Archive for September, 2012

The Tree of Life in a Birder’s Paradise

The weather was better now than when we last came here, now my bird loving tito, tita and cousin came with us. There were still light rain showers but it would only last for a short while then the rest of the day was sunny and perfect for birding. Subic still had the usual Large-billed Crows and White-breasted Woodswallows, which were sort of as common as Eurasian Tree Sparrows in the area.

The common birds, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Zebra Doves, Glossy Swiftlets, Pacific Swalows and Brown Shrikes, flew around the residential areas of Subic Homes as we checked-in. If you ever come to Subic, this is the place I suggest you stay because even in Subic Homes a lot of birds can already be found but let me tell you about Subic Homes later on.

Before we talk about the birds in Subic Homes, let’s first talk about the Boton Forest Trail. There were actually not many birds here except Black-naped Orioles, but this was the place I first laid eyes on my first malkoha, the Red-crested Malkoha. It is a Luzon Endemic, and a common resident in the forests of Subic. Later that day, we even found them flying in front of us.

White-throated Kingfisher perched on wire
<Photo by King Pandi>

Well, other than the malkoha it wasn’t really a birdy place, so we drove to the old Bat Kingdom and on our way there we saw a lot of White-throated King-fishers occasionally parching on wires or small trees beside the road. I then saw something brown with some spot-like  patterns and I knew it was different. We nearly ignored it, but then I shouted “Wait! Stop the Car!” I was right; it was something else, a Female Blue Rock-Thrush.

Female Blue Rock-Thrush <Photo by King Pandi> Lifer no. 88

At the Bat Kingdom, Me and Tristan (Cousin) saw two species of woodpeckers, happily pecking on these bark-less trees. They were the cut little Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, and to my surprise a woodpecker we didn’t expect to see, a Greater Flameback. I was a beautiful woodpecker with its red back, and another surprise, we didn’t just see one, but three! A very nice lifer.

Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker <Photo by King Pandi>

I was also finally able to see the Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, which I have been trying to track down ever since I missed it at Mt. Palay-Palay. Then once we were done with the Bat Kingdom, wile driving back to Subic Homes, we saw Philippine Serpent-Eagles, another bird I missed out on in Mt. Palay-Palay, flying in circles which I think i’s called thermaling.

In the afternoon, we planned to go to Hill 394, but sadly we had to have a permit to got there. I guess when WBCP has a Club Trip there, they issue first a permit. We sadly weren’t informed of this, and we didn’t have time to get one, so we had to go with the back-up plan, birding near Zoobic Safari. We saw more or less the same birds, Philippine Bulbuls were here, and so were White-bellied Woodpeckers, and an abundance of Balicassiaos.

Now, let’s go back to Subic Homes. We birded there a bit late, from noon to night then again at early morning and found a Colasisi and a White-collared Kingfisher. There was actually a particular tree there which I really want to know what kind. It surprised me because in this one three we listed the following birds:

  • A flock of 10+ Pompadour Green-Pigeons, Lifer

Pompadour Green-pigoen <Photo by King Pandi> Lifer no. 81

  • About 3+ Coppersmith Barbets
  • Large-billed Crows
  • A few Coletos
  • Yellow-vented Bulbuls
  • Brown Shrikes
  • A Blue-naped Parrot
  • Balicassiaos, Lifer
  • And a flock of 8+ Luzon Tarictic Hornbills

Luzon Tarictic Hornbill <Photo by King Pandi>

What surprised me really was the flock of Hornbills that fly there to feed in the morning and the Pompadour Pigeons that never leave the tree. My Ninang Princess calls it “The Tree of Life”. If anyone could identify this tree for me, hopefully those of the WBCP would know this tree, I would be very grateful.

“Tree of Life” <Photo by King Pandi>

Also, in front of a Brent International School, Subic, which was located in the same area as the Subic Homes residential, was a flock of SEVERAL, about 20 to 30 parrots. The parrots composed of Blue-backed Parrots, Guaiaberos, a single Green Raquet-tail, and the most plentiful were the Blue-naped Parrots. The Guaiabero was my lifer, but I didn’t count the Blue-backed Parrot and the Raquet-tail since I only saw both for barely a second before it flew off.

