Saturday, January 11, 2014

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.

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