Thursday, April 28

A Subic summer's day

A few weeks ago I was in desperate need for some breathing space away from work and the city.  I was happy to agree with Adri to a day trip to favorite go-to birding site Subic for some quick birding fix.

The summer days start earlier than we are willing to get up on a weekend, so we got to Subic with the sun high in the sky already.  One of our first birds was an Oriental Cuckoo! We were also greeted by a flock of Philippine Green Pigeons feeding at a fruiting fig tree.

The quiet of the morning was interrupted by a loud Green Racket-tail, giving out a raucous call non-stop. Even with the racket (pun intended) it was making, it took us quite a while to pinpoint it from the green leaves against the blue sky.

The Palawan Cherry (Pink Shower, Cassia nodosa) trees were in full bloom, not quite as magnificent as the real sakura, but still a refreshing splash of pink dotting the forest greenery.

Over lunch, we ran into our friends Aldous and Kim who were in Subic for a marathon.  We gave them an impromptu birding experience, bringing them over to the nearby Blue-throated Bee-eater nesting colony.  Aside from the bee-eaters, we were able to point out Black-naped Orioles, Coletos, a distant Blue-naped Parrot and a few others.

We went our separate ways later in the afternoon and Adri and I saw a few more of the Subic forest regulars.  Luzon hornbills, woodpeckers (Sooty, Philippine Pygmy, Greater Flameback and White-bellied), cuckoo-shrikes (Blackish and Bar-bellied), Rough-crested Malkohas, Dollarbirds and Rufous Coucals.

A pair of Whiskered Treeswifts were still at the same tree we had spotted them on a visit a few months ago.

As the sun began to set, it bathed Nabasan in a golden light. Green Imperial Pigeons were growling softly from the tree tops.  

In the distance a perched Philippine Serpent Eagle was silhouetted against the sky.

Birds were pretty hard to photograph that day, with most of them staying in the cool shade of the canopy to escape the searing summer heat. Definitely the highlight of the day was a Philippine Hawk-Eagle soaring over Nabasan for most of the late morning to noon.

We first were clued in to its presence by its screeching two-note call: Wheeeeet whit!! Sure enough as we looked up, we saw the regal raptor patrolling the skies.

But even as it assumed its stately presence, a pair of White-breasted Woodswallows refused to acknowledge the raptor's dignified majesty. 

It was almost comical to watch the woodswallow pair take turns dive bombing the raptor. They would start behind the larger bird, gaining speed until they flew a bit higher than their target on a parallel path. 

Then with a quick fold of their delta-shaped wings they pick up speed, aim for the hawk-eagle's back and ... Boom!  Right on target!

I don't think the woodswallows are actually large or fast enough to cause anything but a slight discomfort, but I am sure they can be quite annoying  to the raptor! It was clearly keeping an eye out on the tiny nuisances as they soared side by side.

Adri and I have seen woodswallows mobbing raptors of all sizes, from the Great Philippine Eagle to Philippine Serpent Eagles and even the much smaller Peregrine Falcons.  

Goes to show that you  needn't be the big man on campus to be the bully!

Tuesday, April 26

Eksenang peyups

At the start of the month of April, native plant enthusiasts in Quezon City were all abuzz with news of the UP Diliman Salimbobog  tree (Crateva religiosa) in bloom.

I first found out about this tree when I joined a tree walk organized by the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society (PNPCSI) waaaay back in 2012. It was introduced to me by a less flattering name Balai Lamok.  I was amazed at how strikingly beautiful it was in bloom - a play on pastels: pale yellow, pink and lavender.

Adri and I couldn't resist and dropped by the UP Lagoon one afternoon after work to admire its beauty.  We only had a few weeks while the flowers lasted. 

The flowers must be pretty sweet too, there were all sorts of buzzing insects hovering about. A particularly showy Papilio butterfly flitted about the top blossoms.

I can only imagine what a grove of these native plants would look like in full bloom!  I hope the city planners or private developers take notice of this lovely tree.

