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Cebu, Bohol, Laguna & Cavite

Date: January 25-February 4, 2006
Locations: Cebu, Bohol, Laguna & Cavite
Trip report and list by Dave Slager

Dan Slager on the road to Rajah Sikatuna
Dan Slager on the road to Rajah Sikatuna
National Park, Bohol

I had never been birding outside the United States or Canada before, so I was really excited to go to the Philippines when the chance came up. I had 12 days in the Philippines with a friend of mine who is not a birder, so not all of the time was available for birding. The notable sites were Olango Island, Tabunan National Park (Cebu), Rajah Sikatuna NP (Bohol), and Mt. Makiling (Los Banos, Luzon). I spent approximately 2 months going through Kennedy’s field guide to familiarize myself with the birds, so I was readily able to identify birds by sight, but I regret not trying harder to find tape recordings of Philippine birds. This would have helped tremendously at forest locations, especially Rajah Sikatuna National Park and also Mt. Makiling! I guess I learned my lesson with that. I hope to visit the Philippines again in the future, with more audio preparation, more time for birding, and more local advice to find the birding places more easily.

Nevertheless, the trip was very enjoyable! The Philippines is a beautiful country with wonderful friendly people and excellent birds. As an added note, we felt safe wherever we went. Visiting is highly recommended.

Eagle Optics Ranger Platinum 8x42 binoculars
Kowa 82mm spotting scope with 32x wide angle eyepiece
Bogen 3021 tripod with 3127 quick-release micro-fluid head
Tri-pack tripod harness system

Bringing a spotting scope if you have one is highly recommended. I almost decided not to bring mine, but it was well worth the extra weight and hassle. A vast majority of forest birds and shorebirds would not have been identifiable with just binoculars due to distance. What people say is true—birds are hard to see in the Philippines!

Kennedy, 2000. I brought no tapes this time, but tapes are highly recommended. Various online trip reports from local birders and tourists.

January 25, 2006 - Tabunan, Cebu

We arrived at the airport in Cebu City early in the morning and met up with someone we knew. He had a high-clearance vehicle and took us for a drive in the mountains west of Cebu City in and near the Tabunan province. We also visited the village of Tabunan. We had actually driven within several hundred meters of the forest at Tabunan National Park but did not enter it (it is some distance from the road and not marked).

January 26, 2006 - Mandaue City, Cebu

I woke up early in the morning to do some exploring near the house I was staying in at urban Mandaue City, Cebu.

1. Red-keeled Flowerpecker 3
2. Pied Fantail 2
3. Eurasian Tree Sparrow 30
4. Brown Shrike 1
5. Pacific Swallow 2
6. Red-rumped Swallow 1
7. swiftlet sp. 2
8. Asian Glossy Starling 20

Later that day we went to another house in a more suburban area near Mandaue City, with more trees and bushes.

1. Oriental Magpie-robin 1
2. Pied Fantail 1
3. Red-keeled Flowerpecker 3
4. Eurasian Tree Sparrow 10

January 27, 2006 - Cebu to Bohol

We went to the pier in Cebu City and got a ferry to Tagbilaran, Bohol with hopes of visiting Rajah Sikatuna National Park. In the Cebu harbor I saw a handful of Black-headed Gulls and some terns I couldn’t identify with certainty. I watched carefully for pelagic birds on the ferry but saw nothing except the occasional flying fish. The best way to get to Rajah Sikatuna National Park from Tagbilaran is to get on a bus headed for Carmen and get off at Bilar. This costed us P41 each for a one-way trip. From Bilar, walk down the smaller road headed for the Logarita Swimming Pool. You will pass through some rice fields and get to a T intersection. If you go right, you will go to the Logarita Pool. If you go left, you will go to the clearing known as the Scout Camp/Nature Center area. The entrance fee for the park is P100 for tourists and P10 for Filipinos. We spent the afternoon birding along some of the trails in the park and near the Scout Camp but didn’t find much. We heard a lot of birds but did not see any in the thick forest. As it got dark, 2 Great-eared Nightjars and some huge bats flew over the Scout Camp clearing. Inside the nature center are 2 mattresses where the lady let us spend the night for P100 each. The CR was out of order, but it was quiet and we had no problems with biting insects on Bohol (nor anywhere else in the Philippines). Inside the nature center is a nice map of the trails in the park. Some monkeys got into our backpack and stole our bananas.

