Monday, February 24, 2014

A Mystery Flock and an Ocean Grebe

Jops and I conducted a guided birdwatching trip for a mountaineering group in the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area last Saturday morning. As we were giving the introductory talk, I spotted a fast-moving flock in V-formation passing overhead. They didn't look like the usual flock of egrets nor the Rock Pigeons that fly through the area. We took some documentary shots to help us ID them later and continued with the activity. It was cool to start with a mystery flock of birds!

These birds were fast! And their wingspan really long!
What do you think they are?

We started birding near the boulders and the usual LPPCHEA birds were there: lots of Collared Kingfishers, Whiskered Terns, and egrets. A Common Kingfisher also showed pretty well!

Collared Kingfisher, an abundant resident in LPPCHEA
Common Kingfisher, a yearly migrant visitor in the site

The ipil trees were getting quite huge and tangly already, making it difficult to see the birds out on the mudflats but we did get to see a Striated Heron perched atop a bamboo pole. The tide wasn't that low, but a bit of mudflat was showing and there we saw a mixed group of waders (although in small numbers): Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Great Egret, Little Egret, Kentish Plover, and Jops was able to spot a lone Rufous Night Heron.

We walked towards the inner ponds and were happy to see that it was not empty of birds! There were a number of Yellow Bitterns out hunting for food, another Common Kingfisher noisily flew in and out of view, and a small group of Common Moorhens swam around the pond.

This Yellow Bittern stayed on this perch for a LONG time! 
This Yellow Bittern decided to stay partially hidden in the grass.

Our group moved further inside the trail, which has been widened and cleared, making it much easier to walk through. At the second pond, Jops was able to show the group a flock of 8 Philippine Ducks

At Pond 2, slowly approaching the ducks

They were a skittish bunch though, flying away at the slightest movement. We rounded the trail and ended up in the first pond where the Yellow Bittern was still having its breakfast.

It even extended its neck to its full length!

Next stop was the beach. The shore was green with algae and there weren't any small waders running around. Quite near the shore was a Little Egret plucking food from the seaweed.

First time I saw this much seaweed on the LPPCHEA beach...

Suddenly, Jops announced that he had a Grebe on the scope. I tore myself away from the egret and looked at where his scope was pointing to: out to sea. A Grebe here? I racked my brain for what I knew about Grebes and knew them to live in freshwater habitats. Definitely not here in the sea!

It took me some time to find the "misplaced" bird among the floating seaweeds and when I spotted it, there was no mistake that it was a Little Grebe.
The "Ocean Grebe"

Very curious to see a freshwater, diving bird out here just meters from the beach. I was wondering if it was feeding when it dove out of view, to the delight of some of the people who were observing it beside me. I guess it was feeding on the ocean floor =)

We ended our birdwatching at 9AM. The day was getting hot and the group still had a beach clean-up to do. Jops and I rounded the area, seeing more kingfishers and egrets but nothing more. We tallied our bird list and got 35 species, excluding the mystery flock of birds. Not bad for a few hours birding with a couple of bonuses too!

Birders on the beach


  1. Hi Maia
    Did u short ur mystery birds out ! they look like a gull species of some sort

    1. Hi Andrew! Haven't sorted them out yet! We've just returned from Zamboanga but will definitely figure out this mystery flock soon! =)

  2. Hi Maia - Black Headed Gulls?
    Trust you are all well there
    James & Nat

    1. Hello James and Nat!!!! So nice to hear from you here =)

      The best guess for these are gulls but we haven't really taken a closer look! Will do that this week =)

      Yes, we're great! Especially after the bird festival in Zamboanga! Will write about that soon =)

      Hope all is well with you two also =)