Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week ending 30th January - IRR, Makiling

Another quiet week on the farms with little movement to report. The Green Sandpiper and Peregrine are still present, as are the Red Turtle Doves. A flyover Pied Triller enlivened Friday's cycle ride, but there was little else of note.

On Sunday I tried again for thrushes on the lower trails of Makiling. Too many people trekking made this an impossible task, but I did hear Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove for the first time on Makiling.

Around the ISH compound both Philippine Scops Owl and Philippine Hawk Owl are becoming more vocal.

Wood Sandpiper. About the only winter wader that has been here in any numbers this year.

A male Painted Snipe seems quite nervous in the presence of this large monitor

One of several Little Egrets with unusual amounts of yellow in the legs that have been present since last May.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week ending 23rd January - IRRI

The Green Sandpiper from last week stayed throughout the week, showing almost every day. In the same area a reasonable sized flock (15 + birds) of Red Turtle Doves was similarly reliable as was the Peregrine. I tried for the nightjars on Wednesday and was rewarded with a brief view of a Great-eared Nightjar, and calling Philippine Nightjar. Several Black-crowned Night-Herons have been hanging around too.

Several odd sightings of birds passing through included an Osprey, and a flock of Ashy Minivet on Monday and a Purple Heron on Saturday.

Purple Heron on the upland farm. A scarce winter visitor. One bird spent much of the winter of 2008 - 2009 on the upland farm, but this is the first sighting since then.

Painted Snipe. Very visible at the moment.

Green Sandpiper still on the experimental farm.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week ending 16th January - Makiling, IRRI

After the excitement of the last couple of weeks this was a nice quiet week at IRRI. The Peregrine is still present, and visible almost every day. A Plain Bush Hen mid-week was a big surprise.

On Sunday morning I tried the Makiling trail at dawn looking for thrushes. There was quite a dawn chorus, with a Spotted Wood-Kingfisher calling near me, and several Philippine Hawk-Owls responding to my tape. One landed close, but the light was too poor for a photograph. Half a kilometre or so up the trail I disturbed a thrush from the trail, but it didn't fly far, and soon I had views in poor light of a Scaly Thrush, my first in The Philippines. I think there was also a second bird, but it didn't hang around.

Back on the farms a Brahminy Kite drifted over, and soon snagged a large rat. Lots of Great Egrets around, and several large mixed flocks of hirundines and swifts (mainly Barn Swallow and Island Swiftlet with a few Palm Swifts). A big surprise was Green Sandpiper in one of the paddies, another first for me here.

A gorgeous Long-tailed Shrike with some kind of bug which it had just picked up off the ground

Green Sandpiper in a flooded paddy. These are very scarce migrants in The Philippines

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jan 7th to 9th - Kitanglad, Mindanao

The second leg of my birding week. I flew from Puerto Proncessa to Cagayan do Oro, via Cebu, a seemingly short distance made unduly complicated by odd routing decision by Cebu Pacific. Another night in a (really crummy) hotel, then off to Kitanglad by car. The permits process takes a while, but I got to Carlito's by 9am, and was up the trail shortly after. Lots of birds about, many new to me, including Cinnamon Ibon, Mountain White-eye, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch (ssp apo), Elegant Tit (ssp mindanensis), Brown Tit-Babbler, Philippine Leaf Warbler, Mountain Verditer Flycatcher, Black-and-Cinnamon Fantail, Short-tailed Glossy Starling, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, MacGregor's Cuckoo-Shrike and Barred Honey Buzzard. No luck at the eagle viewing platform, so we pushed on and met Nicky Icarangal with his tour. A great bunch of guys from the US, David, Pete, Ian and George. They were on their way down, so I followed as they'd seen the Eagle that morning (and had a scope!). Back at the platform we quickly found the nest-site they'd located the previous day (after 11 hours of looking!). No eagle, but a few minutes later Carlito spotted what looked like a juvenile Eagle on top of a tree miles away. We got very excited, but the "juvenile" didn't move the whole time, and I become more and more convinced we were looking at a funny shaped branch. The heat haze didn't help as when you stared long enough at the branch it did seem to move! Eventually Danny (Carlito's son) let out a yell that he'd found another bird which we got onto. This one was real, a beautiful adult Philippine Eagle! It was on a branch, with what looked like a Macaque in its claws. After a while it took off and flew across the valley to another tree where it sat for about an hour giving great, but distant views. Thank goodness for the scope! Then it was back down the trail again to the lodge. That night the Bukidnon Woodcock flew past at an incredible rate, and we successfully taped out an incredibly obliging Philippine Frogmouth, but only heard Giant Scops Owl.

Next morning an early start looking for the Blue-capped Wood Kingfisher, which we heard but did not see, then I went up the trail with Carlito. His bird mimicry skills are remarkable, and he soon whistled up a gorgeous Mountain Tailorbird. Several bird parties this morning, with new birds such as Little Pied Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Whistler, Philippine Woodpecker, Olive-capped Flowerpecker, Grey-hooded Sunbird and Eye-browed Thrush (large numbers near the lodge). The "juvenile" Eagle from the previous day was still in exactly the same pose, surely a branch not a bird! We pushed on higher looking for Apo Sunbird, which proved very difficult. I eventually got brief views of two birds, a real rarity. Other birds at this altitude included Mountain Leaf Warbler, Black-masked White-eye, Philippine Trogon and Mindanao Montane Racquet-tail. Back down at the platform a pair of Mindanao Hornbills entertained for a while, and I had good views of a perched Philippine Falconet. On the way back to the lodge a surprise was a decent view of a Red-eared Parrotfinch, common here but very tough to see. At the lodge itself a Greater Flameback (ssp montanus) in a nearby tree, and a flock of Yellow-breasted Fruit Doves by the start of the trail.

