Monday, July 31

A birdy morning at Irawan

*Watch out! Series of late posts coming up!  With the rainy season comes time to write about the past summer's adventures!

On our first full day in Puerto Princesa, we had a full day ahead.  For our morning, we planned on an early start by birding at Irawan Eco Park.  The last time I had attempted birding there was waaaaaaay back in 2009 during the bird festival! It wasn't a place I was familiar with, but Adri had been there several times.  

As we parked our car on a clearing by the side of the road, the musical calls of a White-vented Shama and a Melodious Babbler greeted us, as well as the low hoots of a Greater Coucal.  Ah Palawan!  Your birds so different from Luzon!   Ashy-headed Babblers called loudly from the undergrowth just at our feet, rustling leaves giving clue to their whereabouts.  The noisy bising (Palawan Tree Squirrels) were busy scurrying up and down trunks and from branch to branch.

While Dollarbirds and Slender-billed Crows took their place on obvious perches above the canopy, a very vocal Asian Koel was harder to spot, even for a large-ish bird moving about in the foliage. We finally spotted it in a small clearing, behind some branches.

We came upon a huge rain tree beside a stream, and there was a steady flow of small birds moving around.  Several Pale Spiderhunters were  very active, proving a difficult target to catch on camera.  Their long, thin and curved beaks seemed out of proportion with their tiny bodies.

A migrant Grey-streaked Flycatcher was also flying around and back as it caught flying insects.

Sunbirds, flowerpeckers, Phylloscopus warblers, Black-naped Monarchs and Black-headed Bulbuls flew in an out of our view.  

I was pleasantly surprised with a lifer: a trio of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches came in and crept around and about the high branches.  Their bright orange beaks clearly differentiating them from the Sulphur-billed Nuthatches so common in high elevation Luzon.

A Hooded Pitta surprised us by flying right in front of us and landing beside the stream, quickly disappearing into the brush. Our binoculars revealed Pin-striped Babblers and several Ashy-headed Babblers moving around the vegetation in the distance.

As we walked further on, we ran into a few locals about their daily routine.  We were recognized as birders right away and they greeted us with a silent nod and, sometimes, with a few suggestions on where to find birds.  As we were in such a conversation with a local woman, a Spot-throated Flameback landed on a tree high above us.  Try as we did to get a good view though, the thick leaves and branches confounded us!

It was the same case with a White-bellied Woodpecker we ran into a little later on (this time at eye level, but still behind the leaves and branches)!

Thankfully, we did get excellent views of other birds.

A Palawan Tit was busy preening and paid no attention to us observing  it.

We came across several Rufous-tailed Tailorbirds on the trail.  Of all tailorbirds in the Philippines, these must be the easiest to spot and photograph!

A pair of Blue Paradise Flycatchers were busy catching food - probably to take to a nest nearby. I love the blue beak and blue eye ring on this bird!

Several Ashy Drongos were also flying around and perching on branches like they were swings.

The loud calls of several Hair-crested Drongos  would break the otherwise serene forest sounds, they would come flying through in groups chasing one another like a riotous group of teenagers.  This one had a juicy bug to eat quickly before its mates interrupted it.

Every now and then a Striped Flowerpecker or a Pygmy Flowerpecker would fly in, look around a bit, and then fly off.

Un-naturally quiet, we were surprised to see a Blue-headed Racket-tail fly in and land on a tree nearby.

I love parrots.  They walk gingerly along the branches, twisting their head and torso around as they use both their feet and their beaks.  This one was sooo quiet, that we were surprised to see it still around after having been distracted by other birds for several minutes.

As it was already approaching lunch time (you tend to lose track of time when there are a lot of birds around, no?), we decided to it was time to head back to the car.  We ran into several more birds going back, including a Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, several Yellow-throated Leafbirds, and an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher that appeared as an orange bullet whizzing by with a high pitched call.

At the car, the Hill Mynas we had spotted when we arrived were still busy eating.

Our morning birding had churned out 53 species, and after lunch we were off to visit the Katala Foundation's Katala Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation (KIEBC) at Narra. (I had already written about that trip previously here.)

What a wonderful way to start our impromptu Palawan trip!