Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Excellent Valley Birding (Got 3 Lifers Too!)

It was a long overdue return to Bangkong Kahoy Valley for me, Jops, Adri, and Trinket and it was perfect timing that Dave was visiting from Taiwan. The last time we were there, we did a mega-twitch for the Whiskered Pitta but failed to see the bird. We said we'd come back for a more relaxed birding experience =)

We drove up early Saturday morning and were greeted by Dave (who had already spent the night there) and Dion (who owns BK Valley) at the dining area. It started to rain as soon as we parked the car and we had to wait for it to stop before we walked to check if the newly fledged Besras were in the area near their nest. We missed them last time we were in  BK valley and were hoping to see them this time.

Along the way, we encountered the first mixed flock of our trip. We saw Elegant TitsSulphur-billed Nuthatch, Yellowish White-eye, and (lifer #1 for me) Citrine Canary Flycatcher! We were enjoying seeing the birds when a Large-billed Crow scattered them as it perched on the tree. Such a big bully!

We continued our hike up to the community, wove our way through a Baguio bean plantation, and crept slowly beside our guide, Cris, as he gestured that the Besras were up on a tree. We positioned ourselves in a line and viewed two fledgelings sunning themselves on a branch. Lifer #2!

There were three chicks but we only saw these two.
They were calling continuously, sounding like immature Scops-Owls!

They left one by one, flying to perch hidden in a nearby tree and we took that as our cue to leave. Cris told us he saw a nesting Mountain Verditer Flycatcher up the trail (a possible lifer for me) and asked if we wanted to see it. Our first question of course was "Is it near?" We wanted relaxed and effortless birding and Cris said yes it was near, definitely not as far and as difficult as the trail we took last time. So we said yes and followed him up the trail. Of course, near-ness or far-ness can be pretty relative and what was "easy and near" for Cris was "challenging and far" for the rest of us.

This was part of the "trail" going up...
... and this was the "trail" going down.

Once more, I found myself holding on and hoisting myself up on mossy rocks and gnarled roots and branches.  At one point, very near the nest site, Adri decided not to go any further, Trinket too. I was so tempted to stay put also but I pushed myself after the boys. Adri and Trinket also decided to proceed but after a couple of meters up a rockier and steeper incline, I decided I wouldn't be able to come back down without falling or slipping. The Verditer could wait. So Adri, Trinket, and I told the others to go on while we stayed behind.

While waiting, the three of us decided to start going down the rocks and wait in a flatter, less slippery area. It was like a logic puzzle! Well, at least for Trinket and me =P We had to figure out where to place each foot and we ended up sitting on the rocks and scooting down on our behinds. I'm quite amused at how something so difficult  made us laugh quite hard. =)

The last "challenge" before reaching flat land =P

While waiting, we heard Philippine Bulbuls and a White-browed Shortwing calling from the trees but didn't see them. I saw what looked to be an immature Mountain Verditer Flycatcher up a tree but couldn't be positive on the ID. Soon, Dave and Chris started making their way down sadly without seeing the Flycatcher. They did see what looked to be an immature Whiskered Pitta, but just like the Flycatcher, they couldn't be sure.

We took a different route back down and after a bit more incline and steep slopes, found ourselves on the easier ATV trail. On the walk back down, we saw some Chestnut-faced Babblers that darted around us as well as some Mountain White-eyes. We soon found a noisy mixed flock and most of us stayed to spot the birds. We moved further down the trail and got close up views of a Pygmy Flowerpecker, feeding on the fruits of a low tree.

We arrived back at the dining area past noon and we sat down to a delicious lunch with lipote juice. We decided to spend the remainder of the day (and the trip!) on the view deck. We already got permission from Ramon, who owns the deck, to bird there and that's where we spent the rest of the afternoon (and the following day.)

This is definitely one of my favorite dude birding spots, and the trees in front of the deck weren't even fruiting yet! We waited for the birds but they weren't that active til late in the afternoon. We did get entertained by a hungry Brush Cuckoo, snatching hairy caterpillars from the tree in front of us. I really enjoyed seeing this bird as it was my first time to see the adult!

We got really close up views of the cuckoo!

We also spotted a Philippine Coucal, a Scale-feathered Malkoha, and a Red-crested Malkoha raiding a nest! Almost toward sunset, a mixed flock arrived. We saw more Elegant Tits, Citrine Canary Flycatchers, and Blue-headed Fantails. Towards the evening, we were on the lookout for the owls but the guards told us they usually come out and perch near the dining area around 2AM. After dinner, the boys tried their luck spotting the Philippine Hawk-owls that were calling all around but they weren't able to see them.

The following morning, we decided to just stay in the view deck, it was time for relaxed birding =) Dion generously offered to bring our breakfast to us in the deck which made me feel so spoiled aside from the fact that their breakfast was really, really, REALLY delicious! Around 8AM, just as Dion said, the birds started to arrive. An awesome mixed flock came into view from the lower deck and we enjoyed seeing Blue-headed Fantails, Yellowish White-eyes (Lifer #3!), and Citrine Canary Flycatchers flying in and out of view.

I've come to appreciate this fantail because
of the awesome views I got on this trip.

Dave was able to spot three immature Citrine Canary Flycatchers snuggled together on a branch, preening before they flew off to join the mixed flock. They would "regroup" together on a different branch before flying out again.

Fuzzy and cute feldgelings!

Aside from these awesome birds, we also got to see White-throated Kingfishers, Balicassiao, a male Tarictic Hornbill calling from its perch, White-breasted Woodswallows, Grey-backed Tailorbirds, Bicolored Flowerpecker, and a lone Flaming Sunbird.

I would have loved to stay another day, another week, or even another month in the Valley. I love the weather, the people, the food, the birds, everything! I'm already looking forward to our next trip, which hopefully will be 100% relaxed =P I have to see that Mountain Verditer Flycatcher too!


  1. Oh no! Another challenging slippery rocky slope!
    Nice account Maia, I could feel every "gripping"
    step you made. Congratulations on the lifers.
    Probably will now change my target bird from Phil. Eagle to Citrine Canary Flycatcher. :)


    1. Thank you, Tinggay =)

      Oh yes, the Citrine Canary Flycatchers were awesome lifers! Go up to BK Valley na! You can see them up close and don't have to go up the trail =)

  2. Great photos Maia! And great writing, I re-lived our 75% relaxing weekend! Next time 100% relaxation na. Totoo. :-)

    1. Thank you, Trinket! Actually, nagulat ako with the photos I got! =P

      Yeah, next time 100% relaxation definitely! =)

  3. Hahaha, next time 100% relaxation na ha. :) Narinig ko narin ito last time. :)

    1. Let's see kung may bagong "temptation bird" next trip natin =P

  4. WONDERFUL pictures! and thanks for sharing your trip :) like being there myself. Found your blog from your email. patsy

    1. Hi Patsy! Thank you for your kind words =) I didn't get a chance to meet you personally during the GA. My grandfather, Boy, knows your dad from their days in Medina in Mindanao =)

    2. Oh I understand! You were so busy! Thank you for your help with my prize. My husband really wanted to bring it on his boat trips in Coron.

      That is amazing about your grandfather. I told my dad and he had some questions: ask Maia the name of her mother and if they live in Fairview. He assumes your grandfather, Boy Segura, is not here in Manila?