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Coastal Road & Tambo Mudflats, Parañaque

Ned Liuag

Location: Coastal Road and Ital-Thai construction area
Date: 02 March 2003
Time: 6:30 am - 10:00 am
Weather: Dry conditions, bright and clear skies
Birders: Mike Lu, Mads Bajarias and Ned Liuag

Mike Lu and I returned to Tambo in Parañaque this morning to check on the status of the sites we birded early last month. We entered the grassland at 6:30 by the usual route near the unfinished section of Coastal Mall shopping complex. The entire grassland had been consumed by a recent and bigger grassfire, clearing large swathes around the main trail.

We saw our first birds at the trailhead - a flock of eight juvenile SCALY-BREASTED MUNIAS foraging in the dry grass beside Macapagal Boulevard and a handful of BARN SWALLOWS overhead. Though early in the day, it was already quite hot.

We headed directly down the side path leading to the channel marked Lagoon B in Map 90 of the CitiAtlas. From the trail, we could see that the first phase of construction had started in the ASEANA Business Park on the opposite bank. The tide had reached its lowest ebb when we arrived, leaving large sections of exposed. This allowed us to get closer to the water and enjoy unobstructed views up and down the channel.

>From the top of the trail, we could already see LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS foraging on one of the sandbars. Moving quietly so as not to disturb the plovers, we moved down the slope to the shore and saw three LITTLE EGRETS searching for prey in the shallows upstream. We also had good looks at five WHISKERED TERNS that flew back and forth close as five meters from our position. One LITTLE HERON broke cover shortly after. As we tracking the heron’s flight downstream, we caught sight of a COMMON SANDPIPER picking its way on the opposite bank and two COMMON KINGFISHERS zipping across the surface of the water. Training our binoculars in the grass above us, we caught sight of today’s first CLAMOROUS REED WARBLERS.

Because the grassfire had cleared the vegetation, Mike and I were able to climb a pair of 10-foot mounds beside the channel and get a 360-degree view of the area. This point shall be designated as Point One. From the top of the rise, one got a panoramic view of the Makati skyline to the northeast; our old birding area in the SM Bay City property to the north; dry grasslands and the mudflats of Lagoon C to the west, and Manila Bay beyond.

>From our vantage, we could easily see the large congregation of herons and egrets in the scrub on the western edge of the Asia World property adjacent the mudflats. As the sun rose we could see flocks of as many as 25 herons arriving from the west and south. The arrivals would continue for the next hour.

It was past 7:00 when Mads Bajarias, who had been hiking in Makiling yesterday, rang Mike on his cell phone to inform us that he had arrived. As he spoke to Mads, the Little Heron flapped back from its hunting ground to perch in the reeds a few meters behind Mike. I could see Mads at the trailhead a quarter of a kilometer away. Then the ground caved in from under Mike and he nearly fell into the pit in the middle of the neighboring mound. This incident distracted us somewhat and we lost sight of Mads in the tall grass. It turned out that Mads had taken the left fork in the trail leading to the "Floating *Village," the fishing community Mike and I had visited in February. It turned out to be productive for him. In the area, he located a single BRIGHT-CAPPED CISTICOLA and the first of the BROWN SHRIKES, which he notes had rather gray heads. This suggests the lucionensis subspecies from China. I did not locate any of the rufous race superciliosus, which I found more common during my trips to the Bay City (South Reclamation Area) grasslands last year. The plumage of the Brown Shrikes here was stained with ash from the fires, giving them an untidy appearance.

Mads linked up with us a short distance from the mound and we went around the fence and followed the channel that branches from Lagoon B towards the mudflats. We crossed the brook and went up the small rise (designated as Point Two) above the thorny scrub and old mangrove stand. This is the same observation point Mike and I used to view the flats last month. From here, we saw a pair of Little Egrets in the shallows of Lagoon C and scores of plovers on a sandbar, which we identified to be Little Ringed Plovers. In the dead bush beside the brook, we saw a Common Kingfisher then a short time later it was replaced by the first WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHER of the day.

Against the backdrop of condominium towers, we estimated over 100 BLACK-CROWNED and RUFOUS NIGHT-HERONS flying in the vicinity of Asia World CityThe majority of herons I saw in the Asia World property were Black-Crowned Night-Herons. One even decided to perch in the mangrove stand less than 10 meters from us.

We decided to walk across the flats and see if we could cross to the island and thence reach the bay, but we did not relish the thought of wading in the shallows. We were halfway across the flats, watching the herons flapping overhead when the tide came in, first bubbling up from the tiny holes in the sand. This called for a hasty retreat.

We proceeded to explore the thickets parallel the fence that leads to the gate of the Tambo fishing village. In the thorny aruma scrub below Point Two, we spotted another Clamorous Reed Warbler. Mike flushed out a ZEBRA DOVE and a pair of PIED FANTAILS that had been calling in the undergrowth, while Mads and I tried to get a better view of tiny warblers that was hopping among branches armed with two-inch thorns.

Mads and I spent almost 10 minutes peering among the thorns. The birds we were certainly the size and shape of GOLDEN-BELLIED GERYGONES, except the throat, chest and part of the belly appeared yellowish and the rest of the way dirty white. The birds were in the right habitat but we could not decide until we heard it vocalize part of its wheezy song. (Considering that there is one species of Darwin’s ground finch living in isolation on one Galapagos island and it practically changes in size and bill shape from year to year owing environmental changes, a variation in plumage is no surprise.)

