Thursday, May 2

the northern twitch

around 480 km and a little over 8 hours drive. a pretty long way to go for a single bird.  

but the thing was, we were on a search for the jump off point  for the spring migration of raptors up north to taiwan, and laoag was conveniently on the way.  the perfect would-be twitch.

we had decided to spend the night in this ilocos norte city, for an early start the next day even further north towards cagayan. we met up with wbcp-er and laoag local birder richard, who had all sorts of interesting birds to report all-year round up north. one of the interesting birds he had birders travelling the distance all the way from metro manila was the yellow bunting. the yellow bunting is a tiny bird, and would probably not call much attention to itself were it not a rare migrant to the philippines.

we arrived at laoag right in time for dinner with richard at saramsam restaurant. we enjoyed a delicious dinner of ilokano food, including pinakbet with a modern twist: pinakbet pizza! yum.

 pinakbet pizza with fish bagoong  and chili oil dip. yummy!

over dinner plans were made for a not-so early start the next day: 6am.

when we got to the birding site, the summer skies were bright already.  it was actually a small road leading to some ricefields, lined with four bamboo clumps.  

richard told us to keep an eye out for the bunting perching on the bamboo near 7am.

while waiting, we had a lot of birds  (26 species to be exact!)to help pass the time.  cattle egrets in full breeding plumage walked alongside cows and carabaos.  white breasted waterhens walked along an irrigation canal quite near to us. striated grassbirds called quite loudly from the ricefields. a long-tailed shrike preened quietly in the bamboo thicket closest to us. bee-eaters sailed gracefully over the fields. zebra doves foraged on the dirt path. small flocks of java sparrows of all ages alighted on the bamboo near us.

adult and young java sparrows flew back and forth from the fields to the bamboo

as if these birds were not enough to keep us preoccupied, mang boy and adri spotted a handsome peregrine falcon perched on a tree not far away from us!

 a peregrine falcon keeping watch over the ricefields
 and flying off after allowing us to admire it for several minutes

near 7am, the peregrine falcon flew off from its perch and disappeared over the bamboo thickets apparently to remind us of our target.  so we concentrated on the bamboo thickets.  as if by appointment, richard suddenly cried out "bunting! bunting!"

sure enough, on the very top of the bamboo clump farthest away from us was a small yellow-green bird with distinctive markings on its wings and back! a lifer for all of us (except richard of course)!

 yellow bunting: my lifer #13 for 2013!
a frame grab from adri's digiscoped video brought the bird much closer

unfortunately, a pair of yellow-vented bulbuls soon chased off the tiny bird. still, although it was quite a distance from us, it had thankfully stayed out in the open long enough for us to admire it through our binoculars. 

thanks to richard for keeping tabs on the birds in the area and for being such a generous and accommodating guide! it was a great start to our northern birding adventures and we still had a long way to travel.

 happy twitchers with local birder richard (thanks to tere for the picture!)

our northern birding adventure to be continued...


  1. Congrats on a successful Laoag twitch! =)

    1. Thanks Maia! Birding plus sightseeing (plus food tripping on the side) is a perfect combination!

  2. wow! definitely worth the long trip! :)