Saturday, November 26, 2011

Makiling - 26th Novermber

Another early start for a trip up Makiling, this time with visiting birder Eric Barnes. It was quite overcast, with rain at first, but that stopped before we got to the top. Pre-dawn several birds calling, including Philippine Hawk-Owl, White-browed Shama, and Spotted Wood-Kingfisher. The first birds to be visible were a pair of Luzon Flamebacks at Agila Camp, which disappeared quickly. Further up the trail the juvenile Red-bellied Pitta from last week was in the same spot.

Several small bird parties, particularly in the fruiting parasitic plants that are so abundant here. Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Elegant Tit, Buzzing Flowerpecker, White-eared Brown Dove, Philippine Bulbul, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Colasisi, Guiabero, Scale-feathered Malkoha and Red-crested Malkoha were all vocal and visible on the way up. A Philippine Serpent-Eagle showed briefly. A Luzon Hornbill was calling very excitedly, but failed to show itself, but a pair of nearby Philippine Trogons did show well. The light was too poor for clear photography sadly! Close to the main clearing another party of flowerpeckers, but this time including an Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, my first in Luzon. The same subspecies as Mindoro, xanthopygium.

Not much at the clearing, barring more Buzzing Flowerpeckers, and a Red-keeled Flowerpecker so we headed down. On the way down another juvenile male Blue-and-White Flycatcher. A different bird from last weeks, much more blue this time.

Back at TREES lodge 9 Philippine Falconets on the dead tree, a personal record!

 Female Philippine Trogon
Juvenile male Blue-and-White Flycatcher. Supposedly a rare migrant, this is the third consecutive year the bird has turned up on Makiling, and the second in a week (last weeks had less blue). Almost certainly under-recorded.

A Terrapin spp. in the stream flowing through UPLB.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Philippine Flamebacks

N. J. Collar has published a paper in the most recent Forktail detailing a proposed split in the Greater Flameback complex, which is highly variable in the Philippines. I've only seen three, looks like a trip to Negros is warranted...

Luzon FlamebackChrysocolaptes haematribon. Luzon, Polillo, Marinduque, Catanduanes

Buff-spotted Flameback. Chrysocolaptes lucidus.
       C. l. rufopunctatus. Samar, Biliran, Leyte, Calicoan, Bohol, Panoan
       C. l. lucidus. Basilan, W. Mindanao
       C. l. montanus. C & E Mindanao, Samal

Yellow-faced FlamebackChrysocolaptes xanthocephalus. Ticao, Masbate, Guimares, Negros, Panay

Red-headed FlamebackChrysocolaptes erythrocephalus. Palawan, Balabac and Calamian group

In addition to these four the Palawan race of Common Flameback has also been split, creating yet another Philippine endemic woodpecker.

Spot-throated Flameback. Dinopium everetti. Balabac, Busuanga, Culion, Palawan

Red-headed Flameback. St. Paul's, Palawan, Jan 2011

An amazing looking bird, this is a female, the male has no yellow speckling on the crown.
Buff-spotted Flameback. C. l. montanus Kitanglad, Mindanao, Jan 2011

The most boring of the four! This is probably a juvenile male. The adult male has a striking red crest, and the female has no red on the crest, this has some red, but not as much as I'd expect from an adult.

Luzon Flameback. Makiling, Luzon, Nov 2011

Another splendid bird, the red back is quite striking. This is a female, the male has a red crest.

Makiling - 19th November

An excellent morning spent high up on Makiling. Few birds visible at first as usual, but plenty calling. Most raucous were the Luzon Hornbills, of which I saw a few. The first bird of note was a pair of Luzon Flamebacks on a dead tree, along with Coppersmiths. Nearby were a few Buzzing Flowerpeckers on the mistletoe they love so much. Also feeding on that were White-eared Brown Doves, very confiding today.

The weather was good, so up at station 14, where there is a campsite in a clearing I spent a good hour just waiting to see what would happen. A family of Philippine Falconets were perched out in the open, hunting grasshoppers. There were more Luzon Hornbills here, as well as several calling Philippine Coucals. Overhead were both Glossy Swiftlet and Pygmy Swiftlet. Several flocks of Philippine Bulbuls here, and a small bird party consisting of Yellowish White-eyes and several warblers of the Arctic Warbler complex. Typically, after last week finally ridding myself of a bogey bird in the shape of Green-backed Whistler (and confidently saying they didn't occur on Makiling) I had a party of 3 of them! A juvenile male Blue-and-white Flycatcher also showed briefly in this party, as well as Elegant Tit, Blue-headed Fantail and a female Narcissus Flycatcher. This last was very cryptic. Clearly not the Asian Brown Flycatcher I took it to be initially, I couldn't place it at all when I put the pictures on the computer. Thanks to Des Allen for help with the ID.

