Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Endemics Were Friendly Today!

It was the day after Valentine's and Jops and I decided to go birding for a couple of hours in the La Mesa Ecopark. We weren't after any specific bird in particular, we just really wanted some good birding hours before we went ahead with a full Saturday. I have to say, it was an awesome two hours birding, allowing us great views of the birds. Unfortunately, it was also a quite frustrating day for photographing them.

The park was surprisingly empty of the usual Saturday crowds which was a good thing as not too many people would be entering the mini-forest. We tried our luck with the White's Thrush, and possible the other thrushes as well, but they were a no-show during the few hours we were there. We spent some time near the palm trees the thrushes feed on and spotted an Ashy Thrush hopping on the ground. It found its way to the fruits of the palm tress, plucked a few berries, then immediately flew off, leaving me with a photo of... the berries.

Missed the Ashy Thrush by seconds...

We were waiting for the bird to come back when another Ashy Thrush zoomed just beside Jops from the other side of the trail. We waited a bit, but the thrushes didn't return. Some noisy Oriental Magpie Robins made an appearance but they too didn't stay too long for a good photo.

The backside of an Oriental Magpie Robin

We moved further in the trail where Jops was hoping for an encounter with the quite unpredictable Slaty-legged Crake. We could hear a dove cooing loudly from somewhere in the tall trees when I saw something hopping on the ground. I eventually pinpointed the location of an adult Hooded Pitta, busy looking for food on the forest floor. The pitta chose to stay in the inner part of the forest, giving me good views through my binoculars but giving my camera a migraine from trying to focus past all the branches and leaves partially covering the bird. Jops moved further in the trail, while I stayed behind with the pitta.

No pitta here... couldn't get any photo

After a few minutes, I received a text from Jops that there was a flowering tree along the trail and that he got three flowerpeckers feeding there! I hurried to where he was and looked up just in time to see a flock of Lowland White-eyes arrive and take control of the blooms. No flowerpeckers for me. And no bird photo too. Very quickly, it was the Black-naped Orioles' turn to feed and the smaller birds gave way and so did I. I returned to the pitta while Jops went to find the crake.

The birds were all there seconds before I took this photo =P

I spotted the Hooded Pitta quickly and I squatted low on the ground for a better vantage point. I heard some loud scratching behind me so I slowly turned (wishing they weren't the chickens) and there, walking towards me, was a beautifully streaked Pechora Pipit! Alas, my upper body could only twist so much that I couldn't photograph the pipit now that it was SO close to me! It walked to the very edge of the forest cover before flying swiftly to the other side of the trail. I was excited to see it land just beside the Hooded Pitta who chose to finally come nearer the path! I had to make a choice: Pitta on the left or Pechora on the right.Which to follow???

I chose Pechora. We walked parallel to each other: the Pipit in the brush and me on the trail. I took photos at every opportunity it would be in a clear patch of forest but sadly, I didn't get any clear shot. The small bird wouldn't keep still!

Just the blurry back of the Pechora Pipit (such a nice pattern though)
Another blurred photo of the Pechora Pipit
Doesn't it look like a super fast moving bird?

I accepted my defeat and switched from camera to binoculars and just enjoyed the chance to observe this bird as it energetically looked for food. At times it looked like it was attacking its prey as it launched into flight to catch it.

As the Pechora Pipit moved out of sight, I decided to return to the palm trees and just wait there for a possible thrush and for Jops. As I positioned myself and my tripod, an Ashy Thrush landed in front of me and stared at me. Once more, this bird gave me a moment of fear that it would attack me. It stared a few seconds before tossing a dried leaf my way and flying off. 

A friendly (?) Ashy Thrush

I saw it engage in a short battle with another bird on the ground. I heard the flurry of wings before the two birds separated. The Ashy flew deeper into the trees while the other one perched on a nearby branch. I raised my binoculars and saw, to my delight, that it was the Spotted Wood Kingfisher

Always a treat to see this bird =)

I took my time photographing and observing this very handsome bird when Jops found me. We left the bird shortly as we had to meet our birder friends, Mads and Lu-Ann, in UP. We decided to meet in the area where the Philippine Scops Owl was seen recently. 

Jops was able to find the owl after only a few minutes of scanning and I marveled at the coloring of the owl. Unlike the owls in La Vista which were brownish, this owl was more grey, blending in with the nearby branches perfectly. Soon, Mads and Lu-Ann arrived and we allowed ourselves to be wow-ed by the owl. 

Philippine Scops Owl
I was amazed by the white patches underneath its eyes!
Makes it look awake even though its sleeping =)

It was a great way to end a quickie birding morning in Quezon City! Looking back, I did get great views of all the birds I saw but the bonuses were the very obliging Philippine endemics that posed very well for me that morning. And of course, sharing an owl encounter with friends =)

Happy daytime owlers! =)

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