All Around The Coast

Last week I felt very bored, I haven’t been birding for nearly two weeks so I decided to pay a visit to LPPCHEA with Tristan (Cousin).The sky was grey and the air was quite humid; the sky made it very clear that it wanted it to drizzle. The tide was very low, you could see the mud that once lay beneath the murky waters.

The usual Little Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons roam the waters while Whiskered Terns fly in the air. Peeping in the mangroves, we saw a lot of Pied Fantails singing melodically. While we were observing a flock of about 200 Black-winged Stilts by the shore, some huge tern-like birds fished the waters in front of us, and they were possibly gulls.

We made it all the way to the lagoon area where we found a lot of birds, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Egrets, Common Moorhens, White-collared Kingfishers, and Yellow Bitterns. After a long forest trail, we made it to another lagoon area with more of the birds form the other lagoon plus Grey Herons, and Rufous Night Herons.

We walked from one side of the lagoon to the other, startling a flock of around 15 – 20 ducks, most likely Philippine Ducks, but we’re not entirely sure for they could’ve been a mixed flock. We tried waiting for them to go back, and while doing so I also spotted a Warbler, but it moved too fast for me to ID.

We gave up on the ducks and decided to walk along the shore. We spotted a lot of brown-colored Doves, but we were not sure what specific species because they were gone in just a flash. Flying in the air, were two Philippine Ducks headed towards mainland.

At the tip of LPPCHEA, we saw tons of Plovers on the mud flats and on the rocks. The most plentiful were Kentish Plovers, but there were also Asian Golden-Plovers and some Little-ringed Plovers.

We reached the very tip where some people settled to live and from there we went to the trail back. On the way back, we met some DENR officers patrolling the area, and had a brief chat. We also stopped by the lagoons again, and to our delight, there was a lone Philippine Duck in the water. We were so happy to see it, since it was our target bird for the day even though it wasn’t our lifer.

We got out of LPPCHEA and looked back at the path we went and realised we’ve walked for kilometres, and only now did I feel tired. I was exhausted, but happy that I finally got to bird after nearly two weeks of no birding.

 

The City of Water Birds

Last sunday morning, the heat of the sun was just peeping out of the horizon when I was in a packed van of  eight people, me, my dad, my tito, my cousin, and other WBCP members with more in the other vehicles. It was my first time to go to Balanga City, Bataan and I was so excited to see the diverse water birds found there.

Our first stop was in Ochog Fishponds; I was so excited not only because of the birds but also for another thing. I went to Kuya Jun, and asked if he brought it. He reached into the trunk of the car and pulled it out. My Field Station Beltpack by Lowepro; the thing cost me Php 3,000, but it was worth it because the bag really does make birding a bit easier, especially identifying and listing. http://products.lowepro.com/product/Field-Station,2273.htm

The fishponds had many Egrets, with the plain eye I thought there were only like 200, but the experts told me to count them, and even gave me tips. They said it was “training” for the Water Bird Census ; it was confusing to count those birds, but we ended up with approx. 660 Egrets in that area.

Flock of Water Birds in the  Large Fishpond

Flock of Water Birds in the Large Fishpond

Behind the Egrets were some Black-winged Stilts, though some looked grey. The others explained that it was a different sub-species of Black-winged Stilt, while in the pond opposite this was a bit deeper, and it had my next lifer. It had several Little Grebes, known as the diving duck since it can dive for alnost 10 seconds, but when it surfaces it’s already in a whole different area. I got to experience this, the grebe was just right in front of me  when “splash”, it’s  gone. When I tried to find it it was right in the middle of the pond already.

We left for a while, then when we returned the Columbia participants were there. The Guided Trip has started. It was the same birds in that area, so we went up ahead where there some houses, and when we birded near some people whom probably fish in these ponds. We  saw a little boy torturing a juvenile Common Moorhen. It’s leg tied to a rope, the kid pulling it up from the water then throwing it back in.

The poor bird looked like its half dead. I myself don’t like seeing any animal get tortured. I’d the kind of person who gets guilty just because I accidentally stepped on a snail. My eyes couldn’t take seeing the bird in pain so I just looked away. In a while we did get the boy to release his victim, but I don’t think it will last long in its condition.

I put the moorhen at the back of my mind and continued birding, looking at the ponds right next to the area where the “torture” happened. I got me 3 lifers in that  in those two pond: the Long-toed and Rufous-necked Stint, and the Marsh Sandpiper.

