Surprises for the Birthday Boy: Coron Day 2

It was Djop's birthday on our second day in Coron and we were up and ready to go at 5:30am! Great early start to celebrate his birthday! 😉 We were going back to Capayas Creek after an amazing first day birding in the area. We arrived at the site and immediately set up in the hut for the day. The Blue-eared Kingfishers were in the same spot we saw them the previous day but they kept to the shadows. We were waiting for them to show better when we were distracted by the call of a Blue Paradise Flycatcher

Kuya Erwin led us closer to where the bird was calling and we saw two of them flying around some low trees. I was able to get some nice views through my binoculars but the birds did not come out for any photos. While we were looking at the flycatcher, Sir Chin was photographing a juvenile Hooded Pitta that was busy preening on a low branch. It was soon joined by an adult before they flew off.

Many birds were calling around us, Palawan Flowerpeckers, Olive-backed Sunbirds, Ashy-fronted Bulbuls, but not many showed. A couple of Blue-headed Raquet-tails made their presence heard as they flew above us. One perched on a nearby tree but did not come out to show itself. I distracted myself with a beautiful caterpillar busy munching on a leaf.

We decided to walk to the other side of the road and search for more birds there. We realized Djop hasn't been able to get good views and any photos of the White-vented Shama, one of the more common birds in Coron! Unacceptable!

Well, the birthday boy was in for a surprise because we hadn't even reached the main road when we were treated to nice long views of a singing White-vented Shama! We also got another one just across the road!


We walked further down the road while Black-naped Orioles flew around the canopy of trees above us. We were hoping for better views of the Rufous-backed Kingfisher that only showed briefly the previous day. We got to the small bridge and spotted a Grey Wagtail and a Common Kingfisher along the banks of the creek.

Djop and Kuya Erwin went exploring for the kingfisher while Sir Chin and I waited by the river bank. We were chatting when a small orange bird flew across the water to land unseen in the bamboo across us! Rufous-backed Kingfsher! We were still trying to spot the bird when it flew back to our side of the creek and towards the area where Djop and Kuya Erwin were. We gingerly made our way to where they were and they pointed out a juvenile Rufous-backed Kingfisher! They told us it was being fed by an adult bird, which was probably the one Sir Chin and I saw by the creek! Another birthday surprise for the birthday boy! What a treat to be able to observe this kind of behavior!

Such a beautifully-colored bird 😍

The birds transferred to a more hidden perch but I was lucky enough to have found an opening in the foliage to witness the adult bringing food to the young one. I managed to get a short video too!

It started to drizzle soon after the kingfishers left, so we started walking back to the hut. We had to stop at the barangay hall when a light rain fell, and we compared notes and took some group photos 😁

Taking a break during the rainshower!
After this shot, Sir Chin's camera fell!!! 😨
Thankfully, no major damage! 

When the rain slowed down to a light drizzle, we made our way back to the hut for breakfast. The birds weren't so active but a Black-chinned Fruit Dove had its own breakfast on a nearby tree and the Black-naped Monarch made a brief appearance (so no picture hehe.)

It was a hazy, drizzly morning!

It was soon noon time and the Blue-eared Kingfishers were back in their usual spot. To our delight, they stayed for quite a long time, unperturbed by our presence.

This is my favorite shot of the Blue-eared Kingfisher. I like its pose 😊

We were having our lunch of chili crabs and steamed fish when a male Lovely Sunbird perched close to the hut! We quickly washed our chili crab-soaked hands and ran to our cameras but the bird had gone! Back to the crabs...

After lunch, we walked to the area near Kuya Erwin's house and chased a male Lovely Sunbird as it flitted around the trees. I hope Djop and Sir Chin got good shots because these were all I got:

Would've made an awesome photo 

Let's play: Guess the Sunbird!

Ashy-fronted Bulbuls and Yellow-throated Leafbirds also surrounded us, while a Blue-Paradise Flycatcher teased us by calling but not showing. We returned to the hut and enjoyed our views of the kingfishers diving for fish in the creek.

