Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Birding in Baguio

Everything fell into place that weekend in Baguio: we got vouchers for a weekend stay at The Forest Lodge, we could hitch a ride with Jops's parents on the way back to Manila, and we had participants signed up for the guided trip we planned for our last morning in Baguio. Yay! Not a bad plan for our first time to bird in Baguio!

We took the 12:15AM Victory Liner deluxe bus and arrived at their Baguio City station in four hours! I slept through almost the whole ride and didn't even get to check out the on-board comfort room. It was 750pesos well-spent: it included a bottle of mineral water, a piece of bread, a stick of macapuno candy, plus power outlets for each seat, recliner seats, and wifi.

So, we took a cab to our hotel which was inside Camp John Hay, got lucky with an early check-in, and were on our way by sunrise! Large-billed Crows and Crested Mynas were up very early and along the way to the trail, Elegant Tits and Mountain White-eyes were stirring and starting to sing and fly around.

Elegant Tit
They would be our constant companion throughout our stay =)
Crested Myna
We even heard one imitate the sound of a siren!

We had a wonderfully filling breakfast at the Le Monet hotel which was in front of the entrance to the Eco Trail. We highly recommend their ala carte breakfast! It will last you 'til noon!

We entered the trail and almost immediately saw a Blue-headed Fantail perched close to the path! There were also more Elegant Tits and Mountain White-eyes flitting among the high branches.

Blue-headed Fantail

We walked further into the trail and crossed a small wooden bridge. As the day got hotter, the birds grew more active. Here we saw a number of Citrine Canary Flycatchers singing on bare branches high above us. Sadly, I wasn't able to get one decent shot of these cute yellow birds. The Sulfur-billed Nuthatches were also starting to arrive in our area when we saw a very unexpected bird to show: a Siberian Rubythroat!

A surprise Rubythroat in Baguio!

As we were waiting for the handsome Rubythroat to come out to a more open perch, the Nuthatches started "descending" on us, creeping down the tree trunks. Distracted by the creepers, we turned our attention on them, losing the Rubythroat in the process...

We saw A LOT of Sulfur-billed Nuthatches!

Along with the Nuthatches came our first lifer for the trip: Olive-backed Pipits! They would fly in and perch on branches and would proceed to walk the length of the branch. They looked to me like versions of Pechora Pipits who preferred tree tops rather than the ground.

Olive-backed Pipit
Challenging to photograph as they kept walking around!

There were lots of them crawling around the tree tops, picking food as they went along. When the wave of birds finally moved on, we tried spotting the Rubythroat but it was gone. We did see another unexpected lifer just a few meters from where we saw the Rubythroat: three Mugimaki Flycatchers! The birds were flitting around in the brush but they soon flew off, leaving me with just one good shot. But I was definitely more than happy getting that one good shot of my second Baguio lifer =)

Mugimaki Flycatcher
I feel very lucky to have seen this one =)

We pushed forward and saw more Elegant Tits, Mountain White-eyes, and Sulfur-billed Nuthatches. A number of Large-billed Crows called noisily as they flew through the trees. We stopped after the second wooden bridge and decided to go back to the hotel to rest as we didn't really have much sleep from the road trip.

We resumed birding in the afternoon, checking out the trail in the Tree Top Adventure. The trail was very quiet compared to the morning but the friendly staff shared about the birds they have observed there. After a while, we called it a day and rested early for day 2.

We decided to bird in the Yellow Trail for our second day in Baguio. The entrance we took was through the Tree Top Adventure and we walked the entire trail for the whole morning. It wasn't as birdy as the Eco Trail... BUT I did get to see one of my most awaited lifers: Turquoise Flycatcher! I prefer the sound of its former name though: Mountain Verditer Flycatcher =) 

I was so happy to finally see this bird! I waited almost 4 years!

We saw a lot of the usual suspects in the Yellow Trail and met some hikers and bikers along the way. I also got to see lots of the pretty dark brown butterflies fluttering along the trail. And I got really curious about the pinkish rocks that poked out from the ground.

Pretty pinkish rocks
A kind of Mycalesis butterfly
Thank you Tita Lyds for the ID =)

We exited the trail to the calls of a White-throated Kingfisher and found ourselves in the horseback riding area. After running some errands for Jops's mom, we went back to the Eco Trail for some afternoon birding. It was still a bit slow compared to the morning, but the Blue-headed Fantails were entertaining enough. =)

Part of the Yellow Trail
It was a very easy and pleasant walk that took us almost
the whole morning to complete

Our last morning in Baguio was dedicated to a WBCP guided birdwatching trip. We had 8 participants who were very very lucky that morning! The first bird they saw was an Oriental Cuckoo! The bird seemed to follow our group for the rest of the morning.

Oriental Cuckoo

At the start of the trail, we were already treated to good, close-up views of Sulfur-billed Nuthatches, Elegant Tits, and Mountain White-eyes. Further down the trail, we head a distinct call: Scale-feathered Malkoha! Everyone was amazed at seeing this bird as it skulked around low trees. Such an awesome lifer for them!

Got lucky with this shot when Jops and I returned
to the Eco Trail that afternoon =)

Still high from the Malkoha, we moved forward and spotted some Olive-backed Pipits doing their usual tree-walk. An Elegant Tit busily gathered nesting material in front of us and a Blue-headed Fantail made a brief appearance.

The Tit had its beak so full before flying off =)

The group had seen almost all there was to see in an hour's time! Our friends from Tree Top Adventure who joined us that morning had to go ahead and soon, so did the others. It was a wonderful guided trip with great company, plus the birds showed really, really well! We are definitely looking forward to the next out-of-town guided trip we get to conduct (and maybe get some lifers along the way!) =)

New birders from Tree Top Adventure with Jops
The rest of the group who joined the WBCP Baguio guided trip

Baguio is a great place for relaxed birding. The climate is nice and cool, and the trails are very easy. The birds are also super friendly, same with all the people we encountered during our stay. =)

8 comments:

  1. I still have to do the Eco trail at Camp John Hay. I still have to see the Turquoise, Citrine Canary Flycatchers together with the Siberian Rubythroat.
    Crossing my fingers!

    Tinggay Cinco

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    1. Hi Tinggay! I'm sure you'll get to see them all especially once your house there is finished! Excited for you!!! =)

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  2. Congrats with the highland lifers! And good job with the guided trip!

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    1. Thank you Trinket! Next time, we'll go even higher up pa! Hehe =)

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  3. All but envious! Wish to be your pupil.

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    1. Haha! But you already take great photos! No need for a teacher =)

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  4. wow!!! yun lang masasabi ko...

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    1. Hehe, nakaka-wow nga po yung mga nakita namin! Hope to go birding with you soon po! =)

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