The Philippines only has one species of cockatoo: the Philippine or Red-vented Cockatoo. It used to be widespread and ranged in the major islands of the Philippines but the rampant poaching for the illegal pet trade as well as habitat destruction lead to its decline and is now declared as Critically Endangered. Currently, the best place to see the Philippine Cockatoos in the wild is in the island of Palawan, in Rasa Island. Access to the island is restricted and is managed by one of the Philippines’ top conservation organizations, the Katala Foundation (http://www.philippinecockatoo.org/)
This cockatoo was videoed eating Malunggay fruit (Moringa oleifera) in the Municipality of Narra, in mainland Palawan. The residents of Narra through the initiatives of the Katala Foundation planted Malunggay trees to provide additional food for the increasing number of cockatoos in the area. Very recently, the conservation efforts of the Katala Foundation and their partners in the local government of Narra won the 2015 GALING POOK awards, an award recognizing the top local governance programs in the whole Philippines. Thru the efforts of both the LGU of Narra and the Katala Foundation, former poachers of the Philippine Cockatoo were converted to deputized wildlife wardens and now act as guardians of the Philippines’ only cockatoo as well as other wildlife in the area. From 23-25 wild cockatoos in 1998, the Rasa Island population has already plateaued at more than 200 individuals and some of them are now relocating to the Palawan mainland, hopefully to establish new populations. Definitely one of the successful conservation stories in the Philippines.
Philippine (Red-vented) CockatooCacatua haematuropygia
June 2015, Municipality of Narra, Palawan, Philippines
Video by Nicky Icarangal, JR.
Digiscoped with a Swarovski ATX 95 HD, Panasonic GH3 with Swarovski TLS-APO adapter.
David L. Clugston, an avid world birder and one of our tour participants last year, writes about their experience here in the Philippines. David has written a short summary and a detailed itinerary (including wake-up times!) of their 22-day stay here, visiting the islands of Luzon, Palawan, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
15th November – 7th December 2011 Participants: David L. Clugston, Pauline Blair, Valerie Wilson
Tour Leader: Nicky Icarangal of Birding Adventure Philippines
Trip report written by David L. Clugston
Our group consisted of myself, my wife Pauline and close friend Valerie Wilson.
We were led by two of the leading birders in the Philippines. Nicky Icarangal was with us throughout the entire trip and was excellent with a really nice manner, good sense of humour and most importantly with high identification skills, both by sight and sound. Adrian Constantino as joint leader, was with us for most of the time, but he did not come with us to Palawan, Negros or Bohol but returned to Manila and then flew on in advance of our arrival to Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao to ensure that the tents and kitchen were all set up by the local villagers. Nobody had stayed at the site since the previous spring which was normal given the seasonal weather conditions.
We had several different drivers and local guides depending on what island we were visiting. On Luzon, Nitoy was our very happy driver who transported us in a very comfortable 16+ seater mini-bus with bags of room sufficient to give us a double seat each, full air conditioning and excellent all round vision. On Palawan, Negros and Bohol the vehicles and drivers were more than adequate but on Mindanao travelling within PICOP and Mt.Kitanglad was by Jeepney or 4 wheel drive truck and quite another matter!
Tue 15th Nov Depart Glasgow 13.25 hrs Emirates ( Boeing 777-300 ) to Dubai arriving 12.43 (Lt)
Wed 16th Nov Depart Dubai 04.20 Emirates ( upgraded to Business Class) arriving Manila 16.19 (Lt)
Itinerary in Philippines
Wed 16th ( day 1 ) Arrived Manila International Airport late afternoon.
Met Nicky Icarangal and Adrian Constantino outside arrival hall. Taken by mini-bus to Mt.Makiling, Los Banos Laguna, a two hour drive. Arriving after dark. Hotel within the University of Manila campus.
Thur 17th ( day 2 ) Mt.Makiling. Alarm at 04.00 and away by 04.30. Birded lower slopes up to 605 metres. Lunch and break from 12.00 until 15.00 hrs. Brief visit to Botanical Gardens and then to University farmed land until dusk at 17.30.
Fri 18th ( day 3 ) Alarm at 03.30 and away by 04.00. Travelled by mini-bus northwards back towards Manila and to La Mesa Eco. Park ( 06.30- 08.00 ). Long drive with a few stops up to Banaue, North Luzon arriving after dark 18.30. Delayed an hour or more en-route due to major repairs to roads and a bridge after a major storm some months earlier. Dinner and overnight in Banaue Hotel.
Sat 19th ( day 4 ) Alarm 03.00 and away by 03.30. Travelled by Land Rover to Mt. Polis arriving 04.45 in the dark at 1785 metres. Birded from the road all day returning back to Banaue 15.00 and then local sites until dark.
Dinner and overnight in Banaue Hotel.
Sun 20th ( day 5 ) Alarm at 04.45 and breakfast in hotel. Away in mini-bus at 06.05 returning southwards via Dalton Pass to Subic Bay. Arrived 14.30 and birded lowland forest within former US Navy base until dusk.
Night and dinner in Mountain Forest Hotel, the old US. Navy Officers’ Club.
Mon 21st ( day 6 ) Alarm at 04.30 and away after breakfast 05.30. Birded local Subic forest all morning, stopping for lunch by the side of the bay. Hot and sunny. Returned to Manila from 14.45 until 17.15. Overnight in very posh Midas Hotel but it was in turmoil as World Champion Boxer Manny Pacquiao was coming to an event.
Tues 22nd ( day 7 ) Alarm at 04.45 and away after breakfast at 05.30 to domestic airport. Cebu Pacific Airlines flight ( A320 08.00- 09.00 ) to Puerto Princesa, capital city of the island of Palawan.
Drive to Sabang birding en-route, arriving Daluyon Beach Resort Hotel at 17.00. Delightful rooms overlooking the sea and palm frontage. Excellent dinner in open air hotel restaurant.
Wed 23rd ( day 8 ) Alarm at 04.50 and breakfast at the hotel until 06.00. Awaited news from the Coastguard to see if sea condition where going to ease, which they did. Boat trip ( 07.00 –07.25 ) to St.Paul’s National Park also known as Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Birded beach area and nearby forest for key endemics including Palawan Peacock Pheasant. Returned to Sabang 10.25, birded lowland forest along the road returning for lunch in the heat of the day 12.00-15.00. Birding again inland and after dark for owls and frogmouths.
Overnight and dinner in Daluyon Beach Resort Hotel.
Thur 24th ( day 9 ) Alarm at 04.30 and breakfast in the hotel until 05.40 awaiting day-light Drive inland of Sabang to a small hillock overlooking the road and rather open forest from where we saw Philappine Cockatoo. After a successful early morning birding we returned to the hotel at 09.30 for a liitle relaxation and an early lunch. Finally left the hotel at 14.00 and returned to Puerto Princesa airport and onward flight back to Manila ( 17.40 – 19.40 ). Overnight again in the Midas Hotel where we enjoyed a fabulous buffet dinner.
Fri 25th ( day 10 ) Alarm at 05.30 and down for a very quick buffet breakfast before departing for the airport again. Travelled Business Class on a Philippine Airlines flight to Bacolod, Negros ( Airbus A320-200, 08.55- 09.50 ) in the central Philippines for Visayan endemics. Met at the airport and driven off in a 4×4 Isuzu to a private estate owned by our host Josef who ran the family sugar cane business. Lovely lunch by a swimming pool and local birding within the private grounds and a guided tour of Josef’s extensive orchid collection. After further birding we had dinner by the pool and retired to our huge bedrooms at 20.30.
Sat 26th ( day 11 ) Alarm at 04.50 and after breakfast left in a 4-wheel truck for the drive up to a
geothermal power plant on the slopes of Mt.Kanlaon. After security checks and transfer into a company vehicle we travelled up a steep winding dirt road to about 1025 metres. From there we walked down into the forest along a narrow, winding, steep and wet trail to 890 m.( 07.20- 11.15 ). Birded back down the road to the security barrier arriving at 13.45. Collected again by our driver for the 45 min. journey back to the estate. Afternoon birding around the estate grounds before dinner and retired to bed at 20.30.
Sun 27th ( day 12 ) Alarm at 04.20, packed and ready for a 05.00 breakfast. Drive to the airport past a cleared lowland forest landscape now covered in fields of sugar cane.
Boarded Cebu Pacific Airlines to Cebu City ( A319, 08.10- 08.30 ) and on landing transferred to a Super Cat ferry bound for Tagbilaran, Bohol ( 12.45 –14.40 ). Travelled by mini-bus to the interior of the island birding in the late afternoon/dusk at Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape ( 17.00 – 18.30 ). Finally arrived at our hotel in the heart of the Chocolate Hills at 19.00.
Mon 28th ( day 13 ) Alarm at 04.30 and after breakfast away in the dark at 05.20. Short drive to
Rajah Sikatuna Protected Landscape and walked the forest trails until 11.10. Visited a Butterfly farm for lunch and then returned to the Chocolate Hills Hotel in the heat of the day. Late afternoon birded rice paddies and a slow flowing stream for the gorgeous Silvery Kingfisher. Back to the hotel at dusk, early dinner and to bed 20.00.
Tue 29th ( day 14 ) Alarm at 04.20, change of room, breakfast and away by 05.30. Birded another forest trail at Rajah Sikatuna all morning. Return to hotel for lunch as the heat of the day got too oppressive. Finally left the Chocolate Hills hotel at 12.10 and headed back to the airport visiting en-route the Tarsier sanctuary, where six sleeping/sleepy individuals were viewed. Left Tagbilaran, Bohol on Cebu Pacific Airlines A320 for Manila ( 16.25 – 17.25 ). Return again to Midas hotel and after another excellent dinner to bed in luxury at 21.00.
Wed 30th ( day 15 ) Alarm at 04.45, breakfast in the hotel and away to the airport again for our flight to Davao, south Mindanao ( A320 ( 08.06- 09.40 ) ). Quick transfer to a mini-bus then a long drive on some very bad roads to an abandoned airport site near Bislig for some marshland birding. Arrived at our hotel ( Paper Country Inn ) in Bislig at 16.25, followed by pre-dinner beers and very good meal.
Thur 1st ( day 16 ) Up at 03.30, breakfast at 04.00 and away in a local jeepney to the lowland forest birding trails within the Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines (PICOP). Birded from 05.45 concentrating on seeing the Mindanao lowland endemics. Returned to the hotel at 16.30 after having to change a wheel on the jeepney probably deliberately spiked on a forest road by disgruntled illegal logging settlers. Excellent meal again in the hotel and to bed 20.00.
Fri 2nd ( day 17 ) Alarm at 03.30 and departed without breakfast at 04.00 for some pre-dawn owling and nighjars within PICOP. Birded road 42 after a packed breakfast until 13.00, when it was baking hot. Stopping in the shade of a loggers hut we enjoyed a welcome break for cold drinks and food. Returned to Bislig at 15.00 along rough forest roads. Excellent dinner in the hotel of delicious local fish and sizzling prawns and finally to bed 20.00.
Sat 3rd ( day 18 ) Up at 03.30 and departed in a comfortable four-wheel drive vehicle at 04.10 for the very long drive to Cagayan de Oro. Situated on the north coast of Mindanao this was an attractive road hugging the shore for many kilometres, occasionally stopping briefly for birds and a good lunch. Arrived at the small town of Malabalay ( 14.40) and after purchasing some wellington boots headed off in an open backed 4 x 4 truck, up an amazingly rough and rutted track on the lower slopes of Mt.Kitanglad. Reaching a point where the vehicle could not go any higher, our gear was transferred to pack horses and we walked on for thirty minutes up a steep and muddy track to our base, the rather grandly titled Del Monte Lodge (1330 metres). This consisted of a large open sided wooden building with an upstairs sleeping dormitory and on the ground floor a cooking area, long dining table and rather basic toilets and shower. However, we were directed to two tents set up close to the lodge complete with camp beds and sleeping bags. Birding for the last hour or so included Great-eared Nightjar, the recently discovered Bukidnon Woodcock and a roosting Philippine Frogmouth. Adequate meal cooked by local village mother and daughter, but supervised by our two guides and retired to our tents at 19.00. It proved to be quite a cold and starry night and we all found the lightweight sleeping bags did not keep us very warm.
Sun 4th ( day 19 ) Up at 04.45 and a hearty breakast at 05.00. Set off walking up the mountain track through cultivated land at 05.35, stopping at various places for the montane endemics. Our main target was the Great Philippine Eagle and we were very lucky that our local village guide spotted a distantly perched bird across the valley at 07.40. After scope views we continued up to our high point around 1550 metres where camp chairs and a rough shelter was provided for our comfort ! After a packed lunch and no further views of the Eagle we headed down at 12.15 in the rain, reaching our campsite at 14.00 when it turned out dry and quite warm. Local birding followed by dinner and to bed early at 19.30.
Mon 5th ( day 20 ) Up at 04.30 after a cool night with temperatures down to below 15 degrees C. Breakfast 05.00 and away up to the high eagle watch point at 05.30 which we reached at 07.30. Watched for seven hours without any sightings of the Philippine Eagle, but heard one calling several times. However, on walking further down we were treated to another distant view of one perched in a tree across the valley. Soon after we could see rain approaching from the valley below and very quickly we were engulfed in quite a storm The track became very hazardous, deep mud, strewn with stones and torrents of water. How we all made it back to camp without mishap was a minor miracle. Soaked to the skin on arrival at the lodge, but a warming cup of tea and a hot shower revived us until dinner. To bed in our tents at 20.00 hrs.
Tue 6th ( day 21 ) Alarm at 04.45 and after packing our gear and another excellent breakfast we walked down to our mid-point where we were collected by a 4×4 truck . After all the heavy rain we were a bit apprehensive about the drive down, as we had to cross a wide stream. In the event it was not too swollen by rain and we reached the town safely by about 08.00 hrs. Quick transfer into our friendly driver’s jeep and headed off to Cagayan de Oro, arriving around mid-day. Taken to a hotel where we had lunch and use of rooms to shower and pack our cases for the long journey home. Left the hotel at 15.00 hrs and taken to the airport to catch our Cebu Pacific Airlines flight ( A319 16.45-17.55) to Manila. Yet another meal was provided before we were taken to the International airport for our Emirates flight ( Boeing 777-300ER ( 00.10- 04.15 ) to Dubai.
Wed 7th ( day 22 ) Left Dubai again on Emirates flight to Glasgow ( 08.00 – 11.35 ) .
Postscript: On Friday night 8th December a devastating tropical storm code named Washi hit Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan. At least 1000 people were killed, most victims being asleep when flash floods cascaded down mountain slopes with logs and uprooted trees, swelling rivers and causing terrible devastation. Apparently this region of Mindanao island is unaccustomed to such major storms.
SYSTEMATIC LIST OF BIRDS SEEN OR HEARD
Endemic species are highlighted in bold lettering.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Singles en route Banaue on 18th, Subic Bay on 21st and en route Bislig, Mindanao on 30th.
Purple Heron Ardea pururea
Singles en route Banaue on 18th and airport marsh, Negros on 27th. Two disused PICOP airfield, Mindanao on 30th.
Great Egret Ardea alba
Small numbers seen on seven dates, on islands of Luzon, Palawan, Negros, Cebu, Bohol and Mindanao.
Pacific Egret Egretta sacra
Two dark phase birds flew along the shore at Sabang, Palawan on 23rd and a light phase bird at Tagbilaran, Bohol on 27th.
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia
Small numbers on rice paddies on six dates, Luzon and Negros.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Common on rice paddies on Luzon, Palawan and Mindanao.
Javan Pond Heron Ardeola speciosa
Single bird flushed from a rice paddy, lower slopes Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 3rd.
Striated Heron Butorides striata
One Josef’s pool, Negros on 25th.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Very common on all islands.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Single birds on Luzon on 16th and 18th.
Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
One seen whilst travelling on Bohol on 27th.
Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis
A male scoped on the ground at the University farm land, Mt. Makiling on 17th.
