Date: April 12 14, 2003
trip was organized through the Ayala Mountaineers group though
in theory it wouldnt be necessary in future to do so.
Having said that, leaving the organizing to someone else when
you dont have the time is always a good alternative
provided its relatively cheap.
group consisted of myself, Tim Fisher, Rob Hutchinson (a visiting
UK birder) and two non-birding friends who just came along
for the climb. We had 3 guides and 3 porters in fact
we could have done it with 1 guide and 3-4 porters since none
of us intended to carry our packs.
is as steep and as full of leeches as stories portray it.
The forest line is at about 950 meters on the main trail in
from the Calapan side and it took us about 4-5 hours to reach
that point. From the entry the trail only rises about 300
meters in the next 2-3 hours following the side of a large
valley before rising steeply again to a ridge from where the
summit is viewed and is a full days walk away.
left Sta Rosa, Manila at 5am and arrived at Batangas pier
at 6.30. We then had to hang around till 8.15 for the Supercat
to Calapan, which was efficient and smooth. We then took a
jeep for the drop-off about an hour away 40 minutes
on the main road west and then 20 minutes on a dusty track
into the base of the mountain. These jeeps are irregular and
the jeep terminal its a straight climb upwards on a
fairly exposed trail with two good water stops (at about 3
hours and 4 hours). After that the next water is 6 hours at
1,080 meters above sea level.
are few and far between except much higher up we camped
by the stream at 1,080 meters and only just managed to fit.
The small site is offset by it being right in the middle of
excellent mountain forest and close to water (and leeches).
Returning was fast we left the campsite at 9 am and
were in Sta Rosa by 6pm.
much was seen before reaching the mountain. Cattle Egrets
and Long Billed Crow were the only birds but as soon as we
started climbing it was clear we were not in Luzon as both
Elegant Tits and Olive Backed Sunbirds began calling with
distinctly different variations on their usual
the climb up few birds were seen or looked for it being
blisteringly hot at 12 noon and a 45-degree slope sapped ones
enthusiasm. Rests along the way produced a Asiatic Honey Buzzard,
Chinese Goshawk, a juvenile Hawk Eagle sp. (both are on the
island), Purple Needletails and the local race of Philippine
Bulbul which was very grey in the throat and breast and again
had a distinct call. A single Whiskered Tree Swift close to
the tree line was probably the best bird of the first 1000
meters and was only rivaled by the fantastic view back over
northeast Mindoro towards Lake Naujan. Seen badly at the first
water source was a single Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker
the Mindoro endemic, which takes over from the Red
Keeled. This bird was again present on the way down when we
saw it much better and watched a pair by the swimming
pool about 500 meters lower down (the male feeding the
reached the tree line at about 5, a bit late and we were extremely
tired. A calling Yellow Breasted Fruit Dove raised our hopes
but we were unable to find a vantage point to look at the
forest until much later. Other calling birds included Island
Thrush, Elegant Tit, and Shortwing in the very good forest.
A viewpoint just before the campsite produced 2 Racquet-tails
just as the light was going.
setting up camp and collapsing into the tents we all fell
hours later I awoke to a soft whistle call our first
target species Mindoro Scops Owl. We all immediately
left out of the tent and started up the mountain trail past
the camp. The calling had long stopped leaving us wondering
if we had almost imagined it. We walked around for a further
hour without another whisper although we did manage to see
a lovely pair of Mindoro Hawk Owls and hear a lot more calling
up and down the forest. Back to the camp and a long overdue
meal our first since 7:00 that morning!
am and the Scops Owl begins calling again. Pulling myself
forcibly from bed I followed Rob without a torch in the moonlight
an awesome experience with fireflies, phosphorescent
fungi and the noises of montane forest all around. Just 100m
from the camp we located the owl calling from the middle of
a bamboo thicket and try as we might for the next 2 hours
except for a single flutter-by none of us were
satisfied with to say we had seen the bird well enough to
am and despite the owl still calling it was back to camp to
try and get some sleep in a freezing tent (we had been told
a light blanket would suffice it was not!!!).
