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File as Navotas Adventure

Navotas (Shoreline and fishponds behind shore)
Date: August 25, 2007
Time: 7:51 am to 2:45pm
Cloud Cover: 6/8, 7/8
Conditions: Cloudy, Shower
Observers: Tina Alejandro, Mads Bajarias, Carmela Espanola,
Debbie McGuinn, Felix Servita Jr.

Trip Report by D. McGuinn

You never know what you’ll find or be up against when you set out for a pleasurable day of birding. But whatever lies ahead, you go out to embrace the adventure. This Saturday at Navotas was no exception. And you could say it was beyond expectations. We experienced so many things!

Just driving to the site where we ended up parking was an adventure in itself. Some streets in Navotas were still flooded, one week after Typhoon Sepat passed by the Philippines, dropping lots of rain and causing flooding in many places in Luzon. Then the elementary school gate was not open, so we had to drive around more and were able to park along a road near some construction work. After parking and before getting to the coast, you have to walk along the dikes of the fish agricultural ponds, and through a small informal settlement by the ponds and at the coast. Felix commented that each time he comes to the area, there are more people living there.

The entire coastline was inundated with garbage. It was an unbelievable site. It seemed like it was household garbage (flip flops, balls, plastic, styrofoam, plastic bottles, food wrappers, plastic, flip flops, old tires, plastic…). Medical waste was not evident, which was good. We wove our way around and among mounds of garbage atop mounds of shells.

Of course we were birding all along the way. Then we came to the mud bogs. Oh my!

The mud bogs were intermixed with small mangrove trees, and garbage, and we tried to get a view of the shoreline and birds as we walked through the area. Lala and Mads were more successful with getting through the mud and viewing birds.

After a couple of hours of slogging through the mud bogs, trying to stay on top by flattening down the ground cover plants but sinking in the mud much of the time anyway, I felt that it was taking all my energy just to take one step after another. A lot of the time I had to keep pulling my feet, with boots, out of the mud. I felt that I was missing the birding. One time Tina sunk a foot so low that she had to just step out of her boot. She had to then step in the mud with her nice white sock. Felix dug her boot out of the mud, and she casually put it back on, with the muddy sock on of course.

Dealing with these mud bogs added more time to our outing compared to past outings to this area. Looking at the list that Mads prepared, I was happy to learn that I saw most of the species of birds. So I thought I didn’t do too bad. Then I looked more closely at the numbers of each species, and realized that I indeed spent most of my time plodding through the mud and missed most of the birds.

Lala unfurled her wings, as Tina said, and whisked through the area with Mads. I was so thankful to have Felix and Tina with me. Tina and I were tested that day, and Felix kept us going, and made us rest, and looked after us.

When the end of trudging through the mud bog was near, I had to just keep going, even though I wanted to keep stopping and catching my breath, otherwise I didn’t think I was going to make it out of there! I’ve trekked across some difficult terrain before, in hot conditions sometimes with humidity but mostly without it, but this was the toughest outing I’ve experienced. From Tina’s recollection, Felix said "sometimes you have to experience these things".

I was exhausted by the time we got to the dike. We had trekked quite a distance to get there, but we still had to get back. At the dike we ate, hydrated and rested for a while, and birded. On the way back to our beginning point, we walked along a dike and canal by the ponds.

Shortly we were able, and happy, to hire a small banca to take us back to the town. Then with a short motor-trike ride and a short walk, we made it back to the cars mid-afternoon. I asked Lala if the mud bog conditions were normal, what she usually experiences, and she said “NO, this was completely unexpected”.

The thought is that the rains and flooding that occurred from the typhoon the week before had caused the coastal area to be inundated by water and to cause the boggy conditions we encountered. I was thankful now thinking that this, hopefully, was the worse it could get, and I felt I could try this census again.

It was a day that tested you; it tested your endurance, determination, and attitude. We were all still smiling after the mud bog experience and at the end of the day. What a great group of people!