Wandering Whistling Duck Dedrocygna arcuata
Seven in flight at the PICOP disused airfield, Mindanao on 30th.
Philippine DuckAnas luzonica
Two pairs seen in flight at the PICOP disused airfield, Mindanao on 30th.
Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
One in flight PICOP on 1st and close views of an adult and juvenile at Mt.Kitanglad on 5th, Mindanao.
Barred Honey Buzzard Pernis celebensis
On Mindanao, a perched bird nr.Bislig on 30th another PICOP on 1st and an adult and immature bird scoped along road 42, PICOP the following day.
Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
A total of c30 birds seen on seven dates on Luzon, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster
An adult and immature bird soaring over St.Paul’s N.P., Palawan on 23rd.
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus
Single bird hunting around Negros airfield on 27th.
Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos
A very smart adult male hunting around Negros airfield on 27th gave prolonged views.
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis
Amazingly an immature bird was found by spotlighting as it roosted high up in a tree at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 27th. Single adult birds were found perched at the same site on the 28th & 29th.
Chinese Goshawk Accipiter soloensis
One seen in the lowlamd forest of Subic Bay, Luzon on 21st
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus
Scope views of a perched bird inland from Sabang, Palawan on 23rd and another perched and flying adult at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 27th.
Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus
One found on the lower slopes of Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th and good scope views of a perched bird as we left Subic Bay,Luzon on 21st.
Philippine Serpent EagleSpilornis holuspilus
At least twelve of these raptors ( ads.& imms.) were seen soaring and heard uttering their loud whistling call on nine dates. Luzon, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
Philippine EaglePithecophaga jefferyi
At Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on the 4th at 07.40 hrs a perched bird was found in the forest across the valley. It was hunting and flew several times for relatively short distances from perch to perch within the canopy. Looking through the scope you could see its crest feathers shaking as it peered down into the trees searching for prey. On the following day we spent seven hours at the upper watch point, hearing the whistling call on many occasions without seeing this magnificent eagle. Returning down the mountain at 15.00hrs our local guide spotted an adult P.E. perched in a moss covered dead tree, in a position not visible from the upper view point. Without doubt one of the key birds of any trip to the Philippines.
Pinsker’s Hawk-EagleSpizaetus pinskerii
On Mindanao, one was seen soaring and calling over the PICOP lowland forest on 2nd and on Mt.Kitanglad an immature bird was watched hunting along the forest edge on 4th.
Philippine FalconetMicrohierax erythrogenys
This very attractive tiny falcon was seen in small groups on four occasions – five Mt.Makiling on 17th; three Subic Bay on 2st including one eating a large green grasshopper; two PICOP on 1st and three the following day at the same site.
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
A single hovering bird over the airfield at Manila on 25th as we waited for our aircraft to take off.
Tabon Scrubfowl Megpodius cumingii
Three birds watched in the undergrowth at St.Paul’s N.P., Palawan on 23rd.
Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus
Several heard calling from the forest at Subic Bay on 21st was followed by the sighting of a male along road 42, PICOP on 2nd.
Palawan Peacock-PheasantPolyplectron napoleonis
The beautiful solitary male bird was enticed out of thick undergrowth at St.Paul’s N.P.,Palawan on 23rd and gave ridiculously close views. Without doubt one of the birds of the trip.
Blue-breasted Quail Turnix sylvaticus
One flushed from crops at 1460m on Mt.Kitanglad on 5th.
Spotted Buttonquail Turnix ocellatus
Whilst searching for this species around the University farmland at Mt.Makiling on 17th, one was flushed by DLC as he stepped out of the vehicle, it dropped into cover and could not be relocated.
Slaty-breasted Rail Gallirallus striatus
One was well seen in the late afternoon at the University farmland, Mt.Makiling on 17th.
Barred Rail Gallirallus torquatus
One Subic Bay on 21st and two on the edge of a rice field on Bohol on 27th and another bird at the same place the following day.
Plain Bush-henAmaurornis olivacea
Excellent views of three birds at dusk walking along the edge of the pool and into scrub at Joseph’s estate, Negros on 25th. Calling birds were heard at Subic Bay on 20th and at 1330 and 1450 metres on Mt.Kitanglad on 4th and 5th.
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus
Two at the University farmland at Mt.Makiling on 17th and one at Subic Bay on 21st.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Four at the University farmland at Mt.Makiling on 17th.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Three roosting in mangoves at Puerto Princesa, Palawan on 22nd
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Two on the old PICOP airfield runway, Mindanao on 30th.
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
A single bird on a tidal coral reef at Sabang, Palawan on 24th.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
At least 6 counted on rice fields when travelling by road from Manila to Banaue on 18th.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
One in flight over a rice field south of Dalton Pass, Luzon on 20th
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
One on a roadside rice fields north of Manila on 18th.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
A total of six in a variety of coastal habitats on Palawan on 22nd and one on a river, east Mindanao on 30th
Swinhoe’s/ Pintail Snipe Gallinago megala / stenura
At least one flushed separately from Common Snipe at the old PICOP airfield, Mindanao on 30th was considered to be either one of these migrant species on the basis of heavier and less erratic flight.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
At least 5 flushed at the same site as above.
Bukidnon WoodcockScolopax bukidnonensis
A roding bird (s) flew over our camp site ( 1350 metres ) on Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao at the last glimmer of light on three successive nights, 3rd, 4th and 5th. The flight call was noted as a rapid series of squeaky notes different from Eurasian Woodcock but interspersed by the dull croaking call not unlike this species.
This species was only first described in 1995, although seen and heard in February 1993.
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum
Four sightings – 4 on 18th over drier open areas north of Manila, Luzon; c65 south of Dalton Pass, Luzon on 20th; 4+ on the airport runway at Bacolod on 25th and 6+ on the runway at Negros on 27th.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Ten in a roadside rice field en route Banaue on 18th.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus
Commonly found hawking over rice fields as we travelled around the islands, sometimes in their hundreds.
Thick-billed Green-Pigeon Treron curvirostra
A flock of ten flew over secondary growth near Sabang, Palawan on 24th.
Pink-necked Green-Pigeon Treron vernans
A total of 18 in small groups around the old PICOP airfield, Mindanao on 30th.
White-eared Brown-DovePhapitreron leucotis
A total of at least 20 seen on eight dates on Luzon, Bohol and Mindanao.
Amethyst Brown-DovePhapitreron amethystinus
One seen perched by DLC along road 42, PICOP, Mindanao on 2nd.
Yellow-breasted Fruit-DovePtilinopus occipitalis
Two perched deep inside the caopy of a trackside tree, Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 4th.
Black-chinned Fruit-DovePtilinopus leclancheri
One only found perched in lowland forest at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Pink-bellied Imperial-PigeonDucula poliocephala
Only heard, calling birds at PICOP on 2nd.
Green Imperial-Pigeon Ducula aenea
Three Subic forest, Luzon on 20th and a total of 50 birds on Palawan, 22nd,23rd &24th.
Philippine Cuckoo-DoveMacropygia tenuirostris
One on Palawan on 22nd; 3+ PICOP,Mindanao on 2nd and 5 Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 4th.
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Small numbers seen on eleven dates throughout all the islands.
Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
At least 27 seen on six dates on Luzon, Palawan, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica
Eleven birds seen on nine dates on Luzon, Palawan, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
Six found on Mt.Makiling on 17th, one Banaue are on 20th and eight PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Philippine CockatooCacatua haematuropygia
Four flew into the top of a forest tree inland from Sabang, Palawan early on 24th and gave scope views. A very good find for this increasingly threatened parrot due principally to nest robbing to supply the pet trade and habitat destruction.
Blue-naped Parrot Tanygnathus lucionensis
Single birds at Subic forest, Luzon on 20th & 21st; Sabang area, Palawan on 22nd & 23rd and three at the same locality on 24th.
Blue-crowned Racquet-tail Prioniturus discurus
One scoped in the canopy of a huge forest tree on Mt. Kanla-on, Negros on 26th and another in the lowland forest at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Blue-headed Raquet-tail Prioniturus platenae
A flock of 25 feeding in a fruiting tree inland from Sabang, Palawan on 24th.
(Mindanao) Montane Racquet-tail Prioniturus waterstradti
At around 1500 m. on Mt.Kitanglad, several noisy groups were seen flying over the forest, 11+ on 4th and 7 the following day.
Colasisi Loriculus philippensis
This small hanging parrot was seen on four occasions. Five at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th; one Subic, Luzon on 21st; three Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 4th and another the following day.
Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
One inland from Sabang, Palawan on 23rd.
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus
Two adults Mt.Kanla-on, Negros on 26th, singles at PICOP on 30th, at Mt.Kitanglad seen and heard daily 3-5th.
Asian Drongo Cuckoo Sturniculus lugubris
Single Sabang, Palawan on 24th.
Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo Sturniculus velutinus
Single perched bird PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Scale-feathered Malkoha Lepidogrammus cumingi
This rather skulking bird moves quietly through dense vines and thickets and was seen on Luzon as follows: 3+ Mt.Makiling on 17th; 2 Mt.Polis on 19th; singles at Subic Bay on 20th and 21st.
Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Zanclostomus curvirostris harringtoni
Seen only on Palawan with two on 22nd and 23rd and three on 24th.
Red-crested Malkoha Dasylophus superciliosus
One Mt.Makiling on 17th, three Subic Bay on 20th and five at the same lowland forest site the following day.
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis
One en route Sabang, Palawan on 22nd.
Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis
An immature bird Mt.Makiling, 17th; an adult en route Banaue on 18th and another bird Banaue area on 19th.
Philippine Coucal Centropus viridis
One or two seen on seven dates on Luzon, Negros and Mindanao.
Black-faced Coucal Centropus melanops
Two or three seen, others heard at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 28th and 29th. Two PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Rufous Coucal Centropus unirufus
This Luzon endemic was seen in the lowland forest of Subic Bay, 7 on 20th and 4 on 21st.
Luzon Scops Owl Otus longicornis
One spotlighted pre-dawn and others heard en-route Mt.Polis, Banaue on 19th.
Palawan Scops Owl Otus fuliginosus
Heard only inland from Sabang on 23rd. It would not come in to recorded call, probably due to the time of year.
Philippine Scops Owl Otus megalotis
Again heard only on 27th , Bohol and Mindanao on 4th.
Giant Scops Owl Mimizuku gurneyi
Heard only during each night of our stay at Mt.Kitanglad, 3-5th.
Philippine Hawk-Owl Ninox philippensis
Three spotlighted at Mt.Makiling, on 17th; heard on Bohol on 27th and heard only on Mindanao on 2nd.
Philippine Frogmouth Batrachostomus septimus septimus
Very good views in a spotlight of one very close to our camp at Mt.Kitanglad, 3rd.
Javan ( Palawan ) Frogmouth Batrachostomus javensis
One heard calling inland from Sabang, Palawan on 23rd, but failed to show in response to recorded call notes.
Great Eared Nightjar Eurostopodus macrotis
Three overhead at dusk , Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 27th and at Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao one or two birds each night at dusk during our three night stay, 3rd-5th.
Philippine Nightjar Caprimulgus manillensis manillensis
Two at PICOP, Mindanao on 2nd and heard from our Mt.Kitanglad campsite on 3rd and 4th.
Island ( Uniform ) Swift Aerodramus vanikorensis amelis
Ten over Mt.Kanla-on, Negros on 26th.
Palawan Swiftlet Aerodramus palawensis
C50 around the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan on 23rd
Philippine Swiftlet Aerodramus mearnsi
Six Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
Edible-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphagus
Ten’s of birds around the subterranean cave entrance at St.Paul’s National Park, Palawan on 23rd.
Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta
The most commonly seen swift with often up to a hundred plus birds at each islands visited.
Pygmy SwiftletCollocalia troglodytes
Less common than Glossy and small numbers were seen at Mt.Makiling and Subic Bay, Luzon and at PICOP and Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao.
Philippine Needletail Mearnsia picina
Seen only over the forest at PICOP, Mindanao with 9 on 1st and 3+ the following day.
Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus
Four over lowland forest, Palawan on 22nd.
Purple Needletail Hirundapus celebensis
This huge, fast flying swift was seen in small squadrons on Luzon on three dates. Six over a river valley en-route Banaue on 18th and ten at the same place on our return on 20th. Three Subic Bay on 21st.
House Swift Apus nipalensis
One on 17th and c30 the following day on Luzon.
Whiskered Treeswift Hemiprocne comata major
Only two sightings of this very attractive bird, both perched in tree tops. One Subic Bay on 21st and another Mt.Kitanglad on 5th.
Philippine Trogon Harpactes ardens
One Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th and two seen very well at Rajah Sikatuna forest, Bohol on 29th.
Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
One or two birds at Subic Bay, on 21st and 22nd and two inland from Sabang, Palawan on 23rd.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis bengalensis
Two Sabang, Palawan on 23rd and one or two at Joseph’s farm, Negros on 25th and 26th.
Indigo-banded Kingfisher Alcedo cyanopecta cyanopecta
A female at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th.
Silvery Kingfisher Alcedo argentata flumenicola
Stunning views of a perched male bird on a small river close to the Chocolate hills, Bohol on 28th.Without doubt one of the most gorgeous birds of the entire trip.
Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca
Two on 23rd, Palawan.
Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon cormanda
One on 27th, Bohol.
White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis
Up to six seen on eight dates on Luzon and Mindanao.
Rufous-lored Kingfisher Todirhamphus winchelli
Heard calling at both dawn and dusk at several sites on Bohol and Mindanao. Eventually well seen at Rajah Sikatuna on 28th.
White-collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris
Up to five seen on eleven dates on Luzon, Palawan, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
Spotted Wood-Kingfisher Actenoides lindsayi
A pair at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th and heard on 27th, Negros.
Blue-capped Wood-Kingfisher Actenoides hombroni
Only on Mindanao, a male at PICOP on 2nd and heard at Mt.Kitanglad on both 4th & 5th.
Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis
Ten on 20th and 6 the following day at Subic Bay forest, Luzon.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
Single en-route Banaue on 18th; 3 Dalton Pass on 20th and 4 Subic Bay on 21st all Luzon.
Luzon Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides manillae
Pair Subic Bay lowland forest on 21st, Luzon
Mindanao Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides affinis
Two Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 27th & 28th; 3 PICOP on 1st & 2nd and 3 Mt.Kitanglad on 4th& 5th.
Writhed Hornbill Aceros leucocehalus
A total of 7 PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Palawan Hornbill Anthracoceros marchei
At least nine inland from Sabang on 24th.
Rufous HornbillBuceros hydrocorax
Along road 4 within PICOP, Mindanao at least 8 on 1st.
Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala
Three Mt.Makiling on 17th and one PICOP on 1st
Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos maculatus
One Mt.Makiling on 17th; two La Mesa Eco.Park on 18th and one Mt.Kitanglad on 3rd.
Sooty Woodpecker Mulleripicus funebris
Two Subic Bay lowland forest, Luzon on 21st.
Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus
A presumed pair flying inland from Sabang, Palawan on 24th were only seen by DLC.
White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis
Singles were seen on 20th at Subic Bay; on 22nd, 23rd & 24th around Sabang, Palawan; at PICOP on 1st.
Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus
One Subic Bay on 20th and three at the same site on 21st. At Mt.Kitanglad, one 4th another calling the following day.
Common Flaeback Dinopium javanense everetti
Seen only on Palawan. A pair on 22nd and one on 23rd, both inland from Sabang.
Red-bellied Pitta Pitta erythrogaster
A juvenile bird was watched by the side of the trail at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th.
Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida
On Palawan, inland from Sabang whilst spotlighting for owls/frogmouths, one was found roosting about 7 metres up in a bushy tree over our trail.
Steere’s Pitta Pitta steerii
Despite considerable efforts by our two guides, six or more of these endemic pitas were heard, but none would come in close to playbacked calls either on Bohol or Mindanao.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Identified in small numbers on eight or more dates on Luzon, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
Commonly found on all islands visited.