am and up again and along the trail to a nice vantage point
that gave a 180 degree view of the valley. On the way we ran
into the same few species that were in this forest
Elegant Tit, Shortwings, Yellowish White-eye, Island Thrush
(of a particularly lovely variation), Mountain Leaf Warblers
and one superb view of a singing male Snowy Browed Flycatcher
a beautiful but extremely elusive bird.
the viewpoint we were disappointed to find no flocks of pigeons
circling the skies
a single Imperial type crossed the
horizon and remained unidentified (probably Spotted) to be
followed by a Metallic Pigeon and then very little else. A
single Rufous Bellied Eagle failed to lift our spirits much
even if it gave great views!
all was not lost as a deep Imperial Pigeon call drew
us up the valley. The call at a distance sounded like
a turbo-prop plane at extreme distance when you just
here a drone fade in and out. Closer up though one could
here a distinct 3-syllable call with the first two notes
closer and the third following a sort of wu-rump
thats the only way I can write it down!
ahead Rob was able to tape the bird and play the recording
back. Unbelievably the Pigeon moved just enough for us to
see it across a small valley wonderful! A large fat
Mindoro Imperial Pigeon enjoying the morning sunshine!
watched it through the scope for a few minutes and I was able
to take probably the first photo in history
of a bird in the wild (not certain of that claim!). Probably
the most noticeable feature was how much red was around the
eye obviously in museum specimens this has dried up.
The lovely bronze back was also very evident.
to get closer we flushed two doves and then the Imperial gave
me a fly-by to see the pale band on the tail very obvious.
What more could I ask for?
walked on to the bottom of the ridge and found more of the
same birds (few species but quite plentiful) and managed to
add Cuckoo Dove, Rusty Breasted Cuckoo (calling only), Yellow
Bellied Whistler and another Mindoro Imp. For good measure.
Very happy it was back to camp for breakfast.
am & 3 pm
that it was all fairly anti-climactic I went out two
more times to watch the same species of birds (though no more
pigeons) especially Island Thrushes which were lovely.
In one mixed flock I managed to find a stunning Mountain Shrike
which at the time I didnt know was on Mindoro
a bird I have missed elsewhere and was very happy to
see. I also saw our only Scaly Thrush of the trip.
early dinner and we were ready to go out for an all-night
Scops Owl hunt. Even before we had washed up the bird closest
to camp was calling so off we went back up the trail again
(its amazing how quickly you learn the roots and rocks of
these trails). 200 meters from the camp and we were wondering
if it would be a repeat of the previous nights efforts
the tape and bingo! The bird flew right up to us and perched
just 4-5 feet away! So close it immediately turned around
when the torches went on and flew away! Play the tape again
.bingo! This time we managed to see it for a few seconds
longer and over the next 2 hours we managed to get several
brief but excellent views of this extremely local species.
A tiny owl that I am running out of time for this report!
looked very much as it does in the Handbook
the Scops nor Hawk Owls were uncommon we could hear
3 Scops at the same time and 2-3 Hawk Owls too. Walking further
along the trail brought more birds and just as we were going
to bed we saw our last Scops owl right behind the tent!
cripplingly freezing night (for me anyway) and a walk along
the valley in what proved to be our only rain of our stay
on the mountain (super lucky). We only had a few hours and
the main objective was to get voice tapes of the Imperial
Pigeon. Low fog mad things harder but as we were coming back
down it cleared enough to give us good views of a flock of
5 Metallic Pigeons, another Mountain Shrike and the ever present
but ever elusive Raquet-tails.
recording the pigeon but didnt see it leaving
us to realize how lucky we had indeed been.
quickly packed up the camp and it was off down the mountain.
Leeches were everywhere but the lure of catching the 3pm vs
5pm boat kept us going. As we got lower the temperature started
to rise and we passed the first groups of mountaineers going
up for Holy Week. I wouldnt like to see the trail now
probably a morass of muddy slides.
at the bottom and only one thing to do rip all our
clothes off (down to the briefest essentials) and leap into
the beautiful natural 5 foot deep pool in the river at the
village aaaaagh sarap!!!!!!!!!
on the boat I get the following text from my wife "Finally
I can tell you yaya left yesterday for Leyte where
her mum is sick. I hope you are ready for baby Tim!"