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LUZON BIRDWATCHING TRIP

By: Lim Kim Seng, Jimmy Chew and Doreen Ang
31 May – 3 June 2007

To Mike Lu, President and founder of Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) and all WBCP members who handled our ground logistics very well and made us feel more than welcomed on our maiden birdwatching trip to the Philippines, we would like to thank you once again.

This informal report does not cover geographical or historical facts about Luzon, Mt Makiling or Mt Palay Palay as these have been well documented by others and I see no need for repetition.

Bird Checklist : Lim Kim Seng
Report : Doreen Ang

Thurs, 31 May 2007

Our SQ flight from Singapore to Manila took 3 hours. At 5 pm, Ixi Mapua, a member of WBCP was already at Ninoy Aquino International Airport to meet us. Enroute to Trees Lodge at Mt Makiling, we could not resist a buffet spread at the Saisaki Japanese Restaurant in Alabang Town Center. And of course we grabbed some groceries like there's no tomorrow.

Ixi, many thanks for the ride in your snazzy red car, we wish you a speedy recovery.

Fri, 1 June 2007 (Mt Makiling) Hot and humid but rained briefly in the afternoon

Jonas Rune (WBCP member) was our host. We were a bit late getting up and started birding after 5.30 am. Claude and Marie-Jo Rabille, both from Switzerland, joined us.

 
Mt. Makiling
WBCP birders Adri, Alex, Arnel and Felix

An obligatory glance at the botak tree behind Trees Lodge showed nothing. But not long into our dawn walk along the road up Mt Makiling, we were rewarded with a perched Philippine Hawk Owl. Soon Mt Makiling came alive with bird songs and calls. We heard the Yellow-breasted and the Black-chinned Fruit-Dove in the distant which got me excited but after a fruitless hunt and more like stiff necks, we gave up. Our luck changed for the better when Claude who walked ahead of us, spotted an active White-browed Shama at a bend. We picked up a lone Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, the vocal Philippine Hawk Cuckoo and a Black-and-White Triller along the way and had good looks of endemics like the White-eared Brown-Dove and Stripe- headed Rhabdornis on a fruiting tree.

Not to be left out were the Philippine Bulbuls which seemed quite common here, whereas we only heard the Yellow-wattled Bulbul.
 

The Bird of the Day for me was a female Spotted Wood-Kingfisher! She had food in her bill. Kim Seng scoped it and wow, you should see the spots on her chest. Beautiful Further up the road, the male dashed at eye level in a straight flight across my path. The brilliant blue stripe on its head caught my eyes. Felt sorry the guys missed this one.

We stopped for breakfast about a third way up Mt Makiling where we found roadside stalls offering fresh coconuts and refreshments! We visited the nursery next to the stalls and saw Glossy Swiftlets, another Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Pygmy Swiftlet, Asian Palm- Swift, Red-keeled Flowerpecker, Purple Needletail and Yellowish White- eye.

 
Spotted Wood-kingfisher (left) and Red-keeled Flowerpecker (right)

The drizzle had gotten worse by now. We hailed a passing jeepney and took a ride back to the car park.

Jonas boosted our morale by suggesting the Indigo-banded Kingfisher at the Botanical Garden. Claude's wife and I were forced to give up halfway as the boulders and rocks along the gully proved quite demanding and slippery. Much later, the guys appeared one by one, no cigars, but you could tell some enjoyed the good workout.

After a quick late lunch just outside UP-LB where Kim Seng spotted the Lowland White-eye, Jonas drove us to the buttonquail track to wrap up the day's birding. Noteworthy sightings at this site included 3-5 Spotted Buttonquails (one seen enjoying a sand bath), Philippine Coucal, another Red- crested Malkoha, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, a male and female Guaiabero, White-throated Kingfisher, Bright-capped Cisticola as well as the Striated and Tawny Grassbirds.

Thank you Jonas and bon voyage! We hope you will find time to re-visit Asia now and again.

Back at Trees Lodge a Philippine Falconet and possibly a nesting Coppersmith Barbet decided to appear on the botak tree much to the delight of someone.

Sat, 2 June 2007 (Half day at Mt Makiling) Hot and humid

We gathered at 6 am. Alex Tiongco, Professor Agerico M. De Villa, Arnel Telesforo and Felix Servita were our kind hosts.

With only the morning to spare, we chose to do the Mud Springs trail. Alex, upon seeing Jimmy’s 600mm lens and camera offered his car to take us all the way up to the stalls.

Alex, I am touched by your sincerity. Thanks for your jovial company and all the best in the Visayas.

Although quiet at times, the Mud Springs trail did not disappoint with endemics such as the Luzon Hornbill, Philippine Serpent-Eagle, Red-bellied Pitta (which I dipped), Grey-backed Tailorbird and the Yellow-bellied Whistler. As we emerged back at the entrance, we had sterling views of the vocal Red-crested and Scale-feathered Malkohas hopping around on a tree by the road.

Soon we merged with the WBCP members at the stalls. They had seen about 5 Sulphur-billed Nuthatches and flushed a Luzon Bleeding-heart on the way up. Sigh!!!!! Prof Geri showed us a good spot behind the stalls where the Philippine mistletoe is a crowd-puller for white-eyes, flowerpeckers and sunbirds during fruiting.

As we made our way down in the early afternoon, we saw Buzzing, Red-keeled and Bicolored (a male black and white, short stout black bill with no red or yellowish on belly) Flowerpeckers as well as the Flaming and Lovely Sunbirds. Most were seen feeding.

