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Nug-as, Alcoy, Cebu

Site: Barangay Nug-as, Alcoy, Cebu
Qualifier: approx. 2 km trail from N09 43.305 E123 27.427 to N09 42.679 E123 27.304
Elevation: 695masl (start of trail); 755masl (end of trail)
Conditions: 2-3-2/8 cloud cover; chilly Date: December 31, 2004
Time: 7:55am to 2:10pm
Birders: Mads Bajarias and Nug-as forest warden Pedro Villarta Trip report & bird list by Mads Bajarias

Olive-backed Sunbird
Olive-backed Sunbird

Thanks to Godo Jakosalem of Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, I was able to locate forest warden Pedro Villarta about 12 kilometers uphill from the poblacion of the town of Alcoy in southern Cebu. Pedro lives with his wife and small children in a hut on the edge of the Nug-as forest. He is one of the 22 forest wardens employed by CBCF to monitor the approx. 800 hectares (This is Pedro's estimate. Mallari etal's figure is c.582ha.) of forest here where exciting flora and faunal discoveries have occurred in the last couple of years, and where more scientific breakthroughs are surely to be made, as more local and foreign researchers visit the area.

After conferring with my habal-habal driver for a pick-up time, Pedro and I started walking along a trail that goes through an old reforestation site by a carbon-mining company called Manguerra. The company planted mahogany, gmelina and pine trees in the area, although now that another set of owners have taken over the company, it seems unclear if the reforestation is still on.

Pedro told me that we will walk 2 kilometers to get to a particular tree where he, Godo, Lisa, and other CBCF personnel have recorded Cebu Flowerpecker, and that the walk will take maybe 1 hour tops. I thought that 2 kilometers won't pose much of a problem until I found out (while huffing and puffing) that our tree was on the top of the next hill which means descending on loose and slippery limestone bits down a gully and then a taxing climb to 755masl.

Along the trail on three different locations, we encountered singing Black shama individuals but managed to get a glimpse of just one. Briefly, I tried luring them out with playback but met no success.

When we reached our target tree, loud shouts of alarm greeted us, I turned to Pedro who told me that those were the resident monkeys.

Artic Warbler
Artic Warbler

2) On flowering vine where CBCF has recorded Cebu Flowerpecker. After reaching the particular tree where CBCF and other researchers have recorded Cebu Flowerpecker and the (it seems to me) even more rarely seen bird-the local subspecies of the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Pedro said that the tree is a local (not part of Manguerra's parade of exotics) species called "Mala-iba." However, it was not the "Mala-iba" itself that attracted the birds but a parasitic vine (Pedro said he's seen host trees die) that grafts itself on to the host tree. The vine is called "Mampur" and its bright red flowers (the "Mala-iba's" is white) provide food for the sunbirds and flowerpeckers.

Checking out the state of the Mampur's flowers, Pedro said that there were more flowers last November, and back then the place was very busy. Today, I counted the bright red flowers I could see with my binocs and came up with only 8. Pedro guesses that by the looks of it, the next big flowering may occur in February so we were in the "off" season in terms of visiting birds. Despite the low turnout for nectar-feeders, I was happy to get excellent views of a brilliant male Lovely sunbird (bonita spp) which kept going back to get nectar from the "Mampur."

I racked my brain and figured that the only memorable view I've had of this species was a male in the Kokos-Nuss resort in Coron, Palawan (shelleyi spp.) but this "Mampur"-feeding male in Nug-as (bonita spp.) is far more beautiful.

I've read an account of the "Sampinit" vine in Tabunan visited by the Cebu Flowerpecker. The article said that the "Sampinit's" flowers are greenish-white and the vine itself has been described variously as "leguminous" and "thorny." I didn't see any thorns on the "Mampur" and I'm not in a position to say if it was "leguminous."

An interesting project would be to catalogue the vines, months when they blossom, and the host plants where the rare flowerpeckers have been observed.

3) On Cebuano bird names learned from forest warden Pedro Villarta.

1. Bag-hak (Slaty-legged crake)
2. Boriringon (Elegant tit)
3. Bulay-og (White-eye)
4. Buga-ongon (Pied triller)
5. Waw-ha (Pitta)
6. Aniniho (Whistler)
7. Salak (Balicassiao)

For Cebuano speakers, "bulay-og" means an uncoordinated person, and when I was growing up it was a term of derision reserved for athletes lacking in agility. I asked Pedro why the white-eye may have earned this name, and he said that white-eyes at high noon seemed to get confused by the bright light, become uncoordinated and thus easily trapped.

In certain times of the year, Pedro says that "waw-has" have been encountered within Nug-as in a locality named Kaw-rik. At times when water is especially scarce (all-year round in these parts water is always hard to source), he says that pittas are so weak they can be easily caught.

4) Birds seen and/or heard.

1. Slaty-legged crake [Rallina eurizonoides] - 1 Heard in a gully with thick grass. It must be a resident because Pedro knows well its call and appearance.
2. Philippine coucal [Centropus viridis] - 2 heard only
3. Swiftlet [Collocalia sp.] - 6
4. Pygmy swiftlet [Collocalia troglodytes] - 6 5. Coppersmith barbet [Megalaima haemacephala] - 2 heard only
6. Pied triller [Lalage nigra] - 1 fem Gleaning insects on a pine tree locally called "Marabuhok."
7. Philippine bulbul [Hypsipetes philippinus] - 2 seen; at least 2 more heard
8. Balicassiao [Dicrurus balicassius] - 1 seen; at least 2 more heard
9. Elegant tit [Parus elegans] - 4
10. Black shama [Copsychus cebuensis] - 1 male seen; at least 2 more heard Call partly tape-recorded.
11. Arctic warbler [Phylloscopus borealis] - 1
12. Striated grassbird [Megalurus palustris] - 1 in gully
13. Black-naped monarch [Hypothymis azurea] - 1 male
14. Olive-backed sunbird [Nectarinia jugularis] - 5
15. Handsome sunbird [Aethopyga bonita] - 1 male; 1 fem A male kept going back to the "Mampur" the whole time we were observing; we assumed it was the same individual. The female appeared only once. In his experience, Pedro says that if the aggressive male sunbird stays close to the "Mala-iba" and the "Mampur," the flowerpeckers generally will not be able to feed there.
16. Crimson sunbird [Aethopyga siparaja] - 1 male
17. Red-keeled Flowerpecker [Dicaeum australe] - 2 males; 1 fem
18. Everett's white-eye [Zosterops everetti] - at least 10 Call tape-recorded.

Crimson Sunbird
Crimson Sunbird

5) From "Key Conservation Sites in the Philippines" by Mallari etal. "Nug-as forest has fewer large trees than the main forest block at Tabunan, but it is much more extensive at c.582 ha. It has been relatively isolated from habitations and more rarely visited, and therefore under less immediate pressure than Tabunan, but the ongoing construction of a road to link Alcoy with Alegria will greatly increase its accessibility. Most of remaining forests at Nug-as are on karst limestone slopes and ridgetops, and in gulleys. There are two main forest types, secondary lowland forest and scrub at 200-500masl, and transitional mid-montane forest above c.500masl. Most of the trees

have small stem diameters and grow very close together, but there are a few large trees. There is an abundance of epiphytes and moss on the trees and rocks. Around the forests and scrubland are small farms with agroforests of mostly coconuts and other fruit trees. Exotic trees planted during a reforestation program are on the adjacent slopes and along the main road.

Sightings of the Cebu subspecies of Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (D. t. pallidus) at Nug-as are apparently the only recent record of this subspecies."