Striated Swallow Cecropis striolata
Six around the airport buidings on Negros on 27th; 3 or 4 around the Chocolate Hills Hotel, Bohol on 28th and 29th.
Australasian Lark Mirafra javanica
Five over fields close to Mt.Makiling on 17th and 8+ around the runway at Negros airport on 27th.
Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina striata
Up to four birds seen on 7 dates on Luzon, Palawan, Negros and Bohol.
Blackish-Cuckoo-shrike Coracina coerulescens
At Subic Bay lowland forest, six on 20th and one the following day.
Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shirike Coracina mindanensis
A single male scoped ina tree top responded to playbacked calls, PICOP, Mindanao on 2nd.
White-winged Cuckoo-shrike Coracina ostenta
Three plus birds on Mt.Kanla-on, Negros on 26th.
McGregor’s Cuckoo-shrike Coracina mcgregori
One seen well on Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 5th.
Black-and-white Triller Lalage melanoleuca
Single seen by DLC at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th.
Pied Triller Lalage nigra
Calling birds heard only at Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 4th.
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
Six over, at Subic Bay Lowland forest on 20th.
Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus
Single at PICOP, Mindano on 1st.
Philippine Leafbird Chloropsis flavipennis
Heard only at road 42, PICOP, Mindanao on 2nd.
Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis
One inland from Sabang, Palawan on 23rd.
Common Iora Aegithina tiphia
Single inland from Sabang, Palawan on 22nd.
Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps
Seen only on Palawan. 10 on 23rd and 8 the following day, both near Sabang.
Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier
Seen on at least eight dates, when quite common on Luzon and Mindanao.
Yellow-wattled Bulbul Pycnonotus urostictus
Three at Mt.Makiling on 17th; one Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 29th and up to five at PICOP on 1st & 2nd.
Grey-cheeked Bulbul Cringer bres frater
Only on Palawan. Six on 22nd and five on 24th, both near Sabang.
Sulpher-bellied Bulbul Iole palawanensis
Only on Palawan. One on 23rd and six the following day, both near Sabang.
Philippine Bulbul Ixos philippinus
Commonly seen on at least 12 dates on all islands visited.
Yellowish Bulbul Ixos everetti
At PICOP, Mindanao on 1st, 8+ birds located.
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus
On Palawan, 3 on 22nd and one the following day.
Balicassiao Dicrurus balicassius
Up to four seen and heard at Mt.Makiling, Subic Bay, both Luzon and also on Negros.
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus
Small numbers of this confusing Philippine Drongo were seen on Palawan.
Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus
Small numbers were seen on Bohol and Mindano, but situation confusing.
Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus persuasus
Two seen each day on Palawan, 22nd-24th.
Philippine Oriole Oriolus steeri
One at PICOP, Mindanao on the 1st was the only record.
White-lored Oriole Oriolus albiloris
One scoped in tree top, Subic Bay, Luzon on 21st.
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
The commonest Oriole. Up to three seen on eight dates on Luzon, Palawan, Bohol and Mindanao.
Philippine Fairy-Bluebird Irena cyanogastra hoogstraali
One located at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Asian Fairy-Bluebird Irena puella tweeddalei
On Palawan, 6+ on 22nd and 1 the following day.
Slender-billed Crow Corvus enca pusillus
This noisy forest crow with its strange fluttering flight was seen only on Palawan. Four on 22nd, six on 23rd and 10 on 24th.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrothynchos
Commonly seen on Luzon and Mindanao.
Palawan Tit Parus amabilis
A pair inland from Sabang, Palawan on 23rd and another the following day.
Elegant Tit Parus elegans
Five at Mt.Makiling on 17th; 8 Mt.Polis on 19th and a single on lower slopes of Mt.Kitanglad on 3rd.
Sulpher-billed Nuthatch Sitta oenochlamys
Single Mt.Makiling on 17th and at Mt.Kitanglad,Mindanao 2+ on 3rd and 4 on 4th.
Stripe-headed Rhabdornis Rhabdornis mystacalis
Two Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th.
Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis Rhabdornis inornatus
On Mt.Kitanglad,Mindanao at least 15 in tree tops on 4th and 2 the following day.
Ashy-headed Babbler Malacocincla cinereiceps
Single birds on Palawan on 22nd and 23rd.
Streaked Ground-Babbler Ptilocichla mindanensis
Three responded to play backed calls and showed well at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 29th.
Pygmy Babbler Stachyris plateni
A total of six at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Rusty-crowned Babbler Stachyris capitalis euroaustralis
A total of ten at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Black-crowned Babbler Stachyris nigrocapitata boholensis
Two at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 28th.
Flame-templed Babbler Stachyris speciosa
At least three Mt.Kanlaon, Negros on 26th.
Chestnut-faced Babbler Stachyris whiteheadi
Thirty plus were recorded at Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
Striped Tit-Babbler Macronous gularis
Up to five birds seen each day on Palawan during our three day stay, 22nd-24th.
Brown Tit-Babbler Macronous striaticeps
At Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol five on 28th and four on 29th. At PICOP, Mindanao 3+ on 1st and 12 the following day.
White-browed Shortwing Brachypterx montana
This shy songster was heard only on Luzon, Negros and Mindanao.
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis
Two single birds. One at the Butterfly centre, Bohol on 27th and another en route Bislig, Mindanao on 30th.
White-browed Shama Copsychus luzoniensis
On Luzon, seen and heard at Mt.Makiling on 17th and at Subic Bay on 21st
White-vented Shama Copsychus niger
Only found on Palawan where two on 23rd and 24th.
Luzon Water-Redstart Rhyacornis bicolor
A pair at a roadside waterfall near Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
Pied Bushchat Saxicola torquatus
Seen on six dates in small numbers on Luzon, Negros, Bohol and Mindanao.
Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius
Two males near Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
Ashy Ground-Thrush Zoothera cinerea
An adult was watched and photographed for about twenty minutes feeding amongst dead leaves on a pathway at La Mesa Eco.Park, north Manila on 18th. Remarkably a nest was found earlier in the season at this very public site from which young were fledged.
Island Thrush Turdus poliocephalus
Six at dawn on the road at Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus
During our stay at Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao flocks of these thrushes were seen, up to 100 on 3rd to 5th.
Golden-bellied Flyeater Gerygone sulphurea
Two at La Mesa Eco.Park, north Manila on 18th.
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
One or two migrants were seen at several sites in Luzon and Bohol.
Philippine Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus olivaceus
Three Mt. Kanlaon, Negros on 26th; one or more at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 29th and up to four at PICOP and Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao during 1st to 3rd.
Mountain Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus trivigatus
At least 12 Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th and 5 at Mt.Kanlaon, Negros on 26th.
Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis
One responded to play backed calls at Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 4th.
Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris
Commonly found at Mt.Makiling, Luzon and Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao and on roadside bushes and wires elsewhere.
Philippine Tailorbird Orthotomus castaneiceps
One Subic Bay, Luzon on 21st and two Mt.Kanlaon, Negros on 26th.
Rufous-fronted Tailorbird Orthotomus frontalis
Single at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on28th and another at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Grey-backed Tailorbird Orthotomus derbianus
Two at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th.
Mountain Tailorbird Orthotomus cuculatus
Four at Mt.Polis, north Luzon on 19th.
Rufous-headed Tailorbird Orthotomus heterolaemus
On Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao one on 4th and two the following day.
Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus
On Palawan, one on 22nd and three on 24th.
Yellow-breasted Tailorbird Orthotomus samarensis
One only at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 28th.
Black-headed Tailorbird Orthotomus nigriceps
Two at PICOP, Mindanao on 2nd.
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
One at the old PICOP airfield, Mindanao on 30th.
Luzon Bush-Warbler Cettia seebohmi
Three at Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
Long-tailed Ground-Warbler Bradypterus caudatus
Heard only at Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 4th.
Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher Rhinomyias ruficauda
At PICOP, one on 1st and two the following day.
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica
Two inland from Sabang, Palawan on 22nd.
Ashy-breasted Flycatcher Muscicapa randi
This rare species was identified at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th.
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseistica
Up to four seen on eleven dates on nearly all islands visited.
Mountain Verditer-Flycatcher Eumyias panayensis
Two Mt.Polis, on 19th; two Mt.Kanlaon, on 26th and three Mt.Kitanglad on 4th and 5th.
Little Slaty-Flycatcher Ficedula basilanica
A pair of these very attractive flycatchers was watched flitting about low down in undergrowth at PICOP, Mindanao on 2nd.
Little Pied Flycatcher Ficedula westermanni
Three males at Mt.Polis, on 19th and two at Mt.Kitanglad on 4th and another on 5th.
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana
On Palawan, three on 22nd and singles on 23rd & 24th, all inland from Sabang. Said to be a rare migrant.
Palawan Blue Flycatcher Cyornis lemprieri
Two females, inland from Sabang, Palawan on 24th.
Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra
A single at La Mesa Eco.Park, north Manila, on 18th.
Citrine Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa helianthea
Two Mt.Kanlaon, Negros on 26th.
Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica
Two at nr. Manilla on 18th ; four at Joseph’s estate, Negros on 25th and two the following day.
Blue Fantail Rhipidura superciliaris
Three at Rajah Sikatuna,Bohol on 28th & 29th. Six at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st and five on 2nd.
Blue-headed Fantail Rhipidura cyaniceps
Up to six seen on four dates, on both Luzon and Negros.
Black-and-cinnamon Fantail Rhipidura nigrocinnamomea
Two on Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 3rd.
Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone cinnamomea
Two females at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Blue Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone cyanescens
Only seen on Palawan, a pair on 23rd and two males on 24th, both inland from Sabang
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
One nr. Sabang on 24th; two Rajah Sikatuna on 28th and one on 29th; three PICOP on 1st.
Celestial Monarch Hypothymis coelestis
This gorgeous flycatcher was found in mixed flocks at PICOP, Mindanao. A pair on 1st and a male the following day at the same site.
Short-crested Monarch Hypothymis helenae
At PICOP, Mindanao six on 1st and two the following day.
Green-backed Whistler Pachycephala albiventris
Five at Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
White-vented Whistler Pachycephala homeyeri
Five at Mt.Kanlaon,Negros on 26th.
Yellow-bellied Whister Pachycephala philippinensis
At Rajah Sikatuna, two on both 28th & 29th; at PICOP, three on 1st and four on 2nd.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Seen on five dates with a maximum of ten at Mt.Polis, Luzon. Found also on Negros and Bohol.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Ten plus on a cultivated field on Mt. Kitanglad, Mindanao on 4th.
Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus
One feeding on the main track at Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th was considered to be quite a rarity in the Philippines.
Richard’s Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
Small groups of up to 30 were seen on four dates, Luzon, Negros and Mindanao.
Olive-tree Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Three Mt. Polis on 19th and one at Mt.Kanlaon on 26th.
Pechora Pipit Anthus gustavi
One seen by our guide Nicky creeping around the forest floor at Subic Bay on 21st.
White-breasted Wood-swallow Artamus leucorynchus
Small groups were often found perched on roadside trees and wires. c70 on 9 dates, all islands.
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
Up to four were found on Luzon ( 4 dates ) and Mindanao ( 4 dates).
Mountain Shrike Lanius validirostris
A single bird Mt.Polis, Luzon on 19th.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
A very common bird seen in small numbers on virtually every day, throughout the islands.
Short-tailed Glossy Starling Aplonis minor
Seen only on Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao where 16 on 4th and 50 on 5th.
Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis
Small flocks were found on Palawan, Bohol and Mindanao totalling about 200 birds
Coleto Sarcops calvus
At Subic Bay, 5 on 20th and 3 on 21st; 4 at Mt.Kanalon on 26th, several on Bohol and many at PICOP 1st to 3rd.
Crested Mynah Acridotheres cristatellus
Six en-route Banaue on 18th was the only record of this introduced species.
Apo Myna Basilornis miranda
Only found on the upper elevations of Mt.Kitanglad where six on 4th and two the following day.
Hill Mynah Gracula religiosa
Only on Palawan, all inland of Sabang, singles on 22nd and 23rd , three on 24th.
Plain-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
Only one en-route Sabang, Palawan on 22nd.
Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis
The most common lowland subird, seen on nine dates, with most on Palawan.
Purple-throated Sunbird Leptocoma sperata
A male en-route Sabang, Palawan on 22nd.
Flaming Sunbird Aethopyga flagrans
Pair Mt.Kanlaon, Negros on 26th.
Grey-hooded Sunbird Aethopyga primigenius primigenius
One only at Mt.Kitanglad, Midanao on 4th.
Metallic-winged Sunbird Aethopyga pulcherrima
Six at Mt. Polis on 19th and two at PICOP, on both 1st and 2nd.
Lovely Sunbird Aethopyga shelleyi
Two males on 23rd and one the following day, both inland from Sabang, Palawan.
Handsome Sunbird Aethopyga bella
One only at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja
Two Josef’s estate, Bacalod on 25th.
Naked-faced Spiderhunter Arachnothera clarae
Two at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra
Singles near Sabang, Palawan on 23rd and 24th; and PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Olive-backed Flowerpecker Prionochilus olivaceus
Single birds at PICOP, on 1st and 2nd.
Palawan Flowerpecker Prionochilus plateni
Near Sabang, one on 22nd, five on 23rd and three on 24th.
Olive-capped Flowerpecker Dicaeum nigrilore
One only at Mt.Kitanglad, on 4th.
Visayan Flowerpecker Dicaeum haematostictum
Only at Josef’s estate, Bacalod one on 25th and five the following day.
Red-keeled Flowerpecker Dicaeum australe
At least one Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th, followed by five at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Buzzing Flowerpecker Dicaeum hypoleucum
Two at Mt.Makiling on 17th, two PICOP on 1st, 2nd and two Mt.Kitanglad on 3rd and 4th.
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma
Two Mt.Kanlahon, Negros on 26th then singles at PICOP on both 1st and 2nd.
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus
Two at Subic Bay on 19th followed by two at Mt.Kitanglad on 4th and one the following day.
Pygmy Flowerpecker Dicaeum pygmaeum
Single at Mt. Makiling on 17th; two Subic Bay on 21st and two on 22nd and another on 24th, both Palawan.
Lowland White-eye Zosterops meyeni
Eight on Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 18th was the only record.
Everett’s White-eye Zosterops everetti
Two at PICOP, Mindanao on 2nd were only seen by V.W.
Yellowish White-eye Zosterops nigrorum
Twenty at 605 metres on Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th.
Mountain White-eye Zosterops montanus
On Mt.Polis, Luzon 10 on 19th and on Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao 20+ on 4th and 12 on 5th.
Cinnamon Ibon Hypocryptadius cinnamomeus
Seen only on Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao above 1330 metres, 4 on 3rd; 8 on 4th and 2 on 5th.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
This introduced species was very common and seen daily except on upper elevations of Mt.Kitanglad.
Red-eared Parrotfinch Erythrura coloria
Three feeding on yellow aster seed heads gave good scope views on Mt.Kitanglad, 4th
Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora
Five were seen feeding in conifer trees next to the airport building at Negros, on 27th.
White-bellied Munia Lonchura leucogastra
Three Mt.Polis on 19th; one PICOP on 1st and 6+ on Mt.Kitanglad on 4th.
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
Four Palawan on 23rd; twenty Negros airfield on 27th.
Chestnut Munia Lonchura malacca
One hundred plus at Subic Bay on 20th and c25 at PICOP on 30th.
Total species recorded was 278 of which 128 were endemics.
Cobra sp. One disturbed from the side of a track on Mt.Makiling, Luzon on 17th and another large snake crossed our trail at PICOP, Mindanao on 1st.
Long-tailed Macaque Macaca fascicularis philippensis
Up to thirty were found in forest at Subic Bay, Luzon on 21st ; Puerto Princesa, Palawan on 23rd; near Sabang, Palawan on 24th ; Rajah Sikatuna , Bohol on 27th,28th & 29th ; PICOP and Mt. Kitanglad, Mindanao on 2nd and 5th.
