Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Lifer Remedy

I ticked off two mega lifers within 30 minutes of arriving at the site and I was struggling to remember their names. I took photos, looked carefully at all their field marks, but as I held my pen to write them down in my notebook... I just couldn't remember their names!

The sun wasn't up yet when I saw my first lifer...
It was just starting to get bright when my second lifer
was spotted! Can you see it in the middle of the photo?

The night before, I got confirmation the trip to Candaba was a go while having dinner and drinks with Mark and Rob. And that was after we finished a Crossfit workout. The workout was intense (and the first time I've tried it) and dinner and drinks lasted the whole night, so... fast forward to the following day in Candaba, my head was cloudy, on the verge of having a headache, and my body ached all over.

But as the sun rose and I got even better views of the birds and the landscape, my head started to clear.

Flocks of ducks would take flight, filling the air with the
sound of their wings. Awesome!

By the time the sun was up, my mind was waking up and I was gaining more movement in my limbs. We met some bird photographers and another group of birdwatchers and showed them the ducks. I FINALLY got to remembering the ducks' names and made sure to write them down immediately so as not to forget! I kept borrowing Christian's field guide earlier to check the names!

The Falcated Duck (my first lifer of the day) was out of sight but the Baikal Teal was preening continuously in the vegetation almost the whole morning.

As the sun fired up the morning, so it did my neurons. I was finally alert and as I watched this duck which found its way to the Philippines for the first time, even the pain in my limbs began to disappear.

Baikal Teal's head popping out of the vegetation.

I was finally functioning 100% mentally by mid-morning and felt only minimal pain in my legs. We shared food and stories in lulls between watching the birds: Philippine Ducks, Garganeys, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Eurasian Wigeons, Wandering Whistling Ducks, Tufted Ducks, and some Gadwalls.

Duck, duck, teal!
Cereal for breakfast and pasta for lunch!

Aside from ducks, other birds seen include egrets, Purple Herons and Grey Herons, Yellow Bitterns and Cinnamon Bitterns, Common Moorhens, and some Eurasian Coots. A flock of Black-winged Stilts flew back and forth over the pond and Siberian Rubythroats and Middendorff's Grasshopper Warblers sang hidden in the tall grass.

One of the Eurasian Coots came paddling out in a patch of
water near the road.

Both of my lifer-ducks showed even better later on, giving us out in the open views.

In better light, the green sheen on the
Falcated Duck's head is clearly seen.
(That sounded like a Dr. Seuss line!)

We also learned a new word! "Falcate" is an adjective that means "hooked or curved like a sickle" which describes the curved feathers on the Falcated Duck. Unfortunately, they aren't obvious in the photos because the curved feathers aren't so prominent in the individual in Candaba.

We did see the falcations on the duck later through the scope.

The Baikal Teal also kept us under the midday sun when it decided to perch centimeters above the water to preen. Still too far for a great photo (except if you're Mike A. ;) ) but I was really happy we got to see its legs (which was Ruben's request earlier that morning.)

The Baikal Teal sat in the shallows for some time...
... before it inched its way up the vegetation to preen.
Ruben (and the rest of us) got to see legs!!!

The heat intensified after lunch but Rob spotted one more special duck for us that day: Eastern Spot-billed Duck! It wasn't a lifer for me since I've seen it in Taiwan before, but it was a Philippine lifer so it was still very exciting! After some serious discussion on what to do next, our group decided to drive through the back ponds on our way home. 

On the ride home, it was as if the effects of the workout and drinks the night before never existed. I was alert with no headache (yay!) and my body wasn't in pain anymore! Birding with friends and seeing those lifers was the best remedy for a hangover and post-workout pain. 

Too bad the effect has worn off now and the pain is back but... I still got those lifers ;)