Monday, October 31, 2011

Birding Side-Trip #2

Another opportunity for side-trip birding opened up when I wanted to visit my paternal grandparents' graves in Tarlac for All Souls Day. Usually, our whole family drives up to Tarlac to spend time with them at the family mausoleum. But this year, having our helper still en route back from a vacation, our family had to go home in batches. Jops and I were batch 1.

We chose to pass through the Capas road going to Tarlac City. We've been reading good birding stories from this place and so we drove through the Barangay O'Donnell road instead of the main high way or the SCTEX.

The Capas Memorial Shrine

This back road was lined with dry grasslands and rice paddies. This afforded us good views of Bright-capped Cisticolas, Striated Grassbirds and the occasional Lesser Coucal just feet away from the car. We drove very slowly hoping for rails or quails to cross the road, but sadly there were none that morning. There was quite a number of motorcycles, tricycles and trucks passing through the road.

We stopped at rice paddies to look for waders and at our first stop, I got my lifer! A pretty Wood Sandpiper (though it could have been a male)! It was feeding in one paddy while Pied Bushchats, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Long-tailed Shrikes flew in the area. Arctic Warblers flitted among the branches of the tree beside us while a White-Eared Brown-Dove sat for a few seconds before flying away. I have to say, rice paddies and wetlands are fast becoming my favorite birding sites!

One of the paddies we stopped at to bird.

We stopped at a small paddy, just beside the road and spotted some waders in the mud. Some farmers who were taking a break were looking curiously at us, so we called them over and showed them some plates from our Kennedy field guide. We told them we were also on the lookout for the Watercock and showed them the illustration. Their faces lit up with recognition but they told us we were too late! They said these birds came out from the tall reeds early in the morning. They said there were lots of them in the area. They told me they were delicious =P

We drove on since we were planning to go to the Tarlac Ecopark in San Jose City before going to Tarlac to visit the cemetery. On our last stop, we spotted some birds that looked like quails! Alas, the birds walked into the grass and didn't come out again. Our first quails would have to wait. But we did see a beautiful Yellow Wagtail preening atop a stick.

Yellow Wagtail
When we arrived at the Tarlac Ecopark, it was an hour before noon (we spent so much time in the O'Donnell road!) We heard some Guaiaberos and saw one fly by. As we were walking, I saw another fly away from a fruiting guava tree just in front of us! Aaargh! It was so close and very well camouflaged among the leaves! So, we sat in the grass, waiting for it to show itself, surrounded by so many different bird songs! For a while,  the area was so noisy with bird calls... some familiar and some completely new to us! Then, the singing died down and we were left with the not so distant calls of the Guaiabero who decided not to come back down to the guava tree.

A nice spot in the Tarlac Ecopark
We walked further down the park and we were able to get close-up views of a mixed flock of Elegant Tit, Blue-headed Fantail, Philippine Bulbul and some Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers. I was also given a treat of observing a Black-naped Monarch for quite some time. We stayed for an hour and a half before heading down to Tarlac City and for the main purpose of our trip. Next time we go home, I'll make sure to go birding in the family's mango orchard and see what birds are in that magical place from my childhood.

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