Colugo or Philippine flying lemur Cynocephalus volans
Two or more were seen at Rajah Sikatuna, Bohol on 27th, 28th and 29th.
Philippine Deer Rusa marianna
Seen briefly and heard calling on Mt.Kitanglad, Mindanao on 5th.
Giant golden-crowned flying fox Acerodon jubatus
Large roost of these endangered fruit bats was watched at dawn at Subic Bay lowland forest on 21st
Northern Palawan Tree Squirrel Sundasciurus juvencus
Single seen by PC. at Sabang, Palawan on 23rd
Many other unidentified lizards, flying lizards, geckos, bats, rats, frogs, toads and butterflies were seen during our visit.
Dion Hobcroft writes about his 16-day Philippines custom trip for Victor Emanuel Nature Tour (VENT) clients who had already visited some sites in the Philippines on a previous tour and who wished to explore some islands not visited previously. Dion is an excellent tour leader for VENT and has led numerous trips to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Bhutan, India, Southwest Pacific, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Japan, Russia, Alaska, Tanzania, and the Antarctic.
Date: 18 MARCH – 2 APRIL 2012
VENT (Victor Emanuel Nature Tour) CUSTOM TOUR
Places covered in the tour: Makiling,Mindanao, Cebu, Bohol, Palawan
Participants: Erika Wilson, Paul Davis, JR., Fred Wilson and Dion Hobcroft. Write up by Dion Hobcroft.
Tour leaders: Dion Hobcroft of Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and Adri Constantino of Birding Adventure Philippines
This was a tour put together for VENT clients who had already visited some sites in the Philippines on a previous tour and who wished to explore some islands not visited previously. On this tour we visited Mount Makiling on Luzon, Mindanao, Bohol and Cebu with Dion continuing on to Palawan.
We all met on the night of the 17 March at Manila. Breaking news of a Philippine Eagle-Owl led to some re-arrangements of the following days plans. By mid-morning we were at a Palaeolithic rock shelter site with images of reptiles carved into the cave wall. It was also home to a magnificent Philippine Eagle-Owl. What a way to start the trip.
We continued onto Mount Makiling spending the afternoon birding in the botanic gardens and rice research fields. We enjoyed some great endemics including the scarce Striped Flowerpecker, beautiful Red-keeled Flowerpecker and great views of the somewhat bizarre Red-crested Malkoha. In the evening we did some owling and achieved great results with excellent views of both Philippine Boobook and Philippine Scops-owl; three species of owls seen on our first day.
Next morning it was the obligatory early start and we loaded into the jeepney in the pre-dawn darkness. The big bonus was a great view of the Ashy Ground-Thrush watched in the jeepney headlights. We were now in higher elevation forests and with patience we found some great birds. These included the Spotted Wood-Kingfisher, both male and female, Philippine Falconet, feeding Guiaberos, the crazy-looking Scale-feathered Malkoha, Philippine Fairy-Bluebird, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, White-browed Shama for some, Gray-backed Tailorbird and Buzzing Flowerpecker. A final check on the bridges produced the hoped for Indigo-banded Kingfisher and we were on our way back to Manila for the night.
A flight to Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao progressed smoothly. We were soon in the van and after lunch drove through to connect with our four wheel drive truck to carry us up as far as practicable to Mount Kitanglad’s Del Monte Lodge. With recent heavy rains the track up was slippery for the truck but we made it up after some great driving by the local expert. We then made the hike of about half a mile up to the lodge with our bags and supplies carried by horse. The track up was muddy with rubber boots and walking sticks pretty much essential.
We spent the last hour or so exploring the forest around the lodge. Our good luck continued with great views of Great Eared-Nightjar, Bukidnon Woodcock roding on dusk, followed by a fly-over Grass Owl and then an amazing experience with a pair of Philippines Frogmouths at a nest with a small chick. Some folks slept in tents and others upstairs on camp-beds. We were comfortable and well fed.
The next morning was eagerly anticipated-a chance to look for the Great Philippine Eagle. We squelched up the track and Adrian made a quick breakthrough when he spotted a perched eagle at about 630am-a new record! The eagle was however distant but with two scopes ramped up to 60 x in the cool morning air the views were definitely acceptable. We birded our way up to the major valley lookout at 1550 metres altitude (5167 feet). We could hear the eagle intermittently whistling in the valley below however we were to have no further luck with any closer sightings today.
There was plenty to look for and we enjoyed many classy endemics including the Apo Myna, White-cheeked Bullfinch, Macgregor’s Cuckoo-shrike, a perched juvenile Pinsker’s Hawk-Eagle, Philippine Swiftlet, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove, Philippine Pygmy-Woodpecker, Rufous-headed Tailorbird, Black and Cinnamon Fantail, Cinnamon Ibon and Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis. We found the nest of a Philippine Nightjar with two eggs after it was flushed by a horse. Other new birds for the trip list included Oriental Honey-buzzard, Brush Cuckoo, Whiskered Tree-swift, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Pied Triller. Heavy cloud steadily built up and we decided to head back down to the
lodge and we just made it back before a monumental storm rolled in and very heavy rain continued for hours through the night.
Our next full day dawned clear having rained itself out overnight. We wasted no time in getting back up the mountain hoping to reach 1800 metres in altitude whilst the weather held for the endemic Apo Sunbird. We were in luck again when this time Danny spotted the Philippine Eagle perched and this time considerably closer. It then flew even closer towards us and we enjoyed our best scope views watching it calling and feeling very happy with ourselves to have seen this most incredible bird.
Our luck was out with Red-eared Parrot-finches having exhausted their seed supply and beyond a flyover glimpse or two we never got to grips with this species. Similarly the Montane Racquet-tail was heard whilst we were in the forest interior or seen very poorly in flight. Still we did not much care as we were having great luck with so many tough birds including the Apo Sunbird that we watched lining its nest with feathers. After some recordings were made we had superb views of the Long-tailed Bush-Warbler creeping past us like a mouse. Amethyst Brown-Dove perched over our heads for a lengthy view. We had good to great views of Colasisi, Philippine Coucal, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Coleto and repeat views of many of the birds seen the day before including Yellow-bellied Whistler, Grey-hooded Sunbird, Olive-capped Flowerpecker and the Black-masked White-eye.
The Giant Scops-owl called intermittently in the night but despite dashing after it on several occasions it remained well hidden in the forest interior. Dion and Adrian nearly had their head taken off by a Bukidnon Woodcock. The frogs were out in force after another evening of heavy showers and fog.
Our final morning again dawned clear. We made a dash for the Blue-capped Wood-Kingfisher and our luck held when a female came and perched right next to us; a lucky break for this difficult Mindanao endemic. Back down the hill, onto the truck and back in the van we drove through to Bislig. It was a long drive with heavy rain and frequent roadworks slowing us down. We had a delightful lunch at a seaside fish café and an equally tasty dinner at our hotel where Dion discovered “Princess of the Sea” soup!
We were now exploring the lowland rainforest of eastern Mindanao in the former logging concession of PICOP. Connecting with local expert Zardo it was a typical very early start to get out into the forest in the predawn. We spent the whole day in the forest spending lunch and a siesta in an abandoned hut. The morning and afternoon session were both excellent. Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Black-chinned Fruit-Dove, Yellowish Bulbul, Yellow-wattled Bulbul, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Pygmy Babbler, Philippine Magpie-Robin, Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, Metallic-winged Sunbird and the dazzling Short-crested Monarch highlighted the morning. Blue-crowned Racquet-tail perched, Silvery Kingfisher, Mindanao Tarictic Hornbill, Writhed Hornbill, Blue Fantail and Steere’s Pitta highlighted the afternoon in the forest.
With an hour or so left in the late afternoon we walked up the airstrip runway at Bislig for a pleasant change of pace from searching for skulkers in the forest interior. It was also remarkably good with excellent views of Philippine Duck, Wandering Whistling-duck, a male Watercock in display mode, White-browed Crake, Blue-breasted Quail wandering about in the open, a Greater Painted-Snipe and a presumed Swinhoe’s Snipe leading the charge not to mention Black and Yellow Bitterns. On this day we racked up 99 species!
We had a second full day in PICOP and we pushed far into the remotest section possible. A perched Steere’s Honey-buzzard was a good first bird and then a major breakthrough when we watched a pair of Mindanao Wattled Broadbills at a nest they were building right next to the road. Thank you Zardo!!
Tearing ourselves away we kept concentrating on the remaining endemics finishing the day with sightings of Plain Bush-hen, Philippine Drongo-cuckoo, Philippine Needletail, Rufous Hornbill, Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shrike, the distinctive orange gonzalesi Scarlet Minivets, Philippine Leafbird and Philippine Oriole, Rusty-crowned Babbler, Philippine Leaf-warbler, Black-headed Tailorbird, the difficult Little Slaty Flycatcher, Handsome Sunbird and both Olive-backed and Bicolored Flowerpecker; a cracking day indeed. We waited in the afternoon for a repeat audience of the broadbills but we were out of luck and they remained a no-show.
A morning drive to Davao highlighted by a Barred Rail was followed by a flight to Cebu City. Here we spent the rest of the day relaxing. The morning of the 27th dawned and we headed up to the Tabunan forest accompanied by Oking and Lashela. We were taking a chance to try and see the critically endangered Cebu Flowerpecker. It was not surprising we did not see this bird in the half day we allotted to the task. It was an interesting experience birding in the razor sharp limestone karst and clambering up to the amazing viewing platform built by Oking.
It was however remarkably bird rich. After a lengthy duel the rare endemic Black Shama was well seen. We also had luck with two sightings of the “Cebu” Streak-breasted Bulbul at the lower viewing platform, a bird listed in my copy of Clements as extinct-fortunately not the case. The distinctive subspecies of Colasisi, Elegant Tit, Crimson Sunbird, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and Coppersmith Barbet were also interesting to get good views of. A Hooded Pitta was sighted briefly and there were plenty of small passerines in the form of Olive-backed Sunbird, Everett’s White-eye, Philippine Bulbul, Red-keeled Flowerpecker and munias of two species amongst others to keep us on our toes. We caught the inter-island ferry from Cebu to Bohol distracted by numerous Whiskered Terns and a handful of Black-headed Gulls.
Rajah Sikatuna National Park in the centre of Bohol offers excellent forest birding on a network of trails. After a lengthy search we finally caught up with a male Philippine Trogon having been tantalised by its call for two days in eastern Mindanao. It glowed in the scope. Next major stroke of luck came with a pair of Visayan Wattled Broadbills that gave repeat views. Rufous-fronted Tailorbirds drove us around in circles unseen yet we had more luck with the virtual endemic Yellow-breasted Tailorbird that turned on good views. Black-faced Coucal was well seen snooping in vine tangles in the canopy. In the afternoon we scoped a pair of Samar Hornbills well and enjoyed a splendid White-bellied Woodpecker. We had some views of Philippine Boobooks in the evening but they were skittish.
Our final full day on Bohol dawned with plenty of heavy showers on the forecast. Straight away we locked on to a pair of Streaked Ground-Babblers that perched up and allowed some reasonable photos. We spent the morning in the forest hoping for a sighting of the rarely seen Mindanao Bleeding-heart (St. Jude-the patron saint of lost causes came to mind).We did have luck finding a pair of Black-crowned Babblers in a mixed flock that included Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher and Blue Fantail. We also enjoyed the beautiful Greater Flamebacks (here of the subspecies rufopunctatus), one of many distinctive populations of this showy woodpecker scattered across the Philippines. In the afternoon we finally pinned down a stunning Visayan Silvery Kingfisher and had good views of Steere’s Pitta.
A final morning session before flying out was divided between the national park where activity was relatively quiet although we had views of Philippine Sheathtail Bat in a sinkhole and perched Samar Hornbills. We visited the Corella Tarsier Centre. Here they have a predator proof fence surrounding a hectare of forest. In the morning the local guides search for roosting tarsiers and then take in the tourists to see them. No flash photography is permitted to protect the tarsier’s enormous eyes. We were shown four animals. Birding here was also quite good with great views of Philippine Serpent-Eagle and a male Black-chinned Fruit-dove. We flew out in the early afternoon to find ourselves back in Manila and the main tour at an end.
Having farewelled the participants Dion and Adrian continued onto Puerto Princesa on the popular tourist island of Palawan. Here we met Orlan, jumped in the van and were soon amongst the birds. Blue-naped Parrot, the scarce Palawan Hornbill, Palawan and Pygmy Flowerpecker, Lovely Sunbird and the abundant Palawan Crow kept the list ticking over. A pair of Philippine Cockatoos gave good views-a critically endangered species. At dusk we went searching for nocturnal birds with the bright Easter moon not helping the situation. We heard both the Palawan Scops-Owl and Javan Frogmouth but our best sighting was of the endemic Black-footed Flying-squirrel. The avifauna of this island is quite different to the main Philippines being closer to Borneo in the evolutionary scheme of things.
A four am start saw us back in the forest now with the moon set. After more searching this time we had great views of the frogmouth. Breakfast then off by boat to the Underground River at St. Paul’s Subterranean National Park. Greeted by Stork-billed Kingfisher and Tabon Scrubfowl we could hear the star of the show calling in the forest interior. A patient wait and here he comes-the famous male Palawan Peacock Pheasant named by the late Tim Fisher as “Old Faithful”. At fifteen years of age it is uncertain how long he will continue to survive-we can only hope a lot longer.
After enjoying a lengthy session with the peacock-pheasant we birded the forest interior for a couple more hours enjoying excellent views of Hooded Pitta, some sneaky views of Red-bellied Pitta, the endemic White-vented Shama, a female Blue Paradise-Flycatcher and a couple of Palawan Blue Flycatchers. Large Water Monitors, Long-tailed Macaques and the endemic Northern Palawan Squirrel were also frequently encountered.
In the afternoon we returned our attention to the outstanding endemics. Palawan Tit was eventually tracked down in the Albizzia tree canopy along with Yellow-throated Leafbird. Ashy-headed Babbler gave much improved views as did the distinctive subspecies of Greater Flameback. We also enjoyed views of Hill Myna, Dollarbird and yet another Javan (Palawan) Frogmouth.
Our final full day on Palawan and again we were out at 4am back on the trail of the Palawan Scops-owl. Just as we were about to head off the owl responded. I made a sound recording of this bird and it came in straight away for a brief but good view. We trawled further down another trail and this time had an even better closer view. After breakfast in the hotel we returned to the forest. Falcated Ground-Babbler beckoned from deep in the forest interior and even allowed some half decent photographs-a good result for this mega skulker. We enjoyed more views of Philippine Cockatoos and first sightings of both Sulphur-bellied Bulbul and the Common Flameback (this population elevated to full species status on occasions).
We returned to Puerto Princesa and birded the forest around the Crocodile Farm. We found a few migrants included a trio of Forest Wagtails and at least three Oriental Cuckoos. We watched several Rufous Night-herons at nests in the canopy. There was also another Blue Paradise-Flycatcher. In the nearby rice fields we found a male Watercock in full display mode and a smattering of shorebirds including a few Long-toed Stints, Oriental Pratincoles and another presumed Swinhoe’s Snipe.
A last morning we explored some forest south of Puerto Princesa hoping for Melodious Babbler and Palawan Flycatcher. The babblers were soon heard but remained buried in the forest. More views of perched Blue-naped Parrots, Palawan Hornbills and then great views of the Melodious Babbler. Focussing on the densest bamboo gullies I heard a response to the flycatcher song but no sighting. After changing position a few times it eventually flew across the road giving a brief view and staying buried in the thick vegetation. Our last stroke of luck came with a trio of Great Slaty Woodpeckers that gave some outstanding views.
Back in Manila we had the chance to visit an ecopark where an Ashy Ground-thrush had recently been found nesting. The highlight here was a superb Red-bellied Pitta that would not leave us alone. Before I knew it I was on the plane back home, my Philippines adventure at an end. Many thanks to Adrian for his outstanding company in the field and complete attention to the logisitics on this tour. Great job Adrian and look forward to birding again in the future.
