Location: Tanay, Rizal
Trip report and birdlist by James McCarthy
An advance Happy Easter to all. This report is dedicated to
those of us who tried in vain to find the migrating raptor
site last October.
after months of frantic work I wasn't too keen on our choice
of a Holy Week vacation but it suited the pocket and our children
and hence us. A 'farm' in Tanay promised mango trees, and
poor secondary scrub at the best
I felt but having been warned already that it was a holiday
I put my best foot forward. To illustrate how pessimistic
I was (versus Mike living it up in Caylabne), I nearly didn't
even bring my binoculars, and when I decided too it was just
the old pair of 8X30 that I use as my 'car set' - not my 10X50
'serious' ones. Certainly there was no thought of slipping
the scope in.
50km from Ortigas, we drove through Antipolo, Morong and then
turned east at Tanay. 11KM up that road and you join the 'new'
Marikina-Infanta road (there is a shell station on the corner)
and 5km east (it is gravel road at this point) a concrete
road turns off to the left and the place was a km down there.
I would estimate we were at 700m and about 8-10km 'Eastish'
confirmed my thoughts. Immediately on arriving at about 9am
all I could hear were Black-Naped Orioles calling from the
mangoes. I did bring the binocs out of the car but left them
in our room as we settled in the kids. The farm was a very
nice simple cottage looking down a long valley 'over' Famy
and across the SE corner of Laguna de Baie to Caliraya and
Banahaw in the distance. Behind us were a couple of decent
looking mountains and a suprising amount of good looking forest
(I remembered Arne's comment before that although the Philippines
appears denuded, it is suprising what you can find within
100km of the city).
main reason for coming (us, the owners who are also from Westgrove
with 4 girls, and another family from Westgrove with 2 girls)
was for the kids to be able to swim in an infinity type pool
looking down the valley. I hasten to add here that the owners
are into pool construction and by their standards this was
a budget job but for the kids it was fantastic. For the parents,
they could sit on the balcony and watch the kids - or when
they got too noisy (within about 10 minutes of arrival) they
could retreat indoors but still enjoy the coolness of the
by 10am wednesday the kids were in the pool and with nothing
better to do than be a good Dad, so was I.
got out after about 10 minutes to check out a Serpent Eagle
that - I assumed - was a local bird just doing the rounds
of its territory. Nice to see always, I spent a while looking
at the flight profile, the white bar along the flight feathers
etc. and basically making the most of it. 5 minutes later
and I decided to leave the binoculars beside up the stairs
in the bahay kubo because an Oriental Honey Buzzard had appeared
out of the blue (literally) and had cruised right over the
house! Again I watched it well for as long as possible &
just put it down as sheer luck.
still hadn't realised what was going on. I didn't scan the
horizon, look for other raptors or anything. Once the Buzzard
was gone I went back to the pool & still didn't bring
the binoculars (though I was already wishing I had my 10X).
than 5 minutes later I look up to see a group of 15 Chinese
Goshawk doing their rapid wheeling in the sky above me.At
that point I start to feel happy thinking I might see a few
of this stunning bird over the next couple of days (see Kitty's
note from Boracay of a few days ago - seeing a group of this
spp. thermalling in the bright April sunshine against a deep
blue sky is indeed a wonderful sight).
I take a look up to see where they are as I climb out of the
pool - so as not to lose them as I run up to get the binocs
- I look past my small group of 15 and with complete shock
(it was complete shock, something that rarely happens to me
in birding these days) I see two groups of birds considerably
higher totalling about 200 birds!!!! I couldn't believe me
eyes....or my luck :-)
so from here on my 2 days in Tanay were spent with binocs
over my shoulder, eyes on the skies and an ear for my toddler.
The passage was astrononomical, starting on Thurs & Friday
at about 7-7.10 am and lasting until 5.30 on Weds though rain
on Thursday at 3.30 cut things short. To look down the valley
as the birds just appeared from everywhere was something I
have never seen in my life & something everyone should
see at least once.
about 10am the birds were very high indeed - small black crosses
in the sky and very hard to see against the blue sky. Hence
while the totals are actual counts, the numbers passing over
were possibly double what I saw. At times I would scan once,
see a handful of birds, then scan a few inches higher in the
sky and find a flock of 100 or 200 birds. Frequently also
I would find a flock only to lose it again almost instantly
- hard to believe but for those of you who know how hard I
'work' when I bird, this might give you an idea of how fast
these birds would find a thermal, group, rise and then stream
off in a trail northeastwards.
passage appeared to swing back and forth across the valley
- sometimes the birds were concentrated further east and sometimes
right above the house. I have a feeling though that this was
more a function of my being able to watch them and time available
to scan the skies. The peak times were from 7-8 am and then
from 10-2 but quite honestly, anytime I raised my binocs an
looked across the skies I would find at least 100 birds within
a few minutes. Hence my counts are probably just a fraction
of what was actually passing by.
feel the birds were coming off the Kaliraya area and following
that ridge up the east side of the valley which runs from
where I was down to the lake in a NE-SW direction though I
will need Jon's help to pinpoint it. They were not affected
by the wind (on Friday it was quite windy and the birds were
having to fly strongly into it at a lower altitude).
the totals for the 3 days were;
April 7 10 am to 6 pm
Oriental Honey Buzzard 8
2. Serpent Eagle 1
3. Grey Faced Buzzard 1
4. Chinese Goshawk 3100 counted...but I would revise this
to about 4500 seeing how my counting improved - note that
I had never counted raptors like this before. I found out
on the second day that I was consistently underestimating
flocks by as much as 30-40% between initial estimate and 10-by-10
counts. Northern Hobby 2 (3rd & 4th records for the Philippines
April 8 7 am - 3.30 pm
2. Oriental Honey Buzzard 18
3. Serpent Eagle 6
4. Unidentified large raptor 9
5. Brahminy Kite 1
6. Grey Faced Buzzard 12
7. Chinese Goshawk 6400 counted
8. Peregrine Falcon 2
April 9 7 am - 10 am
1. Oriental Honey Buzzard 9
2. Phil Hawk Eagle 1
3. Brahminy Kite 1
4. Grey Faced Buzzard 1
5. Chinese Goshawk 3000 estimated
Some of the highlights:
panicky (on multiple occassions) as hundreds after hundreds
of Goshawks stream overhead...I was overwhelmed....almost
wanting to give up with bad arm ache from scanning the skies.
Peregrine plucking a Goshawk right over my head and eating
it while it thermalled!!
Oriental Honey Buzzard about 100 yards over my head carrying
a big (maybe apple sized) chunck of honeycomb that I could
actually see dripping honey. Outrageous!!!! I had never heard
of this before.
course the Hobbies....but quite honestly this was a weekend
for 'regular' birds.
So were there any other suprises in store - frankly no. I
heard the ff endemics of interest (sorry not in order);
1. Scaley Feathered Malkoa
2, Phil Bulbul
3. Elegant Tit
4. Red Keeled Flowerpecker
plus plenty of orioles, YV Bulbul, both Grassbirds and Olive
And finally, please realise that while all the above was going
on I still managed to do all my family duties, cook lunch
on Thursday for the whole group, and not be accused a single
time of neglecting either my wife or the children.
Next year!!!! Even tomorrow - I am sure this will go on for
a few more days.