Sunday, November 27

a model bird (literally)

today i finally got to visit this yearly visitor to the msi!

we had failed to find the narcissus flycatcher at the library (yes, quite a belated attempt since the first report almost a month ago). we had carelessly lost sight of a philippine hawk-cuckoo at the nismed. 

it's a good thing this guy's as predictable as old faithful.

he's my first (male) blue rock thrush for this season (several weeks ago, i spotted a female in my neighborhood for another backyard record). my first blue rock thrush ever was seen at the same spot 6 years ago!  same goes for adri. coincidence or not? could he be one and the same year in and year out?!? 

whatever the answer to that question, the msi thrush is loved by photographers. left profile, right profile, head on, back view, perched straight, stooping, eating, pooping, regurgitating, on  a branch, on the grass, on the sidewalk, on the driveway, on a lamp, on the roof, on the wall... you name the pose, there's some picture of him in it out there on the net! this is probably one the most photographed bird in the university!  never was there a more cooperative and dependable avian model!  adri got to practice his digiscoping, and i got to practice using the long lens.  we were even joined by lydia who slipped in a little bird photography time before church!

i hope to have several more encounters with this guy for the rest of the season! and i look forward to seeing his growing portfolio as well.

Sunday, November 20

birds (& horses)

last weekend when my brother texted me:

"Big flock of birds on the sandy riding pen. Like bulbul, same shape.  Dark brown back, yellow breast. They seem to have white beards. Never saw them before. Hundreds."

i couldn't figure it out immediately but after a few minutes adri said: "wagtails!"

so this weekend, when my brother asked if i wanted to come i immediately said yes! why not?  2 weeks into the semester and i'm already itching to bird! (adri was on a tour) the bonus of seeing beautiful horses wasn't bad either!

it was afternoon when we got to lipa. no wagtails in the riding pen, but hundreds of swallows (pacific and barn) on the wires and roof top.  while george was out riding, carmela dropped in to look at the horses and rescue some piggies (guinea piggies, that is!). unfortunately mela had to go back to work, so i took a long walk to find myself some birds. i did spot a few wagtails but nowhere near hundreds (or even tens).  

can you spot the wagtail in this picture?

we (george joined me later) spotted a pygmy woodpecker, and i was delighted to see a patch of red exposed on its crown, a very rare sight.  cattle egrets flew around the horses (equine egrets???),  coucals slipped into the tall grasses as we passed by them.  near the river, invisible rails would burst into loud cackling.  long tailed and brown shrikes patrolled the borders of the corrals and where they were absent, pairs of pied bushchats kept themselves busy.

swallows in a line

sparrows in a line

mr. bushchat at his post

horses & an (equine) egret

a spot of red in his crown! (you'll have to click on the picture to see it)

by the time we had gotten to the now empty (of horses) riding pen, it was almost dark.  and what did we see? wagtails!  

yellow wagtails in various plumage!  not as many as the last time according to my brother, but still largest flock of them i had ever seen.  i estimated around a hundred of them, strutting about the sandy soil, many of them busy preening.  i did spot a few  sheltering in the shallow hoof marks, which made me think they were settling in for the night.  they reminded me of the waders i had seen in balanga which magically appeared from holes in the drained fishpond as the sun rose.  some of them were in the neighboring grassy pen, carrying out the same activities as their neighbors. walking back and forth, or even standing still, their tails wagged continuously.  as alex t said recently, wasn't it exhausting to be in constant motion? 

yellow wagtails!

and not so yellow-yellow wagtails!

left to right: not so yellow, yellowish and really yellow-yellow wagtails

are they holing up for the night?

preening poses

more of them in the field!

aaack! where's its head?!?!?

as we walked away from the birds i wondered if they were there to stay for the season, or were just passing through.  only another trip later in the season will answer that question! horses and birds... a good combination for a feast for the eyes.

for more pictures of this outing go to:

Friday, November 18


(click to enlarge)

my mom found this frog fast asleep under one of her african violets.  she let out a squeal when she accidentally touched it trying to pick out a dead leaf.  it didn't budge the whole day!

my first thought?

kung tarat lang ako patay ka na!

