Thursday, February 14, 2013

Well-Done in Olango Part 2: Dowitcher Adventure

At the breakfast table on our third and last day in Olango, everyone was discussing the heavy downpour during the night and, apparently, Trinket and I slept through it. But because of that night of rain, our morning was bright and sunny, allowing us to go exploring and continue our search for the Asian Dowitchers.

The day before, our guide from the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Sir Boy, advised us to try accessing the sanctuary from the "other side"... which happened to be where our inn was located. Perfect! We waited for him to arrive at the inn but he didn't show up. That of course, didn't stop us from exploring on our own. We picked up our gear, asked the people around for directions and found ourselves crossing a "river" into the mangroves.

The explorers crossing the "river" into mangroves unknown

There were other people walking the same direction we were headed (although they were walking much faster in the ankle-deep water.) We followed our feet and the general direction we thought was the right one. At one point, the "road" forked and we had to make a decision whether to turn left (where the other people were going) or right (where the GPS showed the sanctuary to be but looked unused and untrodden by humans.)

We didn't want to get lost in the mangroves! Think "The River"!

We backtracked a bit but decided that we should follow the usual route and so we turned left. It seemed like a very long walk into the mangroves when the landscape opened up into a wide, white flatness. With a tricycle terminal right smack in the middle.

Ta-da! A tricycle stand at your service!

We asked the tricycle and motorcycle drivers about the sanctuary and they said they could drop us off in that area. Perfect! We rode two tricycles and two motorbikes and headed to our last chance for the Dowitchers.

An unexpected part of our Dowitcher adventure!

We "raced" through the dry mud/sand (but a little boy on a bike overtook us easily =P) and disembarked at the water's edge. We arranged to be picked up and our signal was a raising of hands. We could see waders far away and trained our spotting scopes on them. Godwit. Plover. Stint. Curlew. Long bill! Godwit again.

All out effort to spot the Asian Dowitchers.
We would see birds with long bills probing the shallows but
they would turn out to be Godwits, with their two-toned bills.

More waders were coming in and we decided to move closer to them. Trinket spotted an octopus camouflaged in the shallow water very near us! It was so cool watching it uncoil its tentacles, slowly making its way to its hole nearby. It even changed its shade of beige when a shadow was cast on it! So cool!

The octopus slowly uncoiling its tentacles...
... then darting to the safety of its hole in the sand!

I was silently convincing myself that it was ok if we didn't see the Dowitchers, we saw an octopus anyway. But then Adri nonchalantly said, "Eto, straight black bill" then gestured to his scope. I peered into the scope, saw a small flock of birds foraging and zeroed in on two paler ones with long, black, straight bills: Asian Dowitchers!

Small flock of Asian Dowitchers Limnodrommus semipalmatus walking around (in circles, as if to confuse us birders!) with other waders. The birds we saw were in non-breeding plumage but their distinct bills were very evident.

Finally, we got to see our last target bird on our last morning in Olango! We spent time observing the birds and taking photos before we headed back to the banks to signal for our rides. But we didn't have to, as we approached the bank, our rides were pulling up already, as if reading our minds. We rode back to their terminal and walked happily back to the inn. We celebrated with a yummy lunch and mango shakes before we said goodbye to Olango.

Our celebratory lunch spread!

I was really happy and grateful we got to see the Dowitchers (a species we all missed on our previous trips) and all the other lifers and birds as well. Olango is such a wonderful place to bird in. It's so relaxing being there and the birds are simply amazing! Aside from the lifers, Olango allowed me to study the field marks of many waders and comparing them with each other, providing good practice in ID-ing skills!

In Olango, you get to see birds side by side, not flying away so easily,
allowing you to study their field marks leisurely.
I had a great time studying the Great Knots (foreground) and their
pretty spots and comparing them to the Grey Plovers (background.)

Of course, the biggest plus was the great company, stories exchanged, and laughter shared.
'Til next time, Olango =)

Part of the evidence of two fun nights in Olango =)


  1. ang sarap i-relive ang ating adventure!

    (you know, we should have harassed the octopus a bit more... di kasi natin nakita na may escape route pala sya)

    1. Hahaha! Nagulat kasi tayo sa kanya... if you hadn't pointed it out to me, i could have stepped on it! =P