January 28, 2006 - Rajah Sikatuna Park, Bohol

In the morning we got up early and walked around on the trails inside the park. Before dawn we heard 2 Philippine Hawk-owls. We spent most of our time on the Tarictic and Brahminy trails which we accessed via the Steere’s Pitta Trail and connected the loop via the road to the Park HQ at the end of the Brahminy Trail. Again, birding was extremely disappointing. Although we heard a lot of birds, especially right at dawn, all activity was very high in the canopy and for the first 6 hours of birding, the only bird I saw was a single Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo. Later in the morning we reached the swimming pool via the back way. In the rice field were Cattle Egrets with a Little Egret. We took the Tarictic Trail back to the Scout Camp area. Here I finally found a mixed flock tending a visible fruiting tree.

1. Spangled Drongo 2
2. Yellow-bellied Whistler 1
3. Black-crowned Babbler 1
4. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker 1
5. Everett’s White-eye 1.

Luzon (Tarictic) Hornbill
Luzon (Tarictic) Hornbill

But the flock disappeared fairly quickly before I was able to identify some sunbirds and any other birds that might have been present. Later on along the Tarictic Trail we came across a vocal Rufous-tailed Jungle-flycatcher. So overall, RSNP was pretty unproductive, visually. If only I knew my Philippine bird songs and calls! The last ferry back to Cebu City from Tagbilaran left around 5pm.

January 29, 2006 - Tabunan Forest, Cebu

In the afternoon I persuaded the friend to help me find the Tabunan Forest. It took some work and some of his Cebuano, and we didn’t get there until about 3pm, so we didn’t have much time, but here are the best directions I can offer: Take the paved road up into the mountains from Cebu City, and cross over the summit of the mountains. On the way down a hill is a dirt road going to the right, towards the village of Tabunan. Tabunan is at the bottom of the hill where the road nears the river (the river is not quite visible from the road in this area). Mr. Oking lives on the right side of the road a little before Tabunan and the river. It is more or less necessary to find him in order to find the forest because the forest is not marked in any way and is several hundred meters from the road. You must walk through parts of the village and some fields to get to the forest. The trail up to the forest was very muddy with lots of thorny bushes. Fortunately, Mr. Oking knew his birds extremely well and was able to identify everything in the forest accurately by sound and, amazingly, by sight without binoculars, even from quite some distance. He was also capable of calling in birds (e.g. the black shama) by voicing a rendition of their song or making a loud squeaking noise with his lips. I saw these birds at the Tabunan Forest, mostly with the help of Mr. Oking.

1. White-collared Kingfisher
2. Coppersmith Barbet 1
3. Philippine Pygmy-woodpecker 1
4. Yellow-vented Bulbul 1
5. Philippine Bulbul many
6. Elegant Tit 2
7. Oriental Magpie-robin 2
8. Black Shama 1 seen singing near platform 2, at least 2-3 others heard
9. Pied Fantail 3
10. Coleto 2
11. Crimson Sunbird 2
12. Red-keeled Flowerpecker heard only

In addition, Mr. Oking heard the following other birds:
1. White-eared Brown-dove
2. Brush Cuckoo
3. Philippine Coucal
4. Balicassiao
5. White-vented Whistler
6. Everett’s White-eye

We were very lucky to see Black Shama and all those other birds in only a few hours, in the afternoon, and without tapes. I am grateful to Mr. Oking for teaching me some Philippine bird songs, because later in the trip at other locations I heard the same species and was then able to identify them myself without needing to see them. It seems obvious now, but if you are new to the Philippines, make sure you get tapes and memorize the songs before you go. Many of the birds are very hard to see but easy to hear and identify by sound (I had never birded in a tropical forest before).

January 31, 2006 - Olango Island

We got up at 5am in Cebu City and Will’s mother brought us to the Hilton Hotel on Mactan Island. Right behind this hotel is the cheap boat that goes to Olango Island, departing between 6am-7am in the morning, with return trips to Cebu departing Olango at roughly 1:30pm, 5pm, and 7pm. The cost is P12 per person for one-way and the trip takes less than ½ hour. We took a tricycle to the Wildlife Sanctuary for P90 and walked out to the hide (viewing blind) after paying an entrance fee (we paid P200 for 2 tourists with 1 camera and 1 spotting scope, but the fee varies depending on nationality and equipment. According to the sign, it is P10 per person if you are Filipino, and P3000 if you are a tourist with a video camera). We stayed at the Sanctuary until about 1pm (high tide). There were a lot of shorebirds around the entire time, and they got a lot closer to us at high tide. I identified the following on the mudflats and along the trail to the hide.

