Monday, March 10

The Waiting Game

After an unremarkable morning up the forest trail (hornbills, yellow-bellied whistler, several white-eared brown doves, malkohas, rhabdornises, minivets, monarchs, black-chinned fruit doves, serpent eagle, a few flowerpeckers, flameback, etc. plus LOTS of people!) and spotting 4 tourist buses and 3 jeepneys parked at the botanical garden entrance, Adri and I decided to stake out the dirt roads at the dairy for some quail action.

It was still early in the afternoon and the sun was quite high in the sky when we parked our car and ourselves by one of the dirt roads.  Summer was beginning to creep in and everything was dry, even the slight breeze that blew every now and again. 

Buttonquail Crossing

Hardly had we brought down our gear from the car when Adri exclaimed: mayro'n ng tumatawid! (there're birds crossing already!)

Sure enough, several meters up the road in the direction we had come from, a pair of Barred Buttonquails were in the middle of the path, scratching at the dry dirt.

A pair of barred buttonquails crossing the dirt road.

We struggled to get our optics in place, but the duo was too far away from us, and the heat shimmering from the ground did not make for very good views or photos.  After a minute or so, the 2 birds split up, one disappearing into the right side of the road and the other walking into the grass on the left.

Wow, barely 5 minutes from parking we already had a sighting! We quickly settled down to wait again.



Wait, wait, wait.

"Maybe that was it for the afternoon," joked Adri.  "Yes, that's their quota for crossing the road today, you think?" I reply.

A slight movement up the road caught our attention.  Another Barred Buttonquail.  After a few minutes, it disappeared again into the grass.



Wait some more.

My uber-patient partner.

Another unsatisfying appearance by an individual of the same species.  Far away from us.



Finally, some movement again in the grass bordering the road!  Another Barred Buttonquail! It was again some distance from us, but this time it was making its way towards us.  It would walk across the road and back, and then cross again.  Sometimes it would disappear from view for a while at the edge of the road, only to reappear again, just a bit closer.  And closer, and closer!

A buttonquail in the shadows.

It was very active, and so it was difficult to get a good shot.  Adri and I were hardly moving.  A few meters away from us, and something on the ground caught its interest.  

Pecking at some fallen fruit

It picked at what looked like a ripe, red fruit on the ground. It became quite preoccupied with it, and stayed out in the open for a looooong time.  Sometimes it moved away a bit, but then it came back to peck at the fruit.  It even sat down for a while beside the fruit! After several minutes, it seemed to have its fill and waddled away. 

Totally engrossed in the fruit for several minutes.

It was such a great close (well, close enough!) encounter with a usually shy ground bird!  And Adri and I had that mysterious fruit to thank.

The aftermath: after the fruit was pecked at, it looked like this.

I quickly looked up and spotted the vine where the fruit came from.  It was a familiar vine with conspicuous red-orange fruit, and though I have seen it many times before in various places, I did not pay it much mind before now. 

This is what the ripe and unripe fruit looked like:
is this from the cucumber family?

While watching the vine and waiting for more quails, a yellow vented bulbul flew in and perched on the vine right where the fruit was, and immediately began eating it! It is always interesting to know what the birds are eating. 

Even the yellow-vented bulbul had a go at the fruit still on the vine.

A quick internet search led me to a vine native to the Philippines, Coccinia grandis, which is part of the cucumber family.  Is this the mysterious vine which gives fruit that the quail (and the bulbul!) seemed to like so much?  The description seems to fit perfectly. I'll be on closer lookout now for this plant and fruit.

Adri and I wanted to wait for more quails crossing, but as the afternoon got cooler, foot and bicycle/motorcycle traffic on the path increased.  After several minutes, we glimpsed another pair of quails far away from us, way back where we had the first sighting for the afternoon.  Soon a group of kids decided to film a class project right behind us.  What were they role-playing? Scenes from Ibong Adarna!  The mythical bird who lured in princes with its song and finally transformed them into stone with a touch of its poop. We were amused at the apt-ness of their storyline, but decided that it was probably time to go.  

Ibong Adarna by the neighborhood kids.

We doubted any quail crossing would beat our earlier encounter.  Having achieved success, we no longer felt like waiting.

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