When we were about to leave already, there was a bird that caught Kuya Mike’s attention. It had a black tail and yellow bill with black on the tip. A quick look at the Kennedy, and the bird was identified as the Grey-headed Lapwing. It was rare to see it in the Philippines, being an accidental. We were so lucky to be able to see it here; It was a lifer for nearly all of us.

Grey-headed Lapwing

Grey-headed Lapwing
Lifer no. 106

Once everyone had satisfied themselves with the lapwing, we drove off. But not without seeing another lifer, for while in the car we saw tiny birds on the wet mud. “Kentish Plovers!” they said. I see plovers a lot, but they are one of the hardest birds for me to ID so it’s not usual for me to add a plover to my Life List.

We proceeded to our next destination, Balanga Wetland Park. It was a saltwater area, not like Ochog which had freshwater ponds. We saw several waders off shore, undisturbed. The only waders I could identify were Asian Golden Plovers and Common Greenshanks.

I got  three lifers there, not waders but gulls and terns. The Black-headed Gulls which were perching on the wooden poles and on the the mudflats. Two terns, which were the Common Tern which was slightly bigger than the Whiskered Tern, and the Great-crested Tern a large tern with a black crest, very distinct from the other terns.

We walked through a mangrove trail ending up in a “supposedly” empty beach, but sadly it wasn’t. A small group of people were playing and relaxing around. When the other birders went here last time, they said the beach was empty so several waders could be seen along the shore, but now there aren’t much, just a few Common Greenshanks and Sandpipers, but we did get a good view of a Brahminy Kite hunting for food.

We went out of the beach and back through the trail and took a little break, but then we were alarmed by the call of the other birders. They’ve spotted what might be a Chinese Egret which I think is rare. It was a bit hard to distinguish it from a Little Egret, so we took pics, vids and got as many witnesses as we can to await confirmation. If it will be confirmed as a Chinese Egret, then I got me a new lifer.

btw Kuya Jops, if your reading this, I can’t send you the video of the Chinese Egret since the file is too big.

My whole body was agonizingly tired after a whole day of birding. I slept the whole trip back, but I was happy since I got nine lifers in this trip, ten if the the Chinese Egret is confirmed. Balanga was amazing and the diversity of the Water Birds obviously does not disappoint. I can’t wait for the next time I would get the chance to go to Balanga again.

My 100th Lifer

Hurrying through the busy roads on the way to UP were me and my driver. I was late for the Guided Trip which started an hour before I arrived. I missed some good birds like the Coppersmith Barbet and the White-collared Kingfisher. I have seen both before, but seeing them again would be nice. My goal actually for today was to reach my 100th lifer, being at 98 I was determined to see 2 new birds today.

I missed this so much, being with the WBCP. It’s more fun, even happier when they’re around, and most of all, easier to see birds. We started off, or at least I started off, at the side of the road, since they were already there when I caught up with them, but the original meeting place was near the UP Main Library.

We saw a lot of Brown Shrikes, and Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers on the trees at the side of the road, while on the road were hundreds of joggers completely unaware of their presence. When you look up, you could see Lowland White-eyes and Golden-bellied Flyeaters high-up on the tree tops. We were unprepared for the next surprise, a raptor that is somewhat white in plumage. It came and went in a matter of seconds.

We entered a slightly forested area, the UP Lagoon. The place was crawling, well… flying, with Brown Shrikes and Yellow-vented Bulbuls. Some birders finally spotted my 99th lifer. They showed me the bird, and it kept flying around but in the same area, so we were still able to follow it. It was an immature Brush Cuckoo eating a very hairy caterpillar we Filipinos call “Higad”.

It flew away, but luckily everyone in the group, including the participants to the Guided Trip, saw it. We then continued out the Lagoon, but not without seeing two cute Zebra Doves on the path. It was almost time to go, but we still had one stop left. Ate Maia (WBCP mamber) told me that it was a sure sighting of my 100th lifer in that area.

Sure enough, it was. Immediately when we got there, the others were already pointing at a Mango Tree. It took me a while, but I finally saw it. A Philippine Nightjar roosting on a branch at plain view. We woke it up from its sleep, but it soon went back to sleep when it figured that we weren’t a threat.

Philippine Nightjar <Photo by Jun Osano>
100th Lifer!!!

I was so thrilled to see my 100th lifer, but sad that I had to go home already. I looked at my fellow WBCP members, and well… I will miss them. It has been a while since I saw them, but now that I was birding with them again I had so much fun. It’s true that birding is more fun with more people, especially with people who are more experienced than you are because you learn from them, and it’s fun to be able to share stories with each other. I just hope there will be a next WBCP activity very soon.