Blue-naped Parrots <Photo by King Pandi>

In the same area, we also found some strange looking woodpeckers. Some were pure black while others had red faces. They were in fact Sooty Woodpeckers, the all black being females and the rad face being males. We also saw Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes which I had almost mistaken as a Balicassiao, but just my luck, an actual Balicassiao was right beside it and I was able to see the difference.

Sooty Woodpecker <Photo by King Pandi>
Lifer no. 82

In a wetland area near Subic Homes, next to a golf course, we found a Buff-banded Rail. We then saw something HUGE fly across the wetland. It perched on a tree, and if we didn’t see it fly there we would have thought it was a branch since it was really well camouflaged. It was a very huge Purple Heron. It turns out that the Subic Homes Area had the most birds among all the places we went to in Subic.

Purple Heron <Photo by King Pandi>
Lifer no.86

I left Subic with sadness in my heart. I wish I lived there with the birds just outside my window, but my place is here in Metro Manila. A “Maya’s Paradise!” :D. This has been my best birding trip so far, and I can’t wait for the day I would finally come here with the WBCP. When that time comes, it would mean more birds and an access to hill 394.

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Overwhelmed By Waders

We nearly got lost in the Pampanga area while finding our way to the Candaba Wetlands, but good thing the local Pampangueno people knew the way. One by one we asked them directions to Candaba and slowly we started making progress getting there. They talked to us with a sort of accent and used the terms “dine” and “rine”.

We finally stumbled into the muddy trails of Candaba, but sadly we could not go in deeper to the actual site due to the very deep muddy road. We had to make do with the ricefield at the side of the dirt road and hoped for the best. We actually saw tons of birds in the ricefields and most of them were waders.

The very first wader we saw that day was the Black-winged Stilt; I have not seen it before due to the fact that it was a migrant. I actually thought at first that my first Black-winged Stilt would be in LPPCHEA, a much closer habitat to home, but with almost the same kinds of birds.

Black-winged Stilt <Photo by King Pandi>
Lifer no. 77

Candaba was an amazing experience for me. I got a total of five lifers that morning; one of which was the Black-winged Stilt, but other than that I also got the Wood Sandpiper, along side with some Common Sandpipers. I finally got to see the deepness of the fork of a Barn Swallow and can finally count it as a lifer. I also got the Red Turtle Dove there while they were flocking together with the waders, and me and Tristan (Cousin) were sure that most of the egrets we saw there were Cattle Egrets.

Wood Sandpiper <Photo by king Pandi>
Lifer no. 78

I was so happy to see such a diverse array of water loving birds in one area. I actually love water birds, but they are just so hard to ID since they nearly look the same. If we were with other WBCP members on this trip, we would have seen more birds, but what I liked about this trip that I was able to ID most of the water birds here myself and that makes me a bit proud.

We did see many other birds in Candaba like Chestnut Munias the size of mayas, and mayas the size of Brown Shrikes, and Brown Shrikes the size of Long-tailed Shrikes, and Long-tailed Shrikes the size of Zebra Doves, and Zebra Doves the size of Yellow Bitterns, and Yellow Bitterns the size of Cinnamon Bitterns, and the Cinnamon Bittern being the biggest Cinnamon Bittern that I have ever seen. I swear that birds here look or ARE bigger than those found within Metro Manila.

There were many birds there and esspecially many waders but I only got to see their true diversity when the mixed wader flock flew just a few meters off the water of the ricefield. I saw an amazing display of different species of waders, but didn’t know how to ID them. They looked so similar but you could see different shades of gray, black and white, and occasionally see a glimpse of color in the flock.

I was so glad that I have finally got to bird in Candaba, but the day is still young and this is only part one of my birding weekend. The rest will be left on suspense mode until tomorrow :).

