Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Two Candaba Lifers and a Reptilian Road Block

Upon hearing the news from friend and WBCP member Felix that the roads to the Candaba Wetlands Bird Sanctuary were now passable even to sedans, we immediately planned our trip for the following day. The drive was easy and the roads dry and firm. When we arrived at around 7AM, farmers were already starting to work in the fields. Some of the paddies along the road were dry with cracked mud and so no waders were seen, except for a lone Common Sandpiper, as we drove up to the mayor's house. The grassy area was filled with hundreds of roosting Black-crowned Night Herons and Grey Herons, carefully hidden among the reeds. But once you focus your binoculars on the area, they suddenly "pop out" and become visible.

The ponds beside the mayor's house were filled with water but were relatively quiet. Except for the Red Turtle-Doves and Zebra Doves along the path and the occasional Yellow Bittern and Purple Swamphen, no other birds were seen. Photos of birds now line the area. 

We walked towards the right side of the mayor's house where we could see more Grey Herons roosting with some Purple Herons standing among the tall grasses. Walking further along the road, we flushed out more bitterns and some White-breasted Waterhens. Reaching the curb, we saw egrets in some rice paddies. There were about 20 of them, and I was starting to feel a bit disappointed. Where were the huge flocks of Candaba? As we turned the curb, I got my answer. Hundreds of egrets and terns could be seen in the fields in front of us. As we scanned the area, we were excited to see hundreds of ducks just behind the white wall of egrets! We hustled towards the area for closer views and to ID the sea of brown. But even before we could get a closer look, the huge flock took to the skies and flew to a farther pond. We were amazed at the huge flock covering the sky! Jops and I quickly back tracked to head to the pond where they settled in.

En route, we passed by a smaller pond where we saw a small group of Tufted Ducks. On the other side of the road was a larger pond where a flock of around 180 Wandering Whistling Ducks would fly around, land on the water, fly up again before settling down among the reeds. We were also entertained by the aerial battle between an Eastern Marsh Harrier and a much smaller raptor (which we weren't able to identify, tsk.) But is was the first time we were able to see raptors soaring and diving with talons aimed at each other. A Grey Heron also did a solo "dance" for us in the air =)

Can you see the heads of the Wandering Whistling Ducks?

As we neared the large pond, we saw two WBCP members Raul and Riza already scanning the area. A few minutes later, Alex and Cel, also WBCP members arrived. Here, we saw thousands of ducks in the water: Philippine Ducks, Garganeys, Northern Shovelers and our two lifers of the trip: Northern Pintails and a male Common Pochard! The mixed flock was amazing to watch! Jops and I, with the help of Alex and Cel, did a count and came up with an approximate total of 3,000 birds in that single pond! (They would see thousands more in another pond!)

Just a portion of the view of the thousands of ducks we saw

After doing our counts, Jops and I decided to walk back to the mayor's house through the bamboo hides on the other side of the fishponds. We stopped to view the Wandering Whistling Ducks again before entering the path leading back to where we parked the car.

Walking in between two walls made of bamboo, we could peep through windows into the ponds on both sides. Sadly for us, there were few birds to be seen in that area that day. Almost halfway along the path, we saw a White-throated Kingfisher fly from the pond on the right and perch near the bamboo wall in front of us. We slowly crept up to the area where it landed and took a peek through the nearest window...

We weren't able to spot the kingfisher so we started to move forward, Jops going ahead of me. Just a few steps from where we stopped, I noticed a "log" that was slowly moving our way (take note: LOG not branch!) Yikes! The log had a head! And beautiful yellow markings! I calmly asked Jops to come back slowly towards me. I think he noticed the seriousness and calm urgency in my voice because he did as he was told but was already looking around him, asking what was wrong. As soon as he was beside me, I pointed out the huuuuge snake crawling beside the bamboo wall headed straight at us! I couldn't believe our luck!

We backed up a bit more and observed what the snake would do next. It started to raise its head towards the bamboo wall, as if trying to find an opening. It would also crawl forward and try to crawl under the bamboo. We backed up a bit more. I asked Jops if he wanted to turn back and go back the way we came, but explained that the snake obviously wanted to go to the pond and we could just wait for it to find its way. He bravely said we should wait and push forward once the snake went away. So, we set up the spotting scope and enjoyed the beautiful markings on the 8-foot long reticulated python blocking our path.

We watched as it slowly inspected the bamboo wall blocking its way to the pond...

We watched as it found a way through the bamboo wall and slithered slowly towards the pond...
We stayed until the tip of its tail disappeared through the bamboo wall and it was completely gone from our sight...

When it was gone, we both breathed a sigh of relief and after a couple of minutes, trudged on. Of course we were more alert and kept our eyes on the trail lest we step on any more pythons crossing our path! =)


  1. ANG COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I know!!! I never expected to see such a huge snake in the wild! =)

  3. Wow! What an experience! I really enjoyed reading about it, Mai. :)

  4. Hehe! Thanks Kin! =) Sama kayo ni Nilo next time =P