This is a custom 30-day trip for a group of excellent Swedish birders who visited the Philippines early this year. The trip report was written by Fredrik Rudzki, with photos from Anita Ericson and Roger Holmberg, all tour participants. This group of Swedish birders all belong to Sweden’s Club 300, an elite group of Swedish birders who aim to see and learn Sweden’s rarest birds. 🙂
Thanks again Fredrik for the trip report and Anita and Soren for organizing the tour with us, Roger and Anita for the photographs and to all of you for allowing us to show you the best of the Philippines’ birds!
Luzon, Mindanao, Bohol, Cebu, Negros and Palawan
by Fredrik Rudzki.
Tour Leader: Nicky Icarangal of Birding Adventure Philippines
Bo Danielsson, Stockholm
Anita Ericson, Borlänge
Roger Holmberg, Kungsör
Michael Johansson, Borås
Anders Lövgren, Stockholm
Fredrik Rudzki, Stockholm
Sören Strandberg, Stockholm
In 2010 the idea to arrange a private trip to the Philippines was raised by Anita Ericson and Sören Strandberg. It is a well known fact that the nature and wildlife on the Philippine islands are disappearing quite rapidly and the idea with this trip was to travel the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Bohol, Cebu, Negros and Palawan for one month, trying to see as much as possible of the avifauna on these islands as possible.
The company Birding Adventure Philippines was used as tour operator arranging all logistics and providing a superb guide during the whole trip in the form of Nicky Icarangal. The company offers standard birding trips to the main islands of the Philippines but they also arrange custom trips to basically any part of the Philippines a person can think of. During the whole trip all logistics worked perfectly and Nicky took great care to ensure a safe journey with really good birding. If you consider going to the Philippines I would highly recommend the company, the staff and Nicky as a premier choice. Information about the company can be found on the web-site www.birdingphilippines.com.
In the evening Anita, Sören, Bo, Anders and I met at Arlanda for the Air China flight to Beijing. The flight took eight and a half hours and we arrived punctually in the following morning. Michael who had traveled from Landvetter joined the group just an hour or so after us. In Beijing we had to spend nine hours for the connecting flight to Manila, most of this time spent at Pizza Hut. During this time I had pizza for lunch and also a pizza for the afternoon snack before the five hour trip to Manila. We arrived in Manila shortly after 23.00 p.m. and were met by Adrian from Birding Adventure Philippines, taking us to the Midas Hotel and Casino for an overnight stay, not far from the airport.
Roger had arrived in Manila several hours before the rest of the group the night before and he now joined the rest of us for breakfast. At 9.00 a.m. we met Nicky in the hotel lobby and packed our spacious mini-bus for a two hour trip to Mount Makiling. We arrived a little before lunch and settled our things at SEARCA Residence Hotel located at the Los Baños Campus area. Everyone was eager to start bird watching as soon as possible and it did not take long before all the luggage was transferred to the rooms and people going out of the hotel starting to see what the area had to offer. Just outside the hotel the first endemic in the form of a Philippine Bulbul was spotted and a Grey-backed Tailorbird was also play-backed into view.
We continued down the road from our hotel to a small bridge crossing a stream which ran through the campus area. After some time we managed to see an Indigo-banded Kingfisher sitting on a small rock in the stream, one of the target species at the actual campus area. Other birds we saw here were Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, White-throated Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Brown Shrike, Red-keeled Flowerpecker, Pygmy Flowerpecker and Yellow-wattled Bulbul.
We had lunch at one of the restaurants close by the campus and by now it started to rain. After lunch we drove to the Botanical garden located close by, but due to the rain the visibility was poor and the bird activity low, Luzon Tarictic Hornbill, Grey-streaked Flycatcher and Large-billed Crow however being some of the species we managed to see well. We decided to move along and drove to an area outside the campus with rice-fields were we saw Buff-banded Rail, Barred Rail, White-browed Crake and White-breasted Waterhen. In the grasslands surrounding the rice-fields we had several Striated Grassbird, Zitting Cisticola, a pair of Barred Buttonquail, Lesser Coucal, Richard´s Pipit, Long-tailed Shrike and a couple of Crested Mynas.
After breakfast at 4.00 a.m. at the hotel we drove with our mini-bus a short way from our hotel to listen for owls. The rain had continued during the night and it had not completely stopped at the time when we started to play-back for the owls. No immediate response but after some time we heard both Philippine Scops-Owl and Philippine Hawk-Owl, too far away though to play-back into view.
To continue our trip to Mount Makiling we now had to change our mini-bus to a jeepney, reaching our starting point just before sunrise. To our relief the raining had now stopped and a cheerful White-browed Shama sang close to our jeepney when we arrived, but we did not manage to see the bird. We followed a trail upwards and came to a small clearing where a farmer had his small cottage. From the clearing we had a good view over the hillside and here we saw different species like Colasisi, Guaiabero, Greater Flameback, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker and Coppersmith Barbet. Continuing upwards along the trail we heard a Luzon Bleeding-hart, a much wanted species of the trip. The bird was sitting some distance away and we did not manage to see it despite much effort from Nicky trying to play-back it into view. We continued the trail further up but the birding was quite slow, much because of the raining which had started again, but we had a smaller bird wave with Elegant Tit, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch and Blue-headed Fantail.
The raining had good effect on the leech-activity though. Everyone had good look-out for the nasty little buggers when they came crawling up along the legs, more difficult though when they dropped down from the leaves above you and you could feel them crawl along your neck or in your hair…This was not a big problem and it should not be over exaggerated, after a couple of close encounters everyone knew how to get rid of them in an easy way.
Back again at the jeepney we had a quick fly-by of a Scale-feathered Malkoha and the White-browed Shama was more co-operative, a pair singing close by the road giving us good observations. Further down on the way back to the campus we had a male Red Junglefowl walking along the side of the road but scurried away quite fast when it noticed us. After a quick lunch at the campus we returned to the Botanical Garden. Close at the entrance we had a large flock of Ashy Minivets. Continuing further into the garden it again started to rain and we took shelter in an abandoned building to wait the rain out. From our spot we managed to see Japanese Sparrowhawk, Luzon Tarictic Hornbill, Red-crested Malkoha, Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and Ashy Drongo. The Ashy Drongo is not supposed to be seen on Luzon, hence this was something special. Since the rain did not stop we decided to quit for the day and headed back to the hotel. We had a really nice dinner in one of the restaurants at the campus area early in the evening, Red Horse being the favourite beer before San Miguel Pale Pilsen.
A short time before we left for the Philippines we received an e-mail from Birding Adventure Philippines with a video of an Ashy Ground-Thrush which apparently had nested in a park in Manila. This was of course a species we would like to try to see. To be able to do this we had a really early start at 3.00 a.m. leaving the campus area for La Mesa Eco Park where the bird had been seen. We had breakfast of pan-cakes with syrup and pineapple juice at Jollibee in Manila, Jollibee being one of the many fast food restaurants readily available in almost every large city in the Philippines. At the parking space at La Mesa Eco Park we heard Philippine Nightjars and also managed to see two birds really well. We walked into the park to a dense plantation of Rhododendrons where the
Ashy Ground-Thrush had been seen previously. When we reached the area Anders managed to see the bird when it suddenly flew across a small asphalted trail surrounded by Rhododendrons. Nicky quickly got his torch out and we looked for the bird on the ground among the vegetation but did not manage to find it. The search was not totally fruitless though, after a while Nicky discovered a Red-bellied Pitta which was seen really well before it decided to jump away in the gloom. We then spent a couple of hours in the area but the Ashy Ground-Thrush was not to be seen anymore. We managed however to play-back a Hooded Pitta into view and we also had some really nice looks of a male Mangrove Blue Flycatcher singing in the morning sun. On the way out of the park we had Lowland White-eye, Black-naped Oriole, White-eared Brown-Dove and several other species new to most of the people in the group, not bad for a park in the mega-city Manila!
After the visit to the park the trip continued to Candaba Marshes. Due to the plentiful raining the dirt road leading to the marsh was quite muddy and we had to stop and walk the last kilometre. The marshes are totally surrounded by rice-fields which have very little bird life, some egrets and a Cinnamon Bittern flying away was seen though when we passed it along the road. The marshes were very overgrown with little open water. The first dam we came to contained large colonies of Grey Heron, Purple Heron and Black-crowned Night-Heron. In this dam we also saw a pair of Philippine Duck, the target species for the site, but they took of when they saw us coming and flew to an adjacent dam. The second dam was not as densely covered with vegetation as the first one and here we could see several pairs of Philippine Duck and also small numbers of Wandering Whistling-Duck, Green-winged Teal and Garganey. Yellow Bittern and Cinnamon Bittern were seen in smaller numbers in the area and we also saw a Black Bittern flying by before landing in the vegetation. For the amusement of the persons in the group interested in reptiles, a six foot Reticulated Python was seen swimming in one of the dams.
The trip continued to Subic Bay which we arrived in the afternoon. We still had some daylight left so we spent a couple of hours birding the area from the car.
At one site we heard the calls of a Green Racquet-tail in flight but no one could see the bird. Here we also had our first view of a Coleto sitting openly in the late afternoon sunlight. In a couple of wooden telephone poles several pairs of Sooty as well as White-bellied Woodpeckers nested. The birds were not shy at all and we had very good looks of these birds. Getting dark, we decided to quit for the day and head to Mountain Woods Resort, a very nice hotel which we stayed at during our time in Subic.
A good part of the morning was spent in an area called Hill 394 where a trail was leading through secondary forest. The trail was not very difficult to walk and during the walk we had nice views of Philippine Falconet, Pompadour Green-Pigeon, Blackish Cuckoo-shrike, Balicassiao, White-lored Oriole, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and Coleto. Apparently this had been an area were White-fronted Tit had been seen in past times but we did not manage to see any at all. According to Nicky this was a species that had become increasingly difficult to see in this particular area.
On our way for lunch we stopped to watch a colony with several thousands of Flying Foxes, in this particular colony Large Flying Foxes and Golden-crowned Flying Foxes were residing. Continuing our way to our lunch restaurant we stopped for a Whiskered Treeswift sitting close by the road on a telephone line. After lunch and on our way to our hotel for a siesta, we briefly stopped by a colony with Blue-throated Bee-eater. The colony was located just by the roadside and we could watch the birds sunbathing from close distance sitting in our mini-bus. Before the siesta several of us took the opportunity to have a swim in the hotel pool and catch some sunshine, very welcomed after a very long, cold and dark Swedish winter.
After the siesta we went out to look for our major target species for the area, the Green Racquet-tail. Nicky took us to a road where the species is known to occur in the surrounding forest and we walked along the asphalted road listening for the contact call of the bird. The walk along the road produced several nice observations of different species new to the group, several Green Imperial-Pigeon were eating fruit in a tree providing good views through the spotting scopes and a Blue-naped Parrot got our attention sitting in a tree just by the road and could be seen at very close range. Further along the road a couple of Rufous Coucal played hide and seek with us and just a couple of us managed to see brief glimpses of them before they decided to fly of again in the undervegetaion. Further up along the road we had close and nice views of some very nicely coloured Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove.
It was now getting late and we started to think that the Green Racquet-tail would be a no show for us, but suddenly Nicky signalled to us that he heard the call of a bird and it was coming from a tree just close by the road. We had a very good view of the treetop since it was just at eye-level, the tree growing on a steep slope beneath the road. Every one was scanning the tree for movements and suddenly Michael announced that he had seen something moving. Everyone stared to look at the point where he had seen the movement and suddenly a Green Racquet-tail showed up on a branch with thick green leaves, not even fifty meters from where we were standing. All of us were happy to see this species at this close range and everyone had good views of the bird with the racquets clearly seen from our close distance. The bird was not disturbed by our presence at all and stayed for more than twenty minutes before it decided to fly away, returning again to a tree close by maybe ten minutes later.
With this important target species seen so well and Nicky noticeably relieved finding the bird for us, we continued our way down to the area with the woodpeckers visited the previous afternoon. On our way to the woodpeckers we discovered a Philippine Hawk-Eagle sitting in a tree. When we got closer it flew down from the tree and landed on the top of a telephone post not far away from us. Somewhat weary it sat on the telephone post allowing good views from our spotting scopes before it decided to fly away. Like yesterday we had nice views of the Sooty- and the White-bellied Woodpeckers, now also being accompanied by a pair of Greater Flamebacks. The sun was now staring to go down and we could hear several Spotted Wood-Kingfishers sitting close by, but we did not succeed to see any of them. A Great Eared Nightjar passed above us when we were waiting for the dark to settle in, us trying to see some of the owl residing in the area. Yesterday evening we had heard both Philippine Scops-Owl and Chocolate Boobook in the area but we did not make any attempt to see them since we were on our way to our hotel. We did not have to wait long before we heard a Chocolate Boobook close from where we were standing. Nicky tried the play-back and the owl turned up almost instantly sitting openly on a branch providing nice views. When the Boobook flew away, a Philippine Scops-Owl started to hoot maybe just twenty meters from our location. Since we could not detect the bird with our spotlight Nicky again tried the play-back which resulted in an immediate response and a Philippine Scops-Owl showed up very nicely, looking angrily at us from his perch.
Getting late we returned to our hotel for a nice dinner of sizzling pork, spring-rolls and fish and of course Red Horse beer. The successful day was celebrated with a whisky and a vodka/calamansi drink, calamansi being a type of citrus native to the Philippines. I also tried a pre-made vodka/blueberry drink previously bought at a convenience store. The colour of the drink was quite scary and the drink did not taste very good, I must say I preferred the vodka/calamansi drink even though it was very sweet.
In the morning we checked out from our hotel and continued our trip to Banaue located close to Mount Polis in the Cordillera Mountains. Before we started our trip to Banaue we went to the same spot as we ended with last evening to make a go for the Spotted Wood-Kingfisher we had heard earlier. On our way to the location a small group of Rufous Coucal was making their way along the roadside and this time we saw the birds really well. The Spotted Wood-Kingfisher responded to our playback but totally refused to show itself, all we saw was a quick glimpse of a bird flying over the dirt road and immediately disappear in the forest not showing itself anymore. We also tried to play-back a couple of Plain Bush-hen into sight but we did not succeed to see them, even though they were quite close to us in the high grass next to the road.
The trip to Banaue was quite uneventful with just a couple of stops along the way. At some stretches the road conditions were quite poor and road works were quite common along the way slowing us down on our way. At 18.15 p.m we arrived at Banaue and checked in at Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel, a massive building with a really impressive ceiling height. After checking in, we all headed to the dining room and enjoyed the buffèt accompanied of course by some Red Horse Beer. Leaving a sunny Subic Bay, the weather higher up in the mountains were now rainy and considerably colder than in the lowlands.
The morning started early with breakfast at 4.00 a.m. and departure up to Mount Polis at 4.30 a.m. Our target species to start with was Luzon Scops-Owl. For this trip we used a jeepney and the trip up to the area was supposed to take around one and a half hour, so we had the possibility to have a nap in the jeepney on our way up. It had been raining quite heavily in the area for some days and when we drove further up on the mountain we had to stop due to a large land-slide totally blocking the way up to the top. We could see that the job to clear the way was under way but it would take several hours before we could continue further up. We decided to turn back and drove to a location a little further down the road trying for the owl there instead. After some play-back we heard an owl responding but from quite a distance and it did not seem to move.
Continuing to another site our driver suddenly stopped, telling us that he had seen something in a small tree just by the road. We disembarked, spotlighted the place and found a Philippine Frogmouth sitting just a couple of meters from the road in a small bush, apparently a quite unusual sighting of this species at this elevation. After a while the bird had enough of our attention and flew away in the dense bush up along the slope. We tried again for the owl but with no success. The traffic down the road had now started again, indicating that the road now had been cleared, so we continued our way to our destination further up the top.