The pair of Blue-eared Kingfishers hunting for fish! We were treated to lots
of diving action and whack-the-fish action that morning.
 As I was observing the kingfishers, I was surprised to see a branch slither away. Slither?! Snake!

My friend Emerson identified this as
Dendrelaphis levitoni, a Palawan faunal region endemic

I excitedly pointed it out to Djop (another birthday surprise!) and Sir Chin, mainly so I had witnesses and people would believe I saw a snake and did not just imagine a branch moving 😂 But the snake stayed in view for a bit, allowing us to observe its beautiful patterns and movements before it disappeared among the rocks. So cool! It was actually our second snake of the trip. Djop saw a thin, bright green snake up a coconut tree the previous day. Bird activity died down in the late afternoon so we decided to pack up and head to Villa Khadine to check out the birds there.

We arrived in Villa Khadine where we were welcomed by Tita Gigi, the owner and friend of Sir Chin. They had spotted a Stork-billed Kingfisher earlier that day and we were hoping we could see it too.

At the entrance of Villa Khadine

Tita Gigi pointed out the spot where they had seen the kingfisher but there was a large group of Asian Glossy Starlings already settling to roost. We walked to the view deck and took in the view of the mangroves in the dwindling day light. So much green!!!

As we were taking photos, Djop suddenly pointed out a bird perched on a tall and very far tree. Looking through our bins... Chestnut-breasted Malkoha!

Another surprise sighting for the day!

There were two malkohas in the tree and they flew closer to us but stayed hidden. Tita Gigi invited us for coffee and we chatted about the birds they could see in the resort.
Thank you, Tita Gigi, for the welcome and the coffee!

We soon said our thank yous and goodbyes and walked to the van. It was a great birthday birding day and we were looking forward to a yummy celebratory dinner in Darayonan

But there was another surprise in store for the birthday boy! As we were approaching the van, a Spot-throated Flameback called loudly and flew above us and perched! It was too far and covered for good photos but we did get good views as it moved its head back and forth.

Last surprise of the day!

It was quickly getting dark so we said our goodbye to Tita Gigi and drove back to Darayonan. Little did we know that Sir Chin had another surprise for the birthday boy! 

At Darayonan, we shared a wonderful and delicious birthday dinner for Djop of adobo, shrimps, and lobsters!!! Plus a yummy chocolate birthday cake for dessert!

Yummy (and easy to shell) birthday lobsters!

With our stomachs and our hearts full, we finished our dinner and said our heartfelt thanks to our host (and ninong) 😊 We still had another exciting day ahead of us before our flight back to Manila!!!

Thank you, Ninong Chin!!! 😊
To be continued...

Three Kings (Plus More!) in Coron: Day 1

I celebrated my birthday this year ticking off one of my most sought after lifers, so I felt it was only fair to return the favor and also give a birthday gift of lifers. Thankfully, Djop's birthday weekend was a long weekend in school, so we were able to take an early flight to Coron from Manila on a Friday.

We were on-time!

We were picked up at the Busuanga Airport by our friend and fellow birder, Sir Chin, who owns the Darayonan Lodge in Coron where we would be staying for the weekend. We hadn't taken twenty steps from the airport lobby when Sir Chin pointed out some Scaly-breasted Munias busy building a nest in a low palm tree. Looks like it was going to be a birdy day!

We boarded the van and started our trip to town. The airport is inside the Yulo King Ranch (YKR)  and is already a very birdy area! Sir Chin was telling us about the birds he has seen and photographed in the area including the Changeable Hawk-Eagle. He told us to scan the area for it and of course, other birds. Sir Chin spotted something perched on one of the fences and, it was our lucky day!!! A Changeable Hawk-Eagle sat on a wooden fence out in the open, in the middle of a field. Binocs and cameras were brought out and we managed a few shots before the large raptor flew over the field and perched on a leafless tree.

I took this shot from inside the van, through the tinted window =)

The raptor stayed on its perch but was too far for good photos. So we proceeded to Darayonan to check in and leave our things and prepare for the "official" start of our birding trip in Capayas Creek.