Philippine Bulbul, ssp. saturatior

Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove. A blocker unblocked for me. I've dipped on this in several places so was glad to get it here.

Sulphur-billed Nuthatch ssp. apo. Differs mainly from the race at Makiling (isarog) by the tone of the underparts.

Short-tailed Glossy Starling, ssp todayensis. In The Philippines restricted to Mindanao

Philippine Woodpecker, ssp. fulvifasciatus. Differs from validirostris in increased red on the crown in males, and a boldly-barred back

Philippine Serpent Eagle

Philippine Falconet, ssp. meridionalis, slightly larger than erythrogenys in Luzon.

Olive-capped Flowerpecker, a Mindanao endemic

Little Pied Flycatcher, ssp. rabori. A common bird in the forests on Kitanglad.

Grey-hooded Sunbird. A Mindanao endemic

Greater Flameback, ssp. montanus. Another distinctive race. This is a female, the male has a red crest

Cinnamon Ibon. Common Mindanao endemic at Kitanglad

Philippine Frogmouth. This fantastic bird was incredibly obliging, responding quickly to playback, and allowing extremely close approaches.

Not sure if I prefer the dilated or undilated pupils!

Mountain White-eye, outside our area extends to Java.

Mountain Verditer Flycatcher (ssp. nigriloris)

Jan 1st to 6th - St Paul's, Palawan

The first part of my week-long birding holiday trying to catch up with a couple of the more spectacular endemics here in The Philippines. I flew down to Puerto Princessa on the evening of the 1st, spent the night in a hotel there then on to Sabang and St Paul's National Park (Recently renamed Subterranean River N. P. I think). I took a Banca to the Subterranean River, but was much to late for the Peacock-Pheasant, so walked back through the forest. Very nice, despite the intermittent rain. Palawan Blue Flycatcher were my first new birds, and very obliging too. A bird party close to the caves (at about the midpoint on the walk) consisted of Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Palawan Tit and Dark-throated Oriole. Close to this point I also had my first of what came to be daily encounters with Palawan Hornbill. Not much else for the rest of the walk back, and the rain set in in the afternoon.

On the morning of the 3rd I took an early boat (5:30 am) to the park, arriving on the dot of 6. I hung around the ranger station for what seemed like forever, becoming ever more convinced that it was not going to be my day. Finally at about 7:45, long after the rangers' had said it wasn't coming the Palawan Peacock Pheasant showed up. At first it just called, from some 30m or so into the forest, and didn't do much else. Then it just made up its mind and walked straight towards me. It is totally habituated to people, and clearly came to me looking for food. It passed about 4 feet away, before giving a funny squawk and disappearing back into the forest. A surreal few minutes with one of the most spectacular birds I've ever seen! After that I walked back to Sabang through the forest. More Palawan Hornbills, as well as Great Slaty Woodpecker and the gorgeous local race of Greater Flameback in adjacent trees. A steep section of the trail allows good views over the forest in one place, and a party of Palawan Flowerpeckers showed well here, as did a pair of Yellow-throated Leafbirds. Close to Sabang I found a huge fruiting fig stuffed full of Green Imperial Pigeons and Thick-billed Green Pigeons.

Spent the afternoon in Sabang. Birds around the town included a beautiful Olive-backed Sunbird (of Palawan endemic race aurora) feeding its young, Olive-winged and Sulphur-bellied Bulbuls, Little Spiderhunter, White-vented Shama, Slender-billed Crow. In the evening Augusto Asis took me night birding, and after much effort we called up an amazing Palawan (Javan) Frogmouth, but only heard Palawan Scops Owl.

The last day in Sabang I did the forest trail, which was very quiet apart from Palawan Hornbill and Black-naped Monarch. A lovely Malaysian Plover on the beach was nice. The fruiting tree was still full of Pigeons, but nothing new, so I went out of town instead trying Augusto's suggested sites. Small Minivet, Ashy Drongo and best of all Ashy-headed Babbler were the result.

White-vented Shama. A Palawan endemic, very common, even in disturbed habitat. This was behind my hut at Dam-Dam lodge in Sabang

Thick-billed Green Pigeon, male. In The Philippines restricted to Palawan and Mindoro

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant. This stunning male has been frequenting the ranger station at the underground river for the last few years. A Palawan endemic

Palawan Hornbill. Another Palawan endemic, but regularly seen

Palawan (Javan) Frogmouth. A potential split, this taxon is restricted to Palawan and nearby islands

Palawan Blue Flycatcher. Another Palawan endemic, and one of the easiest to find in the forest at St Paul's N.P.

Olive-backed Sunbird of the Palawan race aurora. This stunning bird appears to be feeding a large juicy spider to its youngsters.

Green Imperial Pigeon, hiding in a huge fruiting tree.

Greater Flameback, ssp. erythrocephalus. This Palawan endemic race is one of several candidates for splits in this highly variable species in The Philippines. The quantity of yellow in the crown suggests this is a female.

Great Slaty Woodpecker. Supposedly declining on Palawan (it occurs nowhere else in The Philippines), I found at least two parties of these in three days, and heard another.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch ssp. palawana. The red bill differentiates this from the very similar Sulhur-billed Nuthatch of the rest of The Philippines.

Palawan Tit. Another Palawan endemic, and very lovely.

Little Spiderhunter, ssp. dilutior. Occurs on several islands in the south of The Philippines.

Millipede spp. curled up in a defensive ball.

Mangrove Snake. At least 10 seen in 40 minutes in the mangroves.