Monday, April 30, 2012

Meeting Marikit

I have dreamed of visiting Villa Escudero. So when a birdwatching trip to the Villa was organized by Columbia Sportswear and the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, I was more than grateful to have been assigned as one of the guides.

Jops, Jun and I left for the Villa early Saturday morning. We entered through the Hacienda Escudero gate and immediately saw a huge murder of Large-billed Crows flying low over a field. Jun counted 61! We parked the car, got our bins out, scope and cameras and started to bird. I know they are nasty, nasty birds (yes, double nasty!), but seeing crows gives me goosebumps!

Digiscoped image of a Large-billed Crow.
We also spent some time looking at a pair of Richard's Pipits running around the grassy area of a rotunda before heading to the resort.

Upon arriving, we were greeted with refreshing gulaman drinks and some Olive-backed Sunbirds and Oriental Magpie Robins in the reception area. Kuya Ronald and Sir Nestor took care of our registration and check-in. We headed to our cottage before going out to walk through the route of the guided tour later that afternoon.

The beautiful view from our cottage terrace.
From here we could see Pacific Swallows and Blue-tailed Bee-Eaters flying over the water.
I could just laze around there the whole day!

Kuya Ronald took us around the resort, showing us the areas the participants will visit. Of course we birded along the way! We heard Black-naped Orioles, Tailorbirds and even a Common Koel calling loudly! We saw a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and a Coucal as well. And this was just in one area! We wanted to wait and spot the Koel (which would have been a lifer for the three of us), but we had to move on.

We met up with Carmela and proceeded to the waterfalls. Ah, the waterfalls =)

The waterfalls and the dining area before the huge lunch crowd arrived.

Dipping your feet in the ankle-deep, cool, flowing water is just heavenly especially in the heat we have been experiencing. Add to that wonderful feeling some cold drinks, wonderful food and great company. Perfect!

Our cold drinks to make the experience even better! But that's not all...

I guess for most guests, the sights, sounds and food in the waterfalls are wonderful altogether. But of course for birders, the sprinkles, to top the cherry, to top the whipped cream, to top the wonderful sundae that is Villa Escudero is Marikit, the resident Indigo-banded Kingfisher and her mate.

Meet Marikit.
The single blue band across the chest indicates this is a female kingfisher. Two bands tell us it is a male.
Won't you fall in love with this beauty? I did!

Seeing the pair of kingfishers perch, dive, fly, bob up and down made me fall in love with them. Jops and I recently ranked our favorite kingfishers. After observing Marikit and her hubby, they made it as my top 2 favorite kingfishers (my top 1 kingfisher is the Silvery Kingfisher while Jops' is the White-throated Kingfisher, which we also saw in the same area!) The waterfalls was already filled up with people and some of them got curious about what we were doing. Some people approached us and we showed them Marikit through the spotting scopes.

Jops and Jun point out Marikit and her hubby to curious people.

Carmela shows some seminarians the photographic field guide of birds in the Philippines.

One of the best reactions we got was from a man who tried digiscoping Marikit. When his camera screen showed the resulting shot, he was really shocked! Carmela and I could see the amazed look on his face and he couldn't stop laughing while staring at his shot of the kingfisher. Seeing his reaction, Mela and I were probably as happy as he was at that moment =)

After a while, we headed back to the reception area to await the arrival of the participants. While waiting, Mela and Kuya Ronald showed us the recently-vacated nest of a Yellow-vented Bulbul.

Mela, Jops, Jun and Kuya Ronald waiting for the participants.
See the plants behind them? That's where the YVB's nest is!
The YVB nest.

The Muslim dance singkil performed before a full audience.
When the participants arrived, we handed out the binoculars to them and rode the carabao cart to watch the cultural show. I thoroughly enjoyed it, seeing traditional Filipino folk dances, some of which I danced for PE class in high school. I found myself smiling and as I looked around at the huge crowd, so were they =)

 I think Filipinos need to be reminded of our culture and how colorful and beautiful and diverse it is. Villa Escudero does just that through its cultural show, making people realize once more just how nice it feels to be proud of our heritage. When familiar dances were introduced like the tinikling (dance with bamboo poles), pandanggo sa ilaw (balancing candles while dancing) and maglalatik (dance with coconut shell halves strapped to the body), the crowd would react excitedly... I assume from the sudden fond recognition of what they were seeing.

At the Indigo Cafe.
After the cultural show, our group headed to the Indigo Cafe (named after the Indigo-banded Kingfishers) to have some halo-halo for snacks while spotting a Black-naped Oriole nest.

Birding at the waterfalls area.
Next stop was the waterfalls! Not only were we able to see the IBKFs, but the group was also able to see the Oriental Magpie Robin, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and a Purple-throated Sunbird!

Birding in the grasslands area.
Our last stop was at the grasslands/wetlands area near the parking lot. The group saw Pied Bushchats, Crows, Cattle Egrets, Blue-tailed Bee Eaters, Crested Myna, and Richard's Pipits.

Birding in the afternoon sun.
Walking back to the reception area, the group saw a White-collared Kingfisher, Pied Trillers, Lowland White-eyes, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and the newest addition to the Villa Escudero birds: a Coppersmith Barbet.

I think the whole group enjoyed the trip. Even though it was really hot, the birds really make up for it. We all posed for a group shot before the participants headed back home to Manila.

Team Villa Escudero with big smiles on their faces after a fun birding afternoon.

Walking back to the cottage just as it was getting dark, we could hear a Common Koel calling LOUDLY from the trees, as if tempting us to stay longer in the Villa to look for it. But with other plans for the following day, we decided we will just have to go back to Villa Escudero to find the Koel. =)

Thank you again Carmela for EVERYTHING =)


  1. great blog maia! looks like you had fun and the participants too! :-)

    1. Thank you Trinket! Super fun pero bitin! We have to go back soon, hehe =) See you soon!

  2. The place is very beautiful and it's a perfect place for bird watching. Villa Escudero pala name ng lugar. I know you enjoyed going there, thanks for inspiring! :)