Friday, December 27, 2013

Post-Christmas Spoonbills

It was the day after Christmas and Jops and I decided to invite some birder friends to go to Candaba and help them find the Black-faced Spoonbills we twitched last weekend.

We arrived in the site and scanned the rice paddies which were dotted with egrets, stints, and  herons. It was an overcast morning and there weren't as many birds in the spot where we saw the spoonbills last time. There were a lot of Black-winged Stilts clustered together in one area but no spoonbills in sight.

Big group of Black-winged Stilts!

We waited for a couple of hours, entertained by some Yellow Bitterns flying from one clump of vegetation to another, some Pied Bushchats perching on tall grasses, while White-browed Crakes, White-breasted Waterhens, and Barred Rails came to the roadside to feed. While scanning the waders, Jops spotted four Black-tailed Godwits busy probing the shallow water for food. We also saw a Ruff among the many Long-toed Stints. Still no spoonbills.

This young male Pied Bushchat posed handsomely for us =)

Jops and the others decided to check out an inner pond, while Bob N., Leni, and I stayed behind to study the Ruff. Unfortunately, someone lit a firecracker and all the birds in the rice paddy in front of us took flight and left us bird-less. My phone suddenly started ringing and it was Jops calling! We looked at him through our bins and he was gesturing for us to go over to where they were! I answered his call and we knew it: he found the spoonbills!

We trooped over to where the rest of our group were standing and there they were, three sleeping Black-faced Spoonbills, standing together with Grey Herons in a dry pond. When everyone in the group had seen them through the scope, we decided to trek through the tall grasses to get a better vantage point and a closer view of these awesome birds.

We had to walk through tall grasses on very
uneven ground!
The final "challenge" before getting closer looks at
the Black-faced Spoonbills

After the short but challenging trek, we found our places near a hut and started to view the spoonbills when another firecracker startled the birds and they took to the air. They started flying away from us but the birds doubled back and flew back towards us. They flew above us and settled out of sight with a large group of egrets. We made our way back to the cars, happy with seeing the birds although without good photos.

I managed one shot of one spoonbill in flight!

We then decided to head to the mayor's property and try for the Siberian Rubythroats. In the huge pond before the mayor's house, we saw quite a number of Purple Swamphens by the edge of the thigh vegetation. They were very easily flushed though, disappearing quickly into the plants when we stopped for closer looks.

I was lucky this Swamphen turned back for a last look
before disappearing into the greenery.

There were a lot of Zebra Doves and Red Turtle Doves, as usual, and I saw two White-shouldered Starlings fly-by. We tried for the Siberian Rubythroat but unfortunately only heard snippets of the bird's call from deep within the brush. Some of us were able to see the Dusky Warbler too. The pond near the house had lots of (noisy!) Wandering Whistling Ducks in it.

Lots of Wandering Whistling Ducks

We bumped into Brian E. and his wife who came from the other side of the property and he told us he saw loads of ducks in the far ponds. We drove to the area and stopped by the first group of ducks we saw. There weren't that many but we did see lots of Tufted Ducks, Philippine Ducks, and even two Eurasian Coots! I love the coots with their chalk-like bills! Unfortunately they were too far to photograph.

We checked out the next ponds and there were the loads of ducks Brian was referring to! We saw lots of Philippine Ducks, some Garganey, and also Northern Shovellers (just one male though.)

Can you spot the lone male Northern Shoveller?
Northern Shoveller, Philippine Ducks, and a Garganey

It was already noon and the light was getting very harsh, making spotting very difficult. We packed our stuff and said our goodbyes, but of course posed for a group picture to remember another awesome trip to Candaba, especially since everyone in our group (except for me and Jops) got lifers! Merry Christmas everyone!


  1. Thank you for letting me tag along, Maia and Jops! Hope to bird with you again in Candaba or somewhere else...

    1. You're welcome po! Looking forward to more adventures with you po in 2014! =)