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Taal Lake

Location: TAAL LAKE
Date: FEB. 16, 2003
Time: 4.30PM - 6PM
Birders: MIKE & BEN LU


Yesterday afternoon I returned to the lookout point along the shores to Taal Lake with my brother, Ben. The spot we chose overlooks the fishpen with the Taal Volcano looming in the background.

The telephone lines above had BARN SWALLOWS perched in groupings of 5 and 6 individuals. I counted them, 26 in all plus 3 more performing aerial maneuvers by the lakeshore.

Ben, with the binocs slung, lead the way down the steep banks to the shore. I followed a few steps behind armed with my Kennedy and my Fisher books. Ben trained his sights on the fishpens while I scanned my guidebook to determine if the identity of the birds. Before we knew it, 2 fishermen had come from behind us and spoke to us in English. When I answered back, one of them quipped "Walang hiya, marunong pala managalog !" ... hehehe ... of course, we could pass overselves as Japanese scientists

. I had identified the birds manning the fishpens as LITTLE HERONS and showed the pictures to the fishermen for confirmation. There were also a few BLACK-CAPPED NIGHT HERONS which are slightly larger in size. As we talked with the fishermen, the LITTLE HERONS would glide down from the trees and down to the fishpens ... chasing each other as they staked their own territory. As I scanned the fishpens, I noticed a LITTLE EGRET snapping at a Little Heron. I asked the fishermen if the birds might eat the fish that they raise. They replied that the birds only eat the semilla - do they mean fingerlings ? - and then added that they eat the sick ones which won't grow into adulthood anyways. At least for now, the birds are safe from humans. My brother proposed that if there is just one Little Heron in every fishpen, then there must be hundreds of herons out there. Actually some of the fishpens have up to 3 Little Herons. But since I could only count the ones I can see, my headcount is about 20+. BLACK-CAPPED NIGHT HERONS with 3 in the fishpens and 4 more that would fly by later would total 7. Maybe next time we'll rent a boat and go around the fishpens.

We went up to where our car is parked and continued to bird from the lookout. 3 WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHERS were chasing each other. A COMMON KINGFISHER sat on a quiet corner while a WHITE-THROATED KINGFISHER nearby was being shooed away by a Little Heron. Previously I have only seen the White-Throated Kingfisher in flight. This is the first-time I spotted one perched and noticed that it is comparatively larger than the tiny Common Kingfisher. In the scrubland by the mountainside a pair of YELLOW-VENTED BULBULS were hopping in the madre de cacao while in the bushy undergrowth I spied upon 2 noisy PIED FANTAILS.

The albino coucal I hoped to see was nowhere to be found, but I got a tip from the fishermen ... mas marami yan bandang Marso. The Kennedy guide notes that these birds breed in small colonies starting April, perhaps they get more conspicuous then ? Then pointing to the Black-Capped Night Herons, dumarami yan bandang Agosto-Setyembre - although the Kennedy guide has migrant record only in late September. Anyways, it only means we have to go back then :)

*Earlier in the day, Mads and I shared an observation that while pictures of White-Collared Kingfishers show the cap as the same blue tone as the rest of the body plumage, in reality the cap looks so much darker - almost black even in the sunlight. This applies to all the birds I have seen in different localities. Perhaps the Phil subspecies has a different color?

1. Barn Swallow - 29
2. Little Heron - 20+
3. Black-Capped Night Heron - 7
4. Little Egret -1
5. White-Collared Kingfisher - 3
6. Common Kingfisher - 1
7. White-Throated Kingfisher -1 .
8. Yellow-Vented Bulbul -2
9. Pied Fantail - 2