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More Exploration in Tambo

On the Northern Edge: More Explorations in the Tambo Wetlands
Site: Tambo, Parañaque
Date: March 27, 2004
Time in Field: 5:40 am to 9:00 am; low tide mark at 7:14 am
Weather/Environment condition: Misty and humid, sunny later in the morning
Birders: Nilo Arribas, Ivor Lee, Mike Lu, Orly Punzalan and Ned Liuag

The morning spent in Tambo proved most rewarding for our team that consisted of photography and plant enthusiast Orly Punzalan, Nilo Arribas, Mike Lu, and Ivor Lee from Singapore and myself. Orly and I had an early start. We took a cab from Evangelista Street straight to Macapagal Boulevard and arrived at 5:40 am. It was utterly dark when we drove to the site so that the cab driver was unsure whether we really intended to get off at this deserted spot. Yet, even in the pre-dawn gloom, two young women were already making their way down the track with wares to sell along the narrow beach a kilometer away.

The sandpipers were calling in the shallows as Orly and I slid quietly to the water's edge. The tide was running out very fast. We couldn't see a thing in the semi-darkness but could hear and feel the sand hoppers swarming around our legs. As the sky got lighter we spotted our first bird flying overhead, a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON moving in the direction of the Asia World property.

We decided to bug out of the area and go to the spot below the mound called Point One. It was better here. We'd been observing several Tringa sandpipers feeding on the sandbar downstream when our phones started to ring. It was Mike at the Petron and wondering where Orly and I had gone off. Apparently, he'd missed the email sent earlier in the week that Orly and I would proceed to site.

The first WHISKERED TERN flew in at 6:00 am, soon followed by the other members of its congregation. A few minutes later Mike, Nilo and Ivor joined us down the path and set up the scope and photo equipment. Flocks of Egrets started to arrive, settling downstream or in the flats. Ivor pointed out a couple of different-colored terns, which turned out to be WHITE- WINGED TERN, their bodies starting to develop black breeding plumage.

We spent about a quarter of an hour in this spot watching COMMON and WOOD SANDPIPER, COMMON RESDHANK and LITTLE HERON in the channel and the streaky-breasted ORIENTAL REED WARBLER clambering in the reeds across our way. A pair of Common Sandpipers got into a dispute and was seen chasing each other upstream and one LITTLE RINGED PLOVER was located in the sandbar further upstream. We counted three more Black-Crowned Night Herons and large numbers of egrets, likely to be INTERMEDIATE EGRETS.

Nilo suggested we transfer to the bank that afforded a view of the Aseana Business Park grassland. We saw more Little Herons, a number of CLAMOROUS REED WARBLERS and the first of several YELLOW BITTERN at water's edge or perched motionless in the tall reeds. While Ivor took his photos and the others scanned the area for birds, I ventured back to the main track, looking low for the uncommon migrant from Siberia. I spotted a female SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT as it scurried across the dirt track, white eyebrow and moustache prominent against its plain head and breast. But I was not going to be satisfied until I'd seen the male of this
species in plain sight!

Siberian Rubythroat
Siberian Rubythroat

Orly and I had brought rubber flipflops for the walk we expected to take across the channel. Luckily, we discovered that an enterprising community member had lashed together a raft of ipil-ipil saplings and rice sacks stuffed with styrofoam. For P2.00, he would ferry picnickers across the dirty water that was two feet deep when the tide was out but twice that when the sea came in.

We managed to get our equipment and ourselves safely across. While Nilo and Ivor were setting up on the bank, Mike pointed to a pair of BARRED RAIL walking on the northern edge of the mudflats near the remaining stands of mangrove. The only other bird in this part of the flats was a single Little-Ringed Plover. Orly set out to photograph a group of egrets standing calmly in the shallows, their reflections captured by the still water.

Turning our attention up the dirt track, we spotted a brown, rail with reddish legs walking in the direction of Manila Bay. It very much appeared to be a RUDDY-BREASTED CRAKE, which Nilo shortly showed to us as it foraged at water's edge in the Aseana Business Park property. We also got good and long looks at a trio of COMMON MOORHEN, a Yellow Bittern well camouflaged against a clump of dead leaves and another Barred Rail close to or in the shelter of the aroma thorn bush where they have been spotted in previous trips. From our vantage, we could see the towers of the Makati Central Business District shrouded in mist. I could barely make out the landmark silhouette of the GT Tower.

As we made out way towards the Bay, I spotted the EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS in the area. These were always keeping close to the edges of the areas where picnickers gathered to enjoy the surf. In the mangrove stands bordering the flats, the Reed Warblers were croaking "rak-rakit, rak-rakit" - from which their local name is derived as we passed. A GRAY WAGTAIL flew across the track and disappeared somewhere in the flats.

We followed Mike across the strip of land that blocked Channel B from the sea. The water drained or flowed back in through two metal culverts connected to the mudflats. From this spot we got a nice view of the large lagoon in the Aseana property. As we shuffled across this span of dirt to reach water's edge, the guard came up to ask us to move back. Luckily, Arne Jensen and a team had been in the property for a survey the previous day, so armed with that introduction we were allowed to approach the vicinity of the metal shanty by the lagoon. Hardly a minute had gone by when Mike called our attention to the dark shape moving fast and powerfully just above the surface of the lagoon. At a distance I thought it was another heron, but as the shape closed in to allow a good view of the moustached head of a familiar raptor. It took one call "PEREGRINE FALCON!" to snap everyone's attention in the direction of this powerful bird of prey. As it flew low towards AsiaWorld, it passed close for the group to admire. Except for the bathers who were oblivious to the presence of wildlife about. Considering the face pattern and its grayish appearance, I think this one is a member of the migrant race calidus. Afterwards, we concentrated on identifying the species at the northern edge of the Aseana lagoon. We found three GREAT EGRETS and 10 Tringa species of sandpiper, which appeared to be GREEN SANDPIPERS because of the clean breasts, dark upper parts and white rumps in flight. However, the Kennedy Guide indicates this species prefers fresh water areas. Nobody had the courage to sample the water in the lagoon, though.

