Nesting Lowland White-eyes

Most of the migrants have left and it is the time for nesting for Philippine resident birds. We have recently stumbled upon these Luzon endemic Lowland White-eyes nesting in a nature park within busy Metro Manila (the new site for this amazing and uncommon Ashy Ground Thrush).

Lowland White-eyes are common Luzon endemics (with a small population in the Lanyu Islands of Taiwan) that are found in forest, forest edge, even in gardens in cities. They move in noisy groups and sometimes in mixed flocks with Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Pied Triller, Golden-bellied Flyeater and Olive-backed Sunibird. We have observed at least two pairs of nesting white-eyes in a single tree, with one pair still sitting on the nest (first part of the video) and the other pair with two chicks on the nest. The cup-shaped nest can be found around 3 meters from the ground on a broad-leafed tree beside a small stream. The nest is made of small, dried twigs tightly woven around a small branch of the tree. The parents will first perch on a branch half a meter below the nest and then check out if there are potential threats and then will fly in to the nest and would take turns in delivering small berries to the chicks and would pick up and clean up the chicks’ fecal sacs from time to time.

Hopefully, in a few more days, the chicks would have fledged (and 3-4 new eggs hatched?) and we will have atleast two more white-eyes in La Mesa EcoPark. 🙂

Lowland White-eye, Zosterops meyeni
La Mesa Ecopark, Quezon City,Metro Manila, Luzon, Philippines

lowland white-eye

Flowerpeckers of the Philippines

The Philippines is home to a number of flowerpeckers, small, stout passerine birds, with short thick decurved bills designed for eating small fruits as well as to sip nectar from flowers. They are really small and very active birds and is usually found in a mixed feeding flock together with other birds such as sunbirds, white-eyes, tits and fantails. Here in the Philippines, most flowerpeckers can be seen in the forests , from lowland up to montane areas, while the common ones can sometimes be found in secondary growth and some backyard gardens. They are one of the primary seed dispersal agents for small berries as well as mistletoes, parasitic plants that grow on the crowns of other plant species and depend on birds for propagation.

This one here is a Palawan Flowerpecker carrying a small berry. This one ranges in Palawan only. It is one of the more common flowerpeckers and sometimes it can be seen in the gardens in the capital city of Puerto Princesa.

Palawan Flowerpecker

This is a high elevation Mindanao endemic – Olive-capped Flowerpecker and can be found only in forests above 900 meters. The most reliable site for this flowerpecker is in Mt. Kitanglad Mountain Range, home of the mighty Philippine Eagle.

Olive-capped Flowerpecker

Then this is probably the most common endemic flowerpecker – Red-keeled Flowerpecker. It ranges all over the country except Palawan and is believed by field biologists to bully the ultra-rare Cebu Flowerpecker in Cebu.

This is a Buzzing Flowerpecker, a fairly drab-looking frugivore that gives a continuous high-pitched buzzing call. It ranges Luzon, Mindanao, Samar and Leyte and Bohol.
This picture is from Mindanao …
Buzzing Flowerpecker
while this video is from Mt. Polis in Luzon. Notice the difference.

Then, there is this Pygmy Flowerpecker, the smallest flowerpecker in the Philippines. It is characterized by its very thin bill, narrow white throat and can be found all throughout the Philippines except in the island of Panay.

There are a few more endemic flowerpeckers like this Flame-crowned Flowerpecker (left) and this Bicolored Flowerpecker (right). The Flame-crowned Flowerpecker ranges in the high elevation mountains of Luzon and Mindanao. The one on the left was taken in Mt. Polis, Luzon while the Bicolored Flowerpecker is a lowland flowerpecker distinguished from the Red-keeled by its very stout bill.

Other endemic flowerpeckers include the Striped Flowerpecker – similar to a Grey-streaked Flycatcher but this one wags its tail sideways – found in most islands through the Philippines; the uncommon lowland fruigivore Olive-backed Flowerpecker – found in Luzon, Mindanao, Samar and Leyte; the ultra rare Cebu Flowerpecker – found only in the remaining forests of Cebu, a small island in Central Philippines; the highly localized Whiskered Flowerpecker found only in the highlands of Mindanao; Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker from Mindoro and Visayan Flowerpecker, a split from Red-keeled Flowerpecker, found in Negros.

There are two non-endemic flowerpeckers: this gorgeous Orange-bellied Flowerpecker ranging from most Philippine islands
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

And this Fire-breasted Flowerpecker from high elevation mountains of Luzon and Mindanao.

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

So next time you go out birding, make sure you pay attention to these small flowerpeckers, they maybe your next tick! 🙂

Next post, more videos from this excellent new site in Northern Luzon: Camp Sawa.

a season for wagtails

(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!

Be sure to check them out before they leave…

Local birders – go to UP Diliman now.

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.

Oriental Cuckoo
Oriental Cuckoo

Also check out this Grey Streaked Flycatcher:

Grey-streaked Flycatcher
Grey-streaked Flycatcher

And this gorgeous Blue Rock-thrush in the Marine Science Institute grounds

Blue Rock-thrush
Blue Rock-thrush

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!

Rare Migrant to Luzon:
Ashy Drongo ssp leucogenis

Here is a video of an Ashy Drongo that Nicky videoscoped from Makiling a few months back. This is the subspecies leucogenis, a rare migrant to the Philippines, with just one other report a few years back in the local bird club’s records. Incidentally, the previous sighting was also from the lowland forests of Mt. Makiling, Laguna. The other race leucophaeus shown below the video ranges only in Palawan where it is a common bird, often found in exposed perches. What big difference in terms of plumage! Possible split? 🙂

Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus leucogenis
Mt. Makiling, Laguna, Luzon, Philippines

Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus leucophaeus
Coron, Busuanga Island, Palawan, Philippines

Ashy Drongo