Garden to Forest Birding

There are some lucky birders that have a very bird-y backyard or garden or work very near a wonderful birding site. These places have fruiting and flowering trees and plants that attract birds and make for a relaxed and wonderful birding experience in their homes or offices. 

Last weekend, I found myself birding in the garden of Prof Tirso in Los Banos and in JC's office "front yard" - Mt. Makiling and the Makiling Botanic Gardens.

Secret Garden

Prof Tirso has been accommodating many groups of birders in his home in Los Banos for the past few weeks - us included. We all came to see the Purple-throated Sunbirds that have frequented the blooms of the ornamental banana plants in his garden. When I went the first time, I did not bring my birding bag which had my binoculars and camera and just sat and enjoyed the company that day. This time, I had my binoculars freshly cleaned and my camera's battery fully charged!

Djop and I arrived at Prof Tirso's "secret garden" and joined Tito Bob and Tita Cynthia, Wenxing, and Peter who had also driven up for the sunbird. It was quite a wait but we were happy with the sightings we got of a male, female, and immature male Purple-throated Sunbird

A male Purple-throated Sunbird

They would come to feed on the banana flower's nectar but only for a few
seconds before flying off again

A young male also came to feed, the colors of its feathers just barely
beginning to show
While waiting in between their appearances, we chatted with each other and entertained ourselves with the many beautiful butterflies flitting around the plants in the garden. Some Yellow-vented Bulbuls and Eurasian Tree Sparrows also fed around the garden and a Coppersmith Barbet also made a brief visit. We had some flyby Large-billed Crows and a single White-throated Kingfisher too. A very chubby skink also showed itself to us just below the banana plants.

Djop and I stayed for lunch with Ninong Prof while the rest of our friends said their goodbyes and tried their luck at the APEC fields. After lunch, only the young male sunbird showed and as the skies grew darker with rain clouds, we said our thanks to Prof and went on our way.

Mt. Makiling and Makiling Botanic Gardens

The following day, we were joined by Willem, Nikdye, and JC. We had our breakfast at the TREES Hostel and hoped for some sunbirds to show. Sadly, most of the banana plants had fallen due to the bad weather and only a single un-open blossom was there. We spotted a small group of Luzon Hornbills in some far away trees but that was all the bird activity in the area. We chatted a bit with Kuya Danny, the caretaker and after, set off for the Mt. Makiling trail. 

We were hoping to see a Philippine Trogon! Was that too much to ask? ;)

Visitor Registration center of the Mt. Makiling Trail where you have to log in,
pay the entrance fee, and leave a valid ID.
As we went up the trail, we could hear the hornbills calling around us. We encountered some Guaiabero's high up a tree but that was about it for bird sightings. Thankfully I was in good company and I learned a lot about plants, insects, spiders, lizards and more that morning =)

We turned into the trail towards the Flat Rocks. We encountered a big flock of Luzon Hornbills in a noisy feeding frenzy a number of times but we never got long, good, out-in-the-open views. So we just enjoyed being surrounded by the noisy hornbills.

Along the trail to the Flat Rocks
My one and only shot of a female Luzon Hornbill from that morning
We (or more accurately THEY) discovered a lot more along the forest floor: worms frogs, and longhorn beetles kept the walk very interesting in the absence of birds.

Spot the frog

Djop photographing the large Longhorn Beetle on a rock

This was the beetle, a Mango Longhorn Beetle Batocera rubus
Thank you, JC for the ID!
We reached the Flat Rocks at the end of the trail and after a short rest and survey of the area, we started our walk back out. 

Just before exiting the trail, JC and Willem spotted a Forest Dragon and everyone got excited (even me because it was my first time to encounter one!) We spent some time photographing it and it obliged, not moving from its position up a large tree trunk.

Forest Dragon
Gonocephalus sp.
We exited the trail and had a taho break at the entrance before transferring to the Makiling Botanic Gardens.

It wasn't a birdy day for us that morning: no sunbirds, no kingfisher, no birds basically... save for a lone Spotted Wood Kingfisher that Willem saw but flew before we could all spot it. We did see more butterflies and spiders though, and those kept us entertained.

JC pointed out this hoya

Lots of bird spiders along the trail

This butterfly enjoyed its salty snack ;)

First time I've photographed a birdwing!
As we headed back to the gate, we took a short break and waited for some sunbirds to show among some flowering ornamental banana plants. Still no birds for us so we decided to call it a morning and have lunch. It wasn't as birdy as we all hoped it would be, but as always, the good company made the morning a great one. We ended our morning with a yummy Thai lunch and ice cream for dessert. 

We'll be back, Makiling, and we'll see all them birds next time 😊