To be continued…

A More Strict Birder

Through my conversations with other birders (more specifically those of WBCP),  I have realized that each birder has a different way of counting lifers. Some birders are strict when it comes to counting lifers, like not counting birds in flight or not counting birds that they did not spot themselves. While some birders are not at all strict; once a birds is seen, it is already counted.

I have first heard the term “tickers” from Ixi Mapua (WBCP member). She explains them as people who get experienced guides to point out birds to them. Once the guide sees a bird, the “ticker” counts that as a lifer without bothering to observe or maybe even glimpse the bird. This is really against the birding spirit. 😦

I have actually seen a few birds that I have not counted myself. A few examples are the Philippine Serpent Eagle in Mt. Palay-Palay and the Red Junglefowl in Nuvali Bird sanctuary. You, my readers, don’t know this because I don’t write about those that I don’t count.

I myself am not too strict when counting lifers, but I do have my own set of rules. A newly seen bird has to conform with these five rules for me to consider it as a lifer. If not, then I’ll have to see it again next time to be able to count it as a lifer. It’s actually a let down if I see a bird but don’t count it, but I know it will improve my skills as a birder and help me in the future.

Here are my five rules:

  1. The Three Second Rule – The bird has to reveal itself to me for at least three seconds for me to count it as a lifer.
  2. The Field Mark Rule – I must be able to see at least one field mark that distinguishes it from other similar birds for me to count it as a lifer.
  3. The Ten Distance Rule – When a small bird (munia to tern) is seen with the naked eye, it must be within ten feet for me to count it as a lifer. When a large bird (coucal to raptor) is seen with the naked eye, it must be within 10 meters for me to count it as a lifer.
  4. The Three Second Totality Rule – A similar rule to Rule #1; When a bird reveals itself for short amounts of time, but at multiple times, and the total number of seconds that it has revealed itself is at least 3 second then I can count it as a lifer.
  5. The Instinct Rule – Probably the most important rule! Always trust on my own instinct when counting lifers. When my instinct says that a lifer should or should not be counted, I  should follow it.

Through Muddy Trails

The rain seemed like it would never stop for the past two days; thanks to typhoon “Karen” ( international name: Sanba ) entering the Philippine area of responsibility. It had stopped us from birding in La Mesa Ecopark last Saturday to search for more of La Mesa’s interesting residents, but good thing the rain has settled down yesterday, Sunday morning.

We decided to go back in time, to the place it all started, hoping to see more birds than when we first came here. We went back to the Nuvali Bird Sanctuary, the place where we had our first birding adventure.

I was so excited to go there with my dad, my tito, and my cousin. We first had  get a permit from the front desk, and just outside the building were some Brown Shrikes, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Zebra Doves, and some Whiskered Terns diving into Nuvali’s boating area. Long-tailed Shrikes also perched on the small trees and plants at the side of the road.

Brown Shrike <Photo by King Pandi>

We arrived at the Nuvali Bird Sanctuary and was saddened by the sight that it had been lessened. At the entrance of the sanctuary to the right, where trees used to be, is now a future subdivision site. The trees have been cut and exposed soil has been dug up.

The birds near the entrance has now lessened as wel,l except for some Barred Rails, so we decided to go deeper in the sanctuary until we reached the wetland area where two birding stations are located. I have just noticed that my cargo pants were very muddy, making them a bit harder to carry around, so I converted them to shorts with a simple zip of  a zipper.

We saw no water birds there in that area just some Olive-backed Sunbirds and a Golden-bellied Flyeater on an exposed branch. There were some bird illustration and information located in the stations for beginners, and around the area were some information hung on trees about the trees their on which I read for just a bit, and it contained very interesting information.

The Gazebo was like a two-story open bahay kubo “hut” with some more information and illustrations on birds and also other animals. I learned from those information that a particular kind of lizard, called the Philippine Sailfin Lizard, was a good indicator of the environment. I was actually a bit disappointed from the site there in the Gazebo for half of it was the site of the sanctuary while half was the reclaimed area for the future subdivision.

