Sunday, March 07, 2021

Too Little, Too Late

Recent postings in Facebook of some beautiful birds taken in Infanta by our friends made us consider going there to try our luck. Again, because I was told that there are several checkpoints on the way, I was a bit concerned that we may not be allowed to go through, being senior citizens. Then Cynthia wisely said, we wouldn't know unless we tried.

Saturday we were set to go. To my shock, our car wouldn't start! I did a quick prayer and tapped on the battery terminal. Thank God the car started and never gave us any trouble afterwards. At the first checkpoint in Tanay, the soldiers were very strict. The vehicle ahead of us was asked to turn around. When it was our turn, the soldier asked where we are going. I replied (in English) that we plan to go birdwatching along the road in Real going to Infanta. To our surprise, he smiled and let us go through. 

As we reached our destination, our first stop was at Francis' house. Unfortunately he was at work. His wife was so nice and even pointed a Pacific Swallow perched just below their roof.



We thanked her and we moved on. Surprisingly, there weren't birds by the roadside probably because the hagimit trees were no longer in fruit. We proceeded to the area behind the chapel. There we met a group of bird photographers led by Mark Ghee. They told us that they saw an Amethyst Brown Dove and Philippine Fairy Bluebirds. As we waited for these birds to reappear, one of the guys pointed at a tiny bird moving around. We took some photos of the very active Buzzing Flowerpecker.



Without any more birds seen or heard the group decided to leave. Cynthia and I stayed behind hoping that some bird, any bird, would appear. Then came a flash of yellow-orange. "Scarlet Minivet!" I excitedly told my wife. This was the first time we've seen this species here in the Philippines!



Happy that we got good shots of this colorful species, we climbed back to where our car was parked. At an open space we saw a couple of Large-billed Crows at a distance roosting on a pine tree. I got a shot at one of them. 



That open space was where we used to see a Paddyfield Pipit. However, we didn't see any this time. As  we exited that place, by the roadside, we saw two Paddyfield Pipits!



It was almost 11 am and as we were about to leave, we made a short stop at Gina's Garden. There Cynthia was able to get a shot at a Philippine Fairy Bluebird.



It was quite disheartening that in more than 3 hours of birding we only were able to photograph six bird species! We were too late because the usual trees that attract the birds were no longer fruiting.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Bird and Breakfast - Part 2

Friday night I told Cynthia that I didn't have any plans to go birding on Saturday. Then I asked her if she wanted to eat out for breakfast. She replied, "Let's go to Rodic's at U.P.  Let's bring our cameras just in case."

Saturday morning we set off for our planned breakfast. We took the usual route via White Plains to see if the resident Little Egret was still in its favorite spot on the waterway. But even before we reached the place, we saw a Large-billed Crow perched on top of an electric post.



Not far away from it, a Crested Myna was roosting on an electric wire.



It had been said that black birds forebode bad luck. Not in our case. It was the first time we saw both the Crow and Myna in this area, despite the many times we passed by here. And to me that in itself is good luck. As we looked into the waterway, the Little Egret was there, even closer than before!



We even got a bonus of Philippine Pied Fantail at a nearby tree.


Driving along Temple Drive, I was surprised to find a Striated Grassbird (my nemesis bird lately) perched out in the open!



I drove slowly scanning the trees across the street. As we passed by an empty lot, I saw a Collared Kingfisher perched almost at ground level! I made a quick u-turn but as soon as I got near, the bird flew away not to be seen again. However, we noticed some activity at the tall grass. Cynthia got some shots of a Scaly-breasted Munia.



When I joined her, what I saw were Chestnut Munias!



From there we proceeded to our breakfast place. It was full and there wasn't any parking spot available. Thanks to the help of the security guard we were able to get a parking space. We then enjoyed the best tapsilog there is. After the sumptuous breakfast we went to the MSI area in U.P. Feeding in an aratiles tree was a Red-keeled Flowerpecker. It was so active that I only got a documentary shot.



Then we took the obligatory photo of the Brown Shrike.



A family of Olive-backed Sunbirds were also feeding on a flowering plant.



High above a Black-naped Oriole was bringing food to its nestlings.



A Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker was already busy that early.



And so were the Golden-bellied Gerygones.



Next stop was at the Astronomy area for the Long-tailed Shrike.



Then at the place where the Grey-streaked Flycatcher hangs out.



On our way home we stopped by the Hardin ng Rosas. This time Black-winged Stilts were closer.



And the Common Moorhen was basking in the sun.



On the way out we saw a flock of Eastern Cattle Egrets perched on a tree.



We decided to make another stop over by the Marikina River. Again, this time the Egrets (a few Little and a single Chinese) were closer.

Little Egret

Chinese Egret


The Whiskered Terns were busy diving for food.



For an "unplanned" birding sortie, we were rewarded by quite a number of species and closer views of the more common ones. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Wild Goose Chase

