Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bangkhong Kahoy Valley - 23rd January

A trip to Bangkhong Kahoy valley on the occasion of Chinese New Year. Dion met us at 6:00am, and we drove further up the mountain. Our aim was to bird some of the lower slopes of Mt. Banahaw and investigate some of the records of montane species being seen here.

At the parking spot a juvenile Philippine Hawk-Eagle drifted across, and perched up in a tree on the hill above us. An excellent sign! We set off up the trail, and within 15 minutes had our first encounter with our target bird, Chestnut-faced Babbler. I'd heard about these from posts on the Philippine bird photography forum. I'd dipped at Mt. Polis in August, and was delighted to finally catch up with them. They were in company with a mixed species flock, with Elegant Tit, Blue-headed Fantail, Yellowish White-eye, Mountain White-eye, Balicassiao, Mountain Leaf-Warbler and Mountain Verditer. The leaf-warbler in particular was a surprise, not the last for the day either.

Further up the mountain a fruiting tree was full of Balicassiao, giving various raucous calls. In amongst was a woodpecker call, and there on the tree in front was a Sooty Woodpecker! I certainly had not heard of them being seen here before, and this was a big surprise. Soon after this Red-crested Malkoha and Luzon Flameback showed briefly.

The morning continued in this vein, with regular mixed species flocks. The Chestnut-faced Babblers proved to be very common, other species seen were; Colasisi, Bicolored Flowerpecker, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Buzzing Flowerpecker, Citrine Canary-Flycatcher, Green-backed Whistler, Arctic Warbler, Philippine Bulbul, Scale-feathered Malkoha and Philippine Cuckoo-Dove. 

Above the forest were Pygmy Swiftlet, and a plain swiftlet I assume to be Philippine Swiftlet.

Chestnut-faced Babbler

Mountain Verditer (ssp. nigrimentalis)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week ending 22nd January - IRRI

A quiet week with most of my birding being short afternoon sallies to the fields and wandering around the staff housing complex. Very little new to report. The Whiskered Tern flock is growing and is now close to 100 birds. Common Sandpipers also seem to be congregating in groups, but very few other waders are about. The Peregrine remains on the pylons .

Night birds are becoming more vocal, and I hear Philippine Scops Owl, Philippine Hawk-Owl and Philippine Nightjar on a daily basis from my house.

 Brown Shrike
 Common Sandpiper
 Whiskered Tern
 Stripe-headed Rhabdornis in the tree above my house
Giant Wood Spider next to my garage

Sunday, January 15, 2012

15th Jan - San Juan and IRRI

A first visit to San Juan for 2012 with newly arrived birder Richard from the UK. Early birds included good numbers of Pink-necked Green Pigeons and several Black-naped Orioles. Lots of heron spp. around including Purple, Grey and Green-backed Herons. Also both Rufous and Black-crowned Night-Heron, Great and Little Egrets and Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns. Wader numbers were down, with only Greenshank, Pacific Golden Plover, Black-winged Stilt and Marsh Sandpiper in any concentrations on the ponds. On the beach a large flock of Charadrius plovers turned out to be mainly Kentish Plover, with a small number of Lesser Sandplover mixed in. A couple of Whimbrel floated around during the morning. Philippine Duck numbers were also lower than usual, but those that were present showed fairly well.

Back at IRRI the Peregrine was back on station, but the state of the fields was clearly not conducive to birds as numbers of rallids and waders were both well down.

At the IRRI staff housing compound a Philippine Nightjar has taken up residence near my house, and can be heard calling most mornings, and occasionally in the evenings too.

A one-footed Black-winged Stilt, a Whimbrel and four Pacific Golden Plovers.
 Little Ringed Plover
Long-tailed Shrike

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Philippine Eagle-Owl, Quezon City - 14 Jan 2012

An amazing twitch to a suburb of Manila called Quezon City. In the grounds of the Water Authority a pair of Philippine Eagle-Owls have successfully raised a chick. The nest was on an old blocked off balcony on the third floor. The birds were first publicised a week ago, shortly before the fledgling made its maiden flight last Saturday, but it has been hanging around in the grounds along with its parents ever since. The area consists of a handful of acres of basically rubbish woodland, but apparently this pair have been here for some years, and have successfully raised a succession of chicks. The closest area of what might be termed 'suitable' habitat is several kilometres away. These birds are scarce throughout the Philippines, and very rarely seen by birders. An early contender for 'Bird of the year 2012', I'm not sure what else could compete with it!

An extraordinary record which I would quite frankly not have believed had I not seen it for myself.

Probably one of the adults. This and a second bird (fledgling?) started calling at about 6:15pm, and were quickly located. They stayed in the first tree for 10 minutes or so, moving to the larger tree adjacent to the nest site. We watched them for a further 10 minutes, then elected to leave them alone. We heard both the full call, and a series of low grunts, a short-distance contact call presumably.

Thanks to Alex Loinaz for this and subsequent photographs, and to Karen Ochavo for getting us into the grounds

A threatening pose from what I am presuming to be one of the adults
Slightly more rufous, no apparent black streaking on the crown, and with less heavily marked undertail coverts, I presume this is the juvenile.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Siquijor - 29th December to 6th January

An unexpectedly quick return to Siquijor occasioned by an unbelievable stuff-up in our holiday booking to Boracay which meant the family holiday was cancelled at 24 hours notice! Fortunately Coco Grove had a spot, so I was back  considerably earlier than I had expected! This being a family holiday birding time was limited to what I could find in the resort grounds. The principal birds were Asian Glossy Starlings and Olive-backed Sunbirds, but several other species were present in small numbers including Streak-breasted Bulbul, Philippine Magpie-Robin, Pied Triller, Zebra Dove and Spotted Dove. A comparatively dull start to the birding year after a magnificent 2011, but plenty of trips planned for the coming months...

Streak-breasted Bulbul. Note the loose crest, dark crown and white streaks on light brown throat (separating this from the newly split Tablas Bulbul)

Male Philippine Magpie-Robin

Adult and juvenile Asian Glossy Starling