Friday, May 06, 2022

Singapore Once More

After twelve years we're back in Singapore. Just as before we were amazed at the ambiance and clean surroundings of this small Asian country. More so now that everything is high-tech: at McDonalds you order using a huge screen, at our hotel restaurant you look at the menu by scanning a QR code - because there isn't any written one. We had a red-eye flight from Manila and a 2-hour delay made it even worse for this two elderlies. We checked in at our hotel at around 3 am and practically passed out as soon as we settled in our room. We woke up a little after 7 am and decided to have breakfast at the nearby McDonalds. After a hearty meal, we got our first bird - the Spotted Dove which is very common here in Singapore - just outside the hotel.
The most common species here is the Javan Myna. Our first (and not so good) shot was one perched on the mall entrance.
We then flagged a taxi to take us to the Singapore Botanic Garden. We were suprised at the number of people there. Then we realized that it was a holiday and it appears that a great majority of Singaporeans visit this nature park on such occasions. Thankfully there were still birds. A Pink-necked Fruit Dove was even that close as it negotiated a thorny palm tree.
Going through the narrow path and trying to avoid the hikers, we encountered our only lifer for the trip - an Olive-winged Bulbul!
As we approached the pond, we got a male Olive-backed Sunbird.
Perched on a tree across the pond was a Grey-headed Fish Eagle. Too bad it was quite far and in a dark area.
Then also from a distance came a Black-naped Oriole.
Red Junglefowls are common here in the park.
This time we got better shots at the ubiquitous Javan Mynas.
A small bird was flitting among the branches. Reviewing the photos later at the hotel I'd like to think that it was a Yellow-browed Warbler just because the migrant Arctic Warblers are probably gone since the migration season is over. If that's the case then it would be another lifer for us.
At 11:30 we decided to call it a day and headed to the mall to have lunch. We both were exhausted that we just rested for the rest of the day. The following morning we took a taxi to Bukit Timah. However when we got there we were daunted by the challenging trails. Since it rained early that morning, the steep trails were muddy and slippery and dark. Since we did not have hiking shoes on, Cynthia and I both agreed to skip this place and go back to the Botanic Gardens. It's no longer a holiday so we hoped there would be less people there. Indeed there only a few hikers when we got there. The first species that greted us was a Zebra Dove.
From really, really far away was a White-throated Kingfisher!
Good thing that its cousin, the Collared Kingfisher, was friendlier.
By the pond, this time we got a Pacific Swallow.
Feeding nearby was a pair of Brown-throated Sunbirds.
A White-breasted Waterhen was also busy feeding near the pond.
A Malaysian Pied Fantail also gave us good looks.
And our last bird of the trip was a very cooperative Oriental Magpie Robin.
It was almost noon and time to have lunch at the mall again. After lunch we headed back to our hotel room for some shut-eye to prepare us for our early morning flight back home.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Baras-ing Up

My age has been catching up on me. This 75 year old senior is now having difficulties doing long drives. That was why we recently erased Baras as one of birding destinations. Although it is only about 40 kilometers away from our place, the traffic on the return trip was quite aggravating.

Friday Cynthia promised to meet up with her daughters (and their families) who were vacationing in Tanay. It being a holiday we were quite certain that traffic would be bearable. And since Baras would be along the way, my wife and I both agreed that we could go birding again at the Palo Alto Subdivision.

True enough there were fewer motorcyclists and bikers along the Marilaque Highway and we arrived at our destination just a little after 7 am. To our surprise the very first species we saw was the Balicassiao, several individuals even!

Right after that another surprise was a Scale-feathered Malkoha. This usual skulker was out in full view.

We moved on near the waterway where we saw a Green Sandpiper.

At the grassy area were the "regulars" - the Pied Bush Chats (both male and female) and the Paddyfield Pipit.

Pied Bush Chat - male

Pied Bush Chat - female

Paddyfield Pipit

Near Jerez Street (I think it was at Ybanez St) we encountered a very rare migrant - the Yellow Bunting. The only place where we saw this species before was in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.

On the sidewalk, I was able to get a shot of the White-breasted Waterhen before it hid behind the bushes.

As we continued our drive, we saw two kinds of birds perched on an electric wire - A Grey Wagtail and a Brown-breasted Kingfisher.

Grey Wagtail

Brown-breasted Kingfisher

There were zero birds near the water tank in Cancun Street except for a couple of White-eared Brown Doves feeding on the road.

From there we saw another bird perched on an electric wire - a Collared Kingfisher.

We then headed to Frontera where the Long-tailed Shrike is sure to be seen. Along the way we checked Striated Grassbird and Eastern Cattle Egret on our list.

Striated Grassbird

Eastern Cattle Egret

Of course, the Long-tailed Shrike didn't disappoint.

On the way back from Frontera, we got two kinds of Munias - Chesnut and Scaly-breasted.

