Sunday, May 17

Grown up and ready to go

I've had a grand time this summer observing the Philippine Pied Fantails and Yellow-vented Bulbuls raising their chicks!  I've lost track of the bulbuls, but a few weeks ago I took one final family snap shot:

You can see that several weeks after leaving the nest, the young ones are still begging their parents for food.

In the meantime, one of the young fantails is still following its parent around the garden.  And even when I can't see it can still hear it perpetually haranguing for food.  One is constantly being followed by the other. In the late afternoons, parent and child even take a dip in the bird bath together.

We've also spotted several other indefatigable parents feeding their almost-adult offspring around the yard:  Olive-backed Sunbirds, Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers and of course the ever-present Eurasian Tree Sparrows.

With the young birds soon venturing off on their own, I hope they are just as successful at raising their own families next season.

Thursday, May 14

Feeding frenzy at a magic tree

It was the Labor Day weekend and Adri and I found ourselves birding at a favorite site: Subic!

Subic birding is always a great experience.  The patches of lowland forest are readily accessible by car and (most of the time) birds show themselves quite well.  This morning was no exception. Pigeons, hornbills, parrots, bulbuls, cuckoo-shrikes, malkohas, woodpeckers, shamas, tailorbirds, balicassiao, coletos... it seemed the birds were all out and about.

We had several great views through binoculars, but often the views were quick and left us, as we say in Tagalog, bitin (literally: hanging, because of unsatisfying glimpses).

As usual, the Rufous Coucals were calling loudly as they scrambled in the undergrowth playing a game of Simon Says.  Despite landing predictably on a perch where the previous coucal had just left, these birds move so quickly and skulk in the tangles so much it's hard to get a good look (or a good photo!)

Rufous Coucals hardly ever sit still!

I even had a lifer of sorts that morning.  A beautiful female Common Koel (I'd only ever seen the all black males) was calling loudly and we could see her beautifully-patterned plumage blending nicely with the branches and dried leaves.  It would have been a great view had a Large-billed Crow not suddenly chased her away into the closed canopy!

There goes the Common Koel!

Green Imperial Pigeons seemed to be perched on trees everywhere, their soft, growl-like calls heard almost all day.  Unfortunately, most trees in Subic are quite huge, so the GrImps were always quite a distance away.  

GrImps always strike me as huge birds.  This one was waaaay up high a Cupang tree.

We also came across a majestic Philippine (Luzon) Hawk-Eagle, soaring and calling loudly at high noon. Wonderful views but quite difficult to track the bird (thru both binoculars and a camera lens!) against the white-hot summer sky!

It's always exciting to see (and hear)  the adult Philippine (Luzon) Hawk-eagle!

While admiring a recently used Besra nest, a Luzon Hornbill appeared and hopped on a branch right above me!  An exciting close encounter, but (not) so nice a bottom-up view though!

Admiring a bottom-up view of a friendly Luzon Hornbill

Fortunately for Adri and me, we found something birders always wish they would encounter on any sortie: a magical fruiting tree!  This was a tree many birds loved to feed on! It's like a beacon attracting all sorts of birds to come and feast on its abundant fruit. All we had to do was wait quietly nearby and soon enough the birds would come!

There are so many of these trees in Subic, and we've always noticed them but we never took the time to find out what they were.  We always called them "the tree with the fruit which looks like little crabs," because of the prickly appearance of the capsule-like fruit.

Macaranga sp. leaves and fruit.  Is this Macaranga tanarius ?

My friend Cel of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc (PNPCSI) helped me later identify it as a Macaranga species.  With some internet searching, I'm leaning towards Macaranga tanarius (I could be wrong with the exact species though).  

The first birds we saw on a Macaranga that morning was a pair of White-eared Brown Doves. Normally very shy, this pair ignored us and continued to gorge themselves.

A not-so-shy White-eared Brown Dove.

Later in the afternoon, we found several birds feeding at this magical tree.

Can you spot the pigeon and the parrot feeding on this tree?

Blue-eyed Philippine Green Pigeons would fly back and forth from tree to tree.  They blended quite well with the foliage, but their noisy wing flaps and ungainly hopping from branch to branch gave them away.  They were joined by the smaller White-eared brwon doves as well as the larger Philippine Cuckoo-doves.

The blue eye of this Philippine Green Pigeon fades into the background as it is photo-bombed by the red forehead of a feeding Coppersmith Barbet!

Parrots also partook of the feast.  Blue-naped Parrots, Guaiaberos, Colasisis and Green Racket-tails flew from tree to tree.
A greying Blue-naped Parrot picks gently at the fruit.

Noisy little Guaiaberos join the party!

But the biggest surprise of all were the woodpeckers!  White-bellied woodpeckers, Sooty Woodpeckers and Luzon Flamebacks crept up and down the Macaranga branches, not pecking at the wood as expected, but delicately picking at the fruit!

Strange sight to see a Luzon Flameback picking fruit!

Even the White-bellied Woodpecker came to eat!

This  Sooty Woodpecker was part of a trio which flew to this neighboring tree after visiting the fruiting Macaranga.

It was a great and easy birding afternoon, we hardly moved from one spot and we saw so many birds! We had planned to check  out a different site for the sunset, but the trees we were observing never lacked for any bird company and before we knew it, the light was fading fast!

Staking out a magical fruiting tree.

Macaranga tanarius is a pioneer tree which can probably be used to start off the ecological succession in damaged forests.  Moreover, it is a native species which should benefit native wildlife as well.  Seeing all those birds in Subic flock to it in a feeding frenzy definitely indicates this!

P.S.  Of course we just had to try out the Chocolate Boobook before heading home.  I'm really getting to a point where my photo HAS to be improving!

Will I EVER get this photo right?!?!?