Saturday, April 28, 2012

Besra at Bangkhong Kahoy - 29 April

One of the guides at BK valley found a Besra nest a week or so ago, and set up a small blind, so I had no hesitation in heading back to what is becoming my favourite birding spot in this part of Luzon. After a couple of false starts I found the blind, and settled down to wait. The bird took half an hour or so, but it eventually swooped up onto the nest and started building. It was a nice adult female, clearly showing a faint eye-brow and with heavily streaked underparts, rufous on white. She called for two short periods, but with no obvious reply, I assume the male must have been nearby, or on his way. After an hour of watching I left her to it and headed back.

Apart from the Besra I had good views of several Banahaw specials, including Chestnut-faced Babbler, and at least one Oriental Cuckoo.

Adult female Besra in the process of building a nest. She didn't bring any new materials, and the nest looks fairly complete so egg-laying may be soon.

While waiting for the Besra to appear several other species entertained me, including this raucous White-throated Kingfisher which I watched consuming a large metallic-green beetle (possibly a 'click beetle' Elateridae?).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week ending 22nd April - IRRI

Plenty of passage this week, with flocks of hundreds of Yellow Wagtails (with the occasional Grey Wagtail), large numbers of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Oriental Pratincoles. House Swifts were very low over Baker Field, along with Palm Swifts and Striated Swallows. The Long-toed Stints from last week were present through most of the week. On Monday 23rd a Slaty-breasted Rail showed well on the upland farm.

Yellow Wagtail, M. f. tshutshensis. A fairly typical individual with a clear white supercilium and grey ear coverts...
A less typical bird, with very dark ear coverts, and no visible supecilium, looking more like M. f. macronyx or M. f. thunbergi, aside from the white throat. Hybrid?

White-collared Kingfisher
 House Swift over Baker Field

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flowerpeckers of The Philippines

There are 15 species of Flowerpecker in The Philippines, of which 13 are endemic (according to my understanding of recent taxonomic revisions). I've seen most of them by now, and have photographs of some, so have decided to collect all my images in one place. This posting will be updated as I take new photographs, and if any further taxonomic changes are announced.

To date the species that are endemic to The Philippines are:

Olive-backed Flowerpecker. Prionochilus olivaceus.
Palawan Flowerpecker. P. plateni.
Striped Flowerpecker. Dicaeum aeruginosum.
Olive-capped Flowerpecker. D. nigrilore.
Flame-crowned Flowerpecker. D. anthonyi.
Bicolored Flowerpecker. D. bicolor.
Whiskered Flowerpecker. D. proprium.
Cebu Flowerpecker. D. quadricolor. (Possibly extinct)
Red-keeled Flowerpecker. D. australe.
Visayan Flowerpecker. D. haematostictum. (A recent split from Red-keeled)
Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker. D. retrocinctum.
Buzzing Flowerpecker. D. hypoleucum. 
Pygmy Flowerpecker. D. pygmaeum.

In addition the following two species have distributions extending beyond The Philippines, into the rest of South-East Asia:

Orange-bellied FlowerpeckerD. trigonostigma.
Fire-breasted FlowerpeckerD. ignipectus.

Almost every one of these has a number of distinct races, some of which will probably be considered to be good species in the future.

Striped FlowerpeckerDicaeum aeruginosum striatissimum.

IRRI, 22/10/11

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, D. ignipectus luzoniense.

Mt Banahaw, 14/04/12.
Red-keeled Flowerpecker, D. australe.

Mt Makiling,
Visayan Flowerpecker, D. haematostictum.

Dumaguete, 18/12/11

Pygmy FlowerpeckerD. p. pygmaeum.

Mt Makiling, 22/10/11

Orange-bellied Flowerpecker,  D. trigonostigma  xanthopygium.

Mindoro, 1/11/11
Olive-capped Flowerpecker, D. n. nigrilore.

Mt Kitanglad, 8/1/11
Buzzing Flowerpecker, D. hypoleucum obscurum.

Mt Makiling, 19/11/11

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mt Banahaw - 14th April

A beautiful sunny day on Mt Banahaw with Richard and Alex. The day started with a pair of Philippine Cuckoo-Doves flying past while we had coffee, then 6 or 7 Luzon Hornbills crossed the gully in front of us. After that we met up with our guide, Chris, and set off up the mountain.

