Saturday, August 24

déjà vu all over again!

on our second trip to anvaya in the space of 4 weeks, adri and i had plans to do another drive-thru birding break at subic.  however, we got caught up in our r&r both on the trip going to (as we had spent the night in concepcion, and concepcion = provincial life = no urgency) and coming from  anvaya (as we had been unable to resist lounging by the beach the morning after our birdwalk) .

we left anvaya at almost noon. it was dead-time for birding as the sun was high and so was the temperature. but we had nothing to lose by driving through the inner subic roads, so we decided to give it a go.  our first bird was one we rarely spot at subic.  soaring high up in the sky was a grey-headed fish-eagle!  

except for a few philippine bulbuls, guaiaberos (still eating at the fig trees from 2 weeks ago), noisy rufous coucals and coletos, almost all the other birds were no shows. no surprise there, it was extremely hot, they were probably peeking out from the cool shade of the leaves wondering what WE were doing out in the heat, like this red-crested malkoha which was resting quietly in the shade.

we gave last times' goal of white-throated kingfisher on a natural perch another go. and once again: failure!

we didn't linger at subic any longer, as we were quite happy with the grey-headed fish-eagle and we didn't want to sweat it out birding which could ruin our relaxed mood. the hot afternoon was more appropriate for butterfly watching, but i will save that story for another day.

Friday, August 23

back in anvaya - twice!

last year, i began summer with a guided trip  for the staff and residents of the anvaya cove beach and nature club. this year, i was back, this time to begin the rainy season with another guided trip!

fortunately, the afternoon showers let up just in time for our afternoon birding. together with adri, anna, jessie and gina, we took a small group on a leisurely guided bird walk around anvaya's great lawn.  i was a little apprehensive as i thought that, minus the migrants, there would be less birds than last time. but i was not to worry as even as we were giving our introduction by the pool, there were already brahminy kites flying over plus white-breasted woodswallows, asian glossy starlings, colasisi and crows perched on a nearby mango tree!  we even had a philippine duck flying across, seen briefly by those with quick eyes! 

we were joined by a varied group: a trio of girlfriends, a family with three kids, parents, nannies and a lola, and some of the activities staff of anvaya. 

leisurely birding on the great lawn

we were soon pointing out several birds easily seen around the lawn and ponds fronting the main activities building including yellow-vented bulbuls, chestnut munias, striated grassbirds, black-naped orioles. several glossy swiftlets flying overhead. there were large flocks of lowland white-eyes moved noisily through the trees affording everyone with a chance to see these usually hyperactive birds through their binoculars.  the bright blue white collared kingfisher once again brought out exclamations of appreciation from everyone, and the little kids had a small tiff over who would look through the spotting scope first. 

chestnut munias are very common in anvaya

philippine pygmy woodpeckers, golden-bellied fly-eaters and a coppersmith barbet provided good examples of distinctive bird calls to demonstrate that bird watching is also bird listening!

golden-bellied flyeaters: noisy but hard to see

as we rounded the lawn to the start of our walk, a male pied bushchat perched on a lawn lamp was a good last bird for the day. it was hot and humid so everyone was a bit tired and parched but were all smiles. 

all eyes on a male pied bushchat

the next morning as we were leaving our overnight accommodations  anna and jessie pointed out a flock of asian glossy starlings just outside our doorstep in a mini-murmuration.

a small flock of asian glossy starlings

as we were saying our thanks and goodbyes to our hosts at the main building, adri and i spotted a southern sunbeam flitting across the sunny path, flashing its orange upperside. how apt, as the staff was also asking about the butterflies at anvaya!

