Sunday, December 18

wagtails & friends

as i said previously, adri had not yet seen the white wagtail... and it was just 15 minutes away from my home.  he had attempted an entire afternoon stakeout with felix, and they failed miserably, to the great concern of several people who heard about it.

but everyone can relax now, adri (but unfortunately not felix!) has seen the white wagtails of la mesa!

so now adri has all 4 reported wagtails of the philippines on his life list:  yellow, grey, forest and white.  i do hope i get the forest wagtail on my list soon!

enough said on that.

we saw 3 individual white wagtails.  it was a good opportunity for me to improve on my previous photos, and i was able to document the 3 individuals.

white wagtail #1

white wagtail #2

white wagtail #3

and adri was able to get several minutes worth of video, which he put together to make this:

on top of the white wagtails there were also several sandpipers, a very scraggly common kingfisher and a bully little egret who chased all the other little egrets away.

a very bedraggled common king clashed with the collared king more than once!

several common sandpipers wagged their tails too n the spillway

a little egret noisily chased away any other little egret that came to feed on the spillway. such an unpleasant call for such a graceful bird!

despite their common niche, the wagtails seemed to peacefully coexist with the other birds...
a grey wag and a white wag feeding very close to each other

white wagtails 2 & 3 seemed unfazed by the several common sandpipers

i hope these rare migrants stay for the rest of the season & give everyone a chance to enjoy them! 

Saturday, December 17

under a red moon

under the red moon 
friends celebrate.
thankful for the year that has passed
and looking forward to the year that comes.

total lunar eclipse
09:59:40 PM
10 december 2011

Sunday, December 4

a season for wagtails

i have never really paid too much attention to wagtails before.  they came and went along with all the migrants, pretty much a given during the migratory season. at least the yellow and the grey wagtails.

there are four species of wagtails reported in the philippines: grey, yellow, white and forest. i had recently written about the hundred or so yellow wagtails i saw in lipa, and i had run into several greys in makiling and tanay during recent trips.

during a  tour a couple of weeks ago, adri added the forest wagtail to his list... described as rare by the philippine field guide.  he had seen it in makiling, where it had been reported a few times before the past few years.  we had hoped to see it during our bonifacio day birding in makiling, and were disappointed.  still, at the back of my mind, i was looking forward to adding white wagtail to my list (also described as rare), thanks to a tip from wbcp-er ruth f.

where would this rare wagtail be found? at la mesa eco park, a mere 20 minutes from my home !

i was hopeful that these were not merely passing through as they had been reported (and photographed) everyday of the week, the latest of the bird sensations to be discovered at the la mesa eco park.

how could i resist the twitch?

on friday i was impatiently looking for friends  jops & maia and alex & tere online, wanting to set-up a date with the white wagtails for the weekend. thankfully, they were as twitchy as i was, and we set our date at 7am. (adri, unfortunately was on a trip to mindanao. but with his forest wagtail one-up, i didn't think he'd mind i went ahead to meet the white one)

arriving at la mesa at 7am, i met up not only with jops, maia, alex and tere, but other birder/photographer friends!  bong n. told us that we had just missed the targets, and showed us his photo.  we hoped that the previous reports that the wagtails would return to the spillway like clockwork would hold true. so we made ourselves as comfortable as we could in the small space between a wire fence separating the spillway and a vermiculture plot.  it was not hard to figure out the best place to be to spot the birds, as those who had come before us had done a bit of gardening on the vines which had covered the fence.

little heron, little egrets, common kingfisher, common sandpiper, grey wagtails. nuninuninu. osprey, zebra doves, collared kingfisher.  another osprey. each high pitched peeeeepeeet had us all focusing on the bottom of the spillway several meters down.  argh. another grey wagtail.

after around an hour and a half, at last!  somebody declared, "ayan na sila! anjan na sila!"  all conversation stopped as several binoculars and several camera lenses focused on the black and white birds which had landed on the  low wall at the bottom of the spillway.

this subspecies, leucopsis, was not even reported in the kennedy guide. i had always found black and white birds beautiful and elegant, and this pair was no exception. one was greyer than the other, and had a smaller dark patch on its breast.  they went about the spillway with their wagtail habits, bobbing their tails as they picked up food from the surface of the ground/cement/water.  each even spent a few moments preening. action moments included a white wagtail suddenly stealing the food from its cousin grey's beak and a sudden air attack by a collared kingfisher.

they allowed us to enjoy our observation for over half an hour! despite the distance of the birds from us, it was a very, very good sighting.

white wagtail... check!

Thursday, December 1

a trogon pair saves the birding day!

a philippine hawk owl suddenly swooped in front of our car, in pursuit of an insect which was probably attracted to our headlights.  it was 530am and we were on our way up to makiling.

it seemed like a good omen.  we were on a reunion birding trip with felix who had set aside most of his life the past few months to study for the recently concluded bar exams.

and that was it for the rest of the morning.

a male trogon gave us a hard time, hiding himself in the tangles.

even ever reliable spotty (the spotted wood-kingfisher) let us down.  he gave a distant (really distant) call when we reached his bend, nothing more.

at least felix got his first lifer for the year: a pechora pipit landed on the trail, almost disappearing in the (short) grass. it was actually an upgrade for me, we spent almost 5 minutes watching him disappear and reappear in the grass, giving us good back and front views with an occasional jump at an insect on a leaf.

and then more down time.

you know it's a slow birding day when we spent as much time as we did admiring this land planarian...

...and when we spent twenty minutes gawking at this beautiful lizard (later id'd by drew as Gonocephalus sophiae (Gray, 1845)) near the forestry nursery.

feeling as tired as one can be, i trudged behind adri and felix up makiling on a hot, humid morning with nothing more than a few sightings that left me more frustrated than hopeful. even the sighting of a plain throated sunbird early in the morning and an unusually large number of flaming sunbirds (a total of 8!) did not put much energy in me, especially since they were either too flighty or too high up (or on one occasion i was too stupid to figure out to the branch felix was pointing to) for me to even get a chance at a photo.

and then the mountain deity suddenly decided that we should get some reward.

what would make up for the slow morning but my current makiling favorites: a pair of very cooperative philippine trogons!

we spotted the male first, always striking with this red breast.  when he flew off to another perch, felix found the female. then we lost the female and saw the male again. while adri was digiscoping and i was taking pictures, i realized that the female was on the branch just above it!!!  talk about missing the forest for the trees. i was fortunate enough to frame both of them in a single picture.

later, back at trees lodge, we counted 8 falconets on the dead tree!  

they are actually quite scary when you see them tearing up some small creature with their serrated beaks while being held tightly in their sharp talons.

and so even with the (super) slow start, makiling's treasures found a way to save the day!