Saturday, October 30, 2010

Week ending 31st October - IRRI, San Juan, Bot. gardens

Spent most of the week trying to find Chestnut Munia, which I have not had on the farm in this ADUC period for the last 2 years, and again drew a blank. I've seen them elsewhere, but not at IRRI at this time of year. Strange.

Friday was a holiday so I went back to San Juan. A Manila based friend has seen Sharp-tailed Sandpiper recently further north, so I was hoping for some migrants. Again no luck, but that is probably down to the water-level at the fish farms which is quite high, leaving little exposed mud. Apparently the farmer will drain the ponds in March, so the return leg of the migration might be good here. Carried on around the farms anyway, and found a pair of Lesser Sandplovers on the beach. Scarce residents were visible though, with views of a pair of Island Dove, and a very secretive Tawny Grassbird.

Back at Los Banos I had a wander around the Botanical Gardens. They've been refurbished, with a new visitor centre, sadly crap. On the main stream no sign of any Kingfishers, but there was a Little Heron actively feeding. A very odd sight, this was the first of this species I've seen away from the coast.

Island Dove. These are quite scarce and easy to miss. This bird was one of a pair that were quite showy in the vegetation on the edge of the beach at San Juan.

Tawny Grassbird. This bird was in exactly the same spot as I saw one last year. Much more secretive than the Striated Grassbird, and with a very different call.

juvenile Brahminy Kite. Extremely numerous at San Juan.

Asian Glossy Starling. On wires on the way home from San Juan.

Little Heron feeding in the stream at the Botanical Gardens in UPLB.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Week ending 24th October - IRRI

The poor migration season continues on the farms, with no new migrants on show. Common Kingfishers are a little more numerous than previously, but nothing else has changed.

At the staff housing complex a Chinese Goshawk hunting in the trees near the guest-house was nice. The fig tree at TREES lodge is starting to bear fruit, and Luzon Hornbill can be heard almost all the time in the area. I'll keep an eye on the tree, and hopefully will get a view of some doves.

Two of a flock of Whiskered Terns that winter at the farms. They are usually found hunting over the scattered reservoirs, but later in winter they'll rest in the ploughed fields themselves.

Long-tailed Shrike, ssp. nasutus. Common and quite visible on the upland farms, but rarely in the (wetter) lowland farms.

Cattle Egret. A large flock has recently arrived for the winter, and are following the Carabao around.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week ending 17th October - IRRI

Much of the rice is being harvested this week, so previously undisturbed fields of gently swaying rice are now large mud holes with stubbly patches. This cycle of planting and harvesting the rice surely accounts for cycles in observations of some species, particularly rallids. Little change in the birds this week, with still no sign of passage waders other than those which have been here for a few weeks.

An interesting breeding record was the sight of a Slaty-breasted Rail with a group of 3 or 4 hatchlings on the upland farm.

Schrenk's Bittern. Originally identified by me as a juvenile Cinnamon Bittern, this is quite obviously a female Schrenk's. My misidentification was due mainly to poor illustrations of this species in my field guides, coupled with a hesitation to claim what is quite a rare bird in the Philippines, and a lifer for me. Thanks to Des Allen for pointing out the error. Post corrected 7th Sept 2011.

Brown Shrike adult male lucionensis. A very striking individual with an almost white head.

Brown Shrike juvenile, probably of ssp confusus. A much browner head and nape, though still paler than the mantle in some poses.

Friday, October 15, 2010

San Juan 16th October

The site I designate as 'San Juan' is a fish farm close to the town of San Juan in Batangas. The owner is a bird/ birder friendly chap, who allows free access to his farms for birders, and does not hunt, or permit hunting on his land. He also has invested considerable time, effort and money into erecting boardwalks and hides at a nearby mangrove, good for viewing Rufous Night Heron.

I got down there very early this morning (only a 1 hour 15 minute drive), looking for migrant waders. Large flocks of Black-winged Stilts, with smaller numbers of Greenshank. Also in the flocks were a few Pacific Golden Plovers, and one Ruff. Around the ponds there were lots of heron spp, particularly quite large numbers of Great Egret, but also Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron and Rufous Night Neron. Large numbers of Philippine Duck were overhead, but apart from a small flock I put up first thing I didn't see a single bird on the water. A small flock of Golden-bellied Gerygone were very obliging. There's an area were there always seems to be Grey-backed Tailorbird, and they were very responsive this morning. While watching them I disturbed a flock of feeding Pink-necked Green Pigeon, a bird I have failed to see in the Philippines until today. Also in the same area was a small bird that initially had me stumped. I'd thought it was a Golden-bellied Gerygone, until I saw the eye, and heard the call, a soft cheep (quite unlike the weird Gerygone out-of-tune whine). It didn't seem to fit any Philippine taxa and the field guide didn't illustrate the juvenile plumage of the Gerygone. I finally tracked down a more accurate description of the juvenile plumage of the Gerygone, and it mentions a pale eye-ring, so mystery solved I think.