Heading back down I flushed a bird off the track which turned out to be a juvenile Red-bellied Pitta. It wasn't photographable (much too dark), but it hung around giving good views until I left it alone.

In the car on the way out of the reserve a male Spotted Wood Kingfisher flashed across the road, and perched on a branch, allowing me to get fantastic views. The light was less than brilliant, so the photos could have been better, but this is one of my favourite Philippine birds, and it really showed off!

Luzon Flameback, Chrysocolaptes haematribon. This is one of 4 'new' species of Flameback in The Philippines resulting from the long overdue splitting of Greater Flameback. This one is restricted to Luzon, Polillo, Marinduque and Catanduanes
 White-eared Brown Dove, ssp. leucotis.
 Philippine Falconets
 Philippine Bulbul
 Yellowish White-eye
Buzzing Flowerpecker of the greenish olive race obscurum
Grey Wagtail. In The Philippines closely associated with forests, particularly roads in forests

Spotted Wood-Kingfisher. This gorgeous male flew across the road in front of me and perched on a branch. paying me very little attention. A quite magnificent bird!

Female Narcissus Flycatcher. My first in The Philippines

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bangkong Kahoy Valley 12th Nov

After hearing about a resort on Mt. Banahaw called Bangkong Kahoy Valley I decided to check it out for myself. The directions were good, and the road was fine (apart from the last half km). An excellent area at the foot of Mt. Banahaw which looks to be very well vegetated. It's quite a bit higher than Mt. Makiling, and has the possibility of some different birds. After meeting Ramon Quisumbing (the photographer whose photos prompted me to try the area) I had a look around. Quiet at first, my first bird of any sort was a Bicolored Flowerpecker, followed by a fantastic Green-backed Whistler, of the brown-backed race crissalis. This is a bird I've been hankering after, but have failed to find at Makiling, or elsewhere.

Above the forest were several Pygmy Swiftlets, some Glossy Swiftlets, and some larger birds that could have been Island Swiftlets, or even Philippine Swiftlets, I shall have to look again to be sure. Also soaring high were a pair of Philippine Serpent Eagles, and a Grey-faced Buzzard.

This was only a recce, and I only stayed a couple of hours, but the quality of the area is clear, and I shall definitely return.

Green-backed Whistler, ssp. crissalis. Supposedly common, this does not appear to be present in the forest at Makiling, and I dipped at Mt. Polis in August. It is fairly quiet, and sits very unobtrusively high in the trees, an easy bird to overlook.

This particular race has fairly uniform brown upperparts, making the name a rather poor one.

Two Philippine Serpent Eagles circled high overhead, one of them seemingly ready to moult its tail feathers...

Several Pygmy Swiftlets were feeding over the forest, and gave reasonably good views. The narrow white rump is very clear and easy to see...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Waders at San Juan

An excellent morning at San juan, with plenty of migrant waders about. The three main ponds by the entrance road were all partially drained, and full of waders, the first time I've seen them like this. Flocks of Lesser Sandplovers, Rufous-necked Stints, Greenshank  and Marsh Sandpipers were interspersed with smaller numbers of Greater Sandplovers, Kentish Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers and Long-toed Stints. There were plenty of herons too, Grey Heron, Little Egret and Great White Egret.

The ponds to the south of the main house had their usual flocks of Black-winged Stilt (200+), with large numbers of Pacific Golden Plovers, as well as more Greenshank and Marsh Sandpipers. A lone Garganey shuttled between the groups of waders. A Great Knot appeared in one of my photographs from this area, though I didn't spot it at the time!

Part of my reason for visiting today was to try an locate some winter ducks, so this single Garganey was a little disappointing, maybe later in the season will be better.

The Philippine Ducks were in their usual place, and all the usual San Juan birds were visible, with the exception of Savannah Nightjar, the second year in a row I've failed to find them here. Also absent were any Brahminy Kite, odd that. An interesting record was a solitary Green Imperial Pigeon, my first sighting here. A Whimbrel was in the mangroves, an unusual spot.