Future visits to this area should afford time for a closer inspection of the thickets and mangrove stand. This should turn up more interesting species.

Mike said the croak-like calls we could hear coming from the regenerating mangroves could be a species of bittern.

On the way back to Point One, we stopped to watch another White-Collared Kingfisher in graceful flight above the flats and close looks at a Common Kingfisher perched in a hole in the bank just above the water surface. We also chanced upon a Common Sandpiper hunting its next meal along the opposite bank.

The tide was rising steadily when we returned to the main trail and headed for Point One. On the bank of Lagoon B opposite Point One, we caught sight of a single LESSER SAND-PLOVER. The Little Egrets were still foraging upstream, but most of the plovers had flown into the ASEANA Business Park grassland. By half-past 8:00, the sun had become too hot to bear and we decided it was time to head for the Coastal Road. We saw a few more Brown Shrikes - all lucionensis subspecies, a Zebra Dove, a handful of EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS, the usual Barn Swallows and the flock of juvenile Scaly-Breasted Munia on the way back to the car.

Traffic was light towards the Coastal Road and we reached the rundown restaurant complex shortly. To our complete surprise, the flats opposite the restaurant were teeming with bird life. In this area, the number of GREY HERONS had risen from 55 in February to 62. We also counted 44 egrets, of which I determined eight to be GREAT EGRETS and the majority closest to shore being Little Egrets. Among the dozens of unidentified plovers gathered in the middle of the flats, about 50 meters from the embankment, were two BLACK-HEADED GULLS and nearby a single White-Collared Kingfisher sat on a piece of driftwood. Soon after we arrived, a dozen Whiskered Terns burst from the flats and started wheeling in agitation above the shallows.

Many of the egrets were further out near the Ital-Thai construction compound, our next destination. However when we reached there, we discovered that the party of clam foragers wading across the flats had spooked the flock. At this time, Mike also remembered that he had his brother’s camera with its 200-mm lens in the back with us. Lucky for us, we spotted a group of 14 waders from the embankment outside the Ital-Thai gate.

Scanning the flats for egrets, I had not paid the waders close attention.

Because of their all-white bellies and thin black bills, I believe these to be MARSH SANDPIPERS though our list of suspects included Common Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper. I could still be wrong, so we have to wait and hope that the photographs Mads took from the car window turn up well.

A walk along the embankment turned up more Little Ringed Plovers, a Common Sandpiper and one female MALAYSIAN PLOVER. While Mads tried to angle for a better photo of the Little Egret perched on a wicker basket in the middle of the shallows, I wandered off into the nearby scrub. I inadvertently flushed three Zebra Doves down the trail and a pair of Pied Fantails and four White-Collared Kingfishers in Mads and Mike’s direction. Trudging back to the car in 31-degree heat, our noise caused a Little Heron to launch itself from the reeds. The last bird of the day proved to be a TAWNY GRASSBIRD, which Mike and I heard in the grass nearby before it flew towards cover in the distance.

Nothing like a trip to the mudflats to make my day!

NED

Species List:
1. Grey Heron - 62 in mud flats 100+ meters from rundown restaurants off Coastal Road
2. Great Egret - 8 in mud flats off rundown restaurants
3. Little Egret - 3 in Lagoon B, 2 in Tambo Mudflats, 30+ in flats off restaurants
4. Little Heron - singles in Lagoon B and flats outside Ital-Thai construction site
5. Rufous Night-Heron
6. Black-Crowned Night Heron - together with previous species, 100+in AsiaWorld City
7. Little Ringed Plover - Common throughout
8. Malaysian Plover - single female in flats outside Ital-Thai construction area
9. Lesser Sand-Plover - single seen in Lagoon B
10. Common Sandpiper - Singles in all sites
11. Marsh Sandpiper - 14 in flats outside Ital-Thai construction area
12. Black-Headed Gull - 2 in flats off restaurants
13. Whiskered Tern - 10+ in Tambo area and flats off restaurants
14. Zebra Dove - singles in Tambo grassland, 3 in scrub outside Ital-Thai construction area
15. Common Kingfisher - 2 in Lagoon B, 2 in Tambo Mudflats
16. White-Collared Kingfisher - singles in Tambo Mudflats, 1 off restaurants in Coastal Road, 4 outside Ital-Thai construction site
17. Barn Swallow - common in Tambo grassland and Lagoon B
18. Golden-Bellied Gerygone - pairs in scrub thicket bordering Tambo Mudflats
19. Clamorous Reed Warbler - 2 in Tambo grassland
20. Tawny Grassbird - 1 in scrub outside Ital-Thai construction site
21. Bright-Capped Cisticola - 1 seen by Mads in Tambo grassland
22. Pied Fantail - 2 in scrub thicket bordering Tambo Mudflats, 2 in scrub outside Ital-Thai construction site
23. Brown Shrike - common in Tambo grassland
24. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - scant numbers in Tambo grassland and scrub outside Ital-Thai construction site
25. Scaly-Breasted Munia - flock of 8 juveniles on edge of Tambo grassland