Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Last Minute Lifer

Last Thursday, I got a text message from a friend with GPS coordinates on the location of a bird. A Red-bellied Pitta! In Quezon City! I haven't seen this bird yet and here was a perfect opportunity to see it so close to home! Good thing we had a scheduled guided birdwatching trip to the same area the following day. 

Our group, mostly twitchers in denial Jops, Jun, Mailyn, Yana, Joni and Jon J., made arrangements to meet up earlier than usual to go see the Pitta as well as other birds such as the Grey-backed Tailorbird which was also spotted in the same area. A few minutes after arriving in the park, we heard the Tailorbids already! We were able to spot a couple in a small area just by the side of the road but after just a few minutes, they disappeared into the undergrowth. Not all of us were able to get good views but we decided to move on to see the Pitta.

Going up the path, we bumped into fellow birders and bird photographers Bob, Cynthia, Gabs and Edu. They had just left the Pitta which was foraging for food on the ground. Just like any good birders, they pointed us to the Pitta spot and we pointed them to the Tailorbird area.

Alas! Both our groups weren't able to see the other species we were looking for! Our group spent some time waiting for the Pitta to come out but it didn't. We decided to leave the area and start our guided trip after a black cat stalked the area where the Pitta was last seen hopping around. With disappointment-laced hearts, we turned our backs on the Pitta and went to spread the joys of birdwatching to other people.

Participants of a guided trip in the La Mesa Eopark spotting a bird!

I think that's one great thing about birdwatching. We all get disappointed and sad when we fail to see a target bird. But once you accept the fact that you just ain't gonna see the bird today, you move on not with bitterness but with hope and seeds of excitement for the next possibility of seeing it. I don't think everyone has the capacity to handle such disappointment and if you're not so good at handling it now, after some time being a birder... you'll get the hang of it. It makes for much resilient people. 

Well, a couple of resilient birders made an impromptu trip back to the park today to try again to spot the Pitta. We allotted two hours tops to wait for the bird before we had to head home to a busy day ahead. We arrived at the park around 7AM and marched straight to the spot. No Pitta. We heard the Tailorbirds, Black-naped Orioles, Coucals, Kingfishers and Jops even spotted the immature Cuckoo high above us. We waited and we waited. An hour passed and the area became really quiet. I knew our time for the bird was running out and we soon had to leave. I was silently comforting myself that it was ok not seeing the bird today. Jops and I looked at each other, he said 'Let's go" and I sighed and nodded silently.

The "Pitta path"...

We haven't taken two steps when we saw Alain and Rocky coming our way! We told them we hadn't seen the Pitta and Alain simply told us that we were facing the wrong way! After maybe 15 minutes of waiting, Alain called out silently to me to stand beside him. I went as quietly as I could. He pointed to a green form on the ground. I focused my binoculars on the spot just as the bird turned its red belly on me. I was staring straight at the Pitta. When both Jops and I were able to enjoy the sight of this beautiful bird, we said our thanks and goodbyes and left the park happy and contented especially since we got to see our last minute lifer.

Note: All links to the bird photos are from the Facebook page of Wild Birds of the Philippines.

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