At a 'blocked' side trail on the right towards the shanty, we encountered a small mixed flock of a pair of Balicassiaos, one Philippine Fairy-Bluebird (at first, I thought it was an Asian Fairy-Bluebird because of its red eyes and contrasting blue and black on its upperparts) and a Coleto, my Phantom of the Opera bird.

Then came the Big Dip oh yes, Prof Geri accidentally flushed a pair of Luzon Bleeding-hearts and we were not right behind him to witness our most wanted bird - so you can say our hearts bled in unison. All is not lost for as we walked on; Kim Seng spotted a Philippine Trogon on an open perch close to the road. Unfortunately I only caught a glimpse of our friend as it flew deeper into the forest.

Thanks Prof Geri, for taking care of us on this leg of our trip. You drove very well in the heavy traffic. Thanks for the Malkoha feather!

In the evening, Kim Seng gave a colourful slide presentation cum lecture on some of the 364 species of birds recorded in Singapore to about 20+ WBCP members. Free flow of food, drinks and laughter followed after that.

For introducing us to your members, for the lovely mementos from your Club, for the good food and wine, we thank you Mike. Please convey our thanks to Sudipto Mundle for the use of his palatial condominium. It was good to chat with Prof Geri and to have met his wife, Jenny. Ixi, Arnel (hello? remember 'We') & Tintin, Anna Maria, Jon, High Marks, Smart Alex, Melanie and Alexander Loinaz and everyone else whose names we have missed out - YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

Sun, 3 June 2007 (Mt Palay Palay/Caylabne Bay Resort) Hot and cloudy at times

Mike checked into a hotel (with us last night) which was a 1-hr drive to Mt Palay Palay. Coming round the mountain in the morning was so nice that I dozed off.

The trail was easy. Only there weren't much shade along the way. We had very good views of the Blackish Cuckoo-shrike (there were a few around), a pair of Luzon Hornbills, one Elegant Tit, 3 Philippine Falconets perched in a row, a pair of Coletos and 2 Colasisis. Sadly we did not see our target bird which was the Rufous Hornbill. We came across 3 men who had 3-4 wild Red Junglefowls (grey legs) tied to their waists. They had used their domestic Red Junglefowls as decoys. In the background, the repetitive drone of a hungry chainsaw was at work.

Our final stop was at Caylabne Bay Resort where we hoped to find the Philippine Duck. We did not see any and had to be contented with a nesting Black-naped Oriole and an adult Black-naped Monarch feeding two hungry young and a Coleto by the porch barely 7 metres away from us!

Mike dropped us off at the airport in good time for our 6 pm flight to Singapore.

Summary

In less than 3 days we recorded 36 Philippine endemics and 1 near-endemic out of a total of 79 species - see full list on next page.

Salamat Mike. We wish WBCP all the best in your endeavours to raise public awareness about conservation through birdwatching. Until we meet again, good birding and take care.

 
01 Black-crowned Night Heron
02 Osprey
03 Brahminy Kite
04 PHILIPPINE SERPENT-EAGLE
05 PHILIPPINE FALCONET
06 Red Junglefowl
07 SPOTTED BUTTONQUAIL
08 White-breasted Waterhen
09 WHITE-EARED BROWN-DOVE
10 YELLOW-BREASTED FRUIT-DOVE
11 BLACK-CHINNED FRUIT-DOVE
12 Zebra Dove
13 Common Emerald Dove
14 GUAIABERO
15 COLASISI
16 PHILIPPINE HAWK CUCKOO
17 Common Koel
18 SCALE-FEATHERED MALKOHA
19 RED-CRESTED MALKOHA
20 Lesser Coucal
21 PHILIPPINE COUCAL
22 PHILIPPINE HAWK OWL
23 Glossy Swiftlet
24 PYGMY SWIFTLET
25 Purple Needletail
26 Asian Palm-Swift
27 Whiskered Treeswift
28 PHILIPPINE TROGON
29 White-throated Kingfisher
30 White-collared Kingfisher
31 SPOTTED WOOD-KINGFISHER
32 Blue-tailed Bee-eater
33 LUZON HORNBILL
34 Coppersmith Barbet
35 PHILIPPINE PYGMY WOODPECKER
36 Red-bellied Pitta
37 Pacific Swallow
38 Red-rumped Swallow
39 Bar-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike
40 BLACKISH CUCKOO-SHRIKE
41 BLACK-AND-WHITE TRILLER
42 Pied Triller
43 Yellow-vented Bulbul
44 YELLOW-WATTLED BULBUL
45 PHILIPPINE BULBUL
46 BALICASSIAO
47 Black-naped Oriole
48 PHILIPPINE FAIRY-BLUEBIRD
49 Large-billed Crow
50 ELEGANT TIT
51 STRIPE-HEADED RHABDORNIS
52 Oriental Magpie Robin
53 WHITE-BROWED SHAMA
54 Pied Bush Chat
55 Golden-bellied Flyeater
56 Tawny Grassbird
57 Striated Grassbird
58 GREY-BACKED TAILORBIRD
59 Bright-capped Cisticola
60 Pied Fantail
61 Black-naped Monarch
62 YELLOW-BELLIED WHISTLER
63 White-breasted Wood-Swallow
64 Long-tailed Shrike
65 Asian Glossy Starling
66 COLETO
67 Plain-throated Sunbird
68 Olive-backed Sunbird
69 Purple-throated Sunbird
70 FLAMING SUNBIRD
71 LOVELY SUNBIRD
72 BICOLORED FLOWERPECKER
73 RED-KEELED FLOWERPECKER
74 BUZZING FLOWERPECKER
75 Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
76 LOWLAND WHITE-EYE
77 YELLOWISH WHITE-EYE
78 Eurasian Tree Sparrow
79 Scaly-breasted Munia