Pre-Labor Day La Mesa

Ended April with a full morning well-spent in La Mesa Ecopark.

The Colasisis were up and about in the parking lot...

and the Ashy Thrushes were in a sing-song mood (so were the Hooded Pittas and the Asian Koel!)

The Lowland White-eyes were busy building nests...

and the Black-naped Orioles were flying about.

Some Brown Shrikes still made an appearance...

and some Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers were busy feeding.

A Lipote tree was heavy with fruit...

... and the trail was pretty quiet and mostly human-free.

The White-throated Kingfisher was in its usual area...

... and a Philippine Coucal came out from skulking.

It was a VERY hot day but cooled down with crema de leche at Mang Jose.

'Til our next visit, La Mesa! Next time, hopefully, for a full day =)

Afternoon Zebra, Pacific, and Scops

It was such a hot afternoon but thankfully UP Diliman is still very green with trees, providing shade and respite from the searing rays of the sun. While waiting for my friends, I checked out the native trees in the Marine Science Institute (MSI) area. There were quite a lot and I was grateful for the nameplates identifying them for me. I was able to find the Balai Lamok/Salingbobong (still very young, flowerless, and leafless) sprouting new leaves at the ends of its branches. There weren't much birds, given the heat, but I could hear orioles, kingfishers, Colasisi, and sunbirds calling. A lone Zebra Dove foraged quietly on the dry ground while Eurasian Tree Sparrows bathed in the dust.

Zebra Dove, one of the few birds out in the mid-afternoon heat

As I walked past the building, I saw fellow birdwatcher Diuvs in the lobby. He pointed out some Pacific Swallows and we were happy to see three young birds being fed by their parents!

Young Pacific Swallows waiting for their next meal!

After a short chat, Diuvs returned to work and I trudged onwards.  I was happy to see some Katmon plants with some buds and a few flowers, but the flowers were starting to dry up already. I'll have to go back soon and check when the buds have opened as I've never really seen Katmon flowers in full bloom yet.

I soon spotted Nico and we soon spotted Jon. After a very short discussion about trees (and our lack of knowledge about them), we proceeded to find the Philippine Scops Owl. Jon had spotted it earlier and pointed the juvenile owl to us, high up on its tangled perch.

Sleepy owl...
... gave us a stare...
... before going back to sleep.

We left the owl to get some more sleep and walked around a bit more hoping for more birds. When we found none, we all decided it was time to wind down with coffee and donuts =)

The Falcons Around Us

Who would’ve thought there were so many falcons in the city? Every migration season, reports of Peregrine Falcon sightings in the metro would come in. Usually these reports would be from the same places: in a university, near a rotunda, in a busy business district.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered to help Trinket and Adri with a bird walk in the Ateneo campus in Quezon City. Part of the route was checking out if the Peregrine Falcon was back in the tower it called its home for a few months each year. We quickly spotted the raptor perched on the tower, and Abby and I even saw it regurgitate a pellet! So cool! It was the first time I saw that! Too bad the pellet did not fall all the way down to the ground…

Yearly visitor on campus

Abby, who organized the bird walk, and some of the students inspected the surrounding area and found a lot of “wings.” Literally, discarded wings of the Peregrine Falcon’s prey. There were more than a dozen pigeon wings and headless bodies littering the grass around the tower and one student even found a head!

A lot of headless pigeons on the grass
We found one head!

A few days after the bird walk, I got a text from Trinket asking me if the GMA Tower was visible from our house (we live in the same area) and she said there was a Peregrine Falcon on the tower! I quickly set up my humble scope and ran outside the house to scan the only tower visible from our place. I had no idea if it was the GMA tower she was referring to, but I scanned anyway. I stood in the middle of the road, hair disheveled and without a care for what I was wearing, and prayed that I would find it.

After a few minutes, I saw it. There was a Peregrine Falcon on the tower! I quickly took a photo, no matter how bad it was, and sent it to Trinket and Adri. It was on a different perch from the one in their photo. Their comment: it looked like it was on a completely different tower! 

This was the best photo I could manage!
Do you see the Peregrine Falcon?

