Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wishful Thinking and Wishes Granted

I got my excitement back for birding at the right time: very close to a national holiday. That meant I had an opportunity to go birding for at least for half a day on Philippine Independence Day (which fell on a Thursday this year)! I wanted to check out a possible birdy site in Antipolo and that's where I drove to early on June 12. I was silently hoping to see a white morph coucal, especially since our friend Mark Jason texted me a few days earlier to say he had just also seen it! I crossed my fingers for it =) I arrived in the subdivision around 6:30AM and drove around some streets with vacant lots.

Just a couple of houses along this road

I rolled the windows down and immediately heard the distinct calls of Tawny Grassbirds coming from the grassy lots. I stopped and tried to stop them but the first birds seen were a couple of Barred Rails on the road. There were two birds out in the open were actually calling! It was the first time I actually SAW Barred Rails making all that noise! Usually, it's either you see them OR you hear them. I was so happy to have been able to see and also get a short video of this behavior.



A passing motorcycle flushed the birds away and so I drove on. Upon reaching a dead end and got out to survey the area. A small flock of Scaly-breasted Munias perched on some tall grasses close to the car while lots of Yellow-vented Bulbuls flew in the area.

Scaly-breasted Munias

The Munias soon flew off and we decided to turn back and explore another area. As I was heading back, I saw a couple of Tawny Grassbirds preening atop some blades of grass. It was nice getting to observe all their field marks out in the open as they are notorious skulkers.

Tawny Grassbird

While watching the grassbirds, a tiny Bright-capped Cisticola suddenly started calling from a very high and exposed perch. Silhouetted against the brightening sky, all I could really see was the shadow of a small, round bird! It flew away, calling noisily as it did. I decided to move to another area and stopped when I heard an Elegant Tit! I didn't see it but I saw some Buzzing Flowerpeckers joining the morning chorus.

I moved to another area and stayed there the longest. The birds seemed to be all coming out to sing and have breakfast. The Black-naped Orioles came out to sun themselves and the Collared Kingfishers started becoming noisy. As I was observing some flowerpeckers above, something white and chicken-like started gliding from one tree to the next! Was it really one of my most-wanted birds??? It was!!! A white-morph Philippine Coucal! It was soon followed by a Philippine Coucal. How exciting!

But, just like any self-respecting coucal, they both just stayed out in the open for a few seconds, just enough for a good, brief view through the bins, before skulking into the leaves to hide.

I FINALLY see the white-morph coucal!!!
Well, this photo shows only its back and tail...
It was followed by this regular Philippine Coucal

The white-morph even glided over the street I was standing in and settled into a mango tree, yes, unseen. I was thrilled at the sighting and I was thankful I had my wish granted! To top off the experience, a Plain Bush-hen also crossed the same street! Another bird I wanted to see, was a pitta. I laughed at the thought and then it started to drizzle.

I got in the car and decided to start driving back down. The rain started to pour but as I neared the exit, it stopped and the sun came out. Birding potential! I decided to explore a much greener part of the area and as I passed a thick clump of vegetation I heard it: Hooded Pitta. Would you believe, I found myself staring at a bright blue Hooded Pitta in the middle of an opening! Wish granted!

Spot the jewel on the forest floor!

I slowly got out of the car but as I did the pitta flew above to perch on some electric wires, giving great views of its bright red bottom =)

Such bright, wonderful colors!

The pitta flew back to the trail but was flushed further into the vegetation when a tricycle passed by. The people in the neighborhood were starting to go about their business and so were the Grey-backed Tailorbirds! One was singing very close to us and I could see it hopping around the low branches. I waited until it perched out in the open and sang!

Grey-backed Tailorbird
Really happy with this pic!!!

It sang and sang and sang until another motorcycle drove past. Two tailorbirds actually just stayed in the area, singing very loudly until I left.

I was starting to spot an Elegant Tit that started singing above when a group of young boys came out to inspect what I was doing. Luckily, we were able to spot the black and yellow tit and showed it to the boys through the scope.

When the bird left, a little birdwatching crash course was due for these curious boys. It was nice to see them genuinely interested in what we were saying. Soon they were calling to point out a bird that was singing (it was the Tailorbird.)

Before we left, I gave the boys the new brochure that friends Adri and Trinket put together for the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines featuring the common birds one can find in the city. Happy with the morning spent birding and with wishes granted, I left the kids with reminders to "just watch and don't catch" the birds. As I drove off, I saw the kids sitting on the sidewalk, seriously studying the birds in the brochures I gave them. =)

I hope they won't ever forget their first birdwatching experience
 and also the "lessons" they got that day =)

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