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Birding Palawan with Nicky

Date: October 22-27, 2007
Location: Palawan
Birders: Nicky Icarangal, Ixi Mapua, Peter and Leni Sutcliffe, Charlie and Cathy Te, Violy Tolosa
Trip report by Leni Sutcliffe
Bird List by Nicky Icarangal
Photos by Ixi Mapua

I had long wanted to do Palawan's famous birding areas and decided 2007 was to be my year for doing that. I had been badgering Nicky Icarangal for dates for some time ("Wait till the rains stop," he said). When he set the dates for 22 to 27 October, I had no trouble getting an excited little group to join me.

Bird guide Nicky Icarangal with birders Leni Sutcliffe, Violy Tolosa, Peter Sutcliffe, Cathy and Charlie Te

And so it was that Ixi Mapua, Charlie and Catherine Te, Violy Tolosa, Peter Sutcliffe and I found ourselves with Nicky on the road north from Puerto Princesa to Sabang mid-morning on 22 October. Our first stop was White Beach, not far from the Puerto Princesa airport. Whimbrels, flying near us and calling low over the water, welcomed us. A group of emaciated Chinese Egrets (had they just arrived?) fed farther away. There were Little, Great and Intermediate Egrets; a Green Imperial-Pigeon, Zebra Doves, a Common Kingfisher, Collared Kingfishers, Pacific Swallows, Large-billed Crows, Pied Fantails, a Black-Naped Monarch , an Olive-backed Sunbird.

But it was the Common Iora and the Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, lifers for all but Nicky, that made our hearts dance. They were a sign of lifers to come.

And did they come! We saw (this is the group's common list of lifers; some have other birds to add to their personal lists):

  • Further down the 50-km stretch of road to Sabang: three Great Slaty Woodpeckers, 2 Asian Fairy-Bluebirds, 2 White-Vented Shamas.
  • On the boat to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (aka St Paul's Subterranean etc.): 2 Eastern Reef-Egret
  • At the Park : a Crested Goshawk, the famous and wonderfully vain Palawan Peacock-Pheasant, 2 Asian Drongo-Cuckoo, hundreds of Edible-nest Swiftlets, Palawan Tit, Ashy-headed Babbler, Striped Tit- Babbler, Palawan Flowerpecker, Yellow-throated Leafbird, Ashy Drongo, Hair-crested Drongo, 5 Blue-naped Parrots, 3 Stork-billed Kingfishers, 5 Palawan Hornbills.
  • When owling near the Lion's Cave at Cabayugan and on the Sabang road: 3 magnificent Javan Frogmouths; 3 Large-tailed Nightjars.
  • Roadside birding at Sabang: 2 Common Flameback, 2 Fiery Minivets, 3 Black-headed Bulbul, 2 Olive-winged Bulbuls, 2 Grey- cheeked Bulbuls, Dark-throated Oriole, Hill Myna, 10 Blue-headed Racquet-tail, 3 Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.
  • At the Iwahig Penal Colony: Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Blue Paradise- Flycatcher.
  • At Rasa Island (to which we were guided by Romel of the Katala Foundation): 75 Pied Imperial-Pigeons, 100+ Philippine Cockatoos.

We also heard:

  • The Mantanani Scops-Owl, the Palawan Scops-Owl (seen by Nicky), the Spotted Wood-Owl, Melodious Babbler (seen by Nicky), Falcated Ground-Babbler (seen by Ixi and Nicky), Palawan Flycatcher, Little Spiderhunter.

We saw and heard most of these 40 bird species several times, often with very good and long views. To do that, we waded into and out of the sea; went in and out of boats, big and small; walked slippery forest trails; melted in the heavy rains; steamed under our jackets in the hot forests; crossed rivers; walked in the dark over muddy roads; and woke up at dawn everyday. We got bitten by mosquitos and by sandflies (for which Nicky's anti-itch remedy is to hold a piece of burning katol or to roll a hot-water bottle over the bite).

Breathtaking scenery while birding at St Paul's National Park

Crossing the streams at Irawan

Our van had to be towed out of a deep rut in a horrendously bumpy road. A monkey unzipped my backpack once, pulled my jacket out and made a hole in the netting! What an adventure!

We had glorious sunrises and sunsets, serene views of mountains and limestone cliffs, and once, on the way to and from Rasa Island, a wonderfully calm sea. We had great food!

And we had Nicky! Never was a birding group happier with its tour leader. Nicky's hotel and transport arrangements were perfect, his scheduling of activities superb, his bird guiding faultless. He handled us all with absolute calm, and with a firm but kind and gentle hand. We are all looking forward to our next birding trip with him.

START DATE: 22/10/2007
END DATE: 27/10/2007

Nicky Icarangal
Peter Sutcliffe, Charlie Te, Catherine Te, Violy Tolosa
ENVIRONMENT CONDITION: rainy, sunny, overcast in turn

