Wednesday, January 5

the jewels of ipo dam

thanks to wbcp-er and up mountaineer fredd o. (, ipo dam has become a regular on the bird club itinerary.  around an hour away from the quezon city hall (at 530am), it is a very accessible location.  the area has become a pet project for reforestation of the up mountaineers.

the angat and ipo dams and the la mesa watershed are the main fresh water sources for metro manila.  informal settlers and deforestation pose the greatest threat to this important resource.

most of the birding is done on bangka (not the best platforms for observation with optics!) and 2 reasons i keep joining this activity are 2 species which are almost guarantees: the grey-headed fish eagles and the indigo-banded kingfishers.

grey-headed fish eagles are considered rare in the philippines.  they were lifers for me when i visited the agusan marsh a couple of years back.  in ipo dam they are regularly sighted perched on the tall trees by the riverbank, undisturbed by birders in bangkas going crazy with excitement at the sight of them. (do you suppose they regard our ministrations as odd?).

grey-headed fish eagles are often sighted perched by the river

before "discovering" the indigo-banded kingfishers of ipo, i had always thought that these sparkling endemics inhabited small, clear and shallow freshwater streams.  i have memories of running up and down the endless stairs at the makiling botanical gardens to catch a glimpse at them at the molawin creek, of trudging through grassland at villa escudero (before of course the famous marikit at the restaurant), of brilliant blue bullets speeding AWAY from me.  imagine on my second trip to ipo we counted FIFTEEN of them on the riverbanks of a wide, deep and open river! and these aren't the shy type.  the bangka (take note motorised and therefore NOISY bangka) can get within a couple of meters of them before they feel an encroachment to their personal space. because of this unusual boldness the boatmen call them "ibong bingi" ("deaf birds"). even on a boat you cannot miss the iridescent plumage of these tiny birds, always on the lookout for small fish and crustaceans. truly gems of the ipo dam river system.

a female indigo banded kingfisher showing off its iridescent plumage