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Barangay Tibanglan, Kalayaan, Laguna

Date: August 2-3, 2003
Birders: Lu-Ann Fuentes, Liza Dans, Carmela Espanola, Mads Bajarias

Philippine Eagle

Between 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.

Wild 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.

It 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:

1. 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 birds.

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.

9. 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 maddeningly similar.

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 in 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 are feeding.

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 hut.

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 view.

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 Elegant tit).

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 creek.

28. Red-keeled flowerpecker Dicaeum australe - at least 1.

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 and bushes.

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