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Long Birding Weekend in the Manila

Date: April 5
Location: U.P. Diliman campus
Time: 4:30 P.M. to 6:00 P.M., hot, humid and hazy

Took my wife Marilyn and daughter Sasha on a walk around U.P. campus this afternoon on recon for migrant flycatchers. GOLDEN-BELLIED GERYGONE were singing in the trees along Jacinto Avenue as we helped Sasha toddle along on the sidewalk. We didn't have luck with that species in other parts of the campus we visited but we did encounter several BROWN SHRIKES in the vicinity of Lakandula Street, the campus police station, and the groves around Executive House. Brown Shrikes proved to be the most common and conspicuous species of the day.

EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS were most apparent on the pipe running through the field on the inbound lane of University Avenue. A Brown Shrike perched in the midst of the Tree Sparrows did not seem to mind the others chatter. To those unfamiliar with U.P. campus, the field through which runs a creek is within sight of the Administration Building.

Near the Vargas Museum, the noisy pair of WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHERS made their appearance in the trees behind us and offered satisfying looks. YELLOW-VENTED BULBULS were most common in the trees near the flowering police station and though vocal around the Lagoon were a bit shy because of the large number of people out for an afternoon stroll. It was frustrating not to be able to spot the ARCTIC WARBLERS in the canopy nor most of the PIED FANTAILS that are common around the Lagoon. I finally managed one fantail in the middle story of a tree off Beta Way and that was good enough.

On the walk back to waiting shed on the corner of Jacinto and University Avenue, we were treated to the sight of a pair of CRESTED MYNAHS cockily foraging in the grass near the water pipe. These took off for the trees displaying their distinct white wing patches.

Final bird of the day was a noisy STRIATED GRASSBIRD perched on the lamppost in the traffic island.

Date: April 6
Location: U.P. Diliman campus
Time: 3:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M.
Weather: bright and sunny

Decided that I needed to stretch my legs again today. Proceeded on foot from Philcoa and decided to follow Garcia all the way to the N.I.G.S. building. Garcia Avenue is to me the most pedestrian unfriendly road in campus. The road is in the last phase of expansion, the sidewalks have not been finished and the motorists refuse to slow down for pedestrians trying to get around various barriers left by the road crews.

I spotted a pair of PACIFIC SWALLOWS flying around the reed-grown patches past the PHILVOCS building. Opted out of Hardin Ni Doña Aurora because it was still too hot to bird and kids flying kites overran the area. Had a passing look at the grassland in the vicinity of the Math Building and N.I.G.S. but the site didn't seem to host any birds that time. Quite noticeable was the lack of bird activity in the large trees that lined Reyes Avenue.

Emerging on Roxas from behind Palma Hall, I was rewarded by a change of atmosphere. Nothing could be sweeter than the wheezy song of Golden-Bellied Gerygone and the calls of the resident White-Collared Kingfishers following nearly an hour of bird-less hiking.

A walk around the vicinity of the Lagoon and Beta Way only turned up a single Brown Shrike. So I decided to sit in the shade on the slope below Lakandula Street which afforded an unobstructed view of the creek. Turned out to be a good observation point because immediately I found the pair of Crested Mynahs from yesterday's visit. It appears that the pair - it's their breeding season this month - roosts on top of the Administration Building and roughly has a territory that includes the lot around U.P. Press, the groves around Vargas Museum and the field with the creek. For the next two hours, I would watch the Mynahs perched in surrounding trees, strutting in the short grass, frolicking among leaks from the water pipe. Near the Press office, I even managed to get within five meters of one.

The male Brown Shrike seen in the area yesterday was back at its post surveying its territory from the water pipe. It remained there for most of the afternoon, only venturing off to seize prey in the grass. Like the day before, the Brown Shrike did not appear bothered by the noisy Eurasian Tree Sparrows that flocked around it.

Several Yellow-Vented Bulbuls flying across campus would occasionally alight in the tree near the pipe. Three ZEBRA DOVES landed in the same branches until driven off by the presence of kids tramping across the grass.

Following the creek downstream with my binoculars, I found a LONG-TAILED SHRIKE keeping watch from a stand of bamboo on my side of the creek. A second Long-tailed Shrike showed up on a termite mound on the northern bank quite close to the Brown Shrike's water pipe later in the afternoon.

As the sun bore down on my position, I took off for the shelter of Beta Way where I spotted another Zebra Dove, more Yellow-Vented Bulbul, Pied Fantails and by accident a pair of PHILIPPINE PYGMY WOODPECKERS whose thin trilling drew me to a leafless tree near the Gonzales Hall. I spent several minutes watching these endemic birds creeping up and down bare branches in search of insects and grubs.

