Thursday, July 25

a snake in the garden

there was quite a commotion in our household last week when a snake was spotted in the middle of the garden. it had been chasing down a rat (and had probably caught it!) and ended up in the grass looking at us.

a snake in the grass!

while the rest of the household were on automatic kill mode (the typical reaction to a snake), adri and i jumped in to interfere, extolling the vermin-exterminating virtues of the snake. fortunately, at least one of the household had witnessed it, so everyone else eventually gave in and decided to leave the snake alone.

while we were relieved, it was still pretty scary having a more-than-meter long snake in the backyard, especially if it turned out to be a venomous one.  with the help of our friend drew, it was identified through our pictures as a rat snake, pretty much harmless if left alone.

still, over the next few days, an occasional sighting in a pot or among the trees would bring out a sharp squeal from the spotter. i probably would react the same way! 

Monday, July 22

the owls that came to dinner

at the beginning of july i found myself on  my favorite birding mountain. it was my long awaited reunion with mt. makiling - i hadn't gone birding its slopes and surrounding fields for more than half a year!

adri and i, joined by alex and tere, had decided to spend the weekend on campus to check out our usual birding sites. after a bit of late morning birding in the botanical garden and afternoon birding at the agricultural fields, we celebrated our reunion with makiling by having our take out dinner al fresco just outside the building where we were staying overnight.

on the menu was food we had brought along as well as food we had bought just outside the gates of the uplb campus: pancit, roast chicken, pork bbq, rice plus some wine, cheese and crackers. we grabbed some plastic chairs and tables from the seminar room and set up our dinner at the end of the driveway, lit by a single yellow lamp.  the forest sounds of the night surrounded us, and beyond the driveway, the trees were enveloped in a blanket of inky darkness. above us shone a few stars, a rare sight for a rainy july evening and an occasional commercial plane passed over.

as we were having dinner, we were surprised with a loud hooting! a very special guest had decided to join us for dinner! a quick search with a torch at the leaves of the caimito tree above us quickly revealed our unexpected company: a philippine hawk owl, looking down at us very calmly as we ate our roasted chicken with our fingers.

not wanting to scare away our guest, we hastily turned off the torch and proceeded to eat and exchange stories.

but our guest was not to be ignored! it gave another loud series of hoots as if to say: is your take-out dinner more important than my visit?!?

we trained our lights above us again, and sure enough, even closer, a pair of yellow eyes looked down on us.

not needing to be asked thrice, alex, adri and i all rushed inside the building and ran up to the second floor to our rooms to grab our cameras. upon arriving back at the driveway, it seems we needn't have rushed as the owl was still at the exact same spot.

we clicked away happily. until something else caught the owl's attention and it quietly flew off.

we went back to eating our after dinner cheese and crackers and our guest hung around eating with us.  adri and i were awed to see it reach out its talons and grab a big moth in mid flight just behind alex and tere!

every now and then it would call out, just to remind us that it was still somewhere nearby inthe dark.  a philippine scops owl let out a loud growl every now and then too, but unlike its cousin, it didn't seem interested in coming to dinner. hmph. mr. sungit forever.

just before we cleared our table, we decided to check in on our dinner companion one last time.  he was quite easy to locate perched on the branches regularly calling out.  suddenly he dropped his wings and changed his posture. oh no! had we offended our very obliging guest?

a series of hoots nearby answered our question, our guest had invited a friend!  it flew in quietly to land beside the first owl, and after some head bumping, looked down at us with huge yellow eyes as well!

usually, it's the food that keeps me a loyal customer of a restaurant. but with dining companions like these, how can i not keep coming back to makiling?


Thursday, July 4

waders in a used book shop

Another bird book find at Booksale!

Adri was browsing thru the used books store this morning and found SHOREBIRDS: An identification guide to waders of the world (1986) for 210 pesos! 

More book shelf birding for us, it's never too early to review for the next migration season! (Or maybe just learn about the countless other look alike waders not seen in the Philippines)