A Good Day for Hornbills

The weather forecast predicted fair weather this long weekend but we birded in gloomy, foggy, rainy Mt. Palay-Palay this morning.

We were literally birding IN the fog!

But, despite the dreary ambiance, Jops, Jun, Mark Jason, Clemence, and I trudged forward and did our best to spot birds and enjoy the gaps in the rain. We were greeted early on by a Long-tailed Shrike and a male Pied Bushchat. We also spotted some Coletos, Philippine Cuckoo-Doves and a White-throated Kingfisher.

Birding in the rain.
When the rain got a bit stronger, we made a pit stop at the DENR station (Department of Environment and Natural Resources.) We were spotting a flock of Elegant Tits when Mark Jason told us he heard a Sooty Woodpecker calling. The rest of us joined him, listening for the telephone-like trilling of the woodpecker. After a few minutes, we spotted it crouched on a branch, opening its bill to release the ringing notes of its call. Really a great bird to see!

We moved further ahead and encountered a big flock of Tarictic Hornbills! We encountered another large flock later on during the morning, making our total Tarictic count for the morning 30!

These three male Tarictic Hornbills were part of the second flock we saw this morning.

We spent some time with the Tarictics, also enjoying a couple of very wet and hungry Coppersmith Barbets feeding on some berries, joined by some noisy Philippine Bulbuls.

We birded as long as the weather allowed, also wishing for the Mt. Palay-Palay "regulars" to show themselves, but none did. The rain was starting to fall harder and harder and we decided to head back down.

Bare tree waiting for the Philippine Falconets...

As we headed back home, we weren't that ecstatic with another rained-out birding adventure, but we had to admit it was a great day for hornbills. =)

Note: As we drove home to Manila, we passed by some rice paddies along the high way and guess what we saw? WADERS! We stopped to spot, ID, and count them and we saw some Wood Sandpipers, Little Ringed-Plovers, and Rufous-necked Stints! The waders are coming! Yay!

We Were Fledged Too

When our friend Mark Jason told us that he was the Philippine ambassador for Pledge to Fledge, the first thing I thought of was "Cool!" and secondly "The WBCP is doing just that!"

Basically, Pledge to Fledge is the flagship project of Global Birding Initiative. Its goal is to share and promote birdwatching by encouraging birders to take people out and go birding. The pledge is to fledge a new birder =)

The WBCP has been doing that through the guided birdwatching trips it conducts as often as possible. Jops and I discovered the wonders of birding and became members of the club after joining a guided trip in UP Diliman last April 9, 2010. We haven't stopped birding since =)

Photo from our first guided trip!
Photo by Jun Osano.
Jops and I, together with members of the WBCP, volunteer as often as we can to share the joys of birdwatching through guided trips. It is our way of "fledging" new birders, sharing the wonders of birding, and getting people to care more about the environment.

Now that there is a campaign for this, I paused and thought about who I've "fledged." Together with the club, we've fledged quite a number of new birders and gained new friends. I also realized that I've already fledged my mom! She already knows how to ID the calls of the Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Black-naped Oriole, Collared Kingfisher, and Colasisi! I think my dad was a birder before me, being familiar with some birds from his childhood in Tarlac.

I brought my brother Mark, sister Nicole, and her boyfriend Vinchi birding in La Mesa Ecopark last year and I think they enjoyed it =)

My sister Nicole and Vinchi spotting a lifer at the La Mesa Ecopark.

I think I've fledged my brother. When he is on out of town trips for work, he actually gives me a call when he spots a bird and describes its field marks to me over the phone. Jops and I owe him and his high school barkada a birding trip. We also owe Nicole and Vinchi a birding trip to Subic soon =)

The First International Pledge to Fledge campaign is set on August 24-26, 2012. Jops, Mark, and I will be conducting a guided trip on August 25 at the UP Diliman campus as our pledge to fledge some new birders. Hope you can join us! Or better yet, go and fledge a new birder of your own =)

You can also sign the online petition here. =)

A Break from the Rain

The monsoon rains have been unrelenting. For days, Manila and many neighboring provinces suffered torrential rains and heavy flooding. Many people remain in evacuation centers and many areas are still submerged in floodwater. The PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration) issued weather forecasts predicting improved weather conditions starting Thursday. At first, I was skeptical, I woke up to a very gloomy morning and experienced a heavy downpour around 10AM.

However, towards noon, the sun started shining through the dense Habagat clouds. When Jops picked me up in the afternoon, he suggested we drop by the UP Diliman campus and take advantage of this pocket of good weather for some birding.

The UP Oval was awash with sunlight. Joggers and bikers had already started their rounds,
also taking advantage of the pocket of sun.

We parked and started our afternoon walk in the Beta Epsilon walkway. Classes were suspended for the day and the usually busy path was empty. 

Entering the Beta Ep. walkway from the parking lot.
It was nice and quiet in the area. We could hear bird song and the flow of water from the small creek running through the path. We could hear the resident Pied Fantails calling from the bamboo beside the water. There were some movements in the trees, a couple of Golden-bellied Flyeaters were flitting from branch to branch before flying off to another tree. Collared Kingfishers called from the area close to the library.

