Birders: Lu-Ann Fuentes,
Liza Dans, Carmela Espanola,
Carmela's frog experiment crisis (10 died, she said),
Mads' sleuthing in Cubao for colasisi (article research),
and my own grappling with hellweek and harpies, our
group list gets posted only after a bit of prompting.
By way of explanation, heh-heh. But here we go. Preamble
of sorts: Liza, brother-in-law Butch and his wife
Beta have a second growth forest for a backyard. There
are plenty of trails for the picking, some Liza says
she hasn't even thoroughly explored yet. Plenty of
times, she--rubber booted, bolo strung around waist--bushwhacks
with the caretakers' boys. And grills them on what
they take for granted. (These kids after all, said
Liza, catch labuyo/jungle fowl for play.) For example:
"Kuwaao," one boy once mimicked a sound
they grew up on. "Mukhang tuod," they added
with a laugh. (Looks like a tree stump.) To trade,
Liza offered a name: Philippine frogmouth; and there,
you see, is one way to grow your bird wish-list. In
any case, even when you're not poking around for wildlife,
they chance upon you, bursting from the perimeters.
Like this Red-crested malkoha who claimed his hangout
of a branch and then curiously hopped closer, openly
peering at us. Common emerald doves would wing by
in the lower storey, startling us.Butch,
for one, regularly swears at a White-throated kingfisher
who impudently harvests from his tilapia pond. We're
even told to make a racket at the outhouse door so
any rodents and reptiles exit before we enter. More
than once, we're advised to stay sharp for pit vipers,
bayawak (monitor lizards), baboy ramo (wild boar).
At one turn, we paused to admire a lime-colored vine
snake poised on a branch, and, while we were at it,
sniffed at leaves that had the tang of sarsaparilla,
basil, good medicine. See that? Liza would point.
raspberries plant. Over there? Hunters' trap. She frowned.
Not on the family's property! She mumbled about putting
up that No Trespassing sign as she picked up and pocketed
the one candy wrapper on the entire trail. Because if she
has her way, she would boot out the litterbugs, the hunters
(we bumped into a tricycle-full of them Saturday when we
made a wrong turn in Kalayaan), and loggers whose almost
daily procession of carabaos drag tree after tree (passing
her hut all morning), carving a deepening canal from forest
to town. For now, she's starting with the workers on the
property who have unlearned their habit of hacking to bits
every snake they stumble upon. Well, except for sawa (python)
which, they maintain, makes good pulutan (appetizer or side
dish). Snakes or no snakes, nights at Tibanglan are a major
draw in themselves. We savored the "firefly trees"
even as we momentarily spooked each other with the Philippine
eagle-owl's two-syllable cry (like a woman's low wailing).
Distracted by distinct chirping, we backtracked to zero
in, when a response piped up right behind. We turned, scanned
with the flashlight and there it was--a forest frog no bigger
than a one peso coin singing its heart out, advertising
itself as a fit mate--and a fit prey if you think about
it, to everything that slithers or swoops. After all, no
further than the tree outside Liza's hut, we heard a "pweeet,"
looked up and just like that, saw an owl whose brown coloration
and silhouette we deliberated on half the night, flipping
Kennedy's pages this way and that, finally pinpointing Philippine
hawk-owl. The point being: you go looking for birds around
here, much more finds you, and that includes leeches (a
week later, where they got us still itch). You go home with
reels playing in your head. For example: Walking from Liza's
hut to Butch/Beta's hut for a homegrown pako (edible fern)
salad-tilapia-chicken dinner, we were transfixed by nightjars
circling the twilight sky. Again, we fumbled with flashlights.
The criss-crossing beams caught a pair of red eyes perched
on a low fence. We stifled a scream and then crept low on
the grass, keeping our lights trained on it. Owl? Frogmouth?
Mads, Carmela and I ended up comically crouching behind
the same tree (as if our butts didn't stick out incongruously
at the other end). It flew in an arc and we thought we lost
it but it landed on the same spot.
repeated this behavior four or five times. Meanwhile, we
were getting mosquito-bitten and bugged and we realized
that our lights were attracting its meal. A fair deal! We
watched it long enough to give a positive ID: nightjar the
size of two fists, smaller than the ones overhead, and still
the first birds we would see upon opening our bedroom windows
(facing green paddies) at 5am the next day. But enough of
the kuwento, here's how this tropa's list runs:
Barred rail Gallirallus torquatus - heard only. "tikling
tikling tikling tikling"
2. White-eared brown dove Phapitreron leucotis - at least
1 darting through area of sparse trees beside creek. A common
cage bird in Barangay San Antonio. We saw at least 5 caged
3. Common emerald dove Chalcophaps indica - most seen at
one time is 2 but seen many times along the trail either
darting so close past us or feeding on the ground.
4. Green imperial pigeon Ducula aenea - 1 large pigeon seen
flying across a clearing on a ridge.
5. Red-crested malkoha Phaenicophaeus superciliosus - 1
regular visitor behind Liza's hut. At one time it went unashamedly
close to us. Saw another individual at the brother-in-laws'
cottage. Mads: I'm used to seeing this bird travel in groups
in Makiling, along with Balicassiao, a single red-crested
malkoha is a curious sight (are they being hunted in Tibanglan?)