We reached our starting point and started to bird our way along the road. After just a couple of minutes a couple of Luzon Racquet-tail flew by higher up along the mountain slope. The bird activity was quite slow to start with but all in all we had quite nice views of higher elevation species like Metallic-winged Sunbird, Chestnut-faced Babbler, Mountain White-eye, Mountain Leaf-Warbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Mountain Verditer-Flycatcher and Blue-headed Fantail. A Mugimaki Flycatcher was also seen, first taken for a Snowy-browed Flycatcher. We also used play-back and managed to see the skulking Luzon Bush-Warbler which was present close to the road. Other skulkers heard but unfortunately not seen were Long-tailed Ground-Warbler and Benguet Bush-Warbler. Continuing our trip we took the jeepney towards a small village called Bay-yo for lunch. On the way we made a stop by a small stream and had some really nice looks of a male Luzon Water-Redstart. It had been raining on and off for the whole morning but it now started to rain quite heavily and it did not seem to stop, so we made the decision to quit for the day and return to our hotel.
Back at the hotel we continued with some bird watching from our balconies rendering species like Scale-feathered Malkoha, Olive-backed Sunbird, House Swift and Glossy Swiftlet. A Blue Rock-Thrush was also discovered residing in the hotel garden and on the hotel roof. Since the rain continued the whole afternoon we did not make any more attempts to do any serious birding and we all had an early evening going to bed after dinner.
The following morning we started again at 4.00 a.m. and took the jeepney up to the top of Mount Polis. This time no landslides were blocking the road and we reached our initial site for the Luzon Scops Owl. Nicky used the play-back and after some time an owl responded quite close to the road where we were standing. Even though it was close we did not manage to see the bird in the dense vegetation up on the mountain slope. When the daylight came, the owl stopped responding and instead we turned our attention to a White-browed Shortwing which stared to sing not far away from the jeepney. We positioned ourselves in front of a small trail leading up along the mountainside and the bird responded directly to Nicky’s play-back, crossing the trail several times but never sitting still for any longer periods of time, just giving us short observations of the bird.
Target species for the day were otherwise Mountain Shrike and White-cheeked Bullfinch, the Whiskered Pitta which previously could be heard in a small ravine in the area had not been heard for some time and Nicky also told us that the Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove had become scarcer in the area. We spent the whole day along the road along the upper parts of Mount Polis which rendered species like Flame-crowned Flowerpecker, Elegant Tit, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Little Pied Flycatcher, Green-backed Whistler and also a quick fly-by of a Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove, the Bullfinch however was heard but unfortunately not seen. Even though we scanned the surroundings really well we did not manage to see any Mountain Shrike.
On the way down the road we stopped at several meadows scanning the trees and bushes for the desired Mountain Shrike and after several attempts Nicky managed to spot the desired species quite far away sitting in a tree. Not all of us had managed to see the Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove but all in the group had good but distant views of the Mountain Shrike. Further down the road we stopped at a site with a good view of the mountain slope where we spotted a Citrine Canary-Flycatcher sitting in a bush just by the road. After a couple of minutes a Mountain Shrike appeared from nowhere giving the group really good views from close range.
Quite happy with the birding, we headed down to our hotel and since it did not rain Michael took the opportunity to try the hotel pool. Like yesterday we had a nice dinner and went to bed early.
This day was basically a long transportation day where our mini-bus took us north to the city of Tuguegarao close by the Northern Sierra Madres Mountain range. Quite a buzzling city where we stayed at Hotel Roma.
Our original plan was to do some birdwatching at Mount Hamut, but Nicky had suggested another area called Sawa Camp located in Penablanca Protected Landscape in Cagayan Valley, an area not yet visited by many birdwatchers. Nicky had scouted this area and had seen many desired species like Whiskered Pitta, Flame-breasted and Cream-bellied Fruit-Dove, Furtive Flycatcher and many more species. Needless to say we were not too difficult to persuade to change itinerary of our trip hearing of such an area.
Going to Camp Sawa was probably the most adventurous and physically demanding part of the whole trip. From Tuguegarao we had an early start with breakfast at McDonalds. We did not use our mini-bus for this part of the trip, instead a jeepney took us for a two hour drive to the border of the Protected Landscape area. The jeepney engine smoked quite heavily but the driver told me that he had had the car for twelve years and that it was checked once a year, so far with no remarks. Reaching the border, we were met by locals with horses, taking us for a three hour horse-ride over the grassy hills to the mountain foothills visible in the far distance. Not many of us had experience from horses before and the locals looked quite amused when we tried to mount the not too big horses. To make the trip easier for us, rubber foam pads had been purchased for us to sit on, which I can assure you was a really good investment. The trip started and we were all led by one of the locals, not only leading the horses we sat on but also carrying our luggage. The ground was quite soggy after the raining going on in the area, so the guys had a really tough task in front of them.
After a while the raining started again, making it even more difficult for the guys leading the horses on the slippery trail we were following. The slippery trail also made some of the horses to miss-step and fall at two occasions, but at both occasions the passengers were quick enough to jump off in time. Finally we reached the village of Sawa, some wooden houses located at the foothills off the mountains, our staring point for the last stretch of this trip leading to the camp located quite a bit up on the mountain.
At the village the guys who had led our horses had a well deserved break, some of them looking quite worn carrying our luggage on the muddy trails for this long distance. Nicky later told us that every one of the guys were long time
smokers, and it was quite amazing that they managed to keep up the high tempo they had leading us to Sawa.
While the guys had their break, we continued by foot to a small river coming down from the mountain. After some waiting a couple of Rufous Hornbill came flying and perched in a tree close by to us, quite nice for Rodger since this was species number 5,000 for him, congratulations!
The river was quite fast flowing and due to the raining we were not allowed to pass it by foot, instead we mounted our horses again and were led over to the other side. We then left the horses and walked in the rain along a steep muddy trail up along the mountain side to our camp in the forest. Again, all our luggage was carried for us but since the slope was quite steep it took us some time to reach it, which we did in the late afternoon.
The camp had been raised a couple of days before we arrived and was nicely located along a small forest stream with a small waterfall. In the camp we all had our own tent covered by a plastic tarpaulin to give extra shelter for the rain. The trip had taken the whole day and we were all very tired when we sat down for our dinner in the light from a lantern and our head lamps. Anita had used some of the time in her tent to try the Philippine Tanduay Rum which she had brought with her and after dinner Nicky opened up another bottle and the rest of us tried to catch up with her, mixing the Rum with fruit juice or Coke.
It was raining when we woke up 5.30 a.m. the next morning and it was still raining after we had finished our breakfast. We started to walk the trail up on the mountain side and had observations of Philippine Trogon, Philippine Fairy-Bluebird, Amethyst Brown-Dove, Greater Flameback and Lemon-throated Leaf-Warbler. A Whiskered Pitta was heard from some distance and a Luzon Bleeding-heart was glimpsed by some of the participants when Nicky flushed a bird walking along the trail. The rain had continued from the morning onwards up to lunchtime and the bird activity had been quite low, the birds were there but it was difficult to see them good due to the rainy mist. Since everyone where quite soaked we therefore decided to quit early and head back to camp. Since the rain continued into the evening no more attempts were made that day for bird watching.
At 5.00 a.m. Nicky woke us up hearing a Philippine Hawk-Owl not far from our camp. We grabbed our binoculars and head-lamps and follow him to the spot where the owl had been heard. Nicky play-backed for the owl and suddenly it dropped down just a few meters away from us, looking a bit puzzled in the
spotlight. It sat there for maybe 30 seconds and then flew away to a branch higher up in a tree, looking at us from above. On the way back to the camp for breakfast we stopped and looked at a male Blue-breasted Flycatcher singing just by the camp. After breakfast we again walked the trail from yesterday. Much better light this time and we saw Yellow-bellied Whistler, Olive-backed Flowerpecker, Luzon Striped-Babbler, Golden-crowned Babbler and Yellowish White-eye. We also heard species like Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo, Brush Cuckoo and Violet Cuckoo.
Target species for the day was the Whiskered Pitta. We had heard a bird yesterday and today we went back to the area with hopes to actually see the bird. Nicky worked hard to get the bird into range, and slowly the bird came closer to our position, responding to the play-back. We had positioned ourselves in front of a slope with somewhat less dense vegetation than in the surrounding area and finally the bird was close enough to give us a chance of seeing it. We tried to locate it with no success, but suddenly it decided to change position and flew in front of the group and disappeared in another area with dense vegetation. Nicky continued the play-back an again the Pitta flew in front of us, back to its original position. After this the bird moved away and we did not see nor glimpse the bird anymore after that.
Getting late in the afternoon we decided to make an attempt for the Furtive Flycatcher residing further down the mountain slope in an area with bamboo. We managed to see glimpses of the Flycatcher but it was very shy and never sat still long enough to let us have a proper observation of it.
Also this morning we went up around 5.00 a.m. Some in the group had not seen the Philippine Hawk-Owl very well and we started the day trying to see it again. Like yesterday it responded to the play-back and came into view, but it was not as co-operative as yesterday. We also tried for the Spotted Wood-Kingfisher which had eluded us so far, just having seen it briefly in Subic Bay. We had a couple of kingfishers just by our camp but the birds could not be seen, just heard from the dense tree canopies by the small stream. Nicky was a little bit frustrated about this species, normally it should not be a problem to see it but on this trip it had not been co-operative at all. After breakfast we went back to the place for the Pitta, but this time it did not respond to our play-back, sitting higher up on the mountain slope. The time had come for us to break camp and return to Tuguegarao On the way down we had an Ashy-breasted Flycatcher and this time we also had very good views of the Furtive Flycatcher in the bamboo area. On our way to the river crossing we also spotted Plain-throated Sunbird and Black and White Triller, over the lower hilltops we also had several Philippine Serpent Eagle.
The rain had stopped and the sky was now clear blue and the sun was shining. We again mounted our horses and were led back to our original starting point. The guys leading our horses again carried our luggage, not a task to envy in the heat, reaching our jeepney in the late afternoon arriving to Hotel Roma later in the evening.
This day was basically a travel day when we flew back from Tuguegarao to Manila and checked in to Midas Hotel and Casino. Here we took the opportunity to dry our clothes and other belongings using our room balconies taking advantage of the afternoon sunshine. A really good thing with the Midas Hotel and Casino was the dinner buffét, eat as much as you want of fantastic sushi, grilled meat and fish and a fantastic choice of cheese and deserts, not a bad end following a couple of days out in the bush!
This day was also much of a travel day. We took the morning flight from Manila to Cagayan de Oro located on the island of Mindanao were we continued the trip with two mini-buses getting us to the village of Damitan. At Damitan we unloaded our stuff and changed vehicle to a 4X4 truck, us sitting on the back, taking us close to Mount Kitangland and Del Monte Lodge for a couple of days stay. The truck did not get us the whole way, instead we had an hour walk up to the lodge with our luggage carried by horses. At the lodge Nicky’s colleague Adrian waited for us, welcoming us with coffee and cold drinks. To ensure that everyone had enough space an additional three large tents had been raised to be used for some of us.
We had been told that Bukidnon Woodcock could be heard and seen outside the lodge at around 18.00 p.m., so when the time came we all stood outside the lodge waiting to hear or see a bird fly by. The Woodcock was one of Anders desired target species of the trip, really wanting to see the species having read about them a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, at 18.00 p.m., it got misty and it also started to rain, making it difficult to see anything from any longer distance. However, we did not let that stop us and after some time we actually heard the distinctive sound from a flying bird just by the forest edge behind the lodge, but we did not manage to see the bird. Anders looked pleased, but of course it had been better with a really good look of the flying bird and not just the sound of it.
Later in the evening we went out in the forest in front of the lodge and played for Philippine Frogmouth. After standing in the dark for maybe five minutes Nicky lit his torch at a frogmouth just a couple of meters away from us, being really calm sitting for a long time letting us photograph it We also tried to see some of the Giant Scops-Owl hooting close to the lodge but did not manage to see any of them in the forest canopy.
This morning was really fine with clear blue sky and sunshine. After breakfast we started to walk the trail leading up to the view point for the much wanted Philippine Eagle. We walked through a landscape with many pastures intersected by small strands of forest and shrubbery seeing species like Philippine Cuckoo-Dove, Colasisi, Philippine Coucal, Mindanao Taricric Hornbill, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Pied Triller, Eyebrowed Thrush, Tawny Grassbird, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Black and Cinnamon Fantail, Richard´s Pipit, Long-tailed Shrike, Brown Shrike and Short-tailed Glossy Starling. We also stopped at a site for Red-eared Parrotfinch which we heard and some in the group also caught a quick glimpse of a flying bird disappearing in the bush.
At the viewpoint it did not take long to spot a young Philippine Eagle sitting openly in a tree low on the mountainside. The distance to the bird was quite far but it was although a really nice experience to see such a fabulous bird in the wild. From the viewpoint we also spotted an Oriental Honeybuzzard soaring in the sky and a Crested Goshawk sitting in a treetop. We stayed and observed the eagle until it got to hot making it difficult to see the bird from this long distance. Having the fortune to see the eagle so quick we decided to make an attempt for the Apo Sunbird, also present in the area but much higher up on the mountain.
We continued the trail further up and we now walked in a forest rather than a cultivated area like before. In this forest we had several new species like McGregor´s Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous-headed Tailorbird, Apo Myna, Olive-capped Flowepecker, Buzzing Flowerpecker, Black-masked White-eye and Cinnamon Ibon. When we reached the proper elevation it did not take long before we first heard and then managed to see a male Apo Sunbird in the open, sitting in a treetop in the sunshine. Fantastic to see the eagle and the sunbird during the same day! On the way down to camp we managed to see a couple of White-cheeked Bullfinch from close distance and also Grey-hooded Sunbird and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker.
In the evening we walked a couple of hundred meters to a clearing beside the lodge to see if we could see the Bukidnon Woodcock from yesterday. When it got darker we had Philippine Nightjar flying around us and a little bit after 18.00 p.m. we heard the sound from not one but of two Bukidnon Woodcock flying. It did not take long for us to spot the two flying birds which also flew directly over our heads several times, chasing each other around. Imagine Anders being happy, one of his most desired species finally seen and not just heard. The Giant Scops Owl also started to hoot not far from our location but despite play-back we did not manage to see any of the birds this night either.
Seeing both the eagle and the Apo sunbird yesterday we decided to walk up to the viewpoint and see what birds we could see on the way there. It was rather cloudy with occasional rain and the bird activity was much lower than the day before. We stopped at the site for the Red-eared Parrotfinch and after much play-back a bird showed itself quickly in the open just in front of us before quickly flying away again, a nice bird for those who could see it well. The eagle was also to be seen from the viewpoint, somewhat better observations today than yesterday due to the lack of sunshine. After lunch it started to rain and we headed back to the lodge, on the way having the fortune to see Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis and also several Mindanao Racquet-tails flying over our heads, quite a nice end of the day.
Our stay at Del Monte Lodge was over and today we continued our trip to Bislig and the PICOP area. Before we left the lodge we play-backed and managed to see a Long-tailed Ground-Warbler really well in the small forest in front of the lodge.
The journey to Bislig started at 8.00 a.m., us being picked up first by the 4X4 truck and later by our mini-buses, finally arriving in city at 19.00 p.m. The concrete roads were in a very poor condition making the average travel speed very low. After a tiresome trip without any birding along the way we reached Bislig and checked in to the Paper Country Inn.
This whole day was dedicated to road 1-4 in the PICOP area. After an early breakfast at 4.00 a.m. our jeepney took us to the starting point which took about one hour. At the site we quite instantly heard a Rufous-lored Kingfisher but despite efforts to locate the bird we did not succeed. The efforts had to be stopped since it started to rain and the whole group took cover in a small shed just by the trail.
