Monday, February 19

busy, busy week

It's been a busy, busy week for me! It was such an action packed-week that I'm officially declaring next weekend as a rest weekend.

saturday: Hot Air Balloon Festival at Clark

Adri, Marvin and I picked up Adri's mom, sister and niece at Bulacan and headed for Clark for the hot air balloon fest. Cool. Their tag line was "and everything that flies", so they had kites, rc planes, ultra light planes, motorized paragliders (is that what they're called?), paratroopers, and of course the hot air balloons. I didn't expect so many people though, or that the hot air balloons would be off limits to the general audience. And it was a big let down not seeing the balloons actually take to the air.

But the sight of all those colorful balloons and the light show, and all the other stuff was worth the trip. Good thing we scheduled a late afternoon trip too. North of Manila temperatures are beginning to soar during the day.

Check out some pictures here:

sunday: Supply shopping day Ok, spending P 30,000.00 on school supplies and bird fest stuff took longer than expected. I hate National Bookstore. Down with all unhelpful sales persons. Once again SM saves the day. Again, they've got it all for you! Oh, and in the panic of buying, I ACTUALLY LOST MY PARKING TICKET. Aargh. First time ever, and thankfully it wasn't too much of a hassle. The entire afternoon and evening was spent printing stuff like IDs and Certificates. Hooray for Adri and my PC and my printer!


Even if I volunteered to help out with this bird festival a bit late, I'm so glad I did. The kids, especially the elementary school kids had so much energy! I hope they picked up the Just Watch, Don't Catch message. The throngs of kids, the coloring sheets, the tarps and photos are all familiar scenes at every birdfest (this would be the fourth), and yet they seem new each time. Highlight for me personally was getting to handle the Serpent Eagle for My Zoo. Cool! I'm so glad that the usual happy gang of volunteers were still there to help out. Congratulations to Mike and the WBCP for organizing another successful event.

wednesday: V-days: Valentine's Day & Valenzuela Day

I had to go to the clinicals in the morning with Dra. Alberto as I had the past few Wednesdays. I arrived at Valenzuela at around noon. We had a little Valentine's Day merienda at the office (who would've thought that chocolate cake, fish- and squid- balls, kikiam, cocktail hotdogs, ice cream and soda would be so filling) which everyone in the building seemed to have appreciated. We had a Valenzuela Day treat of being sent home at 5 o'clock instead of the usual 6pm (actually it was a holiday and we were all on overtime).

In the evening, the bird club had a meeting to wrap up loose ends (well, sort of) and the usual exchange of birdfest experiences. Of course the actual meeting lasted a fraction of the kwentuhan time. The energy level of this group is really something.

saturday - sunday: Subic Birding! Yahoo!

It all started out with Adri and I offering to help Lala with her Bio 160 (Ecology) class field trip. Alex, Tere, Felix and Arnel jumped in and off we went to Subic at 4am on Saturday.

So far, Ilanin forest has never disappointed. We sighted all woodpeckers (pygmy, sooty, greater flameback and white-bellied) and lots of parrots (blue-naped, guaiabero, colasisi and green racquet-tail) and doves/pigeons (white-eared, common emerald, pompadour and LOTS of green imperial), among others. Of course the sight of Philippine Serpent Eagles soaring in the hot late-morning sky (did I mention Northern Luzon temperatures beginning to rise this time of the year?) is always a sight to behold. The call of the eagles sends chills up my spine. At the birding site at 6am, we were delighted by the sight of 5 or 6 nightjars swooping across the sky for a last snack before morning and an owl (Philippine Scops?) swooping by us and perching on a nearby branch, its shape silhouetted against the pink orange sky.

This trip had a few extra bonuses care of Lala: mist nets set up along the trail, a tiny bat a fraction of the size of your palm, a Philippine Scops-Owl (poor thing)at the Wildlife in Need Rescue Center, little frogs smaller than a coin collected by Lala's herp group.

Monday, February 5

Hanging out in Calauan

Justice Pronove invited us to his house in Calauan, Laguna and we gladly accepted. So early morning last Saturday, with a full moon still high in the sky, Alex and Tere and Adri and I headed south towards Makiling. From the highway at kilometer post 69.5 (!!!), we turned into a dirt road towards Justice's house.
What a pretty place Justice has! On the right were green rice fields with the mountains of Nagcarlan in the distance and on the left were fish ponds with hundreds of egrets and terns and Makiling in the background. I didn't expect too many birds but we also counted SEVENTEEN common kingfishers (yes, they were common here!) patrolling the ponds, several grey wagtails, brown shrikes, grassbirds, cisticolas, snipes, etc. etc.

When we reached Justice's place, sure enough Mrs. Pronove welcomed us with breakfast, in true motherly fashion.  We spent the rest of the morning boating (yes on the meter-deep tilapia pond), fishing (I actually only fed the fish) and just lounging around.  We had a sumptuous lunch of inihaw na tilapia wrapped in banana leaf, sinigang na baboy, grilled  inadobong beef, itlog na maalat  with kamatis and burong hipon.   Yum!  The weather was perfect, although my cheeks suffered a bit of windburn.

There was a little terrace behind the house which faced seemingly endless rice fields, interrupted by the town of Bai. 

On the horizon stood Makiling, all her peaks clear and unclouded against the hot mid-afternoon sky.  That was where we stayed for most of the afternoon.  From there we could count the egrets and terns flying by and the bitterns popping out of the green, and snipes frightened from the rows of palay  and the pilapil by passing farmers and a brown shrike patrolling the irrigation canal and grassbirds singing loudly from branches, and yellow-vented bulbuls, and zebra doves on the grass and pacific swallows hawking for insects and even a lone white-throated kingfisher flying back and forth.  Later Alex brought out some cold beer, which we took with pretzels and chips (and later red wine).  It was certainly the epitome of dude-birding.

We stayed to watch the sun set behind Makiling, dressing the the mountains in cold grey and lining the clouds in gold.

Thanks to Justice and his wife for their kindness and generosity, Alex and Tere for their usual wonderful company, and of course Mang Boy for driving.