These are the notable bird records for April to October 2013 by Rob Hutchinson and Arne Jensen of the WBCP Records Committee.
News from the Field – April 2013 to October 2013
By Rob Hutchinson and Arne Jensen
Two new birds to the Philippines country list occurred during the period, both of them long-awaited additions. Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel Oceanodroma monorhis is likely to be regular in Philippine waters since in breeds as close as islets off Taiwan, and indeed previous all-dark storm petrels in the Sulu Sea were probably this species, but a bird seen well and photographed north of Jessie Beazley Reef, Sulu Sea, Palawan on 11 May 2013 (AJ, RH) with be the first fully documented and acceptable record.
The other addition was also in Palawan, when a Fairy Pitta Pitta nympha was found in the house of a local fisherman at Pandanan, Malinsuno Island, Balabac, where it was photographed before being released unharmed (RA). A substantial proportion of the Fairy Pitta population breads in Taiwan and Japan so it has long been anticipated that one might be found in the Philippines en-route to its wintering areas in Borneo.
Accidental records and scarce migrants
An excellent selection of accidental species were found during the period, a reflection on the ever increasing observer coverage throughout the country.
On the same day as the Swinhoe’s Storm Petrel, a Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii in the same area north of Jessie Beazley Reef was only the 9th Philippine record (AJ, RH), although results from an intrepid group who undertook the Philippines first official ‘Pelagic’ birding trip of Siargao suggests they might not be rare since at least five individuals were seen on the two boat trips heading east of Siargao on 03 – 04 June 2013 (PB, MB, RH, PS, MW, LS).
Even rare than these was a Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris which was picked up exhausted on Snake Island, Honda Bay, Palawan on 01 May 2013 (VS), representing just the 2nd Philippine record.
Herons and spoonbills
A Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor at Cabusao, Camarines Sur on 16 – 17 September 2013 (FM) was apparently the long-staying bird which was first reported in January 2013.
A Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus in summer plumage positively identified at Puerto Princesa, Palawan on 20 April 2013 (CG), was just the 12th country record although the difficulty in identifying non-breeding plumage birds clearly masks the species true status.
Rarest among the reported waders was a Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avocetta at Cabusao, Camarines Sur on 03 May 2013 (FS), the 5th country record. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) fields at Los Banos, Laguna enjoyed an excellent run with a group of nine Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus staying an impressive 10 days from 15 – 24 September 2013 (PB) allowing many people to twitch these rarities, just the 9th time they have been found here. Then on 30 September 2013 a Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii was in the same fields (PB), a species that is undoubtedly overlooked among the commoner stints.
The Aleutian Tern Sterna aleutica breeds in Alaska and easternmost Siberia but is strongly migratory, with at least some of the population wintering in eastern Indonesia. They must therefore bypass the Philippines on their southward and northward migrations but as yet the route they take is unknown. Perhaps the sighting of five birds migrating northwards off Sofronio Espanola, Palawan on 21 April 2013 might be a clue to one of their regular routings (CG) and was certainly a great find, just the 4th country record.
Another scarce passage tern is the Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii of which 10 were sighted at Minasawa Island Bird Sanctuary and Game Refuge, Burdeos, Quezon, Luzon on 30 May 2013 (VN).
Among the regular raptors passing through on their way south were two sightings on Northern Hobby Falco subbuteo from Batanes, one on 09 October 2013 (TR, SR, KA, IX, CPe, ID, RH) and a different bird the next day (CPe, ID, RH). These represent the 5th and 6th country records. Interestingly other rarities such as Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis, Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, Black Kite Milvus migrans and Black Baza Aviceda leuphotes are regularly seen migrating too and from southern Taiwan and may be reaching the Philippines, hopefully our dedicated raptor-watchers will be rewarded by some of these soon.
The huge Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae made its second appearance in the Philippines when one was seen and photographed at Mount Dahu, Jolo, Sulu on 16 August 2013 (RQ). The first Philippine record was an adult bird which appeared in Palawan in February 2011.
The White-throated Needletail, Hirundapus caudacutus is one of Asia’s strongest and most powerful fliers which must pass through the Philippines in good numbers as they make their way from Chinese breeding ground to winter in Australia and vice versa. It’s possible that they migrate at great heights and are thus rarely seen, in fact one at Mount Talomo, Davao del Sur, Mindanao on 23 September (PS) was just the 3rd country record, even though they are regularly seen migrating through the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi and Halmahera, just a short hop south of Mindanao.
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus made two appearances in October 2013, the first on the 08 October on Semirara island, Caluya, Antique, Panay (JI) and then one at Basco Airfield, Batanes on 16 October (RH). These represent the 6th and 7th documented country records.
Scarcer flycatchers sighted during the period included a Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea, which is considered regular but rare passage migrant, seen at the University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus within Metro Manila on 17 May 2013 (RSA). A rarer member of that family made multiple appearances when Dark-sided Flycatchers Muscicapa sibirica were seen at Iwahig, Puerto Princesa, Palawan on 18 March 2013 (RH), another in Puerto Princesa on 1 October (CG) and one at Mount Iraya, Batan, Batanes on 13 October 2013 (CPe, RH). These are the 6th – 8th country records.
A Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus was another rare visitor to Batanes at Songsong Beach, Batan on 14 October 2013 (RH), the 4th ever to be seen here.
The 6th Philippine record of Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla was likewise on Batan at Basco Airfield on 14 – 15 October 2013 (ID, RH).
Although a scarce winter visitor to much of the archipelago, White-shouldered Starling Sturnus sinensis appears to be regular on Batanes in the autumn, sometimes in good numbers. Between 9 and16 October 2013 more than 60 were seen on Sabtang and Batan Islands (TR, SR, KA, IM, CPe, ID, RH) along with a single Chestnut-cheeked Starling Agropsar philippensis.
Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii has long been suspected to breed on rocky islets around the Philippines but definitive proof has not been forthcoming. On 3 – 4 June 2013 yet another likely breeding colony was found, with at least 14 birds in breeding plumage, showing signs of breeding activity at Rock Island, Siargao, Surigao del Norte (PB, MB, RH, PS, MW, LS).
The second breeding record of White-headed Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus was confirmed at Consolacion, Cebu on 10 May 2013 (TO).
Rare residents and other oddities
Welcome news concerns more sightings of Isabela Oriole Oriolus isabellae, one of the Philippines least-known endemics. They were recorded by the ORIS project and one individual was photographed on 12 September 2013 (JA, NR, SR, TR).
The Sunda Ground Thrush Zoothera andromedae is not endemic to the Philippines, and indeed it is known from mountains on several of the larger Philippine islands and yet it is extremely elusive, only being seen by the most skilled, patient or lucky observers. Sadly a juvenile at Bangkong Kahoy Dolores, Quezon, Luzon on 2 September 2013 (CCe) was found freshly dead but it is yet another place where people can try their luck to see this elusive denizen of the forest.
Malaysian Night Heron Gorsachius melanolophus is a very shy and retiring resident, but sharp eyes spotted one in the forest at Mount Kan-laon, Negros Occidental on 30 March 2013.
Another unusual water-bird sighting was that of the rare dark-morph of Little Egret Egretta garzetta seen and photographed at Candaba Marsh, Pampanga, Luzon on 02 October 2013 (SR, TR, CPe, MB, KA, ID, RH).
Late but very significant news came from a dedicated raptor survey at Cape San Agustine, Davao Oriental, Mindanao during 12 September – 30 October 2012 (CCo). An impressive total of 27,399 migrating raptors were logged including: 25,126 Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis, 2,176 Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus, 17 Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis, 16 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus and 6 Common Kestrel Falco tinnonculus. Following this success, follow-up counts in collaboration with local DENR, WBCP member Pete Simpson and the Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network headed in the Philippines by Alex Tiongco, during 24 – 30 September 2013, again at Cape San Agustine, logged a total of 10,735 Chinese Goshawk Accipiter soloensis (AT, MC, JL, CPo, FC).
The southward migration was in full swing by October with more than 3,000 waders counted at Candaba Marsh, Pampanga, Luzon on 06 October 2013, among them a noteworthy high count of 34 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata (RH, ID, MB, KA).
Little known species
Formerly lumped as one species, the Arctic Warbler is now split into three species; Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis, Kamchatka Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus and Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas. Although all three species occur as non-breeding visitors to the Philippines, their true status has still to be elucidated. It was interesting therefore to note that there were very few winter sightings of Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas during the winter months and but they appeared in good numbers in late April 2013 when 13 were at Candaba Marsh, Pampanga, Luzon on 21 April (RH, ID, BD) and eight were at La Mesa Ecopark, Metro Manila on 28 April (RH, ID, BD), most of which were in full song. It seems that they must spent the winter further south, presumably in Indonesia before passing through the Philippines on the way back to its Japanese breeding areas.
Alex Tiongco (AT), Arne Jensen (AJ), Bram Demeulemeester (BD), Camille Conception (CCo), Carlo Benitez Gomez (CG), Chris Ceriban (CCe), Christian Perez (CPe), Clinton Polancos (CPo), Felix Servita (FS), Felix Catalan (FC), Frederico Maravilla (FM), Irene Dy (ID), Ixi Mapua (IX), Joni Acay (JA), Jessar Inoncensio (JI), Jose Lechoncito (JL), Kitty Arce (KA), Leni Sutcliffe (LS), Mark Bezuijen (MB), Mark Jason Villa (MV), Mark Wallbank (MW), Marts Cervero (MC), Nikki Dyanne Realubit (NR), Paul Bourdin (PB), Pete Simpson (PS), Rey Sta. Ana (RSA), Robert Hutchinson (RH), Romulo D. Quemado II (RQ), Rene Antonio (RA), Sylvia Ramos (SR), Tateo Osawa (TO), Tonji Ramos (TR), Virtito Natural Jr. (VN), and Vivian Obligar-Soriano (VS).