Monday, October 28


It was a hot Sunday morning even at an early 6:30am.  We were on a club trip to Candaba to check out the migrants which have been coming in since last month. The route to the bird sanctuary was still impassable because of the recent rains, so we stuck to the main highway heading towards the town proper. Because the sun was out in full force, the farmers were spreading the palay (rice grains) out on the road to dry. In both Filipino and the Capampangan (the local dialect) the word for drying out in the sun is "bilad".  

Nagbibilad ng palay: farmers spreading out the rice grains on the road to dry under the sun.

This practice often provides a conundrum to many a driver passing through country roads and highways covered in a thin layer of rice grains. Running over the palay could crush the dry grains, leading to a loss to the farmer. But in spite of this, farmers regularly dry their harvest on the hot concrete, spreading it out in the morning, and sweeping it back into sacks before nightfall.  I suppose a few broken rice grains is better than wet, moldy rice grains!

The road was busy with farmers, workers and drivers, so we kept to the side of the road, occasionally showered with dust as sacks of rice were thrown onto the road behind us.  The rice fields were still unplanted, and were filled far and wide with hundreds, even thousands, of migratory birds.  They were all scattered as far as the eye could see, but some of them stayed pretty near the road. Egrets and black-winged stilts were among the more obvious birds busy feeding in the mud.

One of hundreds of black-winged stilts.

A buff-banded rail was preening quite near to us, unmindful of a large field rat scurrying in and out of a nearby burrow! Moorhens and crakes walked along the grasses edging the rice paddies, busy looking for food.

A buff-banded rail preening in the shade.
To the entire groups' delight, a snipe walked out into the open, probing the mud for food with its long bill. It even took the time to preen, as if making sure everyone got a good look and photo.

Snipe sp. We kept hoping it would fly off so we could catch a glimpse of its tail,
but it just kept on walking.
A closer inspection of the fields revealed hundreds of wood sandpipers!  The were also busy walking around in the mud, searching for food.  With them were some little-ringed plovers and red-necked stints.

A resting wood sandpiper - there were so many of them!
By the side of the road were several resident birds, out in the full sun.  A handsome long-tailed shrike allowed me to come close, probably thinking "this is one strange-looking farmer".  

A very curious long-tailed shrike.
Several pied bushchats were also flying around, crossing the road and taking bits of grain from the concrete. Or maybe looking for insects amidst the sea of grain. There were males, females and not-quite-adults!

An assortment of pied bushchats, from top to bottom: male, female and juvenile male.
Blue-throated bee-eaters flew gracefully in the sky, landing on the long grasses which swayed just as gracefully in the breeze.  We were distracted by a black-bittern flying low over the water hyacinth, landing in a clump and quickly ducking low out of site.  We didn't see any ducks in the extensive water-logged fields, but a few wandering-whistling ducks and Philippine ducks flew by, moving in the general direction of the vehicle-inaccessible sanctuary.

A blue-throated bee-eater, unmindful of the hot sun.
As we walked down the highway, it began to grow warmer and warmer and warmer! We would seek shade beside the large trucks hauling the rice grain because it soon felt that we were drying out under the sun together with the grain!

Some of the rice grain was still piled in small mounds in the center of the road, yet to be spread.  This seemed to be an irresistible feast for many birds! The usually shy barred rails came out from the side of the road to feast on the grains.

A barred rail looking out for vehicles before crossing the road!

White-breasted waterhens boldly indulged in the free buffet together with the eurasian tree sparrows. A more retiring juvenile waterhen was content to pick off the leftover grains by the side of the road.

An irresistible feast: tree sparrows, waterhens and bush chats enjoy the drying grain.
Guess what those black mounds are under the sparrows in flight?
Invasive janitor fish thrown on the road to die!
This shy young waterhen picked at leftovers at the side of the road.
It was not only the bush-chats who patrolled the grain for insects, but also striated grassbirds! These birds probably balance out the loss from the seed-eaters by cleaning up any insects which might otherwise ruin the grain later.

A grassbird picks off an insect attracted to the drying grain.
We had given up walking because of the heat, exchanging the hot road for the convenience of our vehicles, but after a couple of kilometers, we turned back and decided to inspect some of the inner rice fields on foot using a small dirt road. The fields revealed more waders: marsh and wood sandpipers, greenshanks, stints, plovers.  

Birders also drying under the sun!

But the heat of the sun was too much too bear at 1030am and we decided to call it a day. When we arrived back on the road, we saw that the farmers were much more practical than us birders.  The were enjoying their own feast - merienda under the cool shade of an acacia tree!

With the palay spread out to dry, the farmers can take a rest.


  1. One of the hottest trips to Candaba yet! Can't wait for the ducks to start arriving =)

    1. Yes, I really though it would be cooler for a -ber month! I hope the road to the sanctuary is accessible by late November!