Chestnut Munia

Scaly-breasted Munia

Passing another area of the waterway we saw a Little Ringed Plover albeit at quite a distance.

The White-breasted Woodswallows were quite active.

The Savanna Nightjar was still at its usual hangout.

To end our birding day, we got a documentary shot of the migrant Grey-streaked Flycatcher.

It was about half past ten am so it was time to go the family meeting in Tanay. We were so thankful that our Baras birding was quite fruitful. Honestly I am not sure if we would go back to that place again. Maybe on a another holiday?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Sana Owl

Lately I've been seeing posts in Facebook of awesome photos of a Grass Owl - most of them BIF (Bird in Flight) taken in Imus, Cavite. I would have cherished the opportunity of obtaining that kind of picture, especially because that species would be a lifer for me.

Unfortunately since I am now a septuagenarian, it is difficult for me to drive that far, more so when done while it was still dark. From what I gathered, bird photographers had to be in the area at the crack of dawn because that's when the owl shows up. 

Oh well, life goes on.

Note: the title of this blog was a pun on the Tagalog idiom "sana ol" which in English means "hopefully all".

Sunday, January 23, 2022

See Some, Miss Some

It felt kinda strange that some birds we saw one week ago in Baras were now missing, and on the other hand we saw a few species that were not seen then. 

Our day started by seeing an Ashy Minivet perched on a tree branch not that far from where we had our breakfast along Jerez Street. It had been a while since we saw this bird here.

We proceeded to the area near the water tank and were surprised by some bird activities. Here we spotted several species that we didn't see the week before: Arctic Warbler, Black-naped Monarch, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and Elegant Tit.

Arctic Warbler

Black-naped Monarch

Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker

Elegant Tit

What we missed were the Savanna Nightjar, the Little Ringed Plover and the Philippine Cuckoo Dove.

Thankfully we still saw quite a number of the resident birds here. The highlights of which were the Blue Rock Thrush (which we saw after three tries). The Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and the Philippine Hanging Parrot were both feeding on the red flowers near the clubhouse.

Blue Rock Thrush

Stripe-headed Rhabdornis

Philippine Hanging Parrot

Sunday, January 16, 2022

With a Little Help from Friends

Saturday we were at Palo Alto in Baras. Our first destination was at the clubhouse parking lot hoping to see some Philippine Hanging Parrots. We were not disappointed. There was a pair foraging among the red flowers. Unfortunately lighting wasn't that good as it was quite gloomy that morning.


From there we proceeded to the hill where the Blue Rock Thrush can be seen. And there it was at its usual perch on top of the rocky hillside.


Our next stop was at the area where the Long-tailed Shrike is a sure sighting. It wasn't there! As we turned back, it showed up, perched on a tiny branch for a little while, and then flew off. I managed to get only one shot!


On our way out of the Shrike territory we got good shots of a female Pied Bush Chat and an Eastern Cattle Egret.


Along Palo Alto West road, we chased a White-throated Kingfisher as it would fly off as our car approached, perch for a while, then fly off again as we came near. Eventually it stayed long enough for me to get some passable photos.


We drove towards the creek area and along the way there was a male Pied Bush Chat hunting for insects.


At the creek, I got a long distance shot of the Green Sandpiper.


We both agreed that it's about time we go for the Savanna Nightjar. There we saw friends Loel Lamela and Bert Madrigal. They were so kind to help us get some really close up shots of our target species.


Not far from the Nightjar was a pair of Little Ringed Plovers!


Thanking our friends profusely we told them that we would be exploring the other parts of Palo Alto. This time we would be looking for the ubiquitous Paddyfield Pipit along the road. On the way  we encountered a Spotted Dove.


As expected the Pipit was at its usual hangout.


Inasmuch as the weather was now better with the sun finally out, I told Cynthia that we will go back to the Blue Rock Thrush to get better pictures.


There we met friends Elmer Budomo and Christopher Ferrer. They asked us if we've seen the Philippine Cuckoo Dove. We said no. They told us to follow them and they will take us to where that species can be seen. We parked at a nook and they led through a short trail. There we met Trinity Gatuz, another birder friend. Elmer pointed at the fruiting Malapapaya tree and informed us that that was where the Cuckoo Doves (note the plural) come to feed. We didn't have to wait long as several individuals came and enjoyed the red berries.


Having gotten enough shots, we bade our friends goodbye and thanked them for their kindness. 

"You know what we still haven't gotten a picture of? Grey Wagtail!" I told my wife. And guess what, as we drove toward the rotunda, a Grey Wagtail posed for us.


As I mentioned earlier, weather had improved so I suggested to Cynthia that we make a visit to the clubhouse before we go home. Feeding on the red flowers was a Striped-headed Rhabdornis!


Of course, the Philippine Hanging Parrot was still there.


That was the grand finale of our birding trip to Baras. Thanks to our friends, we were able to get some pictures that most likely we would not be able to on our own.