Location: Raul Puentespina's Farm Tabunan, Cebu
Time in the field : 1330H-1640H
Weather: Partly cloudy, Generally
Observer: Nilo Arribas Jr., Romy Ocon Jr. and Raul
Contact information of the observer : firstname.lastname@example.org
Equipment Used: 12 x 50 binocular, Canon 20D and 300D
If you are a birder in Cebu, you can't help but dream of the
ellusive Cebu flowerpecker. I have read some tales and data
on the Cebu flowerpecker and its home in Tabunan forest in
central Cebu while I was still in Manila. The bits and pieces
of information about this interesting bird and its equally
challenging habitat is like a jigsaw puzzle that awaits the
the trip to Tabunan came. The plan was set not by weeks of
preparations but with only one (1) day. Yes folks, you heard
it right, one day preparation! Romy Ocon was the type of birder/photographer
who can plan and execute a trip in a very short time. We've
had these types of trips back in Manila before, in fact almost
all of our special bird photography trips were finalized in
less than 24 hours prior to departure. This might be too much
for some but for us, the slight changes in weather or work
schedule can translate into major changes in plans.
issue is that this was to be our first visit to Tabunan. As
such, the trip is therefore a site survey, birding trip and
photo expedition lumped into one. Normally, we conduct site
survey first in order to assess the area and the possibility
of bringing additional equipment and photography gears. Indeed
this is one dounting task with more questions in my mind than
concrete answers. Can we take a taxi cab from the airport
and head straight to Tabunan forest? How about accomodation
and provisions? Do they have electricity so we can charge
batteries or burn CDs later? Of course Godfrey "Godo"
Jakosalem provided us some insights on Tabunan which made
it was luck that brought us to Raul Puentespina who
happens to have a farm right in the slopes of Tabunan
facing Mt. Manunggal. We birded in his subdivision in
Casili, Consolacion three days earlier and he was kind
enough to offer us his farm in Tabunan as a staging
point for the quest for the Cebu Flowerpecker.
and I met in Mactan, Cebu International Airport around
10.30am while Romy emerged from the arrival area about
10 minutes later. We decided to leave some of Romy's
stuff in my apartment in Mactan and proceeded directly
Raul Puentespina & Nilo Arribas, Jr.
We grabbed some barbeque and "puso" pre-cooked rice
along the way with the intention of taking lunch in Raul's
farm in order to maximize time in the field.
was a little past 1.00pm when we arrived in Tabunan. The road
was relatively well maintained while the smaller road leading
to Raul's place may offer some challenge for average city
cars. No wonder that the only "acceptable" public
transportation to this area is the "habal-habal",
which is actually a chartered motocycle which can accomodate
Nilo Arribas, Jr. &
bird photographer Romy Ocon
less than an hour, we found ourselves in the mountainous
area of central Cebu towards Tabunan. Except for some
areas along the way, Tabunan is generally out of coverage
of cellular phone signals. Electric posts are now being
erected which should provide some added comfort for
the residents in the future. The success of these
development activities will depend largely on
the local political leadership.
arrival in the rest house, we were greeted by Raul's
friend Boboy and his wife who arrived earlier in the
area. Instead of taking our lunch, we can't help but
assemble Romy's arsenal of photography gears and equipment
first. This is just to make sure that we won't be caught
unprepared if anything comes up from the slopes and
ravines of this gorgeous place while having lunch.
Lunch consisted of chicken and pork barbeque, "kinilaw"
which is sliced fresh tuna soaked in vinegar and soy sauce
with chopped ginger and spices paired with cooked rice in
young coconut leaves called "puso". This is really
a treat in this high mountains but we can't resist the thought
that we might be missing some birds down the slopes.
Raul's cue, we descended towards his goats' shed using
a recently carved trail along the mountain slope. The
sight of the adjacent mountains was simply impressive
with some areas giving an almost 270-degree view of
the valley including the famous Mt. Manunggal. There
were some penalties though for having this privileged
view. We have to negotiate the trail with loose gravel
including certain areas that goes down 70 degrees! This
should be an easy downward trek but with digital SLR
coupled with long lenses on our shoulders, we had to
be extra careful which made every step even more challenging.
the way, we occasionally stopped to listen to some bird activities.
playful Pied fantails chasing each other was getting much
of our attention as it somewhat resemble/signals a "bird
wave" (a term I clearly remember from Patty Adversario
in our previous Mt. Makiling trip).
also noted active participation of Brown shrikes. We reached
the goats' shed in a few minutes. Armed with our field guide,
our attention was focused on sharp calls from a group of smaller
birds. These Red-keeled Flowerpecker might be the closest
semblance to the Cebu flowerpecker in the area. In a new place
for us like Cebu, we can't lower our guard even to very common
birds as they might turnout different.
