Tuesday, February 21, 2012

IRRI staff housing - 21st/ 22nd February

Tuesday was the first sunny day in weeks, so I took the opportunity to have an afternoon wander around the staff housing complex. A large fruiting tree in the grounds of the DG's house attracted a lot, including Pygmy Flowerpecker and Red-keeled Flowerpecker, Yellow-vented Bulbul and many Coppersmiths. A male Purple-throated Sunbird showed well, and a solitary Eye-browed Thrush perched in the top of a tree for a few minutes. Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and Philippine Woodpeckers were also conspicuous.

On Wednesday a follow-up visit produced Philippine Bulbul, Guiabero and Colasisi in the fruiting tree, as well as a mixed flock of Elegant Tit, Plain-throated Sunbird, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and Philippine Woodpecker.

Eye-browed Thrush. My first for a couple of years, a great bird to get inside the compound.
...and partner. Lots about today, fruiting trees and sunshine, they seemed to be having a ball!
Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Female Philippine Woodpecker
Purple-throated Sunbird, displaying the nominate feature...
On Monday a Wood Sandpiper with a broken bill provided a small ID challenge when seen in silhouette!
Several Guiabero visited the tree on Wednesday

White-throated Kingfisher by the Guest House

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pulong Malapad Island and Candaba - 18th February

A mixed day. We started early and tried to get to Pulong Malapad Island, in Manila bay, Pampanga province. If we had set out a mite earlier we might have beaten the Pampanga Municipal and City Engineer Association's tree-planting outing. But we didn't, and consequently there weren't many birds to see! Birds were not totally absent of course. We had a small mixed flock of waders, Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Redshank with fly past birds including Whiskered Tern, Little Tern and Black-headed Gull. Great White Egret, Purple Herons and Green-backed Herons also present.

At 11:00 we decided to head across to Candaba, which we did, arriving at 1:00pm. Immediately the birding improved. A group of Red Turtle Doves escorted us along the road and into the reserve proper. The main ponds near the mayor's house had hundreds of Black-crowned Night Heron, Grey Heron and Purple Heron as usual. A pair of Little Grebe were present as was a Philippine Purple Gallinule, and on the pond behind the house was a mixed flock of Philippine Duck, Eurasian Teal, Garganey and Wandering Whistling Duck. We'd been advised as to where the main wintering flock of ducks were by Alex Loinaz who we'd met at the mayor's house, so we headed in that direction. A group of 16 or so Oriental Pratincoles were reluctant to leave the road on the way to the site. Once there we found a huge flock of several thousand ducks. Mostly Philippine Duck (1000+), with large numbers of Garganey (400+), there were also substantial numbers of Pintail (100+) and Wandering Whistling Duck (300+). Also present were 10 or so Eurasian Shoveller and 3 Eurasian Wigeon. Apart from ducks we also found 3 Pheasant-tailed Jacana feeding in the dense floating vegetation, no long tails yet sadly. Further along we found an area of rice fields that had been recently prepared for planting. Plenty of birds here, including Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Log-toed Stint, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover and Black-winged Stilt. Heron spp. included Purple Heron, Great White Egret and Intermediate Egret.

Oriental Pratincole. Very smart looking birds. These are in pristine condition, and seemed to be very attached to a particular patch of road. Possibly they'll try and breed in the middle of the road!

Another Common Kingfisher. Everywhere this week!
Wandering Whistling Duck. Quite a few today in the large duck flock.
Garganey. Several hundred at least in the large flock, mostly in the floating vegetation.
Eurasian Teal. About 20 birds up near the mayor's house.
Pied Bushchat.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Week to 16th February - IRRI

A strange week weather-wise. Quite unseasonally overcast, continuing the pattern of the last couple of weekends. Little movement visible with small numbers of the regular wintering birds scattered throughout. A male and female Common Kingfisher on the Experimental Farm (on separate days, maybe there is some passage?) were the rather dim highlight. Whiskered Tern numbers are building, and the Cattle Egrets are starting to develop breeding plumage.

Buff-banded Rail, having a bit of a stretch
White-breasted Wood-Swallow. A very social species, always cuddling up to each other when perched.
Cattle Egret. A few birds starting to come into breeding plumage.
A pair of Painted Snipe hiding in an overgrown paddy.
At least two different Common Kingfishers in the fields this week, This bird, with a reddish base to the lower mandible is female...
And a male with an all black bill in the next paddy.
Brown Shrike, tucking into something juicy.
White Collared Kingfisher

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bangkong Kahoy Valley - 12th February

Another trip to BK valley, this time to try and get to a higher altitude than previously, to see what might be about. The weather wasn't too co-operative at first, with rain starting as we arrived at 6am. By 6:30 it had stopped, so we headed up the hill with our guide Tony. Birding was incredibly slow from the beginning. The wind picked up soon after we started, and sporadic showers and poor light were with us all morning. The first birds were seen only after at least an hour's walk, a small flock of Chestnut-headed Babblers and Yellowish White-eye. A White-browed Shortwing was calling in a gully on the way up, but didn't show itself. It responded to playback, but only by singing. A male Metallic-winged Sunbird ssp. jefferyi was the highlight.

The descent was little better until we reached a small stream where we found a small flock. At first all we could see was Blue-headed Fantail, Citrine Canary Flycatcher and a Mountain Leaf Warbler. A tiny bird grabbed our attention however, Yellow-browed Warbler, a national rarity! It isn't a country first, it was one of the last birds Tim Fisher saw before he died, but possibly a second or third record for The Philippines.

Further down on the same path another tiny bird was jumping around in some bamboo, Mountain Tailorbird. An absolutely gorgeous little thing, and very responsive to playback.

All in all a pretty mixed time, with some terrible weather and few birds until the day was saved by a couple of stunners!

A map showing the location of BK valley in relation to San Pablo (Laguna) and Dolores (Quezon)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Makiling upper trail - 4th February

An early start up Makiling. After picking up Richard at 5:00 am we drove up to Agila camp. It was a very overcast day, and dawn was slow in coming. Early calling birds included Philippine Hawk-Owl, White-browed Shama and Spotted Wood-Kingfisher. Once the light finally filtered through we headed up the trail, with a pair of Luzon Flameback the first birds visible, directly above Agila camp. The morning was damp, with periodic showers, and lots of low cloud. Bird activity was consequently muted. Small flocks of commoner species were encountered periodically, but little to stir the blood. About halfway to station 14 a Pechora Pipit on the track provided some excitement, as did a small, noisy group of Luzon Hornbill. We continued past station 14 for about a kilometre, to little advantage, before turning around when the weather worsened.

On the way down bird activity was even less, until we were close to Agila camp when a bird flushed from the track, and disappeared around the corner. We edged closer, to find a gorgeous Ashy Ground Thrush sitting in the middle of the track. A fantastic bird, and a much better view than the brief glimpse I had at La Mesa Eco-Park in September. I knew the upper trail would have them!

My main camera is in for repairs, so it's close ups of crawlies with the pocket camera this week.

 Millipede sp.
Leech sp. One of three species present on Makiling.
Droppings from what looks like a Viverrid spp., possibly Malayan Civet