Sunday, June 2

a shama surprise at carmen

after a satisfying birding morning at tabunan, adri and i met up with my brother george to survey his friend's property in carmen.  the three of us were picked up at our hotel downtown early in the morning the next day by eduardo who managed the property.

when we arrived, we realized that the property probably encompassed several hundreds of hectares of the hillsides! eduardo explained that most of it was acquired a couple of decades back as fields and grasslands and that it had been replanted with the then popular mahogany and gmelina. adri and i were let down at one of the office buildings while my brother and eduardo drove on to check out the horses.

one of the security guards, mang jun, was assigned to guide and accompany us as we birded. he was very pleasant company, quiet at first but later offering information about the area and even about the birds he was familiar with already. part of the estate was being developed to open to the public soon as a recreational facility and the gardens were very well maintained and manicured. at first we were a bit apprehensive about what birds we might see, but as we hiked downhill to the beginning of a river walk, we were pleasantly surprised to see the some of the areas had been left "wild" and heard the calls of many birds, including philippine bulbuls, white-eared brown doves, common koels, philippine coucals and golden bellied flyeaters.  we also heard 3 species of cuckoos: brush, plaintive and philippine hawk. we also saw what we thought was an oriental cuckoo, a migrant. it came as a bit of a surprise later when we checked that it had not yet been reported on cebu according to the kennedy guide book.

in the more open areas we encountered other birds like collared kingfishers, oriental magpie-robins, red-keeled flowerpeckers, olive backed- and crimson sunbirds, white-breasted woodswallows, pied fantails and glossy starlings.

the purple throats of olive-backed sunbirds gleamed in the bright morning sun

there were fewer crimson sunbirds, all of them turned their backs to the camera

the river walk was very pleasant, the clear waters gurgling as it fell from rocks to form mini waterfalls and refreshing pools of various heights and depths. as we walked we fell into pleasant conversation with mang jun. we pointed out several grey-streaked flycatchers, explaining to him it was a migrant from mainland asia. his face showed both amazement and amusement at the thought of this small bird travelling all that way.

we saw several grey streaked fly catchers on our walk

we also explained to him how varied the birds of the philippine archipelago were, and that how islands like cebu had birds that were  found uniquely in that area.  we had him listen to a recording of the melodious call of the black shama, a cebu endemic. by the river, we flushed grey wagtails, a barred rail and little herons. from the trees we spied pied fantails and mangrove blue flycatchers.

i didn't realize there was so so much water parts of cebu!

the riverbanks were alive with life: we saw some kids catching crabs and shrimp and dragonflies and butterflies flew all around us. we frightened a small snake which retreated to the river and was carried away by the current.

assorted dragonflies sunning themselves by the river
these are just a few of the butterflies we saw that morning

suddenly, we heard a sweet-sounding call from the undergrowth. mang jun looked at us with surprise saying "yun yung pinaparinig nyo sa akin kanina!" (that's the song you were playing for me a while back!). and he was right! there was a very cooperative black shama in our midst.

at first we had a difficult time spotting him, singling loudly from the tangles. as with the day before in tabunan, this shama preferred the dark and gloomy places.

at first we had a very difficult time spotting the shama in the undergrowth

but luckily, with just a bit of prodding from adri, he jumped out almost immediately, and landed on a small tree beside us!

shamas always have such a beautiful song, and this one was no different. as he sang from behind the branches, he also afforded me with better photo opportunities than the previous day.

but soon he came out and began singing above us!

we ended our walk at noon, and met up again with george and eduardo for lunch. as we enjoyed a delicious lunch al fresco, we showed them our photos of our exciting find. with wild places set aside for it, there is hope that the black shama will continue to sing in the forests of cebu for years to come.

the black shama - hope for cebu's forests


  1. Wow! Great second chance at photographing the shama! =)

    1. thanks maia! yes it was such a wonderful opportunity! mabuti hindi masyadong madilim dun sa river.

  2. The Shama was so close! Nakakainggit! :)

    1. Go Cebu birding na Bob!
      Yes, the shama was really close, and in a lighted spot! Too close though for Adri to digiscope.