Monday, April 1, 2013

Raptorwatch and Exploring an Uncharted Trail

It's raptorwatch season again! It is now time for the great raptors to migrate back up North passing through certain parts of the Philippines. The club has made the PAG-ASA Weather Station in Tanay, Rizal the main "base" for counting raptors.

The entrance to the weather station

After the novena for Jops grandmother (where we got to observe a hungry Colasisi), we drove to Tanay to help Randy W. count raptors for the day. We arrived at the weather station around 11AM and found that more birders had come to count! We joined Randy, Rene C., and Juan M. at the deck. We set-up our gear (i.e. scope, folding chairs, cooler) and began to scan the sky for raptors.

Binoculars trained up in the clear skies for raptors

Seeing the green landscape and blue sky paired with the cool wind
was a great respite from the summer heat

It was a very windy day that day we counted. While looking up at the sky, I would sometimes have to step back, pushed by a strong gust of wind! The wind, although bad for the migrating raptors, was a welcome treat in the horrible heat beating down on us. We would constantly return to the shade of the tower to escape the harsh midday sun.

Scanning for raptors in the shade

Some of your typical raptorwatch "workstations" =)

Honestly, I am not very good at identifying flying raptors. I've studied the field marks, shape, size comparisons but I didn't feel confident I could contribute significantly in the field. All my past raptorwatches were with larger groups of birders and with more experienced members who I left the ID-ing to. This trip was different, we were only 5 counters and everyone had to step up... including me!

I was actually nervous and quite insecure raptor-wise, but I was pleasantly surprised that after two or three groups of passing raptors, I was able to differentiate a Grey-faced Buzzard from a Chinese Goshawk from an Oriental Honeybuzzard! Experience really is the best teacher and I was very happy discovering I could ID the raptors by myself!

Those "spots" are actually raptors thermalling, which basically means
riding on the upward current of warm air that helps the birds
conserve energy.

Towards 3PM, the count had slowed down to almost nothing. We decided to call it a day with a total of 664 raptors counted (mix of Grey-faced Buzzards, Oriental Honeybuzzard, and Chinese Goshawks.)

Since it was still quite early, Randy suggested that we check out a trail off the side of the road which he explored earlier. Jops and I decided to join him and we found ourselves walking down a slope towards a small stream.

Randy lead us through this forest trail accessed
by the side of the road.

We ended up in this small stream.

The place was quite undisturbed and we could hear tailorbirds and doves calling from the brush. We saw some Philippine Bulbuls in the area too. Randy reported having seen Red-crested Malkoha in the area when he visited earlier in the day. Jops and Randy walked along the stream, with me trailing hesitantly behind (I was feeling inexplicably uncomfortable in the trail...)

Jops and Randy went ahead and were able to see an
Indigo-banded Kingfisher which was a lifer for Randy!

A short way along the stream, we bumped into three armed guards who were patrolling the area. They advised us not to go further in the trail and to coordinate with them next time we plan to enter the trail since the area is also accessible to rebels. We decided to turn back and follow them out the trail. We said our goodbyes to Randy when we reached our parked vehicles by the side of the road and drove home. I am actually looking forward to the next time I get to join the raptorwatch =)

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