When the rain stopped and we were about to continue our walk a Blue-crowned Racquet-tail was discovered sitting in a treetop not far away from our position. The chase after the Kingfisher then continued and we went back to the main road since we heard another bird sitting in the trees on a small slope at the side of the road. The bird was calling but despite play-back the bird moved away and was not seen. Since we did not want to spend any more time to chase this species we went back and continued our walk along the trail. The trail led through secondary forest and was very rewarding with many interesting species.
Main target was Steere´s Pitta which we heard and also managed to see very well by the whole group. Other species seen was Pompadour Green-Pigeon, Black-chinned Fruit-Dove, Green Imperial-Pigeon, Oriental Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo, Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo, White-throated Kingfisher, Mindanao Tarictic Hornbill, Writhed Hornbill, Scarlet Minivet, Yellowish Bulbul, Hair-crested Drongo, Philippine Oriole, Pygmy Babbler, Rusty-crowned Babbler, Brown Tit-Babbler, Black-headed Tailorbird, Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher, Blue Fantail, Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Plain-throated Sunbird, Purple-throated Sunbird and Bicolored Flowerpecker. We also heard Black-faced Coucal, Rufous Hornbill, Red-bellied Pitta and Streaked Ground-Babbler. When returning to the jeepney we also saw a juvenile White-bellied Sea-Eagle, not that common on an inland site as PICOP.
On our way home we stopped by a pond to look for Silvery Kingfisher. Unfortunately some kids were fishing at the pond so no birds were to be seen but Bo had a new lifer in the form of a Dollarbird sitting in a treetop near by. We continued to another pond and it did not take long before Bo discovered a Silvery Kingfisher sitting openly on a branch of fallen tree in the water close to us.
The day ended with an effort to play for Giant Scops-Owl. No Scops-Owl could be seen but instead we managed to see a couple of Philippine Hawk-Owl responding very well to our play-back. Nicky also discovered a Colugo climbing a tree-trunk, a much appreciated sighting by the group.
The trip for the day was road 4-2 which was a two hour drive from Bislig, meaning an early start at 3.30 a.m. On the way we stopped and played for the elusive Giant Scops-Owl which had eluded us so far. This time an owl responded close to Nicky but it flew quite fast over the road and did not show itself after this.
Finally we arrived to our staring point and we were greeted by several Philippine Needletail flying above the treetops. This area was not as heavily logged as road 1-4 but we could hear the chainsaws not far from our position. Later on the road we also encountered newly arrived settlers clearing the forest with their machetes so this area will probably be deforested in the future not too distant from now.
Again the weather gods were against us and it started to rain. Nicky heard a Rufous-lored Kingfisher and also discovered a bird sitting low on a tree on the slope by the road. He managed to scope the bird but before everyone had been able to see it, it disappeared. While waiting for the rain to stop a Philippine Nightjar was discovered close to the ground perching on a day-roost.
Due to the rain the bird activity was lower than the day before. The area had good forest though and we saw Pinsker´s Hawk-Eagle, Philippine Trogon, Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shrike, Philippine Leaf-Warbler, Short-crested Monarch, Handsome Sunbird and Olive-backed Flowerpecker.
The target species for the site was the Blue-capped Wood-Kingfisher. We had a couple of birds close to us but they were sitting well hidden among the trees in a small ravine just by the road making them impossible to see despite the close distance. Nicky worked really hard and finally one of the birds decided to take a closer look at us and sat openly for quite some time before heading back to its mate in the ravine. A really nice observation of a beautiful bird!
On our way back to our hotel the jeepney got stuck on the muddy road but we soon got help by a serious overloaded timber truck which pulled us up, much to the amusement of the crew who were sitting on the truck. Some bird watching was done along the way and we managed to see Besra and Black-faced Coucal before we were back in Bislig.
This day was a long travel day taking us to the island of Bohol in the Visayan Islands. We had an early start at 3.00 a.m. and were driven on roads that for long distances were in really poor condition until 7.00 a.m. we finally reached the city of Davao. We had breakfast at Jollibee and then headed to the airport for destination Manila where Roger left us, going back to Sweden. The rest of us continued to Taglibaran on Bohol which we reached in the afternoon. We were met by our hired cars and driven to our hotel located at the famous Chocolate Hills, on the way making a quick detour to the entrance of Rajah Sikatuna National Park where we took a short walk on the paved road to see if we could spot some birds perched for the night in the surrounding trees. With no particular luck we continued and finally after a long days journey reached our hotel.
This morning was dedicated to Rajah Sikatuna National Park where we started the day by walking the paved road which we had tried the previous afternoon. From the road it is easy to see the Bohol endemic Yellow-breasted Tailorbird and it did not take long before everyone in the group had seen the species. We then continued on a fairly steep trail but the bird activity in the forest was very low. A Visayan Wattled Broadbill was spotted by our local guide but unfortunately at some distance in the forest and only a couple of persons in the group managed to see the bird.
At 10.30 a.m. we were back at the hotel packing our luggage and preparing for the next leg of the journey towards the island of Cebu. On our way to the ferry we made a stop to look for the Philippine Tarsier. The Philippine Tarsier is a threatened species and a fenced park has been created in which the animals are protected from being killed or collected by predators or humans. We spent half an hour in the park which was crowded by tourist but had some really nice views of Philippine Tarsiers on their day-roosts, sitting under leaves in the trees or in cover of small artificial roosting boxes.
The ferry from Taglibaran to Cebu City took two hours and we arrived at Montebello Resorts in the afternoon. Cebu City is the second largest city in the Philippines and now Bo had the opportunity to buy a new pair of binoculars since his old par had been broken a couple of days earlier. After finding a suitable pair we had dinner at Pizza Hut before heading back to our hotel for the night.
In the morning we drove up in the mountains outside Cebu City to a site for the Cebu Flowerpecker. The location was situated in a valley and we were met and accompanied by the local guide Oking, his son Jake and the family dog. We walked along a trail in a cultivated landscape with small areas of forest, quite slippery since it had started to rain a little. Before we started the walk along the trail up to the Flowerpecker site, we play-backed for Black Shama which responded directly and came to look at us in the open. Since the rain got heavier we took cover in a small cave under a large rock formation and waited there until the rain stopped. The trail was very steep and slippery surrounded by sharp rock formations leading up to a metallic ladder and to a platform with a view over the tree-canopies in the valley. Someone had stolen the metallic steps of the ladder on the last part leading up to the actual platform but we all managed to reach it without any difficulties, even the dog. The platform was located nearby a tree in which the flowerpecker was supposed to feed in. Our tactic was to sit and wait on the platform until a bird showed up, but after five hours waiting we had not seen the species and decided to head back to Cebu City. We did not manage to see the flowerpecker but during our walk along the trail and on our stay at the platform we saw Crimson Sunbird, Red-keeled Flowerpecker, Pied Fantail, Tawny Grassbird, Streak-breasted Bulbul, Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo, Balicassiao and White-vented Whistler.
Back at our mini-bus we took farewell of Oking, Jake and the dog and started our trip back to Cebu City. Due to the raining the dirt road was very slippery and we all had to get out of the mini-bus and push it up along the steep road. Oking was very helpful and followed our way up with his motorcycle until he saw that we were ok and headed back home again. We reached our nice hotel at 17.00 p.m., had a nice dinner and an early evening
Our destination for the day was Olango Island, a flat sandy island reached by boat from Cebu City. Nicky had arranged with a motorized outrigger to take us to the island and since the weather was good and the sea calm the ride did not take longer than approximately one hour. At the harbour we rented seven small motorcycle taxis that drove us to the wetland sanctuary at the southern tip of the island. Here we walked to a platform in the shallow waters in the estuary to look at the many waders and egrets residing in the area. It was low tide and the mud-flats were full of waders, herons, gulls and terns. During our stay we saw several Chinese Egret, Little Heron, Rufous Night-Heron Grey Plover, Asian Golden-Plover, Kentish Plover, Malaysian Plover, Greater- as well as Lesser Sand-Plover, Far Eastern- and Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler Curlew Sandpiper and many more species. The birding was very much appreciated as a complement to the previous birding which mainly had been in different kind of forests.
We stayed until 12.30 p.m and returned back to Cebu City. We had a seafood lunch on our way to the airport and then entered our turbo-prop airplane to the island of Negros. We arrived in the afternoon and were picked up by our cars which took us to a place Nicky called Tabucol Bird Sanctuary, a privately owned property containing a small remnant of undisturbed lowland jungle were we resided during our stay at the island. The owner is a personal friend to Nicky and he welcomed us warmly offering us a late dinner by the poolside, a really nice end of the day.
This morning we used two 4X4 vehicles to take us to Mount Kanlaon. Nicky had arranged a clearance for us to visit a forest close to a thermal powerplant on the slope of the volcano. After a thorough security briefing we were allowed to continue up along a road to a forested area further up the mountain side. We spent the whole morning walking along a trail leading downwards from the road along the mountain slope which produced very nice species like Visayan Tarictic Hornbill, very close observations of a Flame-templed Babbler singing just a few meters away from the group and White-winged Cuckoo-shrike. We returned to our vehicles around 11.00 a.m and drove back to the Bird Sanctuary, taking a short detour to see a large colony of Flying Foxes on our way back. The rest of the day was spent at the Bird Sanctuary which produced species like Plain Bush-hen, Visayan Flowerpecker and Variable-Dwarf Kingfisher. Like yesterday we had a nice dinner by the poolside, this time also entertained by two Philippine Hawk-Owls courting each other in a tree just by the pool.
Another long travel day was in front of us. We left the Bird Sanctuary at 8.00 a.m. thanking Nickys friend for all his hospitality and generosity, letting us use the cabins on the property and share this special place not open to the public. We left Negros and flew to Manila to catch the flight to Puerto Princesa on Palawan. From Puerto Princesa we had a long trip on the road to Sabang, a small village situated on the west coast of the island. We arrived in the evening to the fantastic hotel Dalyan Beach and Mountain Resort, conveniently located just by the beach. The rooms we had were very spacious and the day ended with a really nice dinner at the hotels restaurant combined with several Pilsen Beers.
Early in the morning after breakfast we took two outriggers to Puerto Princesa Underground River National Park, a twenty minute boat-ride from the small harbour in Sabang. We were all alone at the site since it was too early for the large crowds of tourist that turns up later in the morning going for the boat-rides into the cave system. We went up to the ranger station, looking at the really large Monitor Lizards which are to be seen around the resting area on the way.
Main target was the habituated male Palawan Peacock-pheasant that normally turns up in the morning trying to find food on the ground just by the cabin of the local ranger. We did not have to wait long before the pheasant arrived and we had fantastic views of the male just a couple of meters away from us. The pheasant spent maybe ten minutes around us before it decided to go back into the forest.
After the pheasant leaving us we walked towards the entrance to the underground river, on the way looking at two Tabon Scrubfowl walking on the ground just a couple of meters from the boardwalk leading to the water. A pair of Stork-billed Kingfisher sat in the trees just by the cave entrance and we later saw a female Peregrine Falcon higher up sitting openly in a treetop. Since we were at the underground river we decided to take a trip into the cave-system as well, us being here maybe once in our lifetimes. The tours had not started yet since it was so early in the morning, but Nicky arranged for one of the guides to make an exception and take us for a trip. The trip took maybe an hour and beside the geological formations we had nice views of a big Rat Snake, a couple of really large Cave Spiders and thousands of bats of different species. When we came out again the beach was now full of tourists starting their trips into the cave, if you ever go here, be here early in the morning!
Nicky was waiting for us outside the cave and he waived at us to hurry. We tipped our captain and hurried towards Nicky who was looking at a Blue-headed Racquet-tail sitting in a treetop not far away from the beach. With this species all the possible Racquet-tails on the trip had been seen. Since it was getting late and crowded with all tourists we made a quick tour towards the ranger cabin again and managed to see Blue Paradise-Flycatcher and Palawan Blue Flycatcher and then decided to leave for a less disturbed area closer to our hotel. At this site we had Lovely Sunbird, Yellow-throated Leafbird and a variety of different Bulbuls. After that we got back to our hotel for a nice pizza-lunch and a couple of beers. It was quite hot so we spent some time having a swim in the ocean and then relaxing a little bit by the poolside- Life was really good and to make things even better we had a couple of Gin Tonics before taking a nap.
At 15.30 p.m. we continued birding along the road a few kilometres away from our hotel. The trip was productive with Palawan Tit, Palawan Flowerpecker, Sulphur-bellied Bulbul, Black-headed Bulbul, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Changeable Hawk-Eagle and Thick-billed Green Pigeon. Initially we had planned a trip to Rasa Island for the endangered Philippine Cockatoo but Nicky had told us that it sometimes could be very tough to see the birds, depending on how the weather was and how rough the sea was. Apparently the normal way to look for the birds is from boats and depending on the sea conditions it can be difficult to see anything at all. Nicky had presented an alternative site to us which he knew about which sounded as a much better choice, a small outlook from were we could see the cockatoos flying by on their way for their night roost, all on the mainland. Said and done, when the sun was setting we all stood at the lookout keeping an eye out for potential cockatoos. Two large Great Slaty Woodpecker were seen from some distance and then our driver shouted that he could see six cockatoos sitting in a tree, also that from some distance. We all hurried towards him and after a couple of minutes six cockatoos left the tree and flew away down to the mangrove area further down at the coast.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped and walked some distance into a forest playing for Palawan Scops-Owl, on our way seeing Hooded Pitta on night-roost. We managed to hear several Scops-Owls but none of them came close enough for us to spotlight them. Besides the Scops-Owl we also heard Spotted Wood-Owl, but from some distance and not responding to our playback.
In the morning we walked a couple of hundred meters from our hotel to a small river meandering through a mangrove delta, the area is said to be the oldest area of untouched mangrove that still remains in the Philippines. In a small outrigger canoe we followed the river upstream a couple of kilometres having the opportunity to see several species of kingfishers residing in the area. All in all we managed to see four species very well, Ruddy-, Stork-billed-, White-collared- and Blue Eared Kingfisher. We also had the opportunity to see two black and yellow Mangrove Snake and a small Reticulated Python curled into small balls on the mangrove branches hanging out over the water. We spent about two hours on the river before returning back to the hotel.
At 14.00 we left our hotel returning back to Puerto Princesa for the last couple of days of birdwatching before returning to Sweden. We made several stops on our way to the city and managed to see some new species not seen on the trip before, Common Flameback, Fiery Minivet, Dark-throated Oriole, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Striped Tit-Babbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Ashy-headed Babbler, Falcated Ground-Babbler, Little Spiderhunter and Palawan Hornbill.
We reached Puerto Princesa at 17.00 p.m and checked into our hotel Puerto Pension for the remaining stay at Palawan.
The target species for the day were Palawan Flycatcher and Melodious Babbler and to see those species we travelled by our mini-bus to a place Nicky called the Zig Zag Road, the old road leading to Puerto Princesa since a couple of years replaced by the new one leading along the coast. When we arrived to our starting point we quite immediately heard both Palawan Flycatcher and Melodious Babbler singing but despite long efforts with play-back we could not lure the birds into view. We continued our way along the road upwards but the bird activity was rather low and not many birds were seen. At one site we played for the Palawan Flycatcher but instead ended up with a couple of Palawan Blue Flycatcher at really close range, not being disturbed by our presence. Reaching the end of the road we again heard the Melodious Babbler, this time just nearby the road. This time we were lucky and could see the elusive bird jumping around in the small trees. After a while Bo discovered that the babbler had a nest which was visible from the road were we were standing, one male bird lying still on the nest watching us. The nest of this species had apparently not been seen before and Nicky took some time to photo- and video-document the finding before we continued down to the main road and went for lunch.
After a nice lunch we continued to Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Centre, a centre were illegally caught wildlife are taken for rehabilitation, later to be released into the wild. The centre had a small area were the animals were held in outdoor cages in a small forested grove, giving the cages and the animals within them shade. The reason for us going to this place was to try and see Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, a species that was discovered residing in the park by Nicky on a previous private visit with his family. We spent quite some time in the area and finally an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher was spotted. Since the group was spread out in the small grove looking for the bird not everyone managed to see it before it quickly disappeared in the dense vegetation. We continued to search for the bird and finally we again discovered it sitting still long enough for
everyone to have really good observations of the bird. With this species our total number of kingfishers ended at thirteen, a really good outcome of the trip.
