Having spent the Saturday night at TREES, Adri and I were up to an early start up the Makiling trail. It was unusually quiet at the start of the trail, no shama calling, no spotted wood-kingfisher, not even the balicassiaos. Two philippine bulbuls broke the silence but nothing more. We began to question our early morning start. Were we too early?!? Was the weather too gloomy? Upon reaching malkoha lane, a single red-crested malkoha made a brief appearance. Finally! I thought that would've broken our bad luck streak. We continued up the trail, but again...no whistler, no white-eared brown dove, no guaiabero. Where were our regulars?
Finally, the familiar calls began to sound. Shamas, tailorbirds, pittas, tarictics, cuckoo-shrikes, a black-chinned fruit dove. It seemed that we were doomed to "heard only-s". Past the mahogany plantation and still nothing. Frustrated, we decided to end our hike when we reached the fenced bend where we usually stopped for tailorbirds and sunbirds.
When we reached our designated stop point, we realised we were in the territory of another of our regulars. So we decided to check on 'Spotty', this years' no-fail spotted wood-kingfisher. Sure enough, right at the edge of the bend, we immediately heard his call and caught a glimpse of him. He was giving us his usual I'll-let-you-view-me-from-all-angles-but-I-think-I'll-stay-perched-the-longest-on-the-branch-right-above-you-so-you'll-hurt-your-neck-looking-at-me-and-you'll-get-a-good-view-of-my-backside.
Spotty the spotted wood-kingfisher
While Adri was drinking in his views of what we both probably thought as the only good bird we would get, a slight movement caught my attention. In circling around us, Spotty had flushed a beautiful male philippine trogon!It perched several meters from us just above the trail in full view.
Now the trogon is one of my most favorite birds in Makiling. The pink breast, red belly, blue facial skin, yellow-tipped beak, rufous back and b & w striped primaries just come all together in a beautiful, beautiful bird. These birds usually perch in dark recesses and are very quiet and therefore very hard to spot. And because they are sooo hard to spot in spite of their gaudy colors, each sighting is made even more delicious. As we were admiring it, a motorcycle coming up chased it into darkness of the vines across the trail. While we were trying to see where it went, what would follow in the same direction but a female trogon! Not as colorful as its mate but still a beautiful bird.
A pair of Philippine trogons: male on the left, female on the right.
Perhaps Mariang Makiling had decided to bless us after all.
The trogon pair was a good distance away from us now, but still in sight (we could still hear the soft nu-nu-nu-nu-nus) so we decided to stay a few more minutes. We were discussing the strange calls 2 balicassiaos were exchanging when one of the blue-black birds decided to show itself... it was not a balicassiao but a Philippine Fairy Bluebird! We couldn't believe how our luck was quickly turning round.
After another few minutes another large bird flew over... a Greater Flameback! And it wasn't just one or two other flamebacks that followed it but three of them! Greater Flamebacks are a common sight in Subic (or even Palay-palay) but I had never seen a flock of four in Makiling! The woodpeckers flew back and forth, climbing up and down the tree trunks.
In the end we stayed for almost an hour at Spotty's bend: a pair of spotted wood-kingfishers, a pair of trogons, a pair of fairy bluebirds, a quartet of flamebacks, and another red-crested malkoha. Makiling's fickle nature has definitely given us worse birding days than this! Even with just these few sightings, we were completely satistfied.