I finally got my chance to try and see it last Friday when "Ninong" Chin generously let Djop and I hitch with him to Infanta. I was technically tagging along since it was also the 5th year anniversary of the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines and part of their activities for the event was birding in Infanta that morning.
We were on the road before 5AM. The route is very straightforward and as we got further away from Manila, there were less and less vehicles on the road. The fog was heavy as we drove, limiting visibility considerably.
The sky lightened a bit but the fog still lay thick along the mountainside and road when we arrived at our destination at around 6:30. As I stepped out from the car into the road, the chilly wind greeted me and I took in all the fresh air and greenery around me. The place had the feel of the old Mt. Palay-Palay road back when the tunnel wasn't complete and no one but birders were there.
|Did I mention it was foggy?|
We walked into the fog and were soon joined by fellow birders. It was nice to see old friends and meet new ones too. We began our search for the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove among the tall trees, the fog still heavy and hazy around us, when (my nephew) Loel spotted it! There were a few seconds of rising panic when I couldn't find the large dove among all the trees in front of us but then it flew to another tree and perched out in the open. I looked at the bird through my bins and through the fog and thanked my lucky stars that I was able to tick off the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove as my lifer! It soon flew to a higher perch and started feeding on the ripe berries.
|A gorgeous Flame-breasted Fruit Dove!|
It spent some time in the tree transferring from perch to perch to eat the small red fruits. It was joined by a second dove but it stayed hidden behind the leaves, while a couple of Philippine Fairy Blue Birds joined them briefly. After a while, they flew off deeper into the trees and did not show again for the rest of the day.
|Birders and photographers spotting the fruit doves|
More people arrived and some moved on to another spot along the road to try for more birds. We also drove to try for the Scarlet Minivets but did not see them. We did see a Philippine Serpent Eagle perched on a low tree just by the side of the road but it immediately flew off when we stopped the car.
The fog had lifted by then but the wind had picked up. We decided to head back to the fruit dove area but stopped midway and joined a small group who spotted a Spotted Wood Kingfisher! It was a steep climb up and down a flight of stairs and I got an awful photo, but was still happy with this unexpected find.
|Down the stairs to see what we can find...|
|Lousy shot of the Spotted Wood Kingfisher|
We drove back to rejoin the others who were waiting for the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove to show again. Sadly, it didn't, but mixed flocks would come in waves to feed on the many fruiting trees by the roadside. Yellowish White Eyes, Philippine Bulbuls, Blue-headed Fantails, and pretty Lemon-throated Leaf Warblers would fly noisily into the trees and feed among the fruits. Buzzing and Pygmy Flowerpeckers also made brief appearances including my second lifer that morning: Olive-backed Flowerpecker (no photo though...)
|Pretty Lemon-throated Leaf Warblers|
Got lucky with this shot since they move around so much!!!
The wind was still quite strong so the bird activity was not that busy the rest of the morning. We soon packed up and headed for lunch. our new friend Jet spotted a raptor soaring a distance away and we saw there were two Rufous-bellied Eagles struggling against the wind. After lunch, we returned for a quick peek at the fruit dove and other possible birds but there were none.
It wasn't as birdy as the site promises, but I'm sure on a good-weather day, the bird life is fantastic! I'm grateful for the lifers I got that day, these are birds I didn't think I'd be seeing soon... but I did! And with great views too! And with no hiking involved! ;)
It was a happy day sharing lifers with friends. It would be wonderful to go back and see what else the forests of Infanta has to offer... maybe soon ;)