Monday, October 29, 2012

Makiling Botanical Gardens - 30th Oct

A short walk through the botanical gardens at Makiling today. Not too much about, but 2 nice male Indigo-banded Kingfishers was a bonus. A Yellow-bellied Whistler was the only other highlight. Supporting birds included Grey Wagtail, Balicassiao and Red-keeled Flowerpecker.

Male Indigo-banded Kingfisher. The light was very poor in this extremely gloomy corner, so not great photos unfortunately, but these are the first IBKs I've seen in quite a while...
...another male, couldn't find a female today.
Yellow-bellied Whistler, ssp. philippinensis.

Subic - 27th to 29th Oct.

A nice family trip to Subic, with a couple of mornings of birding thrown in, lovely. All the usual suspects were present, lots of Woodpeckers (Northern Sooty, White-bellied and Luzon Flameback), Bee-eaters (Rufous-crowned) and Kingfishers (White-throated, White-collared and Common), with Whiskered Tree-Swifts on the wires, and Brahminy Kites on the updrafts. Parrots were represented by Colasisi, Guiabero and Green Racquet-tails. A nice sighting was a Philippine Hawk-Eagle on the wires early on Monday. Other birds included; Coleto, Red-crested Malkoha, Bar-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike, Rufous Coucal and Luzon Hornbill. Heard-only birds included Philippine Scops, Luzon Hawk-Owl and Rufous Hornbill.

The most unusual sighting was an Ashy Drongo at the entrance to the trail going up hill 394. Before I had registered how unusual a record this was it had gone, so no photos unfortunately. The three most obvious candidates appear to be: leucophaeus (resident on Palawan and spread across Indonesia), leucogenis (Manchuria and E China wintering to S Indochina), and salangensis (Resident SE China and S Thailand, wintering to Hainan and Malaysia).

Apart from birds, the bats and monkeys were entertaining, and a Tangalong Civet (Viverra tangalunga) on the road to hill 394 on Sunday morning was a big surprise.

Male Northern Sooty Woodpecker...
...this time with a female. These two were part of a noisy party of 5 or 6 birds in the botanical gardens on Monday morning
Male White-bellied Woodpecker, ssp confusus. This bird appeared to be excavating a nest, however the next morning when I revisited the site I watched a bat fly into the same hole...
 Rufous-crowned Bee-eater
White-throated Kingfisher
Philippine Hawk-Eagle on a wire in the early morning
Bar-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike
Halloween seems to be in the air!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Makiling the mediocre - 20th Oct

After last week's triumph I was very keen to get back up the mountain to see if the fall had persisted. Sadly it hadn't! A much quieter day, though it had an almost identical start. A juvenile Red-bellied Pitta hopping around in the middle of the road. Much more confiding than last week's adult in almost the same spot.

Once we started walking we really noticed the difference. Overall the forest was a much quieter place, with few noisy twittering flocks, and very few birds visible at all at first. Of course hard work usually pays off in these circumstances, and we started to see some nice things. At least two pairs of Luzon Flamebacks were along the trail, along with a Luzon Hornbill (only seen briefly, but heard regularly). The male Philippine Trogon was in a very similar place to previously, and a mixed flock contained several Elegant Tit, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Blue-headed Fantail and Arctic Warbler. The rest spot at station 14 was lively again, with a large, noisy flock of Stripe-headed Rhabdornis which seemed hardly to have moved at all. A flock of Yellowish White-eye came through the same place, and they were accompanied by several Lowland White-eye (unusual at this altitude). Also with them were two female and one male Narcissus Flycatcher, so at least some of last week's magic was still around!

The trip down was uneventful, barring a brief glimpse of a Pechora Pipit, and a pair of Oriental Honey Buzzards displaying far overhead.

One of two female Narcissus Flycatchers, with a more flighty male in the same flock. I have now seen Narcissus Flycatcher 3 times in the Philippines (for a total of 5 birds), and every sighting has been on the same 30 yard stretch of trail on Makiling. Curious.
One of a pair of Oriental Honey Buzzards. Their distinctive profile allows these birds to be easily identified even when far overhead like this.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Makiling the Magnificent - 14 Oct

A fabulous day's birding on Makiling. Richard and I had arranged to meet at 5:30 and drive up to Agila camp, which we duly did. The road is being repaired so we had to dodge graders and the like on the way up. The good birds started early though, as Richard spotted a shape in the road which quickly flew off, we stopped and began the hunt, eventually there it was, Red-bellied Pitta. The light was terrible still, but we eventually both got onto it, a great start to the morning. At Agila camp we parked up, and started walking. Within 50 yards we had our first migrant of the day, a fantastic little Ferruginous Flycatcher, which performed marvelously. Buoyed by this we continued up the track. Several small bird parties were scattered along the track, with one containing a brilliant female Rufous Paradise Flycatcher.

The next bird party had a Philippine Trogon and Yellow-bellied Whistlers, as well as a Pechora Pipit wandering along the trail in the same area. We were to see a further 3 Pechora Pipits. A little further on a Philippine Drongo Cuckoo was nice, something I haven't seen in quite a while. We were then treated to an extraordinary shriek that I couldn't place at all, until I saw the source, a Philippine Fairy Bluebird. This was amazing, I have only ever seen them in Mindanao, and had long dismissed the only record I'd heard of from Makiling as very stringy. Their call is incredibly loud, and quite distinctive so I can only assume they are very thinly spread here. Soon after this yet another party (consisting mainly of Stripe-headed Rhabdornis) contained a magnificent male Narcissus Flycatcher, unquestionably the most spectacular find of the day. Nearby a White-bellied Munia was nest-building.

By this time it was time to turn back. The Ferruginous Flycatcher was still on station, with a more common Grey-streaked Flycatcher watching over it from on high. The highlights didn't stop there however. On the drive down the mountain a wagtail on the road turned out to be a Forest Wagtail, a long awaited rarity!

There were of course plenty of more usual Makiling birds, including; Brown Shrike, Glossy Swiftlet, Buzzing Flowerpecker, Elegant Tit, Flaming Sunbird, Arctic Warbler, Philippine Woodpecker, Grey-backed Tailorbird, Yellowish White-eye, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Blue-headed Fantail, Philippine Bulbul and Balicassiao.

In addition to all that Richard also had a probable Eye-browed Thrush while I was busy taking photographs of something else.

Other migrants at IRRI staff housing included several flocks of Chestnut-cheeked Starlings and a single Ashy Minivet on Sunday.

Ferruginous Flycatcher. Quite a rarity here, this is the second I've had at Makiling, the first was in autumn 2008.

Philippine Drongo Cuckoo, strangely absent for quite a long time, the sightings from the last couple of weeks have been my first for over a year.
Male Narcissus Flycatcher. In almost the same spot as the female from last winter

Forest Wagtail. A long expected bird!