Wednesday, May 23


although i am always on the lookout for nests, finding them is always a serendipitous moment. never on purpose, often by chance, but always a pleasure.

we spotted the wood-swallow nest last weekend from the car.  we were on our way home from sunday mass and we passed by the electric pole at the exact same moment one of the parents landed on the nest, pinpointing its exact location.  on monday, i left for work earlier than needed, to give me around three quarters of an hour to observe the nest.  whlie adri and i were documenting the nest and watching the wood-swallows, we noticed a crested myna flying back and forth several times to a location we couldn't figure out.  but its behaviour made us think that it, too, had a nest we were driving home that afternoon, we slowed down by the wood-swallow nest to check on them and as we drove on slowly, adri suddenly said, "ayun ung myna!" sure enough, the myna was perched on top of the 2nd electric pole down from the wood-swallow's (this one was an old, wooden post). after a couple of seconds, again at the exact time as we drove by the pole, it dropped into the hollow of the pole and disappeared from sight!

now you see me...

and now you don't...

mystery solved!

the next morning, we were able to squeeze in a few minutes before work (again) to check on our old (well, one day older) and new nest finds.  we wanted to try to figure out what stage the myna nest was at.  we could hear the adult mynas calling from nearby palm trees. in a few minutes, we spotted an adult flying in and perching on the electric wires, carrying green, leafy material. after a quick look around, it flew to the top of the wooden pole, took a peek inside and hopped in, out of sight.

a delivery of  grass... nesting material for a new nest?

they were still building the nest!!!

this un-nerved us a bit, because it meant that there was still a high chance they would abandon the nest if they got too suspicious of our surveillance.

after the adult left the nest, we moved under some trees where we were better hidden from view and waited a while more.  we realized that one of the adults kept watch from the top of the taller adjacent concrete pole or from the palm tree beside us across the street, as the other adult flew off further.  at times, both of them would meet up at the palm and fly off together, but never for more than 5 minutes at a time.

after a short while, one of the adults flew in carrying something in its beak, landed on the palm, looked around, flew to the nest, looked around again and dropped into the hollow.  it was carrying a lizard!!!

what's that you have there? that doesn't look like nesting material...

food! a lizard for hungry chicks?

it probably wouldn't stock up on food if there weren't any young birds to feed, would it?

the traffic on the road was too noisy, and the pole too high up for us to hear any distinct calls.  the next delivery brought in was vegetation again. and then another lizard. and then more leaves.

more grass...

...and another lizard via the same circuitous delivery route.

and then more leaves...

i was in danger of being late for a meeting, so we decided to leave.  i was also uncomfortable with the looks the myna seemed to be giving in our general direction, i was sure we had been spotted.

a quick check of the wood-swallows revealed that the young birds were getting bolder and bolder, venturing further out from the nest on the iron bars. i wondered if there was any inter-species communication between these neighboring birds both raising families. oh if birds communicate like humans, what conversations i could make up!

later that afternoon, adri told me that as he processed his video footage, he could hear excited chirps picked up by the camera's mic as the parents arrived at the nest.  the mynas, it would seem, are feeding a family. we'll keep our eye on them, fingers crossed that we will witness the fledging.

adri's video helped confirm young birds, listen for soft chirping when the parents come in and one of the parents carrying off a fecal sac in slow motion

wood-swallow update: this afternoon, the pair of woodswallows were out of the nest and on the top of the next electric pole down the street!  they were still chirping noisily and begging from their parents, but it looked that they were in the middle of a flying lesson!  the parents would fly from the nest pole to the next pole (nest to next, get it? haha) with the 2 young birds following them, with more agitated and ungainly flapping of the wings. while still a bit unsure in their flight, they were already showing a bit of the aggressiveness and character of wood-swallows. it looks like this one's a successful fledging!

