Wednesday, November 28

the birdfest lands in manila!

For the first time since 2005, the birdfest is in Manila!  The return to NCR after 5 years of being flown all over Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao! No excuse not to join in the fun for Metro Manilans!!

8th Philippine Bird Festival-Manila Bay 
December 7 - 8, 2012
Teodoro F. Valencia Circle, Rizal Park

The 8th Philippine Bird Festival, the country's largest celebration of avifaunal diversity and bird lore awareness, takes wing on December 7 in the City of Manila and will bring attention to Manila Bay and the important role this plays in the East Asian Flyway. 

Themed "Birdwatching. It's More Fun in the Philppines" this year's festival will highlight the Little Egret, a common migrant that congregates in the Coastal Lagoons on the southern coast of Metro Manila during the northern winter, and the endemic Philippine Duck, whose remnant population in the Philippine capital is threatened by reclamation and property development plans in that part of Manila Bay.

Bird watchers, conservationists and tourism promoters from all over the country and abroad are expected to flock to the Teodoro F. Valencia Circle in Rizal Park on December 7 and 8 for the 8th annual Philippine Bird Festival – Manila Bay, the country's largest celebration of avifaunal diversity and bird lore awareness.

Themed Birdwatching. It's More Fun in the Philippines, this year's bird festival aims to promote the hobby as a nature tourism activity and drum up support for conservation and restoration of Metro Manila's remaining wetland in the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), a 175 hectare protected habitat just off the Coastal Road leading to Cavite province.

"There are 600 species of birds in the Philippines, no fewer than 200 are found nowhere else in the world," according to Michael Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), the country's leading bird watching society and chairperson of the Philippine Bird Festival. With its unique habitats across more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines has recently become a magnet for birdwatchers in the Asian region and further afield, Lu said.

The Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, which features lagoons, ponds, mangroves and two natural barrier islands, is an important feeding and rest area for endangered species like the Chinese Egret that migrate south to escape the harsh winters in China, Japan and Siberia as well as a roosting and breeding area for a surviving population of endemic Papan or Philippine Duck, a species found only in the archipelago of which a few thousands remain in the wild.

The wetlands around Manila Bay attract large numbers of migratory wader species like egrets (tagak) and herons, sandpipers and plovers (tarinting). The coastal waters provide feeding areas for species of terns (kanaway) and gull, while the mosaic of scrubland, mangroves and ponds are haven for migratory Siberian Rubythroat, Arctic Warbler (manayti) and Oriental Reed Warbler (rakrakit), resident Collared Kingfishers (sasala), Barred Rail (tikling) and Moorhen (to-ob). The endemic Philippine Cuckoo-Dove has also been recorded in the area.

"The coastal wetlands and other green spaces around Manila Bay are part of the Asia-wide ecosystem and their conservation will have positive impact on Asian birdlife and the health and livability of Metro Manila," Lu explained. This year, the Philippine Bird Festival logo depicts the Little Egret, a common winter visitor species that makes its home along the Manila Bay coast.

The annual event hopes to raise the bar of awareness about the bird life of the islands, promote public participation in conservation and encourage the creation of more public green spaces.

The festival will be held at the Teodoro F. Valencia Circle, Rizal Park and is open to the public free of charge. It will feature an exhibit of bird photos by the country's leading and amateur nature photographers, displays on the biodiversity of Manila Bay, films and lectures, bird watching trips, and forums on eco-tourism, birdlife management and aviation safety. Organizers said an activity center featuring bird-themed games and crafts will be on tap for the young and the young at heart.

The Philippine Bird Festival was launched by local bird watching hobbyists in Quezon City in 2005 and in succeeding years brought the message of birdlife awareness and conservation to the country's important bird areas like Dumaguete City, Balanga City in Bataan, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Cebu and Davao City.

Delegates will head for Balanga City in Bataan on 6 December to participate in its Ibong Dayo (Migratory Bird) Festival at the Balanga Wetland Park, the first coastal wetland of Manila Bay to be declared an environmental protected area by the local government. Balanga's Ibong Dayo Festival, which started in 2010 a year after the city hosted the Philippine Bird Festival, has become an annual event for bird awareness and habitat conservation.

