Monday, June 10

spotting the spimps*

little did i imagine that i would travel all the way up to ilocos norte to see a bird.

or that i would go back to ilocos norte within the space of a month. to see another bird!

back in the same company of alex, tere and mang boy, with the addition of leni and jude, adri and i headed up north for the third time this past summer to meet up with richard in ilocos norte. we had originally planned to go after our sagada trip, but then decided to go with the others upon learning that they had planned to go too.

the bird to be seen this time was neither small, nor a migrant nor by itself.  richard had reported flocks of the endemic spotted imperial-pigeons, normally shy forest dwellers, were coming down to the seaside!  it was unusual behaviour we had never heard of, so the chance to see this endemic which had been on my most wanted list since i started birding was well worth the trip!

early in the morning, richard led us to the site.  the rocky beach could be seen across an expanse of meadow.  the grass was kept naturally short by the rocky soil and the ocean breeze. jagged limestone rocks and eternal tide pools dotted the landscape. the scenery was dramatic, it probably endured harsh weather for a good part of the year, but on a summer morning it was almost serene.  a cow and its calf were but a pair of many bovines and caprines grazing quietly, probably wondering what this group of humans was up to.

richard's pipits ran about the grassy ground, pompadour green pigeons perched on nearby vegetation, philippine cuckoo-doves flew back-and-forth, and invisible magpie-robins and mangrove blue flycatchers sang melodiously.

barely had we arrived and takenin the sights and sounds when we sighted a flock of pigeons coming in from the east. 23 spotted imperial-pigeons!  richard was delighted and we all oohed and aaahed!  it was a long-awaited lifer for us all (except richard of course!)

they flew above us as a flock of domestic pigeons would, turning in unison as they surveyed the expanse of pasture. they circled back and soon disappeared from sight. 

as if the long views of this large endemic pigeon in flight was not enough, on a second fly-by: bam! a few of the birds landed several meters right in front of our group on the bare grassy beach!

as the pigeons foraged in the foreground, the waves crashed on the beach behind them. it was an astonishing sight!  what prompted these forest-dwelling birds to come out in the open landscape?  perhaps the nesting season drew them to the seaside to supplement much needed minerals, salts and calcium?  

what call were these pigeons heeding by exposing themselves to such a vulnerable situation? because exposed they were! in the golden light of morning on the grassy field the patterns of their plumage could clearly be admired, the vibrant colors of their eyes and beaks lumnious through our binoculars and scopes. 

the mystery of the pigeons coming to the beach has probably yet to be solved, but we were all thankful for the chance to meet on neutral ground.

* SpImp is spotted imperial-pigeon. Just as GrImp is the more common green imperial-pigeon.

(a thousand thanks to richard for once again sharing the avian wonders of his "backyard"!)


  1. Spimply wonderful! Congratulations on another lifer! =)

    1. Haha. I actually laughed out loud!
      Thanks Maia!