Return to Balanga

It has been months since I last visited Balanga City in Bataan. Now that the migration season has started, the sites of Balanga are calling for us to return and see their annual avian visitors. Even early on in migration, Balanga did not disappoint.

I was happy to see big flocks of Black-winged Stilts, terns, and Asian Golden Plovers!

Jops, Irene, and I arrived in Balanga earlier than the expected meeting time to drop by some fishponds in Barangay Puerto Rivas. We immediately saw some Little Grebes swimming, diving, and darting over the water in the first pond. I always enjoy observing Little Grebes and this group was very active, some even chasing each other over the water, splashing along the way.

One of the Little Grebes I managed to digiscope before
it disappeared (swam or dove) from view!

We only spent a little more than an hour in the area as we had to meet up with fellow birders for our ocular trip. But it was a great morning already! The Bright-capped Cisticolas were literally everywhere! At one point, there were around 10 of them "surrounding" me and Jops!

The Bright-capped Cisticolas would perch on the reeds very close to us!
I was even able to digiscope one of them noisy, fidgety birds!
We saw a lone Grey Heron looking like a watercolor painting against
the green. It took off just when I pressed the shutter button.
After an hour, we had to leave to meet up with the rest of the group for the ocular trip to the Balanga Wetland Park. At the city hall, we were welcomed by City Administrator Sir Rudy and discussed the game plan for the day. The trip was supposed to include a boat trip through the mangroves. Unfortunately, the low tide meant we couldn't push through with this. No worries, birders will look for birds just the same, on a boat or not.

We convoyed to the Wetland Park (complete with police escort!) and immediately scanned the beach for waders. The front of the view deck was still deep with receding water, complete with people swimming, so we trekked to the mangrove area to the left side where the mudflats were already exposed. Waders!!!

Birders by the mangroves spotting some birds.

With the naked eye, we could only make out the Egrets, white against the brown sand. But with our bins, we could see lots of waders feeding and running around the mudflats! Out came the spotting scopes to better ID the waders!

We saw lots of Little Egrets and a single Great Egret. Lots of Common Redshanks and Common Greenshanks, Little Herons, Common Sandpipers, and the usual Collared Kingfishers perched on the bamboo poles sticking out of the ground.

Out come the scopes and field guides to ID the waders! So much fun!
We scouted the other areas surrounding the wetland park and towards noon, we saw a huge flock of Asian Golden Plovers fly in and settle on a quite distant sand bar. They are definitely one of my favorite waders, especially in their breeding plumage!

We had a delicious lunch in the second floor of the view deck, and cooled down with ice cold, fresh buko juice (coconut water.) After lunch, we dropped by the tapahan, the place where the tinapa (smoked fish) was made. We bought our fill of dried and smoked fish, bottles of smoked fish flakes in oil (yum!) and even shrimp paste or bagoong.

After that, some birders went to check out Mt. Samat in the nearby town of Pilar to check if it is a good site for raptor watching. Our group decided to stay in Balanga and check out more fish ponds for waders.

We ended up back in the Puerto Rivas fish ponds and met up with fellow birders Raul and Riza. The Grebes, Stilts, Egrets, and Cisticolas were still there. The Scaly-breasted Munias were also aplenty, feeding on the wild rice growing along the sides of the road.

I was able to take a semi-clear shot of this Munia
as it landed on a stalk of grass.
We took some time identifying the many terns resting on the shallow waters of the fish pond. They are quite challenging to identify especially if they are not in their distinct breeding plumages. But there were a small number of Whiskered Terns in their breeding plumage which was cool to see.

The objects of our debates! Terns in varying plumage!

At 4PM we packed up and headed for home. I was quite sun burnt (again) but happy with all the waders that we saw. It was an easy Sunday drive back to Manila, plus a stopover for ice cold beer (and Coke for me!)

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