Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rain, Wind, Waves, and Dips

It was my second day in Puerto Princesa and Will, Kuya Joel, and I were early on the road and on our way to Sabang. After a great first day birding in the Irawan Ecopark, I was excited to see more birds on the road to Sabang. As the sun rose, our trio got a glimpse of the darkening skies and at our first stop to see the Palawan Flycatcher, it started to rain.

And it didn't really stop raining.

Thankfully, pockets of clear skies and some sunshine allowed us to continue birding along the road whenever possible.

Quick glimpse of the blue sky between rain showers

Blue-naped Parrots, Hill Mynas, and Asian Fairy Bluebirds came out to perch on high trees giving us open but severely back-lit photos.

Asian Fairy Bluebird

We made short stops at different parts of the road. The weather was kind enough to give us a couple of birds at every stop before raining down on us again. At one stop, we saw a Palawan Hornbill and a handsome Grey Wagtail.

Mud, mud everywhere ;)

We finally made it to the Sabang port and learned that boat trips to the Underground River were already cancelled due to the huge waves and bad weather. We were scheduled to go to to the Underground River the next day to see the Palawan Peacock Pheasant.

Gloomy skies over the port

As we had our buffet lunch, I looked at the skies and started accepting the possibility that our trip to see the pheasant the next day was going to be cancelled. After lunch, I took a walk near the beach and did my bird list, grateful that, at least, the rain has stopped. As I was walking, I saw a dark bird fly overhead, being blown in by the strong wind. It was flying quite low... curved beak, thin bent wings... frigatebird?? Hmmm.

Bird list by the beach

Most of the afternoon was spent indoors. The rain fell stronger and the wind continued to blow. We attempted to owl in the evening, but as soon as Will and I got out of the car... RAIN! Pouring rain literally dampening our chances of any owling! We drove back defeated but still laughing at our misfortune back to the hotel.

The following morning was still very gloomy and all boat rides still cancelled.

All bangkas parked along the shoreline

We could've walked to the Underground River but I decided not to and just explore part of the trail. I'll just come back on a sunnier time of year.

That's Will scanning the treetops for birds

Just by the entrance to the trail we saw a White-bellied Woodpecker swoop in to perch on a tall tree. The inside of the trail was very quiet and wet, but we did get to meet and chat with other birdwatchers which is always fun.

Love the flash of red!

As we were exiting the forest and heading back to the car, there it was again! The dark bird with hooked beak and bent wings!! Will and I ran to the beach and saw it clearly: Great Frigate Bird!

Unexpected lifer in Sabang! 

There were a total of 3 Great Frigatebirds that flew parallel to the beach while we stood there, being whipped by the wind. Not a bad "substitute" lifer after dipping on the pheasant ;)

Posing with Will on the beach!
Happy with my unexpected lifer =) 

The weather did not improve much throughout the drive back to the city proper and I was able to rest and relax back at Ellei's Place. Browsing through Facebook, I saw a recent posting of a Spotted Wood Owl and the location was very near my hotel! I dressed back into birding gear and was soon on a tricycle to try to spot the owl. The person who photographed the owl, Mr. Borja, was exceptionally kind to me and left me in the care of two of his colleagues to lead me to where the owl has been spotted. Sadly, I dipped on the owl which was no where to be found but I met some of the local residents and made friends with some of the children there.

With my new friends sans the owl ;)

The following day was a additional treat: a city tour! I've been around Palawan years before so I was interested to see what has changed since that time. We visited the Crocodile Farm, Binuatan Creations (where I got to try weaving!), Baker's Hill, Mitra Farm, the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral, and Plaza Cuartel. Of course, I did some birding on the side.

Asian Glossy Starling at the Crocodile Farm
Rufous Night Heron
There were a lot of nests in the Crocodile Farm!
Pale Spiderhunter in the Croodile Farm
White-bellied Sea Eagle soaring above Mitra's Farm

All in all, my trip back to Puerto was a mix of lifers and dips, sunny days and rainy days, but it was all good. I got to make new friends and was also able to reconnect with old ones. I have more than enough reasons to go back. Soon =)

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