"Warbler Neck"-ing for a Spiderhunter

There is a lingo unique to the world of birdwatching, a common language used among birders. Lifer (noun - a bird you see for the first time), twitch (verb - a trip to specifically see a particular bird), dip (verb - to miss out seeing a particular bird), etc. One of the more uncommon phrases (at least maybe in the Philippines) in this list is "warbler neck" (along with "cosmic mindf*cker" -- but that's another post 😉)

Warbler neck refers to the pain you feel in your neck from spending so much time looking up at birds (usually warblers) high up in the trees. Yes, I'm sure many a birder has experienced the stiffness, the pain, and, in my case, the floating black spots and momentary blindness, once you return your neck to its normal position after looong minutes of looking up trying to find a bird in the canopy of trees. I've read it can even cause serious complication in some people! (Birdwatcher's Digest has an article on how to avoid warbler's neck here.)

I definitely felt I was getting warbler's neck when Djop and I went to UP Diliman to check out the Naked-faced Spiderhunters that have been spotted there a few weekends ago. We parked our car and walked to the flowering lipote tree and saw Sir Danny and Sir William already there. No spiderhunter yet, they said, but the area was buzzing with birds! 

Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers, Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, and Buzzing Flowerpeckers were busy flying in and out of the lipote tree, feeding on its many flowers.

It was my first time to see Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers in UP Diliman =)

Red-keeled Flowerpecker
Even the Yellow-vented Bulbuls and Colasisis took part in the feeding frenzy, landing on nearby trees before flying into the lipote to feed.
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Colasisi as it launches itself into the lipote tree

There were A LOT of Lowland White-eyes noisily flying about and enjoying the lipote flowers and some Black-naped Orioles kept coming back to partake of the blooms.
Just one of the many Lowland White-eyes
Even the Black-naped Orioles couldn't resist the feast

 After a few minutes, Djop suddenly pointed out the main reason of our twitch: Naked-faced Spiderhunter! It was perched on the leafless tree beside the lipote! I raised my binoculars just in time to see it for a second before it flew into the lipote. Cool! It kept popping in and out of view for a few times, but always high up the leafless tree. We were able to spot two Spiderhunters that morning, but I did not get any decent shot of it. Oh well.
The ONLY photo I was able to take of the Spiderhunter that morning 😅

Our friend Gilbert also popped up to point us to another spot where the Spiderhunters were observed at better vantage points. Sir Danny, Djop, and I waited a while in that area and saw 3 Spiderhunters but they kept to the large trees which gave good views through the binoculars but really bad photos.

We soon said our goodbyes and see-you-soons and finally gave our necks a much-needed rest from all the warbler neck-ing that morning 😁 

Reposting one of my favorite photos:
Naked-faced Spiderhunter, 2015

Hopeful for Candaba

It was a great morning to go birding. The skies were clear, the sun was up, and a cool breeze was blowing. All that was lacking were the birds.

The Mayor's pond still housed a number of bird species but the vegetation
was so thick, it was almost impossible to see most of the birds

January is Asian Waterbird Census "season" and I was happy that Djop and I were able to volunteer again for this year's Candaba count. The AWC in Candaba last year yielded a total of 6,466 waterbirds counted but things were looking a bit gloomy for the site for the 2018 count. Recent reports from fellow birders described the place as being overgrown, with many parts converted to rice fields which meant birds were few. I personally braced for a dismal count... and that was what we got.

Find the ducks!
This was the most open patch of water in the pond that we spotted that morning

The 2018 AWC in Candaba had a total of 1,449 waterbirds counted, the largest numbers of which were the Black-crowned Night Herons (259) followed by the Purple Herons (226.) The sad numbers of ducks and even species of ducks seen, I guess, are the best evidence of how the place has turned for the worst.

The Black-crowned Herons were one of the most visible birds in the
Mayor's pond that morning

Can you imagine only  120 Garganeys, 40 Northern Shovelers, 12 Wandering Whistling Ducks, 54 Philippine Ducks, and only 1 female Northern Pintail counted? Even the plovers and sandpipers were in very low numbers, the total population counted for that morning not even going over a hundred.

Candaba "bird-scape" January 2018:
A far cry from the hundreds (even thousands!) of ducks
that used to take flight over the Mayor's pond
A lone Wandering Whistling Duck settled in an open spot of water,
the rest were hidden in the vegetation
Our team scanned and scanned for any more birds that could be seen and
counted for the census

I could go on and on about how bad the situation is in Candaba now, especially since I've seen it in better, more birdy-er days BUT it's a new year! And as I spoke briefly to former Candaba Mayor Gerry Pelayo, I saw a faint glimmer of hope and I think things may be looking up for Candaba. It's going to take careful planning, close coordination, and consistent implementation, but the wheels are in place and are ready to start turning, MAYBE there is real hope for Candaba's ecosystem to be restored to it's former health and beauty. We have to wait and see and hope for the best. 

New Year, New Life!

What a great way to start the new year with a neighborhood nest with chicks ready to fledge!

I first noticed that our neighborhood Olive-backed Sunbirds were extra noisy last December. I immediately had a suspicion that they had a nest nearby! I grabbed my binoculars and stepped outside to check out what all the noise was about. My suspicion was correct and I saw a pair of sunbirds busy flying back to our neighbors kamuning tree inside their garage! They were busy gathering nesting material from the surrounding houses and bringing them back to their almost-finished nest. I saw that they preferred collecting some of Princess's, our neighbor's dog, fur 😁

Djop and I had to leave Manila for the Christmas and New Year holidays so I was thrilled to see that the chicks haven't fledged yet when we returned in January! There were two chicks peeping out of the nest and would be fed regularly by their father.

Blurry shot of the father feeding its two hungry chicks

Just this past weekend, one of the chicks had already left the nest but the other stayed and was still being fed by the father.

I'm amazed and grateful that the sunbirds have chosen to build their nest just in front of our house and have successfully brought a new generation of young into our neighborhood! A great start to 2018!


PS I'll be uploading a short video here as soon as I get better internet connection ;)