Friday, November 11

the industrious ants

while waiting for the female violet cuckoo to reappear last week in tanay, i accidently disturbed an ant nest.  i was kicking around the smooth stones lining the path, looking for fossils, when i found this under one of them:

(click the photo for a larger view)

the poor things suddenly rushed into a frenzy to bring their clean, white eggs to safety!  amazingly, in less than 2 minutes, every single one of the eggs was gone from the exposed hole! in what seemed to me like organized chaos, each ant had carried egg after egg to a more secure location.  all that was left was clean and bare dent in the soil which had no trace of the treasure that had been stashed there.

pretty cool if you ask me!

(i've heard ant eggs are a delicacy in some provinces, although i've never tasted or even seen them.  seeing how small they are, it must take a lot of ant eggs to make a big enough snack!)

Monday, November 7

roses are red, violets are blue-violet cuckoos...

i got this lifer waaaaaay back in october 2008 while birding with adri, leni & tinggay in subic.  i remember it distinctly because of a clarification from des asking us whether the bird we saw was "real violet purple" or a "deep blue violet".  it being my lifer my reaction to the inquiry was...
 according to kennedy, the endemic race amethystinus is described as blue-violet above, while the resident race xanthorynchus is purple violet.  let me copy-and-paste the exact email from des (circa 2008!) below:

Hi Trinket, Adri, Leni,
Just a quick query before I send this through: the Violet Cuckoo. Was
this a real violet purple colour (as we saw at PICOP Leni) or a deep
blue-violet? All the birds I have seen photographed in the Phils have
been the same violet that we saw and which is typical of Violet
cuckoos in SE Asia. However the endemic race amethystinus is supposed
to be violet blue - and there are skins showing this. However, I have
never seen it. The violet-purple birds always seem to be seen in
winter, leaving the possibility that they are migrants from abroad. If
so, what has happened to the endemic race?

well, my reply to that query was that in my opinion, the birds we saw then (as well as the violet cuckoos felix, nicky, ixi & i saw in makiling a couple of weeks after that) were deep violet purple & not bluish.  i remember jokingly asking for a pantone reference since it was so hard to differentiate  "bluish violet" from "violet purple" when the colors are spelled out on paper after the fact.
and so, when alex, tere, mang boy, adri & i came across this beautiful bird last weekend in rizal, i voiced out this concern, "we had better take note of whether it is bluish violet or purple violet!"  alex thought i wasn't making sense until i reminded him of des's comment from 3 years ago!
 we were all in agreement, it was definitely blue-violet.

 so is this the endemic amethystinus?
 or merely a trick of the light?

the cuckoo was perched on a large trema orientalis, its iridescent back and breast shining in the morning light.  the bright orange bill & eyering stood out.  its clean white belly was  striped, not with black as i thought previously, but with the same dark iridescence that shimmered as its little body moved from left to right.  super thanks to adri for the digiscoped pictures and video! 
unfortunately our same group (minus mang boy and plus carmela b.) had dipped several times on the violet cuckoo on our recent trip to picop... it was listed as HO ("heard only").  (but christian p. had just recently come from a trip there and shared a picture of a purple-violet looking bird with his fb friends!)
we also got good views of the equally beautiful (but not so purple) female violet cuckoo which is actually a greenish gold version.   unfortunately no pictures. the female i had also seen in subic, makiling and palawan previously.  actually greenish gold is my personal description. kennedy describes it as "greenish bronze"!
whatever the actual color or correct term for it, one thing's for sure. on each occasion I've seen this bird,  its mere sighting has sent myself and everyone i was with, literally... cuckoo!

thanks to alex & tere for inviting us to bird with you! it was a wonderful end to my sem break run of short birding trips!

