Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The New Kings of La Mesa

It has been weeks of no birding for me and Jops. Save for a couple of guided trips, we haven't been out in the field due to busy schedules at work. So, when Tuesday was declared a regular holiday for the Muslim celebration of Eidul Adha (or Feast of Sacrifice), Jops and I reserved that morning for birding in La Mesa Ecopark.

We haven't birded in the park for quite some time and the timing was perfect as two uncommon endemic kingfishers have been regularly spotted (and photographed) there: the Indigo-banded Kingfisher (IBKF) and Spotted Wood-Kingfisher (SWKF.)

Jops and I have already seen both species but never in the La Mesa Ecopark. I personally wanted to see them again as they are such awesome birds to see, and of course, I wouldn't mind getting a few decent photos of them too. It was also a perfect chance to try out my new tripod!

So, off to the park we went on a Tuesday holiday and trekked to the mini-forest where we saw birders and bird photographers already on the trail. It was nice seeing so many birding friends again (and also seeing Sir Bong back in the field!) =)

After greeting each other and some chit chat, we all turned our attention on the female IBKF perched over the small stream beside the trail. Binoculars and cameras were pointed towards the pretty cobalt blue bird.

Female Indigo-banded Kingfisher
The female has a single disconnected band across its chest

As the bird flew away, the group dispersed. Jops and I went with Anthony to find the SWKF. It didn't take long to spot the Spotty, perched on a semi-exposed branch, preening. The bird flew further down the trail to pluck out some prey on a muddy incline before perching on another low branch.

Handsome Spotted Wood-Kingfisher seen through some branches
The male has a distinct turquoise stripe above the black eye stripe

I was very content with the shots I got, even though leaves were blurring out the birds. I got awesome views of both kingfishers and was ready to just spend the rest of the morning walking around the trail spotting the usual suspects in the park. But the birds weren't done with me yet!

Walking along the trail, I gestured toward the branch where the SWKF perched just a few minutes ago and to my shock.... it.was.there.!!! The bird was perched just a few feet from our group and a few of us had already walked past it! With everyone moving in slow motion, we all faced the bird and started taking photos. Rene C. and Doc Cha even took out their iPhones and snapped a few shots!

The very friendly Spotted Wood-kingfisher
It stayed long enough for me to snap soooo many photos and
get some awesome close-up shots too! =)

The bird was unperturbed by our presence and sat and preened and even called a few notes in front of us. It eventually flew away and our group dispersed again. Jops and I went back to see the IBKF again and after only a few minutes of waiting, the high pitched call of the small kingfisher got everyone's attention.

This time, the male IBKF perched on a broken wood stump poking out of the shallow water. Our new birder friend Sean arrived just in time to see and photograph it with us. Just like with the SWKF, we had a field day taking its photo! 

Male Indigo-banded Kingfisher
The male IBKF has two blue bands on its chest

The bird stayed a long time and I even got to show it to a small group of kids through my binoculars. It dove into the water, ate the fish it caught, and then flew away. Sean then showed the group some shots he took at the spillway - photos of a White Wagtail and a Grey Heron! The White Wagtail was back and it was the first record of a Grey Heron in the park! Cool!

While the others went to the spillway, Jops and I joined Sean into the trail. It was very quiet inside save for the occasional tailorbird singing unseen and the noisy Brown Shrikes. It felt a bit weird though not seeing the Ashy Ground Thrushes and pittas hopping around the trail...

As we rounded the mini-forest, Jops and I said goodbye to Sean and decided to check out the spillway before we left the park. The two endemic kingfishers are great additions to the park's growing bird list. Even for just a holiday morning, it was definitely an awesome birding trip with friends and the two new kings of La Mesa. =)

Postscript: Tito Bob rounds up the other kingfishers that can be seen in La Mesa in his blog post. Happy birding!


  1. Thanks for the link to my blog, Maia! It was a great morning of birding indeed! :)

    1. You're welcome Tito Bob! It was great birding with you and Tita Cynthia again! =)

  2. great photos of these 2 of my favorite endemics maia! i should drop by lmep to see if i can be as equally blessed as you1

    1. Wow! You have gorgeous favorites! I think kingfishers are becoming my favorites too =) I hope you see them up close and personal too! =)