to 5 - the Brown Shrike and the Olive-backed Sunbird.

It was one of the most disappointing birding trips we had. Perhaps it was due to the short period we got to do real birding because most of the time we were siting inside the car waiting for the rain to stop. But we are still hopeful that the rest of the year 2020 would give us longer times and more birds to see just like having a 20/20 vision.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Year End Birding - 2019

It had become some sort of tradition that Cynthia and I spend the last days of the year at Subic. And so it was for the year 2019. We arrived at our hotel around 1pm and after a quick check in, we proceeded to our favorite birding destination - the Nabasan trail. Along the way, just to get our mood started, we took photos of the birds we saw along the way such as the White-breasted Woodswallow, the Spotted Dove and the Large-billed Crow - all birds on a wire.

White-breasted Woodswallow
Spotted Dove
Large-billed Crow

At Nabasan trail, we saw an Oriental Dollarbird perched on a wire. Surprisingly the birds in this place seemed to be more skittish than before - imagine the Brown Shrike darting off from its perch and hiding as soon as our car approached it. Same thing with the White-throated Kingfishers. The Dollarbird we saw was no exception. Luckily we got a shot before it flew off.

The species that stayed within view were those that were perched high up in the tree tops allowing us only documentary shots - like this Philippine Cuckoo Dove, the Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike and the Philippine Green Pigeon.

Philippine Cuckoo-dove
Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike
Philippine Green Pigeon
We started off early on our second day and went straight to the Botanical Garden area. Surprise! - no birds at all! Off to Nabasan trail where we met birding friend, Doc Chito. We all waited for the woodpeckers - any kind - to show up. Nada. My wife and I decided to move on further down the trail, so we bade goodbye to our friend and wished him well. As we neared the intersection going to the Kamayan Resort, we encountered a flock (!) of Blue-naped Parrots. They were, without question, our bird of the day.

Moving on, we finally met a cooperative White-throated Kingfisher.

Other than those two, the only bird we saw was a Philippine Falconet that was way too far for a good photo. Exiting the Nabasan trail, we opted to try the Argonaut Road. Before reaching that place we spotted a Philippine Serpent Eagle blending with the tree behind it.

The Argonaut road was more productive even if the birds we encountered were the more common ones such as the Brown Shrike, Collared Kingfisher, Zebra Dove and a gang of Crested Mynas.

Brown Shrike
Collared Kingfisher
Zebra Dove
Crested Myna
To end our birding day, we stopped over the Volunteer Shrine Park where Brahminy Kites are sure sightings. And indeed they were, soaring beautifully as the sun started to set.

On our final day, we went to the Treetop Adventure Park. The park was no longer in operation but still can be accessed. There we met fellow birder Abner Lu (he was the one who told me about this place) along with his group and our new friends, Thomas Yie and Rodger Yu. True enough, this place was a favorite hangout of the Luzon Hornbills.

Coletos also visited the nearby fruiting tree.

Since we will be checking out at around 11 am, we told our new friends that we had to go ahead and visit other birding places. On our way out, we saw a Guaiabero land on the tree ahead of us.

Back at Nabasan, all we got was a Whiskered Treeswift and a Red Junglefowl.

At Cubi Point, we were glad that the Blue-throated Bee-eaters were back - we didn't see them the past two days we came here.

And that was, in my opinion, and nice finale to our year-end birding at Subic. Although it was quite disappointing (we only photographed 30 species) compared to the previous years we spent here, nevertheless, we enjoyed the last three days of 2019, having met old and new friends during those times.