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Mt. Palay-Palay Roadside Trails

Location: Mt. Palay-Palay & Mataas na Gulod National Park roadside trails
Date: February 14 & 15, 2004
Birders: Arne Jensen & Mark Jason Villa (Feb 14 only)
Trip report & bird list by Arne Jensen

Last Saturday, February 14, Jason and I birded along side the national highway from Puerto Azul to Caylabne Bay Resort. On Sunday afternoon I went back and did birding along the new provincial "tourism development" road penetrating the virgin forest of the national park and the isolated landscape south of the park toward Nasugbu. I also searched for new forest trails along the existing highway from Ternate.

Mt. Palay-Palay and Mataas na Gulod National Park and Bird Sanctuary declared as such in 1976 is one of the most under-birded protected areas on Luzon and no biological inventories have ever taken place on this site. The park is identified as BirdLife International IBA (Important Bird Area) No. 011. At least 92 bird species have been observed, with 90 species observed by the club members in 6 visits within one year. As an indicator of the intact forest ecosystem and very low level of disturbance and hunting, 11 out of 19 potential raptor species have been observed, as well as the 2 hornbill species known to occur on Luzon. Potentially the Park can host as many species as Mt. Makiling (150+) or Subic Bay Forest.

The land use and titling of the area mirrors the recent history and political development of the Philippines. Large portions of the forest was, during the term of President Marcos, released as Alienable and Disposable areas for private titling (Forest lands are not supposed to be released for titling). Present land title holders include a former Marcos minister claiming land deep inside the national park. Other portions of the forest within the park include DENR reforestation projects which appears to be unnecessary given the presence of original forest in most of these areas (at the least it should be "rainforestation" using local, native species). Another land use layer is the Philippine Navy Reservation Proclamation of 1987 which includes the whole of the National Park. The presence of the navy reserve and the titling to the elite is probable the only reason why there is no/very limited in-migration into most of the Park.

Back to the birds and birding sites:

As indicated on NAMRIA map No. 7171-IV there is indeed a major trail starting at the national highway about 250 m after the DENR station to the right. The landmark is a road curve sign with 1 arrow and an open grass lot in the forest good for parking 2-3 cars. The well-maintained trail is about 4 km long. It follows the Bayaba Ridge towards Okno Bay, but may continue towards and meet the dead-end of the the Puerto Azul road 2-3 km after Okno. About half the way between the national highway in the park and Okno Bay the trail forks into another trail towards the Caylabne Valley. I was not able to walk this trail but did 60% of the Okno Trail. Overall the trail leads you through stunning beautiful old growth forest the first 30 minutes with many great view points overlooking the pristine thickly forested valleys below. Later the trail passes through more patchy forest and a portion of grassland before it continues into old forest towards Okno. The walking trail is easy and has great potentials for good birding of many forest endemics.

Nasugbu Road. Penetrates absolutely virgin forest in steep gullies with century old trees right next to the road. I did about 2,5 km of the road and ended up next to the Pico de Loro and Mt. Palay summit. From thereon the roads descends further down at lower elevation: This road will be another perfect birding area both for forest birds early morning and late afternoon and for raptors during the daytime. As of now its is probably a little tricky to do birding outside of weekends as heavy construction equipment and construction workers may disrupt one’s birding. There are, however, also limited activities during Sat-Sun. The road is closed with a check-point, but the guards let us pass (don't show up with too many cars though). Check

Attached list of birds observed shows you what we/I saw during two afternoons. Visit the club website and see what we have observed during the mornings in the past one year. Highlights this weekend included the resurrections of a NORTHERN GOSHAWK (perhaps the same observed by James in Feb 2003). The species is not officially recorded from the Philippines. Contrary to the other hawks it is relatively easy to identify. It is a nice big lady and she showed up both Sat and Sun. I had a great view of a RUFOUS HORNBILL about 2 km down the new Nasugbu Road and heard another from the Okno Trail about 15 min from the national highway). Another Kalaw was observed same day by local hunters but in the forest opposite the trail start. TARICTIC HORNBILLS , PHILIPPINE FALCONETS and RED JUNGLEFOWLS were relatively common but outnumbered by the common BRAHMINY KITES constantly on patrol. COLETOS, GREEN RACQUET-TAILS & GREATER FLAMEBACKS contributed to a memorable weekend in the green. The only people I met the whole Sunday afternoon was one gentle navy soldier and one jungle fowl hunter. My other company was a family of five PHILIPPINE MACAQUES..and birds just two hours south of Manila!

Birdlist Report

(including observations along highway, new forest road under construction to Pico de Loro and Bayabay Trail toward Okno = 3.5 km)
Date: Saturday February 14 – Sunday February 15, 2004
Time: Sat: 13.30 – 16.00 and Sun: 12.45 – 16.00
Weather: NE, 4-10 m/sec, 0- 4/8 cloud cover, clear visibility, + 28-30 C.
Observers: Mark Jason Villa (Saturday) and Arne Jensen

Observed species and numbers :
Brahminy Kite - 8 (ad 7 + immature 1)
2. * Northern Goshawk - 1 (female adult)
3. Crested Serpent-Eagle - 1
4. Philippine Falconet - 6
5. Red Junglefowl - 5
6. White-eared Brown Dove - 1
7. Amethyst Brown-Dove - 1
8. Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove - 2
9. Guaiabero - 1
10. Green Racquet-tail - 3
11. Colasisi - 1
12. Philippine Coucal - 1
13. Island (Uniform) Swiftlet - 15
14. Glossy Swiftlet - 28
15. Luzon (Tarictic) Hornbill - 5
16. Rufous Hornbill - 2
17. Coppersmith Barbet - 1
18. Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker - 1
19. Greater Flameback - (2)
20. Pacific Swallow - 3
21. Striated Swallow - 8
22. Yellow-vented Bulbul - 2
23. Philippine Bulbul - 14
24. Balicassiao - 2
25. Black-naped Oriole - 1
26. Slender-billed Crow - 1
27. White-browed Shama - 1
28. Grey-backed Tailorbird - 1
29. White-breasted Wood-swallow - 2
30. Brown Shrike - 2
31. Coleto - 6
32. Red-keeled Flowerpecker - 5