Glossy Swiftlets and Pygmy Swiftlets flew around the Gazebo, and at the view of the sanctuary were some Large-billed Crows above the canopy of the trees. While at the sadly reclaimed area, were some Pied Bushchats, both male and female, Strited Grassbirds, and Richard’s Pipits.

We decided to go back in the trail to avoid the sad sight of the future subdivision, and found some Crested Mynahs. Tito Jerome then gave us a tip to go to the fruiting trees near the Gazebo entrance of the trail, and wait for a while, birds might come. We did just that and saw an Arctic Warbler hopping around on branches and flying from tree to tree. It took  a while for us to ID it from the Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler, but when I asked Kuya Jun (WBCP member), I was definitely sure.

We went back up the trail and back to the wetlands, we saw a huge White-throated Kingfisher fly past us and a White-collared Kingfisher fly from on top of a wall. Then my Dad had a last look at the grass on the other side of the water and saw a Philippine Coucal hidden in the tall grass. Tristan got a new lifer, and I was happy for him since he’s the only one who hasn’t seen it among the four of us.

I was waiting in the car when we had finally exited the trail, as my Dad was helping out a car that got stuck in the mud outside the sanctuary. When I saw the mud that the car was stuck in, only did I notice my own mud, stuck to my shoes from the muddy trails. I had not really noticed it while birding, but I did feel my feet step into gooey, almost watery mud. The mud has even reached my socks, this is one of the moments when I’m thankful of my water-resistant trek shoes, but it didn’t really fully protect my feet from the mud and water.

Before leaving the area we heard a Coppersmith Barbet calling in the distance as our car bumped its way out of the muddy road. We also saw White-breated Woodswallows which was also seen in the sanctuary, flying around and perching on wires.

We passed through Eton City, a future residential area, i think (?). Were we saw a lone raptor fly over the grassy plains and to my surprise a lifer! A Lesser Coucal flying and perching around the grasslands. It certainly mad this day unforgettable sice it was my last bird of the trip. I was so happy to see it stay there for a long time that we got to scope it, and see the obvious differences from the Philippine Coual.

Lesser Coucal <Photo by King Pandi>
Lifer no. 75

I have now decided not to post a Bird List because it may actually stop a person from reading the whole post. They might just read the Bird List to see if I saw any interesting birds, and if I didn’t. They might not bother reading, and of course I don’t want that 🙂

More Common than the Residents

“There are no birds here!” my Dad said a while ago in the car when we drove to a place called “Tumana” in Marikina City, but already we have found Long-tailed Shrikes perched on wires and a lot of Brown Shrikes. I was surprised to see so many Brown Shrikes beacuse they were actually more common than Yellow-vented Bulbuls in that area.

We saw some strange looking Crested Mynahs, brownish black in color with a small crest on the bill but not as obvious as the usual Crested Mynahs we see.  Tristan (Cousin) explained them as juvenile Crested Mynahs; he sees them all the time in places near his place. In the same area were some Scaly-breasted Munias, perched on the tall grass with the Long-tailed Shrikes.

Ninang Princess nearly jumped for joy when she saw one of her favorites hiding in the clusters of bamboo. It was a Pied Triller, and it was one of my favorites as well. It also has a very nice local name which is “Ibong-Pare” (see the translation in the glossary).

Since the area was right beside the river, we saw a lot of Pacific Swallows flying around; most were flying very low, nearly touching the ground, but never do. We decided to enter a subdivision with more empty lots than there were houses.  There, we saw some Pied Fantails and Zebra Doves on the streets, and a lone White-collared Kingfisher flying out of the subdivision to the grasslands were we were a while ago.

We saw something quite big fly from one empty lot to the other and tried to find it. It landed next to a large puddle in the middle of some tall grass. We nearly given up on it since it wasn’t coming out, but then it flew away and revealed its identity. It was a Cinnamon Bittern flying towards the next subdivision over a high wall.

