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Heron Watching in Sampaloc Lake

Location: Sampaloc Lake, San Pablo, Laguna
Date: September 11, 4:00 pm to 5:45 pm,
Weather: 60 percent cloud cover, light breeze from west
Birders : Ned Liuag and Angelo Carandang

Trip report & birdlist by Ned Liuag

Brown Shrike
Brown Shrike

While in San Pablo to visit family this weekend, I managed to squeeze in a few hours to survey Sampaloc Lake and meet a prospective Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) member. WBCP president Mike Lu earlier put me in contact with Angelo Carandang, another San Pablo City resident, who read about the Club in the Philippine Star. Angelo, who works for an Intramuros-based ship crewing agency, is a "reformed sportsman" and familiar with wild birds and their habits. I mentioned that his tracking and stalking skills would come in handy during future expeditions.

There weren't too many people at the lake when we visited this afternoon. Mount San Cristobal provided a perfect backdrop, a dark blue mass rising to the clouds. From the newly rebuilt promenade on Trece Martires Street, we could easily see the silhouettes of herons sitting on the bamboo floats of abandoned fish cages.

Hoping for Brahminy Kites, we took the colonial-era stairs to the shoreline and started counting from one of the view decks. To my surprise, the number of LITTLE HERONS found fishing in Sampaloc Lake reached 22. This number only represents the herons visible from the western section of the lake.

Lowland White-eyeLowland White-eye

After doing a recount, we decided to move to the less disturbed area fronting the Aling Meding mansion. While discussing the diverse bird life in the Carandang yard in the eastern section of the city, we added a single white EGRET to our list, which was likely to be an Intermediate Egret.

A soft whistle drew our attention to a migrant COMMON KINGFISHER, perched on the bamboo fence of a lakeshore fish pen. It sat there for us to admire until a fisherman in a fiberglass canoe paddled by to cast his nets.

Four PACIFIC SWALLOWS flew out and back, occasionally dipping to drink from the lake surface, while Little Herons flew back and forth between the fish cages or in the direction of the grove behind us. A juvenile BLACK CROWNED NIGHT HERON flapped overhead to the southeast.

A migrant BROWN SHRIKE uttered its chattering call among the trees in Aling Meding's garden and was challenged by another occupying the neighboring property. Angelo noted that he had not seen any Brown Shrikes yet though the lanzones had already ripened. Occasionally, the soft trill of a PHILIPPINE PYGMY WOODPECKER would filter from the tree-shaded lot behind us. North of our position, an OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD and a RED-KEELED FLOWERPECKER were vocalizing from their perches.

I was pleased to add an ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE to my Sampaloc Lake species list. This newest addition was spotted flying east across the lake towards Concepcion, where Bunot Lake is.

Striated HeronStriated Heron

Angelo was telling me about his encounters with Barred Rails, White- Breasted Swamp Hens, Coucals and even species of Imperial Pigeon in and around the city so we missed the much-awaited passage of the crows. We spotted the tail end of the party consisting of three LARGE-BILLED CROWS en route to tree roosts somewhere in the area of Malamig.

It was getting dark when we decided to head home. As the sun began to disappear below the horizon, I glanced at our neighbor's television antenna and spotted my first Brown Shrike for my city record this season.

Another cycle had become complete.

1. White Egret Species - 1 in Sampaloc Lake, possibly Intermediate Egret
2. Little Heron - 22
3. Black Crowned Night Heron - 1 juvenile
4. Oriental Pratincole - 1, new species for San Pablo birdlist
5. Island Swiftlet - 1 in our backyard
6. Asian Palm Swift - 1 in Sampaloc Lake
7. Common Kingfisher - 1
8. Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker - 1 heard trilling
9. Pacific Swallow - 4
10. Large-Billed Crow - 3
11. Brown Shrike - 3, of this number only 1 male was seen
12. Olive-Backed Sunbird - 1 heard in Sampaloc Lake
13. Red-Keeled Flowerpecker - 1 heard in Sampaloc Lake
14. Pygmy Flowerpecker - 3 feeding in chico tree behind our orchidarium
15. Lowland White-Eye - at least a dozen in the Laurel compound near house, pairs seen in yard
16. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - scattered groups everywhere, but low concentrations
17. Scaly-Breasted Munia - heard only in trees in backyard