WBCP member Vincent Lao writes about how he came to discover another Philippine Eagle Owl family, this time in Angono instead of Balara and most amazing of all — viewable in the daytime!
OWLING AT ANGONO
by Vincent Lao
I had never heard of the Angono Petroglyph in Binangonan, Rizal before. I learned about the site from a travel blog. With the limited directions available online, I was not surprised that only a few people knew of the place. But this also meant that it was a good place for birds!
My first visit to the site gave me an impression that it might be a good place for hiking. On my second visit, I was told that there were some owls in the area. It was during my third visit that I actually saw an owl in the wild for the first time. The owl was easy to identify because I had seen some pictures of the Philippine Eagle Owl family in Balara reported by another birder a few weeks ago. This owl seemed cooperative enough while I was taking shot after shot with my digiscope setup. It even stared at me as if to say “Go ahead, take your best shot!” or probably just gauging whether or not I was a threat.
Although I only saw one adult owl, I was told by Roden, the person in-charge of the site, that there were three of them. He said they initially thought there was just one owl, but they were able to spot three of them in flight at once when some crows came and the three owls chased them away.
After the initial report, the news spread like wildfire. I got messages from other birders asking me for directions and some other information. Some even asked me to guide them. Now I became a bird guide and the target became, as another birder posted in his blog, “the hottest bird in town”.
A week later, I came back with two other birders. This time we saw two of them. An adult, probably the male, stayed on the tree beside the Petroglyphs viewing platform. It was the easiest spot to observe and photograph the bird. A few minutes later, Roden, showed us another owl, probably owl junior on the rock crevice. We had a short look at it before it disappeared once more as it went deeper inside the tiny cave.
Another week passed. I saw all three owls when I accompanied a group of birders to the site. The two adults seem to guard the young one by perching on separate vantage points, with each one having a good view of the young bird’s location in the middle.
The owls prefer to stay on their “tree-of-the-day” to rest. Once they have selected their camping spot, they usually stay there for the rest of the day until it is hunting time again. They sometimes move to a more secure location when bothered by humans, but they more-or-less made the Angono Petroglyph site their permanent home. They move their resting area during the year, sometimes closer to the northern section of the lot and sometimes the southern location. Perhaps they move based on the sun-lit portion of the area.
Observations of the birds suggest that they make different calls for the start of the hunting time and the end of it. “Bu-bu-bu” before dawn to signal the start of rest time and a scream-like sound to signal nighttime and start of the hunt.
Recently, there has been some threat to the owls from children from the village outside throwing stones at them. I fear it might bother the owls too much and they might leave the area altogether. I believe the site is safer for them compared to anywhere else nearby. One reason is that the National Museum staff know that the birds are being followed by birders and understand well enough not to harm the animals.
Hi Vincent-thank you for the beautiful photos. I would like to come to look for the owls. Do you know if they still occur at this site? Any updates would be much appreciated. Sincerely Iain
They were still there when a group of us visited March 13.