Sunday, January 18, 2015

It Began and Ended With Owls (With A Spiderhunter in Between!)

Jops and I wanted a full day of birding. Full. So, we were already gearing up at the parking area of the Tanay Rainforest Camp at 5:30 in the morning. Our guide, Kuya Ronald, was already at the gate waiting for us.

We parked near the cabins and stepped out into a really cold and nippy morning. Some of the birds were already starting to call from the darkness: Spotted Wood Kingfishers, Scale-feathered Malkohas, and Balicassiaos could be heard calling very close to us!

We arrived at the right time to catch some owls in the area. We backtracked a bit and even heard some Philippine Nightjars calling. As luck would have it, some hawk-owls started calling nearby! After a bit of searching, two shadows flew overhead and landed on a high perch above us. We could make out two shadows on a branch: Luzon Hawk-Owls!

Our first birds of the day were a pair of Luzon Hawk-Owls!

It was a great way to start our day! We started our walk down the trail and just a few meters from the car, we were distracted with lots of bird activity on a far tree. A big group of Colasisis were feeding alongside Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, Elegant Tits, and Philippine Bulbuls. Jops and Kuya Ronald noticed a distinct bird perched on an open branch. It clearly had a fish-tail and when Jops scoped it out, it was an Ashy Drongo! It is described in the Kennedy field guide to be found only in Palawan but it has previously been seen there in Tanay, and also in Subic, in the past years.

We moved on and were greeted with even more Colasisis. A number of them were actively feeding on the blooms of an African Tulip! The Colasisis left and were replaced by Yellow-vented Bulbuls and we also spotted a lone Stripe-headed Rhabdornis

One of the many Colasisis in that tree 
The Yellow-vented Bulbuls replaced the Colasisis

We moved on further in the trail and were immediately surrounded by the musical calls of White-browed Shamas, singing unseen from the brush. A couple of Philippine Cuckoo-Doves made brief appearances and we were entertained by a huge flock of Ashy Minivets.

We stopped by a leafless tree where a single Coleto was singing its heart out! On the same tree, we saw a Whiskered Treeswift and a Grey-streaked Flycatcher.

The very entertaining Coleto
The always-cute Grey-streaked Flycatcher

We left the Coleto, still making its assortment of metallic calls (like a choked up R2D2!), and continued walking. I went on ahead, enjoying being surrounded by so much green and also the nice, cool weather. I found I was alone and looked back to see Jops and Kuya Ronald motioning for me to go back to the leafless tree: I hiked back up as fast as I could and was able to see a Luzon Flameback crawling up a branch! Cool!

It didn't creep into the sunlight though...

We continued walking and stopped in an area where Jops spotted an Eye-browed Thrush feeding on a fruiting tree quite a distance away. We spent some time straining our eyes, trying to get a better view and also to determine how many thrushes were actually there. We just confirmed one Eye-browed Thrush while the other birds around it were Philippine Bulbuls.

As we walked downhill, we encountered a Black-chinned Fruit-Dove, a couple of Luzon Hornbills, Yellowish White-Eyes, Rough-crested Malkoha, and our lifer for the day: Brown-throated Sunbird!

It was wonderful surrounded with so much GREEN!

We soon reached the end of the trail and stopped to take a breather and ate some snacks as well. It was already past 9AM but the weather was still nice and cool. As we chatted with Kuya Ronald and munched on our biscuits, we were entertained with Blue-throated Bee-eaters and Pygmy Swiftlets flying all around us. Soon we were on our feet again and were hiking back up the trail.

I am really not so good with uphill climbs... but the cool weather and the
birds made it much easier =)

We passed the flowering African Tulip tree and Kuya Ronald pointed to us a stationary bird, perched in the shadows of a tree. Could it be the Violet Cuckoo?! Honestly, we first thought it was! But upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo.

We got to really study this Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo

Jops suddenly called us towards him and he pointed out a Naked-faced Spiderhunter to us! We didn't expect to see this endemic during this trip so it was an extra special bonus! It was moving constantly and so high up in the tree that I couldn't get a single shot! Then it was driven away by Yellow-vented Bulbuls! 

We hiked up to the "overlooking" point and took another short breather, and took in the sight. It was turning out to be a very nice birding morning!
  
Kuya Ronald spotted a Philippine Serpent Eagle perched on a tree from here

We were also finally able to see a Coppersmith Barbet in the area, just one of the many barbets continuously calling the whole time we were there.

 
I didn't crop this photo because it reminds me of how I actually saw it:
in between and through a lot of leaves!


It was lunchtime when we rounded our walk and reached the parking lot. Jops and I sat down under the trees and enjoyed our light picnic lunch before taking a short siesta. 

Picnic!!!

We started our afternoon birding by going back to the flowering African Tulip. As we approached it, Jops immediately pointed out a Naked-faced Spiderhunter feeding on the blooms! Quick eyes!!! I decided to stay in that area and try to get a good shot of it while Jops and Kuya Ronald explored another trail.

My patience paid off! And even if my SX50's autofocus was having problems, I was able to get some good shots of the Spiderhunter as it fed on the juicy flowers in the afternoon sun.

I feel so lucky I got this shot! =)

When the birds had quieted down, I walked back to the car to wait for Jops and Kuya Ronald. We decided to stay until the sun set and try our luck again with the owls. While waiting, the Scale-feathered Malkohas came out and flew among the trees just beside the car!

Scale-feathered Malkoha

When the sun set, the Spotted Wood Kingfishers started calling again, but didn't come out from their hidden perches. Suddenly, from the inky darkness, the hawk-owls started calling too and  two shadows swooped in silently above our heads, just like what happened in the morning. As if to give us good closure, two Luzon Hawk-Owls perched side by side and bid us good night.

Two of them flew in and perched on a high branch, looking the other way
One flew away, but this one stayed for one more photo before flying off as well

It was a loooong birding day (13 hours to be exact) but it was a great one! We started and ended it with owls plus a spiderhunter (and more!) in between!