Reclamation Area with a side trip to the Manila Film Center
Date: May 25,
Time: 6:15 am to 8:30 am
skies, scattered drizzles
Mike Lu, Jon Villasper and Ned Liuag
rain as drumming on the rooftops at 5:00 this morning and
I didn't expect the weather would to clear for a quick trip
to the South Reclamation Area. Fortunately it did and I hurriedly
joined Birdwatch e-group moderator Mike Lu and geographer
Jon Villasper at the usual meeting point near Pasay Road.
people it seemed were keeping to their beds on this first
cool morning after a long stretch of high humidity. Traffic
was light on EDSA all the way to the South Reclamation Area
where which we reached within 10 minutes. I had not been to
the South Reclamation Area since my "guerilla birding
trip" in November when public access to the site was
limited to 5:00 to 8:00 am.
Macapagal Boulevard, we turned right off EDSA (C-4 Extension)
onto PEA Road One. This thoroughfare runs behind the SM corporate
buildings A to D. On the right side of Road One lies a partly
cleared field, bounded to the east by Macapagal Boulevard,
south by the C-4 Extension and north by the Libertad Channel.
This field is scheduled for development any time soon.
Seeing some movement across the open space, we stopped the
car to satisfy our growing curiosity. The sun had barely risen
from behind the Sumitomo construction site as we scanned for
activity. We were looking across the field when a brown bird
with long wings comes flapping up from the south. Our first
impression was that it was a headless heron. Training my binoculars
squarely at the dark shape bird I realized we were looking
at an owl!
owl flapped across the field slowly, circling above the low
feathered legs trailing behind and poised to pounce on unsuspecting
prey. The owl landed in the scrub close to the Macapagal Boulevard
side of the field. We saw the owl again flying north across
the Libertad Channel before it disappeared in the thicket
on the edge of the GSIS complex. The owl had mottled brown
upper parts and rather dark feathers around the facial disk.
There also seemed to be faint streaking on the breast but
that could have been ash smudges picked up from the burnt
section of the field. We heard no calls
handful of very plump feral ROCK DOVES in the middle of the
field and a flock of about ten CHESTNUT MUNIAS in the grass
south of our position had caught our attention when the owl
returned from the direction of the C-4 Extension Rotunda.
Jon and I got to think that we might have been seeing two
owls not one.
visited the South Reclamation Area before the restrictions
and spent hours walking in the grassland till nightfall searching
for owls. Knowing this Mike grinned and said, "Well,
Ned you finally got to see your owls!" We would have
been happy to identify it as Tyto capensis, the Eurasian Grass
Owl, except for one detail.
the owl flew to the north end of the field, I saw the dark
patches at the bend of the light-colored (but not white) under-wings
distinctive of Asio flammeus, the Short-Eared Owl. Mike noticed
the same dark patches on the second pass. This is rather problematic
for us because this day-flying owl is only known from seven
records in the Philippines, one being in this same area on
20 November 1981 and most recent 1992 in Olango Island. Though
Kennedy et al state this species is more common here than
believed, it has only been recorded in the months between
November and March. I told Mike later that this morning's
owl could have been a straggler on its journey north from
spotted three RUFOUS NIGHT HERONS flying south high above
the promenade along Seaside Boulevard West then piled into
Mike's car for the short driveto the Promenade Plaza around
the next corner.
View from the Bridge
Mike parked the car at the foot of the half-finished Bay Boulevard
Bridge supposed to link the SM Bay City property with the
GSIS complex. The bridge is blocked by a 10-foot rampart of
slit and gravel dredged from the Bay, a precaution against
vehicles accidentally driving off the end into the channel.
warbling song of one of several TAWNY GRASSBIRDS floated across
the field as we followed Mike around the mound onto the bridge.
It had become overcast again and the tide was rushing in.
Beneath the pylons, the current looked dark and forbidding.
towards Macapagal Boulevard, we could see the ramshackle remains
of the fishing village that had been demolished before Christmas
last year. The rusting hulk of a tugboat lay smashed against
the breakwater, where a few people were already casting lines
into the restless waters. Mike said the last time he visited
the site, the tide had retreated allowing him to cross into
the GSIS complex.
the bridge, we counted up to 15 BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS
as these arrived individually, in pairs or flocks of five.
Some landed in the thickets GSIS complex while a few continued
their journey southward, probably around the Asia World City
property in Tambo where we'd seen hundreds early this year.
A single LITTLE HERON also arrived from the direction of the
pond located behind the Manila Film Palace before disappearing
in the scrub. We also located a pair of CRESTED MYNAHS that
were resident in the vicinity of the Manila Film Palace.
pointed out the first BRIGHT-CAPPED CISTICOLA of the trip.
The tiny warbler was skulking among clumps of grass on the
water's edge. We would encounter a few of these, which we
identified by the bright rufous cap and the nasal calls.
scrambled up the mound to have a better look at the surrounding
area. Here, we encountered a ZITTING CISTICOLA, this one distinguished
from the former species by the streaked cap and clicking call.
