Monday, September 27, 2010

Week ending 26th September - IRRI, Makiling

A nice week on the farms, with interesting records including Red Turtle Dove and Australian Lark (scarce residents), Grey Wagtail (migrant, first record this autumn) and Brahminy Kite (Philippine resident, occasional birds wander through IRRI). Numbers of Yellow Wagtails have built up very quickly, with most identifiable birds being of subspecies tschutschensis.

I finally got up to Makiling on Sunday and met up with another expat birder. An excellent day with plenty of endemics on show. First birds were a small group of Greater Flameback, which disturbed a small accipiter which was almost certainly a Besra. In the same area a small flock of Balicassiao. Several bird parties through the trees. Constituent birds included Elegant Tit, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Black-naped Monarch, Philippine Bulbul, Yellow-wattled Bulbul, Arctic Warbler, Philippine Woodpecker, Flaming Sunbird, Yellowish White-eye and Red-keeled Flowerpecker. Several Scale-feathered Malkoha were calling at various points, with at least 2 being seen. Other calling birds not seen included many Philippine Tailorbird, and White-browed Shama, and singles of Philippine Coucal and Plaintive Cuckoo. White-eared Brown Dove were also calling constantly, with several sighted. In gaps in the forest Glossy Swiftlet and House Swift were overhead. It was a very good day for raptors. Apart from the unidentified accipiter already mentioned a pair of distant Philippine Falconets were nice, and both Philippine Serpent Eagle and Philippine Hawk-Eagle were seen overhead. A third large raptor overhead could even have been the endemic race of Oriental Honey Buzzard, but only extremely brief views were obtained. The Hawk-Eagle was a particularly exciting find. In very heavy moult, the bird had a strongly, but narrowly barred tail combined with narrowly barred underwings, broad wings and a buffy breast and belly.

Snipe spp.

Snipe spp.

Brown Shrike ssp. lucionensis

Yellow Wagtail juvenile

Yellow Wagtail M. f. tschutschensis

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Week ending 19th September - IRRI

With the weather drying up this was an interesting week at IRRI. A flock of 20+ Black-winged Stilts on Wednesday 15th were the first of their species this autumn, considerably later than the last 2 years. At least 2 of the birds stayed through to the end of the week. On the 16th they were joined by the first Common Kingfisher of autumn, a similar date to last year, and the Plaintive Cuckoo on the 19th was also very close to last year's date, the only other record of this species at IRRI. Probably it is a scarce passage migrant.

Apart from this the numbers of all migrants are building steadily. Snipe spp. are now almost everywhere on the farms, and Brown Shrikes are ubiquitous. Yellow Wagtail numbers fluctuate somewhat as groups of birds pass through without staying for long. At the moment many are first years, with a few adults. We supposedly get two races, tschutschensis and taivana, but not many birds can be identified that accurately unless they're in full breeding plumage. At the moment I think we have mainly taivana (green crown and nape). I'll try and get photographs of both. The Brown Shrikes are all of race lucionensis so far.

A White-breasted Watehen hatchling was the only breeding behaviour recorded.

Yellow Wagtail Possibly an adult female taivana. The crown and nape seem to show no sign of any grey, being mainly green, and the ear-coverts are greenish brown (brownish-grey crown, and dark grey ear coverts in tschutschensis). The supercilium is clearly white however, not the pale yellow I'd expect.

Brown Shrike The pale grey crown and greyish upperparts make this a lucionensis. The fine vermiculations on the flanks show it is an adult female.

Brown Shrike Adult male lucionensis.

White-breasted Waterhen hatchling

Black-winged Stilt

Subic, 18th & 19th September

My first trip to Subic to meet up with Mark and hopefully catch up with a few endemics. I started by driving the lower roads, closest to the sea. First good bird was a White-bellied Sea-Eagle harassing the fruit bats, clearly trying to hunt them. I didn't see a kill, but pickings did look good, and probably not hard. On the road I stopped to look at a dead tree, and was quickly rewarded with Greater Flameback (haematribon race), Green Imperial Pigeon and Whiskered Tree-Swift. Further along, more Flamebacks plus a group of 6 or so Green Racquet-tails. Calling birds here included White-browed Shama and Philippine Tailorbird.