1. Great Egret Ardea alba 15 White Beach
2. Eastern Reef-Egret (Pacific Reef-Egret) Egretta sacra 6 St Paul Subterranean River National Park
3. Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 6 White Beach, Sabang
4. Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes 10 + White Beach
5. Little Egret Egretta garzetta 21 + White Beach, Sabang, road to Puerto Princesa
6. Little Heron Butorides striata 3 SPSRNP, Sabang, road to Puerto Princesa
7. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis x everywhere
8. Oriental Honeybuzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus 2 Sabang
9. White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 3 SPSRNP, Sabang
10. Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus 2 Sabang
11. Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus 1 Iwahig Penal Colony
12. Raptor sp. Accipitridae/ Falconidae sp. 1 Accipiter sp.
13. Tabon Scrubfowl Megapodius cumingii 4 of which 1 heard; Sabang
14. Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus 1 Sabang
15. Palawan Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron napoleonis 2 of which 1 heard; SPSRNP
16. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 12 + White Beach, Rasa Island
17. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 2 road to Iwahig Penal Colony
18. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1 SPSRNP
19. Grey-tailed Tattler Heteroscelus brevipes 2 SPSRNP
20. Pink-necked Green-Pigeon Treron vernans 12+ Sabang, Iwahig Penal Colony
21. Green Imperial-Pigeon Ducula aenea 16 White Beach, Sabang, Iwahig Penal Colony, road to Puerto Princesa
22. Pied Imperial-Pigeon Ducula bicolor 75 Rasa Island
23. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 5 Sabang, road to Puerto Princesa
24. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata 28+ White Beach, Sabang, road to Puerto Princesa
25. Common Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica 8 Sabang
26. Philippine Cockatoo Cacatua haematuropygia 100+ Rasa Island
27. Blue-naped Parrot Tanygnathus lucionensis 11
28. Blue-headed Racquet-tail Prioniturus platenae 10 Sabang
29. Large Hawk-Cuckoo Cuculus sparverioides 1 Iwahig Penal Colony
30. Asian Drongo-Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris 3 more heard, Sabang
31. Common Koel Eudynamys scolopaceus 2 heard only; road to Sabang
32. Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Zanclostomus curvirostris 6 Sabang, Iwahig Penal Colony
33. Mantanani Scops-Owl Otus mantananensis 2 heard only, Rasa Island
34. Palawan Scops-Owl Otus fuliginosus 6 of which 4 heard, Sabang
35. Spotted Wood-Owl Strix seloputo 4 heard only
36. Javan Frogmouth Batrachostomus javensis 5 of which 2 heard; Sabang
37. Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus 3 Sabang
38. Nightjar sp. Caprimulgidae sp. 1 Sabang
39. Island Swiflet Aerodramus vanikorensis 5 ssp. Palawanensis; White Beach, Sabang
40. Edible-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphagus x ssp. germani: several hundred, SPSRNP
41. Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta x Sabang, road to Puerto Princesa
42. Pygmy Swiftlet Collocalia troglodytes x Sabang
43. Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 3 Sabang
44. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 3 White Beach, SPSRNP
45. Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher Ceyx erithaca 1 Sabang
46. Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis 5 SPSRNP, Rasa Island
47. White-collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris 11 White Beach, SPSRNP, Rasa Island
48. Palawan Hornbill Anthracoceros marchei 5 SPSRNP
49. Great Slaty Woodpecker Mulleripicus pulverulentus 3 Road to Sabang
50. White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis 1 Sabang
51. Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus 2 Sabang
52. Common Flameback Dinopium javanense 4 Sabang
53. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica x seen everywhere
54. Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike Coracina striata 2 heard only
55. Fiery Minivet Pericrocotus igneus 4 Sabang
56. Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis 12 Sabang
57. Common Iora Aegithina tiphia 1 White Beach
58. Black-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus atriceps 3 Sabang
59. Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus 2 Sabang
60. Grey-cheeked Bulbul Criniger bres 2 Sabang
61. Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus 6 SPSRNP, Sabang
62. Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 10 SPSRNP, Sabang
63. Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus 1 Sabang
64. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 1 Sabang
65. Asian Fairy-Bluebird Irena puella 3 of which 1 heard; Sabang
66. Slender-billed Crow Corvus enca 9 Sabang, Rasa Island
67. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 6 White Beach, Sabang
68. Palawan Tit Parus amabilis 6 Sabang, Iwahig Penal Colony
69. Ashy-headed Babbler Malacocincla cinereiceps 3 + more heard; Sabang, Iwahig Penal Colony
70. Melodious Babbler Malacopteron palawanense 1 heard; Iwahig Penal Colony
71. Falcated Ground-Babbler Ptilocichla falcata 3 of which 2 heard; SPSRNP, Sabang
72. Striped Tit-Babbler Macronous gularis 16 Sabang, Iwahig Penal Colony
73. White-vented Shama Copsychus niger 6 of which 2 heard; Sabang
74. Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis 1 Sabang
75. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus 5 of which 2 heard; Sabang
76. Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 5 Sabang
77. Palawan Flycatcher Ficedula platenae 1 heard, Zigzag Road
78. Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica 3 White Beach
79. Blue Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone cyanescens 2 of which 1 heard; Iwahig, road to P. Princesa
80. Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea 7 White Beach, Sabang, Iwahig Penal Colony
81. Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 1 road to Narra
82. White-breasted Wood-swallow Artamus leucorynchus 2 road to Narra
83. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 8 + more heard; roads to Sabang & Narra
84. Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis 9 P. Princesa, Sabang
85. Hill Myna Gracula religiosa 2 Sabang
86. Plain-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis 2 Sabang
87. Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis 14 several seen everyday
88. Lovely Sunbird Aethopyga shelleyi 7 Sabang
89. Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra 1 heard only
90. Palawan Flowerpecker Prionochilus plateni 9 Sabang
91. Striped Flowerpecker Dicaeum aeruginosum 1 Sabang
92. Pygmy Flowerpecker Dicaeum pygmaeum 5 Sabang
93. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus x seen everyday
94. White-bellied Munia Lonchura leucogastra x road to Narra
95. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 2
96. Chestnut Munia Lonchura malacca 14 White Beach, Sabang, many more on road to Narra