Birds at the Fish Market

It was an early Sunday morning, yet the weather was already hot with the sun shinning high in the sky. The smell of trash and dead fish lingers in the air as the fumes of the Fish Market and LPPCHEA mingle together to create a  foul smell. I didn’t mind the smell though, it didn’t bother me, besides I have smelled stuff way worse than that.

Most people come here to buy, obviously, fish and other seafoods, but me, my Dad, my tito, and my cousin came here to look for water birds, particularly the Common Greenshanks which some birders have reported in this area. The shallow waters were inhabited by Egrets, Herons, Waders, and Terns, but the hard part was identifying them individually. The most obvious bird in the crowd was a lifer, the Grey Heron, bending its wings in a strange position.

The Egrets comprised of Little Egrets, Great Egrets, and Intermediate Egrets. There were plovers there, of course, but sadly we weren’t able to ID any of them aside from the dozens of Asian Golden plovers. Juvenile and immature Black-crowned and Rufous Night Herons were plenty, more than the adults.

It was the first time I saw terns perched on the water, well not exactly on the water but on the very watery mud. I see them perch on telephone and cable wires over Pasig River, but not on the ground, and especially not on the water. It was actually very low tide and I guessed that they used it as an advantage to be able to rest right after fishing in the deeper waters. Most of the terns were Whiskered Terns, but we knew that there were more, but we just couldn’t get the luck to ID them properly.

Our main goal for today was finding the Common Greenshank, and my Dad spotted something. After peeking through the scope a lot, looking at the confusing field marks, and taking glances at the book, we finally confirmed that it was a Common Greenshank. I was so happy that it stayed in that one spot so that we were able to ID it. My last lifer of the day, the Common Greenshank.

 

My First Owl

Last Friday was a very special day for me, for it was the day I saw my first owl. Me and my Dad drove to the building of Manila Waters with a dense forest right beside it. It was known to be the nesting site of two adult and one juvenile Philippine Eagle Owl.

With us were some WBCP members and a few visiting birders with my cousin and Tito. They showed me the juvenile owl perched just few feet away, up in the branches of some trees. They called him pickle-relish, and they also called the two adult owls food condiments who were here a while ago, but were a no show to me and my dad.

Philippine Eagle Owl resting on a branch
<Photo by King Pandi>

Curiously staring at us noisy birders
<Photo by King Pandi>

It was a very elegant bird. It may seem a bit creepy, especially if we saw it at night with its yellow eyes staring at you, bobbing it’s head from side to side.

There were Golden-bellied Flyeaters and Yellow-vented Bulbuls calling from the other trees, but the owl still remained the star of the show. We actually wanted to go deeper in the forest, but as it turns out we needed a permit, and of course the easiest way to get a permit was to wait for the WBCP to hold a Club Trip there. I will be able to go in that forest some day.

We didn’t see many birds, but I would never forget this day, the day I saw my first owl.

A Lifer Red as Blood

The words “Belated!” or  “Happy Birthday!” is what has welcomed me in Lipa that Saturday morning as my relatives greeted me. We all invited them to go in Lipa, Batangas, after all the day before this was my birthday, and of course I had to go birding the day afterwards. My birthday wouldn’t be complete without having an adventure full of birds or gaining a new lifer.

We started off with day one in Lipa with some water birds in Taal Lake where we stayed in a small barangay in Mataas na Kahoy. It was fun yet at the same time challenging since water birds are some of the hardest to identify. Questions like “What type of Egeret is that?”, “Are those Whiskered Terns or something else?”, or “Why are water birds so complicated?!” would occasionally pop-up. In the end, we listed the following species in Taal Lake:

  • Whiskered Terns, and other unidentified terns
  • Little, Great, and Intermediate Egrets
  • Little Heron, and an unidentified heron
  • Barn and Pacific Swallows

Afterwards, we went to a small nature trail inside a Cemetery in another part of Lipa. It was a small field with tall grass and cattle fesses; around it, left, right, and forward, was a forest full of Yellow-vented Bulbuls and Brown Shrike. Some beautiful flower-covered trees attract a lot of Olive-baked Sunbirds and Lowland White-eyes, and White -collared Kingfishers also occur.

A bit deeper inside, we were left dumbfounded by a bird looking like a flycatcher. It was brown with a black bill, and a streaked breast. I had no idea what it was and neither did the rest of us, and we were disappointed of the sight of it flying away before we got the chance to ID it. We waited a while longer for it to come back, but it was a no show, so we just went directly out of the trail to the Cemetery.