Jon aptly remarked how such a tiny bird could utter a far-carrying
call. We would later encounter several of this species making
display flights or calling from cover at the far edge of the
huge lot where construction of the Mall of Asia had begun.
I was walking towards the edge of the mound to find a way
back down, I saw a dull-colored bird moving quietly in the
tangled vegetation. Its
plumage reminded me of a Clamorous Reed Warbler, but I did
not get a clear view. Jon followed the bird with his binoculars
to the clumps of grass in the heavy equipment yard below us.
He said it reminded him of a grassbird that had lost most
of its tail feathers.
Bay City Grassland
Mike led the way into the field that until February was deep
grassland and where bittern, kestrel, plovers, red shank and
sandpipers had been recorded on various occasions. Tawny Grassbirds
were noisy and visible throughout - singing from exposed branches,
making display flights or engaged in chases across the grassland.
ZEBRA and a few SPOTTED DOVES flushed on our approach. We
found up to ten doves retreating into the remaining ipil-ipil
and aroma thicket on the mound north of the construction site.
Mike reported also seeing a single YELLOW-VENTED BULBUL in
the thicket. Besides around a flock of five Rock Doves, EURASIAN
TREE SPARROWS were common but closer to the roads.
went around the edge of the mound, skirting the northern edge
construction site as we went. Heavy equipment and some bunkers
now stood in what used to be the open area referred as The
Pond, a good site for shorebirds. Further on we emerged on
what was the Central Access Track, a dirt road that bisected
the grassland on a north-south axis.
we walked towards the bay, Mike noticed the Coucal first.
Sunning itself on a clump of grass with chestnut wings outstretched
was a PHILIPPINE COUCAL. I'd heard and seen Lesser Coucal
in the same area on previous visits. This time I was sure
we'd located the endemic Centropus viridis, which lacking
the light-colored streaks found on the wings of the Lesser
Coucal Centropus bengalensis. The Coucal allowed us to view
it for several minutes before it decided to clamber down from
decided to investigate the calls of a CLAMOROUS REED WARBLER
leading us to a clump of grass near where the Philippine Coucal
was last seen. The bird was calling "chi-wi" repeatedly
right in front of us but remained unseen. Then, our movements
flushed two mid-sized dark-brown birds from the clump of grass.
The birds flew low among the clumps of grass before taking
cover further down. The bird closest me had whitish patches
midway to the base of dark primaries on its angled wings.
Mike mentioned seeing white spots on the scapulars leading
from the patches. We thought it might be a small accipiter
- the wings did not match - or a marsh harrier, which is larger.
My impression was that of a nighthawk, which is not found
in the Philippines. After giving much thought to this species,
Jon and Mike believe the birds were Savannah Nightjars.
Since it was already 8:00 am and the area would be closed
for the day, we decided to take a quick look behind the Manila
Film Palace. The only birds we saw here were a few Tree Sparrows,
a single Yellow-Vented Bulbul, one GLOSSY SWIFTLET and the
pair of Crested Mynahs seen earlier in the day. The Crested
Mynahs earlier seen from the unfinished Bay Boulevard Bridge
were found feeding in the garbage dump. We also heard two
PIED FANTAILS, one singing in the trees bordering the Philippine
Plaza Hotel parking lot and another from inside the overgrown
lot where the pond is located. We also heard several Clamorous
Reed Warblers calling from the undergrowth.
to the "People's Park" outside the Senate building
we decided not to proceed towards the breakwater opposite
the Bay Boulevard Bridge because someone was practice-firing
in the makeshift pistol range. The only birds seen here were
a few Tree Sparrows, a single Bright-Capped Cisticola calling
while perched in a leafless tree and one Tawny Grassbird singing
from a telephone line.
Reclamation Area BIRD LIST:
Little Heron (1) - Flying above GSIS scrub
2. Black-Crowned Night Heron (15) - Flying in and around vicinity
3. Rufous Night Heron (3) - Flying south over Bay City
4. Spotted Dove - The most counted at any one time was 3,
often flushedin the grass
5. Zebra Dove - Several
6. Philippine Coucal (1) - Sunning itself in grass
7. Owl spp (1) - Either Grass Owl or Short-Eared Owl. Seen
quartering field opposite SM Buildings 101 to 104
8. Nightjar spp. (2) - Flushed from tall grass area west of
the oldCentral Access Track, believed to be Savannah Nightjars.
9. Glossy Swiftlet - 1 seen in flight above Manila Film Palace
10. Yellow-Vented Bulbul - 1
11. Clamorous Reed Warbler - Heard in grass, particularly
in scrubbehind Film Palace
12. Tawny Grassbird (5+) - Very vocal and conspicuous
13. Bright-Capped Cisticola (3) - Seen skulking in tangles
or perched on grass
14. Zitting Cisticola - Several in the short grass
15. Crested Mynah (2) - Foraging in garbage dump behind Manila
16. Pied Fantails (2) - Heard only in trees in vicinity of
17. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Common
18. Chestnut Munia - Flock of 10+ in South Reclamation Area
19. Rock Dove - Flock of 10 near Macapagal Boulevard