Monday, July 25, 2011

Week ending 24th July 2011 - Laoag, Bay-Yo, Mt. Polis

Back from Ireland, and off again on my postponed trip to the north to pick up some key Luzon endemics. First stop was Laoag (after a 10 hour drive) to check out a patch of forest that a friend had said was promising. Not much luck there at all however, lots of 'normal' birds such as Blackish Cuckooshrike, Philippine Coucal, Colasisi, Barred Buttonquail, Plain Bush-hen etc. A little disappointed I headed south towards Banaue and some montane birds. A bad choice led me down a deteriorating road so that I eventually had to back-track to save my 2-wheel drive vehicle's undercarriage, so I didn't get to Mountain province until the afrtenoon of the following day. On the way my first Philippine sighting of Common Buzzard. I stopped at Bay-Yo village east of Bontoc for the staked-out Luzon Water Redstart, which was very obliging (The only reliable sight for this endemic anywhere, there is more habitat for it, but hard to get to).

Having suceeded here I moved on the the pass known as Mt. Polis. Very quickly I heard, and then saw Long-tailed Bush Warbler (caudatus), then Luzon Bush-Warbler. While photographing the latter a pair of White-cheeked Bullfinch (leucogenis) flew over my shoulder, and perched long enough to be identified but not photographed. This made up nicely for the threesome I'd briefly caught sight of at Kitanglad in January, but had been unable to get anything on. Not much more that day, so I moved on to Banaue and a hotel.

Next morning I was back, with lots more Bush-Warblers of both species about. The only other bird at the pass was a gorgeous Mountain Leaf Warbler (benguetensis). I tried one of the ridge trails, and had great views over a valley, but bugger-all birds until 3 distant Luzon Montane Racquet-Tails hove into view.

Back at the pass a Mountain Shrike (validirostris) showed distantly on the ridge, but had disappeared by the time I got up there with a camera. By now it was time to leave, with only a Mountain Verditer (nigrimentalis) on the descent. Not a bad trip, but not great either, leaving several montane specials still to find.

A beautiful male Luzon Water Redstart at the stake-out at Bay-Yo village on the Banaue-Bontoc Road.

A juvenile Luzon Water Redstart, possibly female?

Luzon Bush Warbler. Very skulky, but also very common at the pass known as Mt. Polis, closer to Banaue

The blob on the tree is a Mountain Shrike. I spent a breathless 15 minutes climbing the ridge to get a better view than this, but by then it had gone!

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