We arrived in the Capayas Bird Reserve a little past 9am and proceeded to the hut beside the actual creek where the kingfishers can be seen. The "3 kings" of Capayas are the Blue-eared Kingfisher, the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, and the Ruddy Kingfisher. I've seen them all before on previous trips to Coron but they would all be (birthday) lifers for Djop. 

As we approached the hut, Sir Chin pointed out a Rufous-backed Kingfisher already perched under the bamboo just in front of us! I managed one shot before the brightly-colored bird flew off downstream.

First "king" of the trip!
We set up our gear and waited for the kingfisher to come back. While waiting, some birds flew among the trees above the hut and we could hear flowerpeckers and sunbirds around us. We were joined by Kuya Erwin, the resident bird guide in Capayas. He called us to the area in front of his house (a few steps away from our hut) where flowerpeckers, bulbuls, and sunbirds were feeding in the trees and flowers.

Male Palawan Flowerpecker
Soon the feeding frenzy died down and we returned to our stakeout for the kingfishers. Kuya Erwin spotted something in the trees and excitedly pointed out a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha! I honestly did not expect to get any more lifers on this trip... but I did!!!

I didn't expect any lifers for myself on this trip but I got two already
on our first day!
The malkoha moved to the inner branches of the mango tree and stayed hidden for some time before flying off. We returned to the hut again and waited for the kingfishers to show.  An Ashy Drongo was nice enough to perch low and close to us while we waited and had breakfast.

I love its fishtail =)
There was some movement in the bamboo grove in front of us and a White-bellied Munia (!) came out to perch for a few seconds. It wasn't a lifer for me but I've always wanted to see it again after my very brief and unsatisfactory first encounter with it some years back.

This time I got great views! But an unsatisfactory shot 😅
After some time, and a quick check back at Kuya Erwin's house, the Rufous-backed Kingfisher returned but stayed partially hidden. It stayed above the banks on the same side as the hut, making it extra hard to spot and photograph.

Quite a shy bird, with a flair for dramatic poses

It was almost noon time and so far we've only had sightings of the Rufous-backed Kingfisher. We had our lunch in the hut and after was able to photograph some Yellow-throated Leafbirds and Ashy-fronted Bulbuls just outside Kuya Erwin's house. More handsome Palawan Flowerpeckers also showed very well =)

Yellow-throated Leafbirds are always a delight to see 

Ashy-fronted Bulbul

Such a handsome flowerpecker!!!

After lunch, we continued our stakeout for the kings when a handsome Black-naped Monarch appeared in the trees in front of me. It was quite dark and the bird was very skittish so I just managed a couple of shots, both of which were terribly blurred 😢

This would've been a good shot 😢
(I love the bird's bright blue legs though 😁)

When the kingfishers didn't show, we decided to walk to the area where the Ruddy Kingfisher could be seen. Djop, Kuya Erwin, and Anthony went in deeper in the trail parallel to the creek and spotted the Ruddy Kingfisher but it flew off quickly. They did see a male and female Palawan Blue Flycatcher which would have been a lifer for me but, due to my usual laziness, I missed.

As we walked back to the hut, Kuya Erwin managed to spot the Ruddy Kingfisher perched partially hidden in a thick bamboo grove. It stayed quite long but it was getting dark already and its perch not so good for photographs.
Ruddy Kingfisher: King Number 2
We walked back to the hut but stopped along the way when we were surrounded by the noisy calls of a group of Northern Palawan Tree Squirrels, locally called bising. We could see some of them on the tree trunks, busy flicking their tails as they called around us. 

We arrived at the hut to find a male Blue-eared Kingfisher perched close to the water, hunting for food in the creek! To our delight, it was soon joined by a female!!! It was already 5PM and the sun was beginning to set when we saw the third king of Capayas. 
Male (left) and female (right, with more red on the bill)
Blue-eared Kingfishers.
We got the 3 kings on our first day in Coron! Yay!
The pair soon flew into the bamboo grove unseen and we started to pack up for the day. It was quite hard to believe that we had just arrived that same morning because we saw quite a lot of birds in just a small area and I got some unexpected lifers too! We boarded the van and headed back to Darayonan for a well-deserved rest and a pre-birthday dinner for the birthday boy 😊

To be continued...

