Location: Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Olango
Time in the Field: 0830H-1130H
Weather: Low tide, sunny
with blue skies
Observers: Nilo Arribas Jr. and Godfrey Jakosalem
Equipment Used: 12x50
binoculars, Nikon Spotting scope, Kennedy et.al. Guide, Birds
Trip report and birdlist by Nilo Arribas,
I've met several friends in Cebu and neigboring provinces
in past several weeks. In the course of our casual chats,
and knowing that I'm into birdwatching, they always asked
me about Olango Island. It's as if "Olango" is Synonymous
to birdwatching in Cebu. I tried to brush off questions about
the place since I haven't visited it yet. I even tried to
convince myself that there should be a better place to watch
wild birds other than this famous island here in Cebu.
This morning however, was different. I met with Godfrey "Godo"
in Marina Mall in Mactan for a special trip. Actually, this
should be a casual trip for him but in my case, I was so excited
as to what exactly is Olango from a birdwatcher's point of
We took a multi-cab, a small car slightly larger than a local
tricycle and converted to passenger a vehicle. I always find
difficult to ride the local transport considering my 5 feet,
9.5 inches frame but this is nothing considering the thought
of my first Olango trip or any birding trip for that matter.
The multi-cab is as common as the Eurasian Tree Sparrow in
this part of the country so I have to learn to love this mode
of moving around :) The multi-cab sign, "So-ong"
and the fare P5.00 which is an equivalent to a 5-7 minute
ride going to a place called "Angasil". We then,
took a foot driven tricycle along Dapdap road that brought
us to the other end of this road which is where you'll find
the ferry station to Olango
Island. Just like the multi-cab, We paid P5.00 per head for
the short "pedi-cab" trip.
Nilo in full battle gear
told me that the huge banca (which can carry upto
35 passengers) leaves the station every 15-20 minutes
or when fully loaded with passenngers/cargo. Being
the first passengers, we had to wait for awhile which
also gave me enough time to appreciate the crystal
clear water on this part of Mactan. No, it is not
my first time to see clean sea water but being a regular
birder in Tambo, in Manila bay, somehow has instilled
in my hypothalamus that seawater near populated areas
or ports are always dark with silt or laden with garbage
trip to Olango takes about 20-25minutes and we were
lucky that the waves were not that high. Maybe an
average height of half meter, a bonus after several
days of rains and strong winds here in Cebu.
The Olango Island Wildlife Santuary is located in
the Southwest side of the populated Olango island.
Despite the relatively small size of this island,
I was surprised to see concrete road leading towards
the Santuary. This made the 15-20 minute tricycle
ride more comfortable. However, because of the relatively
infrequent flow of passengers/visitors to the sanctuary
("sanctuario" to the locals), tricycle drivers
charge P60.00 oneway fare or P120.00 for roundtrip
Bird hide # 1 affords a good view of one of the
The resident guys, Tino and Boy provided us with updates on
the birds of the area. They also lent us a book "Birds
of Japan" which is quite helpful for the ID of the migrants
We started at around 8.30AM, lowtide was forecasted at around
9.00AM so I guess it was a good start for us. Godo led me
to an old bird hide which is actually a small hut made of
wood. unfortunately it is now sorrounded with mangroves! It
is as if the structure was now hidden from the birds by mangrove
growths and is almost useless for birdwatchers.
the mangroves also provided cover for us to approach the flocks
of birds without scaring them away. It was
however difficult to identify the birds due to the position
of the 8 O'clock sun lighting the birds from behind or commonly
known as backlit subjects!
From this position, I only managed to identify flocks of little
egrets while hearing songs of Golden-bellied flyeaters and
sunbirds among the mangroves.
We decided to take a long semi-circle walk along the mangrove
patches in order to position ourselves on the other side of
the bird flocks for better vantage point and lighting for
had a glimpe of a Common kingsher perched in an exposed
mangrove root while moving towards an ideal spot.
The good thing about Olango is the vast flat area
for birds to feed during lowtide. This also offers
local people the opportunity of gathering shells and
crustaceans which sometimes lead them to the sanctuary.
The tidal flats actually extends even to areas no
longer part of the sanctuary and neigboring mangrove
islets. Since birds don't recognize administrative
boundaries, ensuring the birds safety in this area
is indeed a difficult task.
