Tuesday, April 22

Easter Triduum birding

The last 3 days of Holy Week is traditionally family, prayer and quiet time and even if summer classes started on Holy Monday, the long exodus to the provinces left a sizzling Metro Manila tranquil and traffic-free.  The break from work afforded Adri and I a few bird encounters.

On Holy Thursday, Adri and I took a peek at the UP campus Scops Owl.  My brother and sis-in-law were taking morning walk on campus and we were excited to show them this nocturnal creature.  When we got to the site, I was surprised to see how the summer heat had thinned out the lush vegetation which the owl took refuge in during the day.  It took us quite a while to find the owl, and to our delight, we found a pair of them.  They looked very sleepy and were unperturbed at our presence.

I didn't plan to bird on Good Friday, but I was delighted to get a new record for the backyard (well, front yard, strictly speaking).  A small bird perched on an almost leafless flamboyant tree caught my attention.  It flew off its perch only to circle back and land on the same branch.  A Grey-streaked Flycatcher!  Even if it was high up in the tree, I was able to take a photo of this tiny migrant.  It was probably on its way back north for spring.

For Black Saturday, we wanted to take advantage of the calm before the storm and took a short road trip up to Candaba before the city dwellers began returning to the city.  Together with Melanie, we decided to leave Quezon City way before sunrise, to take advantage of the short, cool hours of the morning.

When we arrived at the main ponds, we were greeted by views of the busy rookeries of the Black-crowned Night-herons and the Purple Herons.  A few Philippine Ducks and Wandering Whistling Ducks were swimming around the few remaining water surfaces still available.  A stately male Watercock stood proudly above the water hyacinths.

Having parked the car under the shade of a tree (big mistake!), we backtracked to take a picture of the Watercock (failure!), a small bird scuttled out to the middle of the dirt path.  It was a Siberian Rubythroat!  We positioned ourselves with the rising sun at our backs and facing the handsome bird.

Later we were joined by WBCPers Jude, Alex, Tere and Patty.  Adri pointed out the area where they could stalk the Rubythroat while we moved on to look for other targets.

As early as half past the hour of eight, the heat was already becoming unbearable.  We parked ourselves under the shade of some acacia trees.  In front of us the pond was choked with lotuses in full bloom.  The pale flowers were calming to look at, and several Barn swallows perched on the lotus peduncles.

Jude and Co. soon joined us, and we became firmly planted at the spot, the heat keeping us from venturing further.  We entertained ourselves looking at the swallows, spotting a Common Kingfisher, a family of Purple Swamphens and a lone female Northern Shoveller.

While we exchanged stories, a loud chirping interrupted us.  Above us was a tiny warbler.  The Arctic Warbler was recently split into 3 separate species: Arctic, Kamchatka and Japanese Leaf Warblers.  These 3 species are frustratingly similar to each other in terms of appearance and until recently, Adri and I would jokingly argue about the ID of what warbler we were seeing.  A recent article (ebonph.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/ask-the-experts-the-arctic-warbler-splits) though in the WBCP online newsletter explains clearly how to differentiate these 3 species by their call. So I could finally say with confidence that I have the Japanese Leaf Warbler on my life list.

 A (half?) lifer, a backyard record and great views of familiar (though not-so-often-seen) birds.  Great birding for a non-birding long weekend.


  1. Gondaaaa ng Rubythroat!!! Ay, pogi pala! =) Congrats on the Japanese Leaf Warbler! Which reminds me, I have to study them! =)