March 22 - 23, 2003
Bajarias and Lu-Ann Fuentes as part of the Meralco Mountaineers
expedition Extreme weather conditions, fierce wind and rain
Last weekend Lu-Ann Fuentes and I joined members of the Meralco
Mountaineers for a "fun climb" to Mt. Pulag using the Ranger
was a last minute addition to the group. Having initially
declined after seeing the tight itinerary, I finally decided
to join if only to get as much info for future birding trips
to this area. So last friday Macrh 21 at 10pm, 13 of us got
on the bus to Baguio City. We arrived 4am. A 4WD jeep picked
us up at 5am for the 6-hour trip to the jump-off point. After
a bumpy and dusty ride we arrived around 11am and had our
lunch at the ranger station of the Mt Pulag National Park.
the way, our jeep stopped at the Ambuklao Dam and I got super-looks
at a flock of Red-rumped Swallows. Their underparts were heavily
streaked. The swallows were tame and perched quite close to
the bridge. A woman who was selling tilapia along the road
said the swallows are here all-year round. We also saw a swallow
pair mating (over the sluice-gates)!
the red-rumps, we saw a handful of white-rumped species which
were about the size of the Red-rumped Swallows but I couldn't
get a clear enough look
another stop-over (our elevation at this point was around
1000 meters above sea level), we saw Elegant Tits which was
a good sign because this bird almost always travel with other
species. This time the tits were in the company of White-eyes.
According to elevation I should be seeing Mountain White-Eyes
but I honestly can't tell if they were Lowland or Mountain
White-eyes! They look devilishly the same on Kennedy etal.
must be something in the air. Aside from the courting swallows
by the Ambuklao Dam, on another occasion Lu-Ann and I spied
a pair of Pied Bushchats mating while perched on a cable!
the spot where Bushchats were mating I saw 3 Whiskered Treeswifts.
This is a new bird on my modest list and I enjoyed seeing
them. The Treeswifts would land on a branch and then smartly
fold their long wings. The treeswift's wings cross at the
lower ends and white spots on its wings meet at the back like
our group reached the ranger station, we had to stop at the
Protected Area Superintendent's Office. The superintendent's
name is Temerita Tamiray.
who wants to climb Mt Pulag has to go through her and her
orientation. My heart just goes out to Supt. Tamiray who related
the problems she has to face as the person responsible for
the 11,550-hectare national park.
on, we reached the Babadak Ranger Station and started our
trek to Mt.Pulag. At around 2500 meters above sea level we
entered the mossy forest and were enveloped by constant drizzle.
"Camping Ground 1" I saw two light-colored doves perched on
the middle story at the forest edge. The rain and fierce wind
prevented me from getting a good look and the team leaders
told us to hurry up.
reached the camp site before nightfall and promptly disappeared
inside our tents. According to a group member who brought
a thermometer, night temperature level hovered between 10-15
degrees Celsius. The rain and wind made going to the latrine
a form of torture.
6am we heard bird calls from the mossy forest but I was too
cold to leave the tent. On our way back to Baguio, Lu-Ann
saw our bonus bird, a Luzon Water-Redstart near a stream.
clumps in the foreground are actually Dwarf Bamboo Arundinaria
niitakamayensis, known only from a few places outside the
Park. If you're interested in climbing Mt Pulag, there's a
variety of trails you can follow. Contact Park Superintendent
Tamiray at celfone at 09196315402.
is "Camping Ground 1." The trail that goes
behind the sign is the "Old Spanish Trail." To the right
is the trail to the summit. Behind the photographer is the
mossy forest edge where I saw the light-colored doves but
the weather was terrible and I couldnt get a good enough
look. The mossy forest is heavily disturbed and its hard
to imagine larger animals survive here. Along the way we
encountered two men with air rifles.
Lu-Ann doing her impression of an Eskimo. it was more than
chilly. see the gnarled trees and vegetation indicating
high elevation. I heard some calls but the birds were wary,
perhaps due to severe hunting pressure. the ranger staff
is ridiculously low in manpower.
of "Camping Ground 2." The mossy forest
tops out here and grassland begins. A trail right of the
tents leads to the grassland summit 8km away. Mt Pulag at
2922 meters above sea level (some sources list 2892, some
2930) is the highest point in Luzon and second highest in
Pulag Trip Bird List:
Pied Bushchat - c.10 the most conspicuous species along the
road to Babadak Ranger Station
2. Red-rumped Swallow - c.30
3. Elegant Tit - 3
4. White-eye sp. - c.5
5. Large-billed Crow - 1
6. Pacific Swallow - over the vegetable farms inside the park.
7. Whiskered Treeswift - 3. nice to look at!
8. Luzon Water-Redstart - 1 Threatened and restricted range
species. This bird is an indicator
of clean water since it feeds on water insects. so long as
the water is free of fertilizer run-off we'll continue to
see this one. however, the extent
of vegetable farms INSIDE the national park is a major concern.