Thursday, July 10

disturb me

this is one of my favorite prayers, attributed to sir francis drake. 
excellence is a goal which I often forget in this world which is content to settle for mediocrity.
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

attributed - sir francis drake -1577

Wednesday, July 9

reality in the mountains

Birding in the mountains of the Sierra Madre in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) was an eye-opening experience.  It was heart-breaking to actually SEE the forests disappearing.
Many, many thanks to Tinggay for her invitation and generous hospitality. 

Here's my trip report for birdwatch:
Tinggay, a friend of Leni S., invited us to go birding in the mountains of Rodriguez (formerly Montalban). Leni, Adri and I, Alex and Tere immediately confirmed our willingness to explore new territory.

Tinggay welcomed us to stay overnight at their beautiful ancestral house and made all the arrangements so that all we had to do was ready ourselves.  After dinner we stayed up a bit for exchanges of stories and anecdotes of birding adventures and retired to our rooms for our early start the next day.

Makaingalan, Brgy. Puray is a part of the Sierra Madre mountain range in Rizal Province.  The dirt road is accessible only by a "weapons carrier", a modified 4 x 4 vehicle raised well-above the ground.  Our destination was about 2 hours from Rodriguez town, so we started at 4am to make sure we were at the site by sunrise.

We found ourselves bouncing around in the "weapons", which was hardly a passenger vehicle.  As the surroundings grew lighter, we discovered ourselves on the top of mountains, high above the city.  Metro Manila was blanketed in fog (or should I say smog?), with only the tops of the tall buildings, giving a clue to which part of the city lay underneath. South of the city, the mountains rose above the fog, looking like islands on a quiet blue sea.  The mountains around us were mostly cogon and grassland, with a few shrubs and trees. 

We stopped for a bit halfway to our destination, to stretch our legs (and rub our sore heads and backsides), and the sparse trees around us were alive with the calls of oriental magpie-robins, coucals, a tawny grassbird and a few others.  It was still a bit dark and we gave up trying to spot these early morning risers.  It was overcast, and the temperatures were cool, perfect for walking around.

Later, upon reaching our destination, we were greeted with suspicion by the villagers, who mistook the spotting scope for a measuring device and us birders for land surveyors ("nagsusukat ng lupa").  When we explained that we were not out to land grab, and showed them our binoculars and the Kennedy, they became a bit friendlier.  They told us of the many birds (including tarictic and rufous hornbills) that were still in the forests and at the nearby waterfalls.  Unfortunately, these places were several hours muddy hike away, and with the sky threatening to drench us in rain, we decided to bird by the roads.

There was very little bird activity, although, the places we birded at were heavily disturbed.  The few birds we saw though were decidedly not afraid of people which led us to conclude that hunting probably was not an issue here.  Several malkohas perched nearby, and we even watched an elegant tit and its brood of fledglings feeding close by at an ipil-ipil tree.

Still, we were deeply troubled and bothered by the landscape around us.  Even with the already heavily degraded forest cover, we could actually see the remaining forest disappearing before our very eyes.  Charcoal production ("nang-uuling") was a primary source of livelihood, and we could clearly see the smoke from the burning wood.  Literally truckloads of charcoal were being produced daily. Slash-and-burn farming ("kaingin") was also an obvious practice.  And lumber from illegal logging littered the roads.  Adri wanted to follow a trail when we saw a couple of men carrying lumber at the top.  They stopped in their tracks and we were told that they were illegal loggers who were afraid we were there to catch them and sieze their goods.  We were told by our companions that most of the people who lived in the baranggay were settlers from Aklan.  One of them pointed to a mountain whose trees were limited to its crown, and the outer tree-line burned brown: "you see that? they only started harvesting those trees for charcoal last year.  now almost all the trees on that mountain are gone".

No lifers for the five of us (but enough lifers to inspire Tinggay to sign up as a member of the club), but it was truly an eye-opening trip for us.

On our bumpy ride back to town, we discovered that although the rain didn't pour up in the mountain, it did in the lowlands, and the "weapons" crossed rivers that weren't there a few hours before.  At the back of Avilon Zoo, there was small ricefield that teemed with birds oblivious to the rain.

Thanks so much to Tinggay for her invitation and hospitality. We'll be back? J

SITE/LOCALITY:    Makaingalan
CITY: Rodriquez (for. Montalban)
ISLAND:     Luzon

START DATE: 6/29/2008

NAME OF BIRDER(REPORTER):     Trinket Canlas
OTHER BIRDERS PRESENT:  Adrian Constantino, Tere Cervero, Leni Sutcliffe, Alex Tiongco, Tinggay Cinco

ENVIRONMENT CONDITION:  slightly overcast, brief and light showers

1.    Spotted Buttonquail Turnix ocellatus      1          
2.    White-breasted Waterhen (White-breasted Bush-hen) Amaurornis phoenicurus      X      heard several    
3.    Common Emerald Dove     (Emerald Dove) Chalcophaps indica   1    
4.    Guaiabero Bolbopsittacus lunulatus  6          
5.    Scale-feathered Malkoha Lepidogrammus cumingi   1          
6.    Red-crested Malkoha     (Rough-crested Malkoha) Dasylophus superciliosus      4          
7.    Philippine Coucal Centropus viridis 2     heard more 
8.    Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta      x     common     
9.    Pygmy Swiftlet Collocalia troglodytes     2          
10.   Swift/ Swiftlet sp. Apodidae sp.    x          
11.   Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina striata      9          
12.   Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier  5          
13.   Philippine Bulbul Ixos philippinus  10+        
14.   Balicassiao Dicrurus balicassius    1          
15.   Elegant Tit Parus elegans     12+        
16.   Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis  2     heard more 
17.   White-browed Shama Copsychus luzoniensis  X     heard
18.   Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata      7          
19.   Lemon-throated Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus cebuensis    1          
20.   Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis     X     heard
21.   Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris    2          
22.   Grey-backed Tailorbird Orthotomus derbianus     X     heard several    
23.   Bright-capped Cisticola              (Golden-headed Cisticola) Cisticola exilis     3           
24.   Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea     3          
25.   Coleto Sarcops calvus   4          
26.   Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma     2

SITE/LOCALITY:    Rodriguez Town
BARANGAY:   San Isidro (ricefields behind Avilon Zoo)
CITY: Rodriquez (for. Montalban)
ISLAND:     Luzon

1.    Little Heron     (Striated Heron) Butorides striata   1          
2.    Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis  1          
3.    White-breasted Waterhen (White-breasted Bush-hen) Amaurornis phoenicurus  2      
4.    Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus  5          
5.    Spotted Dove     (Spotted-necked Dove) Streptopelia chinensis     1          
6.    Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica    10+        
7.    Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus     x     common     
8.    Chestnut Munia     (Black-headed Munia) Lonchura malacca    50+