We went deeper in the subdivision where we found a lot of Striated Grassbirds, and Ninang Princess even asked me to ID a tree since many birds seem to be going on them. Sadly, I don’t know how to ID trees, but she thought I did. Other WBCP members are great are identifying tress, almost as much as they can ID birds.

Striated Grassbird <Photo by King Pandi>

My Dad and Tito Jerome showed us some Eurasian Tree Sparrows on the side walk, and there was something very strange with one of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows. I never saw a Eurasian Tree Sparrow that looks like this one. It was very light in color and very noticeable when in plain sight. It looks almost like it is beige.

Light Colored Eurasian Tree Sparrow
<Photo by King Pandi>

On the roofs of the houses were some doves that, at plain sight, look like Zebra Doves. But as we looked at it closer with the Spotting Scope, it had a black patch on the nape with white spots. It was the unique field mark of the Spotted Dove. I was actually surprised to see them here because the only doves I expected were Zebra Doves, but I guess you’ll never know what to expect.

We left at around 8 am since we all had some other matters to attend to. Ever since then, I always hear or see the Brown Shrikes  once in a while. I actually see them more often than I see Yellow-vented Bulbuls. I had never expected that a migratory bird could be this common, but when migration season ends, I see none at all. The fact of seeing or even just hearing a migratory bird in the morning is a really a good way to start my day.

Bird List

  1. Long-tailed Shrike
  2. Brown Shrike
  3. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  4. Crested Mynah
  5. Scaly-breasted Munia
  6. Pied Triller
  7. Pacific Swallow
  8. Pied Fantail
  9. Zebra Dove
  10. White-collared Kingfisher
  11. Cinnamon Bittern
  12. Striated Grassbird
  13. Spotted Dove

Silhouettes

Not a single raptor in the sky was present, just the thick clouds that would pour at any moment. It was my first time to go raptor watching and so far we haven’t seen any raptors. I expected hundreds of raptors flying just in front of us, but sadly it was too early in the season for there to be many raptors.

We got bored of staring at the blank sky and started looking at the ground and in the tall grass were some Pied Bushchats. One was male, and the other two with it were female which was unusual because you usually see them in pairs, one male and one female. I suggested that one of the females could be a juvenile which they said was possible.

Male Pied Bushchat

Female Pied Bushchat <Photo by King Pandi>

In the same tall grass area, a bird came out to the open to reveal itself. It was a Buff-banded Rail just in plain sight, calm and always staying on the same spot; it had this interesting plumage at its back. It was my first lifer of the day but it certainly wasn’t my last.

Buff-banded Rail <Photo by King Pandi>
Lifer no. 69

Right beside the Rail was a Striated Grassbird. We spent a while trying to re-observe it since we were trying to make sure if it was a Striated or a Tawny Grassbird. We really wished that it was a Tawny Grassbird, since we keep hearing them but never see any.

Swiftlets were everywhere, most of them were Glossy Swiftlets. They were flying all around the tower where we were we were birding. They were all below us, so I took this advantage to see if some of them had white rumps, and some did which meant that they were Pygmy Swiftlets. I finally got another lifer. 🙂

It took a while, but finally we spotted a raptor; it was a resident Oriental Honey Buzzard!!! It was huge with a large wing span that looks like it can dive down and snatch a child. The more experienced birders knew what it was by just the silhouette which was pretty much all you can get out of raptors here. I, on the other hand, had to cope with these silhouettes, but having the others there to explain how to ID the silhouettes really helped. 🙂

Once the raptor showed up so did the White-breasted Woodswallows, flying around in circles. Another raptor once again showed itself, chasing its domesticated Pigeon prey. It was a Peregrine Falcon!!! At first it was low because it was preying on some domesticated Pigeons, but has flown up to the sky. It flew so fast that my eyes could barely follow it, since it is the fastest animal on earth. 🙂

I tried looking for my first Brown Shrike, but sometimes I mistaken them for Yellow-vented Bulbuls in a distance, but after a while. I saw something brown on a clothesline. It was finally a Brown Shrike!! 🙂 After that instance, we actually saw more Brown Shrikes.

