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Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas

Date: May 23, 2004
Location: Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas
Birding Time: 3:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Birders: Orly Punzalan, Mark Villa, Mike Lu, Ipat Luna, Jerel Luna and Manna Luna
Trip report: Ipat Luna
Birdlist: Mark Villa and Mike Lu

It rained hard all morning in Manila and everyone there was assuming that the bird trip was off, but Mike made a call to Lipa where the weather was perfect. So, the three birders from Manila set off to meet the group from the Lipa end of the Southern Tagalog Access Road (STAR) Tollway.

We proceeded to Mataas Na Kahoy and went down the road to San Sebastian and Kinalaglagan where after some 15 minutes, we were greeted by spectacular views of the lake after a fresh rain. We parked at a basketball court in Kinalaglagan where Pacific Swallows were flying around and nesting on the porch of one of the houses.

Places around the lake are still called by names as if they belonged to someone or to something. There is Kay Santol, (Belongs to Santol) and best of all, Kay Tikbalang (Belongs to Tikbalang, a mythical half man half horse).

We took the boat and proceeded to Kay Tukil (Belongs to Tukil, a bamboo fish trap) where we had afternoon snacks of bibingka, very orange "piko" mangoes, suman and kalamay here. We sat on a shed on stilts right on the water and watched for the birds.

The Pacific Swallows, about five, were nesting in a small crevice right on the shore. The vegetation was primarily agricultural, but the ficus tree was fruiting and a Lowland White-E ye and Yellow-vented Bulbuls were enjoying themselves. An Elegant Tit flitted about a tamarind tree above the rock outcropping and Blue-Tailed Bee Eaters were flying about.

We went up the rock to see if we could see more birds but if there were any, they must have been scared off by the four rather large dogs of Ka Willy, the caretaker. Ka Willy has a Kennedy guide and reported seeing red-crested malkohas in the morning, as well as owls and nightjars in several instances.

Nangkaan BIRD LIST:
1. Black-crowned Night Heron Nyctocorax nycticorax - 1
2. White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris - heard only
3. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus - 3
4. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica - 5
5. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier - 3+
6. Elegant Tit Parus elegans - 1
7. Olive-backed Sunbird Nectarinia jugularis - 1, male
8. Lowland White-eye Zosterops meyeni - 1
9. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus - 4+

We took the boat again and passed a tree from which several immature Black Crowned Night Herons took off. As we circled the offshore fish cages of tilapia of Lumang Lipa, Mataas na Kahoy, we saw at least 200 of these birds. They were either flying above or perched on the bamboo floaters of the fish cages. Surprisingly, more than half of them seemed to be juveniles. A few of them were helping themselves to the fish and we watched them eat. We asked the boatman if these birds were caught as pets or for food. He said although they were hard to catch, they were sometimes caught, and made very good adobo. But these birds also reproduce quite fast.

Lumang Lipa
1. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax - 200+

We passed Lumang Lipa where the human population is less dense. Going past the old fish wharf of Barangay Halang, we reached Tagbakin, a sitio of Halang, which is believed to be where the first datus landed when they first settled in Batangas.

There was a cove on the boundary of Calumayin in Cuenca, and Tagbakin in Lipa where the land near the shore rose steeply, but not quite as steeply as Mt. Makulot. Had we gone further to the nest cove, it would have been right below the Rockies of Mt. Makulot. We decided to stop the outboard engine from the far end of the cove and paddled back.

It was difficult to use the bins from a boat, so we docked and trekked up. Many calls were heard, but the birds were not to be seen. Mike would rather see from a boat (and risk losing his bibingka later) than hear calls from land, so we rode again. As we neared a shore on a particularly serene sub-cove, we saw a bright-colored king fisher on a rock and didn’t seem too disturbed by our presence. We all got a close look. It had a bright blue hue like that of the indigo-banded kingfisher, but it had a white spot, so Mark said it must be a breeding Common Kingfisher.

A bird flew just behind our boat and landed on the beach, and we chorused "wagtail!" and it did just that. On some driftwood floating on the water, perched a Pacific Swallow.

There were two instances of a Balicassiao chasing night herons. We couldn't believe it at first, but the second instance confirmed that we weren't just too seasick. On a high branch against the light, was the unmistakable shape and color (to Mike, at least) of an Oriental Magpie Robin.

The surprise of the afternoon was when our boatman screamed "Matsing!" Fortunately, no one felt alluded to, especially when everyone turned to him and saw him pointing to moving branches up the slope. Indeed, a band of about 10 monkeys, many of them young, were hanging onto tree branches.

A fisherman on a raft, the only other person in the cove, said the monkeys sometimes come down to the lake to drink, and no one bothered them. Our boatman who grew up there had never seen monkeys in the area before.

Tagbakin BIRD LIST:
1. Striated Heron Butorides striatus - 5+
2. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax - 5+
3. Philippine Hawk-cuckoo Cuculus pectoralis - heard only
4. Philippine Coucal Centropus viridis - heard only
5. Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta - 1
6. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis - 1
7. White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis - 8+
8. Coppersmith Barbet Megalaima haemacephala - heard only
9. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica - 2
10. Philippine Bulbul Hypsipetes philippinus - heard only
11. Balicassiao Dicrurus balicassius - 1
12. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis - 3
13. Oriental Magpie-robin Copsychus saularis - 1
14. Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea - 2+

1. Philippine Macaque - Macacca fascicularis

It was getting dark and after the monkeys, we felt the birds had gone hiding. We proceeded back to Kinalaglagan and onto Lipa Grill where we had Ampalaya at Hipon sa gata, Crispy Fried Chicken and Sinigang na Maya-maya.