Could it be a different bird? We would like to think so! We were looking at our respective towers and falcons almost at the exact same time, which would mean there were two birds! We still have to prove that we have two different Peregrine Falcons in our neighborhood, but it would be so cool if that is indeed the case. What are the chances of that happening, and in those circumstances?! =)

I’ve scanned “my” tower a couple of times on different days, braving the broiling Manila heat, but I haven't spotted the falcon again. I’ll try again today and I hope it will be there on the tower.

PS On a recent boat ride along Manila Bay, our group also saw a Peregrine Falcon among the fish pens! So many falcons to see!

Paying It Forward

It was on April 09, 2010 that I joined my first birdwatching trip with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) in UP Diliman. I remember Mike pointing out my first bird on that trip: a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker climbing a kapok tree in the NIGS area. The tree is no longer there and a building has taken its place, but I will always remember that afternoon with fondness.

There are other kapok trees on campus,
but I still remember THAT other one

Six years has passed and I found myself with a perfect chance to "pay it forward" as a celebration of my sixth year as a birder: I volunteered to guide (mostly) first-time birdwatchers in UP Diliman!

I met up with the group on the steps of the main library and it was nice seeing familiar faces who've signed up for the activity. We walked to pick up their binoculars and saw Mike gesturing us to look through the scope. There was a nest of a Black-naped Oriole atop a tall tree with a chick peeping out! The parent would perch on the nest to feed the chick before flying off again.

Meeting place

It was a great way to start the morning! We divided the group into two and went our separate ways. Our group made its way to the oval and spent some time there spotting quite a number of birds: Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Collared Kingfisher, Pied Triller, Lowland White-eyes, and another nest! A pair of Golden-bellied Gerygones were flitting in and out of their nest that looked like a hanging clump of dirt!

It's a messy but well-camouflaged nest ;)

We were also treated to a low-flying flock of egrets in v-formation as well as a big flock of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters that flew over our group. We continued our walk and headed to the lagoon. Some of us in the group were able to spot a Yellow Bittern sitting in the grass by the water's edge but it quickly disappeared after a couple of minutes. Moving along, we spotted Brown Shrikes, a Grey Wagtail, and Yellow-vented Bulbuls.

More birds in the lagoon area

We made our way out of the lagoon area and took some time admiring the flowering Salingbobog tree (aka Balai Lamok.) The flowers are now changing from white to yellow!

This native tree only blooms for around two weeks,
once a year!
Beautiful blooms!

We went to the other side of the oval and checked out the usual roosting site of the Philippine Nightjar. The bird was there on its usual tree, seemingly unaffected by the big fire that gutted the building just beside it a little more than a week ago.

Philippine Nightjar, fast asleep
We made a last stop to see the Blue Rock Thrush, which has become a yearly visitor in the campus from since I started birding. The handsome thrush did not disappoint and stood tall on a high branch as the group observed it through the spotting scope.

We walked back to the parking area and ended the activity. It was a good 2 1/2 hours well-spent! I wish I was able to chat with more people but I'm sure I'll be seeing some of them again soon ;)

Group pic!
Photo from Karen O.
After we said goodbye to the group, Fredd, Karen, and I made the birdlist while having a late breakfast of waffles and burgers. The three of us are birding batchmates, having joined the club in 2010. It was such a great way to celebrate and I went home with my heart full and very very happy to have paid it forward (and possibly infecting other people with the highly addictive birding bug!) =)

Me, Karen, and Fredd: 6-year old birders!
Waffles and bird lists

Traversing Manila Bay: From Navotas to Pampanga

I signed up to join a trip led by Arne J. to gather bird data in the northern part of Manila Bay. The plan was to take a boat and do a bird survey from Navotas and go all the way to Sasmuan in Pampanga. We boarded our boat at the Batasan River in Navotas and made our way out to the bay.

Happy (and dry) birders: Arne, Tinggay, me, Christian, Jasmin, and Ivan
Photo from Tinggay Cinco
Starting point in Navotas

We took a big motorized boat and a smaller paddle boat trailed behind us so that some of us could enter smaller and shallower areas to survey.

