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Ilaya & Sampaloc Lake

Weekend Birding in San Pablo by Ned Liuag

San Pablo was rather perplexing bird-wise this weekend. The dry season had clearly set in, with cloudless skies and high, dry winds throughout.

SATURDAY, 15 February

First birds this weekend were two RED-KEELED FLOWERPECKERS in the chico tree behind the orchidarium. This species is particularly attracted to this tree, the branches of which are clustered with a kind of an aerial plant, the kind that produces berries. Every time I see these flowerpeckers feeding, they are always in the act of dropping a bit of green plant material from their beaks.

My brother, two nieces and I hiked around Sampaloc Lake from 4:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. Our bird walk only turned up a few birds - five WHISKERED TERNS, 18 PACIFIC SWALLOWS lined up on a rope, a handful of ASIAN PALM SWIFTS, one BROWN SHRIKE, five EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS, and one YELLOW WAGTAIL.

We waited till sunset for "5:45" to make its appearance, but the Peregrine Falcon was a no show this afternoon. My mother did report to me the appearance of a pair of night herons in the neighborhood last month. One of the pair perched on a neighbor's TV antenna. The nanny in my brother's employ confirmed this sighting. Based on their description, I believe the birds to be Rufous Night Herons, common residents in the Seven Lakes area, but not known to stray into the city.

SUNDAY, 16 February

Today proved more productive, with the insistent call of a flowerpecker rousing me from bed at 6:00 am. From our western room overlooking the orchard, I spotted the first of two Brown Shrikes that had taken winter residence there. These two were particularly noisy and showy this morning unlike during the December holidays. I spotted the female whose territory includes the orchidarium at her tree top larder a bit later. She has been successful in building up her reserves of fat for the flight back to the Asian mainland, which should take place a few weeks from now.

While observing the female Brown Shrike, I got a good close look at a single LOWLAND WHITE-EYE in the lanzones tree in the orchidarium. Shortly after it took off, a flock of four of this species flew east in the direction of Mount San Cristobal. Usually the most common species in the neighborhood, Lowland White-eyes were conspicuously absent around Sampaloc Lake, where they are quite tame.

Interestingly, the pair of YELLOW-VENTED BULBULS known to keep to the next-door neighbor's garden has extended their territory into ours. This pair was observed perching in various trees during the next three hours. One thing I observed was that the number and visibility of Tree Sparrows in the yard and surrounding area has increased since December, when I could only report a handful.

I did not get to see my favorite Red-Keeled Flowerpeckers as much as I like today. A single bird zipped past as I started counting swallows perched on their favorite TV aerial across from the IFI church. Counted five Pacific Swallows and 18 BARN SWALLOWS, of the latter two belonged to the race saturata (identified by the cinnamon under parts). An Asian Palm Swift and an ISLAND SWIFT also made their appearances over the orchard during this time.

I caught sight of a male OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD perched on another TV antenna up the street towards the INC chapel and to my surprise a male ORANGE-BELLIED FLOWERPECKER showed up on the next-door neighbor's aerial - a new addition to my San Pablo species list! (The endemic Pygmy and Red-keeled Flowerpeckers are among the common visitors to our garden here.)

There are three birds that I could not identify with certainty. The first, I spotted on top of the Laguna College Science Building in the adjoining lot was the size of a Yellow-Vented Bulbul, with a strong bill and buff under parts. It might have been an Oriental Reed Warbler.

The second bird was seen in the rambutan tree beside the banana plants, with the behavior and about the size of a Tree Sparrow, which I think might be an immature Scaly-breasted Munia.

The third bird, I am sure is quite unbelievable but I saw it four times flying above the Laguna College campus with its distinctly long tail - appeared to be a Wire-tailed Swallow! This species is not known to reside in the country. According to the photographic guide by Morten Strange, this swallow is a generally scarce resident in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and possibly Cambodia. Until somebody else can actually confirm the appearance of this species in Luzon, let's put this down in the 2003 bird list as a mutant Barn Swallow.

SPECIES LIST for ILAYA (unless specified)
1. Whiskered Tern - 5 (Sampaloc Lake)
2. Rock Dove - 5
3. Asian Palm Swift - a few (Sampaloc Lake), singles above house
4. Island Swift - 1
5. Barn Swallow - 18
6 . Pacific Swallow - 18 (Sampaloc Lake), 5
7. Yellow-Vented Bulbul - 2
8. Yellow Wagtail - 1 (Sampaloc Lake)
9. Brown Shrike - 1 (Sampaloc Lake), 2
10. Olive-backed Sunbird - 1 male
11. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker - 1 male
12. Red-keeled Flowerpecker - 2
13. Lowland White-eye - 4
14. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Common