(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.
there are four species of wagtails reported in the philippines: grey, yellow, white and forest. i had recently written about the hundred or so yellow wagtails i saw in lipa, and i had run into several greys in makiling and tanay during recent trips.
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 !
i was hopeful that these were not merely passing through as they had been reported (and photographed) everyday of the week, the latest of the bird sensations to be discovered at the la mesa eco park.
how could i resist the twitch?
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! (there they are!) ” 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.
white wagtail… check!