Monday, April 13, 2015

5 Years, 14 Hours, and 1 Lifer in Subic

Jops and I went birding for the first time ever last April 9, 2010. Five years and 200+ lifers after, we weren't able to go out birding on the exact date unlike the past 4 years. We made up for it 3 days after =)

Jops, Jun, and I -- our trio reunited -- drove to Subic before dawn last Sunday for a whole day of birding. I left the navigation to the boys and the first spot they chose set the mood for the rest of our day: awesome views of awesome birds!

I took my time getting down from the car, still groggy from getting up before 3AM. But Jops and Jun were already pointing to Luzon Flamebacks and White-bellied Woodpeckers right in front of us! Bins, cameras, and scope came out and any cobwebs of sleepiness disintegrated.

One of the Luzon Flamebacks we saw in that area.
It was such a rush! Especially since both male and female woodpeckers were showing so well those first few minutes we were birding! Best birding is being able to take in all the details of the bird, especially if the birds look like these:


Male White-bellied Woodpecker
Female White-bellied Woodpecker

Soon, the forest came alive with bird song of Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers, Asian Koels, Colasisis, and Guaiaberos. Large-billed Crows also came swooping in from all directions and a Philippine Green Pigeon decided to sun itself.

Getting some morning sun! We'd see a lot more of them later.

A female Asian Koel made an appearance but kept to the shadows of the trees giving us good views but horrible photos. A Green Racket-tail perched right above us, distracting us from the Koel.

This was the exact view I got of the Green Racket-tail!

We explored further down the road and saw Elegant Tits, Black-naped Orioles, Philippine Bulbuls, and some Brown Shrikes. We tried to find some Spotted Wood Kingfishers calling from both sides of the road but did not find them. As we drove away, a White-throated Kingfisher posed for some photos.

White-throated Kingfisher

As we were driving by a residential area, I spotted an unusually big bird for a regular backyard and asked Jops to back up a bit. There, sitting under a small trellis in someone's front yard was a raptor! As we observed it, we saw it chase a Eurasian Tree Sparrow around the trellis before flying away.

I saw it perched like this! Cool huh!

The three of us were thrilled by what we saw but couldn't properly ID the raptor because we just got glimpses of its underparts. It was either a Chinese Sparrowhawk or a Besra. We moved on but decided to go back to the house with the trellis and hope the raptor would return. It didn't. BUT! We got some pretty good views of a Blue-naped Parrot!

My first good view of this parrot!
I'm so thrilled I got a photo too!

In the area, we also spotted a female Blue Rock Thrush on a roof, some Coppersmith Barbets, and more crows.

Female going solo!
Pok-pok-pok!

We transferred locations and tried for the White-fronted Tit which was absent that day. We did get to see some Luzon Hornbills and Rough-crested Malkohas in the area. There were also a lot of Coletos, their metallic song ringing through the trees.

I cannot seem to get a good photo of this malkoha!
The boys looking for tits =)

We moved to the more popular Nabasan Trail. It was midday already and birds weren't that visible. We could hear White-browed Shamas and Trilling Tailorbirds singing hidden from us. There were more Coletos, plus Whiskered Treeswifts and Blackish Cuckoo-Shrikes. There were also Brahminy Kites and Philippine Serpent Eagles circling overhead. I saw a large raptor which wasn't a Brahminy Kite and we were happy to see it was a Grey-headed Fish Eagle!

It was getting quite hot so we took a break and got some lunch. Afterwards, we took a drive in another residential area and chanced upon a nest of Large-billed Crows! It was our first time to see their nest which was neatly built from twigs and was high up in a tall tree.

The chick inside was cawing loudly which got our attention

As we drove away, Jun spotted something on a tall tree. As we backed up, it turned out to be a raptor very similar to the one we spotted earlier in the morning! Now with good views of its underparts, we could positively identify it as a Chinese Sparrowhawk!

Documentary shot of the raptor

We left the area, drove around a bit, and did some dude birding. I sat by the side of the road and enjoyed good views of Guaiaberos, Luzon Hornbills, Green Imperial Piegons, and Green Racket-tails around me, one was even in a nesting hole!

Perfect nest hole!

We moved again and the boys started shouting at me, pointing to two different birds, on opposite sides of the road! I was so rattled but was able to see one: a male Luzon Hornbill! I missed the other one which turned out to be a Blue-naped Parrot. Turns out there were a number of fruiting trees in the area! The hornbill transferred to another tree but allowed me to get close.

My first close encounter with the bird =)

As the bird activity quieted down, we tried again for the tit. As we drove down the road, we flushed a Philippine Serpent Eagle which was perched on an electric post! Thankfully, it perched on a nearby tree before flying away. 

Another very close encounter!

Sadly, the White-fronted Tit did not show but we did get to add a few more species to our growing list: Red Junglefowl (both male and female), Philippine Coucal, and Philippine Falconet. It was getting late so we transferred locations again for some owling. 

As the last remaining light dwindled, we were treated to good views of a Sooty Woodpecker, the only one we haven't seen that day! While observing the woodpecker, Great-eared Nightjars took flight and glided all around us.

It was now night time, and as we were enveloped in darkness, the calls of Luzon Hawk Owls surrounded us. They refused to show but a friendly Chocolate Boobook came out in the open and called in front of us! Finally, without any doubt that it might be a Northern Boobook, I can tick it off as a lifer!

Lifer for the three of us!!!

We had been birding for 14 hours already, listed 50 species, and it was finally time to go home. It was another epic birding trip to Subic and even as I didn't expect getting a lifer on our 5th year as birders, we still got one =)