Monday, January 28, 2013

A Successful Finch Twitch

We were scheduled to be in Bataan this weekend primarily for two things: one, to do a bird survey in the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Abucay campus upon the invitation of Fr. Auckhs and two, to volunteer in the annual Asian Waterbird Census in Balanga. Of course, since we were in the area, we snuck in a short twitching trip too.

WBCP member Doc Joey posted a random sighting mid-January about seeing a flock of Green-faced Parrotfinches passing through his farm in Samal, Bataan. The report of this rare endemic brought out the inner twitcher in most birders!

Jun, Jops, and I drove to the Letran campus to meet up with Tere, Adri, Trinket, and Fr. Auckhs to survey the birds that can be found in the campus. We started as soon as it got light outside and were welcomed by the calls of Philippine Bulbuls. Soon the swiftlets came out as well as a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, some Scaly-breasted Munias, Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, and a Grey-streaked Flycatcher. We were also treated to nice views of Guaiaberos though they were too backlit for a good photo.

I like that I can clearly see the outline of these Guaiaberos

We also got to see a couple of Coletos carrying nesting material to a gap in the building and a male Blue Rock-Thrush picking food from the side of the same building. We made our way to the entrance and saw quite a lot of Richard's Pipits running around in the field.

This Richard's Pipit stood still long enough for a photo

Heading back towards the dormitory, Jun saw a huuuuge spider in the middle of its equally huge web! It was quite wonderful to photograph, allowing me a close-up view of an animal I wouldn't dare go too close to.

Scary beautiful spider (Nephila antipodiana) in its golden web

When we were satisfied with our spider shots, we went in to get some snacks (and celebratory softdrinks!) We then decided to proceed to nearby Samal to try our luck with the Parrotfinches.

When we parked our cars by the roadside, we saw birder friends Tito Bob, Tita Cynthia, and Peter.... and they were packing up. Based on their smiles, we guessed they were able to see the parrotfinches! We immediately got our gear read and started chatting when a Scale-feathered Malkoha decided to make an appearance very close to us, disrupting the small talk.

The distracting Scale-feathered Malkoha

Only after it disappeared from view did the talk resume. We said our congratulations and they wished us good luck and our group trooped to the site where the finches were. Tito Bob already described in his blog that the trail was precariously steep. He was spot on.

A portion of the trail.

I managed to get to the area without slipping or falling but my knees were shaking with all the strain and effort. We saw our other birder friends (Butch, Irene, Martin, Bram, and Kat) already photographing, video taping, and observing a small flock of the Green-faced Parrotfinches feeding just above us.

Can you see all 7 Parrotfinches? 

All the while the Parrotfinches were there, all you could hear was the clicking of the cameras. When the flock flew away, passing right above us, out came the big smiles and thumbs ups were exchanged at the successful twitch.

Green-faced Parrotfinch, the object of our twitch!

These rare small seed-eaters are bright green with a flash of red on a pointed tail, males having longer and more brightly colored tails than females. They are considered Vulnerable in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List as its numbers are decreasing mainly due to habitat destruction and hunting.

The area had a ravine to one side and this gave us a great view of a row of flowering dapdap trees where huge flocks of birds were in a feeding frenzy!

Row of flowering dapdap trees became an instant buffet for birds!

There was a steady buzz which was made up of an assortment of bird song the whole time we were there. We saw Philippine Bulbuls, Coletos, Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, Purple-throated Sunbirds, Colasisi, and more all enjoying the red flowers of the dapdap.

We explored the clearing near the bamboo grove where the Parrotfinches fed and saw a couple of Whiskered Treeswifts swooping around, returning to the same perch. Also seen in the area was a Grey-streaked Flycatcher and a Brahminy Kite soaring overhead.

The nearby clearing

Stunning Whiskered Treeswift

I returned to the bamboo area to a hushed group of birders: the Parrotfinches were back! The flock was busily feeding on the bamboo flowers (which have almost completely dried up), unmindful of their audience.

Green-faced Parrotfinches feeding on the bamboo flowers

More photos were taken and when the finches moved deeper into the brush unseen, us birders left as well. We were all happy with the views (and photographs) we got of the Green-faced Parrotfinches with so many bonus birds in the area too =)


  1. great pictures maia!
    it was such a super birding weekend don't you think? :)

    1. oh yes! =) and i'm sure there's more to come! ;)