Sunday, January 15

A bat in the backyard

While puttering about the garden, I saw a small pile of talisay (Terminalia catappa) fruit on the ground together with a small unripe macopa (Syzygium samarangense) fruit. This was several feet away from the nearest tree of either species. The talisay fruit was gnawed down to the seed, bite marks very clearly scarring the surfaces. Hmmmm...

Having some idea of the culprit, I looked up, and sure enough, there was a tiny bat hanging upside down from the tree canopy above me.

Ooops, I think I've been spotted! Here's the little bat taking a look down at me looking up at him.

How cool!

Frugivorous bats are well-known dispersers of talisay seeds, so if you come across a talisay seedling with no mother plant nearby, this flying mammal could be your sower.

I've always wondered where the bats I hear flying around at night roost.  Nice to know the garden is home to another wild animal.

(And yes, I scattered the pile of seeds after I took the photo... didn't want my mom finding about our furry friend. I don't think she would be pleased.)

Monday, January 2

Subic is also butterflies!

Since we were already in the area and still had the weekend free after the Ibong Dayo Festival in Balanga, Adri and I decided to spend the night in Subic so we could go birding the next day.

Birding in Subic almost never disappoints and that Friday afternoon and Saturday morning was no exception.  Woodpeckers, pigeons, coucals, malkohas, kingfishers, cuckoo shrikes, raptors, hornbills, barbets, tree swifts, dollarbirds, owls, plus all the other usual suspects were present. But my attention to the birds was distracted by another Subic flying attraction: buttterflies!

The moment I saw several Painted Jezebels, Delias hyparete, (looking freshly eclosed) flying around the flowering hagonoy, I knew butterly-ing would overtake birding (for me at least) that weekend!

Hagonoy, Chromolaena odorata Linn., is introduced from North America and is one of the world's worst invasive plants.  Among its common names are Devil weed, Christmas bush  and Butterfly weed: all reflecting its nature.  It is very difficult to control and eradicate, it flowers  around December and it is a nectaring plant for lepidopterans.

As the morning wore on, Adri was busy with the birds, and I was focused on the butterflies feeding on the profusion of white hagonoy flowers.

The easiest to photograph was the large and always friendly Cruiser, Vindula dejone

It would alternate between feeding and sunning itself on nearby leaves.

Many other nymphalids were out feeding:

Satyr, Ptychandra lorquinii 

Crow, Euploea sp.

Sailor (or one of those butterflies with a military rank, sergeant? How will I ever learn to get the ID correctly?!)

Zethera pimplea 

Perhaps the star of the morning was a beautiful Banded Peacock, Achillides palinurus.  It was unusually cooperative, perching on the white flowers rather than just the usually fast flight.  

Its wings were still flapping very swiftly, the hindwings moving in figure of 8 pattern, so it took several tries to get it showing the upper side. 

It was such a beauty, even Adri was pulled away from the Dollarbird he was photographing to join me in stalking this swallowtail.

Another papilionid present was the elegant Green Dragontail, Lamproptera meges.

Although much smaller, they were no less speedy, and darted from blossom to blossom.

There were also several skippers (hesperids) out and about.  The easiest for me to identify (about the only one I can!) is this snow flat, Tagiades japetus.

Other skippers:

While a lot of the skippers were feeding, some were attracted to our equipment and to our clothes and skin!  Probably in search of the minerals in our sweat.

This one spent a lot of time perched on the tripod.

While another one followed Adri around while he birded.

Skippers were not the only ones on the lookout for non-botanical perches!

Here is the same Vindula dejone as above, eye to eye with me as it rested on the camera strap on top of the car.

One of the few lycaenids that day was quite friendly, perching not only on our camera equipment, but on me and Adri alternately!

Aside from the Delias, several different types of pierids were actively feeding.  It is easy to see why this family is referred to as whites and sulfurs/yellows.

There were several Chocolate Albatrosses, Appias lyncida.

Tree yellows, Gandaca harina  (not sure on this ID either!)

White Albatrosses,  Appias albina

Several very vibrantly colored Orange Albatrosses, Appias nero  (one was quite larger, so I am not sure if this is the correct species) also were plenty.

