Tuesday, June 28

ITCZ + Falcon = backyard birding

with the rains continuously pouring and typhoon falcon very slowly moving out of the philippines, my full saturday schedule suddenly freed itself up.  plans for birding at balara c/o karen (plans made over a rainy pizza dinner) cancelled,  a lunch date moved to merienda (IF the rains let up) and a late afternoon/early dinner meeting postponed to sunday.

what to do, what to do?

adri & i ended up backyard birding!  

we started birding in the dry confines of the house, looking out from the screened dining room window at a pied fantail, a couple of eurasian tree sparrows and a yellow-vented bulbul picking at an indian mango (fallen from the tree, peeled &  stripped to the seed by our rescued black lab pearl) and the insects hovering around it.

the rain seemed to have been reduced to intermittent showers (interspersed with heavy rain!) and the garden seemed inviting to several birds who probably welcomed the chance to look for food.  so we decided to bird from the terrace, our toes warmed by sleeping dogs curled up on top of our feet.

the pied fantails (at least 2 of them taking turns) have taken center stage in the garden, literally.  the current favorite perch now is the stick used to prop up the clothesline... a good vantage point to survey the garden at grass level. they didn't mind the showers and the beads of rain rolled easily off their tails and back.  they only retreated when the rain began to fall in heavy, noisy drops hitting the roof.

almost all the regulars were there. the sunbirds called loudly as the checked out the heliconias and the ornamental bananas.  the male even took sips of water from the drops which formed on the hairy kamias leaves. 

a zebra dove landed behind the bushes against the garden wall... walking the periphery of the garden and disappearing behind the foliage only to re-appear and fly off from the behind the plants on the opposite end of the garden. we called it the zebra dove-rail.

colasisis zipped by noisily, woodpeckers and gerygones called out loudly but were no-shows (we didn't even attempt to move from our dry terrace seats & dog warmers for better views).

a pair of yellow-vented bulbuls (probably the same pair who enjoy dips in the bird baths on hot days) now huddled together for warmth as they attempted to fluff out and dry their feathers (in vain).

the eurasian tree sparrows were drenched by the rain, but bravely searched through the grass for food... probably very hungry after 2 days of rain!

pretty soon though, the birders themselves had to go searching for our own food!  we left our garden view feeling good that we were still able to go birding (and in adri's case bird photographing!) in rainy weather, without having to leave the house!

(thanks to adri for all the beautiful bird photos, except the first 2 which i took thru the screen window with my point-&-shoot! click on the photos for larger views)

Thursday, June 16

missing subic: hill 394

i miss subic!

the last time i was there was a day trip to hill 394 plus celebrating a friends' birthday with dinner.  i couldn't stay overnight so adri & i decided to leave early to make the most of the birding day.  for a change, we didn't do our routine which usually start with birding at the nabasan trail.

instead we went up hill 394.  hill 394 is the highest point in subic, rumor has it that it was once a "secret" helicopter landing site.  recently, we have heard news that the entire area has been leased by ocean adventure.  this seemed confirmed on our last visit, when, while we (kitty, ivan, drew, adri & i) were whiling away dead time at the naval magazine at the foot of the hill, what should come rushing by but a small power cab with two uniformed employees and the ocean adventure logo painted on the doors.  it went up the forest "trail" and came down again in 20 minutes!  we were joking that there were actually dolphins and a giant aquarium up the hill.

later, i heard from nicky that the "trail" was actually now a graded road! passable to any suv (or even maybe a sedan of a brave owner!)!  this came us a surprise because the trail is a good hour or more hike (birding pace)... through what used to be muddy ground, overgrown, rocky and some times narrow trails.

well, that morning adri & i saw for ourselves how clean and wide the road (no longer fit to be called a "trail"... at least when it's dry) was!  thankfully, the birds were in abundance, despite the disturbance.  at the beginning of the trail we were welcomed by a pair of pompadour green pigeons.  a wonderful surprise also was a lone amethyst brown dove (on top of my most wanted birds list in subic... second only to the white-fronted tit!) eating happily away at fruit, unmindful of us gawking underneath it.  we also heard and glimpsed a pair of white-lored orioles!  usually we would have to walk up half way to see these birds... but there they were having an argument of sorts with crows. the crows seemed in the mood to work up all the birds... they were also bothering the more common black-naped orioles and a small flock of blue-naped parrots.

it was the most fruitful birding for us at hill 394 ever on that morning!  doves, parrots, malkohas, bee-eaters, falconets, woodpeckers, even the tailorbird (which i caught on video) and the shama  made appearances.  plus, love seemed to be in the air... we caught the pomps AND the green racquet-tails doing it!

in addition to the birdy-ness (maybe even one of the reasons for the birdy-ness), we also enjoyed the various plants in bloom and fruit!  it seemed that the big trees had bloomed earlier and now it was the smaller trees and shrubs in bloom.  i loved the colors and textures!

i hope that i can go back to subic soon!  (isn't there a long weekend coming up?)

Saturday, June 11

chicken at the QMC on a friday night

we chicken-all-we-could (chickened-all-we-could?) at max's at the quezon memorial circle to mark the end of summer.

the line was quite long to be seated so we wandered around and watched the dancing fountains.  the memorial was very pretty lit up with white light instead of the multi-colored lights which seem to be such a fad.

on monday we start a new school year...

Thursday, June 9

metro manila: the big picture

it's been a VERY, very busy summer for me!

my summer teaching load was quite heavy, with more than a hundred students from 2 classes,  so this summer has barely provided me with breathing space.  i did go to pinatubo at last, and had a short trip to subic (more on that in later posts... hopefully!). 

after summer classes ended, it was right on to the second quarter of my biosafety course.  it was a full 10 days for our class, working right through sunday and travelling all around manila for various lab visits. luckily, we were housed at the very scenic and relaxing eugenio lopez center in antipolo.  everyday we were treated to a wonderful view of the entire metro manila... from laguna bay across to manila bay!

on good days we would see the changing weather across the metro, observing that it was raining in quezon city but sunny and bright in alabang!  on some days it would be rainy in antipolo and our visibility was reduced to zero!

seeing metro manila daily from a distance reminded me that i live almost everyday under a grey cloud of smog which envelopes the metro like a heavy, sticky shroud.  early in the morning, the highrises of ortigas, makati and alabang would hardly be visible under the smog, becoming clearer as the day progressed and the smog lifted and swept away. i say ALMOST everyday, because last sunday we were greeted at lunch time with a wonderful view of a smog free metro manila: its buildings bright and clear against a blue sky.

the difference?  i guess sunday means less vehicular traffic meaning less pollution!  it was a beautiful, beautiful sight!

i suppose we must count ourselves lucky that our landscape is relatively flat and winds can easily blow away the smoky and dusty air.  it gives me hope also, that, with change (& this applies to me too!), we can live in a clean city!  

as dusk falls, the twinkling lights of the city turn on and the pollution is hidden in the darkness of the night.

stepping back and looking at the "big picture" can definitely provide views and insight which one cannot see when one is right smack in the middle of everything.