Thursday, November 3

close encounters at subic

close encounter #1- nabasan road, 8:52 am
adri: spotty!
trinket: saan?
adri: ayan lang sa harap natin!
trinket: saan?
adri: kita mo ung curved na branch?
trinket: oo.
adri: andun sya.
adri: ayun o.
trinket: ok, ok.
*click, click, click...*
brown shrike: traaatatatatatata...
the spotted wood-kingfisher flies into the thick vegetation
adri & trinket:  *&%&^%##^%&&!!!

close encounter #2- nabasan road, 10:20 am
adri & trinket watching a pair of black-naped monarchs on the branches above them
adri:  itong ibon na 'to and likot, never ako pinag bigyan ng magandang picture.
trinket: try ko nga.
after 30 minutes:
trinket: ayaw ko na, iwan na nga natin tong 2 bwiset na to.

close encounter #3- nabasan road, 11:23am
a brown bird flies across the path and lands on a tree a few meters away
adri & trinket: white-eared brown dove!!!
*click click click click*
after 1 minute of watching the birders, the bird flies away

not counted close encounter- nabasan road 11:40am
adri: and ganda nung draco o! 
trinket: saan?
adri: dun sa puno na may pulang paint.
trinket:  oo nga.
adri: i-video nga natin.
after 26 minutes the lizard hasn't budged.
adri: buti pa sya gusto nyang nag pa pa video at picture!

close encounter #4- nabasan road, 1:41pm
trinket wakes up from an after-lunch nap in the car.
trinket: di ka nakatulog? (to adri in the driver's seat)
adri: iniinis ako nitong white-browed shama eh. pag matutulog ako kakanta sya ng mahina (points across the road)
trinket: ayaw lumabas?
adri: anjan lang eh, hanapin natin.
adri scans the undergrowth with his bins
adri: ayun sya! medyo tago
adri & trinket watch the now quiet white-browed shama which seems to be watching them as it quietly moves from one "hidden" perch to another. they let it go at 2:08pm
adri: tara na nga, lakad nalang ulit tayo.

close encounter #5- botanical gardens, 3:52pm
adri & trinket are driving slowly looking out for raptors on the side of the road
trinket:  grabe, wala pa tayong serpent eagle at hawk-eagle. diba dito natin dati nakikita ung immature na hawk eagle?
a large bird swoops right in front of the car.  adri slowly brings the car to a stop..
trinket: omigosh! hawk-eagle!
adri & trinket fawn over the raptor perched on a low branch on the side of the road on the drivers side.
adri: masyadong malapit! aalis yan kung bababa ako!
trinket: heto yung camera! picture-an mo! bilis!
trinket: (don't leave, don't leave, don't leave)
the birders observe the delicious sight of the large brown bird: crest, feathered tarsi, huge yellow eyes, barred tail. the hawk-eagle looks back at them then suddenly disappears into the trees.
adri & trinket exchange high-5s.
much, much later on when reviewing the pictures they see it: a large rat clutched in the talons of the raptor.

close encounter #6: the grand finale- nabasan, 6:15pm
adri explaining to trinket the call of the chocolate boobook, while an occasional philippine scops-owl and philippine hawk-owl calls in the darkness
trinket: ang dilim na! ayaw ko na. 
adri: last 15 minutes nalang.
trinket: ok
after 10 minutes.
trinket: ayaw ko na talaga! creepy, wala na kong makita! masyado akong maraming pinanood na horror movies this week!
adri: sige na nga, tara na. next time nalang yung chocolate boobook.
trinket reaches for the car door.
trinket: woah!  may lumipad right above us! nakita mo?
adri: hindi, saan?
trinket: nag-land siguro yun jan (pointing to the trees by the road)
adri: dito? (shining a light on the trees)
trinket: hindi, mas mababa pa, dito siguro (guiding adri's hand)
adri & trinket: ^%^$%$&&%*!
a philippine scops-owl is staring right at them with large red eyes, less than 3 meters away just above eye-level.
trinket: kunin ko ba camera?
adri: tignan mo nalang sa bins mo!
both admire the small owl: large red eyes, ear tufts, strong claws, mottled brown back.
trinket: try ko kunin ung camera. (don't leave! don't leave!)
and the small owl turns its back to them and flies away without a sound.
trinket (looks at adri): let's go!

(and because i believe that the frequency of carrying a camera is inversely proportional to the chance of seeing an owl, i don't have a picture of that indescribable last close encounter for the day)

to see some of the not-so-close-encounters from the same day, see this video of the green racquet-tail, and more pictures here.