Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Day the Hyper Boy Stood Still

As we walked up the path, I couldn't help but smile. We were back in the park for another quickie twitching trip. Just a few weeks back, Jops and I twitched the Red-bellied Pitta and now we were back for another bird: the Ashy Ground-Thrush.

We had received a text from good birder friends about the thrush and other species that they saw in the park recently: Red-bellied Pittas, Hooded Pittas and Mangrove Blue Flycatchers (a possible lifer for me too!) So, after guiding a group of high school students in the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife last Friday and then guiding a group of college students at the Coastal Lagoon last Saturday, we decided at the last minute (i.e. minutes before midnight) that we would give in and twitch for a couple of hours on Sunday. After all, the park was less than 30 minutes from home.

We walked as if on a mission, just slowing down in the area where we first saw the Grey-backed Tailorbirds, briefly pausing at the spot where we first saw the Red-bellied Pittas and trudged on toward the place where the Thrush was sighted. As soon as we reached the area, we both fell silent and started scanning the ground on both sides of the path. Almost instantly, I saw something hop! Something red! We squatted and immediately saw the Red-bellied Pitta, its red and blues a sight to behold. Hopping into view were two immature pittas and once they "regrouped," hopped away deeper into the brush. Admittedly, that sighting would have made my day. Seriously!

We waited some more and decided to scan two separate areas of the path. I decided to squat down and scan the ground at that level while Jops stood at the other end of the path, just a couple of meters from where I was "perched." I could see him from the corner of my eye, standing, then squatting, looking this way and that, at the ground, at the treetops. We were surrounded by calls of Tailorbirds and Orioles, when I suddenly heard him whispering my name harshly. I looked at him and he was standing as still as a statue. "What!?" I mouthed. He pursed his lips in response, pointing to the ground just in front of him. "Pitta" he whispered. I trained my binoculars to the area his lips were pointing at. I almost lost my balance and fell on my behind! It was the Ashy Ground-Thrush!!! I looked at him and whisper-shouted: "It's not a Pitta!!! It's the thrush!!!" He jerked his bins to his eyes and when I saw his jaw drop, I knew he saw it too.

Ashy Ground-Thrush (photo by Jops)

The Ashy Ground-Thrush has such beautiful speckles on its breast going down to its belly. Even the markings on its face and head are wonderful to look at. It looked like it was "attacking" something on the ground and after a while it was pulling something sticky and stringy. I can only assume it broke open a snail and was eating its soft flesh right before my eyes. It stayed eating in the area for a good five minutes before some bikers flushed it away. I was ecstatic! I never imagined I would be seeing this bird and here it was... hopping away just a few feet in front of me!

We spent some time in the area but it didn't come back. Neither did the Pitta family. So we decided to bird around and I was able to see my first Mangrove Blue Flycatcher! Yay! Two lifers in under two hours! (God bless Adri and Trinket! And Tere and Alex too!)

After walking around a small area, we decided we really had to go back home. As we passed the Thrush area, we saw some movement near a big tree! I focused my bins and saw it was a Pied Fantail on the ground. I started to walk on but I almost bumped into my usually hyper companion who was very still again, looking into his bins at the same spot I looked at. "It's not a Fantail! It's the Thrush!" I looked again and, there just a few inches beside the Fantail, was an Ashy Ground-Thrush with its mouth full of worms. After a couple of minutes (and probably because its mouth could no longer hold any more worms), the bird flew away. I had to look up to the heavens and say a short prayer of thanks: two Thrushes, two lifers and the hyper boy standing still?! It was a memorable day indeed!

Ashy Ground-Thrush with a mouth full of worms (photo by Jops)


  1. yay!

    congrats on the lifers! especially the ashy ground thrush... a very good bird! wonderful pictures!

  2. Woot Maia and plus 1!

    Super bird yan! at ang ganda nung first pic! Congrats!


  3. Thank you Kitty! Punta tayo pag-uwi mo! =)

    Thank you Trinket and Adri for sharing this with us and more for "mentoring" us (you know what I mean) =) We really appreciate it! As in! =)