Monday, August 31

Unusual at the usual

It was great to have met new birding buddies on campus!

Fr. Vic is a budding birder and bird photographer and had taken great documentation of two cuckoo species on campus: the Philippine Hawk Cuckoo and the Philippine Drongo Cuckoo (a new record for the campus).  Alex had crossed paths with him in the virtual world of social media and we set up a Saturday afternoon birdwalk to meet up.  We were happily joined by Temay and Joy who worked at the admin offices.

Our walk started out with the usual suspects: a Black-naped Oriole was calling loudly from a tree in front of the admin building.  Zebra Doves patrolled the grassy areas between the trees, almost oblivious to our presence.

Zebra or Peaceful, both these names fit this dove perfectly!

At the parking lot, a Coppersmith Barbet was calling loudly, but it took some effort to spot him.  There was also a younger barbet, with much less red on his head.  Neither would keep still enough for a clear enough photo though.

A partially hidden Coppersmith Barbet.

Suddenly Adri spotted a different bird shape up in the tree.  A Rusty- breasted Cuckoo (Brush Cuckoo)!  I had not seen this bird on campus in a looooooong time.  It was still a juvenile, the barring across its breast and underparts very distinctive.  It flew quietly and purposefully around the tree until we lost track of it.

Rusty-breasted Cuckoo!  You can just see the start of the "rusty breast" in this juvenile.

All this while, a Zebra Dove was lying, very relaxed I must say,  on the gravel behind us, probably wondering what the fuss was about.

I'm calm and relaxed...

In the shallow trough beside the parking lot, a White-breasted Waterhen was moving quietly behind the grass while invisible Barred Rails called loudly.  A Philippine Coucal made a surprise appearance as it flew low over the ground and disappeared behind the vegetation.  The cogon grass was left long enough to allow it to go flower and seed, and small flocks of Scaly-breasted Munias were enjoying a snack.

Munias in the grass

In the overgrown bamboo, a Philippine Magpie Robin and a Philippine Pied Fantail played hide-and-seek.  Changes in taxonomy had elevated these birds to endemics recently, nice for birds easily seen/heard on campus.

A Philippine Pied Fantail guarding his secret territory.

Yellow-vented Bulbuls flew around us, often perching for a bit of preening.

Yellow-vented Bulbul in mid-preen pose.

As the afternoon slipped to sunset, we hurried along towards where Fr. Vic had spotted the cuckoos, hoping for a glimpse or maybe to hear some calls.  

As we entered the back garden, a Long-tailed Shrike perched against the valley of Marikina, with the Sierra Madre mountains in the distance.  

A not-so-neat looking Long-tailed Shrike, maybe in mid-molt.

As we approached the slope for a better view of the valley, we flushed a Common Emerald Dove from its tree on a low mango tree. We walked to the side and back around the parking lot.  On a bare-branched tree in the distance, another  Coppersmith Barbet was calling loudly.  Above us, a flock of Lowland White-eyes was moving through the canopy of the huge rain tree, maybe one last snack before roosting for the night.

Suddenly, Tere called out "Imperial Pigeon!"

Wow, that was unusual!  Green Imperial Pigeons were relatively common in forested areas but hardly sighted in the city. We all took a look, and sure enough, in place of the diminutive Coppersmith Barbet  was a large Pigeon, clearly silhouetted against the sky!

A surprise sighting in the distant tree.

And an even bigger surprise when Adri exclaimed "It's a Spotted Imperial Pigeon!", telling us to take a good look at its breast and underparts which, even in the dwindling light,  were clearly brownish!

Bird alert: SpImp on campus! SpImp on campus!

Imagine having a spotted a Spotted Imperial Pigeon, a hard to find endemic, right at one's workplace!  It was such a pleasant surprise!  We explained to our birding companions (who were probably initially surprised at OUR surprise!)  that our group had traveled all the way to Ilocos Norte to spot these elusive birds!

Local migration?  Lost in the city?  Whatever the reason that particular individual decided to stop and perch at that particular tree at that particular time - it was serendipitous for our little birding group. 

Happy to have more birding eyes now on campus! Since then, Fr. Vic has also documented an immature Black-chinned Fruit Dove, another new record for our "backyard"!  I'm hoping now our campus bird list will grow and there will be more exciting finds for us. 

Sunday, August 9

When school is out

With a new semester starting, the campus will be alive once more with the student population going about their daily routine. Having had an extended break because of the adjustment to a new school year (with the "summer" term moving to June - July and the first semester starting in August), the campus was pretty quiet for most of April and May with only the regular staff and the faculty coming to work.

With a few bird walks scheduled as a fun activity to fill in the student-free work load for the staff, we were quick to observe a few campus birds not regularly seen during the busy school year.

A family of Philippine Magpie Robins were regulars at an empty student parking lot near our office.  It was great to see this family of four every afternoon, with the young busy following their parents around.  They were an easy bird to point out to newbie birders, distinctive black and white birds flitting around actively the parking slots shaded by a couple of ficus trees.

Dad in a typical pose.

Mum in another typical pose.

One of the young ones looking at me curiously.

The young ones would often beg loudly for food.  When this was observed by one of my high school students on a summer internship, she exclaimed excitedly " It's shouting! It's shouting!"


Their beautiful melodious call was clearly heard in the relatively silent campus.  The parking lot was adjacent to an overgrown area where they presumably stayed most of the year when they would be reported as "heard but not seen".

I'm glad to have verified that the campus Magpie Robin population seems to be doing well and growing in number.

Aside from the Magpie Robins, a short observation at the ficus trees also gave good sightings of White-eared Brown Doves.

A quiet pair of endemic White-eared Brown Doves.

These endemic doves are usually very shy and skittish.  They are not common in the city, except in pockets of greenery.  This pair was calmly preening at a talisay tree behind the ficus, after having enjoyed a snack of ficus fruit.

In the afternoon, several Barred Rails could often be called calling, hidden in the long grass. With a few people around, a few ventured out into the open areas.

With a bit of patience, a brief  Barred Rail sighting in the grassy fields.

It's good to document these not-so-often-seen-birds-on-campus.  While I expect them to fall back into the "heard only" category now that school has started, I look forward to catching even brief glimpses every now and then.

In the meantime it's back to the regular campus birds...

The very common Zebra Dove.