Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Well-Done in Olango Part 1: Waders Galore

Yes, I was roasted to well-done-ness during our trip to Olango Island in Cebu last weekend but it was so worth it!

We were treated to a pretty rainbow which appeared over the sanctuary.

Our group flew in on two separate flights. Leni, being much much wiser, took the Cebu Pacific flight, arrived on time, and ended up waiting for us for hours. Our group (Jun, Adri, Trinket, Jops, and I) took a Zest Air flight that was initially pushed back to a later schedule plus delayed for an hour. Nevertheless, we were in high spirits when we arrived in the Mactan International Airport where we headed straight for a lechon lunch at Zubu Chon. We proceeded to the Hilton Pier and were soon on Olango Island aboard tricycles headed to our home for the next three days and two nights: Olango Bonita Inn.

Their dining area where we took all our meals.
The karaoke machine was left unused though =P

Of course, most of our time was spent birding. We made arrangements with our friendly and very accommodating tricycle drivers who serviced us our whole stay in Olango. After checking-in and preparing our gear, we headed to the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary which was a 20-minute tricycle ride from the inn. Upon registration and paying of fees in their makeshift office (their ranger station was being renovated), we asked about the Asian Dowitcher, being a target bird for all of us. The ranger told us the birds have been seen already. Without further ado, we marched to the view deck and started scanning for birds.

The view deck during low tide.

Scoping out birds, most of which were far away due
to the very low tide.

We started walking in different directions, scanning for birds, identifying those we saw. On the first afternoon alone, I got three lifers: Red Knot, Gull-billed Tern, and Lesser Sand-Plover! I was also able to see birds I've seen before during my first visit to Olango, and had more time to observe and study them. We saw LOTS of Whimbrels, Great Knots, Greater Sand-Plovers, and Grey Plovers running around. There were also lots of Ruddy Turnstones in different patterns of their breeding plumage.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Greater Sand-Plover Charadrius leschenaultii
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
showing signs of its breeding plumage

As the sun started to set, large numbers of Wimbrels started flying in to settle down for the night. We were hoping the Dowitchers would swoop in as well, but they didn't. We packed away our things and trudged back to the entrance where our very efficient tricycle drivers were already waiting for us.

Our second day began with a big breakfast and the threat of rain. First, we dropped by a carinderia near the Sta. Rosa pier so we can make arrangements for our lunch. A strong rain fell while we were talking to the manang in the carinderia but by the time we placed our orders and left instructions for our food to be picked up and brought to the sanctuary at noon, the rain had stopped and the sun was out again. Then, it was a whole day of glorious, sun-soaked birding!

While Jops went to the view deck area, the rest of us checked out one
of the old hides. It was still standing sans a ladder that would
allow a person to enter it.

We saw the usual species: more Whimbrels and Greater Sand-Plovers plus quite a number of Kentish Plovers almost in breeding plumage. Such a treat since I usually get to see them in their much plainer grey and white colors.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus with a rufous-brown head and
black patches on the sides of its breast

We regrouped in the main view deck and were joined by Sir Boy of OIWS. When he heard we were looking for the Dowitchers, he volunteered to walk with us to a far portion of the sanctuary where there was a higher possibility of the birds being seen. And walk we did in the scorching sun.

Birding far, far away from the view deck.

Along the way, we saw a big flock of Curlew Sandpipers busy probing the shallow water and sand for food, as well as lots of Rufous-necked Stints. I also got another lifer! I finally saw the Far-Eastern Curlew, a bird I missed from my first Olango trip.

Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea 
Far Eastern Curlews Numenius madagascariensis
which are told from the Eurasian Curlews by their buffy underparts
whereas the Eurasian Curlews have white underparts

We walked and walked until it was noon but still no Dowitchers in sight. We decided to head back to the ranger station to have lunch. There we met fellow birders Tateo and Nilo who brought his kids along (they chose Olango over the mall! =) ) The rest of the afternoon was spent birding from the viewdeck. The tide was quite low so there weren't that much birds in the area.

As the sun set on our second day in Olango, hundreds of terns started flying overhead. We called it a day and piled into our tricycles to the sound of Philippine Nightjars calling (we saw one on the road!) We didn't see the Dowitchers but we still had one last morning to try.

To be continued...


  1. Congrats on your dowitchers! Pic #8 brings back terrifying memories for me. I collapsed 3x beneath that hut, alone and with the tide coming in last year. Cecil

  2. even in the pictures, the landscape is so surreal!

    1. I know =) Olango tops the list for most photogenic birding site =)

  3. I'll catch promo flight for Olango for 2014 =D want to see the waders in breeding plum =)

    1. Have fun! Something to look forward to =) Time your trip with the most ideal tide schedules =)