Sunday, January 25

Rainy days and toys for big boys

"My favorite weather is bird chirping weather." - Terri Guillemets

Unfortunately, not every outing is blessed with the perfect weather for birding, or for birds chirping!  A sudden 5-day weekend was declared for Metro Manila for Pope Francis's visit, causing both an efflux and influx of traffic out of and into the city.

Adri and I joined the exodus, boarding a bus to Northern Luzon mid-evening of Wednesday (to avoid the rush out of the city).  By 530am we had reached our destination, and got off on a still dark highway at Brgy. Pancian, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

On board the pink Florida bus for a night trip!

We were back at Pannzian Beach and Mountain Resort!  It was my third time back and Adri's nth.  Our first visit was waaaay back in 2005, and it became one of the raptorwatch groups' base for spring migration the past couple of years.  The resort had a simple, laid back vibe, great food, a beautiful beach and mountain property and best of all: no TV or wifi! We were looking forward to a couple of days R & R.

As fate would have it, those days were cloudy, dreary and coooold! Not the best for birding, but definitely the best for relaxing!

Cloudy and cold days at the beach.

We did attempt to do some birding... but the birds seemed to be enjoying the cool weather too - hidden and quiet!  Still, we had a few good sightings.

On the morning we arrived, we hiked up to the mountain spring.  We pointed out this Colasisi, calmly preening itself at eye-level, to another couple who were guests at Pannzian.

A male colasisi in the rain takes a break from preening to glance at us.

The forest was extremely quiet, but we did have several sightings of Philippine Fairy Bluebirds.  This endemic is quite common here, we've even had sightings of them crossing the highway further up north on the road to Claveria!

A Philippine Fairy Bluebird showing a bit of blue on the wing.

Our pleasant hike (uphill is no problem if the temp is in the low 20's!) was interrupted though by a sudden downpour!  We tried to wait it out, but it showed no signs of stopping - and so we headed carefully down the mountain, especially careful walking beside the muddy and slippery rice fields towards the bottom.

Despite the dreary weather, the views from the beach were majestic... with powerful waves crashing on the shore and wind pushing grey clouds across the sky.  Adri and I must have looked silly, running around the cold beach, our umbrellas turning inside out in the wind.

Powerful waves and the Patapat viaduct in the background.

That evening we were joined by the company of Alex, Tere, Melanie and Mang Boy.  They had driven up on a long 15 hour journey, caught in the traffic of city dwellers escaping the Metro for the long weekend!

The next day was no less dreary and we decided to do a little exploring by car after breakfast.  The road up to Adams, a small municipality several kilometers inland was already partially paved and we wanted to check it out.

Our trip was postponed though by what greeted us as we left the restaurant area: perched on one of the almost-bare trees at the edge of the property beside the highway was an immature hawk eagle!  We excitedly called the owners of the resort: Tita Bing and her son Ken to take a look at one of the residents of their property.

Raptor perched on the tree!

The young raptor paid little attention to us - even if we created a fuss setting our scopes and cameras on it. It looked busy scanning the fields and mountainside for food.

Identification wavered from immature Philippine Hawk-Eagle to immature Rufous Bellied Eagle.  Looking at my photos now, it seems that the former ID is correct.

An immature Philippine Hawk-Eagle: a top predator is often sign of a healthy environment.

As we all admired it from the lawn, an adult Philippine Hawk Eagle was calling out loudly from the mountain across the highway.  Adri quickly spotted it and placed it in the scope.  Such a majestic bird!

Is this mom (or dad?) calling mournfully in the rain?

It was already approaching noon, but the weather was still cool, so we decided to go on to exploring the road to Adams.  The forest surrounded us as we drove up to higher elevations, and a thin fog clung to the trees. Coming to the end of the paved road, we decided to walk back down.

Not exactly dressed for birding, but the weather was not exactly best for birding either.

Not too many birds were around, a few Philippine Bulbuls called noisily in the rain. 

A bulbul singing in the rain.

Blue-throated Bee-eaters didn't mind the light rain and continued catching their food.

A bee-eater eating in the rain.

We caught sight of a pair of very quiet Luzon Hornbills by a stream near where some of the road construction workers were having a break. The workers regarded us curiously, probably initially mistaking us for hunters as they shooed away the hornbills.  As we approached them though, they saw that we carried optics and not guns, and they engaged us in conversation.  "Those small hornbills aren't often seen here," they said. "Usually it's the bigger kalaw that pass by."  Rufous Hornbills!  We knew that this place still had a good population of Rufous Hornbills, and even at the resort we would hear their loud calls in the morning.

The construction workers, all big, muscular men (as you might imagine road workers to be), had a charming way of entertaining themselves.  They had an assortment of toy trucks built from small broken twigs and various fruits form the forest!  

Big boys and their toys - simple joys!

We inspected their toys with great amusement and curiosity: there were four-wheelers, six-wheelers, a roller, one even had a little driver behind the wheel! All their toy trucks were made with such creativity and innovation.  Their simplicity and resourcefulness was truly admirable.

Our company had to disband that afternoon as Alex and co. left for Laoag that afternoon, where Adri and I would follow the next day.

On our third morning, a bit of sunshine peeked through the clouds for a few hours. As Adri and I scanned the mountainside we got a pleasant surprise.  A lone Luzon Hornbill was enjoying the warm sunshine.  And above him soared a family of Rufous Hornbills!  Three proud adults, their red casques standing out against the forest green, followed by an immature individual and 2 more adults.  What a sight to send us off!  We shall definitely be back: rain or shine.


  1. Parang ramdam ko yung lamig ng birding nyo! But you got great sightings even though it was raining! We have to schedule a trip there soon! =)

    1. Yes! It was coooooold! Still looking forward to going back! Schedule na!

  2. You still saw some interesting birds despite the rain. I hope we can visit that place also - even just for the Fairy Bluebirds :)

    1. Go, go, go Bob! Schedule it so you can do side birding in Laoag for migrants or Pasuquin for the spotted imperial pigeons. Or goi during raptorwatch! Yay!