A very uncommon migrant - the Cotton Pygmy Goose - had been seen recently in Apalit, Pampanga. Naturally, the local birding community was excited and many had already twitched this rarity. My wife and I pondered whether to do a wild goose chase or not. There were a number of "what ifs?" that we had to consider: What if they only allow those with RFIDs to go through the toll gates? We got the RFID code but it is for SLEX and we had not purchased the toll fares for it to work. What if they won't allow people our age to go through the tollways? Then there were times when the goose had not been seen - what if we don't see it, would it be worth the long drive? So we prayed about it. Inasmuch as Thursday, February 25 was a holiday, there was a possibility that there would be less traffic along EDSA. So we both agreed to give our goose chase a chance on that particular day. Traffic was indeed light and we arrived at the toll gates in less than half an hour. We were so happy that they allow cash payments! As we came to the toll gate, the cashier took our payment and gave us a receipt and did not even ask how old we were. We arrived at the Total Gas Station and contacted fellow birder, Irene Dy (who discovered the goose). She met up with us and took us to the spot where the rare bird could be spotted. Irene assured us that our target species was there. Peering through her spotting scope, she announced that the geese (there were two of them) were there swimming. We all (there were other birders too) took turns looking through the spotting scope. Now that we knew the exact place were the geese were, the bird photographers focused their cameras at the geese. Reviewing my shots, I was a bit skeptical. The photos I got seemed to show that the head of the goose was somehow dark unlike the Cotton Pygmy the head of which was light in color and had a stripe across its eyes. After several more attempts at different angles I was so excited that finally we got a lifer! I pointed it to Cynthia and jokingly said, "There it goose!"
Around 11 am most of the birders decided to call it day, having successfully twitched this rarity. We agreed that it's time for us to go as well. Again it was a smooth drive on the way home. It may be a wild goose chase but it was definitely a success!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Bird and Breakfast

February 20, 2021 - My wife and I decided to forgo our usual Saturday birding trip. It's just that we've been to only two places since the start of the pandemic almost one year ago - U.P. Diliman and Baras and so we would just be seeing basically the same birds. In addition there was a typhoon coming and we were worried that we might get caught in the rain. Unfortunately we are unable to go to the other birding places. Because of our age we have to follow certain protocols that are in effect during this pandemic. Also driving long distances has become physically daunting for me.

So this Saturday we both agreed just to have breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants. Cynthia suggested that I bring along my camera just in case we encounter some birds along the way. Good thing I did. We made a stop at the small waterway by the White Plains road where we almost always see a Little Egret. Unfortunately, it wasn't there but when I looked up I saw it perched on a tall tree beside the waterway. Then it flew and in a short while returned to where it perched earlier. That was some sort of routine for this white wader so I positioned myself and waited until it flew back to the tree top to get some BIF (bird in flight) shot. Luckily I did.



From there we drove along Temple Drive. At the bare trees by the roadside, we saw several species basking in the morning sun.

Pied Triller

Olive-backed Sunbird

Coppersmith Barbet

As we passed along Katipunan Road I suggested we pass by the subdivision where we used to live. We added two more species to our list.

Philippine Pied Fantail


Black-naped Oriole

From there we went for our much anticipated breakfast. As expected it was very delicious. To top it off, the cashier and the server remembered us despite the fact that we only visited this place just one time during the pandemic, although as I mentioned earlier, this is one of favorite eateries and we've patronized this place many times before.



After breakfast, we both agreed to pass by the Marikina River to see the Whiskered Terns and maybe a Little Egret or two. The terns were quite plentiful and we were surprised to find a Chinese Egret!

Chinese Egret

Whiskered Tern

Even though it was a short "urban" birding foray we had fun and we did see quite a number of birds. Not to mention a very sumptuous breakfast.





Sunday, February 14, 2021

It's All About Dove

February 14 - Valentine's Day - the time when couples go out on a date, when romantic cards are exchanged, when guys give roses to their gals. In short, It's all about love.

February 13 - Valentine's Day eve - the time we went birding in Baras and encountered quite a number of species in the Columbidae family. In short, it's all about dove.

The morning didn't augur well since it was drizzling as we drove towards our destination. Thankfully, it stopped after we finished eating our take-out breakfast. As we were about to start birding, we saw the fog lifting up.



At our first stop, we saw this Spotted Dove perched on a nearby limb. Surprisingly there were quite a number as we kept seeing them at the different areas we went to.



At Cancun road, after seeing a Barred Rail, we saw a pair of Scale-feathered Malkohas but unfortunately we weren't able to take any photos at all. Moving a little farther, I saw something colorful perched on a branch. My heart leapt when I focused my camera on it, excited that finally I'm getting a good shot at a Philippine Cuckoo Dove.



By the waterway, I was surprised to find a male Red Collared Dove walking nonchalantly just a few meters away from me.



Although the downpour stopped, the skies were still grey and gloomy.  Perhaps because of that that some of the birds we expected to see were missing. On the other hand, we finally got see and photograph the Luzon Hornbill which a lot of our fellow birders had seen here quite often.



Also, for the first time, we saw a Striated Grassbird out in the open. The many times we've been to this place we never, ever, saw this skulker. Until today. I got a photo but it was still "crappy" despite being photoshopped and all. At least it's no longer my nemesis bird.



At around 10 am it started to drizzle a bit. Time to go. As we were about to leave, Cynthia said that we got photos of almost all of the dove species here, except the Zebra Dove. And guess what, on our way out there it was - as if to say, "Hey guys, I'm here!"



It was a short birding foray at Baras but we were glad that we found dove(s). 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Over the Rainbow

It was a blustery morning as we started our birding day in Baras. Winds so strong it almost wrenched our cameras from our hands. As gusts blew all over the place our hopes were damped..for how can birds show up in this dangerous situation.

Eventually the winds died down and we were so glad to see a complete rainbow appear on the horizon. 



Rainbows are a promise of good things to come. And indeed birds started showing up. 

Perhaps it was the season because we saw several species doing some courtship rituals. A male Spotted Dove strutted on the road displaying its gorgeous spots to a couple of females.



A pair of Common Sandpipers were flirting with each other.



Grey Wagtails having a lovers quarrel?



A male Philippine Hanging Parrot trying to hide his "kulasisi" behind the leaves.



Aside from these romantic scenes, we saw the usual species found regularly here.

As we were about to leave, we were shocked to see some guys cutting off the tall grass along the road. To our surprise just a few feet away from them, we spotted a bird that we have not seen here before - a Golden-headed Cisticola!



Ah, a beautiful rainbow indeed is a harbinger of good fortune!