The birds were coming out as we made our way along the river. Collared Kingfishers, Common Sandpipers, Little Egrets, and Whiskered Terns could be seen on both sides of the river. 

Collared Kingfisher
Common Sandpiper
Whiskered Tern

Black-crowned Night Herons flew overhead and there were quite a number of Zebra Doves that perched on the mangroves and old structures along the river banks.

We scanned and counted all the birds we could spot from the boat, which was a challenge especially at the start when I had to get accustomed to the continuous movement while looking through my binoculars. The fish pens were carefully scanned for the birds perched atop the bamboo poles. Jasmin was really good at it ;)

Most were Whiskered Terns in varying plumage

We stopped at an old church in Baluarte in Obando, Bulacan. Arne told us that they've surveyed the area from that spot before and they saw large numbers of waders then.

Chapel at Baluarte
Arne scanning for more birds

There weren't so many birds in the area but Arne did spot a Peregrine Falcon flying among the fish pens and Ivan was able to put it on the scope when it perched!

We clambered back into our boat and headed out to sea again. We would stop at certain points to scan and count birds. In one area, the usual Whiskered Terns on bamboo were replaced with much bigger Whimbrels!

Chunkier Whimbrels on the poles
First time to see them perched like this!

Further along the coast, we could see a small sandbar with lots of waders. The water was too shallow for the big boat so Christian, Ivan, and Jasmin got on the smaller paddle boat to get closer to the sandbar and count the birds there.

On the smaller paddle boat through shallow waters
Much closer vantage point to count the waders

They were able to spot Lesser Sand Plovers, most in their rufous breeding plumage, Asian Golden Plovers, more Whimbrels, more Whiskered Terns, and Jasmin and Ivan's first lifer: Ruddy Turnstone. After their count, they headed back to the boat and we were on our way again. We stopped at a broken sea wall and scanned the exposed land and shallow waters behind it.

Counting more birds

I went up on the wall to take a look through the scope and see the Lesser Sand Plovers in their breeding plumage for the first time. I clambered back into the big boat just when Christian told us there were Little Terns! I admit there was a lot of hesitancy to climb back on the wall for this lifer but I eventually did. It was worth it =)

We all got back in the boat and continued to scan the bamboo poles. We were happy to see a number of Greater Crested Terns among the Whiskered Terns! They are such funky looking birds!

Larger Greater Crested Tern
among the smaller Whiskered Terns
Funky tern! =)

We continued this process whenever we would spot large groups of waders on rocks, bamboo poles, or sand bars.

Arne, Christian, and Ivan getting really close to a group of waders
on some exposed rocks
Sand Plovers and Little Terns on the rocks

We passed by large rocks jutting out of the water. A lot of them had Little Terns perched on them giving me really good views of my lifer for the day!

Pretty Little Terns! I didn't really have to clamber back on the seawall
to see them =P
Ruddy Turnstone
Pacific Golden Plover

We made it all the way to Bulacan and docked for lunch in Paombong. After lunch, we got back on the boat and made our way to the Pampanga River mouth. It was interesting since I've been to that area but through the road passing through Macabebe and Masantol and this time we were approaching the area from the sea!

Our last stop for the trip

We entered the river and counted the birds perched on exposed slabs of concrete. Jasmin, Arne, Christian, and Ivan got on the paddle boat to go on shore to count the birds by the road while Tinggay and I stayed in the big boat.

Black-headed Gull with lots of Whiskered Terns

When the others came back (after they saw a possible Lesser Black-backed Gull!) we made our way back to sea and started our trip back to Navotas. That trip was very wet! The winds picked up as we sped through the bumpy sea causing big waves to come into the boat, soaking us. Some engine trouble made the trip a bit more longer but soon we entered the steady and calm waters of the Batasan River.

It was a tiring and hot day for us at sea which we ended very wet but we were all still smiling and happy to be back on dry land. Arne still has the rest of Manila Bay to survey, but I'm glad I was able to help out even in a tiny way.
Wet, tired, but happy birders =)
Photo from Tinggay Cinco