Before returning to Manila we spent the morning at a place called Irawan Watershed Area, a protected area not far away from Puerto Princesa. Since we did not mange to see the Palawan Flycatcher the day before we now made a last effort to see this species in this area before ending our trip in the Philippines.
The area contains several stands of the bamboo preferred by the species but when we arrived we did not hear any birds singing and nothing responded to our play-back. Walking along a river we heard a Falcated Ground-Babbler close by and it also responded very well to play-back. We re-grouped in the forest and after standing very still for some time we were able to see a bird openly when trying to find out where his antagonist were hiding. We continued along the small river and suddenly a bird jumped into view, sitting with its back towards the group before flying away again. Despite the fast glimpse of the bird the characters for a Palawan Flycatcher looked good and we stopped and tried the play-back. The play-back worked well and after just a short while a Palawan Flycatcher was sitting openly on a small branch looking at us. Quite pleased with seeing this endemic bird so well we then returned to our mini-bus, our birdwatching trip to the Philippines being over.
Afterwards we took the flight back to Manila were we checked in to the Midas Hotel and Casino, really looking forward to the nice buffé which we knew were waiting for us in the evening. 12/3
Early start and transfer to the airport for the return flight back to Sweden. Since Nicky had another trip coming up in just two days we all had said goodbye to him the night before, all very pleased with the trip and the guiding provided by him.
The flight from Manila to Beijing was in time, the transfer time in Beijing being much shorter than when we arrived a month ago, but long enough to pay the Pizza Hut a visit before the last leg of the trip to Sweden.
(This is a cross-post from Birding Adventure Philippines’ blogger Trinket Canlas. Check out the original blog here)
i have never really paid too much attention to wagtails before. they came and went along with all the migrants, pretty much a given during the migratory season. at least the yellow and the grey wagtails.
during a tour a couple of weeks ago, adri added the forest wagtail to his list… described as rare by the philippine field guide. he had seen it in makiling, where it had been reported a few times before the past few years. we had hoped to see it during our bonifacio day birding in makiling, and were disappointed. still, at the back of my mind, i was looking forward to adding white wagtail to my list (also described as rare), thanks to a tip from wbcp-er ruth f.
where would this rare wagtail be found? at la mesa eco park, a mere 20 minutes from my home !
on friday i was impatiently looking for friends jops & maia and alex & tere online, wanting to set-up a date with the white wagtails for the weekend. thankfully, they were as twitchy as i was, and we set our date at 7am. (adri, unfortunately was on a trip to mindanao. but with his forest wagtail one-up, i didn’t think he’d mind i went ahead to meet the white one)
arriving at la mesa at 7am, i met up not only with jops, maia, alex and tere, but other birder/photographer friends! bong n. told us that we had just missed the targets, and showed us his photo. we hoped that the previous reports that the wagtails would return to the spillway like clockwork would hold true. so we made ourselves as comfortable as we could in the small space between a wire fence separating the spillway and a vermiculture plot. it was not hard to figure out the best place to be to spot the birds, as those who had come before us had done a bit of gardening on the vines which had covered the fence.
little heron, little egrets, common kingfisher, common sandpiper, grey wagtails. nuninuninu. osprey, zebra doves, collared kingfisher. another osprey. each high pitched peeeeepeeet had us all focusing on the bottom of the spillway several meters down. argh. another grey wagtail.
after around an hour and a half, at last! somebody declared, “ayan na sila! anjan na sila!” all conversation stopped as several binoculars and several camera lenses focused on the black and white birds which had landed on the low wall at the bottom of the spillway.
this subspecies, leucopsis, was not even reported in the kennedy guide. i had always found black and white birds beautiful and elegant, and this pair was no exception. one was greyer than the other, and had a smaller dark patch on its breast. they went about the spillway with their wagtail habits, bobbing their tails as they picked up food from the surface of the ground/cement/water. each even spent a few moments preening. action moments included a white wagtail suddenly stealing the food from its cousin grey’s beak and a sudden air attack by a collared kingfisher.
they allowed us to enjoy our observation for over half an hour! despite the distance of the birds from us, it was a very, very good sighting.
Our April 2011 Tour participant Tan Ju Lin writes about their experience in Makiling with us. Tan Ju Lin is a keen birder from Singapore and has been birding for many years now. She has traveled extensively in the Oriental Region and has seen a lot of Asian birds. She will be returning this April 2012 for another Philippine trip covering the more difficult endemics.
The Secrets and Treasures of Mt. Makiling.
Date: 10 – 23 April 2011
Places covered in the tour: Luzon, Mindoro, Negros.
Report covers: Mount Makiling.
Participants: Alfred Chia, Tai Ping Ling, Doreen Ang, Jimmy Chew and Tan Ju Lin. Write up by Tan Ju Lin.
Tour leader: Nicky Icarangal of Birding Adventure Philippines
A land of 7,107 beautiful emerald islands, blessed with natural beauty and more than 600 species of resident and migratory birds. Of these, almost a third are endemic. With such a high level of endemism, the Philippines holds great attraction for the visiting birder. With visions of ground doves with bleeding hearts, a babbler with flames for temples and kingfishers wearing indigo bands, Alfred Chia, Tai Ping Ling, Doreen Ang, Jimmy Chew and myself planned a trip with Birding Adventure Philippines in pursuit of some of the most unique and beautiful birds in South East Asia. All of us had birded in the Philippines before and were hungering for more, except for Alfred who had previously been to the Philippines on 5 separate occasions, all for work, and claimed that he had not seen more than a Eurasian Tree Sparrow. We were determined to change his fate!
We contacted Adri Constantino and lead guide Nicky Icarangal from Birding Adventure Philippines to plan a trip that would bring us from the regular birding hotspots of Mount Makiling, Subic Bay and Candaba marshes to the more remote and less visited areas such as Mt Polis in northern Luzon, Sablayan Penal Colony in Mindoro and Mount Kanlaon in Negros.
This narrative covers in-depth account of our time in Mount Makiling, a place which holds a significant number of endemic species despite its proximity to Manila. And though this narrative is removed from the format of a traditional birding report, we hope you enjoy reading this account of our 2 days birding in Mount Makiling.
After a relatively short flight from Singapore to Manila via JetStar Airways, we arrived in Manila in the morning and were met by our guide Nicky Icarangal with an incredibly comfortable coaster that would be our transport for a good part of the Luzon leg.
Birding proper for us began in the lush green campus of Los Baños Campus of University of the Philippines, on the afternoon of the 10th of April. We started birding at 4.00pm in the afternoon, when the sun was a little less fierce and when the birds started to emerge to feed before the end of the day. We drove to the known location within the campus grounds to look for the Indigo Banded Kingfisher. From the bridge where we stood we had great views of the male Indigo Banded Kingfisher, shimmering like a jewel, showing off its double blue bands and orangey rufous chest. And in the bamboo clump by the side of the bridge, some of us had views of another endemic, a Yellow-wattled Bulbul. Walking around the campus grounds, lifers for Alfred came fast and furious, with a pair of Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers on low trees by the roadside. A Striped-headed Rhabdornis gave fleeting views, and it would take another day before we all saw them well. Other birds seen walking around the campus grounds were Philippine Bulbuls, Guaiabero, Colasisi, an Oriental Cuckoo and numerous Brown Shrikes. Next, we headed to the Animal Husbandry section of the campus, and I was looking forward to scoring my first lifer of the trip. Spotted Buttonquail!
We positioned ourselves on the sides of the path and Nicky told us to get comfortable, as it would be a waiting game for the Spotted Buttonquail to appear. Fortunately, we did not have to test our resolve, and a pair of Spotted Buttonquails came walking after about half an hour. My first lifer for the trip! Whilst waiting, we also had other distractions in the form of a Coppersmith Barbet, Philippine Hawk Cuckoo, several Oriental Cuckoos, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Striated Grassbird and Grey-streaked Flycatchers. In the fields in the area we also counted numerous Cattle Egrets, Plain Bush hen, White-breasted Waterhen, Scaly-breasted and White-bellied Munias.
At dusk we continued our quest for more Philippine endemics, with 3 Philippine Hawk Owls seen and an extremely uncooperative Philippine Nightjar, which flew in and promptly out of sight again. Philippine Scops Owl was heard and not seen, and we would not nail this bird until some days later. Still, it was the start of a reasonably good run of night birds seen during the 2 weeks of our tour.
The thing with birding in the Philippines is that the sun rises incredibly early. At most of our destinations, the sky would already be reasonably bright at 5.00 in the morning. This translates to early morning starts and waking up at an unearthly hour of 3.30 am on many days. Sometimes 4.00 am if we were lucky.
Our first morning of early starts was well worth our efforts, as bumping our way up Mount Makiling in a banged up jeepney, Nicky yells for the driver to stop and there in the middle of the path, standing in the headlights of the jeepney, stood an Ashy Ground Thrush! We froze momentarily as so did the bird, and recovering from our surprise, we quickly trained our bins on this amazing bird before it hopped off round the corner. Climbing gingerly out of the jeepney, and creeping round the corner we found the thrush again feeding on the ground. Jimmy even managed to set up his tripod and 500mm camera and secured quite a few shots before it took flight. That was Mt Makiling’s first hint not to underestimate what secrets and treasures its forests could hold. And reveal its treasures it did…!
The early morning calls of the Spotted Wood Kingfisher rang through the forests, and it was not long before Nicky spotted a male perched in the trees about 10 metres back from the path. And like many forest kingfishers, this Spotted Wood-Kingfisher managed to stay inconspicuous despite garbed in brilliant blues, greens, bright white and hues of orange. That morning, we also enjoyed good views of the Grey-backed Tailorbird, Philippine Serpent-Eagle, Red-crested Malkoha, Balicassiao, Elegant Tits, manic-looking Sulphur-billed Nuthatches racing up, down and round and round the trees and several handsome White-browed Shamas.
On the upper parts of Mt Makiling, the trails became narrower and we were stopped in our tracks by Nicky who hissed, “Pechora Pipit”! Lo and behold, walking on the side of the track was a Pechora Pipit with its defining “V” mark on its back. It continued walking in the opposite direction and soon melted into the forest.
Surely, it was a sign of good things to come…. I held my breath as Nicky played the call of the Luzon Bleeding-Heart. It was a bird we all were secretly hoping for but did not think we would ever lay our eyes on. So, when we actually heard a response, it set our pulses racing and hearts beating! The calls came closer and closer and quite suddenly a Luzon Bleeding-Heart in its full glory flew onto an exposed branch, walked a foot or two, before turning around and flying off without any sound of wing beats! It was surreal, and it must have been that I so happened to be looking at the correct spot of the forest. I was elated and strangely disappointed at the same time for all the others in our group had not seen the bird! It must have been not being able to share in the joy of such a mega-tick. It was a good thing that Nicky is never one to give up and persists until everyone in the group has seen the bird. He soon called in a second bird further up the trail. This was clearly a different bird, as this individual had a bigger and deeper coloured patch of red on its chest compared to the first bleeding-heart, which had a smaller and fainter crimson wash on its breast. It walked about on the side of the trail above us, playing hide and seek with us amongst the undergrowth, finally giving almost everyone (but one person!) views. It was almost close to a miracle that Nicky managed to spot the bird again walking some 100 -150 metres from where we last saw it and the final person in our group (who shall remain unnamed!) saw the Luzon Bleeding-heart. Success!!
Other key species seen at Mount Makiling included Lowland White-eye, Yellowish White-eye, Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo, Blue-headed Fantail, Philippine Trogon and Philippine Falconet.
For a complete bird list of Tan Ju Lin and party’s April 2011 Tour, please click here.
This week I was rewarded with a lifer – a nesting colony of Bridled Terns on San Bernandino Island, an isolated rocky islet in the Pacific, off the coast of Sorsogon, Southern Luzon. The Philippine field guide lists this seabird as a rare resident and was previously recorded only in Apo Reef in Mindoro, Maturin Rocks in Catanduanes, Sulu Sea and in other isolated islands off the coast of Mindanao, Palawan and the Batanes and Babuyan Islands in the northern extremes of the Philippines.
It is a medium-sized tern with long wings and a deeply forked tail. The upperparts are dark brownish grey and the head is black with a distinctive white “V” on the forehead. It is mostly a pelagic species but returns to rocky islets to roost and to nest. Eggs are scattered in the inaccessible cracks on the islets’ sheer cliffs.
Bridled Tern, Sterna anaethetus
July 2011, San Bernandino Island, off Bulusan, Sorsogon, Southern Philippines
Bridled Terns resting
It was an exciting trip, we had to take a 1 1/2 hour boat ride from Sorsogon to reach San Bernandino island. The waves were quite big considering there was no storm and we left early in the morning (when the Pacific Ocean should be relatively calmer). We rode a big, stable motorized outrigger banca designed to fit 30 people (we were only 4 plus the 3 boatmen) because at these times of the year the seas can become rough due to the monsoons. But when we reach the islet, we were rewarded with an awesome sight: a beautiful lighthouse on top of a hill surrounded by rocky cliffs, clear and wonderful reefs supporting a variety of marine life and of course the magnificent colony of seabirds roosting on the island. We were greeted by Eastern Reef Egrets in dark and white phases, then came the Bridled and Black-naped Terns. Our team was able to count around 220 Bridled Terns and 100 Black-naped Terns. Unfortunately, eggs of either the Bridled or the Black-naped Tern, or both, were being collected at the time of our visit from the larger island (with the lighthouse) by one man. Our boatmen reported that eggs are gathered regularly from the island. We reported the incident to the authorities since nesting colonies of this rare species are highly uncommon and this site should be protected at all cost.
San Bernandino Lighthouse “Parola”
Black-naped Tern, Sterna sumatrana
July 2011, San Bernandino Island, off Bulusan, Sorsogon, Southern Philippines
Many thanks to our hosts for this trip: World Bank – Philippines and the honorable Mayor Ronnel Lim and the Municipality of Gubat, Sorsogon.
Be sure to check out this uncommon migrant – an Oriental Cuckoo, feeding on caterpillars in an Acacia tree in the University of the Philippines Diliman. This individual will be probably stay in the area for a few days more – fattening up with juicy worms for its long travel back to its breeding grounds.
Also check out this Grey Streaked Flycatcher:
And this gorgeous Blue Rock-thrush in the Marine Science Institute grounds
Be on the look-out as well for nesting Coppersmith Barbets, Colasisi and Pied Trillers.
It is so nice to have a birdy site close to the city!
This is one of the highlight birds of the recently concluded 1st Asian Bird Fair birding trip to Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, Mindanao last September 27 – October 3, 2010. This birding trip was organized by us in cooperation with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines to showcase our wonderful birds to our Asian neighbors. The group was led by Nicky Icarangal and Adrian Constantino and was composed of birders from the Nature Society (Singapore), Hong Kong Birdwatching Society, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Wild Bird Society of Taipei and Asian Raptor Research Conservation Network. It was a two-part tour, with the first leg starting off at Mt. Kitanglad National Park to showcase Mindanao’s montane endemics birds. The second leg was in PICOP, Bislig, Surigao for the lowland specialties. The highlights of trip include the Great Philippine Eagle (shown above), Red-eared Parrotfinch, Apo Mynah, Apo Sunbird, Bukidnon Woodcock, Rufous, Writhed and Mindanao Hornbills, Short-crested Monarch, Steere’s Pitta, Philippine (Pinsker’s) Hawk-Eagle, among others.
Please be sure to check the trip report and the trip list here. More pictures of birds seen during this trip can be viewed in our galleries page while pictures from the trip can be seen by following us on Facebook.
The next Asian Bird Fair will be held in Taipei, Taiwan. To know more about the 1st Asian Bird Fair in Davao City, please check www.birdwatch.ph.