The small creek running across the path.

The Beta Way, dappled in sunlight, was a great sight after all that rain.

We reached the other end of the walkway and decided to check out the lagoon. Up in the acacia trees lining the road, we could hear Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers trilling away above us. A Colasisi came speeding above us, just passing through, its call fading as it flew farther away.

The lagoon area was being "renovated" and the work was still unfinished. They are building what looked to me as canals and the main lagoon has been planted with some lotus. The sound of flowing water drowned out the noise of cars and jeeps passing by. It was a comfort to know the sound of rushing water wasn't coming from an overflowing creek =P

Water flowing through the constructed canal. The lagoon in the
background already had lotus in it.

 As we made our way around the lagoon, we saw a couple of Zebra Doves, some Pied Trillers, and a big flock of very clean-looking Lowland White-eyes. The White-eyes flew noisily close to us before disappearing in the canopy above. We checked out the Vargas Museum but all we saw were Eurasian Tree Sparrows and more Zebra Doves.

Before heading to Katipunan, we decided to take a peek at Hardin ng Rosas. It has been a while since we last birded in the place. The area has been cleared, leaving much space exposed.

We were immediately greeted by a Common Moorhen, swimming in the pond and a White-breasted Waterhen would walk in and out from the lilies. We could see lots of swiftlets flying over a field in the distance and a Long-tailed Shrike posed proudly atop a bamboo pole. A small flock of munias flew past us. It was already getting dark so we packed up and drove away. It was nice revisiting UP for an afternoon of birding during the short break from the rain. But...

...towards 9PM, heavy downpour again. I really, really hope the weather clears up this weekend!

Habagat Birding

In the Philippines, the southwest monsoon winds are called Habagat. Starting during the summer months of May and June, warm winds sweep through the Philippines, bringing with it hot, humid weather and heavy rainfall. When the southwest monsoon ends towards September to October, cool winds from wintering Japan, China, and Siberia now blow into the country and is known as Amihan, or northeast monsoon. This wind brings little to no rainfall with moderate-temperature (cool) winds.

Now it is August and the Habagat is in "full-swing." Manila has been tormented the past week with strong rains and gusty winds, forcing people to stay indoors. More specifically, it has forced birders to stay indoors.

Having been in birding reclusion for weeks, Jops and I took our chances on a not-so-stormy Sunday morning. We headed to the La Mesa Ecopark to bird for a few hours before a scheduled meeting with the park administration. We invited some new birder friends to join us as well.

It was still very rainy and the park very wet. Thankfully, the strong winds have stopped!
We arrived at the park and met up with newly-fledged young birders Charles and Tristan, together with their parents and siblings, at 6:30 in the morning. We were instantly greeted with rain. We stood under one of the tents by the entrance and waited for the rain to stop. It did but would pour again after just a couple of minutes. The weather would remain like this until 8:00am. But at 8, we were blessed with a pocket of good weather and even some sunshine =)

We went on the trail and tried to spot the birds in the area. Some of us were able to see glimpses of the Ashy Ground Thrush. An Emerald Dove was seen foraging in the muddy ground and Red-bellied and Hooded Pittas kept calling from the vegetation. Some of us saw a male Mangrove Blue Flycatcher perched out in the open before flying away into the trees. We heard Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers, Colasisi, and Grey-backed Tailorbirds but did not see any. Further down the trail, we saw a lone raptor fly in a large circle above us.

Strong rain began to fall and we decided to leave the trail. As we walked back to the main park, the rain really fell hard, soaking us.

We didn't see many birds, but it was a still good birding morning
even though we got rained out. 

We said our goodbyes to our friends and proceeded to the administration building where we met up with Adri and Trinket for the meeting. We stayed and chatted with LMEP's Sir Jodick and Sir Randy, while the weather changed from dark to rainy to fair to sunny and back to rainy again. During a break in the rain, the sun shone for a few minutes and Sir Randy was able to spot two White-eared Brown Doves feeding on an aratiles tree just opposite the administration building. We managed to put them on the scope and observe them hungrily feeding on the unripe fruits and flowers.

White-eared Brown Dove on the aratiles tree.

When the birds flew off, we also said our goodbyes to Sir Jodick and Sir Randy. Jops, Adri, Trinket, and I decided to check out the spill way before heading home. The spill way looked a lot "wetter" than usual, given  the rainy weather, but there were still large grassy portions. Here we saw a lone Little Heron, patiently waiting for fish from a steady flow of water.

A huge flock of Lowland White-eyes flew noisily from one tree to the next, chasing away a Pied Fantail in their boisterous feeding frenzy. Trinket then spotted a Barred Rail taking a leisurely bath in a puddle in the middle of the spillway. It took its time dipping in the water and shaking itself dry, walking away but coming back to bathe again!

When the rail walked away, so did we birders. The grumble in our stomachs told us it was lunch time already and the darkening sky threatened rain. So, our Sunday morning birding did not yield so many birds due to the rainy weather. I guess for the following weeks, birding will be like this: Habagat birding or no birding at all.