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

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