I moved up to the Hill 394 road, which was excellent. Lots of clearings, with Woodpecker sounds coming from every stop. The commonest sound was Brown Shrikes screeching everywhere, closely followed by Philippine Coucals.

Mark joined me at about 3pm, and we returned to Hill 394. Much more productive now the heat of the day was gone, we had Luzon Hornbill, Blue-throated Bee-eater, White-bellied Woodpecker, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Blue-naped Parrots, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Blackish Cuckoo-Shrike, Bar-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike, Philippine Serpent Eagle along with several commoner species. An early highlight was an Indigo-banded Kingfisher on the stream near the pumping station on the coastal road, and the last bird of the day was a calling Philippine Hawk-Owl.

We had a second go at Hill 394 on Sunday morning, and finally added Sooty Woodpecker to our list. We saw this several times today, an excellent bird. More of the same species as yesterday, with the addition of White-eared Brown Dove and Dollarbird. An excellent trip, to be repeated soon I hope...

White-bellied Sea Eagle Hanging around near the colonies of Fruit Bats hoping for an easy meal.

Whiskered Tree-Swift Quite common, but often too high in the trees for a decent view. This one was very obliging, and let me get quite close

Philippine Coucal Skulking in a bush at the end of the trip.

Philippine Bulbul ssp. philippinus. Common, and very noisy, nevertheless not bad looking.

Grey Wagtail One of the few migrants on show

Green Imperial Pigeon Lots of these, but not easy to photograph

Coleto Common and very noisy, but gorgeous with it...

Blue-naped Parrot A nice sized flock exploring a dead tree at the end of the day

Blue-throated Bee-eater Very smart birds

Fruit Bats

More Fruit Bats

Bar-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike Endemic race striata, which is very dark, with almost no barring visible on some birds, but the white eye is a giveaway.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

RIP Tim Fisher

Very sad to hear of the death of Tim Fisher yesterday. A great birder and a good friend, he'll be much missed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Week ending 12th September

Another wet week, with very little to report from the farms. A flyover Brahminy Kite on the Calamba-Los Banos road was the only bird of note. The weekend was a long one (Eid al fitr) so we went across to Puerto Galera. I have rarely seen much on the crossing, so was quite unprepared for the all dark Shearwater that zoomed across our bows (well not really, 100+ metres away). I couldn't see much of the underparts, other than that the belly was also dark, (was there a flash of silvery underwings? not sure). Feeling unsatisfied, and annoyed that I hadn't been ready with the bins sooner I sat back down, just in time for a second bird to fly past, at about the same range. This one seemed to have plain dark underwings, so not Sooty then. Size ruled out Bulwer's, leaving just one candidate. As I had not expected to see anything at all I had decided not to bring my field guide, so had to wait until sunday to confirm a Wedge-tailed Shearwater. Excellent! The return journey on Sunday was less exciting, though a fly-past Sanderling provided some brief interest.

Java Sparrows

Barred Buttonquail (male)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Week ending 5th September

A few new migrants this week, with two (very flighty) Brown Shrikes on Saturday 4th, a flock of 10+ Yellow Wagtails on Sunday 5th and a Snipe spp. the same day. Also a lone Great White Egret on Sunday. These have some odd movements in the Philippines, with most records at IRRI coming from the winter months when they can be numerous.

Yellow Bittern

White-throated Kingfisher. The nominate feature is almost invisible on the Philippine race.

Scaly-breasted Munia. The third Munia spp. at IRRI, and probably the commonest of the three.

Great Egret

Pacific Golden Plover

Chinese Egret? One of several birds showing features of Chinese Egret which have been hanging around all summer. The face skin has recently turned a nice pale green, and the legs are streaked dark and pale. The feet are pale yellowish, but not the bright yellow of Little Egret. The bill is also a little too substantial for Little Egret I think.