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Through the Binoculars of a Rookie Birder

by Michael Ancheta Chua

When I joined the WBCP in October of last year, I immediately set my sights on birding in Subic. I was always enchanted by the birds of the forest, especially parrots. I remember repeatedly asking Jops when would we have a club trip there. Eventually he told me that there was a trip planned and I immediately blocked off my schedule. Over the coming weeks, I waited excitedly and did as much research as I could on what possible species to look for.

April 6 finally came and I arrived at McDo Centris  (with 0 hours of sleep) with my old friend and fellow newbie birder, Jao. When we arrived in Subic and were still in the car, MJ and Cathy immediately saw a couple of Blue-naped Parrots and Green Imperial Pigeons. Unfortunately, as a rookie birder I did not have as sharp and quick an eye to spot them.

Once we arrived within the vicinity of Hill 374, a Luzon Hornbill immediately showed itself. Apart from this, the spot was rich with multiple species such as Oriental Dollarbirds, Luzon Flamebacks, Sooty Woodpecker, Philippine Green Pigeons, a Philippine Falconet and tantalizing flybys of Green Racquet-tails.

Luzon Flameback.
We had a great start.
Sooty Woodpecker.

We then went to Nabasan Trail. The sun was already extremely hot but the birding was still plentiful. We managed to see more Luzon Hornbills, Philippine Green Pigeons, Green Imperial Pigeons, Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes (nesting), and many more. It was also here where I managed to spot a flying lizard to feed my own reptile addiction.

Rufous-crowned Bee-eaters. Photo by Gabbi.
Flying Lizard. Photo by Gabbi.
Whiskered Treeswift. Photo by Gabbi.

As the noontime came the sun became too hot so we decided to take one last stop before in a known Rufous bee eater colony and both rookie and veteran birders were in awe of the sheer vibrance of the diminutive birds.

We then had a simple but bountiful roadside lunch and managed to get some naptime in. When the sun let off a bit, we went through a trail towards the waterfall but it was dried up and the trail proved a bit quiet aside from a pair of Elegant Tits (and the jokes that come along with its name).

A Blue-naped Parrot showing off why it’s called what it is. Photo by Gwen.

It was getting late in the afternoon and I really began to regret being not being able to spot the Blue-naped Parrot that MJ and Cathy saw earlier. Luckily in Jest Camp, I finally saw the parrot trifecta I had been hoping to see. We got very good looks of Guaiaberos, a Blue- naped Parrot, and while not perched, we had a very close and lengthy flyby of a Green Racquet-tail.

Night came and so did the nocturnals. We were immediately treated to a show of swooping Great-eared Nightjars with their spectacular eyeshine.  We then began driving around to go owling. After a bit of driving, Jops was able to narrow down a location of the Luzon Hawk Owl through its call. It proved difficult to find but Jops’s sharp eyes somehow managed to detect its movement and was thus able to shine a light on it. We weren’t even done with being impressed with Jops’s find of the Luzon Hawk Owl when he managed to one up himself in finding a Chocolate Boobook and with it the end of our trip. The group had not yet even left Subic yet and everyone was already itching to go back (especially Gwen since a perched Green Racquet-tail had eluded us.)

Luzon Hawk Owl. Photo by Russ.
Chocolate Boobook. Photo by Russ.

We came home from our almost 20 hour journey, extremely tired but with a great sense of both accomplishment and joy. Everyone was on a birding high especially since we managed to spot more than 50 species (and even lifers for the veteran birders like Mike).

The Subic gang! Photo by Anna.
These 2 Green Imperial Pigeons perfectly capture my growing love for birding.
Photo by Gabbi.

This was just my 2nd official trip but it was the first one where I was really introduced to the larger birding community which has been nothing but welcoming, friendly and full of interesting personalities. It is a community which I want to learn from and be a part of. This is only the beginning. b

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