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.