A few months after Jops and I became birdwatchers we were lucky enough to have gotten big birding "breaks" that allowed us to see birds that were quite difficult to see before. I think it started with the Ferruginous Flycatcher that made an appearance in the UP Diliman campus way back in November 2010. That was our first ever twitch and we didn't know how lucky we were to see it so close to home. (Here's Trinket's blog post about it =) )
Our next lucky break was the Naked-faced Spiderhunter which was chanced upon by a bird photographer in the La Mesa Ecopark in December 2010. This got the ball rolling for the park, bringing in more birders and bird photographers and leading to more and more avian discoveries: Red-bellied Pitta, Hooded Pitta, Brush Cuckoo, Ashy Ground-Thrush, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Rufous Paradise Flycatcher, Guaiabero, Grey-backed Tailorbird, Slaty-legged Crake, Scaly Ground-Thrush... the list goes on. Who knew the mini-forest housed so many birds!
Jops and I visited the park last Friday afternoon to check out something in the mini-forest. We weren't expecting anything bird-wise given that we just had a few hours before it got dark, but we were still hoping to see the Pechora Pipit.
It was a nice, quiet weekday and there weren't that many people passing through the park. A very friendly Red-bellied Pitta showed up shortly after we entered the trail, busy foraging on the ground.
|A very plump Red-bellied Pitta stayed close to the trail giving us|
excellent views and allowing us to photograph it.
Another friendly bird, a male Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, also kept giving us very close encounters, perching very near us at the edge of the trees.
|Male Mangrove Blue Flycatcher kept surprising us with its appearances!|
After a while, I saw some movement on the ground... a small brown bird with streaks was walking around the area. The Pechora Pipit! It was walking a bit slowly at first but then became more active as it foraged on the ground.
|A blurry photo of lifer # 236 - Pechora Pipit|
Also along the trail, we spotted a Lowland White-eye nest. The adult bird would make occasional visits to the nest but we did not see any chicks yet. The bird soon flew away after only a few seconds on the nest.
|Lowland White-Eye on its nest|
A group of noisy teenagers passed through the trail with matching blaring music from a cellphone. I stepped out of their way and let them pass before resuming my observation of the nest. Seeing the nest and remembering where I was made me realize how blessed I am to be able to witness this in the middle of the city -- how blessed and lucky us birdwatchers are to have access to these kinds of birds in Quezon City.
I remember some friends telling me and Jops that we didn't seem to realize how lucky we were to be able to spot the Ashy Ground-Thrush in the mini-forest when most birders have spent countless hours before dawn, up the trail in Mt. Makiling just to spot it. Yes, we didn't realize it at that time. And once we heard the stories from other birders, we did realize how lucky we and a lot of birders are to see it. The whole experience became more meaningful and memorable.
Thinking more about the wonderful discoveries birdwatchers have had in the park, it made me think about how amazing it is that these forest birds have found a home and suitable habitat in this mini-forest in the middle of the city, how they have been thriving there possibly way before us birders "discovered" them, how they have survived even with the lack of awareness of their presence from the park administration and staff, and how they are able to continuously breed successfully with all the human traffic, intrusion, and noise around them. Amazing.
Thanks to the efforts of birdwatchers, the park has now become more aware and conscious of the birds' presence. They may not be able to differentiate and appreciate the rarities and unique species in the park (just like we had in the beginning), but now they know that the mini-forest serves as a home and breeding ground for most of the birds and they have shown understanding and appreciation for that. Slowly, just like us, they will learn the real value of the birds and the park.