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BIRDING MORNING AT LA MESA ECOPARK

WBCP Vice-President Alain Pascua discovers new birds in a familiar birding spot

THERE’S A PITTA IN LA MESA!
by Alain Pascua

When my wife Nendith asked me to bring her and our son Gio to school at six in the morning one Thursday, I was hesitant to agree. I knew that it would mean having to rush back home before 7o’clock when the number coding comes into effect. Then, I had a great idea. I could drop them off early and then go birding until 10 am when the car coding scheme is over!

At first I thought of going to the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife and try to photograph the Colasisi which still eludes me, the Dollar Bird which I haven’t encountered up close, or the Brown Shrike to duplicate my feat last year of  photographing it in the same place on August 24. But I dropped the idea going to the park when I remembered that it opens and only allows visitors to come in at 7am. I thought of going to the nearby University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus. But, I hadn’t heard of any interesting birds being sighted there recently. I decided to go to next nearest birding place, La Mesa Ecopark. I still hadn’t photographed the Naked Spider-Hunter that made news there last year.

I was disappointed when I got to La Mesa Ecopark. There weren’t many flowers in the garden. I could not hear those familiar bird songs of the sunbirds or of the spider-hunters. With a lot of time still on my hands, I decided to look at new areas that I hadn’t gone to before.

I was intrigued by a Black-Naped Oriole that was calling continuously. I followed the call into a trail that leads to a kind of mini forest. I was looking for the Black-naped Oriole and readying my gear, when suddenly I saw a very slow movement on the ground, off to my side. I heard a different call.  I turned around, I saw the red belly, then I saw the head. I said to myself, “Oh my, it’s a Pitta, it’s a Red-Bellied Pitta!” Slowly I moved my tripod and camera and fired some shots! Indeed, it’s a Pitta at La Mesa!

The pitta stayed there for a few minutes. I was even able to take some video clips. When it left, I went further inside the mini forest to find more birds as I was already fired up and inspired by the recent catch. After looking around for some minutes and not seeing any other birds, I returned.  Scanning the place where I saw the Pitta, I was surprised to find an immature pitta with a worm in its beak! It stayed there for a bit,  allowed me to take some shots, and then it was gone.

I was still looking for the pitta which went further back, probably to eat the worm, when I heard loud calls from tailorbirds at my back, and then at my sides. I was literally surrounded by them. There were about three couples that kept on calling and jumping from branch to branch! What a riot you have there! I thought they were Philippine Tailorbirds, but to my surprise when I got back home I found that they are Grey-backed Tailorbirds, also endemic birds.

Then all of a sudden, my attention was caught by a medium size bird that crossed the road at the entrance of the trail. It perched in one of the branches, about 75 meters from where I was. I fired some shots. It was a cuckoo! I had difficulty identifying the cuckoo. My co-administrator at the Wild Birds of the Philippines FB Page says it is a Rusty-Breasted Cuckoo.

From 6:30 to 10:00am at La Mesa Ecopark, I saw two Red-bellied Pittas, about six Grey-backed Tailorbirds, one Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, two Black-naped Orioles, three Common Emerald Doves, one which was just behind me and flew at my side, two Philipppine Coucals, and lots of Lowland White-Eyes. When I got home, I went straight to my computer and immediately processed my finds, thinking that the Red-bellied Pittas, the Grey-backed Tailorbirds and the Rusty-breasted Cuckoo would spice up the guided birdwatching tour of the Club in La Mesa the next day!


Alain’s video of the Tailorbird calling

Click this link to watch a video of the Red-bellied Pitta.

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