Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Other Than The Birds...

Our friend Trinket recently organized a bird survey for a portion of one of the bigger and greener universities in Quezon City and Jops and I volunteered together with our friends Adri, Drew, and Luke. Our group met up with Abby, Program Manager for Campus Sustainability, early Saturday morning and were off to the trail.

We saw and heard quite a number of birds but it was a surprisingly quiet trail given that there is a water source and good vegetation. Naturally, when birds are quite scarce, we turn our attention to the wildlife other than the birds =)

Clearing before entering the usually off-limits trail

As we walked towards the trail we would be exploring, we passed by a calamansi plant and Trinket and Adri quickly saw some newly-eclosed Lime Butterflies! It was so cool seeing the fresh, new butterflies perched, unmoving near their discarded chrysalis. [eclosion - the emergence of an insect from the pupa case, or of a larva from the egg]

Look at those pretty colors!
Can you see the discarded chrysalis?

While we enjoyed taking photos of the beautiful, unmoving butterflies, birds began calling from around us: Black-naped Orioles, Collared Kingfishers, and Golden-bellied Flyeaters were coming out to sing.

Abby taking photos of the butterflies

Along the trail, we were joined by more staff and a security guard and they shared their bird observations with us. While talking, we heard the loud calls of Barred Rails and some Philippine Magpie Robins made a quick appearance. High on the canopy, some Olive-backed Sunbirds were flitting with the Eurasian Tree Sparrows and a lone Red-keeled Flowerpecker was also spotted.

Adri and Trinket went with Drew the night before to set up some herp traps to try and collect some specimens as part of the survey. [herpetology - the branch of zoology concerned with reptiles and amphibians] We soon reached the first trap they set up and Drew checked to see if there was anything caught in it. I think we were all hoping for snakes, but alas it was empty.

Drew and Abby checking the herp trap

They dismantled the trap and we headed closer to the stream. Along the way, a small toad was spotted, examined, and documented.

The small toad was examined and found to be an invasive Cane Toad
We set it free 

We moved on to check out the small pond and its surroundings. It was still very quiet along the trail, save for more noisy Collared Kingfishers calling around us. We did see an adult Black-crowned Night Heron in the area.

Waiting for birds... pitta? cuckoo? bush hen?

While we waited, I spotted some mushrooms scattered along the ground.

Abby found a small cluster of delicate mushrooms on a fallen log.

Trinket also found some chunky-looking mushrooms that released their powdery spores when she nudged them!

Fleshy, chunky fungi

Mushrooms weren't the only thing our group spotted on the ground! Trinket soon called me to check out something Luke spotted: a moth caterpillar! Trinket told us it was a kind of sphinx moth caterpillar!

Beautiful creepy crawly!
They are amazing to observe but they kinda creep me out!

We left the caterpillar and moved further along the trail. We exited the trail and saw lots of White-breasted Woodswallows perched on wires. A Coppersmith Barbet also gave us good, long views through the scope as it perched on some leafless branches. We ended our survey by the calamansi plant where we saw the Lime Butterflies and were surprised to see them already paired up and mating!

Mating pair of Lime Butterflies
fresh out from their chrysalis

It was cool to see stages of a butterfly's life cycle come to life that morning. We also spotted some butterfly eggs, still unhatched on the calamansi leaves. I wished my students were there to see it all!

Our group listed 19 species of birds, plus mushrooms, butterflies, and moth caterpillars too. Together with the ants, mosquitoes, and stink bugs we saw, it was a really fun morning exploring with friends =)

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