Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mega Twitch

So far, Jops and I have twitched a number of birds since we started bird watching in 2010. There was the Ferruginous Flycatcher in UP Diliman a couple of years back (read about that twitch in my friend Trinket's blog). That was a pretty easy twitch, being in the middle of Quezon City. Then there was the Naked-faced Spiderhunter, which was in the La Mesa Ecopark also in Quezon City. We also twitched the Ashy Ground-Thrush and Red-bellied Pitta there. I think the last successful twitch we got was the Philippine Eagle Owl also in Quezon City early this year. Of course, we've also dipped out on lots of twitching trips, failing to see the target bird (like the unicorn bird, aka the male Narcissus Flycatcher, of UP Diliman =P) but all these trips have been very easy.

This latest twitch of ours got me on all fours, crawling under fallen tree trunks, and scooting down slippery stones on my behind leaving me sore and verrrrry muddy! All this was to try our luck to see the Whiskered Pitta in Dolores, Quezon. Jops and I went a-twitching with Adri and Trinket, Jun, and Jon J.

See those "low" clouds? We were there!!! 1,085 masl! Yeah baby!

6:15AM

We arrived at Bangkong Kahoy Valley and were greeted by the owner, Dion. We also chatted with Tita Lydia, fellow birder and butterfly watcher before we drove up to the community.

7:10AM

We headed up the trail through the community to the site where the Whiskered Pitta was seen nesting by Sir Neon a few days back. The community was still very picturesque, the houses being very quaint and their path lined with flowers.


This is the trail through the community.

We stopped for a few minutes at 845masl (meters above sea level) as our guide had to return to BK Valley to clarify something. While waiting, we entertained ourselves with spiders and Buzzing Flowerpeckers circling over our heads.

8:15AM

We were on the move again. The trail narrowed, passing through a sayote plantation.

This was the view in front of me...

... and this was the view behind me =)

9:50AM

At this point, I felt as if we've passed the hardest part of the trail. We've climbed over rocks and fallen logs. Hoisted ourselves over high roots and slithered our way between the most slippery rocks in the world!

Jops, Jun, and Jon climbing up the trail.

Trinket and Adri climbing up one of the many
"obstacles."

Jun climbing up the slippery stones.

One of the more challenging parts were
climbing up (and then back down again)
these slippery, moss-covered stones.

10:45AM

We finally reach the site! We could see the nest from 25meters away. It was empty and there was no activity in the vicinity around it. We decided to stay put in our area and wait for it to show itself.

While waiting for the Pitta, Jun and Jops went to get
spring water from a broken pipe.

11:00AM

Rain fell. First, it just showered and Trinket and I didn't even bother getting our umbrellas out. But then it really started to pour drenching our hair, even as we stood under trees. Out came the umbrellas and we stood there patiently waiting for the rain to stop. It would stop every now and then, allowing the sun to shine for a few minutes, before it fell again.

We had our lunch there, under our umbrellas. We ate ham and cheese sandwiches and boiled (Hulk) eggs courtesy of Adri and Trinket, still hoping to see some birds. We did see a small flock of Chestnut-faced Babblers during a pocket of good weather and even heard a White-browed Shortwing calling nearby.

Pausing during the trek back down because of strong rain.

1:15PM

We decided the Whiskered Pitta wouldn't show and the rain wouldn't stop. We packed up and started our descent. The rain had made the already difficult trail even more challenging... even treacherous in many parts. The rain had loosened the soil, and we would either sink or slip together with the loose soil. I had to go on all fours at some parts, holding on to dear life lest I slip and fall into the rocky ravine below.

Aside from the loose soil and mud, we had to manage around the slippery rocks which was now twice as slippery as when we first passed through! I gritted my teeth, told myself I could do it, continuously said prayers and even sang some praise songs.

The trip back down felt like it wasn't going to end. And at some point, even some bird songs couldn't bring me to raise my bins to check them out. But maybe it was because my hands were too busy holding on to rocks or trees to keep me from slipping and falling. =P

4:15PM

Pitstop at the area where we waited for our guide earlier in the day. There was a fruiting ficus tree and Jops spotted a Bicolored Flowerpecker shortly before it flew away. Limatic check. One on Jun.

4:30PM

At last, we saw the Fortuner parked at the community! I could feel my knees locking already and couldn't find the strength to go see the Besra nest. Trinket, Adri, Jun, and Jon went while Jops and I waited by the car. As we settled down, we did another limatic check and I saw two crawling hungrily up my pants! I flicked them away before I could take a photo... they were moving sooo fast!

Jops discovered one near his wrist, already plump with his blood. Jun also had a baby one on his ankle. After photo-documenting the parasites, they were dislodged with a lighted cigarette.


After cleaning up a bit, we drove back to BK Valley to further wash up and get ready to go. Dion generously shared with us some passion fruit and lipote lambanog and some coffee too, to warm us after being soaked in the cold rain.

I tasted and liked the lipote flavored lambanog =)

After some picture-taking (we did jump shots, can you believe it?!) and saying our goodbyes, we drove back towards Manila, aching, tired but grateful and happy with our major adventure. I was really proud of our group, and surprised myself, since I knew I was not physically ready for something like that. But we pushed on, kept a positive outlook (we would still be laughing at times =P) and we did it. I did it. We all did it. And we deserve (gentle) pats of the back for it =)

Oh, and about the birds we twitched? No, we didn't see any of them =)

2 comments:

  1. congratulations maia! this is my most memorable dip ever! haha.
    (ow ow ow)

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    Replies
    1. Congrats to us! hehehe. yeah, super memorable dip! life threatening! =P

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