to Makiling (A Longish Post) by Ned Liuag
UPLB Campus, Flat Rocks, Forest Trail & Botanic Gardens,
UPLB Agricultural Area & National Road
Birders: Ned Liuag, LuAnn Fuentes, Mads Bajarias,
Mike Lu, Kitty Arce, Andrew Galano & Coco
Photographers: Bong Cardenas & Val Roque
Trip pix at www.photos.ph/valroque/makiling
thermometer registered at 24.5o C when I left the house this
morning, 26 January, for the trip to Mount Makiling. Mike
Lu pulled up alongside the curb at 5:00, and I was happy to
get in from the cold. In the car were Ph Photo e-group members
Bong and Val, fresh from their Ilocos road trip, and looking
forward to a day of nature photography.
waiting for the MyZoo group Ñ Kitty Arce, Andrew and Coco
Ñ to meet us at the Shell Plaza in San Pedro, Haring Ibon
editors Lu-Ann Fuentes and Mads Bajarias shot past on the
southbound bus and were first to reach UP Los Ba-os campus.
There they had a rewarding start on the bridge across Molawin
creek near the Student Union building.
plan was to take the PCARRD route to the Forestry campus,
the steep route that follows the shoulder of Makiling. This
road offers some sharp twists and turns as well as terrific
views of the rainforest and the surrounding countryside. We
rolled down the windows at this point and were hit by the
chilly mountain air. Above the hum of the engine, we could
hear bird calls in the surrounding trees and were tempted
to stop and explore. Midway to the Boy Scouts Jamboree site
gate, there is a rough road in the direction of the summit
that we might consider exploring on a separate visit.
road from PCARRD ends at a T-junction. The one on the right
leads to another intersection going to the National High School
for the Arts and Pook ni Maria Makiling. This was the one
we were supposed to take, but I'd missed the landmark and
pointed Mike to take the road left. Hemmed in by lush vegetation,
this single-lane road eventually joins the main route to UPLB
campus. This was another tempting spot for us to bird, but
the absence of a shoulder for us to park on made for an iffy
situation. The best thing to do next visit is to leave the
vehicles at the junction to the Arts School and hike back.
left the vehicles in the TREES parking lot and set off to
find Lu- Ann and Mads. It was a little past 7:00 and the ranger
post wasn't open yet and no sign of the editors. Lu-Ann and
Mads, it turned out, were still enjoying themselves birding
at the bridge near the S.U. They'd already spotted FIRE-BREASTED
FLOWERPECKER, LOWLAND WHITE- EYE, WHITE-BREASTED WOODSWALLOW
and OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD in this area heralding a productive
the Haring Ibon editors huffed uphill, we set off for Flat
Rocks. As we neared the trailhead to our destination, a COPPERSMITH
BARBET started tonking steadily in the far off distance. I
took that as a welcome sign and was pleased to find the trail
quite dry, which meant we could do some bouldering at Flat
was hoping we would locate Spotted Wood-kingfisher in this
area, but without success. Flat Rocks proved a treat to everyone
though. We were the only hikers on the trail and surprisingly
the area was free of rubbish. I'd brought a garbage bag just
in case we needed to tidy a bit.
considered scrabbling up the opposite bank of the creek to
explore the trail leading through the trees, but the going
would be difficult with photographic equipment in tow. Mike
and I decided to hop down the boulders in search of the trail
James mentioned in a recent email. Mike scrambled downstream
and clambered up one of the boulders to take a look. And turned
back to us with a mischievous grin, "Hop down a few boulders
was it?" When I reached the spot, I found myself staring at
a steep fall. You could take your chances, but the rest of
the way didn't look safe. I didn't relish the thought of ending
like the UP hikers who perished in the flash flood in the
same area 16 years ago. I tried following the bank downstream,
but didn't want to risk falling in.
made her way to the boulder to check out the terrific view
of the forest. We scanned the sky, hoping a raptor would show
up. Mads and Lu-Ann had seen a Hawk-Eagle in this area when
they visited last year.
Bong and Val photographed the flora and scenery, the Haring
Ibon editors finally caught up. Lu-Ann suggested that we head
back for the Botanic Garden, where we might have better luck.
Since there weren't that many birds along the trail this morning,
we thought our chances were better there.
we did have.
the walk back, we stopped to watch some sunbirds, including
a male Olive-backed foraging in the branches directly above
our heads. However, the grove just outside the Museum of Natural
History usually bursting with bird activity was rather quiet.
While Val, Bong and I followed the concrete footpaths leading
to the western corner of the Botanic Garden; the rest of the
group was able to spot a GREY-STREAKED FLYCATCHER in the trees.
