Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My First Taste of Zamboanga

We were invited to do an ocular inspection of some sites in Zamboanga by Ma'am June, the Regional Director of the Department of Tourism, as a possible venue for the upcoming 9th Philippine Bird Festival. I have never been to Zamboanga before and the idea of mixing business with pleasure (which is almost always the case with birding "business") in this interesting city was impossible to say no to.

We arrived in Zamboanga early Friday morning and were welcomed by Ma'am Ludy who whisked us to the Garden Orchid Hotel... a very quick 5-minute drive from the airport!

The Zamboanga airport against a pink morning sky.

After checking in, we grabbed breakfast at the hotel and met up with Ma'am June and the rest of the group that would accompany us around Zamboanga. Our first stop was the water intake portion in the Pasonanca Natural Park.

We got off the van and walked through a small neighborhood in
Sitio Canucutan towards the intake.
The landscape opened up to this picturesque view complete with
a bamboo bridge over a small stream

At the end of the bridge was a small briefing area where Sir Mike gave us an overview of the park and the efforts done to protect it. The main threat is from people illegally cutting rattan in the forest.

Briefing area with a map of the birding sites in the park.

After the briefing, it was off into the trails! The trail was an easy, narrow walk through trees and shrubs. It rained a bit while we were on the trail but that didn't stop us! There were lots of movements in the canopy of the huge trees where we saw Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, Yellow-wattled Bulbuls, and Olive-backed Sunbirds.

The trail was dotted with tall trees.

Further down the trail, we could hear a number of White-eared Tailorbirds calling from the brush. We also heard Hooded Pittas calling but unfortunately, we didn't get to see them. BUT! That dip was made up for by a very unexpected lifer! I was watching some movement in the canopy of a huge tree when I focused in on a pale cuckoo... I took in all the fieldmarks: pale, golden color, horizontal barring on its underparts extending to its tail, red eyes, white on the face.... Gould's Bronze Cuckoo! For that bird alone, I was good for the whole trip! But of course, there was so much more in store for us =)

We found ourselves in the intake area and took a break with a snack of bayo-bayo, a round banana and coconut snack, tamal, a rice cake with noodles, and fresh coconut juice.

Our yummy snack!

Mike and I were walking around the area when Sir Joel, our guide, called me to say that he and Jops were able to spot the Silvery Kingfisher. I immediately followed him into the trail and there it was, stark black with white spots and bright red legs... the Mindanao subspecies of the Silvery Kingfisher.

Silvery Kingfisher Alcedo argentata
The flumenicola race, which can be found in Bohol, Leyte, and Samar,
has a purplish color to its underparts compared to the blackish coloring
of the Mindanao subspecies.

With the kingfisher ticked off, we piled in our van headed to city hall and meet the mayor. Mayor Celso Lobregat welcomed us into his office and after a brief chat gifted us with our own Chabacano dictionaries! Cool!

It was now time for lunch! Ma'am June treated us to Lantaka for lunch where we filled our tummies with delicious food and met the City Tourism Officer and members from the Zamboanga Camera Club who were interested in bird photography.

After lunch, we checked out three more possible birding sites in the city. We first went to the Bog Lake in the golf course which was like a "small" Candaba... complete with terns and Philippine Ducks. Our next stop was the Zamboanga Ecozone which was a good place for relaxed birding, with pretty boat "houses" lining a small lake.  Our last stop was the NJB Farm where we met the owner who generously treated us to some of the flavored fresh milk from his dairy farm.

Birding at the Bog Lake
The lake lined with boat houses also housed Philippine Ducks and
Wandering Whistling Ducks.

The sun was setting when we left the farm and we headed straight to Paseo del Mar for our dinner. Ma'am June ordered a Tausug dish called tiula itum. Black and suspiciously looking like dinuguan, I asked her what it was... it was actually beef nilaga with toasted coconut which gives it its black color. It was very delicious!

The tiula itum is in the bowl surrounded by our other yummy food.

After a very good dinner, we checked out the site and facilities as a possible venue for the bird fest. The paseo was bustling with families and students in their formal wear as they were coming from their prom. 

Of course, our trip wouldn't be complete without checking the now-popular population of Barn Swallows that come to rest on electric wires along the city streets at night. Hundreds and thousands of swallows could be seen perched evenly spaced from each other on the wires lining the street! 

A portion of the swallows' city roost

Mike also pointed out the two races of Barn Swallows in the flock. We were able to spot a number of birds from the saturata race (those with cinnamon-colored underparts) and the more plentiful gutturalis race (with white-colored underparts.)

Pardon the seemingly "headless" birds in the photo =P
But this shows the two races of Barn Swallows.

After getting over our amazement and getting our fill viewing the swallows, we called it a night and headed back to our hotel. After such a busy day going around many sites plus filling our stomachs with yummy food, we went to bed early, getting enough rest for another activity-filled day two.

To be continued...


  1. great adventure maia! good spotting with the cuckoo. (at pet peeve ko: kung ako ikaw nilagyan ko ng "D" ung road close sign sa canucutan!)

    1. Thanks Trinket! super happy ako dun sa cuckoo! =) Haha, dapat pala nagpaalam akong lagyan ng D yung sign =P