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Date: 21-23 June 2006
Location: Camarines Sur:
Provincial Capitol Complex, Pili
Mt. Isarog (trail from Consocep Mountain Resort)
Barangay Ponong, Magarao
Barceloneta (Cabusao)
Bicol National Park
Birders: Desmond Allen, Leni Sutcliffe

I had never been to Bicol and since Leni comes from there and has some contacts, the offer of a birdwatching trip was gladly accepted. We stayed at the Provincial Capitol Complex in Pili. There is an 'eco-village' there, previously mentioned in WBCP emails, that the governor of Camarines Sur (Governor L-Ray Villafuerte) is developing as part of his plan for ecotourism in the region. He and his staff, particularly Menandro (Jun) Benavides, Jr. aviculturist in charge of the eco-village and the Governor's "Bird Man", were keen to have advice about developing birdwatching activities and they gave us a lot of help in visiting areas of interest in the province.

Provincial Capitol Complex, Pili: the site has areas of rough grazing, with pools and secondary growth that support many species of birds; some of the birds we saw there incuded:

Blue-breasted Quail Coturnix Chinensis
Barred Rail Gallirallus torquatus
White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea
Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis
Red Turtle-Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Zebra Dove Geopelia striata
White-collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula
Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata
Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata
Chestnut Munia Lonchura malacca
[and Plain Bush-hen Amaurornis olivacea and
Watercock Gallicrex cinerea reported.]

There is also a mini-zoo there of birds that have been brought in injured or in poor condition from captivity. Although apparently crowded in some of the cages virtually all of the birds were in excellent health, lacking any diseases of the bill or feet that so often afflict captives (as at Manila Zoo, for example). A pair of Rufous Hornbills has even bred there.

The birds looked very attractive and I am sure will stimulate interest in birds. However, I can't help wondering whether they won't encourage visitors to want to acquire such captive birds for themselves so that they too can admire them in their own homes!

We understand that one of our suggestions for improvement, the removal of domesticated pigeons from the "dome" holding wild species of doves and pigeons, has been implemented. We also recommended the use of information sheets or boards to maximize the educational value of the ecovillage, and the use of bigger cagesfor some of the raptors. Jun Benavidez has several sites that he feels are of interest to birdwatchers in the region and he took us with some of the Governor's publicity staff to see them.

Some rice fields near Barangay Ponong had atleast 31 Black-winged Stilts-Himantopus on 21 July (a very early date) along with:

Intermediate Egret-Egretta intermedia 1
Yellow Bittern-Ixobrychus sinensis 3
Oriental Pratincole-Glareola maldivarum 1
Clamorous Reed-Warbler-Acrocephalus stentoreus 2
Chesnut Munia Lonchura malacca - several

Nearby, in Barangay Ponong, Magarao, is an extensive brackish area of 25 hectares, 10 of which have already been acquired by the Provincial Government as a nature reserve.
From the "road" (actually a dike) we saw the following:

Wandering Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna arcuata many
Philippine Duck Anas luzonica 1?
White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus H
Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra H
Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica H
[and Jun reports Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio]

The ducks were flying from about five pools hidden from us by dense growth of nipa palm and other vegetation.

We continued to a fisheries school at Barceloneta in Cabusao, just in front of San Miguel Bay. A short walk through the mangroves brought us to a muddy foreshore that stretched for a total of 8-10 kilometers to left and right. While the 10 hectare magrove area belongs to the Provincial Government, the foreshore is said to be "owned" by the local mayor; ownership will have to be "regained" by the Provincial Government if the area is to be developed into a bird sanctuary.

Barceloneta Wetlands
Barceloneta wetlands taken during migration season in early 2006


About one kilometre in front the mud reached a sandbank and beyond that we could make out the sea. The wet mud was alive with mudskippers but on that day there were no birds close-by. There was a distant Purple Heron near the sea, and what appeared to be a Great Cormorant and some plovers. Some early Greenshanks flew along the shore. In the winter there are thousands of duck, notably Pintail, Garganey and Shoveler, along with waders. The site has never been properly documented for birds so it is clearly going to be a most interesting place to visit later this year.

[Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor reported
[Northern Pintail Anas acuta documented by photographs
[Garganey Anas querquedula documented by photographs
[Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata documented by photographs
[Little Ringed-Plover Charadrius dubius documented by photographs
[Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus documented by photographs
[Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1 probable]
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 1
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 7
White-collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris 1

Barceloneta Wetlands
Northern Shovellers and Northern Pintails in Barceloneta wetlands in early 2006


There is surely much, much more to be seen here.

We promised Jun that the WBCP would meet the Governor to see what the Club could do to help in the development of the wetlands. (WBCP has since had a meeting with the Governor and a proposalis now ready for a first-step field visit to the area.)