This bird would show up a few more times during the day, flying
out from its perch in pursuit of insects.
must admit that I did not get to see that many birds as I
wanted on this trip. But I enjoyed myself, soaking up the
sun's rays, listening to the gurgling creek, admiring the
textures and colors of the forest.
the creek upstream, Kitty spotted a green frog in a hollow
beneath a boulder. Before we could focus on the amphibian,
it disappeared with a big, wet splash. Andrew went over to
see if he could locate and identify the frog, but it had long
gone. I wasn't able to get a fix on the creature, but I think
it was a Common Green Frog aka Palakang Saging, which is easily
found in the province. Alcala and Brown's Philippine Amphibians
state that this non-endemic (and probably introduced) species
is only found in Negros, Panay and Laguna. This species appeared
around 10 years ago in our garden pool in San Pablo and multiplied
rapidly. Our guess is that it came with the banana plants
my mother planted in the backyard. But it could also be the
rare endemic Woodworth's which can be found near streams.
missed out on a pair of flycatchers while I sat down to munch
on a sandwich on the picnic site on the finger of land at
the confluence of the Marulas and Molawin Creeks. The haze
had dissipated with the sun, as Val assured when I pointed
to the thick cloud cover around the peaks on the ride down
Mike, Bong and Val took off for the Raptor Center; the rest
of us headed up the Mahogany plantation trail in pursuit of
malkohas. Just above the rundown toilets, we encountered five
BALICASSIAOS flitting noisily among the trees. Mads and Lu-Ann
mentioned that this was the spot where we were likely to spot
pushed on deeper into the secondary growth with myself taking
point, more out of curiosity to discover where the trail led
than to bird. The uphill path ran along a north-south ridge
with the Marulas and west of the Marulas. As we walked up
hill, we could hear motor vehicles speeding along a nearby
road. My guess is that the path is a few dozen meters below
the route leading to the Jamboree site.Two- thirds of the
way up, we encountered a water pipe, which according to the
stamp had been cast in 1960. The pipe must have been laid
down some 30 or more years ago when the plantation had been
established. We followed the pipe some more where it ran along
the side of a ravine and terminated in a gushing spring. It
seems possible to continue from there, but we decided to save
it for other expeditions.
the return, Lu-Ann, Mads and I found our selves in a section
of the trail bursting with birdcalls. A Fire-Breasted Flowerpecker
darted out to forage and Mads and Lu-Ann were able to see
an endemic RED-KEELED FLOWERPECKER as well. This last one,
we'd been hearing throughout the forest and Botanic Garden.
From the trees standing east of the trail came several cat-like
meows which I later found out was voiced by the endemic Balicassiaos.
We also turned up a pair of PHILIPPINE BULBULS Ñ part of a
noisy but invisible flock Ñ while they sat on exposed branches
high above the trail.
the hike up to the raptor center, we saw a few more Fire-breasted
and Red-keeled Flowerpeckers as well as Olive-backed sunbirds
in the trees fringing Molawin Creek. The trail that wound
up the side of the rise offered good views of the treetops
favored by these nectar- and berry-loving species. Meanwhile,
Mike and the photographers Bong and Val had come across a
pair of endemic PHILIPPINE FAIRY BLUEBIRDS near the abandoned
greenhouse midway to the Raptor Center.
the Raptor Center, we had the opportunity to view the collection
of White-breasted Sea Eagles, Brahminy Kites, Serpent Eagles,
Grey- Faced Buzzard, Crested Goshawk (this one about the size
of a large pigeon), Philippine Hawk-Eagle, Philippine Eagle-Owl
and two Philippine Eagles, which were kept in separate cages.
There was also one White-tailed Sea Eagle with a broken wing.
This resident of North Asia is believed to have escaped from
a trawler where it was kept as a mascot.
stopped by the seedling bank where we were able to see more
of the Scarlet-Keeled Flowerpeckers
foraging in the tree crowns, then regrouped at the bridge
across Molawin Creek just below the dam. This was the most
productive spot for birding, we thought. Mike had already
seen YELLOW WAGTAIL, WHITE-THROATED KINGFISHER and a well-fed
Monitor Lizard from the bridge. While Val was photographing
a four- inch millipede nearby, a pair of Balicassiaos treated
us to an aerial display in the tree-lined gorge behind the
said she spotted what appeared to be a couple of White Wagtails
in the trees above the road to the Molawin Creek Bridge. Considering
the habitat, Mike thinks these are Forest Wagtails. I missed
these birds but my guess is that these are either Black and
White Trillers or Ashy Minivets.
