The arrival of the monsoon
was most apparent in San Pablo. The banaba trees were exploding
with purple flowers, the orchids ablaze, the "apple" mango
trees heavy with pink fruit, and the rambutan beginning to
fruit. The mornings of May 16 and 17 mountains surrounding
the city were obscured by thick haze and I was told it had
rained on and off in recent days. And it did rain both afternoons
that we were in town. In between fatherly duties, I was able
to bird for several hours on both days and add species to
my San Pablo house list and my year list. On both days PACIFIC
SWALLOWS, OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRDS and EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS
and LOWLAND WHITE-EYES were the most common garden birds.
Olive-backed Sunbirds were most audible. On my last day of
the visit, while keeping watch over my sleeping toddler, a
male Olive-backed Sunbird spent 10 minutes singing from a
television antenna across from our window.
My long hours at the windows
did not turn up my favorite Red-Keeled Flowerpeckers. These
were replaced by the similarly endemic PYGMY FLOWERPECKER,
which were easy to spot as individuals or pairs only when
perched on leafless branches of a particular rambutan tree.
Like their Red-keeled cousins, the Pygmy Flowerpeckers also
like to forage in the chico tree behind the orchidarium but
their size and drab color make them harder to locate even
when calling. On one occasion, a Pygmy Flowerpecker and Tree
Sparrow perched adjacent to each other, allowing a fair comparison
of their sizes. Because I would see this species every hour
on both days I would classify it as common on my house list.
Because I was keen on studying flowerpeckers I missed having
a good look on Saturday morning at a flock of 12 Egrets that
flew over the house. The egrets were moving in a V-formation
towards Sampaloc Lake. I was however still fortunate later
that morning to spot a RUFOUS NIGHT HERON as it flapped languidly
in the same direction. Returning from the lake, my brother
reported seeing three Rufous Night Herons fishing in one of
the pens off the spot where they swim their dogs. Scanning
the yard just after sunrise on the 16th rewarded me with a
sight that brought back memories of many summers past. Seen
attempting to perch on a pipe jutting from the façade
of the Laguna College Science Building were four immature
birds of a species last seen in our yard and only once over
30 years ago: ASIAN GLOSSY STARLINGS!
The young birds seemed only
recently out of the nest. Their flight was floppy and their
balance uncertain. I watched with eagerness until they flew
back into the quadrangle and I lost them from sight behind
the chico tree growing on the property line. I would later
encounter individuals, perched from a telephone wire or flying
in the neighborhood, offering strong proof that this species
had been nesting in the area.
Yesterday, May 17, with my
wife I saw four - including two adults and at least one juvenile
- from our window. Perched for some length of time on a television
antenna up the street, the Glossy Starlings caused consternation
among the Tree Sparrows that apparently had nests to protect
in that section of the neighborhood. Long after the Starlings
had left, I watched several Tree Sparrows continuously flying
up into the air then dropping down into the trees. I thought
this was part of defensive behavior until I realized they
were catching insects on the wing! I'd seen one of the two
YELLOW-VENTED BULBULS whose territory now covered our yard
successfully do this from the Science Building the day before.
And at dawn on Saturday I observed three Tree Sparrows feeding
on termites at the base of a rambutan tree in the yard. The
demand for this protein source must mean the presence of young
somewhere. And, to my disappointment, they completely ignored
the seed and rice grains spread on a table in the orchidarium.
Since the Brown Shrikes have definitely departed north, the
Tree Sparrows have the run of the backyard and garden. The
trees are filled with their incessant chatter, punctuated
only by the liquid song of Olive-backed Sunbirds. Saw several
ISLAND SWIFTLETS on Saturday afternoon trawling right over
the house for insects and the occasional ASIAN PALM SWIFT
straying into town from the plantations around the lake.
After this weekend stakeout,
I feel confident to state that the Peregrine Falcon has departed
for more productive hunting grounds. Which also explains why
four feral ROCK DOVES now roost in the east spire of the INC
Chapel and their presence now tolerated by the feisty squadron
of Pacific Swallows that first occupied the site.
1. Egret spp. - 12 flying over
2. Rufous Night Heron - 1 flying over Ilaya
3. Island Swiftlet - 4
4. Asian Palm Swift - Pairs seen. Occasional garden visitor
5. Pacific Swallow - Common. Up to 5 seen at any one time
6. Yellow-Vented Bulbul - 2
7. Asian Glossy Starling - 6, including 2 adults
8. Pygmy Flowerpecker - Singles or pairs.
9. Lowland White-Eye - Common. Saw 3 at one time.
10. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Common
11. Feral Rock Dove - 7