Saturday, January 18, 2014

Week ending 19th Jan - IRRI

A quiet week at IRRI with very few waders about apart from a few Wood Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers. The winter flock of Whiskered Terns is now at about 100. An adult calidus Peregrine was present all week, and on Saturday a Brahminy Kite and a Common Kestrel were on the main farm. The kite eventually spent most of the day quartering the fields, though I only saw the kestrel very briefly.

Adult Brahminy Kite which spent most of Saturday hunting in the fields
An adult calidus Peregrine, on the same pylons on the experimental farm as all the others. Present all week.

White-collared Kingfisher which appears to be eating a snail. An interesting choice of food for a kingfisher, there's plenty of it at least!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mt. Polis and Banaue - 9 Jan

From Laoag we drove over the Bessang Pass to Banaue to spend a day birding the Mt. Polis area. The drive up was spectacular, and birdy. A Mountain Shrike was perched on roadside wires near the top, and the pines just after the pass held several parties of Red Crossbill. A Philippine Hawk-Eagle was hunting this area too.

Our only full birding day was Thursday 9th Jan. We started with a quick stop at the top where I heard (and got a glimpse of) what must have been Luzon Montane Racquet-tail. Then we split up, with me looking for Benguet Bush-Warbler while the others went to find the Luzon Water Redstart. Neither of us were successful, though I did get a lot of the usual Mt Polis birds including; Chestnut-faced babbler, Mountain Leaf-Warbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Luzon Bush-Warbler, Long-tailed Ground-Warbler (heard), Metallic-winged Sunbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Mountain White-eye.

A short walk into to forest at the pass added Island Thrush to the list.

Banaue Hotel grounds was also nice, with Mountain Verditer and Yellowish White-eye. We eventually caught up with the Luzon Water Redstart near Banaue, at a bridge called Guihob Bridge.

Mountain Shrike ssp. validirostris. What a smart bird!
 Red Crossbill ssp. luzoniensis.
 Mountain Leaf Warbler ssp. benguetensis.
Luzon Water Redstart
Mountain Verditer ssp. nigrimentalis.
We bumped into this giant stripey worm in the forest above the police post at Mt Polis. Apparently its burrowing has been responsible for weakening the walls of the famous Banaue rice terraces.

Laoag, 6th - 7th Jan

As has become the norm at this time of year, due to the extra holidays we hard-working teachers get, I took off for a week's birding, this time north to Laoag. Several rare migrants had been reported from the area, so it was a very twitchy trip! I traveled up with Mark Wallbank and Jude Sanchez, and we met up with Richard Ruiz in Laoag itself.

We started at the fish farms in Gabu, looking for the Mandarin and Black-necked Grebe that had been reported from here. No luck there, but we did find several interesting migrants, including Siberian Rubythroat, Common Teal and Eurasian Coot, as well as less common resident birds such as Golden-headed Cisticola and Philippine Collared Dove.

After a fruitless hunt for the Yellow Buntings, we went to the river mouth to look for gulls. This was much more successful as we quickly got on to a Black-tailed Gull, and then the real rarity, a possible Kamchatka Gull found by Rob Hutchinson the previous week. The birds were at a great distance, but we managed to flag down a passing banca who took us to within 50m or so of the resting birds.

In the afternoon we dropped by at Paoay lake to tick off Common Cormorant.

The following day we started with a quick trip to Pasuquin looking for forest birds, then got back to Gabu fish ponds. We were luckier this time round and quickly got very good views of Yellow Bunting. The gulls were still on the river, this time in company with 3 Black-headed Gulls.

Presumed Kamchatka Gull. A more rounded head and somewhat larger than Black-headed Gull, the only gull species that regularly occurs in The Philippines.
No white spots on the wing tips (P10) make this a first winter bird.
The almost white rump and upper tail rule out first year Mew Gull. This leaves either Common Gull, L. c. canus or L. c. heinei or Kamchatka Gull L. (c). kamtschatschensis. L. c. canus is far out of range and extremely unlikely. L. c. heinei has an almost pure white rump and upper tail, Kamchatka Gull shows brown spots or bars. This bird seems to show some brown markings, other photographs show these more clearly.
The underparts are tinged brown, heinei appears whiter below, though many kamtschatschensis are more strongly marked than this. The underwings are very dark, much more so than would be expected from heinei. Note also the barred undertail coverts.
The brown markings on the upper tail are more obvious here

The putative Kamchatka Gull was joined by a Black-tailed Gull (left)
The Black-tailed Gull has a much longer face, similar to Sooty Gull and White-eyed Gull from the Middle East. This is also a first winter bird.
Black-tailed Gull showing the white rump contrasting with the all-black tail (the Kamchatka Gull had only a black band at the tail tip)
In the evening light it appeared almost uniformly brown underneath.

Yellow Bunting. One of several birds that have been wintering here.

Golden-headed Cisticola
Philippine Collared Dove
Siberian Rubythroat

Common Kestrel with the remains of a rat which it must have scavenged from the beach.
Male Blue Rock Thrush on the McDonald's sign in Laoag city.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Candaba - 2nd Jan

A twitch to Candaba to catch up with some recently discovered rare migrants, in the company of several Manila-based birders. First order of the day was scanning the enormous egret roost for the three Black-faced Spoonbills that have been hanging around for a couple of weeks. It took a while but we eventually got on to them, about 500m away. We then faced a dicey trek across the rice fields, balancing precariously on slippery logs, and making several wrong turns before we got to a good distance. The birds were completely unconcerned at our approach and we ended up with superb views. After half an hour or so they took off and headed to another area of the fields to feed.

A scan of the rest of the area produced large numbers of Kentish Plovers behind the flocks of Black-winged Stilts, and a group of 14 or so Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

We followed the Spoonbills to their new area, a similar group of fields full of waders, including a group of 3 Black-tailed Godwits.

We carried on to the mayor's ponds. At the smaller one the winter duck flock was excellent. The first oddity was a Spot-billed Duck spotted by Rob, a female Common Pochard also showed itself. Other species present included Philippine Duck, Garganey, Shoveller, Tufted Duck and Common Teal. The larger pond held Wandering Whistling Duck, and on our return to the smaller one several Pintail and 2 Gadwall had arrived. 10 species of ducks in one area, not a bad duck day!

Other birds in the area were mainly the usual Candaba set, including brief views of a Middendorf's Grasshopper Warbler, and a flyby Black Bittern.

Black-faced Spoonbill. The right-hand bird looks to be an adult with the small yellow pre-orbital patch, neither of the other two show this and are presumably juvenile. The adult also has a somewhat shaggier crown.

The middle bird seems to have darker greyish primaries, also an indicator that it is a juvenile.
Three Black-tailed Godwits.

Spot-billed Duck. Annual in the far north, these are still quite rare as far south as Candaba.
Female Tufted Duck and Female Common Pochard. Pochard are annual in very small numbers at Candaba.
Female Gadwall. A rare migrant, though surely under-reported