the bridge, we had nice views of a couple of BLUE-HEADED FANTAILS
pursuing insects in a nearby tree. Identifying this bird was
problematic for me. The belly of the ones we saw from the
bridge appeared paler than the supposed chestnut for the Luzon
race that might be the result of age and the weathering of
feathers. High above the canopy and generally ignored were
a couple of GLOSSY SWIFTLETS.
we were scanning the trees, a leaf-like shape sailed from
the trees above the creek to land in the leaves of a Lobster
Claw (heliconia spp) plant. I called attention to the others
that it might be an Anga-Anga, the Draco species flying lizard,
then someone cried "An Agamid!" Andrew and Coco, who were
down among the rocks trying to find traces of the Monitor
Lizard went to locate the new reptile.
and I moved closer to try for the lizard when an Olive-backed
Sunbird landed on one of the heliconia flowers and started
feeding on the nectar. As we trained our binoculars on the
bird, it was joined by a second that followed in turn to feed
at the flower. The "mystery bird" had a longish bill, reminiscent
of a sunbird. I remember that its head, back, throat and part
of the shoulders were bright red. Mads and I saw this bird
in direct sunlight with 8 x 40 binoculars for less than 10
seconds. The "mystery bird" was to our right between 20 to
25 feet away. Mike, who was birding from the bridge a few
meters behind us, remembers that the bird had a crimson breast
and dark upper parts. Lu-Ann's description closely resembles
the one Mads and I shared. We are hesitant to claim this sighting
as that of a Crimson Sunbird, a species with a range that
does not cover Luzon. The closest would be the Flaming Sunbird,
but none of us remembers seeing yellow under parts.
was nearly 2:00 in the afternoon when we started to walk up
the road to the Botanic Garden entrance. Along the way, Mads,
Val, Bong and I stopped to observe another Grey-Streaked Flycatcher
perched in a tree. A few meters up the road, we chanced upon
a PLAIN-THROATED SUNBIRD feeding at a flowering vine high
in the canopy. Sunlight filtering through the gloom would
occasionally scintillate off its bluish-green neck and back
as it drew nectar from a white bell-shaped flower. Lu-Ann
came down the road to "harangue" us about lunch. We were about
to follow LuAnn to the gate when a COLASISI displaced the
sunbird and started to feed. After getting a satisfying view
of the endemic hanging-parrot, I marched off to join the others
while Val and Bong set off to take a look at the condition
of the swimming pool. Mads and Mike walked up shortly grinning
that they'd seen two Colasisis in the same tree! Based on
their description, Kitty, who practically sees these parrots
in her neighborhood on a daily basis identified at least one
was the male of the species.
the way back to the TREES parking lot, Mads happened to see
and pointed out for all of us a DOLLARBIRD perched prominently
in a dead tree just off Narra Road. We would have stayed longer
but most of us had not had a bite to eat since 5:30 this morning
and were finding it hard to focus.
had a hearty lunch in the Grove area just outside the campus
entrance, during Mads, Lu-Ann and I continued our discussion
about the "mystery bird." Mads and Lu-Ann had to leave for
Manila after lunch to finish office work. While they went
to catch their bus, we took off for the UPLB farm area outside
must admit that I had not seen as many birds as I wanted in
the forest so the agricultural area was productive for me.
Mid-afternoon found us parked on the shoulder of the tree-lined
road half a kilometer from the IRRI gate. Right away, we saw
a pair of plump SPOTTED DOVES foraging in the newly ploughed
field off the westbound lane. The trellis in the neighboring
plot produced a LONG-TAILED SHRIKE. From our position, we
could clearly see three White-breasted Woodswallows huddled
on the telephone wire across the road from the IRRI perimeter
fence. While Bong and Val set up to capture the agricultural
landscape, I crossed over to Mike's position across the road
where he was scanning the mix of fallow, ploughed and planted
fields. The trellis to our left turned up a BROWN SHRIKE,
when Mike called my attention to the two brown shapes gliding
about a kilometer from us. The birds circled above the tree
line before disappearing into the forested knoll that also
houses a transmitter station.
were thinking that these might be raptors, until a flock of
13 of these birds took to the air for several minutes. This
was uncharacteristic of raptors, unless they were in migration,
so I thought they might be a species of heron, but which one?
