Trip to Nayong Pilipino
by Ned Liuag
Nayong Pilipino, Pasay City
Date: December 21, 2003
6:00 am to 10:00 am
Weather: about 60 percent cloud cover with
lots of sun later in the morning
Birders: Orly Punzalan,
Drs. Albert and Armi Ramos,
Mark Villa, Jed Natividad,
Pia Belardo, Jon Villasper,
Michael Lu, Ned Liuag
I didn't think was going to make it out of bed this morning
when the alarm clock started chiming into my ear, soon followed
by Mike's wake up phone call. The thermometer read 24 degrees
Celsius indoors and to think Marilyn had kept the light
outside the room on all night for added warmth. So it must
have been a couple of degrees colder out when I had a look
at our sleeping toddler before closing the door behind me.
There were no jeepneys plying Bangkal this early but I managed
to hail a passing cab. The driver was complaining about
the cold as we drove to Petron Station at the corner of
Macapagal Boulevard and EDSA (C-4) Extension. I didn't think
I'd get there early and I didn't relish the idea of being
alone on the sidewalk outside the dark restaurants. It seemed
like I was standing there with a big sign screaming MUG
ME ANYTIME BEFORE SUNRISE!
To my relief, Mike left a short message by cell phone that
Marc and Orly were with driving around looking for owls.
Since parties of joggers had started to arrive, I walked
up to the end of the PEA Road Lots behind the rising restaurant
row hoping that the grass owl we found here months ago would
show up. No such luck.
It didn't take long for the rest of the party to arrive.
And Jon emerged from the shadows, having been forced to
hike all the way from Roxas Boulevard because the buses
didn't run this far so early.
Initially, Mike Lu's plan was to arrange for a survey of
the future Nayong Pilipino site in the South Reclamation
Area, a fenced off grassy section of the South Reclamation
Area sandwiched between the Aseana Business Park and the
SM Bay City property. We found out that the area was still
under the supervision of the Public Estates Authority and
the Nayong Pilipino administration could only allow access
to the old site that was shut down to make way for airport
With Mike driving point, we arrived in Nayong Pilipino a
few minutes before 6:00. Having been notified days in advance,
the shift at the gate had a vehicle ready to escort us inside.
Small bats were still flying back to their daytime roosts
when we piled out of the vehicles. The YELLOW VENTED BULBULS
were out in force for the dawn chorus soon after. This bird
proved to be the most common and visible species throughout
the park. Somewhere, a BROWN SHRIKE chattered a response
and we set off eastwards up the road, past the abandoned
Museum of Philippine Ethnography in the direction of the
Our escort mentioned that we were allowed access to the
entire park but cautioned against crossing the fence and
straying into the field beside the new runway.
We had a look over the sawali fence towards the new runway
with the guard's words in mind but didn't see anything,
except for a pair of STRIATED GRASSBIRDS chasing each other
among some ipil-ipil saplings.
Orly Punzalan who had spent many hours perfecting his photography
here led us in the direction of the lagoon. He wanted to
set up near the bahay na bato located across a foot bridge,
but it turned out to be in the restricted zone. We had to
beat a hasty retreat - no sense getting shot at by trigger-happy
commandos - but not before I snagged my entire arm and a
leg in a spiny wait-a-minute vine.
The sign at the entrance to the Maranao theme view deck
standing over the water warned that the structure was condemned
so we were treading at risk. Jon Villasper set up the spotting
scope and started to scan the western section of the shallow
The lagoon was fringed with hyacinths and pink flowering
water lily thrived in the deeper areas. Pia Belardo and
Jon said there was movement in the floating vegetation but
the light was not good enough for a clear view.
The familiar call of a WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHER rang from
the grove near the Museum of Ethnography. Orly, who wanted
to capture this species on film, and I headed off in the
direction of its call.
By this time, everyone else decided to go return to the
cars and try a different section of the park. One of the
guards who kept us company while it was still dark pointed
us to an gated area and said there were water birds there.
The place turned out to be a rundown garden with a brook
running through it. We were exploring the space
when Mike called out to everyone to point to a WHITE-BREASTED
WATERHEN that had found itself cornered in one of the greenhouses.
The others would again come across individuals of this species
later in the morning. Orly, who was bringing up the rear,
missed the excitement when the rail found an opening in
the greenhouse and
disappeared in the undergrowth. We located no other birds
there and so decided it was off to the Cordillera section.
We had better luck here. Scores of ISLAND SWIFTLETS had
taken to wing and were seeking breakfast above the overgrown
representations of the Banaue rice terraces. Jon's lugging
the scope and tripod across paid off early. Everyone had
fine views of a PIED TRILLER and a PHILIPPINE PYGMY WOODPECKER
perched on opposite branches of an agoho (casuarina) tree.