On the way back to the ford, Nilo, Orly and I hung back to photograph a BRIGHT-CAPPED CISTICOLA perched on a reed by the track. It turned out to be Orly's last frame and the camera started to whir as the exposed film rolled back into the canister. Tough luck for Orly later! To our surprise, Orly turned out to be familiar with the plant we'd always called Mike's Haribon Vine. "That's wild sweet pea!" he said, then hunted for another beach vine with a similar purple flower that he identified as goat's foot morning glory. Orly showed us the leaves to differentiate one from the other, and we gathered a few pods to attempt to propagate the plant in our gardens.

In the process of investigating the vines, the three of us heard a fragment of bird song that certainly was not coming from any of the reed warblers. We listened to four sweet whistles that reminded me of a magpie-robin.

Shortly after, we saw a pair of reed-warblers flush from the roadside thicket. Determined to locate the singer, I started down the side path when Orly called me back. He and Nilo were looking at the most beautiful sights of the trip. There - perched on a reed, churring for all to see was the male SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT. It stayed there only five meters away, ignoring our presence and a couple of picnickers on the way to the beach. All five of us had excellent views of this uncommon migrant and Ivor took several photos.

When it flew down the track towards the Bay, Ivor followed and managed to snap a few more. From the road, I added a female WATERCOCK and another Barred Rail to my list. These two were seen separately among the mangroves in the northern edge of the mudflats. I think it would be useful in the next few trips to pay attention to this section of the wetland.

While Nilo stayed behind to photograph our crossing, Mike stepped through the bottom of the raft but thankfully it did not do serious damage to capsize our flimsy craft. I thought we'd had enough birds for the day but still managed a few ZITTING CISTICOLAS and STRIATED GRASSBIRDS in the grassland. And yet this trip would provide a third and unexpected bonus for me!

While checking out a furrow near the chain link fence, I saw the mottled back and reddish-brown under tail of a quail picking its way in the dry grass. I put this in as a male BARRED BUTTONQUAIL, given the size and the
distinguishing under tail coverts. Mike and the others saw glimpses of the quail and followed it into the grass though they failed to locate it.

The last couple of birds on my list were a CHESTNUT MUNIA that Ivor pointed out and a BROWN SHRIKE heard calling and seen well by everyone. I only got a poor glimpse of this bird as it flew into the ipil-ipil thicket beside Macapagal Boulevard.


Bird List:
1. Great Egret - 3 in Aseana Business Park lagoon
2. White Egret species - counted 49 in Channel B and flats, first arrivals at 6:00 am with flocks of about two dozen seen in flight; majority appear to be Intermediate Egrets
3. Little Heron - at least 8 seen in Channel
4. Black-Crowned Night heron - total of 4 seen in flight
5. Yellow Bittern - up to 8 seen on the Aseana Business Park side of Channel B
6. Peregrine Falcon - flew from Aseana lagoon towards AsiaWorld property, noted light cheeks of the migrant race calidus
7. Barred Buttonquail - single male seen in furrow, identified by size, mottled head and back, and reddish brown under tail
8. Barred Rail - 4 in mudflats and Channel B
9. Ruddy-Breasted Crake - 2 of this beautiful rail were seen. One in Channel B and another walking along the main track
10. Watercock - a female, walking among mangroves in northern section of flats. Buffy body with dark streaks and short pale bill.
11. Common Moorhen - 3 in the usual shelter of the thorn bush in Aseana side of Channel B
12. Little Ringed Plover - 2, one in Channel B and another in northern section of the flats
13. Common Redshank - at least one in Channel B with other Tringa sandpiper species
14. Wood Sandpiper - at least 2 on sandbar in Channel B
15. Common Sandpiper - at least 6 up and down Channel B, seen since daybreak
16. Tringa sandpiper species - 10 in northern edge of Aseana lagoon, possibly Green Sandpipers because of dark upper parts and white rumps seen in flight.
17. White-Winged Tern - 2 in Channel B
18. Whiskered Tern - 40+ in Channel B
19. Spotted Dove - 1 flushed in grassland
20. Zebra Dove - 1 flying across grassland
21. Pacific Swallows - 6+ seen flying around Channel B and nearby grassland
22. Siberian Rubythroat - 2 seen. Female seen crossing track near Point One mound. Male seen perched by the dirt track leading to Bay in northern section of the flats
23. Clamorous Reed Warbler - at least 6 seen and more singing in the mangroves
24. Oriental Reed Warbler - 2 seen across Channel B, identified by streaked breast
25. Striated Grassbird - 3 seen singing in grassland. One in the Aseana property, two in Tambo PEA grassland
26. Bright-Capped Cisticola - 1 seen and photographed by track in northern section of the flats
27. Zitting Cisticola - 4 seen making circular display flights, several heard in the grassland
28. Grey Wagtail - 1 flew across track in northern section of flats
29. Brown Shrike - 1 heard chattering in Aseana property near the fording site, another poorly glimpsed in ipil-ipil thicket near trailhead off Macapagal Boulevard
30. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - at least 6 around or near vicinity of tin shanty beside Aseana lagoon
31. Chestnut Munia - 1 seen, but poorly flying from perch in grassland