6. Philippine coucal Centropus viridis - at least 1 heard
and seen along the trail.
7. Philippine eagle-owl Bubo philippensis - heard only at
early evening Saturday. Sound is a far-carrying 2-syllable,
drawn out wailing. Eerie. It was not repeated again. Carmela
noted that owls were more vocal during her previous visit
earlier in the year.
8. Philippine hawk-owl Ninox philippensis - (1) Coloration
and profile closest match is Phil. hawk-owl. Brown Hawk-owl
has longer tail and darker brown coloration. Call doesn't
match those in Kennedy, though. Carmela said it could be
an unrecorded call. Sound was a weak "pweet/weep"
which was repeated.
Philippine nightjar Caprimulgus manillensis - at least 5
seen at a time flying low + 1 juvenile perched on a low
fence ten feet away. Crepuscular (comes out just after dusk
and before dawn). We arrived at this through similarity
of call heard with the call transcribed in Kennedy etal.
(from note of Mads written Sunday, Aug.3: Nightjars in flight
emitted a rhythmic "chee-err chee-err chee-err."
First syllable rhymes with "gee.") In Kennedy
etal, the call of C. manillensis is transcribed as a pounding
chuck churrr. For the individuals in flight, we had difficulty
determining the markings on the tail feathers because of
low light. For the perched juvenile, we saw quite clearly
the white parts on throat and wings but illustrations in
Kennedy etal between Savanna and Philippine nightjars are
10. Glossy swiftlet Collocalia esculenta - 5
11. Pygmy swiftlet Collocalia troglodytes - 5
12. Asian palm swift Cypsiurus balasiensis - 2
13. White-throated kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis - 1 seen
different areas. Sits passively in a prominent branch for
long periods (about 5 minutes) at a time.
14. White-collared kingfisher Halcyon chloris - 1 seen and
heard many times along the trail.
15. Coppersmith barbet Megalaima haemacephala - heard only.
"pok pok pok pok?"
16. Philippine pygmy woodpecker Dendrocopos maculatus -
at least 2 clambering up a branch where Lowland white-eyes
17. Yellow-vented bulbul Pycnonotus goiaver - 5 moves in
big noisy flocks from one fruiting tree to another.
18. Philippine bulbul Hypsipetes philippinus - 10 in big
noisy flocks regularly visit a fruiting trees beside Liza's
19. Elegant tit Parus elegans - at least 2 at a time seen
in a mixed flock with blue-headed fantail.
20. Grey-backed tailorbird Orthotomus derbianus - 2 singing
loudly in a bamboo thicket. Liza kept hearing this species
near her hut earlier in the day in Sunday but it would not
show. Finally, on our walk home a pair finally came into
21. Mangrove-blue flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra - 1 seen
in a forest edge beside Liza's hut (also next to a creek).
22. Pied fantail Rhipidura javanica - 1
23. Blue-headed fantail Rhipidura cyaniceps - at least 5
at a time seen and heard so often on the trail (always with
24. Black-naped monarch Hypothymis azurea - 2, male and
female came out of the open from bamboo thicket. We got
excellent views. Bright blue breast. Male has black patch
on crown like a monk, and a black neck line (like a necklace
but doesn't go all the way around)
25. White-breasted woodswallow Artamus leucorynchus - 1
seen soaring above us while we were on ridge.
26. Olive-backed sunbird Nectarinia jugularis - 2 at a time.
We saw males and females of jugularis subspecies, and possibly
a male of the aurora subspecies. The latter, we admit, is
problematic since Kennedy says aurora limited to Palawan
islands. Carmela opines it could have been male Flaming
Sunbird (A. flagrans). (from notes of Mads written Sunday,
Aug. 3: got a clear look at underparts of one suspected
aurora male and saw the usual metallic blue throat
of a male N. jugularis but this was edged with a sprinkling
of red-orange at the upper breast over a "base"
color of yellow (the yellow extended to the belly). I have
not seen a male A. flagrans before today but I have seen
a male aurora in Busuanga and it seemed to me the same kind
with that Tibanglan male sunbird.) Further investigation
needed. 27. Purple-throated sunbird Nectarinia sperata -
2 striking male. Female must be somewhere near but invisible
in its muted colors. Seen twice in the same area near a
28. Red-keeled flowerpecker Dicaeum australe - at least
29. Bicolored flowerpecker Dicaeum bicolor - 1 seen on thicket
beside the trail.
30. Lowland white-eye Zosterops meyeni - 20+ ubiquitous
and swarms in large twittering flocks in fruiting trees
31. Eurasian tree-sparrow Passer montanus - too many to
count near the start of the trail.
32. Scaly-breasted munia Lonchura leucogastra - 2 perched
momentarily on a twig near Liza's rice field. The low numbers
of this species and the absence of Chestnut munia in the
ricefields is peculiar.
33. Philippine frogmouth Batrachostomus septimus - At least
1. Heard only. Sound is "kuwaao".
34. Pygmy flowerpecker Dicaeum pygmaeum - At least 1. Heard
only. Sound is like tapping 2 pebbles together.
35. Flaming Sunbird Aethopyga flagrans - ??? See no. 26