Tuesday, May 22

a nest on magsaysay st.

and the quest for nests continues as the rainy season approaches!  

on one of my routes going to the office and back home, adri & i spotted another nest! cradled on the V of iron bars supporting high tension electric wires was a white-breasted wood-swallow nest! 2 young birds, fully feathered and probably about ready to fledge in a few days, were being watched over and fed by 2 adults.

the nest was built by a very busy street, in fact, construction was going on to improve the pedestrian walk just below the electric pole where the nest was located.

on my way to work this morning, adri &; i checked out the nest and did our usual documentation.  it was just a little past 7am, but the construction workers and their supervisors were already about their business, and after a few minutes couldn't resist taking a peek at what we were doing.  even the security guard at the nearby building got curious.  at first they would steal glances in the general direction of where we were looking. not seeing what it was that caught our attention, they hovered closer and closer to us until we finally pointed to the nest. they all took a few minutes to watch adri's camera screen as he recorded the activity at the nest. 

"dahil may pugad sa langit, o diba nasa langit sya?" one of them chuckled softly. 

they themselves noticed that the young birds were already probably several days old already, and were amazed that even if the nest was just right above them as they worked, they had never noticed it.  how did we see it, they asked?

seek and you shall find.

the wood-swallow nest was nestled on 2 iron bars of an electric post. it looked like it was made of mostly dried grass.  the 2 young birds. looking like mini-wood-swallows, were already very active and moved around the nest a lot.  the nest must be pretty deep though, because at times both birds would sink into the nest and disappear from sight completely!

"here comes mom/dad!"

"feed me! feed me!"

"nom nom nom nom nom..."

"what about meeeeee moooooooom/daaaaaaaaad?!?"

the young birds were very, very active.  they would spend several minutes preening and stretching or even pick at  nesting material. sometimes they would venture out of the nest and walk on the iron bar, which looked a bit slippery. at several points we were afraid they would actually fall off.

here's the video adri took of the activity at the nest.  it's all ambient sound, you can hear not only the birds, but also the traffic on the road, the up carillon playing and the comments of the workers who took the time to take a look at what we were doing...

postscript: a few electric posts down the street, we suspect there is another nest, of another bird. this one pretty well-hidden from curious eyes, even ours.  we noticed this bird flying out and back again and again while we were documenting the wood-swallow nest, and on our way home in the afternoon, we finally figured out how it kept on disappearing.  it would drop into the hollow of the wooden post, out of sight. can you guess what bird it is? wish us well as we try to figure out this next nest puzzle.

we suspect there is a nest inside the hollow of this wooden electric post.  will we ever confirm it? wait and see!

Tuesday, May 15

nests galore on campus

after 5 consecutive guided birdwalks in school for ron's/mishi's/pau's ecology classes, i am officially guided trip-ed out!  

one of the good things that came out of the trips is that adri and i (joined by jops and maia on friday afternoon and manny i, whose daughter was one of our students, on saturday morning: super thanks!), with the help of the  others, were able to observe and document several nesting birds on campus! it was great because it made the back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back guided trips much easier! first, because it was almost as if we guaranteed sightings of the birds at specific places and second, even non-birders could not resist the wonder of an adult bird feeding its helpless young on a carefully constructed nest.

the first nest is a long-tailed shrike's nest which jops had spotted a week before on a bird & tree walk for the ateneo community. it was a walk jointly  facilitated by the wbcp and the pnpcsi.  the shrike's nest was very well hidden behind the leaves of a mahogany tree, right by the sidewalk of a very busy road!  the nest was cup-shaped made of loosely woven grassy material.  it was easy to point out because the shrikes also made use of a long piece of plastic straw, and it hung from the branches making a convenient marker.  the nest base looked like it made use of other discarded plastic packaging also.  

the young shrike looked like it was ready to fledge any day. its parents patrolled the nearby field, returning regularly to the nest to feed the lone chick.  on another nearby mahogany, we spotted another nest several meters up which looked like an old shrike nest.

a few meters away across the field, another long-tailed shrike pair was busy feeding an older shrike, already fledged from the nest. the shrikes in my office parking lot had also just recently successfully fledged. needless to say, the long-tailed shrike is a guarantee on campus.  they're literally EVERYWHERE.

the second nest is a black-naped oriole nest, a wonderful find because the bright yellow oriole never fails to elicit the oohs and aahs (plus the "may ganyan palang ibon dito?" comment) from the participants. this one was waaaaaay high up in a rain tree. 

