Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week ending 25th September - IRRI

On Tuesday a small flock of Black-winged Stilts were on the main farm, and a juvenile Slaty-breasted Rail showed itself briefly there also. On Saturday a further two (adult) Slaty-breasted Rails were present in the same area. Maybe they've bred? Elsewhere, the Stilts were still about on Saturday, but at least three birds had badly damaged legs, evidence of some kind of trapping.

New arrivals this week included a small flock of Whiskered Terns on the upland farm, with two birds present on the lowland farm.

On Sunday I had my first twitch in the Philippines. Up to la Mesa Eco Park in Quezon City for an Ashy Ground Thrush that had been showing well. I got very brief, but conclusive views before it disappeared into the undergrowth. I think I'll try for my local ones next week!

Female Cinnamon Bittern 

Buff-banded Rail 

Black-winged Stilt 

Yellow Wagtail

Beautiful male Cinnamon Bittern. I just can't get enough of these!

One of three Black-winged Stilts sporting broken lags on Saturday morning. People living near the farms often hunt for birds using catapults and firearms (.22 rifles mostly). I haven't seen any traps there, but it looks like there must be some...

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern with some remnants of breeding plumage

Slaty-breasted Rail. One of two birds seen on Saturday, with a different (juvenile) bird present on Tuesday

White-browed Crake

Juvenile White-breasted Waterhen

Monday, September 19, 2011

15th - 17th September - Siburan Prison, Mindoro

A hastily organised trip to Siburan Prison in western Mindoro to try and find some Mindoro endemics. We were lucky with the weather, which held off while we were there. but not with much else. The drive to the prison from San Jose airport is long (3 hours+), and bumpy (half is unpaved and very rough in places).

The first stop is a small lake, where we had Wandering Whistling Duck, which is thinly distributed in The Philippines. Perched in a large tree overlooking the lake was a White-breasted Sea-Eagle, and Philippine Honey Buzzard and Philippine Serpent-Eagle both showed overhead. Not much else here so we headed for the guest-house. We were assigned a guide, Jess, who knew the forest but not much about birds. An afternoon stroll up the mountain behind soon turned into a muddy scramble, for which my companions were ill-equipped in the shoe department unfortunately. Very few birds were visible or audible, with our only sightings being Balicassiao, and a stream of Palawan Crows (Split from Slender-billed, there must surely be a better name for this bird which is shared across Palawan and Mindoro) in the early evening. A Great-eared Nightjar flew across the prison assembly ground in the evening.

The next day we started early, and soon heard Black-hooded Coucal, one of our target birds, but despite repeated attempts at playback they stubbornly refused to show themselves. Mindoro Hornbills were more obliging, and we saw several groups throughout the morning. Philippine Fairy Bluebirds were quite numerous (oddly not shown as occurring in Mindoro in Kennedy et al, something that Tim had mentioned to me in the past), as were groups of Colasisi overhead. A group of Green Imperial Pigeons got our hopes up for something more interesting, but no luck there.

We got back to the guest-house sweaty, muddy and leech-ridden, with few birds to show for our efforts. No sign of Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker, and of course not a sniff of Mindoro Bleeding Heart. We were lacking a recording of Mindoro Hawk Owl so that was off the list from the start.

The trip back to San Jose was uneventful, barring a small group of Coleto flying over the road.

All in all a disappointing trip, but one that showed the relatively simple logistics involved in getting to some of the scarcer birds in The Philippines. To be repeated, but perhaps in the dry season next time!

Philippine Honey Buzzard. Split from Oriental Honey Buzzard, this species has a peculiarly long neck, which combines with the small head of all Honey Buzzards to give a highly distinctive silhouette in flight

Philippine Serpent-Eagle 

Wandering Whistling Duck

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Young Tockay

Left to Right: John (driver), driver's mate, cook/inmate, inmate, Jess (guide/ inmate), Ken, Mark

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

12th - 14th September - IRRI

The week started well with a flock of 15-20 Philippine Green Pigeon (recently split from Pompadour G. P.) flying over my house on Monday, (and again at exactly the same times on Tuesday and Wednesday) close to Baker Field on UPLB campus. I saw them regularly at this time of year in 2008 and 2009, but not last year. They can't be long distance migrants as they are endemic, probably just local movements in response to trees fruiting, but the regularity of the daily schedule is interesting.

New migrants in the fields included plenty of Yellow Wagtails on Tuesday, joining the flocks of Oriental Pratincoles, Pacific Golden Plovers and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters. A few Long-toed Stints still in the paddies as well.

Yellow Wagtail, ssp. tschutschensis

Common Sandpiper 

A mixed flock of Oriental Pratincoles and Pacific Golden Plovers

Java Sparrow 

Juvenile White-breasted Waterhen

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Week ending 11th September - Makiling, IRRI

Another week with changeable weather, so my only birding window was saturday morning. I tried the Makiling trail starting at about 7:00 am. There were a few birds about, mainly calling, but overall it was quiet. A female Philippine Trogon was sunning herself in a clearing, and then calling in response to my tapes, but she was very shy of showing herself for photographs. A Scale-feathered Malkoha was also visible, but in a dark corner of the canopy. A brown bird in the canopy was exciting, until it revealed itself to be a juvenile Brown Shrike. Little else of note, so I went to the fields. More Brown Shrikes there, as well as the usual species. A Grey Wagtail back at the Staff Housing complex was another new migrant.

Female Philippine Trogon

Female Cinnamon Bittern 

Juvenile Common Moorhen ssp. lozanoi

The first migrant Brown Shrike of autumn

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ixobrychus spp. at IRRI

A short gallery of the various Ixobrychus Bitterns that occur at IRRI.

After initially identifying this as juvenile Cinnamon Bittern I was this week corrected by Des Allen, who pointed out it was a classic female Schrenk's Bittern. Chocolate brown upperparts with large white spots, and creamy white underparts.

A female Cinnamon Bittern. Differing from the Schrenk's in having a buffier base colour to the throat, and the spots on the back edged buff.

Another Cinnamon Bittern, male

A male Cinnamon Bittern, looking magnificent

Yellow Bittern

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Week ending 4th September - San Juan, IRRI

Emboldened by the evidence of early migration underway at IRRI I decided to head to the fish ponds at San Juan on Sunday. Early birds there included a fly past Tabon Scrubfowl, and 2 Pink-necked Green Pigeons. Very few waders about; a small party of Pacific Golden Plovers and 4 or 5 scattered Greenshank was the sum total. No Nightjars yet, and no Rufous Night Heron either. The Philippine Duck population was the highest I've seen it however, with well over 200 birds.

Back at IRRI the Snipe numbers are on the increase, and there are still a scattering of Long-toed Stints, though no sign of Monday's Sharp-tailed Sandpiper which looks to have been a one-day bird.

On Sunday I went to the Botanical Gardens at UPLB on Makiling. Brief views of Red-crested Malkoha, Luzon Flameback (recently split from Greater Flameback), and Indigo-banded Kingfisher, but no decent photographable views of anything sadly.

Pacific Swallow

Clamorous Reed Warbler

A pair of Philippine Ducks, just before they exploded into the sky. San Juan is one of the strongholds for this species in Luzon, several hundred were here today.


Fiddler Crabs abound in the mangroves at San Juan

Back at IRRI, several more Snipe sp. have arrived.