On my way home, I could not resist cutting across the field for a last look at the Long-tailed Shrikes. As I approached the tree line beside University Avenue, one of these beautiful birds protested the intrusion with a stream of sharp cries.

I saw little more except for the Striated Grassbird encountered yesterday still at the same lamppost from which it had been singing all afternoon. On the walk back to Commonwealth Avenue, I could still hear the Pied Fantails and Brown Shrikes calling out in the twilight.


U.P. Diliman Bird List, April 5 and 6 (*), 2003

BIRD LIST:
1. Zebra Dove* - 4
2. Rock Dove* - 1
3. White-Collared Kingfisher - 2
4. Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker * - 2
5. near the Beta Way Pacific Swallow * - 2
6. Yellow-Vented Bulbuls - Common throughout campus
7. Golden-Bellied Gerygone - Heard throughout but none seen
8. Arctic Warbler - Heard in Lagoon area
9. Striated Grassbird - 1
10. Pied Fantail - Common in vicinity of Beta Way and Lagoon
11. Long-Tailed Shrike* - 2 in field along University Drive near the Administration Building
12. Brown Shrike - Common and conspicuous
13. Crested Mynah - 2 roosts in Administration Building
14. Eurasian Tree Sparrows - Common with large concentrations in field near the brook

Date: April 7
Location: Tambo, Parañaque Mudflats and Coastal Road
Time: 6:30 A.M. to 9:00 A.M., hot and humid
by Mike Lu, Jon Villasper and Ned Liuag

Joined Mike Lu and Jon Villasper on a quick visit to Tambo, Parañaque this morning. At 5:30 A.M. the thermometer was hitting 30 degrees Celsius indoors promising another warm, humid day! Mike and Jon drove at sunrise and we headed for the site through miraculously light traffic.

First species of the day was a flock of over 20 CHESTNUT MUNIAS feeding in the grass near Building 2 of the Coastal Mall. Jon remarked that he has not seen them in such large numbers. Nor have I.

A few meters on we tracked a TAWNY GRASSBIRD as it sailed across Macapagal Boulevard and started to call from its new perch in the scrub.

The grassland was beginning to regenerate after severe fires in the previous months so we nearly missed the footpath leading to the channel (identified as Lagoon B in the CitiAtlas Map 90). We got nice views of six LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS feeding on the sand bar in the middle of the waterway. A few moments later, we tracked a LITTLE HERON as it flew downstream. From our location we also saw the first of several COMMON SANDPIPERS, COMMON KINGFISHERS and WHISKERED TERNS of the day.

From the mound we call Point One, we caught sight of a pair of LITTLE EGRETS - their black bills and legs and yellow feet visible in flight - as these approached the shallows from the south. As if on cue, ten BARN SWALLOWS shot out of the reeds nearby and across the channel to disappear over ASEANA Business Park. At this time, a mix of Whiskered Terns and a scattering of WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERNS flew in from Manila Bay and started diving and picking meals from the water surface.

I was still watching the terns when Mike and Jon called my attention to three unidentified RAILS - most likely to be BARRED RAILS - they spotted wandering by the dirt road in the ASEANA Business Park side of the channel.

Hoping for night-herons, we moved on to the mound called Point Two overlooking the shallows of Lagoon C. As we walked in that direction, we spotted another Common Kingfisher and a second Common Sandpiper in the channel that branched off Lagoon B. Occasionally, a Whiskered Tern would fly past indifferent to our presence. A single HOUSE SWIFT also shot past, its contrasting white rump visible in the bright sun.

The view from Point Two proved disappointing. The only birds in the area were terns, two FERAL ROCK DOVES pecking at the mud and the pair of egrets spotted earlier. The dry scrub in the western end of the Marina property had been partially cleared, which might explain the absence of the large concentration of night-herons observed during the March 2 survey.

Mike pointed to a dark shape that would briefly fly out from among the aruma thorn bushes and mangroves. This turned out to be our second Little Heron, though we were hoping to locate the Yellow Bitterns he and Todd Pepper flushed on their March 13 visit.

But there were lots of birds to keep the three of us busy. Jon and Mike disappeared among the mangroves where I found them later observing a pair of GOLDEN-BELLIED GERYGONES in the thorny aruma thicket. This is far the best Manila birding site to see these small birds up close.