A Long-tailed Shrike here, and a Striated Grassbird there, but I still couldn’t get the flycatcher out of my mind until I heard my tito say “Flowerpecker!” And there it was a tiny bird, the size of a sunbird, perched on the slim branches of a tree. My tita asked “Isn’t that a bleeding heart?”. It wasn’t, but it was very close since this bird also has a red breast, but it was way too small. My only Lifer in Lipa, the Red-keeled Flowerpecker.

We spent the night in the Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club, a place I have went to a lot before I have started birding,which actually had the most species of birds in all the places we went to, because just in the fishpond there were already swallows, Great and Little Egrets, Common Sandpipers, Little Herons and Common Kingfishers with some White-collared Kingfihers.

Great Egret <Photo by King Pandi>

Common Kingfisher <Photo by King Pandi>

The golf course and empty lots had a lot of grass-dwelling birds like Long-tailed Shrikes, Striated Grassbirds, Barred Rails which we laugh at because of their way of running when we flushed them, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters perched on wires, Scaly-breates Munias, Red-Turtle Doves, Richard’s Pipits, White-bellied Woodswallows, and Yellow Wagtails. There was also a flock of Black-naped Orioles in an area of palm trees.

White-bellied Woodswallow <Photo by King Pandi>

The next day we went up a mountain, tired and sweaty we hoped to find many birds. We did find Philippine Bubuls and on of both Philippine and Lesser Coucals, but other than these and some common birds it wasn’t such a birdy place. This our last adventure of the weekend and even though I only got one lifer I was very happy, and the celebration of my birthday was complete.

Five Inches Taller

The sun was shining bright in the sky that if I were back home the heat would be scorching, but I’m not back at my cemented forest in which I live. I’m at LPPCHEA, or as most people call it Coastal Lagoon, looking for waders on the trash-covered beaches and terns over the blue bay with my family and relatives, as usual.

I cannot believe Whiskered Terns were so plentiful here, diving down into the waters and coming back up with their dinner. I see Whiskered Terns all the time now since I live near Pasig River. I even get to see them perched at noon on the wires that go over the river to the other side. I have always thought that Pasig was dead, but I see that it actually still has hope.

Stations were put up around the trashiest areas with signs and garbage bags. The stations were probably put up during the Coastal Clean-up a while ago. I wanted to join in, but at that time I was busy. Well they’re long gone now, but the beach was still filthy, better than before, but still not enough. I understand though that it is impossible to clean the whole Lagoon in a day.

Other than the usual Pied Fantails, Brown Shrikes, Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, and Little Heron, I could see migrant Common Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, and Grey-tailed Tattlers. I saw a Spotted Dove on the wire while going inside, and cute Chestnut Munias on the tall grass. An egret also flew in front of us and landed on the shore. It was bigger than a Little but smaller than a Great Egret, with an all black bill and legs. My cousin is asking people to identify it through the high-tech world of Facebook.

Chestnut Munias perched on tall grass
<Photo by King Pandi>

Other WBCP members actually spotted a Little Curlew, a rare migrant to the Philippines, here a few days ago. It was the main reason why we went here, but all afternoon we couldn’t see it, but I did get one lifer. A close relative to the Little Curlew is the Whimbrel which was just 5 inches taller, and is more common. I think these 5 inches are the only way to tell them apart, but I haven’t seen a Little Curlew so I can’t be sure.

The Whimbrel, non-birders may describe it as: Unattractive? Strange? Scary? I remember a story my cousin told me. “He was young when him and his mom spotted an injured bird out their window. They wanted to take it in their house, nurture it back to health then release it back to the wild. They showed the bird to their Yaya who said the bird was a Tik-tik ‘a fictional filipino monster with a long tongue to suck the fetus of pregnant women’. The bird was left alone to fend for itself. Only now did they realize they’re Yaya was paranoid to think the bird was a monster for actually the bird was a Whimbrel.”

Whimbrel <Photo by King Pandi>
Lifer no. 93

I don’t think of the Whimbrel as those said above. I think of it as: Unique. Special. Beautiful. I was so excited to see it, it walked around the beach, then I saw not just one but two. One was flying over the water and the other was walking at the side of the salty, trashy water.

It was starting to get dark so we passed by again to the area with many White-collared Kingfishers, then to the other beach to see my last bird of the day. It was dark so it was hard to see in the distance, but through the scope it was obvious. Two uncommon Rufous Night Herons. My dad was the first t spot it which surprised me since it was nearly pitch dark. It was time to go, and left happy thanks to the Whimbrel, and all the other birds we saw.

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