Tuesday, August 16

More Negros lifers at Gawahon!

From Danjugan Island, Adri and I hopped on a bus back to Kabankalan and then transferred to another bus that would take us up north to Bacolod City. An hour's taxi ride later, we were in Victorias City even further north of Bacolod, at our final Negros island destination: Gawahon Eco Park.

Gawahon is a Hiligaynon for "overlooking", providing a panoramic view of the plains of Victorias and Silay. It lies on the northwestern edge of the Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP).  It showcases mid- to high-elevation forest with several natural pools and waterfalls making it a popular weekend destination for the locals. Recently, it is quickly gaining popularity as a birding destination as well.

A view of the Northern Negros forest

Adri and I checked in to the guesthouse with a view of the entrance of the park (which was clean but a little run down and definitely very big for just the 2 of us!) and met up with our guides Ricky and Lory. A quick walk behind the guest house revealed several Yellowish White-eyes, Visayan Bulbuls, Pied Trillers and a pair of Plaintive Cuckoos.  Walking further we passed by a marshy area where we saw Mangrove Blue Flycatchers, Elegant Tits and Black-naped Monarchs. Nightfall found us checking out the trail where we would be birding the following day.

After making arrangements for food and finalizing our birding plans, Adri and I had our dinner on the veranda, joined by several noisy geckos on the ceiling.

Geckos on the ceiling!

The next morning we took a 5 minute motorcycle ride to the start of the birding trail.  It was refreshing to see relevant signage along the roads.

We were immediately greeted by Visayan Flowerpeckers and Orange -bellied Flowerpeckers. A flowering vine, locally called anukol, which was the favorite of the Flame-templed Babbler was in bloom, unfortunately there was no sighting of this beautiful endemic.

Anukol: just add the Flame-templed Babbler

At the first set of bathing pools and falls, a pair of Citrine Canary Flycatchers were feeding. 

A pair of Citrine Canary Flycatchers.
They had a small, well-concealed nest above one of the pools!  It was built within easy reach so I crossed my fingers and hoped that it was inconspicuous enough to escape the notice of curious park-goers!

Can you see me snug in my nest?

At the end of June, the rainy season was fast on the heels of summer so the day was turning out to be quite gloomy and overcast and everything wet and damp from the previous evening's downpour. Despite the noise of the waterfalls, Adri quickly picked up on a loud bird song.  It was one of our targets: the White-throated Jungle-flycatcher, a Negros-Panay-Guimaras island endemic!  

Our group of four walked up and down the steps trying to locate the bird across the stream.  It was a good thing that it kept singing loudly for several minutes.  Finally, Lory picked up on some movement and we finally spotted it! Another lifer for me on this trip!

Lifer: White-throated Jungle Flycatcher
It was perched behind many branches and leaves, oblivious to our scrambling for a better view. It very obligingly stayed in place, singing loudly, for almost half an hour.

Singing in the rain

While watching it, Ricky commented on his amazement that such a plain-looking brown bird could be so sought after by birdwatchers! Ah the allure of island endemics!

Lory, Ricky and Adri with eyes on the prize

As we proceeded on, a mixed flock of Citrine Canary Flycatchers, Yellowish White-eyes and Lemon-throated Leaf-Warblers passed through, cheerful and busy.

More Citrine Canary Flycatchers!
Yellowish White-eye

While walking by the water, we kept our eyes open for another of our targets, the Southern Indigo Banded Kingfisher.  This was a lifer also for both Adri and myself, being recently split from what was now the Northern Indigo Banded Kingfisher found on the Luzon and Luzon region islands.

Waterfalls, steps and pools all around

Ricky and Lory led us to a spot where we could stake out the kingfisher.  It was a scramble down a narrow trail ending in a rocky river bed.  On our way down we passed another mixed flock which now included a White-vented Whistler, Sulphur-billed Nuthatches, Visayan Fantails and several Elegant Tits.

White-vented Whistler
An ever-cheerful Elegant Tit

As we each were sitting on a chosen rock, hoping that the kingfisher would appear and exchanging birding stories, I passed the time watching water striders on the surface of a puddle, black and blue butterflies flying around (the same ones we saw a week earlier at Twin Lakes) and a flowering shrub nearby. 

A very ragged butterfly

Staring at pink flowers to pass the time
After several minutes of waiting, Adri suddenly exclaimed quite calmly (in true Adri fashion) "It's perched right there behind you!"

Thinking he was joking, the three of us turned towards where he was looking. Sure enough, the bird was just a few meters away, very quietly hiding behind a large plant! As I tried to maneuver my way to better positions to view it, it flew out and perched in front of us!

Panic picture: forgot to check the aperture again!
In my panic I got a lousy photo, but good thing Adri did a better job when he first sighted it!  It is most distinguishable from the the Northern species by the all black bill and a thinner breast band (and in my opinion a deeper indigo color).

Lifer again! A male Southern Indigo Banded Kingfisher

Yay!  Targets secured and mission accomplished. We decided to take the afternoon off and flagged down a tricycle to take us back to the guesthouse. (I was doubly grateful as I was suffering from a bum stomach and did not enjoy all that walking!). 

Eco-Park Ranger hitching a ride on the trike

It turned out to be a good decision as the heavens came pouring down in the mid-afternoon and the rains lasted all the way til the evening.

The next morning, with the pressure of our targets off (plus my bum stomach), we decided to take it easy.  We went back to the trail to the higher falls.  It was quite birdy and we enjoyed several mixed flocks of Black-naped Monarchs, Visayan Fantails, Sulphur-billed Nuthatches, Visayan Bulbuls, Orange-bellied and Visayan Flowerpeckers and Balicassiaos. We even had a lightning quick glimpse of a Flame-templed Babbler!

Black-naped Monarch

Visayan Fantail

Sulphur-billed Nuthatch

The trail was very nice and easy (and wet!), revealing the beautiful forest along the way.  

The trail up to the higher falls

This little puddle frog (Occidozyga) was doing an excellent job of camouflaging itself.

Spot the frog!

On the other hand, this brightly colored caterpillar seemed frightening in its flamboyance.

A hairy caterpillar

We  ran into an active White-bellied Munia nest just by the side of the trail and we even picked up a used nest that had fallen along the trail.

Nests along the trail

On our way back to the guest house, we spotted a Buff-eared Brown Dove (already split from White-eared Brown Dove  by Birdlife and HBW) sitting quietly on its flimsy nest of twigs. So many nests must be a good sign!

A nesting brown dove

Gawahon Eco Park is surely going to gain even more popularity as a birding destination in the next few months.  Easy access, good trails, endemic targets.  This year's Philippine Bird Festival, (the 11th!) is going to be held in Bacolod City and will feature the amazing biodiversity of the Negros Island Region.  

From the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park down south on the Oriental side to Gawahon Eco Park up north on the Occidental side, I'm glad to have gotten a chance to revisit the established and try out the new.

I'll be seeing you again soon Negros!

(graphic featuring the endemic and critically endangered Walden's Hornbill  

by uber-talented WBCP-er Arnel T.)


  1. Congratulations on your lifers!!! =) Great blog! Loved reading it and looking at the pics too =) =)

    1. Thanks Maia! I thought of you and our conversation from before when I saw the Southern Indigo Banded Kingfisher! Do you remember? ;-)

    2. Hahaha, read this only now! I remember! Transported me back to Brewing Point ;)