Wednesday, October 30, 2013

IRRI - 31st October

Wednesday saw Richard and I ringing again, trying to get a better look at the Acros we had on Monday, but no luck there. We did have lots of other birds though, including 4 Brown Shrikes, 3 Striated Grassbirds and many Chestnut Munias. The last catch of the evening was a bat which we managed to release without being bitten. A major achievement! A flock of 4 Grey Herons overhead was interesting, my first record at IRRI of this common species.

Thursday was dry, and a quick drive around the fields produced an amazing 3 Temminck's Stints and 2 Long-toed Stints, among many other commoner birds.

Male Painted Snipe with its brood. Very cute chicks they make too!
One of at least three Temminck's Stint in the fields on Thursday.

(My initial identification was Rufous-necked, which is obviously wrong. I was thrown by the muddy legs is my only excuse!)
This group of 4 young Grey Herons flying over the farm on Wednesday is the first sighting I've had of this species at IRRI.
Ringing on Wednesday produced this juvenile White-breasted Waterhen, among others.

Monday, October 28, 2013

29th October - IRRI

Several holidays in close proximity have given me a week off work. As my better half is also away this is clearly a great excuse to go birding. On the morning dog-walk I spotted a Peregrine and a Common Kestrel sharing the same pylon. A later trip into the fields produced several Snipe spp, as well as a smattering of other obliging birds. Coupled with the large number of Oriental Reed Warblers from yesterday it looks like there's some ongoing migration happening.

Classic view of a classic bird, Common Kestrel.
While watching the Peregrine I noticed this Common Kestrel sitting just opposite. Not a common migrant at IRRI.
Adult calidus Peregrine. Has the juvenile from the past few years grown up or is this a different bird?

Common Sandpiper
Cinnamon Bittern, really living up to its name.
Snipe spp. Lots around at the moment...

Greater Musky Fruit BatPtenochirus jagori, roosting under the eaves of one of the main buildings at IRRI.

(Thanks to Rai Gomez through the Philippine Biodiversity net page on Facebook for the ID)

Ringing at IRRI - 28th October

A very interesting afternoon spent ringing with Richard on the farms. The initial catch (2pm - 4pm) was exclusively Chestnut Munias, but as the light faded we started to get a few different things, including several Acrocephalus warblers, which presented more of an identification challenge than I expected. Certainly some were Oriental Reed Warblers, and some of the smaller birds could only have been the resident harterti race of Clamorous Reed Warbler, however there were a couple which I am still unsure about. I think we shall revisit the area soon, and try to get a bit more experience at identifying these tricky birds.

While ringing Richard spotted the calidus Peregrine had arrived, the first sighting this winter.

Several large Acrocephalus warblers were trapped towards the end of the day, and presented more of an identification challenge than I had anticipated. This first bird showed clear streaking on the breast...
... quite striking at certain angles, and had measurements (weight, length, wing length) that exceeded the (presumably median) values given in Kennedy for Oriental Reed Warbler. Overall the harterti race of Clamorous Reed Warbler we get on Luzon is said to be smaller than other races.
With little biometric data to refer to it is hard to make definitive identifications based on measurements alone. The plumage tones of this bird are interesting, it appears to be a 'colder' brown than the next one we caught...
The second of several Acros. One of the features said to separate Oriental from Clamorous is the latter's relatively finer bill, and less distinct supercilium. Based on that alone I see little distinction between the two birds....
...though the plumage of the second has a 'warmer' tone...
...both species show pale buffy tips to the tail feathers...
...but the second bird has clearly emarginated primaries, most notably P3 and P4. Is P5 emarginated or just slightly bent? If it was it would rule out Oriental. Phil Round points out that as orientalis moults on its breeding grounds this has to be the resident harterti anyway!
At some angles the second bird had clear throat streaking. Apparently some juvenile Clamorous Reed Warblers show some breast streaking, it doesn't seem to be the clinching feature I imagined it to be...
Less difficult to identify, we caught lots of Chestnut Munias, including this immature ...
...this one is approaching adult plumage...
... and several adults.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week ending 20th October - Makiling, IRRI

The rains seem to have dried up this week, apart from a few showers. The weekend in particular saw blue skies and blazing sun. I tried a hike up Mt Makiling on Tuesday (holiday due to Eid al Adha), but there was little around. A pair of Philippine Trogons were the best birds of the day.