it's a fairly largish nest, and with bright yellow birds returning to it every few minutes, it's hard to miss once you know it's there and what to look fro (and if you look up of course). the parents were busy feeding two young birds. the birds still had a lot of their feathers sheathed and their heads were still featherless, but once we observed one of them perched confidently on a branch above the nest, preening itself for several minutes in-between feedings.

the nest was made of leaves and twigs and other plant material.  long strips of dried material was used to weave the nest on to the supporting branch, making it very sturdy despite its height up the tree and the wind blowing the branches violently from time to time.

the parents left the area for only a few minutes at a time, and it was interesting to note that they were especially aggressive to a collared kingfisher which would come and call loudly from time to time. they would arrive on the scene as soon as the kingfisher would start calling and upon locating it, would chase it away (listen for this at around 2:10)!

the students were also amused to observe the confrontation between the orioles and a pair of pied fantails. the birds chased and dove at each other in the high canopy with much energy and display of maneuverability.  david versus goliath one student mentioned.

at a much smaller tree beside the the huge one with the oriole's nest, we also spotted an old, used nest, placed in a pretty open spot. by the looks and material of it (notice the plastic again), it must be a recent long-tailed shrike's nest.  there were at least two adults in the vicinity. (need i emphasize again that these shrikes are everywhere on campus?)

saturday morning was our 5th and last trip.  the birdwalks were getting shorter and shorter as we now knew where the birds would be.  on our way to the oriole's nest, manny made another nest discovery!  just by the driveway, on a small tree (this time i'm not sure what species of tree this was), he had spotted a golden-bellied fly-eater coming out of a bunch of dried leaves.  it turned out to be a nest which was still being built!

this nest was a hanging nest, built very close to the ground.  it was made of softer plant material, what looked like a lot of moss.  the adult was still checking the nest out, coming back with new nesting material.  despite its (human) accessibility, it was easy to miss, it blended so well with the foliage and didn't look like what you would think a nest looks like.  the adult was entertaining to observe, leaving and coming back to the nest in almost exactly the same pattern every time.

it even led us to see another fly-eater nest, this time way up another rain tree.  the nest was already elongated and dry, probably used already. it was taking nesting material from that nest and using to to bulk up the new one.

strangely enough, a male pied triller was also taking material from that same fly-eater nest! 

 we had spotted the pied triller the day before, on a nearly bare narra tree, in the same area.  adri had spotted it because it was also sitting on a tiny nest strategically placed at the base where a larger branch forked out into three smaller branches (covered by a leaf in the photo below).  we couldn't figure out if it was an old nest or it was just being built, it looked very flimsy and thin.  we did see it (the male) sitting on it on the 2 consecutive days, i suppose i'll have to check on it again if i want to know what stage that nest is at. the female pied triller was also always in the area.

we saw many other pairs of birds during the birdwalks.  aside from the pied fantails harassing the orioles, there was a pair of collared kingfishers always at the same site, and we also spotted a pair of lowland white-eyes moving about a tree, gleaning for insects.  we also saw a white-breasted wood-swallow which seemed to have a well concealed nest on the corner of the steel bars of a communications antennae ("isn't it hot up there?", one of the students asked, more of a comment than a question).

our walk covered only a very limited area of the campus, i'd love to think that all this nesting activity is happening all over the university grounds!

is this the beginning of a new nest too?

(thanks to adri for the videos!)

Saturday, May 12

north and ...north-er

(you know i mean further north)

i'm beginning to sound like a broken record but i was back in candaba AGAIN on a friday afternoon. i've actually stopped counting how many times i've been this year.

adri & i had volunteered to help out mike, jon j, jops & maia in guiding around 40 public high school teachers.  primer group of companies' advocacy arm CORE was sponsoring their trip as part of their program aptly called nature class. 

adri & i had gone on ahead to candaba (later than we had planned... alarm clock didn't go off), and as soon as we hit the dirt road, adri pointed out the terns that were following the farmers who were tilling their fields.  mixed in with the whiskered terns were white-winged terns!  the two species were easily distinguishable in their breeding plumage. the whiskered terns looking handsome with their black caps and orange bills.  and it was suddenly obvious what gave the white-winged terns their name - their white wings stood out in contrast to their all-black bodies and heads!