Cuckoo Surprise and a Pair of Nightjars

I promised to deliver an ornamental banana plant to Prof. Bert the day after we went for the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove. The mother plant was given to me by Trinket and Adri years ago and has since bloomed and attracted many an Olive-backed Sunbird in our small pocket garden in Quezon City.

So not-so-early Saturday morning, Djop and I drove to UP Diliman to drop off Prof. Bert's banana plant in his gym. We brought our gear because we planned to stop by the nightjars after doing the plant-drop. We left the plant in the gym and were already getting in the car when we heard an Olive-backed Sunbird call loudly from above us. We looked up at the leaves of the talisay tree beside the car to spot the sunbird when Djop suddenly called out "Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" He started to get his gear from the car while I grabbed my camera and tried my best to spot the cuckoo.

I started panicking when I couldn't find it but after some redirection, I was able to spot it: a pretty Rusty-breasted Cuckoo perched un-moving on an exposed branch.

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo

It moved to another branch and stayed still for a while, allowing us to photograph and admire it some more.

I'm amazed the photos looked like they were taken almost at eye level!
(They weren't hehe.)

The cuckoo transferred to a higher branch before it flew to a nearby mango tree, out of sight. It was such a pleasant surprise seeing the cuckoo when we were just about to leave the parking lot!

We packed up our gear and transferred to find the nightjars. We first spotted one, then the pair of Philippine Nightjars, perched beside each other on a branch, partially covered by leaves.

One Philippine Nightjar spotted...
... two Philippine Nightjars spotted!

We were in and out of the UP campus in an hour. Within that time, we were able to do our plant-drop, spotted not one, but two nightjars, and even had a bonus cuckoo! It was a good Saturday morning 😊

Here's a short video of the Philippine Nightjar looking as if it were rocking itself to sleep 😄

Peter's Colasisi

I’ve been seeing my friend Peter’s posts about the Colasisi (Philippine Hanging Parrot) that frequent his home which he affectionately coined as “his Colasisi.” His photos of these Philippine endemic were amazing, their colors highlighted in each capture.

When we birded with Peter in Prof Tirso’s home in Los Banos, Djop and I got an invitation to come see his Colasisi in Quezon City when we had some free time. We were lucky that that particular Monday was a holiday and we did, in fact, have some free time!

We made an early morning appointment to drop by Peter’s and check out the flowering tree the Colasisis fed on. It was a very rainy Monday morning when we drove back to Quezon City from the south. As we had our breakfast at McDonald’s we messaged Peter and said that we’d cancel if the rain didn’t let up. But as we were finishing our coffee, the rain stopped and the skies cleared! Colasisi, here we come!
This is one of the flowering trees the Colasisi feeds on

And these are the flowers they eat!

Peter met us by the gate and we followed him to the park. He pointed out the flowering trees to us and soon after we approached them, a Colasisi flew in! It perched on a high branch but it was backlit so we couldn’t take decent photos! Peter was calm and told us not to worry as the Colasisi would come down to lower perches to feed on the flowers, unmindful of people.


True enough, the parrot flew to the smaller tree and started feeding on the yellow flowers. It gave us great views and stayed quite a while.

It loved the yellow flowers!

It flew off to a high tree where we could see another Colasisi with it. There were at least 3 Colasisi that morning we were there, and they would come to feed on the flowers constantly. Around us, a pair of Collared Kingfishers called noisily and some Philippine Pied Fantails flew around in the shade of the trees. Some Golden-bellied Gerygones also made appearances and a flock of egrets flew overhead.

True to its name - Philippine Hanging Parrot!

Here is a video of the Colasisi as it fed on the flowers =) (Watch in HD!)

