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Birdwatching 101: Back to the Backyard

by Maia Tañedo         

The COVID-19 situation took everyone by surprise when an enhanced community quarantine was imposed in Luzon and many parts of the Philippines, restricting travel and foraying outside one’s home. Everyone was affected by this in one way or another and that includes birders as well. Just as we were heading towards the tail end of migration season, plans to catch the last migrants and exploring migratory hotspots had to be cancelled and maybe put off… indefinitely!

The current situation has now forced birders to stay indoors and look more carefully at whatever our taken-for-granted backyards held for us in terms of birdlife. There are some lucky birders who are quarantined in greener areas or in rural provinces, but there are some restricted to the concrete jungle and therefore afford almost no wild birds at all.

In our patch in Quezon City, we are quite lucky to still have some trees in our immediate neighborhood and even a creek at the end of the road.

Our neighbor’s towering mango tree hosts a number of birds, mostly heard and hard to see in the criss-cross of branches, leaves, and clumps of mango fruits. A chorale of Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, and Golden-belied Gerygones can be heard in the morning.

A pair of Yellow-vented Bulbuls

Red-keeled Flowerpecker photographed in Batangas years ago

At the end of the road, a towering gmelina is the preferred perch of Collared Kingfishers, Black-naped Orioles, and the occasional Large-billed Crow.

Black-naped Oriole photographed in Cebu years ago

Collared Kingfisher photographed in LPPCHEA in 2013

A further away bare-leafed tree sometimes has a Coppersmith Barbet or two silhouetted against the brightening morning sky, it’s pok-pok-pok call loud and clear over the other birds’ calls. Olive-backed Sunbirds join in soon enough, perching on the low-hanging wires and smaller trees.

Olive-backed Sunbird photographed in LMEP in 2014

Other occasional birds we have are the Philippine Pied Fantails, Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers, and Zebra Doves. There used to be more Zebra Doves in our compound but with the increase in cats roaming around, they are now rarely seen foraging on the road.

But we’ve had our share of “pretty exciting times” which we were able to document. We had a family of Colasisi visit a palm tree just outside our house, feeding on the young blooms late in the afternoon before they zoomed away noisily.

Young Colasisi

And recently, we spotted a Brown Shrike in the mango tree feeding on a poor lizard! We apologize for the bad photos… aside from still getting to know our new Lumix camera, we find we are always in a rush to photograph these birds that suddenly pop up while we are busy doing other things!

Brown Shrike with its meal (or at least, part of it!)

               Of course, the Eurasian Tree Sparrows are still plentiful and I must admit, it won’t hurt to peek outside the gate and try to photograph them, and Barred Rails continue to call loudly from the creek beyond the compound’s wall, even until midnight and the wee hours of the morning!

I do miss the Asian Glossy Starlings and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters that were sighted in our neighborhood a few years back and the one-time sighting of a White-throated Kingfisher just outside the house!

Asian Glossy Starlings on our neighbor’s window grills in 2014

Being in this enhanced community quarantine has indeed forced me to appreciate more the birds I have taken for granted in our backyard (plus, it got me blogging again in between work at home tasks!) Of course, there is the hope and dream of having a rare visitor come along one of these days, with Djop and I super ready with our cameras and tripods to document it. But in the meantime, I choose to be grateful for the common birds in our backyard and will not take them nor their bird song for granted.

You can read more on the most common urban birds in this article I wrote for eBON in 2013 by clicking HERE

Happy birding and keep safe, everyone! We all still have lots more to see when this is all over 💕

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