that's more like it: white-winged black terns true to their name in breeding plumage 
(mixed with a couple of whiskered terns here)

with hardly any migrants left, there was still a lot of resident birds to point out to the teachers.  the rookeries of the black-crowned night-herons and the purple herons were busy with activity, the pheasant-tailed jacanas strutted and flew from pond to field and back, moorhens and bitterns walked on the hyacinth and occasionally a few wandering whistling ducks flew across the vista.  it was certainly enough excitement to amaze the city teachers, drawing many exclamations of surprise and inquisitive comments.

pheasant-tailed jacana - how can one tire looking at this beauty?

nature class: science teachers of the manila head teachers association, 
division of city schools, go birding in candaba

it was a half day activity, but adri and i still had a long way to travel, further north all the way to subic.  we had been having problems lately with all the changes in policy the ecology center had been having regarding permits and we had to arrange for birding permits for bap.  jon j was on summer break and had never been, so we invited him to tag along.  horrendous traffic and torrential summer rain delayed our arrival, so we had no choice but to do power birding after our official business, zipping through the cubi-triboa and ilanin districts with a moderate rain falling.  it was darker than we expected, with overcast skies, but we still racked up 21 species seen and an additional 10 heard. not so bad for barely 2 hours of birding.  a plain bush-hen with a downy chick was foraging by the highway in front of the nipas. pompadour and green pigeons, coletos, as well as a couple of male tarictic hornbills seemed to be enjoying the rain, feathers all wet. 

this luzon hornbill is just one of the birds that seemed to welcome the summer downpour

adri pointed out a hummock-like balicassiao nest on a tree near the road. we decided to walk a bit down nabasan when the rain let up, and as we headed back to the car before darkness fell, jon spotted a white-browed shama hopping across the road!  unfortunately, the brown hawk owl and the philippine hawk owl eluded us once again, and i had to list the elusive brown hawk owl with the usual label "heard only" in my notebook.

we decided to have dinner near the business district so we could head straight back to quezon city.  it was a long and tiring day, but hey, subic is always a birding destination worth heading north for.

Saturday, May 5

summer bathing... for the birds

need i say again? this summer has been hot, hot, hot!

with them temperatures in the mid 30's (that's centigrade of course), the backyard birds have been enjoying our bird bath immensely. adri & i set up 2 bird baths in the garden way back in 2009, but i think this is the most popular they have been... with the birds of course!

throughout the year, the yellow-vented bulbuls are the most frequent visitors to the bath.  now they have been joined by the pied fantails (surprise! surprise! i've never seen them bathing before this summer) and even the eurasian tree sparrows! of course, the bath doubles as a watering hole for them too.  

the bird usually come at the hottest part of the day, from after lunch to mid-afternoon.  but i've noticed the telltale wet rim (a sure sign that somebody's been splashing about the bath), as early as 7am!

watching the birds at the bath is so entertaining.  they start out apprehensively, looking around first, and then staring at the water.  i figure they're probably estimating how deep the water is.  they hop around all around the rim, gazing at the water. 

 then a tentative quick jump in the water, a dip lasting less than a second.  after that, they get pretty excited and start jumping in and splashing around.  they get out and start shaking their wings and tails and preening, and you'd think that was that, but then more often than not, they go for a second or even third round!  by this time, they're so excited and pre-occupied with bathing, they hardly mind my watching them from the terrace.

even the tiny eurasian tree sparrows have been using the baths... for bathing and drinking. i made the baths more friendly to the smaller birds by adding large stones to make the water more shallow.

(this wet fellow is always jostling for position at the bath. i can tell it's him because of his bad eye. hope it isn't jack! or he'd be one-eyed-jack instead of jack sparrow!)

the bird baths are so popular these days, there can be a line at the baths...

and the line doesn't necessarily have to be a same-species line!

sometimes, the bird baths aren't the only bathing options!

watching them cool down in the bath, i can't help but feel envious at the birds' beat-the-summer-heat solution.  but no pools for humans in my mom's garden, the bathing pools are strictly for the feathered bathers!

Tuesday, May 1

and then came the rain...

just when i thought i couldn't stand the heat any longer...

summer rain on the 1st of may.  looks like the weather isn't completely out of whack.  yet.