Archive for October, 2012

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.

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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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