Sunday, March 2

night birds during the day

I have always considered owling an especially patience-requiring type of birding, often testing the perseverance and persistence of even the most stoic birder. The challenge of finding nocturnal birds in the darkness, with only their calls to give you a hint of where they are, is exciting and can be difficult, but the rewards of finally getting the target in the beam of the torch (no matter how fleeting) is just as fulfilling.

Finding a regular roost site for night birds is a different type of pleasure.  It is not easy to spot a night bird, even knowing where it sleeps by day.  These are birds not meant to be seen by the harsh light of the sun, they often sleep in tangles and hidden crevices, or camouflaged to look like part of  the environment.  After all, they need to rest and sleep while the rest of the world is wide awake and busy with their daily tasks.

It is lucky for me that two known roosting sites are on my way to school.  Last week I needed a pick me up before facing the rush of finals week for our graduating seniors.  So I asked Adri if he wanted to check out recent reports of an owl on campus and to also take a look at the nightjar which has been very reliable the past few months.

It took quite a while for us to find the Philippine Scops Owl in the complicated mass of vines and branches. I was about ready to give up when Adri finally spotted it!  Of course it had already spotted us by then, the crunch of dried leaves under our feet giving us away.  Viewed at night, the owl can look very stern, but in the daytime, it looked... cute!  It had twisted its head at a right angle to get a better view of us between the tangles, giving it a slightly comical appearance.  I'm sure Adri and I were also in some yoga-worthy poses as we tried to get an unimpeded view of it.

I can see you!

I am still in awe of all these owls in the city.  This one was sleeping right next to our old hangout when I was still an undergraduate student! The old structure had already been torn down and replaced with new buildings that were an extension of the neighboring research institute (it actually smelled like an animal house, the familiar smell of mice from grad school, maybe an additional bonus for the owl).  Did these owls live here so many years ago when these were all tambayans for our student orgs? Probably!

The owl eventually got comfortable to our presence, and after one last wide-eyed glare, slowly closed it eyes to catch up on some sleep.

The Philippine Scops Owl giving us a stern look
before catching up on some shut eye.

Our owl search-and-find took a little longer than we had anticipated, which left us no time for the nightjar for that morning.  So we checked on it a few days later.

Even though the mango tree it slept in was quite small, we still had a hard time spotting it.  Again, we were almost resigned to the fact that it had found another roost when I finally spotted an out-of place broken branch.  Looking through my binoculars, I confirmed that it was the Philippine Nightjar!  Despite the live and loud kulintang music coming from the arts building beside the mango tree, it seemed fast asleep.  

A nicely camouflaged Philippine Nightjar.

A curious security guard approached us, and although he already knew we were looking at a sleeping bird, he still engaged us in conversation and took a look through the scope.  He shared his amazement at the regularity of the roost of the bird, and how it seemed unfazed by the hustle and bustle of the university during the day. Adri and I both nodded in agreement, although, we pointed out to the mango blooms which would soon give way to fruit by the end of the summer.  Harvesting the fruit would surely drive the bird to find another perch in a few months.

A slight breeze blew, and the nightjar gave a little shake, as if to sway with the branches and the leaves.  All the time, it kept its eyes closed.  Sleep well, sweet dreams little nightjar!

A slight breeze blows the leaves obstructing our view,
giving us a good look at its white tail patch.


  1. Awesome pics! And super cute seeing the owl with its head bent that way =)

    1. Thanks Maia! Yes, isn't it cute? (It actually reminded me of Dooku!)