Sunday, August 5, 2012

Habagat Birding

In the Philippines, the southwest monsoon winds are called Habagat. Starting during the summer months of May and June, warm winds sweep through the Philippines, bringing with it hot, humid weather and heavy rainfall. When the southwest monsoon ends towards September to October, cool winds from wintering Japan, China, and Siberia now blow into the country and is known as Amihan, or northeast monsoon. This wind brings little to no rainfall with moderate-temperature (cool) winds.

Now it is August and the Habagat is in "full-swing." Manila has been tormented the past week with strong rains and gusty winds, forcing people to stay indoors. More specifically, it has forced birders to stay indoors.

Having been in birding reclusion for weeks, Jops and I took our chances on a not-so-stormy Sunday morning. We headed to the La Mesa Ecopark to bird for a few hours before a scheduled meeting with the park administration. We invited some new birder friends to join us as well.

It was still very rainy and the park very wet. Thankfully, the strong winds have stopped!
We arrived at the park and met up with newly-fledged young birders Charles and Tristan, together with their parents and siblings, at 6:30 in the morning. We were instantly greeted with rain. We stood under one of the tents by the entrance and waited for the rain to stop. It did but would pour again after just a couple of minutes. The weather would remain like this until 8:00am. But at 8, we were blessed with a pocket of good weather and even some sunshine =)

We went on the trail and tried to spot the birds in the area. Some of us were able to see glimpses of the Ashy Ground Thrush. An Emerald Dove was seen foraging in the muddy ground and Red-bellied and Hooded Pittas kept calling from the vegetation. Some of us saw a male Mangrove Blue Flycatcher perched out in the open before flying away into the trees. We heard Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers, Colasisi, and Grey-backed Tailorbirds but did not see any. Further down the trail, we saw a lone raptor fly in a large circle above us.

Strong rain began to fall and we decided to leave the trail. As we walked back to the main park, the rain really fell hard, soaking us.

We didn't see many birds, but it was a still good birding morning
even though we got rained out. 

We said our goodbyes to our friends and proceeded to the administration building where we met up with Adri and Trinket for the meeting. We stayed and chatted with LMEP's Sir Jodick and Sir Randy, while the weather changed from dark to rainy to fair to sunny and back to rainy again. During a break in the rain, the sun shone for a few minutes and Sir Randy was able to spot two White-eared Brown Doves feeding on an aratiles tree just opposite the administration building. We managed to put them on the scope and observe them hungrily feeding on the unripe fruits and flowers.

White-eared Brown Dove on the aratiles tree.

When the birds flew off, we also said our goodbyes to Sir Jodick and Sir Randy. Jops, Adri, Trinket, and I decided to check out the spill way before heading home. The spill way looked a lot "wetter" than usual, given  the rainy weather, but there were still large grassy portions. Here we saw a lone Little Heron, patiently waiting for fish from a steady flow of water.

A huge flock of Lowland White-eyes flew noisily from one tree to the next, chasing away a Pied Fantail in their boisterous feeding frenzy. Trinket then spotted a Barred Rail taking a leisurely bath in a puddle in the middle of the spillway. It took its time dipping in the water and shaking itself dry, walking away but coming back to bathe again!

When the rail walked away, so did we birders. The grumble in our stomachs told us it was lunch time already and the darkening sky threatened rain. So, our Sunday morning birding did not yield so many birds due to the rainy weather. I guess for the following weeks, birding will be like this: Habagat birding or no birding at all. 


  1. watching the rail and the heron with their legs in the water made me feel like pee-ing! haha.

    (cue music...)we'll do our birding in the rain....

    1. haha! flowing pa naman yung water! anlamig siguro nun! brrrr!

  2. Oh my God Ate Maia, ang galing mo magwrite ng mga posts, napakainteresting :) I wish ganyan rin ako kainteresting magwrite, pero with my own style ;)

    1. Aw, thank you Charles =) You already write well, as long as you are writing about something your are genuinely interested in, it'll come out great and interesting to people who share the same passion =) Looking forward to your next blog post!

  3. and sana we joined you pa afterwards, two new lifers sana :(

    1. I'm sure you'll get to see those birds soon =)