Curetis tagalica showing its plain underside

it was a beautiful and sunny morning as we left anvaya that day.

a beautiful morning at anvaya

who would've thought that just 2 weekends after, adri and i would be back!

this time, it was a more technical activity, as adri was invited by the staff to give a bird photography talk plus a short bird photography walk.  we were not so lucky this time as the rain poured hard and long during the scheduled talk!  our audience dwindled as most of the guests who had signed up decided to back out because of the rains!

still, we pushed through with the activity.  under a small tent which barely protected us from the wind and rain, adri unflinchingly gave his talk. however, we could not ignore getting slowly cold and wet for very long and we finally decide to transfer to the kids playroom!  

hard core: bird watching & photography lecture in the pouring rain!

after the talk, the rain had mellowed into a light shower. the overcast skies plus the approaching sunset were not ideal for bird photography.  "we are waterproof but our cameras and lenses aren't!" exclaimed one of the participants! so we just birdwatched by the pool area, with a group of huddled white-breasted woodswallows afforded a brief photographic opportunity.  we wrapped up the activity with smiles and vow to repeat the activity in better weather.

white-breasted wood-swallows cuddling together: so that's why they're called git-git!

the rains finally let up and as the sun set, the sky blazed a fiery orange, and we contented ourselves with landscape photos.

a blazing sunset at the beach

adri and i had planned for an early start at subic the next day, but it was a beautiful morning with blue skies and  the call of the beach was irresistible.  we lazed by the beach, myself immersed in a book and adri on the coast chasing a couple of white-phase eastern reef egrets.

a pair of white phase eastern reef egrets

when he came back, he said he had "gifts" for me, and it turned out that he was able to photograph a couple of Papilionidae butterflies puddling on the sand! a green dragontail and a common jay! 

a puddling Lamproptera meges - missing its long tail

 another puddling butterfly: Graphium doson

more butterflies!  maybe next time we can fit in a little butterfly documentation in our schedule!

thanks again to anna g for organizing the our trip and to the anvaya activities staff for their continued promotion of the anvaya bird life!

Tuesday, August 20

drive through birding

adri & i had signed up to help out anna, jessie and gina facilitate a bird walk for the guests and staff of anvaya cove beach & nature club on saturday afternoon. 

conveniently, our favorite lowland forest was on the way to anvaya in morong, a perfect opportunity to hit two birds with one stone (is it even right for a birder to use that expression?!?) 

so even if we were scheduled to meet up at before lunch, adri and i piled our stuff into the car at the wee hours of the morning for a little drive-through birding at subic. which was of course to be repeated the next day as we left anvaya and headed home, once again passing through subic!

the few hours we spent in the morning of saturday and afternoon on sunday were not as productive as we might have wanted, but still afforded us with satisfying views of many birds of the luzon lowland forest.

we had a good view of several woodpeckers, including many pairs of greater flamebacks.  

a pair of greater flamebacks creeping up a tree trunk

another greater flameback hiding behind a tree trunk

philippine coucals and rufous coucals called out noisily from the foliage, but the former kept well hidden except for occasional glimpses as they moved about the vines. the latter showed themselves quite well, playing around the branches of a tree a gazillion miles away.

one of several rufous coucals plaing hide and seek up a tree

we also came across a few red-crested malkohas, and also a handsome scale-feathered malkoha at a now predictable site.

a well hidden red-crested malkoha

and a not-so-well hidden beautiful scale-feathered malkoha not so well hidden

we had set the goal of photographing the fairly common white-throated kingfisher (is it now the brown-backed kingfisher?) on a natural perch, and we failed miserably as all of them seemed to prefer to perch on the power lines.

one of many, many white-throated kingfishers perched on the power lines

as we drove through, we disturbed a largish flock of guaiaberos feeding at a fig tree, leaving behind one adult and a juvenile, perfectly camouflaged against the green foliage.

an adult and a juvenile guaiabero busy eating figs

but the highlight of our short sortie was a family of luzon hornbills.  there were several birds feeding busily on some fruit, unmindful as we watched them from inside our car. we observed that both the males and the females in the group had their distinctive casques looking a bit smaller and the notches scarring their beaks not so evident. could these be young hornbills?  if so then it is a wonderful sign that the tarictics are still successfully breeding in subic!

male luzon tarictic hornbills busy eating

one of the female hornbills in the flock

a few meters down the road, we encountered a pair of luzon hornbills that were definitely adults.  they were also busy eating fruit similar to the ones we had seen the previous flock devouring. i am always amazed at how gently they seem to hold fruit, big or small, with their huge beaks.

another pair of luzon hornbills

this pair was more wary of us, and didn't stay out in the open for long.  the male crept up the tree and kept an eye on me sticking out half of my body from the car window, trying to take a photo!