Similar events take place throughout the world each year, attracting large numbers of bird watchers, scientists and nature enthusiasts. In Asia, some of the well-known events are the annual Taipei International Birdwatching Fair in Taiwan and the Thailand Birdwatching Fair.

This year's Philippine Bird Festival will be jointly-hosted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Tourism, National Parks Development Committee, and the City of Manila.

International organizations such as the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Chinese Wild Bird Federation (Taiwan), Wild Bird Society of Taipei, Malaysia Nature Society, Nature Society of Singapore, Chengdu Birdwatching Society (China), Borneo Bird Club (Malaysia), Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network (Japan), University Birding Clubs of Korea, Taiwan Ecotourism Association, Sabah Tourism Board (Malaysia), Gujarat Tourism Opportunity (India), Thai Cycling Club will be participating in the festival, alongside local organizations and institutions including the Philippine Eagle Foundation (Davao), Katala Foundation (Palawan), WWF-Philippines, Isla Biodiversity Foundation (Babuyan), Haribon Foundation, Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (Negros Occidental), PENAGMANNAKI (Negros Oriental), Polillo Island Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Birding Adventure Philippines, Mabuwaya Foundation (Isabela), Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Save Freedom Island Movement, Cavite Provincial Tourism and the Department of Tourism Region IX. Private institutions Team Energy Foundation, First Gen Corporation, Villar Foundation, Manila Water Company, Nuvali, Primer Group, Center for Outdoor Recreation and Expedition, City of Balanga, Province of Cavite, Genesis Transport and SMART Communications are also backing the two-day event.

Tuesday, November 27

another bird-turned-butte outing...

it sounded promising enough.  i was riding shotgun with nicky and adri, who were going to make the most of official business in subic by trying to get new bird photos and video for  bap. the morning was beautiful without a cloud in the blue sky. when we got to nabasan, a white-bellied woodpecker was inspecting a wooden post hollow, but i was caught by surprise and my camera was still in its bag at the back, so i bungled the easy shot from the car.

when we got down from the car,  it was to each his own. nicky went the opposite way of adri, whom i trailed by several meters.

i don't know if it was because i was bringing a 300 mm lens which paled in comparison to my companions digiscoping set-ups, but the birds just didn't want to come near me! case in point: there were several blue-naped parrots squawking noisily, but they were waaaaaaaay up a cupang tree! the same tree was visited by sooty woodpeckers, greater flamebacks, bar-bellied cuckoo shrikes and more - all out of my 300mm x1.4's reach!

to add to that, it seems that the monkeys decided to declare that day tribal war day and so there were several of them up in the trees making a ruckus competing with another group up a tree across across from them.  and there were more than two troops of monkeys competing that day! (monkeys freak me out).

pretty soon i was distracted by another set of fliers... ones which were more agreeable to being photographed! 

there was an abundance of two of my favorite subic butterflies: the  Lamproptera meges and Cheritra orpheus.

can you see the other insect in this L. meges picture?

there were several other lycaenids i was able to photograph:

i always have a hard time pinning down the id of this one.
adri spotted this one during our lunch break at rali's. i thinks it's Cureta tagalica.  
it's rather drab underside's seen here, but it has a nice orange upperside
another favorite, Caleta roxus,
but the photo's not so good as it was nearing dusk when i took this.

there were several pierids also, which i've always thought were the most delicate-looking of the butterflies.

competing with the dragontails at one of the nectar plants were a lot of Eurema sp.  another genus which confuses me.

there were also a good representative of Appias species, the Appias lyncida:

and the ever cheerful Appias nero:

a common butterfly in the city, this pair of Leptosia nina were in a tight embrace that allowed one of the pair to fly around carrying the other:

and later in the afternoon i saw a pair of Delias hyparete dancing around what looked like a wild relative of the santan (ixora):

while i was otherwise preoccupied with taking portraits of butterflies while in lotus position on the asphalt road, what would appear right beside me (no exaggeration) but a philippine coucal... obscured from my sight by a curtain of grass, as my photo clearly shows:

it did fly across the street but this time behind some tangles (can you say "skulker"?) so that my second shot was no better than my first!

