Tuesday, June 13

Golf cart birding at QC: birdies on the green!

As June rolled in, the rainy season official on its way, we were already becoming lazy in planning any weekend birding trips.  So I was excited when Anna G. invited us to bird at a site around my area of the world: Capitol Hills Golf and Country Club.

Although I had been to the surrounding commercial and residential areas in the vicinity of the golf club, I had never actually been inside the 18 hole golf course.  It had been in existence since I was born, but it had recently been under the management of Ayala Land, who was also developing the nearby residential areas.

I literally pass by the boundary of the golf course almost everyday of my life, but have only had glimpses of the course. And while most Universities, parks and cemeteries are easily accessible, this green space was membership (or at least golfer-) only.

We met up Anna and George (of ALI) and WBCP-er Willem at a row of restaurants which overlooked the greens of the course before our ocular.  It was a relief not to be troubled by early rising or traffic - we leisurely sipped our coffee before starting.  Already (beginning at the parking lot) we had seen several Golden-bellied Gerygones chasing each other.  Black-naped Orioles called loudly as they flew from tree to tree.  Yellow-vented Bulbuls gurgled all around us. We could hear a hidden Philippine Magpie Robin singing melodiously behind the buildings and shrubbery. A Collared Kingfisher was patrolling nearby.  This patch of sprawling greenery was probably an oasis for the city birds!

As we exchanged morning pleasantries, we were entertained by a Glossy Swiftlet gathering some fiber from a nearby fishtail palm.

A few Black-crowned Night-herons also flew overhead, probably traveling between hunting ground and day roost sites.

Soon, we were off!  We were joined by one of the managers, Gino, who would show us around.  We were paired of and each of us given our own golf cart to drive around the course!  Silently I added "golf cart" to my list of birding vehicles which have so far ranged from the comfortable air-conditioned coaster, to the barely manageable breathing four-legged pony!

Almost immediately we spotted several Long-tailed Shrikes watching from various levels of viewpoints along the holes.

The edges of the greens were kept "wild", the grasses grew long and wildly - obviously serving as great refuge for city wildlife. We soon stopped at a nearby pond and waterway.  To our delight, a very friendly family of moorhens was foraging!  I think, it was the closest encounter I have ever had with these waterbirds!  Though  alert to our presence, a pair and a fluffy chick came as close as a few meters to our group.  They wove in and out of the greenery.

A more skittish White-breasted Waterhen also made a brief appearance as it dashed across the short water line.

As we drove along the winding pathways, through tunnels and over bridges, Gino showed us a much larger pond.  Again, we saw several Moorhens, going about their business. Another young moorhen was up in a fig tree at the water's edge opposite from us, sunning itself.

A noisy pair of Collared Kingfishers were calling from a residence at the edge of the course.  Above us a pair of Pied Trillers was foraging for insects in the canopy of a huge rain tree. A playful pair of Philippine Pied Fantails chased each other noisily around the nearby vegetation.

It was not only the birds out to enjoy the morning sun.  Several skinks were out sunning themselves, hardly paying heed to the golfers or the gardeners.

As we crisscrossed the property, passing through gated residential communities, we saw several pairs of  Crested Mynas flying above us, slashing their white wing markings as they flapped their wings. Once in a while a Large-billed Crow would also fly overhead.  Noisy Striated Grassbirds would call from the tops of bushes and fences.
Soon we came across an even larger pond!  Again, several Moorhens were at the water's edge, preening and foraging.  There was even one individual swimming across the surface!  On the far edge of the pond, we could see a White-breasted Waterhen taking a morning dip.  A closer look revealed a downy chick beside it!  The darkly plumaged young bird was perfectly camouflaged among the rocks.

Several dragonflies and damselflies danced along the grass at the edge of the pond.

Sadly, there was also a dead Cinnamon Bittern at our feet.  Its eyes were still fresh and bright, indicating that it was a recent death.  It had no obvious injuries or wounds, save for a few damp and ruffled feathers.  We were discussing what the cause of death could be, considering that we could have interrupted a monitor lizard with its meal. Throw in a little mystery to our morning bird walk!

Again, we appreciated how the edge vegetation was kept a bit overgrown, and just to emphasize our point, another White-breasted Waterhen walked in and out of the long grass.

As we rounded the curve of the pond, we stopped to catch a glimpse of a White-throated Kingfisher flying off.  We stopped a while at the shade of a rain tree, surprised by some movement and the sight of a Common Moorhen preening quite near to us!  

Some of the tall grasses were in seed, and Adri spotted a couple of Scaly-breasted Munias picking at the grains.

Even on a weekday, there were a few golfers out, and every now and then we had to stop as they hit their balls across the greens (Is that the even a correct term? I am golf - illiterate).  Many Zebra Doves seemed to be unaware of this etiquette as they continued to forage on the ground unmindful of the balls flying around.

We also spotted a few Barred Rails.  Their behaviour was the normal skittish, paranoia, running into the nearest grass cover as soon as they spotted us. 

Several White-breasted Woodswallows were perched all over: on the huge nets which prevented the golf balls from flying off-course, on the light posts, and on the trees.  They were their usual vocal and boisterous selves. 

Near another grassy thicket, Anna spotted a Philippine Coucal! It quickly scuttled into the growth, revealing only bits of bright brown or black, until it completely disappeared from our sight.

Golf cart birding sure beat walking! We navigated the course easily and efficiently, slowing down and stopping (for flying birds AND flying balls!) any time we needed to.  Even if it was a hot, humid and sticky morning we barely broke a sweat! 

At the end of the two hour drive across the 18 hole course, we tallied a total of 32 species of birds! It was good to know that the exclusive golf course (while for human members only) was an open refuge to our feathered friends in the city.

Thanks again to Anna and ALI for the invite and the chance to explore this hidden bit of urban greenery!

And of course we end with a group picture!

1 comment:

  1. Love that QC still has a lot of green spaces! =)