Bong suggested that we hike to the hut midway to the tree
line for a closer view. So, Mike, Val, Bong and I set off
into the field with equipment in tow. When we reached our
destination, the birds flew up again and I was pretty certain
they were night herons. A short time later, Coco of MyZoo
crossed over to join us on the hike to the tree line at the
far edge of the fields. As we negotiated the ploughed section
of the field, I was certain that the birds we were seeing
were RUFOUS NIGHT HERONS. Later, I asked a passing farmer
about the "bakaw" and he said they were probably "bakaw na
pula." Sure enough, a Rufous Night Heron flew from the hillock
towards Laguna de Bay. The farmer also mentioned dozens of
these birds are present at "agaw-dilim" (twilight) and these
are occasionally hunted with air rifles.
the approach to the tree line, we were able to find a TAWNY
GRASSBIRD on a fence separating a residential area from the
fields, and a pair of PACIFIC SWALOWS swooping low for insect
prey. In the cogonal area near the houses, we came up with
a flock of five SCALY- BREASTED MUNIA and one ZEBRA DOVE in
a leafless narra tree, a YELLOW- VENTED BULBUL and our first
CRESTED MYNAH on the wire across from the IRRI perimeter fence.
Kitty, Andrew and Coco by this time bade us good-bye and drove
home to Manila.
lone White-breasted Woodswallow sitting on the telephone wire
near the IRRI perimeter fence was a tempting subject to photograph,
but it flew away before we could even come close. Mike peered
into the creek along the way and located another Wagtail,
which I missed by a few seconds. We decided to walk back to
the car and along the way flushed a quail of indeterminate
species from the grass. Mike followed it in the short grass,
but the bird was determined not to reveal itself.
spent a few moments zeroing in on another Tawny Grassbird
as it announced its presence from a dilapidated sign post
in the middle of the overgrown village road. I caught up with
Mike and Val who also pointed out the Long-tailed Shrike at
the far end of the trellis.
last birds of the day were three Crested Mynahs, a Zebra Dove
and some EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS perched on the telephone wire
running along the far end of the field off the westbound lane.
rest of the trip home was uneventful except for the depressing
sight of two women, forced by poverty to peddle 20 WHITE-BREASTED
WATERHENS from the side of the road in Calamba.
These past couple of nights, I stayed up scanning the DuPont
monograph (which misidentifies Crimson Sunbird as the female
of one species of Spiderhunter), the Kennedy and J.C. Gonzales
Makiling bird list for clues but still came up against a blank
wall. I've mentioned to Mike that the Luzon race of the Fire-breasted
Flowerpecker is not illustrated or fully described in the
Kennedy Guide, adding to our confusion.
Another interesting site is the part of the campus that we
should consider for follow up trip is the area around Animal
Husbandry and the IRRI upland farms.
(Mads and LuAnn)
1. White-breasted Woodswallow
2. Olive-backed Sunbird
3. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
4. Lowland White-eye
Trail and Flat Rocks Trail
1. Coppersmith Barbet (heard only)
2. Olive-backed Sunbird
1. Colasisi - 2 in tree along road to bridge
2. White-throated Kingfisher - 1 seen by Mike in Molawin Creek
3. Glossy Swiftlets - common
4. Dollarbird - 1 in dead tree off Narra Road
5. Balicassiao - 5 in lower half of Mahogany Plantation trail,
pairs along Molawin Creek
6. Philippine Fairy Bluebird - pair seen by Mike
7. Philippine Bulbul - 2 seen along Mahogany trail but common
in upper story and on top of tree canopy
8. Grey-Streaked Flycatcher - seen in trees along road leading
down to bridge
9. Blue-headed Fantail - 2 seen near bridge
10. Brown Shrike - 1 seen by Mads in Botanic Garden parking
11. Yellow Wagtail - 1 seen by Mike in Molawin Creek
12. Plain-throated Sunbird - 2
13. Olive-backed Sunbird - common
14. Fire-breasted Flowerpecker - common
15. Red-Keeled Flowerpecker - common
Mystery Birds / More Information Required:
1. "Blue" Flycatcher - 2 seen by LuAnn and Mads near confluence
of Marulas and Molawin Creeks
2. "White" Wagtail - 3 seen by Kitty in trees in heights above
road to Molawin Creek bridge
3. Unidentified "Crimson"-headed Sunbird
Area and National Road
1. Rufous Night Heron - 13
2. White-breasted Waterhen - 20 captives for sale
3. Unidentified Quail - 1 flushed in field
4. Spotted Dove - 2
5. Zebra Dove - 2
6. Pacific Swallow - 2
7. Yellow-Vented Bulbul - 1
8. Tawny Grassbird - 2
9. White-breasted Woodswallow- 3
10. Long-tailed Shrike - 2
11. Brown Shrike - 2
12. Crested Mynah - 3
13. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - 3
14. Scaly-breasted Munia - 5