Monday, June 11, 2012

Sabang, Palawan - 4th to 7th June

The first stop on my week-long trip to Palawan to try and mop up those endemics that I'm still missing. The first three days I spent at Sabang. The main target were the Philippine Cockatoos which have been found to roost in mangroves just off the main road into town. It took 2 days of visits, hiring a motorbike to take me there morning and evening, dodging rainshowers all the time, but eventually I scored, having a group of 6 birds come in at sunset on Tuesday afternoon. The site is pretty easy to find, 12km out of Sabang, just before the village of Tegabinet. Other birds here included Lovely Sunbird (recently split from Handsome Sunbird), Palawan Flowerpecker, Hill Myna, Dollarbird, Black-headed Bulbul, Ashy Drongo, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Green Imperial Pigeon. After dark several Large-tailed Nightjar were on the road back to town, plus another, smaller nightjar I couldn't identify.

The rest of the time was spent in the forest between the mangrove river and the first ranger camp. The main target here was the Falcated Ground Babbler, but there was hardly a sniff, with just one brown shape moving on the trail being a possibility. There were plenty of other birds here, including Crested Goshawk (1), Tabon Scrubfowl, Koel, Palawan Hornbill (2), Hooded Pitta (1),  Yellow-throated Leafbird, Ashy-fronted Bulbul, Sulphur-bellied Bulbul, Palawan Bulbul, Spangled Drongo, White-vented Shama, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Lovely Sunbird, Pale Spiderhunter.

The mangrove river was still marvelous, producing a pair of fantastic Ruddy Kingfishers, as well as Spot-throated Flameback, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Common Iora, Blue-naped Parrot and on the beach by the mouth a pair of Malaysian Plovers, and several Eastern Reef-Egret, including a white phase individual.

Around Sabang itself garden birds included Asian Fairy Bluebird, Pale Spiderhunter, Ashy-fronted Bulbul, Sulphur-bellied Bulbul, Palawan Bulbul and Palawan Flowerpecker in the fruit trees at Dab-Dab, and Brown-backed Needletail overhead.

Ruddy Kingfisher, ssp. linae. One of a pair that showed on each of the three trips I took on the mangrove river. Very approachable individuals, this endemic race can be hard to find.
Eastern Reef-Egret. Several birds moving between the beach at the north end of Sabang beach and the mouth of the mangrove river.

A white phase and dark phase Eastern Reef Egret together. The white phase seems to be quite scarce.

Crested Goshawk, ssp. palawanus.

Malaysian Plover. A permanent fixture on the beach at the mouth of the mangrove river. This male in breeding plumage had a female in attendance.
Island Swiftlet, ssp. palawanensis. Mostly overhead near the Cockatoo viewpoint.
Lovely Sunbird Aethopyga shelleyi. A recent split from Handsome Sunbird, this is a 'new' Palawan endemic. The main distinguishing feature is the extent of the iridescence on the crown, the absence of a violet cheek spot, and the presence of red streaking on the yellow breast.
Philippine Cockatoo. The main target species. They roost at a regular spot 12km from Sabang. Mainly visible up to 6am, and after 4pm as they travel to the roost, which is over 1km from the viewpoint, and presents rather poor views.
Pale Spiderhunter Arachnothera dilutior. Another recent split, from Little Spiderhunter, creating another Palawan endemic. The main feature is the absence of bright yellow flanks and lower belly.
Asian Fairy Bluebird. This had become something of a bogey bird, until I finally turned one up in the garden of a restaurant in Sabang.

Water Monitor. Common, particularly in the mangroves.

Mangrove Snake. Common in the mangroves, I have yet to take a boat trip up the mangrove river without seeing one (7 trips)
Displaying male Philippine Flying Lizard. This was the culminating point in a 10 minute battle between two (presumably) male Flying Lizards that chased each other between several trees. They finally faced off, about 2 feet apart, with wings and throat-flap fully extended, in a what appears to be a threat display.
Red-tailed Squirrel. Common in all forest types, the best views I had were in the palm trees around Sabang.


  1. Some splendid birds, looks like a great spot.

    Very jealous of the Ruddy Kingfisher !

    1. If it looks it!
      mmmm...adobong ibon