Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday 24th Nov - IRRI

The fields at IRRI are being prepared for the next crop, and are at the ploughed and recently flooded stage. What it means is that the area of suitable habitat for migrant waders has changed from a handful of acres to several hundred in the space of a week. Birds are harder to find! The Green Sandpiper from Saturday never reappeared, and may have only stayed on the farm for a matter of minutes. While searching for it on Sunday morning I found more Temminck's Stints, in exactly the same fields as they've been appearing for the last few weeks. It's starting to look like a few birds have settled down in a spot they like. I think they move temporarily when disturbed by farming activities, but return when things get quiet.

There are also lots of Little Ringed Plovers everywhere at the moment. They seem to be associating in groups sorted by age, I'm not sure if they migrate like that, but they certainly seem to behave like that in the fields.

Apart from that the Peregrine has been showing itself regularly, and a Pacific Golden Plover was hiding in the long grass next to a ricefield on Sunday.

Up at IRRI staff housing a search for the Violet Cuckoo of Friday morning produced a Grey-faced Buzzard on Sunday, but no cuckoos sadly.

Adult Little Ringed Plover
Juvenile Little Ringed Plover. There are lots around at the moment, all apparently in flocks of similar aged birds. This group of a dozen or so were all first year birds, two fields down were 5 adults together.
Temminck's Stint (left) feeding with a Long-toed Stint.
Two fields over from the previous bird was this Temminck's Stint with a couple of Wood Sandpipers.
This may be a third, or the first bird after moving a few dozen metres.

Adult Cinnamon Bittern.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

19th - 22nd Nov - IRRI

On Tuesday flocks of several hundred wagtails were present on the upland farms. It seemed that over 90% of the flock were Grey Wagtails, with the rest being juvenile Yellow Wagtails.

Thursday saw a Grey Heron actually land in the fields, though it took off as soon as it saw me!

On Friday morning, while waiting for the bus to school at IRRI staff housing a gorgeous male Violet Cuckoo appeared in a nearby tree, giving stonking views for about 10 minutes, until it was chased off by a Colasisi. My first in the Philippines!

On Saturday afternoon I flushed a Green Sandpiper from a field on the upland farms. It went high and flew off towards the south-east, we'll see if I can find it again tomorrow...

One of hundreds of Grey Wagtails that arrived this week. They were mainly on the freshly ploughed fields that are being prepared for maize.
The Grey Heron that has been seen several times flying past has finally landed!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week ending 17th Nov - IRRI

The weather brightened considerably this week, becoming very clear and sunny (and hot) by the end of the week. Thursday saw the arrival of a few migrants, including a Greenshank among the Wood Sandpipers etc. Richard and I decided to try and revisit the night-ringing plan from a couple of weeks ago, but this time during full moon. We were very confident that this time we'd strike gold, so our disappointment was even worse when we actually caught even fewer birds! The only bird trapped was a juvenile Painted Snipe, though we did get another bat. This one was one of the smaller insectiverous species, however we didn't get a photo sadly.

During the night we had a couple of flybys from a Grass Owl, as well as hearing at least 2 Philippine Scops Owls calling from nearby wooded areas.

In the morning the Peregrine was hunting at dawn, and a solitary Purple Heron flew in from the adjacent farm.

Juvenile male Painted Snipe


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sunday 10th Nov - IRRI

Not much about this morning. The weather was glorious, but most of the birds were either hiding or gone. An exception was a moulty Osprey flying low over one of the ponds. I'd be surprised if fish large enough to Interest him are in there, but you never know.

Osprey. Quite an unusual visitor to IRRI, though there is plenty of suitable habitat nearby. Human pressure must keep their numbers down I suppose.
Peregrine back on post.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Aftermath of Yolanda - 9th Nov 2013

Typhoon Yolanda passed us by to the south, and caused us almost no damage at all amazingly. The Visayas weren't so lucky I believe, haven't seen the pictures yet but 200mph winds are going to cause some damage...

On the farms the Temminck's Stints seem to have disappeared, along with the other waders from yesterday. While looking for them I was stunned to see a Black Drongo flush out of a bush in front of me, however it flew over the fields without stopping, and left the farm heading south. When I found two of these here on 15th Nov 2009 Tim Fisher told me that a few had been seen in recent years, though I haven't heard of any since that date. Those particular birds stayed on the farm all winter, finally leaving in March 2010, sadly this one doesn't seem likely to follow that pattern.

While searching for the Drongo a Grey Heron flew low overhead, but also continues south out of the farm.

