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Pico de Loro

Trip to Pico de Loro area
Feb 13, 2003
by James McCarthy

Left home at 5:15 and passed through Tagaytay, down through the market.

Weather was extremely windy (SE), though not too sunny.

Drove along road past Puerto Azul until came to the forest area. A large truck made us slow down and I eventually stop to let it go ahead. This proved to be very lucky.

The initial place we stopped was for a single Brahminy Kite but when about 4-5 were in the air ahead we stopped again. Watching them circling in the heavy gusts we saw a mix of adults and sub-adult bird well. At this time a Tarictic Hornbill was calling along the cliffs to the left and I put the scope on it - a young bird that looked fairly recently fledged. After a few minutes more birds joined it until there were (it seemed) about 5-10 moving from tree to tree along the cliff. Suddenly a mass of hornbills numbering nearly 30 birds burst calling into the air above the road as a large hawk dove through passed less than 100 yards away - time enough to see a brown streaked body, large head and chest, an incredibly long tail and broad powerful wings. I thought I saw an eye stripe but wasn't certain.

Having hardly had time to think what this was we had more Brahminy Kites coming down the road..when suddenly a new bird of prey came straight towards us about 100 yards up. It was easy to identify a Black Kite.only the 2nd record ever for the Philippines (the first in Palawan in 1908 or something). The bird was a classic Kite, shallow forked tail though not too much white at the base of the primaries (compared to the birds in Europe) and only a slightly pale head. I would think it was a 2 year was also light in build but this may be just against the other kites and not having seen one for several years (I will see though if the asian sub-species is slighter than the european one). It flew for 2-3 minutes right over us in full sunlight giving us an excellent view.

Now I went back to the long tailed bird and within a few seconds had made up my was a Northern Goshawk. I just needed to check the size versus the hornbills, which had seemed about the same.and indeed they are. A 1st for the Philippines. The tail was almost ridiculously long and being of this size and build leaves me with no doubt about the ID even though this isn't a bird I know that well (I have only seen a handful in europe).

After all this excitement we were able to catch even more B. Kites and a single Rufous Bellied Eagle all-swirling around very close over the road. Calling in the forest to the side were a lot of Hornbills (this group possibly had 30-50 birds in total - the largest group have seen in the Philippines), Coleto, Phil Bulbul (v common indeed), Balicasio, a couple of Stripe Headed Rhabdornis, a flock of about 15-20 Ashy Minivets and a few other birds calling including Yellow Bellied Fruit Dove and Barbets.

We then drove on around the forest and saw even more Hornbills, Bulbuls, a few for Fruit Doves calling and some other species including Orange Bellied, Pygmy and Red Keeled Flowerpeckers, Olive Backed Sunbirds, 2 species of Malkoa, Grey Streaked Flycatcher, Arctic Warblers and Blue Headed Fantail. We also managed to catch good views of a pair of Flamebacks.

A walk up towards Pico De Loro produced little new though thee were some small birds in a forest patch there with a very liquid song that I didn't know. Could possibly have been one of the Flowerpeckers. Also got a quick look at a Grey Backed Tailorbird.

Finally returning to the road we watched a large group of Red Rumped Swallows and the family party of Falconets on the wires.though the latter's post is already condemned for replacement by a concrete one (for your reference it is 1.45 Km from the Petron station after the Puerto Azul turn-off - easy to photograph). The raptors were still circling though no sign the rare ones this morning. One new bird did come around the corner though - extremely slim winged and long tailed I initially called it a Honey Buzzard since I couldn't place it. On checking through the raptors in the book it clearly was a Jergons Baza.a new bird for me. We didn't see any plumage details but in flight it was a bit like a small thin-winged Honey Buzzard or a very slim Grey Faced buzzard. Drove home and got back by about 1.30. A GREAT DAY!!!