Wednesday, February 26

Once more with feeling

And I was back at the La Mesa EcoPark!  For the school holiday, Adri and I decided to have a relaxed morning birding.  The park was quite busy, a school was holding its family day at the amphitheater and loud music, prayer and cheering reverberated through the mini forest.  Fortunately, it was still a good day for us, birding and photography-wise, as the birds didn't seem to mind the noise.

Barely had we entered the trail, when we quickly spotted a red-bellied pitta, very shy and retiring, it quickly disappeared fast as its little legs could run.  We also ran into LMEP regular, Anthony B., who informed us that WBCP-ers Linda G. and Jo S. were also there. Walking onward, we came across Peter T., who was with an eager group of Hong Kong birder/photographers, stalking a hooded pitta with huge lenses.  Not wanting to get in their way, we proceeded on.

Enticed by the loud calling of a grey-backed tailorbird, we almost missed a flock of eye-browed thrushes!  There were five or six of them flying around, and one of them perched for quite a while, busy preening itself.  Was I glad I had a camera with me this time!

The eye-browed thrush is quite a handsome bird.

As we enjoyed close views of the thrushes, the resident ashy thrush scuttled quickly across the trail, while above us a Philippine coucal moved cautiously in the tangles.  Guaiaberos, arctic warblers, gerygones, lowland white-eyes, olive-backed sunbirds, red-keeled flowerpeckers, magpie-robins and pied fantails moved noisily about the foliage, bird songs competing with pop music amplified by a sound system.

We moved on and to our surprise, we ran into the eye-browed thrushes again!  Just like my last visit, they took quick trips to the palm trees by the trail to grab some of the bright red fruit.

Another look at the eye-browed thrush.

Not to be outdone by its migrant cousins, a very photogenic ashy thrush was sitting on an acacia buttress. It was a shady perch, but it sat just where a shaft of sunlight broke through the leaves, making a beautifully dramatic photo.  

I don;t think I shall tire of seeing this endemic.

It stood quite still for a good half an hour, trilling ever so softly.  Linda and Jo found us standing there in the middle of the path, admiring it. 

The thrush makes such lovely pictures

A group of high school students from nearby Diliman Preparatory School (looking like they were filming a school project) regarded us curiously, and we pointed out the thrush.  It was great to hear and see them get all excited (complete with exaggerated arm movements and jumping up and down!) as they successfully spotted the bird which was well inside the small forest patch. 

Curious kids are always a delight.

Linda and Jo had just seen the mangrove blue flycatcher, a bird which had been conspicuously hard to find at the park recently.  So we all moved on, Adri and I out to look for the flycatcher and the hooded pitta, and Linda and Jo to look for the red-bellied pitta we had seen earlier.

While looking for the pitta, we did spot the mangrove blue flycatcher, but it only afforded us a brief view, before flying into the undergrowth. 

A very shy mangrove blue flycatcher

We settled ourselves down and decided to wait for the pitta to come out, as it was hopping behind the branches and leaves, barely in our view.

And come out it finally did! Just like the thrushes, it was very cooperative, coming out in the open to forage for food, scurrying back into hiding as people passed behind us on the trail, only to come out as their voices faded away when they moved on.

A very pitta pose for the hooded.

After watching it for several minutes, Adri and I were both satisfied with our shots and decided that it was time to head back.

And another view of the hooded pitta

Just as we were about to leave the mini forest, we again spotted the red-bellied pitta!  It was also scrounging the ground for food.  Like its hooded cousin, it would scurry out of sight when people passed by the trail.  It would stay very still behind some plants for several minutes, but eventually would come out into the open again.

The red-bellied pitta busy with a worm (even if it wasn't so early)

The pitta trying to hide behind some leaves.

Adri and I again settled down and lay in wait.  A slight movement on our left revealed an emerald dove likewise walking on the ground.

An emerald dove attempting to distract us.

The pitta had probably decided we weren't a threat, so it came out in the open for quite some time.  The high school students we had talked to earlier passed by us once more and asked (in hushed voices now) if we were again looking at a bird.  I quietly pointed to my camera's LCD display and then to where the bird was standing.  It was much easier to spot of course than the ashy thrush, a bright red belly pretty much stands out against the dried leaves! 

And the red-bellied pitta yet again.

The students could hardly contain their excitement. Even toned down, their repressed squeals of delight and hurried whispers surprised the pitta and it ran for cover.  But Adri and I didn't mind so much as we had already been observing the pitta for some time. 

Actually, I don't know if I was more pleased with our pitta sighting or with these excitable kids finding the birds, in their words, "Cool!"


  1. Waaah! Eyebrowed Thrush! I still have to see one! I'd be happy even for just one! :D

  2. Waaah! Eyebrowed Thrush! I still have to see one! I'd be happy even for just one! :D

    1. Go, go, go Bob! They're still there!

  3. So cool you got to photograph the Eyebrowed Thrush!!! And the pittas too of course! I can imagine the reaction of the students who saw the birds =)

    1. Yes, it was quite a productive morning, especially photography-wise. And the kids were great! They were super interested to hear about the ashy thrush being a luzon/mindoro endemic, and they even asked later when we saw them again if the pitta was an endemic too!

  4. What a fantastic trip. The eco-park keeps delivering

    Rob from Riyadh

    1. Yes Rob, and we hope to see you back here again soon!

  5. all I can say is WOW! and Congrats!