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!


  1. Reading this was like being in Subic na din! Hehe =)

    1. Thanks Maia! :-) (minus the heat if you were in an air-conditioned room though!)