in the afternoon, at a rare time when all three of us (i mean nicky, adri and i) were all in the same spot, a scale-feathered malkoha, a close relative of the coucal decided to show up, and although it was pretty much out in the open, this time it was quite some distance away and wouldn't keep still.

but by then i was too deep into butterfly photography to really care about my crappy bird photos, although i did attempt a brahminy kite in flight

back to the buttes...

there were also many species of skippers, but i won't attempt to id:

except for this one which i photographed at an unusual angle which is a flat and i know at least is a Tagiades sp.

speaking of face-to-face, how's this for eye contact with a Vindula dejone?

i always pay close attention to this tigbi (fig) tree in nabasan because there is almost always a butterfly resting on the fruit and this day was not the exception with a few Euploea settling in.  i had to use the flash though.

Neptis sp. were also quite common.  many members of this genus are called sailors... and somehow the name fits though i can't put my finger on  why that is:

Hypolimnas bolina is also quite common in the city, but the bright irridescent blue spots on the upper wing never fail to mesmerize me.

nymphalids, like the Vindula, Euploea, Neptis and Hypolimnas are described as brush-footed butterflies because their forelegs have been reduced to brush-like pads so it looks like these insects only have 4 pairs of legs, as you can see if you count the legs of  the other nymphalids below (you might have to click on the picture to get a larger view):

as the afternoon progressed, i began to notice the other group of lepidopterans, moths.  some of them were hidden under the foliage but many were actually hidden in plain sight! 

finally, the daylight faded and my last photo was of a pair of whiskered tree-swifts in the golden light.  well, the day was supposed to be meant for the birds, at least it began and ended with birds.

(another owling go at the chocolate boobook, but once again owl i got was a heard only. *sigh* i will get you boobook, one day i will get you!)

Wednesday, November 21

if you can't beat them...

see how pretty you are if you stay outside in/on the pond where you belong?!?

the next night after the frog at the door incident, jops and maia dropped by to pick up stuff for the birdfest and while we were chatting outside in the dark, the frogs began chirping right beside us.  when jops shone his light on the pond, there were at least four frogs chirping their hearts out, and two of them in the process of adding new little frogs to the world.

later that night, adri and i  clicked, clicked, clicked away.

now how to tell the frogs to stay there...

Saturday, November 17

they're out to get me!

take note:

1. it isn't rainy season, it wasn't even raining last night!
2. inside the house should be sanctuary!
3. after lulling me into a false sense of security (no major incidents or encounters this year), they send the big gun after me!

getting in at 1am after watching the lfs of skyfall last night, i let dooku out to go to the toilet while i waited in the front hall.  after a few minutes i called him to come in, talking to him as he ran past me and closed the front door to lock it.  as i fiddled with my keys, i turn towards the door and...

(sorry to the neighbors, adri told me they must have heard my scream up to the next subdivision)

where the **** did it come from?!?  i turned my attention to dooku as he was coming in for only a second!  and it was waaaaaaaay bigger than usual (notice it's longer than the double lock or doorknob's diameter)! and perfectly camouflaged so i didn't notice it til the last moment!

can't see what i'm talking about? click here.

and this happens just when i was thinking of writing about the cute little one living in the front yard pond! hmph.

this means war!

Tuesday, November 13

bookshelf birding

ok,ok, i know it's not really birding.

i just came back from my favorite used books book shop book sale and found myself another bird book. (yes, i know i used the word book 4 times in that sentence.)

how could i resist a hardbound, almost 300 page, full color, encyclopedia-picture book for less than 500 pesos?!? i must say that  book sale has been getting a lot of sales from me since i started birding  (as well as books for less and even the previously owned books section of national bookstore).

this book joins my birding bookshelf along with our (adri's and mine - i've been hoarding) other bird books which have been bought or given (i am proud to say i have stolen none!).  (if you look closely there are also a few butterfly books, 2 of which are also from book sale!)  it looks like some of the bird books will have to join my other books on the floor and under my bed - i really need new shelves.

my bird book shelf - ok, i admit i had to grab a few from the bathroom for this picture...

i looooove books!

