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Rizal Park and American Cemetery

By Todd R. Pepper

Date: February 1-7, 2002

A recent trip to the Philippines, between February 1 — 7, 2002 only allowed for some quick urban birding. First of all birders should be aware that the visiting hours of the American Cemetery in Makati City, just outside of Manila, have changed. The Cemetery used to open at 6:30 a.m., perfect for early rising birders and early feeding birds. However, as of February 1, 2002, the visiting hours are now 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After an unfruitful attempt to convince the security guard to let me into the Cemetery at 6:30 a.m., I headed back to Manila Bay and hired a boat for an hour, for 500 pesos, to take me out into the Bay just off Embassy Point. There were many small flocks of Common and Whiskered Tern about 1 kilometre off shore.

Back on shore, and down a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy is Rizal Park. A walk around the Park revealed many Yellow Vented Bulbul, six Brown Shrikes, a small flock of four of the Philippenisis sub-species of Colasis (Philippine Hanging Parrot), as well as dozens of Eurasian Tree Sparrows and Rock Doves.

It was then back to the Cemetery. Just inside the gate were Spotted and Zebra Dove, as well as the first of many Pied Fantails. Four Purple Needletail flashed through the sky constantly like a formation of fighter jets, appropriate to the setting I thought. An Arctic Warbler was in the less maintained area of the Cemetery to the south of the Monument, as was a White Collared Kingfisher and small flocks of both White Breasted Munia and White Breasted Woodswallows. Pied Trillers were common throughout the Cemetery, as were Pacific Swallows. A single Java Sparrow was seen in the flowering shrubs near the houses. The best bird of the day, however, was a single Blue Rock Thrush on the ground in front of the monument.

The rice paddies north of Manila were full of egrets. I counted hundreds of each of Intermediate and Lesser Egrets, and one flock of 14 Great Egrets up close to the highway, with many more that couldn’t be identified into species at the speed my driver was going.

A walk around the barracks area of the former Subic Bay Naval Base on February 3rd revealed an additional eight species. Common were Asian Palm Swifts, Crested Myna, Large Billed Crow, Barn Swallows, Glossy Swiftlets and Island Swiftlets. One Scaly Ground Thrush was in the park adjacent to the Gordon monument, as was the best bird of this leg of the trip, a Purple Throated Sunbird.