Wednesday, October 29

small BUT...

such a tiny and plain bird, hard to believe it stirred up so much excitement and intense birding from our foursome (ixi, nicky, felix & i)!

it's sightings like this that suddenly make you forget your tired feet, hunger, the awful weather, the slow birding (and your desire to pee!).  we jumped up and down, ran around like mad and felt like downing bottles of beer to celebrate. birdwatchers are a crazy breed.
(ashy-breasted flycatcher: philippine endemic)

Friday, October 17

more than the usual…

"I thought we were just going to go birdwatching!" Robert A echoed my thoughts EXACTLY.  It was 8pm and we had just finished dinner at a Chinese restaurant at the Subic Freeport CBD.
How did I get there on a Thursday night?  Let me start from the beginning…
Mike L had announced that the DOT and Sec. Ace Durano (and Mike of course) were going birdwatching at Balanga and Subic Thursday.  The mission?  For Sec. Durano to be able to experience birdwatching before the London Travel mart in November.
Excited at the prospect of being able to join on the weekday (hooray to sem break!), and slightly guilty that I have not been very helpful in external club activities, I asked if I could join.  Disheartened by Mike’s vague reply (“We’re going to use the DOT coaster, I’ll ask if there’s space for you”), I complained to the BAPers (at the Columbia GB5 outlet opening on Wednesday): “Uuh. Mike REJECTED me! Can you believe it?”  One thing/text message led to another and…
Nicky and Felix and Mike and I were in Mike’s car with Nick at the wheel (Yes, President Mike and his personal staff: driver, bodyguard and secretary)at 6am Thursday morning headed for Balanga to meet up with the DOT coaster and the Sec.  (Aren’t my friends great?)
And what a morning!
Is Balanga prepared for Birdfest 2009? (Wow, thinking about birdfest 2009 in October 2008?  That alone is an indication.) YES, YES, YES!

Too make a long story short:  imagine schoolkids waving in the streets, welcome banners all over town, dance numbers, musical numbers, exhibits, tents, city and provincial officials (Mayor Joet, Governor Tet, Congressman Abet, Tourism Officials, Baranggay Capts., etc. etc,), speeches, ceremony, media folks, food, food, food.  It was like a fiesta! And, oh yes, birdwatching.  Tortugas and Sibacan welcomed us with egrets, terns, plovers, sandpipers, black-winged stilts, brahminy kites, kingfishers, moorhens, WHITE-SHOULDERED STARLINGS, etc. etc.  All these even in the mid-day heat and the sun high in the sky and burning our eyes!  And Balanga and the province of Bataan?  All I can say is WOW.  They welcomed us with an all-out, carefully planned live-advertisement package of their city and province! Honestly, I was so surprised with their enthusiasm and support for their upcoming birdfest and the DOT promotion of Balanga as a birdwatching site. Unbelievable.  Their energy is contagious and daunting at the same time.  I actually thought, birdfest na ba? Did I sleep for a year and is it 2009 already? If today is any indication, Birdfest 2009 is looking to be one BIG and SUCCESSFUL affair.  My hats off to the city of Balanga and to the entire province of Bataan.  Today was certainly a preview of things to come.

welcomed to tortugas with a dance

wbcpers doc joey, emperor mike, felix, and nicky
excited balanguos
sec durano scoping the stilts in the midday sun
a filling lunch at joyous restaurant
the itik-itik and other "bird dances"

Oh, yeah nga pala… we were going to have to give Sec. Durano his birdwatching 101 (minus the fanfare and throngs of people). I was afraid we were never going to get to Subic.  But after a hearty and heavy lunch, off to Subic we were!  We hit a snag again when a courtesy call to the SBMA chairman turned into another mini foodfest, but at 430pm (thanks to Mikes’ “Secretary? We HAVE to go.  The birds won’t wait for us!")… we were finally headed to Nabasan.
Thank goodness for power birding!  Blue-tailed bee-eaters, White-breasted wood-swallow, a Dollarbird, Brahminy Kites (one being chased by a crow),  a White-bellied woodpecker , a Coleto and a pair of Philippine falconets (the cutest bird ever!  and an endemic of course) were all good (and colourful, if not cute) introductory forest birds to the Sec.  And just before darkness fell, a barking Spotted Wood-Kingfisher was a good lesson on the importance of recognizing bird calls.  Whew!  All that in 30 minutes.  I never went through Nabasan in such a short time. The bird gods were on our side today.  I think Sec. Durano was pleased. (And Robert got his birding fix for the day. And Nicky breathed a sigh of relief. And Mike was content.) Mission accomplished (or appetites whetted, at the very least).
 nicky and mike showing sec durano a coleto

 Dinner was a relaxing affair with the PCVC, PhilTOA, DOT, Sec. Durano and WBCPers.  With all the official duties done for the day (and away from the maddening crowds) the conversation jumped from the enthusiasm of the Balangueños and the birdfest, to the London Travelmart, to the success of the Birdwatching guidebook project, to bird photography, to the deteriorating condition of the birdwatching sites, to birdwatching, to the WBCP and WBCPers.

Dinner to end the day
Such a loooong and surprising day.  And, again, I thought I was just going to go birdwatching. That turned out to be just the icing on top of the cake.