Posts Tagged ‘Migratory Birds’

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.

 

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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.

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.

 

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.

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
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