And since we were in the area, we crossed the street to check on how the fire which razed the Faculty Center a few days before might have affected the popular Philippine Nightjar celebrity.

There it was, sleeping blissfully at the same spot.  Fire? What fire?

(I only hope that future rebuilding will not adversely affect this trusty, dependable local.)

Thursday, April 21

A backyard kind of April

With the shift in the school year calendar, it was only the sizzling hot temperatures which reminded me that it was actually summer already! Not having the time to break for the beach or head out of town to bird, I was happy to spend before- and after-school mornings and afternoons in the garden happily observing my feathered neighbors.

The Coppersmith Barbets are so-far-so-good with their nest which we first spotted in January. We hear them pok-pok-pok-ing all day, often perched just outside my window. 

Early in April, they were busy feeding their little one, flying back and forth to their nest hole.

Do you see the baby barbet?

Remember their multi-level, multi-hole nest?  It seems that the Eurasian Tree Sparrows are trying to take over one of the holes!


The barbets of course would have none of that! They tirelessly defend their territory and constantly chase away the little marauders.

Barbet versus Tree Sparrow!

The other birds are not a problem though, they are happy to share a perch with the Golden-bellied Gerygones for instance.

It's not only the barbets who have a family to raise.  Some Colasisis have been moving about the garden, a female with 2 young ones in tow.

They're in the backyard, in the front yard, across the street, at the side yard... everywhere! 
I've seen them nibbling at the fire tree flowers in front and the tamarind fruit out back.  

Sampaloc snack

They are constantly squabbling, feeding and preening.

Can you do this?

That's why the call us hanging parrots!

Young Black-naped Orioles are also quite vocal.  Here's one I caught having it's fill of duhat (jambulan) fruit. 

It's great that the young birds seem not to mind our presence so much.

One afternoon, I saw a pair of immature Asian Glossy Starlings also perched on the duhat tree!  This is a new one to the yard list.  I wouldn't have noticed them if it weren't for their metallic calls reverberating in the backyard.

My what blood red eyes you have!

Of course the kings of the backyard still remain to be the Pied Fantails.  With the BBS (backyard Brown Shrike) a no-show, they confidently patrol the entire garden plus the empty lot next door! 

The only birds they seem to ignore are the Olive-backed Sunbirds who regularly come to feed on the ornamental banana plant nectar...

... and the Zebra Doves who always seem quite docile and reticent.

The other bullies of the garden of course are the Yellow-vented Bulbuls.  They take over the bird baths and enjoy cool dips throughout the day.  A pair in the front yard have already successfully fledged a single offspring.  They're so busy looking through every nook and under leaf and corner of the garden for food to feed the young one.


A pair of Pied Trillers has also been visiting quite regularly.  I suspect they have a nest nearby too.  In the golden afternoon light, their black and white (and grey in the case of the female) is uber-elegant.

We've also begun to notice an obviously growing population of Crested Mynas in the neighborhood.  You can't miss them, white wing spots obvious in flight, and loud, musical calls when they are perched.

Front yard Brown Shrike is still here, although I expect him to leave any day now. He is not as territorial as before and is now bullied by the Bulbuls as well (probably defending their nest).

Another migrant which we were pleasantly surprised to see is a Peregrine Falcon.  Faaaaaar from our yard, we have seen him perched several times on a communications tower almost a kilometer away from our house!  Adri first spotted him while he was observing the barbets at their nest.  Bored waiting, he scanned the communications tower and Voila! A Peregrine Falcon!  (We even got Maia to spot it from her house... although now we realise she was looking at a DIFFERENT tower. Was it the SAME falcon? She writes about it here

Digiscoped from a kilometer away!

So the backyard birds have been good in keeping me entertained as I am stuck in the city for the summer.  I expect more activity as the migrants begin to leave and the residents are busy more nests and young birds.

In fact, it's not just the birds who have been keeping me entertained.  Look who else has been procreating!

Tree frogs Polypedates leucomystax in loving embrace.