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Counting Ducks in Pagbilao

Mirant Power Plant, Carbon Sink Mangrove Forest & Bayview Accomodations
Pagbilao, Quezon
Date: July 17-18, 2004

Birders: Nilo Arribas, Mark Jason Villa, Crysta Rara, Patty Adversario, Rene Bajit, Orly Punzalan, Mads Bajarias, Ricky de Castro & Maget de Castro, Mike Lu

Trip report by Mike Lu
Birdlist by Mark Jason Villa

The trip to Pagbilao has previously been rescheduled twice but the offer to go birdwatching on an overnight trip with free roundtrip transport, accomodations and hearty meals failed to dampened the spirits of the eager birders. Mirant Power Plant is sponsoring this trip to the plant site and the protected mangrove area.

The group left Manila at noon but was caught in the traffic and the rains as we passed by the towns of San Pablo, Tiaong, Candelaria and Sariaya. Arriving at Pagbilao near 4pm, the van had to traverse a few dried up fields. The first birds to greet us were the White-breasted Wood Swallows, the White-collared Kingfisher and the Pied Fantail. At the mangrove forest, we eagerly followed the boardwalk, stopping every now and then to hear some birds calls or try to catch a glimpse of the Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher. At last the boardwalk ended at the foor of the observation tower. I eagerly clambered up and set my spotting scope and waited for the birds to show up. Except for the Eurasian Tree

Pink-necked Green Pigeon
Pink-Necked Green Pigeon

Sparrows, it seemed eerily quiet. I took in the beautiful scenery of Pagbilao Bay in the horizon and the mountains to the east where the Quezon National Park is located. Soon enough, there was some commotion among the birders as Nilo pointed out a flock of green pigeons. The birds flew fast but I got a pair on the scope as they came to rest and we positively identified it as Pink-Necked Green Pigeons. Yellow-vented Bulbuls and the Golden-bellied Flyeaters showed up and so did three Pied Trillers. Soon enough as the sun begin to set small flocks of birds headed for home. First to fly by were 3 flocks of Crested Mynahs followed by Large-Billed Crows. Pink-neck Green Pigeons also flew close to the tower while Blue-throated Bee-eaters followed suit . Black-Crowned Night-Herons set out to start their night-time forays.

We headed for the Bayview Accomodations where we had buffet dinner topped off with Arce ice cream. Crysta noted that even though fellow birder and WBCP co-founder Kitty did not make it to Pagbilao, she is still with us in spirit :) *Kitty's family makes Arce ice cream. The travel time from the Bayview Accomodations to the plant site is 30 minutes. Ricky set departure time at 4 am and so everyone dutifully went to bed early !

Carbon Sink Mangrove Forest and adjacent ricefields
July 17, 2004
4:00 - 5:30 pm

1. Striated Heron Butorides striatus - 1
2. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax - 10+
3. Pink-neck Green Pigeon Treron vernans - 10+
4. White-eared Brown Dove Phapitreron leucotis - heard only
5. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata - heard only
6. Philippine Coucal Centropus viridis - 1
7. Swiftlet sp - 20+
8. White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris - 1
9. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus - 6+
10. Pied Triller Lalage nigra - 3
11. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier - 2
12. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos - 6+
13. Golden-bellied Flyeater Gerygone sulphurea - 2
14. Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris - 1
15. Tailorbird sp. - heard only
16. Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra - 1
17. Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica - 3
18. White-breasted Wood Swallow Artamus leucorynchus - 5+
19. Crested Mynah Acridotheres cristatellus - 20+
20. Olive-backed Sunbird Nectarinia jugularis - 1, male
21. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus - common

Everyone was at the lobby a few minutes before 4 am ! Crysta, Nilo and I even had time to stroll around the swimming pool. In the distance, lightning can be seen in the vicinity of the power plant and the sea breeze was strong. The rains pelted down the moment we boarded the van. I keep my fingers crossed hoping that the rains would be over when we reached the plant.

The security checkpoint at the plant was strict. We were accompanied by a motorcycle riding escort which made Rene quipped "that should Mike feel like a president now !" We headed for the runway which borders the planned ash ponds where the ducks were supposed to be found. It was still dark although the sky is brightening up. A few ducks flew over the runway, the rains started again. In no time, we were all wet more ducks flew by and we still could not see them in the ponds. The security guard led us up a slope between the ponds. The ash pond in operation is on the upper slope while 2 bigger ponds not yet in use is further down the slope.

My first bird turned out to be a single Rufous Night-heron. It stayed for a few minutes and decided to leave. It was getting brighter although it was raining still. Gradually we saw the ducks on the ponds. Two full rainbows arched in the west with the flocks of Philippine Ducks under it. Everyone was in awe at the numbers. Mark, Mads and I did our own estimates and concluded that there were more than 400 ducks in all. Swallows and swiftlets flew circles around us while 3 Intermediate Egrets walked about in the ash pond. I noticed 13 waders standing silently on one side of the

Philippine Duck
Philippine Duck

pond.They were against the light and I took no further notice of them. Ricky took pride in the fact that fish still survive in the ash ponds have fish and the birds still come to feed.

I went back to the runway, and noticed quite a number of birds in the far end. It seemed the birds were all over - Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Asian Glossy Starlings, Striated Grassbirds were in the tree tops while on the ground were Pied Bushchats, Zebra and Spotted Doves, and Richard's Pipit. Mark and Patty went back to check on the identity of the waders and came back very happy with a positive ID - migratory Malaysian Plovers !

Mirant Power Plant
July 18, 2004
5:00 am - 8:00 am

1. Striated Heron Butorides striatus - 1
2. Rufous Night Heron Nycticorax caledonicus - 1
3. Philippine Duck Anas luzonica - 400+
4. Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii - 11
5. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis - 2
6. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata - 2
7. Island Swiftlet Collocalia vanikorensis - 10+
8. White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris - 2
9. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica - 20+
10. Striated Swallow Hirundo daurica - 5+
11.Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier - 5+
12.Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata - 2, male
13. Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timorensis -1
14. Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris - 2
15. Birght-capped Cisticola Cisticola exilis - 3+
16. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaseelandiae - 2
17. Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis - 1
19. Crested Mynah Acridotheres cristatellus - 4+
20. Lowland White-eye Zosterops meyeni - 1
21. Chestnut Munia Lonchura malacca - 6
22. Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia - 3

Back at the Bayview Accomodations, breakfast was served. Not wanting to waste our waking hours, Mark, NIlo and I headed for the resting area near the ferry station while Patty, Rene and Orly took to the grounds around the housing complex. My group also went fish-watching at the breakwater and saw other interesting marine life like the blue jellyfish and my first ever live sea snake ! Here's the combined birdlist from both groups.

Bayview Accomodations
9:00 am - 10:30 am

1. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea - 1
2. Striated Heron Butorides striatus - 1
3. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata - 6
4. White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris - 2
5. Striated Swallow Hirundo daurica - 2
6. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica - 6
7. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier - 1
8. Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica - 2
9. Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis - 5+
10. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaseelandiae - 1
11. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos - 1
12. Golden-bellied Flyeater Gerygone sulphurea - 1
13. Crested Mynah Acridotheres cristatellus - 3
14. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus - common