Friday, September 29, 2017

Three Kings (Plus More!) in Coron: Day 1

I celebrated my birthday this year ticking off one of my most sought after lifers, so I felt it was only fair to return the favor and also give a birthday gift of lifers. Thankfully, Djop's birthday weekend was a long weekend in school, so we were able to take an early flight to Coron from Manila on a Friday.

We were on-time!

We were picked up at the Busuanga Airport by our friend and fellow birder, Sir Chin, who owns the Darayonan Lodge in Coron where we would be staying for the weekend. We hadn't taken twenty steps from the airport lobby when Sir Chin pointed out some Scaly-breasted Munias busy building a nest in a low palm tree. Looks like it was going to be a birdy day!

We boarded the van and started our trip to town. The airport is inside the Yulo King Ranch (YKR)  and is already a very birdy area! Sir Chin was telling us about the birds he has seen and photographed in the area including the Changeable Hawk-Eagle. He told us to scan the area for it and of course, other birds. Sir Chin spotted something perched on one of the fences and, it was our lucky day!!! A Changeable Hawk-Eagle sat on a wooden fence out in the open, in the middle of a field. Binocs and cameras were brought out and we managed a few shots before the large raptor flew over the field and perched on a leafless tree.

I took this shot from inside the van, through the tinted window =)

The raptor stayed on its perch but was too far for good photos. So we proceeded to Darayonan to check in and leave our things and prepare for the "official" start of our birding trip in Capayas Creek.

We arrived in the Capayas Bird Reserve a little past 9am and proceeded to the hut beside the actual creek where the kingfishers can be seen. The "3 kings" of Capayas are the Blue-eared Kingfisher, the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, and the Ruddy Kingfisher. I've seen them all before on previous trips to Coron but they would all be (birthday) lifers for Djop. 

As we approached the hut, Sir Chin pointed out a Rufous-backed Kingfisher already perched under the bamboo just in front of us! I managed one shot before the brightly-colored bird flew off downstream.

First "king" of the trip!
We set up our gear and waited for the kingfisher to come back. While waiting, some birds flew among the trees above the hut and we could hear flowerpeckers and sunbirds around us. We were joined by Kuya Erwin, the resident bird guide in Capayas. He called us to the area in front of his house (a few steps away from our hut) where flowerpeckers, bulbuls, and sunbirds were feeding in the trees and flowers.

Male Palawan Flowerpecker
Soon the feeding frenzy died down and we returned to our stakeout for the kingfishers. Kuya Erwin spotted something in the trees and excitedly pointed out a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha! I honestly did not expect to get any more lifers on this trip... but I did!!!

I didn't expect any lifers for myself on this trip but I got two already
on our first day!
The malkoha moved to the inner branches of the mango tree and stayed hidden for some time before flying off. We returned to the hut again and waited for the kingfishers to show.  An Ashy Drongo was nice enough to perch low and close to us while we waited and had breakfast.

I love its fishtail =)
There was some movement in the bamboo grove in front of us and a White-bellied Munia (!) came out to perch for a few seconds. It wasn't a lifer for me but I've always wanted to see it again after my very brief and unsatisfactory first encounter with it some years back.

This time I got great views! But an unsatisfactory shot 😅
After some time, and a quick check back at Kuya Erwin's house, the Rufous-backed Kingfisher returned but stayed partially hidden. It stayed above the banks on the same side as the hut, making it extra hard to spot and photograph.

Quite a shy bird, with a flair for dramatic poses

It was almost noon time and so far we've only had sightings of the Rufous-backed Kingfisher. We had our lunch in the hut and after was able to photograph some Yellow-throated Leafbirds and Ashy-fronted Bulbuls just outside Kuya Erwin's house. More handsome Palawan Flowerpeckers also showed very well =)

Yellow-throated Leafbirds are always a delight to see 

Ashy-fronted Bulbul

Such a handsome flowerpecker!!!

After lunch, we continued our stakeout for the kings when a handsome Black-naped Monarch appeared in the trees in front of me. It was quite dark and the bird was very skittish so I just managed a couple of shots, both of which were terribly blurred 😢

This would've been a good shot 😢
(I love the bird's bright blue legs though 😁)

When the kingfishers didn't show, we decided to walk to the area where the Ruddy Kingfisher could be seen. Djop, Kuya Erwin, and Anthony went in deeper in the trail parallel to the creek and spotted the Ruddy Kingfisher but it flew off quickly. They did see a male and female Palawan Blue Flycatcher which would have been a lifer for me but, due to my usual laziness, I missed.

As we walked back to the hut, Kuya Erwin managed to spot the Ruddy Kingfisher perched partially hidden in a thick bamboo grove. It stayed quite long but it was getting dark already and its perch not so good for photographs.
  
Ruddy Kingfisher: King Number 2
We walked back to the hut but stopped along the way when we were surrounded by the noisy calls of a group of Northern Palawan Tree Squirrels, locally called bising. We could see some of them on the tree trunks, busy flicking their tails as they called around us. 

We arrived at the hut to find a male Blue-eared Kingfisher perched close to the water, hunting for food in the creek! To our delight, it was soon joined by a female!!! It was already 5PM and the sun was beginning to set when we saw the third king of Capayas. 
  
Male (left) and female (right, with more red on the bill)
Blue-eared Kingfishers.
We got the 3 kings on our first day in Coron! Yay!
The pair soon flew into the bamboo grove unseen and we started to pack up for the day. It was quite hard to believe that we had just arrived that same morning because we saw quite a lot of birds in just a small area and I got some unexpected lifers too! We boarded the van and headed back to Darayonan for a well-deserved rest and a pre-birthday dinner for the birthday boy 😊

To be continued...

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