Albert and Ami Ramos had noticed the triller first and wanted
to find out what it was. Mike pointed out the woodpecker.
At first glance it appeared to be a bump on branch until
you focused at it and discovered a bird drilling away for
grubs. Throughout the area we could hear ZEBRA DOVES calling
in the underbrush, occasionally followed by the hooting
of another unidentified dove species.
Pia spotted one, two then three "little brown jobs"
in the agoho tree opposite the one with the woodpecker in
it. No one could seem to make out what they were until the
light improved and Jon, Mike, Pia and I were of the opinion
that these were immature SCALY-BREASTED MUNIAS. Orly would
later tell me that he decided to stick around the Cordillera
section because each time he attempted to leave a new bunch
of birds would show up.
Orly had managed to make it back to the road by climbing
one section of the terraces. With my arm still smarting
from the spines of the "wait-a-minute" vine, I
decided to follow Mike through the fallow field in the opposite
direction. As Mike and I prepared our ascent on one side
of the terraces, a RED TURTLE DOVE flew from behind the
rise, settled in the agoho tree next to the road then returned
from where it came.
Our attempt to cross the Cordillera broke us up into small
groups. We found Pia waiting for us on the other side of
the "rice terraces." She's already gone off to
the Vigan House and reported seeing what she thinks might
be rails on the edge of a marshy area near the building.
We found Jed Natividad wandering down a nearby lane and
we spent some time watching a PIED FANTAIL in a tree. I'd
expected to see more of them but this happened to be the
only other time I'd seen the species during the entire trip.
We found no other birds here except a few Yellow-Vented
Bulbuls and a handful of EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS.
We found Marc Villa and the rest of the group gathered at
the Vigan House from where Pia had seen the rails. After
waiting for some time, Orly and I thought we might as well
skirt the marshy area to return to the lagoon and maybe
get lucky. In the process I was hoping too that our hike
through the grove would flush out something for the others
to see. Orly and I did - a YELLOW BITTERN - but no one but
myself notices its low flight to the opposite bank.
I went off exploring on my own but was driven back to the
shore of the lagoon by squadrons of mosquitoes. I spotted
Mike exploring the Bohol section of the park and decided
to follow him amidst the replicas of the Chocolate Hills.
As I walked past, I could hear birds croaking amidst the
floating vegetation but none of the rails
or bitterns wanted to put on a show. From the other side
of the mounds supposed to represent the Chocolate Hills,
I also heard some waders calling.
Mike bumped into me and said he'd seen COMMON SANDPIPER
in the marshy area behind the sawali fence that was too
high and unstable for me to climb. But from here, Mike showed
me the large flock of CHESTNUT MUNIAS in the grassy section
of the restricted zone. We counted two dozen at least, mostly
immature ones and at least, according to Mike a 'Baclaran
sparrow' - the Birdwatch Philippines ID for any sparrow-sized
bird that's been spray-painted in neon colors and managed
to escape the pet trade. Mike also mentioned seeing a COMMON
KINGFISHER in the vicinity of the lagoon.
Jon, the Ramoses and Marc had decided to set up the scope
in the picnic area and taken the wait-and-see approach.
Besides, it was starting to get hot and the insects were
out in force.
I wanted to locate the ARCTIC WARBLERS that kept calling
from high up in the trees, but never managed to locate them.
Jed, who was resting under some trees, asked me about one
species he spotted that had a think bill and yellow under
parts. I thought it might be a sunbird if it wasn't a GOLDEN-BELLIED
GERYGONE that everyone heard singing occasionally in the
groves. So off I went in search of Jed's mystery bird.
I found Pia taking a break by the roadside. She reported
spotting the White-Collared Kingfisher perched on a pipe
nearby. She also asked if I'd seen the large dark bird that
flew over the trees in the direction of the lagoon. Orly
was a few meters down the road and still waiting for elusive
subjects to pose for his camera. He mentioned glimpses of
the Gerygones but they'd been too quick and too far to photograph.
I strode down in the direction of the Cordillera section
to see what might turn up, when finally the White-Collared
Kingfisher flew across the road to perch in an agoho tree
on the western end of the rice terraces. I pointed it out
to Orly, who immediately set off for yet another attempt
to photograph it for our collection.
Apart from the numerous Island Swiftlets, Yellow-Vented
Bulbuls and a single Brown Shrike, I found nothing else
on my return to the Cordillera section, the ruined greenhouses
and the area near the Museum. It was already half past 8:00
and the birds would be seeking shelter soon.