Throughout the day there seemed to be plenty of bird activity, but few were visible. Most numerous by call seemed to be the Mountain Tailorbirds, of which we saw a handful. On the way up Alex and Richard saw a White-browed Shortwing, one of the key species here, but sadly I missed it! Apart from that Philippine Coucal, Scale-feathered Malkoha and Balicassiao were almost the only other birds seen until we got to the high point of the trail, where we found a fruiting fig. We waited for an hour or so, during which time a host of birds visited, including Mountain Leaf-Warbler, Chestnut-faced Babbler, Mountain Verditer, Metallic-winged Sunbirds, more Mountain Tailorbirds and Spotted Wood-Kingfisher. We also heard Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove from here, but it was too far away to track down.

The downward journey was fairly uneventful until Alex found a male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker in a tree. We then tried the ATV trail, which was great again, with Blue-headed Fantail, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, more Mountain Leaf-Warblers and Metallic-winged Sunbirds, and Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler.

A male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, ssp. luzoniense. In The Philippines an uncommon resident of montane forest, above 1000m. I saw ssp. apo in Kitanglad in January last year.
Male Spotted Wood-Kingfisher

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

IRRI - 11th April

Beautifully sunny afternoons all week, so I headed down to the fields on on Wednesday. Two groups of Long-toed Stints were the main highlight, 6 in the fields near the pylons, and a further 8 in the southernmost fields. Lots of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters about too, and several hundred Whiskered Terns, many in breeding plumage. Tscuschensis Yellow Wagtails and Grey Wagtails were also on passage.

On Friday two Pacific Golden Plovers flew through, the first record this spring.

 Long-toed Stint, looking smart...
Four Long-toed Stints of a group of 8 in the southern fields.
Many of the Whiskered Terns are in breeding plumage...
 A striking Grey Wagtail.

Lots of Blue-tailed Bee-eater today

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Boracay - 1st to 9th April

A family holiday on the tropical paradise of Boracay. As it has what is generally regarded as one of the best beaches in the world it is now jammed solid with people every holiday, and has been 'developed' extensively. Consequently much of the original habitat has disappeared. There is still a small patch of forest clinging on at the northern tip of the island, near the 'bat caves' marked on the map below, and this became my temporary local patch. All the tricycle drivers know the area, and will take you to the end of the tar road for 150 pesos. From there it is a walk of about a kilometre to the caves. The habitat is degraded forest and scrub, with the odd patch of decent forest. The birds are fairly typical of this habitat, but with a couple of surprises. Above the forest were Glossy Swiftlet and Asian Palm Swift, with Barn Swallows and Pacific Swallows. Pink-necked Green Pigeons commuted between forest patches early in the morning. The scrub had Zebra Dove, Chestnut Munia, Striated Grassbird, Olive-backed Sunbird, Brown Shrike and Yellow-vented Bulbul. A big surprise in this area was a group of three Chestnut-eared Starlings. On the edges of the forest there were lots of Pied Trillers, Philippine Coucal and Koel. Inside the forest itself I found White-eared Brown Dove, Philippine Magpie-Robin and Visayan Bulbul. One of the caves didn't have bats, but did have nesting Glossy Swiftlets which flew out of the cave and along the forest trails, which was quite alarming at first.

An evening visit to the area paid dividends with Mantanani Scops Owl, Philippine Hawk-Owl and Philippine Nightjar all calling. The Scops in particular seemed common, with at least 5 birds calling near the paths to the bat cave. No luck in seeing them however!

The beach areas were populated almost entirely by those species that thrive in the presence of man, i.e. Asian Glossy Starling, Tree Sparrow, Chestnut Munia and Yellow-vented Bulbul, with lots of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters overhead. A lone Brahminy Kite flew past on Saturday afternoon.

In the evenings the birds are replaced by a large population of gigantic Fruit Bats which roost at the northern end of the island.

 Pied Triller. Very common.
The biggest surprise of the week, two of three Chestnut-eared Starlings that were near the bat cave.
 Philippine Coucal
Juvenile Asian Glossy Starling, almost the commonest birds on the island.