Round and Round in La Mesa

The last time I was in La Mesa, I went alone on my birthday and to be honest, it didn't turn out so well. No birds, lots of tears, and full of sad thoughts. So, I stayed away.

Two months after, I found myself in the ecopark again, and this time I was happy. 

I accompanied fellow birders from Palawan, Erickson and Philip, on their first trip to LMEP. We were all hoping to see the pair of Spotted Wood Kingfishers which have been seen in the park the past few days, and of course the other birds to see there. I didn't have my camera with me, so all bird photos in this post are courtesy of Erickson (thank you again, Erickson!)

The sky was overcast when we arrived in the park, but thankfully we didn't get rained out that morning. Upon entering the trail, a Hooded Pitta was already hopping around, showing flashes of its aqua wing patch through the vegetation. 

As we rounded the bend, we saw a group of photographers already positioned on the trail. When I saw they weren't shooting anything, I knew we missed the kingfisher. I said a silent prayer for it to come back. We greeted each other, made introductions, and chatted a bit before our trio decided to walk further in the trail and try to spot the female kingfisher in another area of the trail. 

We didn't see it but a very friendly Slaty-legged Crake crossed the trail right in front of us! It was so close I managed a blurry shot of it with my phone camera!

Spot the blurry crake!

There wasn't much bird activity then, save for some singing Mangrove Blue Flycatchers and Grey-backed Tailorbirds, so we decided to head back to the kingfisher's spot. As we approached, we saw the photographers snapping away! The Spotted Wood Kingfisher was back!

Male Spotted Wood Kingfisher.
Photo by Erickson Tabayag

My gosh, it took me so long to spot it! Four, maybe five, friends were pointing it out to me and I couldn't spot it! Talk about being rusty... I suddenly missed the waders, out in the open on vacant mudflats or rice fields. But suddenly, I got my birding eyes back and I saw it. =)

The kingfisher showed wonderfully and as I got my fill of observing the bird through my binoculars, the others filled up their memory cards with awesome shots. Erickson, Philip, and I walked around the trail with Anthony B. to try and spot the Ashy Thrush. We soon heard one singing and Anthony was able to spot a singing thrush on a high perch. The thrush flew to a different perch and we enjoyed more of its singing.

Ashy Thrush
Photo by Erickson Tabayag

After a few seconds, it was followed by another Ashy Thrush and we were treated to a thrush sing-off! The smaller one eventually made a quiet exit, while the "winner" continued its song as we walked away.

Singing Ashy Thrush and the winner of the sing-off
Photo by Erickson Tabayag

We walked around the trail again and spotted a Philippine Pied Fantail crossing the trail back and forth. As we headed back to the area of the Spotted Wood Kingfisher, we heard the one-note call of a Hooded Pitta and found ourselves face-to-face with an immature Hooded Pitta.

Immature Hooded Pitta
Photo by Erickson Tabayag

It stayed a while on its perch while the adult pitta hopped in the background. Finally, the young bird heeded the call of its parent, and flew off to join it.

We joined the photographers again, and were treated to views of the Spotted Wood Kingfisher looking for prey on the ground before flying up again to its perch. 

Another perch of the male Spotted Wood Kingfisher
Photo by Erickson Tabayag

After some more shots, we decided to go around the trail completely. The surroundings became very quite as we walked the trail and we didn't see any other birds except for a skulking Grey-backed Tailorbird.

We completed the small trail of the mini-forest and as we started to head out, were side-tracked by an immature Ashy Thrush, which called and preened at the very edge of the trail's vegetation.

Immature Ashy Thrush making its amusing "brrrrrrr" call
Photo by Erickson Tabayag

It even hopped closer to us and posed for a full frontal shot!

Immature Ashy Thrush
Photo by Erickson Tabayag

Just like the Hooded Pittas, the parent thrush hopped around in the background, and the younger bird flew to join it. That was our cue to exit the trail. We did a number of rounds and saw different birds each time, although there is definitely more to be seen. On our way out, we made a quick climb to the dam, which was my first time ever to do that!

View from the top!

As I looked down at all the greenery from the top of the steps, I felt happy. It was very different from the last time I was in the park and it felt good.  It was a really fun morning spent birding, meeting old friends and making new ones, plus getting great views of awesome birds. =)