Sunday, November 11

wish i was a bird...

sometimes i wish i were a nightjar and i would sleep all day.
(or maybe more often than sometimes.)

upd nightjar, i wonder if you (or your forebears) were already sleeping in that mango tree when i was an undergraduate and a squatter in a building of an institute that i was not a major of.

Wednesday, October 31

and butterflies too!

as with the birding, the butte(rfly watch)ing at makiling on our last excursion was not the best, but we did come across several species we don't see often.

i'm trying to exercise butterfy id (so much more difficult than bird id, but i hope to get better with practice!), so i welcome any corrections to mistakes in butterfly id here!

the first butterfly which caught our attention was a satyrid which blended perfectly with its surroundings. it was identified by lydia as Lethe chandica negrito. i spotted it when it was disturbed by our footsteps but when it landed, i had a pretty difficult time pointing it out to adri.  its upper side was very dark. when he finally spotted it, he took these pictures using his digiscoping set-up, much clearer than what i could manage with my hand held slr and long lens.

after landing on some dried leaves it moved to the ground where it was equally well camouflaged.

later we came across another satyrid, one which is also very common on hill 394 in subic, Ptychandra lorquinii lorquinii. this one has a beautiful electric blue upper side which is mostly seen when it is flying but not when it is perched since its wings are almost always folded together.

always present in makiling, flitting amongst the wild weedy flowers is Pithecops corvus. i love  lycaenids and i've always thought this dainty butterfly is so charming in its simplicity.

at joel's house past the buko-han, i spotted this chocolate albatross, Appias lyncida andrea, puddling on the moist ground.  this is one of the pierids that always seems to be sipping minerals from the substrate.

on some pink flowers which i have always thought of since childhood as "mini hibiscus" was another favorite: a Caleta roxus augustior.  this is one of the earliest butterflies i learned to identify and it's always fun to compare it to the other individuals from photographs by the other paro-parozzis because of slight variations of the wing patterns.

as the trail past the picnic area became narrower, we also encountered a few Tanaecia calliphorus calliphorus. this butterfly is always accommodating to photography sessions. with its fluorescent  blue stripes on the upper side and a delicately patterned under side, it was definitely a photo opportunity i didn't want to pass up on.

Very common on makiling (and subic) is this lycaenid:

in spite of its being so common i always have a difficult time identifying this species (is it Jamides sp.?) or even remembering its id. there are several lycaenids with a similar pattern, complete with false eyes and antennae on the hind wing. these butterflies can be mesmerizing to watch, the lycaenid habit of rubbing the hind wings together is easily observed while they are perched.

the lack of bird activity made the sighting of the next butterfly even more exciting. lydia identified it as Parantica vitrina vitrina. it's clear, glassy wings were so beautiful!  i read that the transparent, window-like wings of butterflies like this is because the wing is not covered with the scale-like structures which give the butterflies their colorful wing patterns.

while adri and i were busy photographing this nymphalid (adri was digiscoping!), another butterfly floated into our view and i got really excited!  i was sure it was a metalmark, a buttterfly of the Riodinidae family which in conservative taxonomy still belongs to the lycaenids. adri & i have only 1 metalmark in our pinoy butterfly photo collection so far and so we both were soon engrossed with documentation.

it was very difficult to photograph, being very skittish and flying up at the exact moment that the shutter is pressed.  the harsh noontime lighting and dappled sunlight did not make taking the picture easier.  lydia later on identified it as Abisara mindanaensis cudaca. between adri and myself, we eventually got a good photo.