"i can still see you!"

in all the years we have birded in subic, this flock of 6 plus 2 birds is the largest flock of tarictic hornbills i remember encountering, definitely the most number of thornbills that i have observed at a close distance from the road. i hope the experience will be replicated many more times in the future!

Monday, August 5

getting re-acquainted

it was a school holiday and i got the chance to join adri and visiting birder rob for a short birding jaunt to nearby la mesa eco park. it was a re-acquaintance with the regular birds of the park mini-forest: the ashy ground thrushes were busy, busy, busy. another active nest was a good sign of their continuing success.

another busy day collecting worms for one ashy thrush...

... sitting on a nest for another

the red-bellied pitta was also present, having been a-miss the past few times we had visited the park.  the mangrove blue-flycatchers were busy feeding a brood of 3 demanding fledglings.  grey-backed tailorbirds sang noisily from the tangles.  common emerald doves and white-eared brown doves flew across the paths. flocks of white-eyes twitted above, moving in large flocks through the canopy.

we were on our way out when a heavy rain poured and we sought shelter at the refreshment and first aid stand where we ran into lmep regular anthony who brought more good news.  the red-bellied pittas were also busy with a family of 3 young birds! it looked like the park birds were having a good breeding season!

we decided to take a peek at the spillway and check for rails. the rain had slowed to a light shower and although barred rails called loudly, all we could spot was a single white-breasted waterhen which quickly disappeared into the grass.

as we were watching the bulbuls bathing in the rain, another bird caught our attention.  it was sitting quietly with its back to us in a thorny bush, and we had a very bad view.  but it would turn its head every now and then and adri was quick to call it.  a plaintive cuckoo! it was a great sighting for all of us, a lifer for rob and a bird i could not even remember when i last saw. 

a very wet plaintive cuckoo sitting quietly in the rain

it finally moved, affording us a better view of its orange-ish eyes and cross-thatch patterned tail.  it didn't seem to mind the many bulbuls it was sharing the bush with but got quite excited when a pair of golden-bellied fly-eaters arrived.  foster parents? or possible victims for this nest parasite? 

a front view of the plaintive cuckoo... better but still not ideal

after almost half an hour, it finally moved into the bush out of sight.  it was great for me to see this bird again after a long time, it almost felt like a lifer all over again!

Sunday, August 4

nightjars up a mango tree

we were first tipped off by  wbcp-er and nigs faculty allan about a pair of philippine nightjars roosting on a mango tree on a busy corner of the campus.  we finally got a chance to see them several weeks after, during a short up birdwalk requested by my sister-in-law.  

2 v iews of the nightjars up the tree: a great lifer for my sister-in-law, brother and niece!

there was no difficulty at all spotting them. sitting quietly on the branches of a small mango tree.  we were able to show them to my sister-in-law, my niece an my brother. we even got to show them off to a couple of regular weekend joggers.

last week, we were able to show them to visiting birder rob, who was passing through the country and had a single free morning to bird.  he was pleasantly surprised by the ease of the sighting. when we told him that we could show him a pair of sleeping nightjars at the university campus (we had spent the morning birding at lmep), he had initially thought that it would involve searching through some tall grass! it was in the middle of the week, the hustle and bustle of students walking around didn't seem to disturb the sleeping birds at all. 

the nightjars (you can see one partially through the leaves on the left)
 still up the mango tree 2 and a half weeks after our first sighting

sleep well nightjars!