1. Purple Heron [Ardea purpurea] – 1
2. Great Egret [Egretta alba] – 1
3. Intermediate Egret [Egretta intermedia] – 2
4. Chinese Egret [Egretta eulophotes] – 2
5. Little Egret [Egretta garzetta] – 2
6. Egret sp. – 5
7. Striated Heron [Butorides striatus] – 41
8. Black-crowned Night-Heron [Nycticorax nyctirorax] – 19
9. Yellow Bittern [Ixobrychus sinensis] – 9
10. Barred Rail [Gallirallus torquatus] – HO
11. Asian Golden-Plover [Pluvialis fulva] – 11
12. Lesser Sand-Plover [Charadrius mongolus] – 1
13. Greater Sand-Plover [Charadrius leschenaultii] – 11
14. Whimbrel [Numenius phaeopus] – 12
15. Common Redshank [Tringa totanus] – 9
16. Common Greenshank [Tringa nebularia] – 5
17. Common Sandpiper [Actitis hypoleucos] – 13
18. Terek Sandpiper – [Xenus cinereus] – 1 (red-orange
19. Black-winged Stilt [Himantopus himantopus] – 35
20. White-winged Tern [Chlidonias leucopterus] – 16 (In
molt: some with black heads; some with black upperparts and
white collars; some with black patches in underparts)
21. Whiskered Tern [Chlidonias hybridus] – 96
22. Tern sp. – 1 [Notes by M. Bajarias]
23. Zebra Dove [Geopelia striata] – 6
24. White-collared Kingfisher [Halcyon chloris] – 31
25. Bee- eater sp. – 4
26. Pacific Swallow [Hirundo tahitica] - 1
27. Pied Triller [Lalage nigra] – 12
28. Golden-bellied Flyeater [Gerygone sulphurea] – 12
29. Pied Fantail [Rhipidura javanica] – 6
30. Long-tailed Shrike [Lanius schach] – 5
31. Crested Myna [Acridotheres cristatellus] - 6
32. Eurasian Tree Sparrow [Passer montanus] – 60
33. Chestnut Munia [Lonchura malacca] – 4

Tern sp. [by M. Bajarias]
Individual seen morning of August 24 at Navotas with White-winged and Whiskered Terns in general vicinity. First impression: very white appearance. It stood out among the White-wingeds which were in molt with varying degrees of black on upperparts, underparts and head. It stood out from among the Whiskered in that the latter had smoke grey upperparts and upper tail coverts. Body of individual was slender with long narrow wings. Entirely white and very light grey plumage (lighter than Whiskered smoke grey) except for a black horizontal oval patch on the ears (different than the more circular ear spots of White-winged Tern). No black on wingtips, tail or crown. Bill black and tiny. Body slightly longer than the Whiskereds. No discernable fork in tail (or very shallow if it had one). No difference between rump, upper tail coverts and lower back colors. Fed by skimming low on the water and snatching prey with bill on surface (similar to White-wingeds} Never plunged head-first into water (as Whiskereds were observed to do). Single.

Notes on Chinese Egret [by C. Espanola]
notes on the Chinese Egret sighting at the dike: typical CE posture of crouching low in mud with wings partially extended then running to stab a mudskipper, legs suspected to be muddy so it appears dark, bicolored bill, facial skin dark (glare prevents accurate color ID) which contrasts with yellow of the bill.

Notes on egrets [by M. Bajarias]
We took extra care and time when scoping and identifying the egrets but the lighting conditions made it difficult to pick out the leg and facial colors except for a short time nearing noon when the sun shone brightly and revealed the green legs of a single Chinese Egret. We left other egrets unidentified at species level due to low sunlight conditions that prevailed for most of the time. High tide also meant that the muddy part of the beach where the Club had encountered Chinese Egrets numerous times in the past were underwater this time.

Notes on White-winged and Whiskered [by M. Bajarias]
This time of year the White-winged Terns were easier to pick out from the Whiskereds due to the former’s molting plumage. The White-wingeds still had varying degrees of black in heads, underparts and upperparts. Some sported white collars contrasting with black mantles and black streaking on the crowns. It will be far more difficult to tell these two apart in the coming months when the White-wingeds had completely transitioned into winter plumage. The combination of molt feathers, black “ear muffs” and the observed tendency of picking up food with their bills from the surface made identification of the White-wingeds relatively easy work this time of year at Navotas. The number of White-wingeds counted this time makes one wonder if they are being undercounted in other months when differentiating them from Whiskereds is a more difficult task.

Notes on Asian Golden Plover [by M. Bajarias]
The Asian Golden Plovers were all showing remnants of breeding colors with their underparts sporting a splotchy appearance which can be puzzling then they are viewed directly from below. But when perched and scoped, they are unmistakable this time of year at Navotas.

Notes on Whimbrels [by M. Bajarias]
A flock of ten Whimbrels gave us a treat by landing and vigorously washing themselves in the water. Two or three waded into belly-deep water and animatedly washed themselves. After washing, they stood on the muddy beach and moved their long bills on their upperparts. After an unseen signal, they all flew along the shoreline towards the direction of Bulacan and Pampanga.

Note on Terek Sandpiper [by M. Bajarias]
A single Terek Sandpiper was picked out among the beach debris. The individual had red-orange legs.

Notes on Greater and Lesser Sand-Plovers [by M. Bajarias]
The Greater Sand-Plovers were seen either alone or in small groups of three or four in both pebbly and muddy substrates. When seen alongside a Common Sandpiper we were amused to see how large the Sand-Plover really is. We took great care when identifying the Greater Sand-Plovers, but the method of comparing bill length with head size proved to be key in picking out Lesser from Greater.