Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Lifer in Black and White

I thought I saw a White Wagtail once. But I was never convinced a hundred percent it was indeed a White Wagtail. It was scribbled with a big question mark in my notebook.

Just last month, Jops and I saw small groups of Yellow Wagtails in rice paddies during our last trip to Bohol, and some of them had mostly white bodies convincing me more that the bird I saw wasn't a White Wagtail. After reading my birder friend Trinket's blog about seeing hundreds of Yellow Wagtails in various plumage, including white,  I finally wrote it off my life list. Reports of seeing White Wagtails in Batanes convinced me I wouldn't be seeing this bird anytime soon.

Almost a week after I erased it from my list, White Wagtails were reported and photographed in the La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City. I couldn't believe it. I had just written off this bird and suddenly, here comes a perfect opportunity to actually see it! And in a location not even 30 minutes away from my home!

We waited patiently for the weekend to come. That was a full four days of waiting since the sighting was initially reported and of seeing more and more pictures being posted by friends who have seen and photographed the birds. Tito Bob K. and Trinket have also blogged about them!

Trinket, Jops and I arrived at the park at 7AM. We found Sir Bong already positioned in the area, reviewing some photos on his camera. He had just photographed the bird a few minutes before we arrived. And it had now flown away. More birder friends started to arrive and we each took a spot facing the wire fence which separated the vermiculture area from the actual spillway. (We offered our unsolicited pruning services for the vines crawling up the wire fence too.)

Patient birders waiting for the black and white migratory birds to arrive

We waited an hour and a half and still no White Wagtails. We did get to see a Colasisi, a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Brown Shrikes, fly-by Ospreys, Little Egrets, a Common Sandpiper, a Little Heron, some White-collared Kingfishers and Grey Wagtails. A Common Kingfisher made a very brief appearance and stayed hidden from view. Jops couldn't keep still any longer and decided to walk to the other side of the parking area, of course with the request that we call him on his cell phone should the White Wagtails appear. 

Just a minute after he left the area, two White Wagtails flew in! I quickly focused my bins on the birds and with one hand pulled out my phone and dialled his number. He dropped my call and as I looked back at the parking area, I saw a flash of brown running towards us. I pointed to where the birds were and we all admired these gorgeous black and white lifers.

Digiscoped  photos by Jops

The two individuals were different. One had a solid black color on the top of its head, running down up to its nape. It's back and wings were grey. It had a black kidney-shaped bib across its white chest (this is the bird in all the photos here.) The other bird had a lighter, grey color on top of its head and its bib was smaller, almost heart-shaped (sorry, no pics of this one.) Could they be a female and an immature White Wagtail? Need to study them more later =)

More digiscoped photos by Jops of the White Wagtail

The birds stayed awhile, even bullying and stealing food from a Grey Wagtail who was trying to eat his meal in peace. The White Wagtails also chased away a White-collared Kingfisher who flew into their area! As the wagtails flew off, so did us birders... satisfied with seeing our target bird for that morning.

When I settled down at home, I was able to write the White Wagtail leucopsis ssp. officially as my lifer. The subspecies in Batanes will have to wait. =)


  1. Maybe i could go birdwatching by myself when i get to have more free time.

  2. Thank you, Jon!

    Sir Ferdie, yes! Kahit ilang minutes lang =)

  3. Congrats and thanks for the link. :)

  4. Thank you Tito Bob! =) And you're welcome =)

  5. i think i'm really getting the twitching bug from you guys!!!

    here's to more lifers!

    thanks for the link too!

  6. I thought we got it from you!!! =P hehehe

    yes, here's to more lifers! =)