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Candaba: From A Fledgling's Eyeview

Location: Candaba Marsh, Pampanga
Date: July 25, 2004
Time: 06:00AM-10:00AM
Birders: Jill Lucero, Mike Lu, Nilo Arribas, Mark Villa, Orly Punzalan, Romel Barrera, Ruben Bala, Jr. & Tim Fisher.

Trip report by Jill Lucero
Birdlist by Mark Villa

It was just past 3:45 in the morning when Mike swung by my place, I was greeted by Mark when I got in the car. We then proceeded to pick up Nilo before heading for Candaba Marsh. Candaba, Mike had told be, used to be marsh lands before being drained and turned into cultivated fields.

Along the North Expressway, we stopped by the Petron gas station to meet up with Orly and Ruben. Then it was off to Shell station just off the Sta. Rita exit, where Tim Fisher, noted author of the Guidebook to Birds of the Philippines, and another member Romel were waiting for us.


We arrived at Candaba just after 6:00 AM as the morning sun rose to greet us. Tim's car took the lead as we followed a shortcut across the rice fields. The muddy roads & potholes put a strain on the car engine and wheels, one wrong turn of the wheel and we would have fallen off the road and onto the rice fields.

Tim stopped the car when he spotted a small flock of BLACK-WINGED STILTS. Everyone got out of their cars and scoped the landscape with our binoculars. The sun cast a golden reflection upon the surface of the water, causing some including me, to put down our binoculars because it was hurting our eyes.

We got back in our cars and travelled a little more down the road. From that point onwards we would be trudging on foot. Everyone put on their boots, except for Romel and I. Though Mike had warned me the day before of the muddy conditions, I was not able to procure boots. Romel on the other hand was not able to receive the text Mike sent advising him to bring boots.

We shouldered our backpacks and gears and started our hike. At first it was fairly easy walking, but then the muddy clay started to form a cake around my shoes, and my shoes got heavier and heavier as the trail got muddier and muddier. I moved to the side of the road were the vegetation made it a little easier to walk.

Grass Owl
Grass Owl

I was able to spot some CINNAMON & YELLOW BITTERNS. But I think one of the highlights of the trip were the GRASS OWLS. Mark was the first to spot one as it flew low on the horizon just above the grass. By and by we again spotted a Grass Owl, this time it had a rat in its claws. Everyone was so excited. Ruben remarked that just seeing the owls would have been worth the trip.

As if trudging through the mud wasn't enough, it started to drizzle. We took shelter by the side of a wooden hut. Luckily, we didn't have a downpour, and the rain stopped after a while. Behind the hut was a large pond, someone spotted a lone

Little Grebe
Little Grebe

LITTLE GREBE swimming on the far side. Even with the binoculars, all I could make out was a black spot floating on the water. Tim provided a closer view from the spotting scope and it was beautiful.

The group decided to go further up the road to follow the direction of the flight of a PHEASANT-TAILED JACANA. I took a look at my shoes and decided that it can still take a few beatings. But as I started to follow after them, my left shoe got stuck in the mud. All my pulling and yanking couldn't get it free. I signaled to Mike that I was stuck, and he was kind enough to come back and pull my shoe loose for me.

At that point, I felt the road had beaten me and I decided to rest at the hut. It turned out to be for the better as the lone grebe is now joined by another companion. The grebes swam in and out of the reeds, ocassionally making a dive and popping up closer to our position. Mike and I watched them for quite a bit until they swam farther out to the opposite side of the pond. Other birds that flew by were a PURPLE HERON, a flock of GREAT EGRETS and a pair of PHILIPPINE DUCKS.

My binoculars trained on a flying black bird which Mike identified as a BLACK BITTERN. He said I was lucky because I was able to spot Black, Cinammon & Yellow Bitterns in one day. I also spotted a bird perched on a shrub which turned out to be a CHESTNUT MUNIA.

When the guys came back down the road, Mike pointed out the two grebes. We then made our way back to the cars. Tim spotted a raptor perched on top of a tree in the distance. Using the scope he concluded it was a female PIED HARRIER. Just when we thought the day couldn't get any better, someone spotted the owls again. This time there were four of them at once. Tim surmised that it could be a family. We observed them for some time.

As we neared the cars, another owl flew towards us. It flew above us it's head focused and it's eyes looking at us, almost in a curious kind of way. It flew past us and circled back again.

We finally got back to the cars, it was almost ten now. I was able to get back without falling, which was good because I didn't want to give Orly the satisfaction of taking my picture with me sitting in the mud.

Mike showed Tim some photos taken by Romy Ocon and Ivor Lee. We also gathered around to take a peek. A couple of the photos had beautiful pictures of birds, but were marred by the surrounding garbage. Nilo commented that this could actually be a good opportunity to prove that if birds could thrive in that kind of environment, what more if we could take care & preserve their natural habitat.

The club experienced a milestone when Tim signed up and became a member. As Tim and the others chatted for a bit, Orly trained the spotting scope on a pair of LESSER COUCALS perched on a bush. Nilo and Romel took some group pictures and finally, it was time to go. Tim went off ahead of us as he had an appointment in Subic.

We took the long way home this time, stopping by the Petron gas station to grab a bite to eat. The first thing I did when we got there was to change my clothes. Though my shoes had served me well, I had to throw it away. Over lunch, Mark jotted down the birds seen which totalled an amazing 36 species. Given the opportunity, I would go back to Candaba. But first things !


1. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis - 3
2. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea - 3+
3. Great Egret Egretta alba- 20
4. Little Egret Egretta garzetta - 2
5. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax - 15+
6. Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus - 10+
7. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis- 20+
8. Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis - 5+
9. Philippine Duck Anas luzonica - 2
10. Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos - 1, female
11. White-browed Crake Porzana tabuensis - 1
12. White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis olivaceus - 1, more heard
13. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus - 2
14. Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus - 5
15. Greater-painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis - 1, female
16. Sandpiper sp - 10+
17. Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum- 2+
18. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus - 7
19. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus - 5+
20. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata - 8
21. Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis - 5+
22. Grass Owl Tyto capensis - 6
23. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus - 1
24. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica - 20+
25. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier - 3+
26. Pied Bushchat Saxicola caprata - 2, males
27. Golden-bellied Flyeater Gerygone sulphurea - heard only
28. Clamorous Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus - 5+
29. Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris - 5+
30. Bright-capped Cisticola Cisticola exilis -1
31. Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis - 10+
32. Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica - 1
33. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach - 1
34. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata - 2
35. Chestnut Munia Lonchura malacca - 20+
36. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus - 50+