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.

Thursday, October 11

Du som metter liten fugl

Du som metter liten fugl velsign var mat o Gud

My mother had dug up am old tea cup from my childhood (waaay back from Fiji!) recently and gave it to me to keep.  I hadn't seen it in the last 30+ years but as soon as my mom handed it to me I remembered very clearly the words on the cup which read: du som metter liten fugl velsign var mat o gud.

I'm quite sure I had a bowl to go with the cup, which probably did not survive the years. It had those same words around the edge.

When I was small I would read that phrase everyday at breakfast and wonder what it meant and how the drawings on the cup connected to the strange words.

Du som metter liten fugl velsign var mat o Gud

I loved that cup and bowl... it had flowers which looked like tulips and dahlias and even grains of wheat. It had a squirrel, a cat drinking from a bowl and birds.  All drawn in simple lines. With a bit of research I found out that it was designed by Anne Lofthus, a Norwegian ceramic artist, for Stavangerflint AS, an earthenware factory in Norway which was in operation from 1949 to 1979.

And to add to that bit of info, the wonders of the internet have finally revealed to me what those lines mean!  

Du som metter liten fugl velsign var mat o Gud.

It's a Norwegian prayer before meals.  What does it translate to?

O Thou who feeds the little bird, bless our food, O Lord.

What a sweet prayer for a birder, don't you think?

side note: see my cup and the matching plate and bowl, and more of Anne Lofthus' designs for Stavangerflint here: