before the rainy season made up its mind to dominate the days (and more especially the weekends!) with cloudy skies and buckets of precipitation, adri and i joined our friends jops and maia and visiting birder dave for some relaxed birding at bangkong kahoy valley.
|a view of mt. banahaw from bangkong kahoy valley|
settled between the mythical mountains of mt. cristobal and mt. banahaw, bangkong kahoy is a favorite go-to, mostly because of the pleasant weather, the good food and the friendly hospitality of our host dion. adri and i had been up several times, although not so much for birding as to take my mom, siblings and nieces for fresh and cool mountain air. our last birding adventure was up the mountain with jops, maia, jon j and jun o. it was a memorable (if not slightly traumatic) experience, as it was a strenuous and difficult hike up slippery trails and moss-covered rocks. to top it off, we dipped on our target, a nesting whiskered pitta! we vowed that we would be back for a more laid back birding holiday.
first on our agenda was to check on some besras which had recently fledged. we had also dipped on a previous nesting the last time and i was hoping for better luck this time round as the besra would be a lifer for me. i didn't want to get too excited, given that the besras had already fledged, and according to our guide chris, were no longer seen daily at the nest site.
as we walked along the road, we encountered our first mixed flock of elegant tits, citrine canary flycatchers, blue-headed fantails, yellowish white-eyes and sulphur- billed nuthatches. i've always enjoyed these high elevation flocks of cheerful and colorful birds and we all took the time to watch these energetic little birds as they zipped around a small tree.
as we were leaving, i had a mini-lifer: a common nawab was perched on the ground, sipping minerals from the ground. i had always wanted to see this particular nymphalid, and there it was, for all of us to admire. i took it as a good sign for the weekend that had just begun.
|a sign? the common nawab was a lifer butte for me|
we continued on to the small village through trellis laden fields of chayote and beans to the edge of a forested area where the nest was found. chris, who was walking ahead of all of us, quickly signaled us to hurry and position ourselves beside him.
perched above us were 2 young besras! sunlight filtered through an opening in the canopy above and lighted their perch in the surrounding green. there were supposed to be 3 fledglings, so 2 out of 3 was a pretty good sighting. they were calling softly, perhaps their sibling and parents were nearby, well-hidden.
|a pair of fledging besras|
we watched them and they watched as as well, 4 raptor eyes on us and 10 human eyes on them. they preened and stretched for several minutes and then took off for another perch, not far, but hidden from our view.
|looking at us looking at them|
around us, insects teemed: a dragonfly perched on a nearby stick and metallic green bugs went about their business on a taro leaf.
|a blue and red dragonfly|
|metallic green and orange beetles going about their business|
as we left the site, chris suggested we go up the mountain to check on a mountain verditer flycatcher nest he was observing.
UP the mountain?
not far he said. and the trail was not difficult he added.
uhm ok. so off we went.
this was the part of the weekend which was not relaxing! we found ourselves scrambling up steep trails and mossy stones. again! i couldn't believe i fell for the "easy trail" description... for the THIRD time!
and so at the last part of the trail, i eyed the moss covered rocks angled steeply, and adri and i decided to pass. a mountain verditer flycatcher nest just did not seem worth the effort to me. and we had recently had our fill of mountain verditer flycatchers a few weeks ago anyway. (yes, i had all sorts of rationalizations in my head). kung gusto may paraan, kung ayaw maraming dahilan. truly.
|jops coming down the steep part we climbed up halfway before deciding not to go on.|
maia decided to wait it out with us too, and we scrambled down the rocks (yes, laughing with a tinge of hysteria) to wait for chris, jops and dave at a more level area. there weren't too many birds to entertain us, so it seemed quite a while before dave and then chris and jops came down the trail. they had been distracted by a largish bird on the ground which they had flushed. was it the elusive whiskered pitta? they couldn't be sure.
chris decided to take us through another route down (one i had taken before), and we stopped along the way to enjoy some of the birds. near a small house, chris spotted a scale-feathered malkoha which quickly disappeared in the undergrowth. while waiting for it to reappear, a pair of buzzing flowerpeckers suddenly arrived, perching very near us.
|a singing buzzing flowerpecker|
|a pretty orange mycalesis|
further down we ran into some chestnut-faced babblers and mountain white-eyes which seemed to be feeding at one of the trees we passed. a larger flock of elegant tits, blue-headed fantails, sulphur-billed nuthatches and even a green-backed whistler made us stop for several minutes.
|one of several chestnut-faced babblers on the trail|
we arrived back at the homestead at lunch and we enjoyed a long delicious lunch served with fresh lipote juice. after lunch, we parked ourselves at the deck of the private home of ramon q, having obtained his permission to bird from his very comfortable terrace facing the forest.
in the early afternoon, there was very little bird activity, and i distracted myself by looking at the various moths on the walls of the house and the butterflies perching on a tree with lovely lavender-pink flowers.
|buttes and beetles on the lavender flowers|
|an interesting caterpillar on the table|
later in the afternoon, a movement in another tree in front of us caught our attention. it was a a brush cuckoo busy eating caterpillars! at first we had quite a hard time getting good views of it, but later on it was more bold and came out to perch in the open.
|a brush cuckoo busy eating caterpillars|
as the sunlight waned, more birds came. a pair of philippine cuckoo doves flew across the forest. philippine coucals, a red-crested malkoha and a scale-feathered malkoha skulked nearby. maia was even able to observe and catch on video the red-crested malkoha raiding a nest! we were all aghast as we viewed maia's playback (watch it here), even if we knew theoretically of the malkoha's dining habits. the image of a marauding malkoha is something i will remember for a long time!
|the remains of the marauded nest|
we had such a good time on the deck that we decided to spend the next morning there as well. dion even had our yummy breakfast served on site! all that relaxation definitely made up for our exertions the previous morning.
|a very delicious breakfast!!!|
in the early morning, a few balicassiaos were the first to perch on the tree tops. a lone tarictic also made a brief appearance. maia and i even saw another philippine coucal with what looked like an egg in its beak!
|a balicassiao showing its blues|
|a male tarictic perched far away|
as the fog lifted from the mountain tops and the sunshine warmed the valley, the mixed flocks of small birds began to come in. more elegant tits, grey-backed tailorbirds, blue-headed fantails, citrine canary flycathers and yellowish white-eyes made the trees fronting us buzz with activity and cheerful song.
|a very, very active blue-headed fantail|
in the busy mixed flock, dave even spotted a trio of fledgling citrine canary flycatchers all huddled together as their parents diligently gathered food for them.
|cutie-pies: a trio of fledgling citrine canary flycatchers|
as the bird activity died down, our adrenalin rush subsided as well. too soon it was time to go. our relaxing weekend birding was over. there will be surely be more to come!