also present were several dragontails, Lamproptera meges decius, which were their usually flighty selves, and so i missed out on photographing any.  i did accidentally swipe one with my hand though, to my surprise.

it was late in the afternoon already when we got to the botanical gardens.  there weren't any of  butterflies i had hoped to find puddling on the dry creek bed of the molawin creek, like we had seen before.  i did come across a skipper perched on some of the plants nearby.  the hesperiids are also a difficult family for me, although they are also often very obliging models for photography. this one was later identified (again by lydia) as Notocrypta paralysos volux, the common banded demon.

black and white nymphalids also confuse me, this one was quietly perched on the road.  even if it is one of the earliest species i  learned about, sexual dimorphism always gets the better of me, as with birds, lady butterflies are often more difficult to id.  it turned out to be a female Zethera pimplea pimplea, as id'd and confirmed by paroparozzis felix and estan.

i've always thought birding and butte-ing complimented each other: no birds? try buttes! noon birding downtime? peak butte-ing hour! in any case, my butterfly skills are nowhere near as polished as my birding skills, but no less pleasure is derived from watching these winged creatures.

suuuuuuuper thanks to the paroparozzis, especially lydia r., who are an endless source of information!

Saturday, October 27

and forest makes four!

makiling! it has been quite a while, too long, since i last went birding in makiling so adri and i decided last week at the very last minute that we go on a day trip. i had just submitted my students' final grades for the semester and i felt i needed to reward myself.

i woke up at 330am and while i was getting ready to go, i heard something that i knew would be a portent of things to come for the day. just outside my window in the quiet of the morning, was a loud three syllable growl: uerk, uerk, err. we had a philippine scops owl in the neighborhood! i doubted that we would get to makiling early enough so i was thinking that it could count as our owling for the birding day! other of course than the happy thought: we have an owl! we have an owl!

when we got to TREES the caretaker admonished us that we were twice late.  late like, the sun's up late and late also because we had just missed the fruiting balite tree by a couple of weeks. we noticed though that the malapapaya tree was fruiting and sure enough, our first birds of the day were a pair of tarictic hornbills coming to the tree for a snack!  aba, maswerte din pala kayo kahit late, said the caretaker. a lone grey streaked flycatcher was perched at the highest point of the dead tree. a glossy swiftlet still had a nest on the terrace ceiling.

i wonder if it's the same swiftlet year in and year out?

standing on a giant you are even bigger
the road up makiling was undergoing a major face lift. apparently, a pair of geothermal wellheads which were placed 35 or so years ago were being removed because there was not enough steam for them to generate any power. to accomplish that goal, the road had to be fixed all the way up to the sari-sari stores. to accompany us up the trail, a cat loader chugged its way past us even before we reached malkoha lane, and soon to follow was a cat roller, which would back-up every now and then (complete with backing up alarm beep beep beeps) upon encountering a bump on the flattened trail. every now and then a truck would pass us going up full of gravel, and then going down empty and later up again endlessly. *sigh*

still mariang makiling did not fail us!  a white-browed shama singing cheerfully met us early on. 
can you guess what bird this is hiding in the dark?
by the way this is going to be the post with blurry bird pictures.
a pair of spotted wood kingfishers soon followed, with the female quietly perched in full view, despite of the truck driving by. 

mrs. spotty
in the distance a philippine falconet perched haughtily on a dead tree branch against the sky while on an opposite branch a striped flowerpecker wagged its tail restlessly from side to side.
very still and...

... very flighty

while resting near spotty's bend, we came across a mixed flock as we rested  by the side of the road. plain throated and flaming sunbirds, pygmy and buzzing flowerpeckers, stripe-headed rhabdornises, black naped monarchs, a yellow bellied whistler and even a philippine bulbul and a balicassiao all grabbed our attention and drowned out the sounds of heavy machinery operating farther up the trail. and suddenly there was a flash of orangey-red. a pair of rufous paradise flycatchers! finally, we see this species in makiling! 

in the meantime we witnessed the drama of a small, squeaky frog escaping from a hunting skink.