While my eyes feasted on flocks of waders, my attention was
caught by an egret separated from the flocks. Greenish legs,
yellow beak, larger than little egret... Chinese egret! wow,
this was an amazing experience. I remember the challenge of
identifying the rare Chinese egrets in Manila Bay. The black
mud/silt made both feet of the egrets black! This is further
compounded by their beak used for catching prey also in the
murky black mud. With so many intermediate egrets in the area,
it was really difficult to spot the Chinese egret.
Here in Olango, the clean water, absence of really deep silt/mud
and white sand makes identification relatively easier for
Godo and I are wandering around the tidal flats, he called
my attention to a smaller bird among the group of Whimbrels.
This bird with straight black beak was later identified by
Godo as an Asian Dowitcher which is considered a rare visitor.
the scope to a flock of smaller birds, we were delighted
to see a black flag/band on one of the Greater Sand-Plover.
Godo told me that the color and placement of the flag/band
signifies the country where the bird was tagged. In
this case, the color black represents the Philippines.
The last banding was made sometime 2002. Later the
guys (Boy) in the office showed us all the flags assigned
per country including the colors which confirmed the
sighting as Philippine flag/band as opposed to Japan
which is a combination of black and blue.
Flock of Ruddy Turnstone
After three (3) hours, we felt the need to return to the office
for lunch. I'm delighted by the list of birds I saw this morning.
A very productive birding trip as manifested by the bird list
below. I'm almost tempted to do a bird count but I feel I
really need to prepare for such a task in this vast tidal
flats. The bird list here is only a small representatioon
of what we saw this morning.
I know that olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary should offer
more than 32 species to a dude birder like me but considering
that this is my first Olango trip, I feel that I should leave
more to explore in later trips. This is really the main benefit
of living near a Wildlife Santuary. You can always do it again
and again with relatively little effort :)
1. Chinese Egret [Egretta eulophotes] - 1, seen very close
with greenish legs, yellow beak similar in size to an intermediate
2. Intermediate Egret [Ardea (Mesophoyx) intermedia] - 3,
seen behind a flock of little egret.
3. Little Egret [Egretta garzetta] -27, seen in different
4. Little Heron [Butorides striatus] - 2, seen flying in separate
5. Grey Plover [Pluvialis squatarola] -2+
6. Asian Golden-Plover [Pluvialis fulva] -3
7. Greater Sand-Plover [Charadrius leschenaultii] - with black
flag/band in the upper right leg
8. Lesser Sand-Plover [Charadrius mongolus] -5
9. Whimbrel [Numenius phaeopus] -48+, probably more in other
10. Bar-tailed Godwit [Limosa lapponica] -6
11. Common Redshank [Tringa totanus] -44+
12. Common Greenshank [Tringa nebularia] -7, more in other
13. Common Sandpiper [Actitis hypoleucos] -3+
14. Terek Sandpiper [Xenus cinerea] -9+
15. Ruddy Turnstone [Arenaria interpres] -13+, more in other
16. Asian Dowitcher [Limnodromus semipalmatus] - 1, in non-breeding
plumage, very obvious among larger whimbrels.
17. Great Knot [Calidris tenuirostris] -1
18. Rufous-necked Stint [Calidris ruficollis] -13+
19. Black-headed Gull [Larus ridibundus] -2
20. Little Tern [Sterna albifrons] -1
21. Whiskered Tern [Chlidonias hybridus] -3+
22. Spotted Dove [Streptopelia chinensis] -1
23. Zebra Dove [Geopelia striata] -2
24. Common Kingfisher [Alcedo atthis] -1, seen perched on
the root of mangrove
25. White-collared Kingfisher [Todirhamphus chloris] - 5
26. Golden-bellied Flyeater [Gerygone sulphurea] -H.O.
26. Pacific Swallow [Hirundo tahitica] -3
28. Pied Fantail [Rhipidura javanica] -2
29. Brown Shrike [Lanius cristatus] - 7
30. Asian Glossy Starling [Aplonis panayensis] - 6, 5 seen
flying and 1 perched
31. Olive-backed Sunbird [Nectarinia (Cinnyris) jugularis]
- 1 seen, more heard
32. Eurasian Tree Sparrow [Passer montanus] - common, average
of 5-7 in each group