Soon the rain clouds crept in and we said our goodbyes and thank yous to Peter before the rain fell. How wonderful to have green spaces in the middle of the city that serve as the home and feeding ground for birds. And for my own selfish reasons, how wonderful to have bird-y areas such as Peter’s that allow for mega dude birding and super easy photo opportunities 😉

Thank you again for having us, Peter! 😊

Awesome Lifer in the Fog

When news broke out about a new birding site a few hours away from Manila, I wished for an opportunity to check it out soon. As more and more people visited the site, more and more birds were spotted and photographed and my wish became some sort of silent desperation. Somewhere along the road to Infanta, Quezon, the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove called out to me to come find it.

I finally got my chance to try and see it last Friday when "Ninong" Chin generously let Djop and I hitch with him to Infanta. I was technically tagging along since it was also the 5th year anniversary of the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines and part of their activities for the event was birding in Infanta that morning.

We were on the road before 5AM. The route is very straightforward and as we got further away from Manila, there were less and less vehicles on the road. The fog was heavy as we drove, limiting visibility considerably.

Foggy drive!

The sky lightened a bit but the fog still lay thick along the mountainside and road when we arrived at our destination at around 6:30. As I stepped out from the car into the road, the chilly wind greeted me and I took in all the fresh air and greenery around me. The place had the feel of the old Mt. Palay-Palay road back when the tunnel wasn't complete and no one but birders were there.

Road-side birding

Did I mention it was foggy? 

We walked into the fog and were soon joined by fellow birders. It was nice to see old friends and meet new ones too. We began our search for the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove among the tall trees, the fog still heavy and hazy around us, when (my nephew) Loel spotted it! There were a few seconds of rising panic when I couldn't find the large dove among all the trees in front of us but then it flew to another tree and perched out in the open. I looked at the bird through my bins and through the fog and thanked my lucky stars that I was able to tick off the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove as my lifer! It soon flew to a higher perch and started feeding on the ripe berries.

A gorgeous Flame-breasted Fruit Dove!

It spent some time in the tree transferring from perch to perch to eat the small red fruits. It was joined by a second dove but it stayed hidden behind the leaves, while a couple of Philippine Fairy Blue Birds joined them briefly. After a while, they flew off deeper into the trees and did not show again for the rest of the day.

Birders and photographers spotting the fruit doves

One of its perches that morning
More people arrived and some moved on to another spot along the road to try for more birds. We also drove to try for the Scarlet Minivets but did not see them. We did see a Philippine Serpent Eagle perched on a low tree just by the side of the road but it immediately flew off when we stopped the car. 

The fog had lifted by then but the wind had picked up. We decided to head back to the fruit dove area but stopped midway and joined a small group who spotted a Spotted Wood Kingfisher! It was a steep climb up and down a flight of stairs and I got an awful photo, but was still happy with this unexpected find.

Down the stairs to see what we can find...

Lousy shot of the Spotted Wood Kingfisher

We drove back to rejoin the others who were waiting for the Flame-breasted Fruit Dove to show again. Sadly, it didn't, but mixed flocks would come in waves to feed on the many fruiting trees by the roadside. Yellowish White Eyes, Philippine Bulbuls, Blue-headed Fantails, and pretty Lemon-throated Leaf Warblers would fly noisily into the trees and feed among the fruits. Buzzing and Pygmy Flowerpeckers also made brief appearances including my second lifer that morning: Olive-backed Flowerpecker (no photo though...)

Pretty Lemon-throated Leaf Warblers

Pygmy Flowerpecker
Got lucky with this shot since they move around so much!!!

The wind was still quite strong so the bird activity was not that busy the rest of the morning. We soon packed up and headed for lunch. our new friend Jet spotted a raptor soaring a distance away and we saw there were two Rufous-bellied Eagles struggling against the wind. After lunch, we returned for a quick peek at the fruit dove and other possible birds but there were none. 

It wasn't as birdy as the site promises, but I'm sure on a good-weather day, the bird life is fantastic! I'm grateful for the lifers I got that day, these are birds I didn't think I'd be seeing soon... but I did! And with great views too! And with no hiking involved! ;)

It was a happy day sharing lifers with friends. It would be wonderful to go back and see what else the forests of Infanta has to offer... maybe soon ;)