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May Day Birding

Location: UP Diliman campus
Date: May 1, 2003
Weather: Clear skies and hot by mid-morning
Birders: Mike Lu, Mads Bajarias, Hillel and Xsa

I received Mads' text message that he would be late just as I alighted from my car at 5.30am. I looked around the vicinity of the Oblation for Hillel and Xsa to no avail. I set my sight on the plot of greenery on the right side of University Avenue where I'd been advised by Ned Liuag to look out for the crested mynahs along the elevated water pipe. I followed the walkways shaded by majestic raintrees, listening to the chirping of the Eurasian Tree Sparrows mixed with the melodious notes of the Pied Fantails. Every now and then dark shadows flit in the treetops but I cannot see the details. Finally the birdcalls was disrupted by the harsh cries of the WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHER. A minute later, the bird swoop down on the grassy slope and flew away again. A bit further away, a LONG-TAILED SHRIKE also flew down to catch its prey. Along University Avenue, the Doņa Luz and Doņa Auroras were competing for attention with their showy leaves, while sunflowers were starting to droop. EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS and YELLOW-VENTED BULBULS were everywhere. A large dry leaf falling to the ground beside me turned out to be 2 quarelling PIED FANTAILS.

Mads showed up at 6.30am, I had given up on the UP birders. We followed the trickling creek meandering through the plot of land in the hopes of flushing out a cinnamon bittern or some wagtails. The grass has been cut low and the creek cut a one foot depression on the land. Elsewhere the soil is parched and the land cracked. But the only birds we saw were a couple of ZEBRA DOVES that flew by while others of this species were only heard cooing in the distance. More Yellow-vented Bulbuls mixed with some BROWN SHRIKES. Mads decided to show me the "Hardin ni Doņa Aurora" which turned out to be a housing complex for UP employees and not a botanical garden as I initially thought. As we walked along the road, I saw a flock of white birds that I dismissed at first as feral rock doves. Then I realized they were flying in V formation. EGRETS ! Counted more than 20, but less than 25. Flying low from the direction of Philcoa heading north. Mads and I noticed that these birds do not have all white plumage anymore. The head and neck seem to have reddish orange and yellow shades. The Kennedy Guide noted that Little Egrets have yellowish facial plumage when breeding while Intermediate Egrets turn reddish and yellowish.

The "wild areas" turned out to be grassy lots surrounding the Hardin ni Doņa Aurora. Mads led the way into the tall grassy and surprised a WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN just a few feet away from him. The waterhen was larger than average and it flew in a semi-circle and disappeared into the tall grass in front of us. The only species to add to our list from this area were 3 CHESTNUT MUNIAS.

It was 7.30am when I received a text from Xsa and we decided to meet up at the National Institute of Geological Sciences. Mads and I made a detour passing by the Bonsai Garden and spied a tiny bird that we cannot decide whether it is an Artic or a Lemon Throated Leaf Warbler.

The NiGs building is situated in a "science park" planted with trees on the sides with a creek that runs through a grassy lot. Long Tailed Shrikes lord it over this area, although the Pied Fantails and Yellow Vented Bulbuls continued to make their presence known. We were on the lookout for the flock of waterhens but managed only to glimpse a fleeing bird we cannot positivelt identify as a waterhen or a bittern. A pair of CRESTED MYNAH made a few rounds atop a grove of trees, while a TAWNY GRASSBIRD proudly declared its presence atop an ipil-ipil. A trio of SCALY-BREASTED MUNIAS came to rest on a patch of grass. It was getting hot and the usual host of birds were nowhere in sight. As we walked towards the car, we noticed a tiny white bird flitting from branch to branch. It turned out to be a PIED TRILLER - a first record for the NIGS area. Although we did not see the bitterns, the flock of egrets alone was worth the trip ! Still ended up with more than 10 species.

1. Intermediate Egret - less than 25
2. White-breasted Waterhen - 1
3. Zebra Dove - 2
4. Whtie-collared Kingfisher - 1
5. Yellow-vented Bulbul - common PIED TRILLER - 1
6. Tawny Grassbird - 2
7. Pied Fantail - common CRESTED MYNAH -2
8. Brown Shrike - common LONG-TAILED SHRIKE - common in the NIGS area
9. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - common
10. Chestnut Munia - 4
11. Scaly-breasted Munia - 3