Grey Heron. After not seeing any here for 5 years, I now have two sightings in little over a week!
Crested Myna. Less red and more orangey legs and eyes on this individual.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Friday 8th Nov - IRRI

School was cancelled this morning by government degree because of the approaching typhoon. Working on the theory that bad weather usually means good birds I spent most of the morning in the fields. Between squalls I found a few nice things, including an intriguing flock of 9 large plover-type birds flying overhead. Probably Pacific Golden Plovers, but you never know! At least 4 of the Temminck's Stints were still present, and had been joined by a Long-toed Stint and an alexandrinus Kentish Plover.

On the upland farms a juvenile Purple Heron was the only real bird of interest, though many of the fields are being prepared for planting and there are many hectares of suitable habitat for migrant waders...

Typhoon Yolanda is due to get to us sometime this afternoon. It will pass somewhat to the south, but the promised winds are extremely high so I'm expecting power cuts and downed trees. Let's hope the birds find shelter. We'll see what tomorrow brings...

Purple Heron in driving rain on the upland farms.
At least 4 Temminck's Stints still present this morning. This was the closest....

... quite a pretty stint I've decided!
The small-billed alexandrinus race of Kentish Plover.
A rather bedraggled looking Long-toed Stint
Crested Myna with a clearly red eye and reddish legs. I can find no reference to these colours in the various field guides and handbooks I possess, which describe the species as having yellow eyes and legs. Could this be a sign of breeding?
Yolanda. Just rain here at the moment, but the winds are said to be fearsome...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thursday 7th Nov

Brace yourselves, Yolanda's on the way....

Wednesday 6th Nov - IRRI

The week has been dry so far, but bad weather is heading our way. In the fields 4 of the Temminck's Stints were feeding together on Tuesday afternoon, in company with at least 4 Kentish Plovers as well. There was no sign of either species on Wednesday. A Peregrine has once again taken up station on the pylons in the experimental farm. From what I've read it seems that Peregrines start to moult into adult plumage in March of their second calendar year. That means that the series of juvenile Peregrines we have had on the farms over the last 5 winters cannot have been the same bird returning annually to favoured winter quarters. Interesting that every year it is exactly the same two pylons that are used as a roost site. I wonder what the attraction is...

4 Temminck's Stints feeding together on Tuesday afternoon. No sign of the fifth bird
Adult Peregrine, ssp. calidus on the regular winter perch.
Slaty-breasted Rail
Barred Rail

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday 3 Nov - IRRI

The Temminck's Stints remain on the farms, with five birds seen together on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday a Grey-faced Buzzard was soaring overhead, the first of this species seen here this autumn.

The first Grey-faced Buzzard passing through IRRI this autumn.
Two Temminck's Stints....
...with two more about 10m away. A fifth bird was deeper into the vegetation on this field and therefore hard to photograph.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Ringing at IRRI - 1st Nov

Our first attempt at ringing at night, which was less than 100% successful. We set up the nets in the late afternoon, and unfurled them at midnight. There was no moon at all, and in the end there were no birds either! A Snipe spp flew into one of the nets early on, but didn't get caught and escaped. Apart from that one bat (Geoffrey's Rousette) and several bugs were all we caught until the sun came up. A disappointing night, but one we shall repeat in 2 weeks when the moon is full.

Birds heard in the night included Grass Owl, Philippine Scops Owl and lots of Black-crowned Night Herons.

The first catch of the night was this, Geoffrey's Rousette, Rousettus amplexicaudatus. What an excellent name!

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

Chinese Soft-shell Turtle, Pelodiscus sinensis. An invasive species. Found on the track during the night. 

(Thanks to Emerson Sy through the Philippine Biodiversity net page on Facebook for the ID) 
No birds at all were trapped during the night, the first didn't arrive until about 6:00am in the shape of this Barn Swallow....
...closely followed by a couple of juvenile Yellow Wagtails

Temminck's Stints at IRRI - 1 Nov

Over the last couple of days a small group of Temminck's Stints have been present in the fields at IRRI. They were first seen about midday on 31 Oct, and were still present on the afternoon of 1 Nov. The group consists of at least 3, and possibly as many as 5 birds (an unidentified flock of 5 stints was observed in the early morning of 1 Nov)

This was the first seen (bird 1), on 31 Oct, a further two birds were nearby in the same fields (birds 2 & 3). The leg colour is obscured by the sticky mud, but the brown tones to the upperparts, and the breast band are good indicators. This individual took flight while I was photographing birds 2 & 3...
Possibly the same bird seen a little later in a different field about 100m from the first site.

Note in these two pictures the long tail extending past the primaries, unlike all other stints that occur in The Philippines
These two were in exactly the same place as birds 2 & 3 on 1 Nov. The light is a little better, and the legs are a little cleaner, making the yellowish tone to the legs more visible...
...most noticeably on this individual.
This was the bird present (in exactly the same field) on 30 Sept.