Friday, March 15

3 thrushes in 3 hours

having recently broken my work imposed birding mini-hiatus (see my latest backyard lifer here), it seemed inevitable that my resolve not to bird until the second semester grades were submitted would melt away.

i joined adri and visiting singaporean birder albert l. on thursday afternoon to take a look at a new family of philippine scops-owls at the parish church grounds.  these owls were recently "discovered" by jops who, just last year, had his own nightly scops-owl visitors to his backyard. we met up with maia and jops (and several curious homeowners) and very quickly found the owls which the subdivision security guards were keeping a close eye on.  2 adults and 3 very fluffy fledglings hunted actively in a very small area in the early evening, their high pitched calls sounding surreal with the evening mass music being played in the background.

an adult philippine scops-owl, busy hunting in the night to feed a brood of 3.

over dinner, adri and albert casually mentioned their plans to bird at the la mesa ecopark the next day, with the ever popular endemic ashy ground-thrush on top of albert's checklist.  when jops asked me if i was going, i said i was really tempted to take the morning off to join them, especially with the recent reports of migratory thrushes being spotted in the area.

eventually we all decided to take the morning off and join adri and albert.  what twitchers we were! 

and so at 630am, we all met up at the lmep, ready for anything!

our first bird on the trail was a very plump red-bellied pitta, busy trying to get a big & fat earthworm down its throat.

a red bellied pitta caught a bit more than it could swallow.

we ran into bram, who was busy stalking the ashy ground thrush.  we went our separate ways, adri and albert in search of the ashy ground thrush, and the rest of us looking our for our target: the migratory brown-headed thrush, photographed a few days earlier eating ripe and red palm tree fruit.

after a few minutes, i decided to leave jops, maia and bram in front of the palm trees to look for the ashy ground thrush.  it was very dark in the inner trails, and i came across a very quiet hooded pitta hopping in the undergrowth. adri and albert were still busy looking for the ground thrush so i decided to walk the whole loop which led me back to jops, maia and bram.

an awful picture of a hooded pitta in the dark;
but if you squint your eyes at the screen it comes into focus :)

maia was a bit agitated as a whole flock of thrushes had flown in and left, leaving her with barely a glimpse, "madami sila pero hindi ko nakita!" she complained to me as i rounded the corner into their view.

argh. did i miss them too?

it must have been several minutes that we stood at the same spot when bram suddenly straightened up, alert at a sharp zeeet-ing call.

above us on a mango tree, very quickly, was a brown-headed thrush, belly view.  it quickly flew to a nearby defoliated gmelina, giving a lovely profile view. in a few seconds, it was gone again. a lifer for all 4 of us! we quickly re-hashed our whole experience, describing the birds to each other.

within a few minutes, the thrushes were back!  a few of them began feeding at the red palm fruit, giving us opportunities for photos.  i quickly messaged adri to come, because i knew that it would be a lifer for both him and albert.

a brown-headed thrush daintily eating some red palm fruit

soon, both of them appeared on the path, having finally bagged the ashy ground thrush. unfortunately, the brown headed thrushes had once again disappeared.  we waited patiently, as they had appeared now 3 times before, we hoped it was just a matter of time before they circled back again.

and they did!  a single thrush alighted on the palm tree fruit and we all trained our binoculars on it.

"but that's an eye-browed thrush!" a disappointed tone obvious in adri's voice as he id'd the more common thrush he had seen several times before in kitanglad.

and an eye-browed thrush mixed in with the brown-headed thrushes!

whaaaaaaat?!? jops, maia and i were confused.  sure, eye-browed thrush was a lifer for us also... but...

bram and albert, definitely more seasoned birders than the 3 of us, agreed it was an eye browed thrush.

"but the one before was definitely a brown-headed thrush," bram quickly said.

"it must be a mixed flock," adri reassured us. (we must have looked very confused)

"yes, these turdus species tend to mix together," agreed albert.(we must have looked very confused AND bewildered)

a quick look at the field guide confirmed our confusion.  the two species looked very much alike!

we needn't had worried: like clockwork, they were back a second time, and on the same palm tree we had both thrushes: an eye-browed thrush and a brown-headed thrush! the side by side comparison had us celebrating 2 lifers!

being very greedy for good views and photo opportunities, we waited for several more minutes as they came back and back again.

we were finally satiated and decided to go back for the ashy ground-thrush, and maybe a better view of the hooded pitta and the slaty-legged crake (spotted by adri and albert earlier).

we got separated again, when maia pointed out to me a lowland white-eye nest, cleverly camouflaged under the large palo santo leaves.  in a few minutes adri came hurrying down the path.  the ashy ground-thrush was out in the open!  he led us back to albert who was happily clicking away at the endemic thrush perched on an open branch.

the ever handsome endemic ashy ground-thrush

even if i had only skipped half a day of work i knew i would hardly have my mind on it in the afternoon as a re-lived 3 thrushes in 3 hours in my head over and over again. i wonder if any of the others got any work done?

1 comment:

  1. Had a great morning standing around and getting two lifers! Hehe =) Looking forward to the next adventure =)