1. Chinese Egret 1
2. Little Egret 50
3. Little Heron 15
4. Rufous Night-heron 2
5. Black-bellied (Gray) Plover 40
6. Kentish Plover 2
7. Greater Sandplover 15
8. Far Eastern Curlew 1
9. Whimbrel 20
10. Bar-tailed Godwit 40
11. Common Redshank 35
12. Common Greenshank 3
13. Terek Sandpiper 3
14. Gray-tailed Tattler 2
15. Ruddy Turnstone 2
16. Great Knot 15
17. Rufous-necked Stint 1
18. Curlew Sandpiper 5
19. Black-headed Gull 6
20. Gull-billed Tern 3
21. White-collared Kingfisher 1
22. Golden-bellied Flyeater 5
23. Pied Fantail 1
24. Olive-backed Sunbird 4

On the Chinese Egret (photo) I noted green facial skin, greenish legs with a greenish yellow foot, bill yellow with black at tip of lower mandible, and along the top ridge of the upper mandible

Chinese Egret
Chinese Egret in Olango Island

February 2-3, 2006 - Mt. Makiling

Of all the sites I was able to visit in the RP, Mount Makiling is my most highly recommended site. It combines accessibility via public transportation, a nice place to stay, and great birding. To get to Mount Makiling from the airport in Manila (Pasay City), take a taxi to the LRT Taft terminal and catch a bus headed for Santa Cruz. For P87, it is a 2.5 hour ride to the Olivarez Plaza in Los Banos. Catch a jeepney here to the UPLB forestry campus, at the top of campus. Here, we stayed for the night at the TREES hostel. It was P600 for 2 clean beds with aircon, fan, and hot shower. Very nice! To get back to Manila catch a bus at the Olivarez Plaza bound for LRT Taft for the same price. Right near the hostel I saw a family of Philippine Falconets, some Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes, a family of Coletos, a Gauibero, many Black-and-white Trillers, and a Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, among other birds. As you can see this is a very birdy place!

I walked up and down the mountain road several times, making it as far as the row of shops near the picnic area. I caught several mixed flocks high in the canopy, and using my spotting scope I was able to see many birds in these mixed flocks. The entrance fee to the mountain is P5 and you need to leave by 4pm, unfortunately.

1. Crested Serpent-eagle 2
2 . Philippine Falconet 7 (TREES lodge)
3 . Emerald Dove 1
4 . Guaiabero 1 male !!!!
5 . Scale-feathered Malkoha 1 !!!
6 . Red-crested Malkoha 10
7 . Luzon (Tarictic) Hornbill 2 !!!!
8 . Coppersmith Barbet 2
9 . Philippine Pygmy-woodpecker 3
10 . Red-rumped Swallow 20 (lower campus)
11. Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike 4
12. Black-and-white Triller 3
13. Ashy Minivet 4
14. Yellow-wattled Bulbul 1
15. Philippine Bulbul 20
16. Balicassiao 6
17. Sulphur-billed Nuthatch 1
18. Stripe-headed Rhabdornis 7
19. Arctic Warbler 1
20 . Grey-streaked Flycatcher 1
21. Gray Wagtail 1
22. Coleto 2
23. Striped Flowerpecker 2 (wagging tail sideways)
24. Red-keeled Flowerpecker 3

We made our way back to Manila and stayed in a hotel for the night.

February 4, 2006 - Corregidor Island, Cavite

We went to the PICC Wharf in Pasay City and took the boat to Corregidor Island. This was pretty expensive, but Will really wanted to go check out the military stuff, so we went anyway. It is actually a really cool place. While I was on Corregidor, I saw the following birds (although birding wasn’t the main objective of this part of the trip).

1. Eastern Reef-egret 3 (2 dark, 1 pale and stained)
2. Crested Serpent-eagle 1
3. Brahminy Kite at least 6
4. Pink-necked Green Pigeon 2
5. Zebra Dove common
5. Emerald Dove 4
6. Cockatoo species 2 (I first thought they were Philippine Cockatoos, but now

I feel that it is safe only to call them unidentified cockatoo sp, because they may have been escapes. Because of low light conditions and distance, I did not see any field marks to distinguish between species).

1. Glossy Swiftlet common
2. White-throated Kingfisher common
3. Yellow-vented Bulbul common
4. Black-naped Oriole 3
5. Blue Rock-thrush 3 (on coast and on ruins)
6. White-breasted Woodswallow 5
7. Brown Shrike common
8. Asian Glossy Starling common