Posts Tagged ‘Water 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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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.

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.

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…

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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