Apart from that, just good numbers of the usual Philippine farm birds. Lots of Brahminy Kites about, but no sign of either the Tabon Scrubfowl or Savannah Nightjar that I've had here before.

Black-winged Stilt At least a couple of hundred in several large flocks, with a few other waders mixed in.

Greenshank Probably no more than 20 here today.

Ruff Not a common bird in The Philippines, but they seem regular here.

Rufous Night Heron (adult) Several score, probably over a hundred, mostly juvenile. They could be breeding here now, though in the past they've mainly bred in the nearby mangroves

Rufous Night Heron (juvenile)

Pink-necked Green Pigeon Incredibly difficult to see in a tree, this is about the best view I got of a sitting bird all morning. The (barely visible) orange breast and rufous undertail coverts show this is a male.

Philippine Duck Several large flocks, and many individuals flying around, but I never found any on the water. I don't know anywhere closer to Los Banos to find these, and in fact Candaba is the only other site where I've seen them.

Golden-bellied Gerygone ssp simplex. The feature separating this from the rhizophorae race of Mindanao and related islands is the white loral spot.

These two Grey-backed Tailorbirds ssp. derbianus. (probably an adult and a juvenile, judging by the state of this bird's tail) were very responsive to the calls I payed, and came very close. Typical Tailorbird views, brief and partly obscured by foliage most of the time. San Juan is the best place I know to find this Philippine endemic.

Probable juvenile Golden-bellied Gerygone. At first I was very confused, it behaved like a Gerygone, but had a pale eye-ring and wasn't giving the usual Gerygone call. Kennedy et al. doesn't illustrate the juvenile, and doesn't mention the pale eye-ring in its description of the juvenile, but Robson does both.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week ending 10th October - IRRI, DTRI, Makiling

The rice in the IRRI field is growing fast, and open areas of mud are becoming scarce. Fewer waders around than recently, and as yet no sign of any passage waders (Stints, Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank etc). A juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron has been visiting the fields during daylight hours, and on Sunday great views of a Slaty-breasted Rail were had. A White-throated Kingfisher also appeared, the first in several weeks. Another recent absentee is Blue-tailed Bee-eater which have not been seen for a couple of weeks.

I visited the DTRI farms at sunset for the first time on Saturday, and was rewarded with a flyby Great Eared Nightjar. Magic, I'll definitely be doing that again!

An early start up Makiling on Sunday. First bird was a Spotted Wood-Kingfisher before dawn. Lots of calling Philippine Hawk-Owls, and one Philippine Scops, neither birds were seen. Birds were harder to see than hear today, and only Ashy Minivet and Striped Flowerpecker were different from last week. A Pipit that flashed past on my way down the hill was probably a Pechora Pipit.

Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron

Slaty-breasted Rail

Barred Rail

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Week ending 3rd October - IRRI

A very wet week, particularly the weekend. A flock of 20+ Whiskered Terns were the only new migrants, but there were also influxes of Oriental Pratincoles, Pacific Golden Plovers and Yellow Wagtails. Quite a few of the White-breasted Waterhens visible had chicks with them.

Barn Swallow

Snipe spp.

Common Sandpiper

Banded Rail

Makiling 3rd October

A nice early start up Makiling this morning, using the 4WD. Started on the mud springs track at about 6:00, and turned onto the trail that heads to the right soon after the start. Really nice forest, clearly not much traffic here. Got to a small streambed after about half an hour, and immediately disturbed a small thrush-sized bird off the forest floor. Quite possibly the Ashy Thrush I'd been searching for. I carried on for 10 minutes down the stream until it got too steep, then returned, slowly so as not to scare the bird again. This time I flushed a much larger bird, a Luzon Bleeding Heart! Extremely brief flight views only, and untickable really, but there can be no doubt about the ID.

Carried on up the mountain for a while, to see how far I could get. On the way a pair of Spotted Wood Kingfishers darted across the road, and sat up nicely in some vines. Up at station 14 there was a huge flock of Philippine Bulbuls in a fruiting tree creating an enormous fuss, along with calling doves and Coppersmiths, but no sign of Fruit Doves. A nearby bird party had a nice Coppersmith, Buzzing Flowerpecker, Red-keeled Flowerpecker and Sulphur-billed Nuthatch.

Back down at the base of the mountain no fewer than 6 Philippine Falconets in the dead tree by TREES lodge.

Sulphur-billed Nuthatch

Spotted Wood Kingfisher This cracking male was one of a pair that flew across the road in front of me half-way between the coconut sellers and the end of the track.

Philippine Falconet

Coppersmith ssp haemacephala