We had to leave just a bit earlier than the others since my Dad had some errands to do.  We got back on the road where the only birds left to see were Swiftlets and Pacific Swallows.

It was actually a let down because I had expected more raptors, but it turns out we arrived to early in the season. My Dad actually expected the raptors to drop on trees since my Dad didn’t know about Raptor migration until explained a while ago. Still we were glad to get some lifers and have this experience and hope to do it again, but with more raptors next time. 😉

Bird List

  1. Pied Bushchat
  2. Buff-banded Rail
  3. Striated Grassbird
  4. Glossy Swiftlet
  5. Pygmy Swiftlet
  6. Oriental Honey Buzzard
  7. White-breasted Woodswallow
  8. Peregrine Falcon
  9. Brown Shrike
  10. Yellow-vented Bulbul
  11. Pacific Swallow

A Migratory of the Coasts

It took me a while until I posted this,  due to many different reasons. One reason is that I am having my Trimestral Exams this week, and I had to do some studying. I actually put in mind not posting it at all, but of course you, my loyal readers, would not like that. I took the thought of not posting this out of my mind, and started typing.

I put my head down and peeked into the bush, something was moving inside, wagging its tail slightly. It was obviously a wader, a bit grayish-brown. I slowly got closer to the unknown bird, but then I flushed it. No matter, I was still able to see it quite enough to ID it. It was another Common Sandpiper.

There were relatively six species that were very common there that Sunday afternoon. The first two were too obvious, which were the Little Egret and Black-crowned Night Heron. The White-collared Kingfisher was very common, every minute we would at least see two White-collared Kingfishers fly in front of us and we would usually hear its loud call. Little Herons were more common today than all the other days we have been there, and so were Pacific Swallows.

The other bird was a bit of a surprise for me to see so many; Common Sandpipers, everywhere. The migration season is really starting to come out of its shell, and reveal itself. A month ago, I have never even seen a Common Sandpiper, but now here I am in LPPCHEA seeing dozens of them flying over the water occasionally landing on the shore or on rocks or boulders, hiding behind them making it hard for me and my Dad to see them.

Other than those birds we also spotted some others as well. The Yellow Bittern stayed in its usual spot, but it ran away once it saw me and my Dad coming closer. Deeper in LPPCHEA, we saw some electrical wires and on them were more birds. We first saw some Spotted Doves on these wires, they would occasionally drop on the ground and feed, I think. My Dad also saw a green bird looking like a parakeet. It looked like an escaped pet bird and it was not in the Kennedy Guide so we suspected that it was.

Going back to the neared side of LPPCHEA, we decided to go in what Ivan Sarenas (WBCP member) calls the Tiklingan” “Place of the Barred Rails”. We went inside and saw some Pied Fantails, hopping about and fanning their tails. We spotted one Barred Rail which flew immediately after sensing us coming. Once we reached what I think was the DENR station, we really wanted to see a lot of birds in the lagoon, sadly I think the yapping of the dog scared all the birds away.

Deeper inside we heard a very awful noise that I know, but cannot recall. We slowly tip-toed to where we heard them and at the sight of the bird, I remembered the call. It was the unpleasant call of the White-breasted Waterhen. One glimpse of it, then when it realized it was being stalked on; It ran into the vegetation.

We returned back to our car, the last birds we saw were Glossy Swiftlets as they flew above our heads, then the bats came out and replaced all the birds. I was very happy today because it was just the start of the migration season and already, migratory birds were everywhere. Excitement ran through my veins at the thought of what I will see once the migration season has reached its peak.

Bird List

  1. Little Egret
  2. Black-crowned Night Heron
  3. White-collared Kingfisher
  4. Little Heron
  5. Pacific Swallow
  6. Common Sandpiper
  7. Spotted Dove
  8. Yellow Bittern
  9. Barred Rail
  10. White-breasted Waterhen
  11. Pied Fantail
  12. Glossy Swiftlet
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