Later,  just as we were about to leave, it was a pleasant surprise to find several of the pierids puddling on the asphalt.

Side by side, I realised that the Chocolate Albatross (3rd from left on foreground in photo below) looked very similar (but not!) to the pierids beside it (2nd, 5th and 6th).  Perhaps these were Cepora boisduvaliana

Notice the yellow and white mark on the apex of the forewing, as opposed to the single yellow mark. Argh to butterfly identification!

A common mormon, Menelaides polytes, joined the puddling pierids, looking like a giant beside them.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a favorite, the tiny lycaenid Caleta roxus also gathering minerals.

It was fast approaching noon and we had to drive back to the business district to check out of our hotel.  It was difficult to leave such a beautiful sight, so we took a few (and by that I mean maybe a hundred) parting shots of the kaleidoscope on the road.

Birds AND butterflies.  I love Subic.

Bird identification is sooo much easier than butterfly identification!  I would appreciate identification and corrections to the ones I've made here. :-) 

Monday, December 26

Back to Balanga!

It was the 7th Ibong Dayo Festival and we were off to Balanga City!

Adri and I were fortunate enough to have had our schedules free to join Balanga in celebrating the return of migratory birds to the city's wetlands.  The festival was established a year after the 4th Philippine Bird Festival (2009) hosted by the City of Balanga, and last year, it coincided with the 10th Philippine Bird Festival which returned to Balanga, this time hosted by the entire province of Bataan. This year, the festival won for the 3rd consecutive year an award from the Department of Tourism in recognition of its exceptional efforts as "Best Tourism Event" in the city category, allowing it to rise to the Hall of Fame for awardees.

We volunteered to man the scopes to show students and visitors the birds at the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park on the shores of Manila Bay. We skipped the parade from the town plaza and headed straight for the park. There we found other WBCP volunteers Patty A., Richard R. and Brian E. already set up at the viewing decks.  

The mood at the park was quite festive already, as the early birds (haha) waited for the parade to arrive.

The tide was high and the birds quite a distance away, but it did not stop the enthusiastic festival goers (many of them students) from dropping by the viewing decks to peer through the scopes and our binoculars!

Great Egrets stood in the far shallows, a bright white under the sun.  

Black-headed Gulls, Whiskered Terns and Greater Crested Terns perched on the fish pen poles in the distance.

A pair of Collared Kingfishers were a source of great delight, perching on fence netting right next to a larger than life photo-tarpaulin which identified them.

Later the tide began to recede, exposing an expanse of mudflats.  The waders came in, flying in large flocks: sandpipers, stints, plovers and more!

Many of the birds were oblivious to the fishermen going about their daily business.

The first time birders were amazed to see clearly some Common Redshanks and Greenshanks feeding on the next beach through the scope.

Unfortunately, some of the mangrove wildlife was not so appreciated, and we saw a poor snake being taken away by some of the maintenance people.

A few Kentish Plovers and Common Sandpipers were foraging just in front of the viewing decks, until they were flushed by some kids enjoying stomping through the wet and sticky mud.  

Everyone in the view decks was amused by a little girl who was up to her knees in the mud. One of her playmates, quickly "rescued" her, only to get stuck as well!

Mid-morning and the festival was in full swing, complete with festival dancers and a busy trade fair.

Some kids arrived with a piece of paper they were supposed to fill up with the birds they saw.  To say they were competitive would be putting it mildly!

An Osprey was spotted, perched some distance away.  It was perched for so long, first eating a fish and later preening, that many of the students were able to see it through the scope and compare it to the illustration in the field guide.  Alex L was also a curiosity, taking photos with his huge lens!

The time passed quickly and soon it was lunch time!  Where did the morning go?!?

It was time to pack up and go.  We met up with the other volunteers and bid goodbye to the wetland park. We were fed (as usual!) a sumptuous meal by our hosts from the local government, and even given delicious ice cream to take home!

How can I not love the City of Balanga? A vibrant city, wonderful people, delicious food and a great wetland park: I keep coming back again and again! I'll be back to catch the spring migration next year!