Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Babbler's Nest

The endemic Chestnut-faced Babbler sitting on its nest.
I woke up before dawn to the sound of birds calling: a Common Koel and a Philippine Scops Owl. Jops and I were in a beautiful cottage in Villa Escudero, staying after a guided birdwatching trip from the day before. Even if we wanted to stay longer and discover the other birds of the Villa (including the Koel!), we had already made plans for a trip to Bangkong Kahoy Valley Nature Retreat and Field Study Center in nearby Dolores, Quezon. We met up with Carmela and Jun and drove towards the valley.

Nestled in between Mt. Cristobal and Mt. Banahaw, the BK Valley is a breathtaking sight of greens and blues. Add to that a crisp, cool breeze and you'd just want to lay on the grass with your bins.

The reception and dining hut with Mt. Banahaw in the background.

Sir Dion, owner of BK Valley, took us around the immediate area to bird. We saw some Luzon Hornbills and Scale-feathered Malkoha up in the trees.

A female Luzon Hornbill spent time preening on this high branch.

We also went around looking at the plants, having a berry here and there =)

Jops: "Tsaheylu, Jake, tsaheylu!"
The flowers of the beautiful endemic Jade Vine reminded us
of  the Avatar movie =P

The Milflores (Hydrangeas) were blooming in the
cool weather!

We tasted some mulberrys...

... as well as the more sour wild raspberries that were abundant there.

After a tasty breakfast (served with a delicious version of salabat!!!), we drove a short while to their community to head up the trails. We were going to see a nest of a Chestnut-faced Babbler

Just as Mela described, the community there is very quaint. A small path winds through houses lined with lots of plants with simple landscaping.

The path weaving through their community.

It was a short, inclined walk but challenging enough for me which reminded me to start exercising! We reached a small clearing and saw fellow birder Ely who was on his way down to check out another site. We left the trail and went through a lettuce patch and it was there on a young mango tree that we saw the nest.

It was made of dried grass, tiny twigs and moss. It was rounded at the bottom, as if half an orb and it looked  like it was anchored on some of the tree's branches, almost as if it were hanging onto them.  We set up our scopes and observed the nest. We were able to see three newly-hatched chicks peeping out. They still had no feathers and their eyes were still closed.

Three tiny chicks would peep out from the nest, asking to be fed.

After a few short minutes, a bird perched close to the nest. The parents were there! As soon as they neared their nest, the chicks strained their necks upward awaiting food. Unfortunately, there was none and the parents took off again. We waited a bit more and the adults checked on their nest a second time. 

Suddenly, we heard some rustling in the bushes a tree away from the nest. A Red-crested Malkoha was skulking nearby! A nest raider! I was so stressed! I didn't know what I would do if it went to the nest! The Malkoha flew under the tree and hid in the bushes to the left side of the nest. I quickly looked through the spotting scope to check on the chicks and what I saw was the adult Babbler sitting protectively on the nest!

Adult Chestnut-faced Babbler sitting protectively on its nest, hiding its three chicks from a threat!

The adult stayed on the nest for a few minutes (we assumed it was making sure the threat was gone) before it flew off with its partner to forage in some brambles nearby. It was more than amazing seeing the bird's parental instinct to protect its young from a sneaky nest-raider. Another "wow" experience for me as a birder =)

We soon left the area (we ticked off a Bicolored Flowerpecker as another lifer first) and headed back down the trail. Along the way, we encountered a noisy flock of about 10 Chestnut-faced Babblers! Another mixed flock had lots Yellowish White-Eyes, Blue-headed Fantails and a Sulfur-billed Nuthatch.

We left the noisy flock and proceeded to the site of a nesting Besra which was a short walk from where Mela parked her pick-up. We positioned ourselves in the hide that was recently built so the nesting birds won't be disturbed. 

Birders and farmers crouched in the hide, observing
the nest through the scopes.
The nest of the Besra. If you look close enough, you can see the spotted feathers of the
female adult bird among the twigs.

We spotted the nest with an adult female sitting in it. We weren't able to get a full view of the bird nor could we see its mate. After a few minutes observing the nest, the bird suddenly disappeared from view. We took that as our cue to leave and head back to BK Valley.

We chatted a bit with Sir Dion and ended our visit with a taste of a blood-red fruit shake, made with the fruits of the lipote tree - very fruity and refreshing after our hike. We said our goodbyes and see-you-soons and headed back home with wonderful observations and two endemic lifers for the day =)

Blood-red lipote shake!

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