Friday, August 24, 2012

Bangkhong Kahoy, Banahaw - 25th August

After hearing news of the Whiskered Pitta nest discovered on Banahaw while I was on holiday in Namibia I was determined to get up there as soon as possible to see for myself. The nest is half an hour's scramble up a gully that I've crossed several times before. It is of course no longer active, and the forest is very wet and slippery, but come the dry season next year, when the Pittas are calling I shall be back!

Not seeing the Pitta was no surprise, and in fact the trip was a great success as I found a feeding group of 4 Flame-breasted Fruit-Doves while hiking to the nest site. Absolutely massive, I thought they might be Hornbills at first, until I got one in the bins. While taking a picture of one of these extraordinary birds my guide, Tony, alerted me to something else much closer. This turned out to be an Island Thrush, another long sought after lifer. I got poor record shots of both birds, in a frantic couple of minutes that left me breathless and with a pounding heart.

The rest of the birds were the by now regular Banahaw selection, including; Chestnut-faced Babbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Mountain Verditer, Blue-headed Fantail, Metallic-winged Sunbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Pygmy Flowerpecker, Yellowish White-eye and Elegant Tit.

Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove, peering down at me from on high. I've heard these a few times at Banahaw, but to actually see them was fantastic!
Island Thrush, ssp. thomassoni. All dark, like a small Blackbird. Despite the fact that this was a fairly confiding bird I really struggled to get a decent photograph. Now I know where they are I shall try again...
 The by now regular Chestnut-faced Babbler.
My first photograph of a Blue-headed Fantail. They don't normally sit still long enough for portraits.
Mountain Verditer Flycatcher.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Diving at Puerto Galera

The first of two consecutive long weekends saw me and the family off to Puerto Galera on Mindoro. The weather was variable, and my long-anticipated return trip to Ponderosa golf course to look for Mindoro endemics was washed out by heavy rain on the Sunday morning (best birds were a party of Mindoro Bulbuls, and lots of Elegant Tits).

I therefore concentrated on that wildlife that would not be affected by rain, namely the underwater kind. Nice dives all around the Sabang coastline. Visibility wasn't great, but overall an excellent few dives, with a very large selection of Nudibranchs.

An interesting difference from previous trips was the number of Dolphins seen, with pods seen on three separate days. On the way out on Saturday 3 individuals of a large dolphin sp, with a large, strongly curved dorsal fin, possibly Melon-headed Whale, Peponocephala electra. On Monday a single small dolphin leaping very high out of the water, probably Gray's Spinner Dolphin, Stenella longirostris. On Tuesday a large pod of 20+ animals, probably also Gray's Spinner Dolphin.

Chromodoris willani
Chromodoris lochi

Chromodoris annae
Chromodoris magnifica

Chromodoris tinctoria
Nembrotha cristata
 Nembrotha chamberlaini

Phyllidia ocellata
Phyllidia varicosa
Phyllidiella nigra

Phyllidiella annulata
Halgerda batangas
Hypselodoris iacula
Egg-shell Cowrie

One of several Giant Frogfish on Sabang Wrecks

Common Lionfish
 Banded Pipefish
 Blue Ribbon-Eel
 White-eyed Moray

Squat Lobster

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Waders passing through IRRI - 16 Aug

The past couple of weeks have seen two tropical depressions passing through the northern part of the Philippines in quick succession. The first (Typhoon Gener) brought widespread flooding to the Manila area (and resulted in 3 days of cancelled school), and the second (Tropical Storm Helen) just added to the mess. Very few chances to get out and about,

By Thursday of this week the rain had finally abated, and I took the chance to get down to the fields to see what was about. A mixed flock of waders was very interesting, with at least 16 Long-toed Stint and 3 Red-necked Stint, along with the more common Wood Sandpipers and Common Sandpipers.

Not much else of note.

On Friday one of the Red-necked Stints was still present, along with most of the Long-toed Stints. 22 Pacific Golden Plovers were also in the fields close to the main buildings, the first record this autumn.

One of about 16 Long-toed Stints feeding in the paddies on Thursday afternoon, the first day without rain in nearly 2 weeks!
 Another bird, taken on Friday 17th.

A Red-necked Stint showing a faint trace of a reddish upper breast.
Possibly the same bird was present on Friday 17th...

This Red-necked Stint still shows some reddish tertials

 Yellow Bittern
A very confiding Fan-tailed Cisticola

Tropical Storm Helen heading off towards the south China coast on Thursday afternoon.