Friday, May 31

back in olango

siargao flights to manila connect via cebu, so what better excuse to visit olango island?  we had just been in february with jops, maia, jun and leni and we were excited to go back. it was the tail-end of migration season, so we were hoping to catch waders in their breeding plumage.

our flight from mindanao touched down near noon, so we quickly got a cab from  the airport to take us to the hilton pier, where we caught the ferry to olango. we planned on just an overnight stay, and i gave ma'am jenny of the olango bonita inn a heads up a few days before. after settling in and having late lunch and a short rest, we headed for the olango island wildlife sanctuary.

an afternoon at oiws 

it was a really warm afternoon, so we didn't expect to see much, but the usual suspects were there,  feeding on the exposed sand. the chinese egrets were much closer to the view deck than our last visit, so we enjoyed watching them walk their funny sideways walk as they chased their food in the very shallow water. 

a handsome pacific swallow perched on the bare mangrove branches in front of the view deck, and was quite obliging to having his photograph taken.

big fat grey plovers were all around, surprisingly, not a tinge of breeding plumage on any of them! it was also fun to watch them pull out worms from the sand, leaning back with their full weight. i half expected them to tumble and roll backwards when the worm finally let go of its hold on the sand, but they never did.

several ruddy turnstones were also about, well, turning stones. they were very handsome in their breeding plumage. and several looked quite fattened up as well.

as the harsh mid-afternoon light began to shift to a more golden hue, the whimbrels began flying in, just like last time.  they settled down forming a larg-ish flock, with several of them preening and catching some shut eye together with some knots and greenshanks

there were also several terek sandpipers, very distinct with their long upturned bills and bright orange legs.  they were also foraging in small, tight flocks.

looking nearer instead of farther, i saw a little crab was dragging along a huge worm at my feet. i was surprised that none of the birds around me had gotten to it first! the crab held its prey tightly in it pincers (though i wonder how it would ever finish that meal!), and waddled away while keeping its eyes on me suspiciously.

as the light waned, the sunset clouds made a pretty picture reflected on the glass like surface of the shallow water. another full day of travel, and tomorrow and the next few days, we were looking forward to more birding.

morning at the oiws

we were up early the next morning, but being on vacation mode, not early enough to beat the summer sun rising. we had the whole morning to spend at the sanctuary, but we weren't sure if the tides were on our side.

near the steps to the view deck, a lone green shank was busy looking for food at the mangrove pneumatophores, making a pretty picture.

as we neared the view deck we flushed several egrets and even more grey tailed tattlers that were feeding nearby. adri suddenly motioned me to stand still.  a few meters away, a lone asiatic dowitcher was busy feeding!  it had a tinge of orange, on the way to acquiring breeding plumage. the steps made a convenient seat, my feet dangling in the water, and we enjoyed watching it feed in the classic "sewing machine like" movement, as it probed the sand underwater with its straight and heavy bill.

it must have noticed our presence after several minutes, and quickly flew to the other side of a clump of mangroves. as we rounded the mangroves, we saw that it had joined a larger flock totaling 39 birds! 

the individuals were in various stages of breeding plumage, a very pretty picture.

the tide was coming in quickly, and water soon covered the sand around the viewing deck, the dowitchers flew off only to land a few meters away.  the dowitchers were flushed several times, alternately by a couple of men around the mangroves gathering shellfish and the rising water. we continued to follow them across the flat sand in ankle- to knee-deep water. 

the waters continued to rise, the waders began to fly off. the larger birds flew away to the distant mangroves and higher ground. several of the smaller birds like the grey-tailed tattlers, the ruddy turnstones and the terek sandpipers retreated to the mangrove prop roots.

farther away, larger birds like the far eastern curlews were still comfortable in the deeper waters.

soon, even we were uncomfortable in the knee deep water, quite a distance away from the view deck.  we trudged back slowly, and spent the rest of the morning up on view deck.  a family from manila arrived, unfortunately at the wrong time as the rising water had chased the birds nearby to higher ground as well. we placed the larger birds like the egrets and 
whimbrels on the scope for the kids. 

nearing noon, we decided to head back, the waters showed no sign of receding anytime soon.  on the way back i spotted a sponge which reminded me of mcdonald's grimace, a blob of purple growing at the foot of one of the steps.

after another filing lunch at bonita inn, we packed our bags and said our thanks to jenny. we'd be back when the migrants returned.

at the sta. rosa pier, we boarded the ferry to the mainland.  while waiting for departure, the we watched the local kids enjoying their summer break, doing all sorts of acrobatics jumping from the dock into the water.

the birding break of our surigao-cebu vacation had just begun.

to be continued...


  1. Hay, really love Olango =) Pero yikes! Ang taas na ng water!!! =P

    1. nagulat din kami sa water level! but yes, olango is certainly love-able. and such relaxing birding! well, once you get over the panic of wader id. ;-)