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Not just Red-bellied Pittas!

Place: Touch of Glory Prayer Mountain, Busobuso, Antipolo
Date: June 24, 2005
Time: 6:00am-11:00am
Conditions: Very Cloudy (90-95% cloud cover)
Birders: Trinket Canlas, Gerry de Villa, Nicky Icaringal, Rich Pijuan, Alice Villa-real, Jon Villasper.

Trip Report by Trinket

We met up at around 5:30am at Katipunan, not so early since Antipolo is just nearby. On our way up the mountains, we passed by long-tailed shrikes warming up for the day’s hunt. We arrived at Prayer Mountain by 6am, and were greeted by the sit-sits of lowland white eyes flying around.

We began birding at a downhill slope where several prayer huts were located. As we made our way down the steps, we could hear a constant call from the surrounding trees. Nicky excitedly identified it as the red-bellied pitta! We could hardly contain our anticipation! Within a few minutes Nicky was able to locate the red-bellied pitta up in a tree overhead doing a little shake of its wings. We were all in awe at its bright red-orange belly and touches of bright blue all around. Suddenly, it flew to the ground nearby where we admired it hop-hopping until it disappeared behind a clump of bamboo. Hardly did we turn around when a common emerald dove suddenly landed on the ground near to where the pitta had been. What a wonderful start to the days’ birding!

Immature Red-bellied
Immature Red-bellied

Butterflies flew all around us. Our attention was then caught by a beautiful whistling call (I still say I wish our doorbell sounded like that) which was identified by Propgerry as coming from the white-browed shama. As if on cue, a white-browed shama landed on a low branch nearby. We got a good, long view… mostly of its back. Later we would see them again, this time with a view of the distinct white brow.

Nicky and Propgerry made their way up the slippery hill, followed by me, Rich and Jon. Nicky,who was first, soon spotted a black-naped monarch flitting about some trees. We were able to admire it for some time before it grew tired of us and flew away. By now we had eached a landscaped pond where we spotted a male pied bushchat being cavorted by 2 females. We headed down another path that led to a grassy and marshy area. Black-naped orioles and collared kingfishers were making a racket above us. In the distance we could see the bare mountain, now ugly with signs of quarrying.

Pied Bushchat
Pied Bushchat

Back at the pond we met up with Alice who was giving a quick introduction on birding to Rey from the Prayer Mountain. The pied bushchats, a long-tailed shrike and munias building a nest were her excellent and willing props. Feeling that our first spot would be more productive, we headed back down. We could hear the red-bellied pitta calling again. This time we spotted 2 immature pittas perched and flying low on the ground. Dark brown with white streaks down their front, they looked nothing like the illustration in the Kennedy guide. We also spotted mangrove blue flycatchers flying around and being chased by the pied fantails. Satisfied, we headed to the cafeteria for a filling breakfast and to gush over our sightings. The employees and people who lived there also told us stories of their bird sightings and rescues, saying they wished they knew the names of all the birds they saw.

Lowland White-eye
Lowland White-eye

Having rested and recharged, we took a quick look at another path behind the cafeteria. Again butterflies flitted around us while we walked. Nicky and Propgerry found a perfect natural hide in a bamboo thicket (complete with mosquitoes) from which they observed a pair of mangrove blue flycatchers with an immature offspring.

Finally it was time to go. Right before we returned to our cars, a black-naped monarch made an appearance to wish us farewell and blue-tailed bee-eaters flew overhead. A good end topped only by a great beginning. No mysterious rail sightings, but that’s a good excuse to come back again soon!

Bird List by Gerry de Villa, Alice Villa-real & Trinket Canlas

1. White-breasted waterhen – heard only
2. White-eared brown dove – heard only
3. Black-chinned fruit dove – heard only
4. Common Emerald dove –1
5. Philippine coucal – heard only
6. Lesser Coucal – heard only
7. Collared Kingfisher - 3
8. Blue-tailed Bee eater - 8
9. Red bellied Pita – 3; 1 adult, 2 imm
10. Yellow-vented bulbul – common
11. Philippine bulbul – 2
12. Black-naped Oriole – 2
13. White-browed Shama – 2
14. Pied Bushchat – 3; 1M, 2 F
15. Golden-bellied flyeater – 1
16. Striated grassbird – 1
17. Tawny grassbird – 3
18. Mangrove blue flycatcher – 5; 1 imm
19. Pied fantail – 3
20. Black-naped monarch – 2; 1 M, 1 F
21. White-breasted woodswallow – 3
22. Long-tailed shrike – 1
23. Olive-backed sunbird – 2; 1M, 1F
24. Lowland white-eye – common
25. Eurasian tree swallow – common
26. Scaly-breasted munia – 8