Have Fruiting Tree, Will Bird

Jops and I had a few hours in the morning to go birding in the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) campus. The trip was initially to check out a property of theirs in Los Banos, so we took the opportunity to sneak some birding hours in the campus before visiting the farm. There are quite a number of spots we could visit, but we chose to go to TREES (Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability) for some easy dude birding in their area. I silently prayed for the large ficus tree in front of the hostel to be fruiting.

As soon as Jops parked, I had to look up to the heavens, return God's smile, and say a short prayer of thanks for all the bright orange, ripe fruits adorning the ficus tree. "It's fruiting!" I exclaimed to Jops and his cousin Alex, who came along on this trip. We immediately got out of the car and scanned the tree. It was fruiting all right!

The ficus tree was full of these ripe, orange berries! 

The TREES caretaker, Kuya Danny, passed by and told us to patiently wait for the birds to come feast on the fruits. He told us of a flock of Tarictics that came in yesterday, fighting over the berries! We positioned ourselves in the elevated cement "platform" facing the tree and waited. 

My dude birding "work station" =)

After a few minutes of waiting, we started hearing bird calls. A couple of Balicassiaos chased each other in the trees in front of us. Then a Coppersmith Barbet perched on the dead tree...

... followed by another...

... until there were as many as five Barbets perched on the trunk! They would fly from their perch to feed on the ficus tree, and would fly back to perch again. A couple of times, they were joined by an Orange-bellied Flowerpecker.

Digiscoped Orange-bellied Flowerpecker perched on one of the branches of the dead tree.

Also feasting on the ripe fruits were Red-keeled Flowerpeckers and Colasisis. We also saw a pretty Guaiabero perch quite close to us! Small flocks of noisy Stripe-headed Rhabdornises would also come and go, singing loudly from a nearby caimito (star apple) tree.

While looking at the noisy flock, I spotted something black and big perch on a tree further from us. A female Luzon Hornbill!

A blurry digiscoped photo of a female Tarictic Horbill (Luzon Hornbill) perched on a dark, dense part of the trees.

The Tarictic then flew to the right... closer to the fruiting ficus! We moved to a better vantage point and saw their flock: around seven Hornbills (males and females) hopping around the tree, eating the berries!

A male Tarictic Hornbill eating the berries of the ficus tree (digiscoped).

They ate a bit noisily, making their honking calls while they plucked the berries off the tree. Then, one by one, they dove downwards from the tree, disappearing from sight. Seeing Hornbills is always such a treat! 

When they didn't come back in the minutes that followed, we took that as our cue to pack up and head to our next, and primary, destination for the morning. But our Los Banos adventure did not stop there!

To be continued...

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