Sunday, August 21

Looking for Lina's

We were off to Compostela Valley!  Mark V. arranged a trip for all 7 of us (him plus Alex, Tere, Mel, Felix, Adri and myself) to be guided by Davao-go-to-guide Pete. The goal was to get the Lina's Sunbird on our life lists - yes, a new bird for ALL seven of us!

Recently, Pete had identified an accessible site and had already brought several birders the joy of a lifer in this high elevation Mindanao endemic. It was a quick trip... fly in to Davao, drive to Com Val and spend the night, bird the next morning and be on our way (hopefully having bagged the bird).

A quick reconnaissance in the afternoon revealed that the bridge we needed to cross was closed and under construction. Uh oh.

Roadworks ahead: no crossing!

The only option was to drive across the rocky river bed.  The rainy season was just on its way, so the water wasn't deep yet, but it was quite fast flowing enough to be of concern!

The very rocky river bed

Birding the next morning started very early, and we reached the site with a bright full moon rounded by a halo in the sky. A Mindanao Scops Owl called out by the side of the road, and as it got lighter, a Bukidnon Woodcock flew around us in a typical roding display.  

A halo around a full moon

Slowly, our surroundings came alive, with several Island Thrushes,  Olive-capped Flowerpeckers and Turquoise Flycatchers coming out to feed. All around us were heavy equipment of the roadworks and signs of the new road encroaching on the surrounding montane forest.

Did the roadside vegetation really have to go?!?

As we moved up the road, several Philippine Cuckoo Doves were out, crossing our path and calling from the trees. 

A Philippine Cuckoo Dove in the distance

The road opened up to a view of the valley below, shrouded in thick, low-lying clouds. 

Clouded valley and floating mountains

In our view was a flowering and fruiting tree busy with birds.  Sure enough, one of them was our target: the Lina's Sunbird! A pair flew around the whole morning, and we were all able to appreciate it well, commenting on it's similarities and differences from another high-elevation Mindanao sunbird: the Apo Sunbird which is frequently spotted on Mt. Kitanglad.

Lina's Sunbird! (Thanks to Adri for his photo!)

It was a pleasant morning birding by the road, though many locals stopped their motorbikes to regard us curiously (this was definitely a new birding site and birders unusual, maybe even suspicious looking!).

A view of the forest around us.

Turquoise Flycatchers were perched on lookouts, while Black and Cinnamon Fantails wove in and out of the canopy.

A Turquoise Flycatcher on patrol

Black-masked White-eyes were frustratingly difficult to catch on camera.

Can you spot the Black Masked White-eye?

A flock of Short-tailed Glossy Starlings flew in.

One of a flock of Short-tailed Glossy Starling

And Olive-capped Flowerpeckers buzzed all around us together with the Sunbirds.

An Olive-capped Flowerpecker on the same branch.

Mountain White-eyes were no less active.

A cuddly pair of Mountain White-eyes

At our feet a Long-tailed Ground Babbler called loudly and scuttled through the ferns. Noisy pairs of  Mindanao Racket-tails kept flying over the valley.  And above us a Metallic Pigeon flew across.

A Metallic Pigeon in flight

The vegetation was just interesting as the large trees were draped in moss and lichen and covered in epiphytes like orchids and ant plants.

An ant plant

And  dainty white orchid blooms

We all admired this tree, only for me to find out later that it was an invasive species!

Spiked Pepper (Piper aduncum)  tree: an alien invasive species

This blue-eyed lizard also gave us a good stare-down.

Mr. Blue eyes

A Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, was so engrossed in feeding that it completely ignored us as we watched and took photos of it.

A very busy Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker

Just as we were about to call it a morning, the Lina's gave us a great last look. It perched on a nearby tree, singing loudly and cheerfully.

The Lina's Sunbird bidding us goodbye: Thanks for the great views!

We all had that great feeling of having accomplished our mission.

Happy birders!

As we drove down, we got a good look of the surrounding hillsides and the road construction

A clearer view on the way back

A clearer view of the road construction as well
We had to get down and cross the bridge on foot, while Pete and Adri crossed the rocky riverbed and a raging stream.

We had to cross the bridge on foot...
... while Pete and Adri drove across the river

Can you spot the car?

We left ComVal happy to have bagged a lifer for all of us. Thanks to Pete who is always on the lookout for new birds and exploring birding sites on Mindanao.  Since I first met Pete in 2014, he has given me 5 other lifers! 

Lifer's c/o Pete S:  
Top: Whiskered Flowerpecker (Adri's photo), Scarlet Minivet and Cryptic Flycatcher - all in June 2014
Bottom: Little Bronze Cuckoo (Adri's photo, August 2014), White-headed Stilt (September 2015), Lina's Sunbird (June 2016)

I'm looking forward to more of his discoveries in the coming years!

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