I meandered through the groves, past the Vigan House and
towards the tree that Orly earlier described as the oldest
and most photographed in the park. I was hoping to find
Magpie Robins or the more likely Grey-Streaked Flycatchers
in the area but surprisingly saw none.
I was still trying to locate a noisy Arctic Warbler somewhere
above my head when a loud call attracted attention. The
bird was uttering a loud, singular 'chee-weet' every few
seconds from one of the trees down the road. I managed to
zero in on a small bird but wasn't certain if this was the
same bird that was singing. Because its head was partly
obscured by a branch, I initially thought it was a Gerygone
until I got a better view of the thin bill and familiar
purplish blue throat of a male OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD. The
sunbird obliged by settling in the bush with red flowers
growing nearby. A minute or so later, the sunbird flew back
among the trees before a White-Collared Kingfisher showed
up down the road.
I found Orly at his previous post overlooking the Cordillera
section. He'd managed to photograph some bulbuls and seen
lots of munias in the grass and gerygones in the nearby
trees. He wanted to have a look at the sunbird because he
thought he'd come across one when the park was still open.
But the stretch of road proved bird-less when we returned
so we opted to explore the western shore of the lagoon.
Dozens of swiftlets were still on the wing when we approached
the water. We could hear bitterns croaking across the water
but saw nothing.
Opposite us, we saw Albert and Ami, Mike and Marc following
Jon through the Bohol section to survey the marshy stretch
on the opposite side of the sawali fence. Orly and I took
shelter in a stand of pandanus trees that formed a natural
hide. While scanning the hyacinths that fringed the northern
shoreline, I spotted a brown rail-like bird flying low over
the water before disappearing into the vegetation. At the
same time, Orly was describing what I thought was the same
bird to me. For a brief moment, we interrupted our observation
to catch a glimpse of the white egret flying north across
the lagoon. Mike later told me it was an INTERMEDIATE EGRET.
I still could not locate the rail he was describing to me.
Turned out Orly was talking about a different individual
and this one was pecking at the purple hyacinth flowers
a few meters east of the spot where the first rail disappeared.
Our subject was in bright sunlight, across water, and it
was light brown with plain buffy to whitish-grey under parts,
a light eyebrow and throat and pale bill. Orly had earlier
described its long legs. I had a brief look at the legs
and they did not appear yellow or red but dark. Back home
I had a look at my Kennedy guide and thought the bird looked
closest like an immature WHITE-BROWED CRAKE. While we were
viewing this bird, Mike popped out from among the mounds
and was intently watching something along the shoreline.
He would later tell me that they spotted three COMMON MOORHEN,
of which two were immature, and a couple more White-Breasted
Waterhen. Jon reported a CINNAMON BITTERN in the same area.
And Marc said their group also added SPOTTED DOVE to their
and I whiled the rest of the morning in the vicinity of
the playground trying to photograph Gerygones that were
foraging in the branches of the huge acacia trees. I counted
at least five in the branches above us before Mike and the
Ramoses drove up, Jed and Pia
having left earlier.
I still didn't get to catch a glimpse of any Arctic Warblers,
but it was worth the trip to be out in the sun and wind
Nayong Pilipino BIRD
1. Intermediate Egret - 1 flying across lagoon
2. Cinnamon Bittern - 1 (Jon)
3. Yellow Bittern - 1 in marshy area near Vigan House
4. Common Moorhen - 3 (Mike et al), including 2 immatures
5. White-Browed Crake - 1 immature
6. Rail species - 2 (Ned, Pia et al)
7. White Breasted Waterhen - 3
8. Common Sandpiper - 2 (Mike et al)
9. Red Turtle Dove - 1
10. Spotted Dove - 1 (Jon et al)
11. Zebra Dove - singles seen in flight, mostly heard
12. Island Swiftlet - 50+. Everywhere.
13. Common Kingfisher - 1 (Mike et al)
14. White-Collared Kingfisher - Singles seen in various
15. Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker - 1 feeding in agoho tree
in Cordillera section
16. Pied Triller - 2
17. Yellow-Vented Bulbul - Several dozen. Everywhere.
18. Golden-Bellied Gerygone - Up to 8 seen. Singing and
foraging in acacias.
19. Arctic Warbler - Individuals heard in groves near lagoon
20. Striated Grassbird - 2 in restricted area
21. Pied Fantail - 2
22. Brown Shrike - Several individuals. At least one observed
23. Olive-Backed Sunbird - 1 male
24. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - 6+
25. Scaly-Breasted Munia - 3 + 21+ (Mike et al)
26. Chestnut Munia - 24+ in restricted area