Highlight of the trip:
has been the case until we saw a black bird with striking
red colored upper extremities. For some reasons, this bird's
appearance was like a puzzle to us. It is definitely bigger
than the flowerpecker we've seen earlier but the beak is shorter.
The bird is facing away from us and we only got a few seconds
view of the back and tail. So it ended there, a bird about
the size of a Eurasian tree sparrow with blood-red upper parts
and predominantly black underparts that flew before we had
a chance to have a closer view.
few minutes later, the same bird (we thought) was noticed
so close to our location but still partly hidden by branches
and dry leaves. With no clear shot and only a partial view
of the bird, this will surely be an addition to our list of
Crimson Sunbird, male
was 4.30PM when we decided to ascend for our trip back
to the city. Along the trail, we can't believe our luck
as the elusive bird was actually playing around a few
meters from the trail. Although we had a good view,
taking picture is another matter. Remember that we were
in a trail (1-2 feet width) carved from steep slopes
with the bird above us. One wrong move and we might
end up 80 meters down through an almost vertical ravine.
It was Romy who made the daring climb almost unmindful
of the loose sand/gravel of the newly built trail. Of
course he was rewarded with good shots of the bird which
later turned out to be an endemic race of the resident
and I waited in an ambush position in case the bird
decides to get closer. It never came but nonetheless
I managed to take some shots enough to identify the
the adrenaline-packed shoot in the slopes, we slowly realized
that the trek uphill is more challenging than the descent
earlier. The thought that we got something special that day
was definitely worth the effort.
two days shooting birds elsewhere, we decided through
Raul to give Tabunan another try. This time, we arrived
in the area a few minutes past 7.00AM. we wasted no
time and checked the potential site for any bird activity.
We failed to see the Crimson sunbird this time but managed
to take some really close shots of Everett's White-eye
and Arctic Warbler.
spent the rest of the day doing drive and shoot along
the roads and highway to and from a place called Maraag,
sudlon II. Listed below are the consolidated bird list
for the total of 2 days trip to Tabunan, Cebu.
forest in Central Cebu may offer some challenge for "dude"
birders considering the terrain. For wild bird photographers
like Romy and I, such a place may not be so ideal for now
considering photo equipment and gears. This however, is just
another challenge for us as we continue the quest for better
photos of Philippine birds.
LIST: (COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME)
Brahminy Kite [Haliastur indus] -1
2. Raptor sp. -1 seen briefly and definitely not Brahminy
3. Barred Rail [Gallirallus torquatus] -1
4. Brush Cuckoo [Cacomantis variolosus] -1 seen perched
5. Philippine Coucal [Centropus viridis] -H.o.
6. Glossy Swiftlet [Collocalia esculenta] -5+
7. Common Kingfisher [Alcedo atthis] -1 seen in a pond in
8. White-collared Kingfisher [Todirhamphus chloris] -2 seen
9. Pied Triller [Lalage nigra] -3
10. Yellow-vented Bulbul [Pycnonotus goiavier] -2
11. Philippine Bulbul [Ixos philippinus] -H.O.
12. Blue Rock-Thrush [Monticola solitarius] -1 immature male
13. Striated Grassbird [Megalurus palustris] -3 seen, more
14. Pied Fantail [Rhipidura javanica] -2 seen, more heard
15. Grey Wagtail [Motacilla cinerea] -1 seen along the road
16. Richard's Pipit [Anthus richardi] -1
17. Long-tailed Shrike [Lanius schach] -2
18. Brown Shrike [Lanius cristatus] 5+
19. Olive-backed Sunbird [Nectarinia jugularis] -3
20. Crimson Sunbird [Aethopyga siparaja] -2
21. Red-keeled Flowerpecker [Dicaeum australe] -7+
22. Everett's White-eye [Zosterops everetti] -12+
23. Eurasian Tree Sparrow [Passer montanus] -common, at least
5 in a flock
24. White-bellied Munia [Lonchura leucogastra] - 5, seen along
the road from
25. Chestnut Munia [Lonchura malacca] 6, seen flying