The fields were also quiet, with a Kentish Plover, some Long-toed Stints and an few Black-winged Stilts the main birds of interest.

A hike up Mt Makiling produced this female Philippine Trogon, but little else
The Common Kingfishers have arrived!
The long bill of this dealbatus Kentish Plover is the principal difference with alexandrinus.
Plenty of Long-toed Stints still about
Long-tailed Shrike

Friday, October 11, 2013

Saturday 12th Oct - IRRI

Typhoon Santi passed through the northern part of Luzon this weekend, threatening lots of rain but not actually delivering much. On Saturday Richard and I continued the search for migrants, with little success. A pair of Plain Bush-hens were the main hightlight.

Later that afternoon I returned and located a Red-necked Phalarope and a Kentish Plover. The phalarope looks overall paler than the first about 2 weeks ago, and I'm fairly sure it's a new bird.

The Red-necked Phalarope was still present on Sunday, and the Kentish Plover count had increased to 3. On the upland farms I relocated 2 of the Little Grebes that were on the experimental station last month (1 adult and 1 juvenile)

A pair of Plain Bush Hens on the Experimental Farm. Not a common sight at IRRI, being much more often seen on the forest edge.
What I believe to be a second Red-necked Phalarope of the autumn..

 .. it appears to be somewhat paler overall than this bird that was in exactly the same field on 29th Sept, less than 2 weeks ago.

Paddyfield Pipit. I'm sure a Richard's is going to turn up soon...
Another Kentish Plover also showed up in the afternoon. This one looks comparatively small-billed, possibly alexandrinus. Sunday afternoon there were at least 3, (and this one has a much more robust bill, surely dealbatus).
Cinnamon Bittern

Black-winged Stilt

Typhoon Santi on Friday afternoon. Lots of rain promised, but Saturday wasn't too bad at all. A bit damp to start, but it soon stopped raining, and while the sun didn't show it stayed dry most of the day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

IRRI produces a Harrier at last! - 10th Oct

A late afternoon sprint around the farms produced some excellent birds. First up was a fantastic female Harrier spp. on the upland farms. To say that it's long overdue is to flirt wildly with understatement. The habitat at IRRI seems custom built for harriers, but they just aren't here. The fact that they are a regular feature of rice fields in other parts of the Philippines only deepens the mystery. The bird quartered the dry fields, landing a couple of times, but was heavily mobbed. I hope it stays.

While watching the harrier another new arrival in the form of a Purple Heron also took off out of the fields.

On the experimental station there are many new waders, particularly a lot of Long-toed Stints, and in amongst them a solitary juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper. The great run of waders continues!

What looks like a female Pied Harrier. My initial identification was Eastern Marsh, but the structure appears a little too lightweight for that. The head and particularly the bill seem a little small. This would be my first record of this species in The Philippines, and my first harrier of any kind at IRRI. It was severely mobbed by dozens of passerines. Lets hope it hangs around.

Any comments or corrections to this ID would be welcome!
The tail is interesting. Broad bands and a somewhat square tip suggest Pied.
The quantity of white on the rump is interesting, much more than would be expected on Eastern Marsh.
I took this to be a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, however closer examination shows that it is in fact a juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, a first record of this species from The Philippines! Thanks to Tom for pointing this out to me. A detailed analysis is here.

While taking photos of the Harrier this Purple Heron popped up out of the field in front of me.
Barred Rail. Not a migrant, but very obliging.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Week ending 6th October - IRRI

Most of last week's exciting crop of waders have moved on, leaving behind hundreds of newly arrived Whiskered Terns, and many Long-toed Stints and Wood Sandpipers. A few Black-winged Stilts are still about. Oriental Pratincoles are also gathering in a large flock, and will presumably be heading south in the next few weeks.

Whiskered Tern. Hundreds now on the farm
House Swift
Long-toed Stint. One of many passing through IRRI this week
Oriental Pratincole. A flock of several hundred is gathering on the experimental station, presumably preparatory to flying south soon.
Either Pintail Snipe or Swinhoe's Snipe....

.... Lots have arrived over the last couple of weeks.