The national road from Manila runs through Bicol Natural Park, an area set up for ecotourism in the 1980s. Unfortunately putting a road through the forest had the usual effect of providing easy access to people with chain saws. What was apparently at first very rich in endemic wildlife has become typical of degraded secondary forest. The park HQ may once have been inviting but is now extremely run down. Tall trees survive in this narrow strip of land, but a few metres away all has been thoroughly logged. Across the road is one tall tree with a Tarictic's nest, though apparently chicks are for sale in the vicinity. Close-by we were offered Guaiaberos.

Birds seen at a couple of stops included:

Barred Rail Gallirallus torquatus
Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis
White-collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris
Luzon Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides manillae
Philippine Bulbul Ixos philippinus
Balicassiao Dicrurus balicassius
Elegant Tit Parus elegans
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
Plain-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis
Red-keeled Flowerpecker Dicaeum australe
Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma

[I gather from Arne Jensen that there is an area well off the road with some remaining, good quality, primary forest.]

Our last significant site was Mt Isarog, famous for the endemic Isarog shrew-rat (surely you have heard of it?) The Governor arranged for us to be guided on this isolated peak of 1996 m. The lower slopes have inevitably been thoroughly cleared. Jun and Jobi Villareal (mountaineer and the Governor's official photographer) took us on a road that leads up to Consocep, a mountain resort at an altitude of about 550 meters at the forest edge and we able to start from within shade. While we waited for some technical arrangements an inquisitive Buzzing Flowerpecker came to inspect us, and stayed long enough for it to be identified. After a local guide had been added to our party we set off along a level contouring track (with Leni going only part of the way) that ran through good forest habitat. I soon flushed a large buttonquail or quail that I must assume was Spotted Buttonquail, though I saw too little of it as it tore off for a positive ID.

Some parties of Elegant Tits gave us brief views before we took a side track heading more directly up the mountain. From here the birding got harder: the birds were there but were extremely reluctant to give us even the briefest of views. We walked for several hours hearing nearby calls of birds like Mountain Leaf Warbler and Mountain White-eye without even seeing movements in the branches. We reached moss forest and our guide managed to get a dove to respond to his calls. This seemed to be Spotted Imperial-Pigeon according to his description but we never glimpsed it. Eventually we did catch very brief and obscure views of some warblers and white-eyes, and also a Fairy Bluebird. I can only assume from the behaviour of these birds high up the mountain that the small trails are regularly used for hunting and the birds (as at Imugan) were used to evading humans. After we had descended to near the contour trail, and as it started to drizzle, we came upon a clearing with a flowering tree and a dead tree that had attracted a flock of small birds. I saw more birds here than the rest of the day put together but the rain soon forced us to press on.

There is a list of birds for Mt Isarog at http://www.geocities.com/my_isarog/florafaunatables.html but I notice that is for a particular transect. Several of the species that we saw are not listed but I will have to check with past papers by Goodman and Gonzales and by Rabor to see if these are truly new records for the area.

[Spotted Buttonquail Turnix ocellatus]
White-eared Brown-Dove Phapitreron leucotis
[Spotted Imperial-Pigeon Ducula carola]
Philippine Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia tenuirostris1
Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica H
Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus H
Philippine Coucal Centropus viridis H
Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta a few
Pygmy Swiftlet Collocalia troglodytes1
Luzon Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides manillae H
Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos maculatus H
Philippine Bulbul Ixos philippinus several heard
Philippine Fairy-Bluebird Irena cyanogastra 1
Elegant Tit Parus elegans several family parties
Sulphur-billed Nuthatch Sitta oenochlamys 2
Stripe-headed Rhabdornis Rhabdornis mystacalis 2
White-browed Shortwing Brachypteryx montana H
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 1 seen
White-browed Shama Copsychus luzoniensis several? heard
Lemon-throated Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus cebuensis 3-4
Mountain Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus trivirgatus 1 seen others heard
Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis H
Grey-backed Tailorbird Orthotomus derbianus a pair seen probably
near their nest
[Citrine Canary-Flycatcher Culicicapa helianthea] 1 possibly this species
Blue-headed Fantail Rhipidura cyaniceps 2
Flaming Sunbird Aethopyga flagrans 1
[Bicolored Flowerpecker Dicaeum bicolor] 1 probably this species
Buzzing Flowerpecker Dicaeum hypoleucum2
[Pygmy Flowerpecker Dicaeum pygmaeum- thought at the time to be this
species but no longer ]
Yellowish White-eye Zosterops nigrorum a few
Mountain White-eye Zosterops montanus many heard, 2 seen