Upon reaching Balanga we headed straight for the Wetlands Park in Tortugas. To our delight, the fishponds adjacent to the park were had just been harvested and drained! Even if the sun was quite high in the sky already, a quick scan revealed several Kentish plovers still holed up in their little burrows! Were they late risers just like us? I wouldn't blame them, the cool and dry amihan winds are very conducive to oversleeping!
|2 versions of the same picture: Kentish Plovers holed up in their shallow burrows|
The other fishponds further off were still in the process of being drained, and we could see hundreds of egrets and terns flying around, probably trying to get an easy meal.
On the sea wall we spotted a dueling Common Kingfisher and Striated Heron. They chased each other off from two points: the end of the sea wall and a huge driftwood on the beach. What a territorial battle between a David and Goliath!
|a feisty Common Kingfisher|
In the meantime, Whiskered Terns, Egrets and Black-winged Stilts kept on flying in from inland and landing on the exposed mudflats offshore. Unfortunately, these mudflats were too far away for any good photographs.
|One of several flocks of Black-winged Stilts flying in.|
|A Great Egret|
|A Whiskered Tern|
Most of the mudflats on the adjacent beach were also still covered by the high tide, and so we decided to check out the fish ponds at nearby Brgy. Lote. We were greeted by another wonderful sight: the fishponds had also been drained and hundreds of egrets, terns and stilts were walking on the expanse of mud!
Several of the Black-winged stilts were feeding near the dirt road, unmindful of our presence. I always enjoy seeing this migrant, which is the flagship migrant species for the City. Stilts are a cross of comical and graceful, as the walk on their unending thin pink-orange legs, gently probing the mud and water with their needle-like beaks. Some of them were so close that I could see their bright red eyes.
|A pair of stilts walking in synchronicity|
|Poster bird of Balanga: a Black-winged Stilt|
There were many other waders also. Marsh Sandpipers and Wood Sandpipers walked alongside the stilts. Blending well with the half-dry mud were Little-ringed Plovers and a few Common Sandpipers.
|A Marsh Sandpiper up close and personal|
|Little-ringed Plovers blended well with the background|
|Marsh Sandpipers and a Black-winged Stilt|
|A couple of Wood Sandpipers with a Little Ringed Plover in the foreground.|
In the harsh light, I spotted a bird which did not look like a wader. It was a wild duck! It was a bit of a distance from us and constantly dipped its head in the water making it difficult to observe well, but it looked like a female Northern Shoveler! It was all by its lonesome and tried as we might, we could not spot any other duck in the area.
|A lone wild duck!|
In the meantime, in the opposite ponds where there was still a bit of water, I was able to count an astounding 66 Little Grebes on the scope! A waterdance of grebes! Again, it was too bad that they were too far off for photographs. I even spotted a family, with 4 young grebes taking turns riding on the parent's back!
After spending a good part of the morning at the fishponds, we decided to check up again on the tides at wetland park.
A Collared Kingfisher was patrolling the waters from a bamboo stick perch. Behind it, our fears were confirmed. The tide was out, exposing several square meters of mud! This time our problem was compounded. The noontime light was harsher and now, the waders were scattered over a larger area! We contemplated wading in the water to get nearer, but then decided against it.
|A Collared Kingfisher on patrol|
We walked through some of the mangroves to check out the adjacent beach, but most of the birds were egrets and very few waders. Several Black-winged stilts were flying in, their dark wings and pink legs in contrast to the white egrets.
|Little egrets and Great egrets on the beach|
|And more stilts flying in.|
We stayed for several minutes, the tide was turning again, but we decided that we should be on our way. We were content with the large numbers of waders we had seen at our 2 regular AWC sites, this time, we didn't count them though!
|A peaceful co-existence|