Monday, February 3

The one with just us girls and I had no camera*

* Yes, I was a Friends (1994 - 2004) fan, and I can't believe it's been 10 years since the series ended!

With Adri away on tour for a month, and Jops likewise on a guiding trip, Maia and I decided to have a girls-only birding morning at La Mesa Ecopark.

I was so excited to go birding, Maia had told me that they had seen the White's (Scaly ground) Thrush during the weekend.  It was a lifer for me the previous new year and I wanted a better look at it.

I arrived ahead of Maia by just a few minutes so I waited for her at the path by the entrance, entertained by a hungry Brush Cuckoo which was picking out some caterpillars inside the tangles of a Thumbergia vine.

It was great to get to LMEP on a weekday morning as the usual weekend crowds were absent and we shared the park with only the regular joggers.  As we entered the mini-forest, a small movement in the undergrowth caught Maia's attention. It was a Pechora Pipit running around looking for food.

We immediately headed for the fruiting palm trees and within a few minutes, our target arrived!  In flight the White's Thrush's large size was obvious. It perched right on a clump of bright red palm fruit and began eating.  This was a much better view than my fleeting glance from last year!  Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera with me, but you can check out Maia's pictures on her blog here.

We watched the thrush for some time, until suddenly an Ashy (Ashy Ground) Thrush flew in and chase away the bigger thrush.  How strange for these ground birds to be up in trees for extended periods!

The bright red fruit of the McArthur palms

We tried to find the Spotted Wood Kingfisher, but we didn't find it, so I still had not seen this popularly photographed bird in this park.  The usual park residents: Large billed crows, Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, Philippine Magpie-Robins, the Phlippine Pied Fantail (recently promoted to an endemic!), Colasisis, Guaiaberos, Arctic Warblers, Olive-backed Sunbirds, called incessantly around us.

We walked back to the palm trees, where the Yellow-vented Bulbuls were taking their turn at the ripe fruit.

Maia decided to wait for the thrushes for a better photo, and I went in search for a second target: a would-be lifer which was often seen and photographed at the park but which I had yet to see clearly.  All my previous sightings were of a bird scurrying into the undergrowth in my peripheral vision. As I walked quietly on the trail, a movement on my right revealed the Pechora Pipit again, looking comical as it jumped up and down from the ground to reach a caterpillar on some high leaves.

As I rounded the turn, there it was! On the middle of the path, as clear a view as I could wish for, was the Slaty-legged Crake!  It was nicely framed by the greenery on the side of the path (this was where the path was narrowest for the entire trail). It stood still for several seconds so I could drink in all the wonderful details: its bright red-orange head and breast, distinct black and white barring on its belly, its bright red eyes delicately ringed with the thinnest yellow line.  (Really, with all those distinctive features jumping out at you, it had to be named after its grey legs?!?!?)  

Woohoo!  Without a camera in hand, I committed to memory the picture.

"Alam mo bakit mo nakita?"
"Kasi wala kang camera!"

("Do you know why you saw it? Because you didn't have a camera with you!")
Those were my husband's words to me when I had immediately texted him of my victory.

Without a camera, i was forced to sketch!

I gleefully returned to Maia at the palm trees and reported my lifer to her. As we fell in to random chitchat, the bulbuls and both thrushes continued to return to the red fruit. It was funny watching both the Ashy Thrush and the Yellow-vented Bulbuls dive-bombing the much larger white's Thrush when it landed on the red fruit.  Those fruits must have a high commodity value! We got to talking about the other thrushes we had seen at the exact same place the year before.  And, as if in response to our reminiscing, what would perch on the red fruit but an Eye-browed Thrush!  It was much more reticent than its cousins, and just grabbed a few fruit and immediately left.

After a few more minutes, some school kids on a field trip came walking up the trail, engaged in loud chatter. With that, Maia and I decided to end our girls'-morning-out.  And what a very productive morning it was!

Second lifer for 2014: Slaty-legged Crake (hmmm... still no photo!)


  1. So cool! I should start taking notes again and practicing drawing birds based on observations =) Congratulations on the long-awaited lifer! =)

    1. Thanks Maia! I enjoyed watching the bird actually without the pressure of having to take a photograph, and looking carefully at all the details. Flipside of photography. :-)

  2. Congrats on the lifer!

    Too bad the Eyebrowed Thrush was a no show for us the 3 times (within a week) that we were there. :(

    1. Thanks Bob! I know! Reading your blog I was laughing but I could feel your pain! Maybe soon you'll finally get it.

  3. I agree with Adri about your seeing it because you didn't have a camera with you! I've been wanting to write about "Stuff BIrders Believe In" and that's one of them!!

    1. Haha, Yes, Adri and I have always subscribed to that belief. Once we missed taking a photo of a sea eagle in subic grabbing a bat... because we decided not to take out our optics from the back seat!