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Olango Island, Cebu

Date: March 23, 2003
James McCarthy

After working Saturday I was at the pier at 5:15 waiting for the sun and the first boat. Unfortunately things were slow so I didn’t actually manage to get across till about 6:45. Incidentally the fare is now P12 — I guess due to fuel price increases.

I quickly got down to the reserve and virtually ran out onto the flats. The tide was at its lowest possible so I had to walk across the coral flats for a good 15 minutes. Once out near the water line I just wandered around checking the flocks as they started to come in with the tide.

The reserve is looking a bit worse-for-wear even though they are getting huge numbers of visitors (20+ each Saturday and Sunday) with only one hide functioning. Also the management’s policy of mangrove planting is starting to look close to disastrous, covering some significant areas that used to be wader- feeding areas. I don’t know whose idea this is but it is seriously misguided.

Unfortunately I had to leave before the tide was half way in and after a tricycle-boat-tricycle-taxi dash only just made my 12 noon check-in for the flight home.

In general there were a lot of birds as would be expected at this time of year. I missed a lot of the ‘big’ waders as they tend to come in later as they seem to fly to further away feeding grounds. I only managed to find the Dowitcher & Great Knot flock right as I was leaving. I also missed the terns — but could see several flocks in the distance that would certainly be coming into roost by noon.

Early on I was lucky to find a single Sharp Tailed Sandpiper in full summer plumage — a lovely chestnut crown and well streaked chest and flanks. Seen against the white sand it was truly lovely. I then went on to examine every single Red Necked Stint in the place but came up with little out of the ordinary. A few stints were starting to get reddish necks but I didn’t see any in a full summer plumage — certainly none had any brown in their back or covert feathers yet. Mixed in among them were a few Sanderlings (all in full winter plumage) a fair number of Broad Billed Sandpipers (a couple in excellent plumage with clear double eye stripes) though not as many as I have seen here. In addition there were good numbers of Curlew Sandpiper and Common Knot - both with some birds with full ‘red’ chests and tummies, especially the Knot. Scattered among them were a handful of Terek Sandpipers dashing manically about.

Among the sandpipers were huge numbers of Sandplovers — both Greater and Lesser (Mongolian)…some of the latter were in quite stunning summer plumage. This really has to be among the most beautiful shorebirds around — funnily the color is similar to that of Spotted Buttonquail. I was able to watch Malaysian and Kentish Plovers side by side (including the females) but very low numbers of each and amazingly couldn’t find a single Little Ringed Plover in the place. This was very surprising — in early March last year I saw large numbers of Kentish & Little Ringed Plovers and also a single 1st winter Common Ringed Plover (the 2nd Philippine record). It is possible they were feeding elsewhere and hadn’t flown in yet.

In the channel were a few terns — Whiskereds mainly but a handful of Common Terns and single Gull-Billed and White Winged Black. I wish I could have waited for the main flocks to come in as there is always the chance of something unusual there.

I spent little time looking at the egrets but saw Chinese, Little and Intermediate though the numbers seem to be dramatically down on the first time I went to Olango 7 or 8 years ago when there were hundreds.

In terms of the larger shorebirds there were few Whimbrel (50 max, normally I would have expected to see 2-300), Curlew (but no Long Billed ones), OK numbers of Bar Tailed Godwits with most of them in excellent summer plumage (quite stunning), a few Redshank and extremely few Greenshank. The usual numbers of Tattlers & Grey Plovers were around as were the normal Lesser Golden Plovers. However right at the end — as I was literally checking the time every minute or two knowing I was pushing my luck — I managed to find the big wader flock being pushed in close to the Visitor Center. In this group were a fair number of Asiatic Dowitcher (in summer plumage these are much orangy-buffy than Bar Tailed Godwits which are very reddish) and also a good number of Great Knot in summer plumage. This bird I am always happy to see and this was by far and away the most I had seen at Olango. I suspect there were a lot more but I literally had to run to the waiting tricycle and couldn’t see them all start streaming in.

Hmm wonder if I can engineer another trip down there in a week or so..

1. Little Egret 10-20 (I didn’t count/ look carefully)
2. Chinese Egret 2-3 (ditto)
3. Intermediate Egret 1
4. Kentish Plover 20
5. Malaysian Plover 5
6. Greater Sandplover 300+
7. Lesser Sandplover 500+
8. Lesser Golden Plover 50
9. Grey Plover 150
10. Red Necked Stint 3,000
11. Sanderling 4
12. Broad Billed Sandpiper 20
13. Sharp Tailed Sandpiper 1
14. Curlew Sandpiper 100
15. Terek Sandpiper 5-10
16. Redshank 20
17. Greenshank 5
18. Red Knot 15
19. Great Knot 50+ (possibly a lot more)
20. Bar Tailed Godwit 50
21. Asiatic Dowitcher 3 (right at the end — probably many more)
22. Whimbrel 50
23. Curlew 10
24. Whiskered Tern 50
25. Common Tern 20
26. White Winged Black Tern 1

Missing birds:
1. Little Ringed Plover
2. Long Billed Curlew (forgot its name)
3. Lesser Crested Tern
4. Little Tern