We spent an hour at least trying to find one of five or six CLAMOROUS REED WARBLERS calling from the aroma and mangrove stand less than a couple of dozen meters square. In our hunt for this species, something unexpected turned up. All three of us saw the bird in bright sun from a distance of about five meters. It had flown out from the scrub; perched on a branch some slightly two meters from the ground for about 15 seconds, then it disappeared into a clump of grass nearby. It resembled a cisticola except being slightly larger and bulkier. Jon and Mike confirmed that the bird had a streaked brown back, white throat and belly and buff-colored flanks and breast. I did not notice the color of its crown because its head was towards me. Later in the day, going over the illustration in the Kennedy Guide and the photo in Tim Fisher's book, I thought the bird remarkably resembled a rare (or under-reported) STREAKED REED WARBLER. Its call sounded like a soft "ngiw" which I heard a couple of times.

We were still trying to decide what this species was when Jon motioned skywards. Four BEE-EATERS flew overhead towards the north, too high for us to identify between the two resident species yet providing a pleasant surprise.

Investigating another corner of the mangroves and thorn thicket, we located a few more noisy Clamorous Reed Warblers. Still it was very difficult to see them at length because they never emerged from deep in the under brush. We heard and also saw a single PIED FANTAIL though we expected more considering this is the right habitat for this species.

We decided to take a different trail through the grassland, skirting the sentry hut and an unfriendly dog that snapped at Jon and Mike. While both were trying to avoid the dog, I caught sight of a handful of EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS foraging on the ground amidst the tall dray grass. Here we also saw the first of two BROWN SHRIKES followed by a BRIGHT-CAPPED CISTICOLA perched on a grass stalk close to the trail.

Before exiting the Tambo grassland we managed to spot a ZEBRA DOVE while the Tawny Grassbird obliged by making another display flight across Macapagal Boulevard into the nearby scrub.

Next stop was the restaurant complex and fish port along Coastal Road. Here we accidentally flushed a Common Sandpiper and Common Kingfisher from the embankment. The sandpiper flew to a mangrove stump in the distance, where it was joined by one of dozens of Whiskered Terns. We counted two GREY HERONS, four GREAT EGRETS - long necks outstretched - and eight Little Egrets in the shallows. In the far distance we could see dozens of plovers and terns wheeling about the opposite shore.

Hoping for a better look, we drove up to the embankment road outside the Ital-Thai construction site. Tough luck. The dozens of terns we saw flying around the construction cranes had disappeared as sudden as they arrived. What we did see was a plump white Rock Dove struggling against the strong gusts of wind that it appeared to be hovering above the water.

Walking down the road, we flushed another two Common Sandpipers from below the embankment and heard a couple more Clamorous Reed Warblers and Grassbird in the surrounding scrub. On the way back to the car, I had the luck to see and hear a YELLOW WAGTAIL in characteristic undulating flight along the shore.

Tambo Mudflats/Coastal Road BIRD LIST:
1.
Grey Heron - 2 seen in shallows off Coastal Road
2. Great Egret - 4 off Coastal Road
3. Little Egret - 2 in Tambo mudflats, 8 off Coastal Road
4. Little Heron - 2 in Tambo Lagoon B and mangrove stand
5. Unidentified Rails - 3 in ASEANA Business Park grassland
6. Little Ringed Plovers - 6 in Lagoon B sandbar
7. Common Sandpiper - 1 in Lagoon B, 1 near Lagoon C, 1 off Coastal Road restaurants, 2 outside Ital-Thai site
8. White-Winged Tern - a few
9. Whiskered Tern - Scores in all sites
10. Zebra Dove - 1 in Tambo grassland
11. Rock Dove - 2 foraging in mudflats, 1 outside Ital-Thai, 10 while driving along Coastal Road
12. House Swift - 1 near mangrove stand
13. Common Kingfisher - 1 in Lagoon B, 1 near Lagoon C, 1 in Coastal Road restaurant complex
14. Unidentified Bee-eaters - 4 flew over Tambo mangrove stand
15. Barn Swallow - 10 in grassland beside Lagoon B Golden-Bellied Gerygone - 2 in mangrove stand Clamorous Reed
16. Warbler - 5+ in mangrove stand
17. Streaked Reed Warbler - 1 suspected in mangrove stand
18. Tawny Grassbird - 2 in grassland
19. Bright-capped Cisticola - 1 in Tambo grassland
20. Pied Fantail - 1 in mangrove stand
21. Yellow Wagtail - 1 outside Ital-Thai site
22. Brown Shrike - 2 in Tambo grassland
23. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - a few Chestnut Munia - 20+