Monday, May 5, 2014

El Nido Adventure: Back on the Trail and a Quick Island Stop

Our second day in El Nido was dedicated to a guided trip back in the Dalimatan trail for more staff of the El Nido Resorts which perfectly coincided with the Pledge2Fledge weekend. We were joined by staff of three of their island resorts: Lagen, Miniloc, and Pangulasian and our group was on the trail before 8AM.

Anna giving the intro talk at the trail entrance

As Anna turned over the introduction to Jops, I noticed some movements on a tangle of vines just above the group. I inspected the small bird hopping around and my eyes went wide when I saw a Pale Spiderhunter among the tangles! I shamelessly interrupted the talk so that Jops, Anna, and the rest of the group could also spot it but as soon as they looked up, the bird flew into the trees on the other side of the trail! I was the only one who saw it...

Birders on a shaded area of the trail

We moved into the trail and saw the Philippine Ducks we saw the previous day. As we walked along the wooden planks, we flushed out a Blue-eared Kingfisher which disappeared into a thick clump of trees near the water! Pity we weren't able to get really good views of the this handsome kingfisher.

As we entered the wooded area of the trail, we could hear the Hooded Pittas calling from within the trees but none showed. Our group was entertained by a flyby bird which we initially thought was a raptor but turned out to be a Dollarbird. Some Hair-crested Drongos showed quite well, giving us good long views through the scope as it perched openly and stayed for quite a bit.

Hair-crested Drongo showing its pretty
"fish tail" tail =)

We also saw a squirrel pestering a drongo in one area (or was it the other way around? =P) We walked slowly along the trail, which was very quiet compared to the previous day. The very active Spot-throated Flameback from yesterday was absent and was only heard calling from afar. We did spot a lone Grey-streaked Flycatcher perched on an exposed branch and the Asian Glossy Starlings flew in for a brief appearance.

Asian Glossy Starling
locally called "mamajang"

And then it started to rain. It was only a drizzle but I felt it kept the birds at bay. We moved towards the mangrove boardwalk and just like yesterday, it was very quiet in the area. At the end of the boardwalk, a pink-orange "bullet" streaked past our group, crossed the trail in front of us, and disappeared into the brush. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher! Those who saw the small, fast-flying bird got excited at having seen such a brightly-colored bird in the trail! Too bad it didn't perch where we could see it...

Before we exited the trail, our group got distracted by a trail of termites crossing the road. We were one curious bunch!

Termites crossing!
Curious birders

We left the trail and found ourselves crossing the runway. It was almost noon and it was getting very, very bright and hot! We spotted some Paddyfield Pipits before finding shade in the airport. After a group shot, we said goodbye to the others as they headed back to their respective island-paradise-offices while we went to town for lunch. 

Crossing the runway towards the airport:
we looked both ways before crossing =))

And we got very good news! Through the kindness of one of our new friends who arranged for a boat, our group would be making a quick trip to Lagen island that afternoon! Yay! Soon we were boarding the boat that would be taking us to Lagen island... and to possibly seeing the Palawan Hornbills there! 

That's Anna and Sir Mesach on our boat to Lagen

We approached the island at 4PM and before we docked, Jops was able to spot a Palawan Hornbill among the trees! We hadn't gotten off the boat yet and we already had amazing views of the black and white Palawan endemic! We got off the boat and were welcomed by familiar faces, Cari and Geegee, who joined us earlier in Dalimatan. We were introduced to Sir Lover (yes, that is his real name and upon seeing my face he emphasized that that is the name on his birth certificate) and he acted as our guide during the one hour we were there. 

From the dock, we walked past some villas towards the forest area
of the resort

We almost immediately saw some Slender-billed Crows flying from one tree to the next, cawing loudly (and very differently from the Large-billed Crows!) We also saw a very clean-looking Green Imperial Pigeon sunning itself on a high tree. We approached a heavily wooded area and saw lots of bird activity in the trees! A closer inspection of the mixed flock gave me two lifers: Palawan Tit and Pin-striped Tit Babblers! I didn't let go of the babblers on my bins even when Sir Lover was loudly calling to me to check out the White-vented Shama that showed itself.

No wonder Sir Lover was excited, the shama was
perched just beside our group!

We had to move forward and I had to pull myself from the mixed flock as we only had an hour in the resort. We needed to take the 5PM boat back to the town otherwise, we'd need to spend the night. Our group walked further in the resort with more Slender-billed Crows flying around us. We stopped at an area where Sir Lover showed us a nesting Hair-crested Drongo. While observing the bird, a Palawan Hornbill decided to perch in the same area giving everyone up-close, amazing views!

Palawan Hornbill

The Palawan Hornbill, being so close to the nest, got dive bombed a couple of times by the drongo until it hopped to another tree, away from the nest. I was a bit sad I wasn't able to get a better shot given all the out-in-the-open perches the hornbill had, but I just had to enjoy looking at it through my bins that by the time I started taking pictures, it had moved to a more hidden perch.

A small mixed flock also decided to join us in that area: Olive-backed Sunbirds, Palawan Flowerpeckers, and another friendly White-vented Shama. Soon the area quieted down, the hornbill flew off into the trees, and it was time for us to leave. But not before we were treated to refreshing fresh mango shakes!

Celebrating the awesome views of the
Palawan Hornbill with refreshing mango shakes!

At the dock, Anna wrote down our contributions to their very cute bulletin board of wildlife sightings for the day!

Our bird sightings were added to this board!

We said our thank you's and our goodbye's to the new friends we made that day and boarded the sunset boat back to town. I enjoyed the steady movement of our boat, the sea breeze, and the sun set view. I reviewed my birding notebook and saw that I was able to add 3 lifers in the one hour we were at Lagen! That brought my total El Nido lifers to 12. That was really cool =)

Sunset as we crossed Bacuit Bay going back to town

(To be continued...)

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