Monday, September 24

(non) birding in the rain: a raptorwatch attempt

my recent attempts at out-of-town birding have all been foiled by the rain, and the last one more substantially so.

alex & tere, on their pet raptor watch project, invited jun o, adri & myself along to scout a potential raptorwatch site in the town of dingalan, aurora.

september ushers in the migration season and raptor watch activities aim to document the return of the migratory raptors escaping from the northern hemisphere winter.

raptors fly on heat thermals produced as the day grows warmer, usually at mountainous areas where the hot air is pushed up against the slopes.  and so the identification of a raptorwatch site is a good start to producing the much needed local data for raptor migration.  at present, migratory raptors are recorded as they leave taiwan and as they arrive in indonesia. what happens to them in between those two countries?  well, no one really knows. they enter the philippines somewhere north and travel down south via unknown flyways. some of them stay for the winter.  that void in the data is what alex & tere want to fill up, and they are actively promoting raptor watch to the other wbcp-ers. the site for raptor watching the past few years has been tanay in rizal province, where the spine of the sierra madre mountain range is most accessible east of metro manila.

dingalan is a town north of tanay, with a bay which opens up to the pacific ocean, bordered by the town of gabaldon in nueva ecija, both tucked in the foothills of the western side of the sierra madre. our raptorwatch site, around 300 masl, held such promise. from north to east, the green forests of the aurora memorial national park sloping gently into  the bay and the islands of polilio in the distance, and the rising hills from the valley back to the green mountains from south to west. presumably, raptors pass thru here before being spotted at tanay. 

Raptor watching from the porch: dude!

The lush forests of the Aurora Memorial National Park veiled in fog.
And grassy fields on the south side. 

unfortunately, our exploratory weekend was filled with heavy rains, and at our altitude, our spectacular 360 degree view disappeared behind a veil of fog and mist several times during our stay.

The same view of Dingalen Bay: clear... then not clear.

Another view: not clear... then clear!

our weekend accommodations overlooked the town below, and we had our own share of migrants around the lodge. several brown shrikes trilled noisily around us, and we even had an unexpected visitor seeking shelter from the night rains! a female blue rock thrush we had admired during the day was found in the kitchen by alex at 5am!

A handsome brown shrike was one of many in the surrounding fields.
A female blue rock thrush in the rain.
And inside the house sheltering from the rain at 5am! 

An assortment of moths on the walls on a rainy night.

despite the bad weather, we did spot a few raptors occasion when the skies cleared: 3 oriental honeybuzzards, 2 grey faced buzzards and a couple of accipiters; which we followed with our bins and scopes until they disappeared from sight. a good indication that with good weather, this might just be a perfect raptor watch site!

a very fuzzy view of an oriental honeybuzzard flying away from us as the fog set in.

we also observed flocks of egrets flying towards the bay, only to turn back and fly in the opposite direction just as thick fog and rain descended on us! perhaps they had some internal sixth sense to detect the inclement weather for flying?

Egrets flying back and forth, is the for making them indecisive?

we finally gave up any more hope of raptor watching as the morning progressed without any improvement in the weather and we decided to just drive down to the town and take a look around.  at the port, we watched barn swallows,  and a few striated swallows fly overhead towards the pacific ocean in the direction of polilio island.

Alex and Tere exploring the pier at Dingalan town. In the rain. 

Striated swallows and tail-less Barn swallows taking a break. From the rain.

all in all, it was a relaxing weekend. birding from a porch with good food (fresh catch from the sea of course!), cool weather and fresh air. maybe on the return visit we'll have more raptors as well!

Fresh catch... yum yum. Bad weather? No birds? Let's eat!
The blue rock thrush, busy hunting despite the fog.  
The mountains and the forests of the national park hiding in the fog behind the house.

This road holds a promise for when we come back, hopefully in better weather.


  1. adventure! sayang maulan... can't wait for birding in really good weather! =)

    1. me too maia! naku... correction: i can't wait to go birding (period)!

      yahoo! you're the first to comment here in my newly transported blog! :-)

  2. Trinket! You migrated (no pun intended) to Blogspot! Isn't it the same as Blogger? Kamusta naman compared to Multiply? I'm still waiting for other export options from Multiply, pero parang convenient na rin dito since it's connected to my Gmail acct :D

    1. karen!
      yes... migration season talaga (haha, it actually took me awhile to get that)!
      yup migrated my stuff to blogger, but still have lots to do because all my pictures are linked to multiply!
      oks naman dito for the blog... pero walang albums. i should check out wordpress, sabi ni adri mas parang multiply yun, but that limited lang ang free storage space.