A large proportion of my photographs seem to be of birds in flight. This is due to a combination of long views over the ponds (on-the-ground shots are from long distance), and poor cover meaning the birds are easily flushed when I try to get close.

A mixed flock of Rufous-necked Stint and Lesser Sandplover. Also in this group were 2 Long-toed Stints and a few Kentish Plovers and Little Ringed Plovers
 Marsh Sandpipers (with a couple of Greenshank)
Pacific Golden Plover
 Green Imperial Pigeon, my first at this site
The by now standard in-flight view of Philippine Duck
A single Garganey in a flock of Black-winged Stilts
... now on its own...
... and finally with a flock of Greenshank
When I downloaded the pictures onto my computer I found this bird which had been with one of the flocks of Black-winged Stilts I'd photographed. A Great Knot that had completely slipped my notice while actually there!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week ending 6th November - IRRI

Very wet weather from our return on Tuesday onwards made this a difficult birding week. On Friday a single Kentish Plover was still present, and the Peregrine was back on its pylon. Plenty of Whiskered Terns were all over the fields, they seem to have settled in for the winter. A small party of Barred Buttonquail were the first of their species I'd seen in a while.

 Grey Wagtail
Whiskered Tern

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2nd Nov 2011 - Subic

A much anticipated return to Subic to catch up with three of the key birds I missed last year. Sadly the weather didn't play its part, being quite wet, but unyielding officialdom scuppered the trip completely when I was refused entry to the forest near Hill 394 on my second visit. Apparently it is a 'restricted zone', no idea why. The trip started well (but damply), with Northern Sooty Woodpecker and White-bellied Woodpecker in various areas of the forest. A group of Rufous-crowned Bee-eaters, M. americanus (split from Blue-throated Bee-eater, M. viridis) was at the start of the trail on Hill 394. Purple Needletails zoomed around, and both Brahminy Kites and White-bellied Sea-Eagles haunted the bat colonies. Several Whiskered Swiftlets were on the wires along the road too, all in all a nice selection of Subic birds. Pity about the bureaucrats.
 Red-crested Malkoha
Northern Sooty Woodpecker. Recently split from the birds in the south, this has a red forehead, face and malar stripe, Southern Sooty Woodpecker has a red malar stripe only.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mud, blood and Flowerpeckers

I took a day out from a family trip to Sabang on Mindoro to explore a golf course (Ponderosa) above Puerto Galera that was reputed to have some good habitat. A track leads from the ninth tee near the clubhouse towards a quarry, along a relatively undisturbed and little used muddy path. Straightaway the habitat looked great, and there was some early calls that were interesting. The main point of interest was a fruiting tree near the start of the track. It was here that I encountered the largest number, and greatest variety of birds. Mainly Mindoro Bulbuls at first, there were also Yellow-vented Bulbul, Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, Balicassiao, and Black-naped Monarch. A party of small passerines included several of the Arctic Warbler complex (still haven't got to grips with the 3 species that are said to occur here, ArcticJapanese and Kamchatka Warblers), Lovely Sunbird, Elegant Tit, Pygmy Flowerpeckers, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker and my main target species of the day, Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker, a Mindoro endemic.

Another pleasing sighting was the distinctive all-black Mindoro race of Philippine Coucal. Interesting that both Coucals on this island that used to be known as the black island are all-dark, though the island name came from the particularly virulent strain of malaria that occurs here. Purple Needletails at the clubhouse were also nice, my second sighting of them in a week.

The site is a good one, and one that I'll visit again. I'm certain that Mindoro Hawk-Owl would occur, as well as the various Imperial Pigeon spp. and Parrots that occur on Mindoro.

And if anyone is wondering about the blood in the title of the post, its the three or four tablespoons I gave up to the 15 or so leeches that took me for a mobile buffet, not to mention the umpteen mosquitos, the bites of which are still making their presence felt.

The all-black Mindoro race of Philippine Coucal, Centropus viridis mindorensis. There were at least two in the upper stretch of the quarry trail, but were very wary, similar behaviour to their cousins in Luzon.
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker. This variable species has 11 races in The Philippines, 10 of them endemic. This is apparently Dicaeum trigonostigma xanthopygmium, the same race that occurs on Luzon. Its main distinguishing feature is its yellow rump.
Female Black-naped Monarch 
Mindoro Bulbul