this frog barely escaped being eaten by a skink

as we were calming down after the rapture of a mixed flock, we noticed a huge nest just by the side of the trail.  too bad it was already abondoned, we wondered what bird could have made it.

a huge nest by the road.  are those decoy entrances?

we continued up, passing by the roller and the loader, with the workers gathered together having lunch, inviting us to join them.  up at the buko and sari sari stores, some of the workers looked through our scope to take a closer look at a red-crested malkoha, a bird one of them knew to be the manuk-manok. 

a manuk- manok

we snacked, rested and chatted a bit with the store owner, ate glo, about the roadworks before we decided to continue a bit on.  it was already noon and the bird activity was dying down.  up the road past the picnic grounds, we passed adri's regular driver during the tours. he had just come from harvesting dalanghita down the mountain and gave us a few to  take home.  

beautiful jade vines in bloom in the nursery

an additional load of a kilo or so, but one we were happy to carry.  as we had predicted, there were a few birds about, but i was happy to see several butterflies on the trail.

a very pretty caleta roxus

as we walked down, a bit of rain caught up with us. unfortunately, only adri had an umbrella, which he very sweetly offered to me and the camera.  i had lost my umbrella in subic a few months ago and had not remembered to replace it. a pechora pipit was walking very quietly by the side of the road and flew off as the truck carrying gravel passed it. 

a lone pechora pipit in the rain

in the rain, we debated on what we would do for the rest of the afternoon. it was past 3pm and the botanic gardens were only open til 4pm.  should we just skip it and do our regular rounds around campus to check on some regulars before finishing the day at the agricultural fields?

it turns out our decision to spend half an hour at the botanic gardens led to my lifer for the day, one i had at the back of my mind, but which i had already crossed out since we didn't see it on the forest trail.

the botanic gardens were already empty on a weekday at 3pm.  grey wagtails walked ahead of us on the road.  we stopped by the bridge over molawin creek, more wagtails but none of the butterflies i had hoped to see puddling.  perhaps it was  too late in the day already.  

a migrant grey wagtail at the botanical garden
we decided to walk on a bit before heading back to the gate, we still had ten minutes before somebody would come to usher us out of the park.  adri spotted some movement in the leaf litter near some benches.  it was quite dark already, but there in front of us, moving quickly around the leaf litter were 2 forest wagtails!

they moved about the dried leaves on the ground very quickly, well camouflaged by their pale olive brown backs and bibbed white breasts.  as we watched them, a gust of wind blew suddenly, and off they flew into the vegetation back across the creek.

and with that wonderful sighting, i caught up with adri and closed the book on the four reported wagtail species in the philippines:  the common yellow and grey wagtails, and the two rarer species- white wagtails from lmep earlier this year and finally the forest wagtails.  i gave a little  joyful dance (more like a wiggle really) and high five-d adri as thanks for the good spotting. just in time for the closing of the park.

the rest of the afternoon was filled with the usual suspects. an indigo-banded kingfisher was busy catching crabs and fish from the creek while several house swifts and striated swallows flew overhead. 

bombs away!

a drive through the agricultural fields which were golden and ready for the harvest added a few more species to our day's bird list including greater painted snipes, grassbirds, long tailed shrikes, whiskered terns and several cattle egrets. 

an intense cattle egret a-hunting for insects
even nearing evening the grassbirds continue to vocalize. loudly.

more than a dozen brown shrikes patrolled the fields and we even spotted a skylark taking a dustbath on the dirt road.  we tried in vain to look for rails or common kingfishers or even richard's pipits, but near biotech we came across a huge flock of lowland white-eyes and as we were driving out a cat by the side of the road flushed a button-quail across the road.  we pulled over to fix our things in the waning light before heading home.  a yellow bittern was standing in a paddy ditch across the road from us. we could almost hear it thinking: if i don't move they won't see me.

last bird for the day: a bittern at dusk
not the best of days on makiling, but the rufous paradise flycatchers and the forest wagtails were enough proof to me that mariang makiling still had many treats to offer.