A Day in Manolo Fortich

I've never been to this part of the Philippines before and I've never met this birder before as well. So it was very exciting for me to have gotten the chance to explore the bird life in the area and also to finally meet Doc Miguel de Leon in the flesh, after admiring his conservation work and his amazing photos of flora and fauna on Facebook.

Miguel is my peg when it comes to hospitality and I dream of being as generous a host as he is! Seriously! Over and above from the hassle-free travelling arrangements from Iligan to Cagayan de Oro, the warm accommodation in his beautiful home, the birding was of course a highlight. Of course! Since I got a lifer! =)

My year-end lifer for 2018: Black-shouldered Kite

But let me backtrack a bit...

After touching base in Miguel's beautiful home in Cagayan de Oro (did I mention it was a beautiful home? I did, did I? Let me say it again: Miguel has a beautiful home!), we convoyed to his farm in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. 
Beautiful gazebo! That's Whistler, the giant puppy!

Insert: Maia, coffee, and a good book
 We were to check out the ambiguous pair of young cuckoos in his farm that looks to be young Philippine Hawk Cuckoos but calls like Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoos. Hmmm, an intriguing bird mystery! We proceeded to the hide positioned in the area where the birds showed regularly and waited.

The short walk to the hide

That's the hide facing the mango trees where the cuckoos usually perch

Miguel, Djop, and I comfortably fit inside the hide which was lined with banana leaves. Miguel's resident guide, Dynos, made sure we were all seated and had good vantage points to see the birds.

That's Dynos helping us setup inside the hide

When we were finally settled inside the hide, we began our wait. Of course, birders will never run out of stories to share with each other! So in hushed voices and darting eyes on the lookout for the cuckoos outside, we chatted and laughed and exchanged stories. The conversation was so much fun, I did not realize it had been hours! The cuckoos sadly did not show, possibly because of the constant presence of some bully Collared Kingfishers in the area.


Djop and I went out first to have some lunch while Miguel stayed behind inside the hide. While having lunch we enjoyed the quiet and the fresh air while watching some Pied Trillers, Olive-backed Sunbirds, Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, and even an immature Brahminy Kite in our surroundings.

We returned to the hide after lunch to wait for the cuckoos to show but sadly they didn't. After a while, we decided to go for our other target bird for the trip: the Black-shouldered Kite. 

I was excited to see this handsome bird and I was not to be disappointed! We were still on the road when Dynos announced that the birds were there in their usual site. We parked closer and got out the car and I got to view my year-end lifer for 2018.

We saw them chasing a crow, perching atop African Tulip trees in between aerial attacks. I was also attacked when I walked away from our group to get a closer look at the birds. I actually got scared when I saw the Kite angle its wings towards me in a dive and give a harsh squawk as it passed over my head! I brisk-walked back to our group, shielding my eyes but still seeing the bird circle around me to prepare for another attack! It screamed at my retreating form three times before it finally let me be and I reunited with my group, who were all smiling at my being attacked by the bird.

I just wanted a closer look at this!
We decided to ride the car to get closer views and as we got out of the car to observe the two birds perched on a leafless tree... they mated! How cool was that!? As we were heading back out to Miguel's farm, we even got treated to a display of a Black-shouldered Kite hovering over a field, fluttering its wings before dropping a few feet. It caught a rat among the pineapple plants and flew away with its catch. Will upload a short video of the behaviors we observed soon!

Djop, me, and Miguel:
Thumbs definitely up after observing the Black-shouldered Kites!
We returned to the farm but the cuckoos were nowhere to be found. So Djop and I boarded our vehicle to return to Miguel's home for dinner, stopping first for a toilet break. As we were leaving from the toilet break, our driver Jan got a call from Miguel: the cuckoos were there!!! We rushed back to the farm and as the last light of day faded into night, the mystery immature cuckoo called the distinct call of a Philippine Hawk Cuckoo. Mystery solved!

I told you it was dark!
When the cuckoos flew off into the night, we made our way back to Cagayan de Oro for a delicious dinner with fellow birder Neil and his family.

Thank you again and again, Miguel!
Our visit was short but very sweet indeed! Thank you again, Miguel! It was such a pleasure meeting you and being welcomed into your home and birding "playground"!