it was another target birding trip, but this time we were not working on our own targets, but stuart m.'s target birds. and we didn't have to travel far as these targets were found around quezon city.
fresh from giving a workshop at the recently concluded 6th international hornbill conference in makati, stuart was eye-ing to see philippine endemics found at the nearby la mesa reservoir area. he had heard about these endmic superstars from his student, wbcp-er lala e., who had just very recently finished her ph.d. (congratulations dr. lala!!!).
not surprisingly, number one on our target list for the day was the ever popular ashy ground thrush of the la mesa eco park. however, a recently reported philippine frogmouth on a nest at the la mesa nature reserve was our first agenda for the morning.
so stuart, adri and myself met up with wbcp-er and bird photographer neon at 630am at the la mesa nature reserve. it was our first time to visit the nature reserve, but i was happy to be met by kuya efren, who remembered me from a birdwatching workshop jops, maia, jon j, drew and myself had facilitated at the lmep last year! it was he who had found the frogmouth nest, on the day that his wife had just given birth to twins!
neon was already on site when we arrived and was busy documenting a nearby guaiabero nest. at a nearby tree, the two parents were busy with a young bird who had apparently just fledged. another young bird was still peeking out of the nest! instead of the black beak of the adult, it still sported a yellow orange beak, which was more hook-shaped, more like a colasisi's than a guaiabero's!
|a juvenile guaiabero peeks out of its nest, ready to fledge soon|
kuya efren approached us, in complete birding attire (he change his bright yellow uniform for a dull colored long sleeved shirt... according to him he was afraid that i would scold him for not remembering the lessons from our workshop!) and gear: a pair of binoculars and even a scope donated by wbcp-er propjerry!
we set out for our target, and of course birded along the way. guaiaberos, collared kingfishers, white-eared brown doves, yellow vented bulbuls, black naped orioles and white-breasted wood-swallows were a-plenty. a hooded pitta even called from one of the gullys we crossed.
as we neared the site for the frogmouth nest, kuya efren gave us a few very sensible reminders. they had cordoned off the nest area to prevent people from approaching the nest too closely. no going past the marked area, no noise, no sudden movements and no actions to disturb the nesting bird.
and so he led us off the trail and sure enough, there was target bird number 1: a philippine frogmouth sitting very quietly and perfectly camouflaged on its nest.
|the strange looking philippine frogmouth incubating an egg on its nest|
although not a lifer for me (i had added it to my lifelist in bohol 3 years ago), it was the first time i for me to see the luzon subspecies fo this bizarre looking bird. again, i had flashbacks of the australian picture books i had read when i was younger, about the tawny frogmouth, which would sit perfectly still, bill pointed to the sky, its feathers blending perfectly with the tree bark color and texture. and here it was, even better. the philippine version, posed exactly like it did in the picture books, huge mouth and all.
it was still sitting on a white egg... fingers crossed that it's a successful endeavor!
kuya efren had one more nest to show us, this time a nightjar nest. so we doubled back to head over to the second location. as we walked single file on the path, we passed a collared kingfisher nest, and another guaiabero nest. a loud melodious call filled the air: "ashy ground thrush singing!" adri exclaimed. as we caught glimpses of this handsome bird, kuya efren (who had gone ahead of the group) came back with sad news. the nightjar nest had been raided. he showed us bits of eggshell in his hand. the perils of ground nesting birds.
before we left, we thanked kuya efren for helping us out and for his responsible nest discoveries. it looks like there are many more discoveries awaiting birders at the lmnr.
our second target was already anti-climactic, since we had already seen an ashy ground-thrush at the nature reserve. still, the la mesa ecopark is hassle free birding and promised better views of this once super elusive endemic.
true enough, upon entering the gate to the park, we immediately heard another ashy ground thrush singing! we set up the scope across the road and as people flowed into the park, it was stuart who quickly found the bird. it was just behind the plants lining the main walkway, singing loudly from its perch.
as we entered the mini-forest trail, we bumped into birder/photographers bob, cynthia and peter, who had been staking out the red-bellied pitta all morning in vain. the good news they had for us that all the other expected birds were just around and we quickly found them: more ashy ground thrushes busy turning over leaves on the ground, very loud grey-backed tailorbirds, several vocal hooded pittas, busy lowland white-eyes still nesting.
|the always handsome ashy ground thrush|
|close encounters with a grey-backed tailorbird|
|one of several hooded pittas calling loudly|
|busy as bees, the lowland white-eyes were still gathering nesting material|
there were barred rails, mangrove blue flycatchers, colasisis, arctic warblers and even a pechora pipit among the usual oriental magpie robins, philippine pygmy woodpeckers, black-naped orioles, collared kingfishers and more. pretty good birds for a handful of forest. soon the heat was building up as noon approached and we decided to move on.
while having a quick snack, we called wbcp-er jops to ask if his neighborhood scops owl family was still at their day roost. this was target number four. (unfortunately, target number 3, the philippine nightjar at up diliman, was not to be found at its usual mango tree roost since the tree was fruiting and the fruit being harvested). a sudden summer downpour had us trapped at the restaurant. we spent a very pleasant hour exchanging birding stories and talking philippine pop culture and politics while waiting for the rain to let up.
it was mid afternoon when we arrived at the philippine scops owl site. we were quite nervous as the young scops owls were several weeks old now and we were not sure if they would still be in the same roost. jops said that he had last seen them a week before, when he and maia had checked on them after receiving the news that one of the three fledglings had been found dead. without jops or the neighborhood security guards with us, we weren't sure if we could find the owls.
fortunately, we spotted the two young owls huddled together in the same tree, a little wet from the afternoon rain. they had spotted us first from their high perch aand by the time we had them on the scope, they were glaring at us with their large orange eyes!
after a few minutes though they went back to sleep, catching up on a few more hours of rest before night fell. the adult owls were nowhere to be seen, but with the two juvenile scops olws, our final target was achieved!
|the young philippine scops owls glare at us with huge orange eyes|
we dropped off a very happy and fulfilled stuart in makati, with an hour to spare before the conference final dinner. target birding in quezon city was a success!