since becoming a birder and joining the wbcp, i have reserved 2 or 3 weekends of january for the asian waterbird census. this year, with the much-anticipated romblon awc scrapped, my first awc was in bani, pangasinan. it was the second time in 2 years that i was joining the bani trip, along with the original group composed of juan m, alex, tere, adri and myself. a co-worker of juan, max, joined us. sadly, rene c, who led the group last year, could not make it this time.
we arrived in the afternoon on saturday, settled in at the lovely old woods by the sea resort, and did some casual birding around the area. it was lovely weather to go afternoon birding, with the cool temperatures, slight ocean breeze and clear skies. we were happy to see several birds along the trail leading away from the resort and road: aside from philippine- and yellow-vented bulbuls, orioles, sunbirds and other more common birds, we also glimpsed a pair of black-naped monarchs, white-browed shamas, philippine tailorbirds, a scale-feathered malkoha and some doves.
|the charming old woods by the sea resort: very idyllic place to while away time|
|morning breaks: an orange and pink sky|
our vantage point made counting quick and painless (except for alex who had to count the egrets which were flying off in large numbers!), so we took a break and had our breakfast (sinangag + scrambled egg + longganisa + daing + red banana). it was a very short break because immediately after finishing off the food, we took a boat to go around the mangroves. the tide was too low for us to go inside, but we were able to go around quite easily, anchoring on the side opposite the viewing station to continue our count.
the ease of our first station was now offset by the difficult task of counting and id-ing waders from a floating bangka, through bins and scope! several waders were out feeding, used to boats and fishermen, they ignored our presence a few meters away from them. aside from egrets and herons, there were redshanks, greenshanks, grey and pacific plovers, marsh and wood sandpipers and a few whimbrel.
nearer to the mangroves, quite a distance from us was a large flock of philippine ducks! they were on the water, coming out of the mangroves where the water was presumably disappearing with the ebbing of the tides. we counted more than four hundred of them, with still several (hundred?) more trickling out from the mangroves.
|black-tailed godwits take to the air...|
|... and land gracefully on the water (showing their black tails!)|
the sun was already mid-apex and we decided to take the boat back to the dock at aporao to check out the fishponds.
|more waders and egrets on the way back|
the nearby fishponds were full of water, though we did walk quite a distance (through barking dogs and escaped goats) to get to a pond which was full of white egrets. every now and then we would spot a random wader, a common sandpiper, wood sandpiper, redshank or greenshank. not too many though. a couple of black-winged stilts would fly in the distance only to disappear behind the grassy borders separating the ponds.
|and even MORE egrets!|
of high entertainment value were 3 osprey, all hunting bangus at the pond, and quite successfully. it is always exciting to watch a bird of prey at work, and the great splashes the osprey maded as they dove for the fish was as action-packed as you can get at the awc! they had quite a good success rate i must say, carrying off maybe one fish for every three attempts.
|another osprey with another bangus!|
as we were leaving aporao, we would stop from time to time at dry fishponds. finally we spotted more little-ringed plovers and kentish plovers and long-toed stints! we had all commented previously on how we hardly saw any. we even added buff-banded rail to our census.
|an adult little-ringed plover|
|and an immature little ringed-plover|
|a kentish plover|
|the ever-elegant black winged stilt|
|a buff-banded rail|
the dam, a small reservoir irrigation project (srip) of the nia (national irrigation authority) was not a long way off, although the roads (dirt roads) were pretty bad. we passed through almost bone dry landscape, and i wondered were the dam could be.
when we arrived at the dam at high noon and we quickly got our of our vehicles and walked up for a view of the reservoir. ducks!!! quite a distance away across the water, still ducks! once again, they were quickly drifting into a small cove, away from sight so we walked across the dam to get a better vantage point.
the guy stationed at the small office mentioned that the ducks would usually arrive at the dam in the morning and leave in the early evening. their numbers were usually highest in the late afternoon.
even from the distance it was obvious that while most of the ducks were the endemic philippine duck, there were migratory species as well. the bright white breasts of the pintails stood out in the flock. on the scope, adri was able to single out a few eurasian widgeons and a lone female shoveller. nearer to us, separate from the larger group, were a couple of tufted duck. while counting, i was able to pick out a couple of garganey, their smaller size evident even in the distance.
|ducks far, far, faaaaaar away|
we had a hard time keeping it on the scope for everyone to get good views and check out diagnostic marks. it was too far to take a photo, even through the scope so we had to be sure.
it turned out to be my second lifer for that sunday: a female gadwall!
the gadwall, as well as the discovery of several hundred wild ducks sheltering at the three-year old dam was certainly worth the detour we had taken.
two lifers for my first 2013 awc. not bad at all.