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Nueva Ecija Birding

Date: November 8-9, 2004
Site: Concepcion - La Paz, Tarlac
Site qualifier: CLSU & Philippine Rice Institute, Muñoz, Nueva Ecija
Birders: Rene Bajit, Carmela Española, Mike Lu, Rich Pijuan & Mark Villa
Trip report by : Mike Lu
Birdlist by : Carmela Española & Mark Villa

The WBCP was invited by member Rene Bajit to participate in an exhibit at the Philippine Rice Institute in Nueva Ecija. Bird photographer Romy Ocon contributed 20 pictures of rice birds. Members Orly Punzalan, & Rene Bajit contributed watercolor works while Rich Pijuan participated by submitting glass paintings.

Phil Rice sponsored the trip by providing round-trip transport and accomodations for the birders. When the van reached the viaduct on the North Luzon Expressway we started counting egrets. By the time we reached Concepcion, Tarlac we noticed the electricity lines were studded with Barn Swallows. At one point, Lala pointed to an unfolding spectacle in front of us and pleaded with the driver to halt the vehicle. On the opposite field, was a mass of birds swirling upwards like a tornado. I had thought that the birds were raptors until Mark whispered "pratincoles ... " as the flock flew above us and disappeared. A few minutes later, the flock reappeared higher above but slower this time to enable us to make a rough estimate. The birders agreed there should be at least 150 birds in all ! :)

As the van continued towards our destination, our eyes now scan the fields for more birds. Even the driver would point out the birds he thought we might miss. Just before the arch that welcomes us into Nueva Ecija. the road slopes up on a bend to afford us a good view of the fields below. I espied a pair of GREAT EGRET and had the driver park on the shoulder. Newbie birder Rich Pijuan could not have enough of her lifebirds as the birders admired the idyllic scenery ... GREY HERONS, LTTLE EGRETS, BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATERS, LONG-TAILED SHRIKE and a PIED BUSHCHAT all seen from this good vantage point. It was getting late and we needed to get to Munoz lest our host gets worried.

Cattle Egrets
Cattle Egrets

It was late afternoon when we arrived. Rene met us and checked us into the Phil Rice dormitory. We unloaded the artworks at the exhibit hall and went out to the rice fields even though there was barely enough birding light. The fields have been harvested and everywhere looked dry. As Rene manuevered the van between the fields in the dark, his car lights beamed on some shadows scurrying about. What I thought were field mice turned out to be COMMON SANDPIPERS some moving away while others, perhaps blinded by the lights, stood there bobbing their tails up and down. Rene's wife, Beth cooked up a sumptuous dinner for us. Afterwards, we strolled around the compound with astronomer-birder Rich gleefully pointing out the constellations and other celestial bodies.


Date: 7 November 2004
Time: 3:00 - 5:00 PM
Location: Concepcion - La Paz, Tarlac

1. Grey Heron [Ardea cinerea] ^ 3
2. Great Egret [Ardea alba] ^ 3
3. Little Egret [Egretta garzetta] ^ 2
4. Cattle Egret [Bubulcus ibis] ^ 200+
5. Oriental Pratincole [Glareola maldivarum] ^ 150+
6. Blue-tailed Bee-eater [Merops philippinus] ^ 2
7. Barn Swallow [Hirundo rustica] ^ 1000+
8. Pied Bushchat [Saxicola caprata] - 1, male
9. Long-tailed Shrike [Lanius schach] - 1

Philippine Rice Institute, Muñoz, Nueva Ecija
1. Common Sandpiper [Actitis hypoleucos] ^ 8+

Call time was 5:00 am and half an hour later, Rene was touring us inside the sprawling Central Luzon State University campus. We parked beside what seemed to be a dried up stream and had CATTLE EGRETS flying overhead. A GREY-STREAKED FLYCATCHER perched conspicuously on a wire but there were no other birds in sight. Rene decided to head for the Bureau of Fisheries site and just near the entrance between 2 fields he noticed doves perched on some line. A closer look revealed there were at least 20 RED-TURTLE DOVES.

Red Turtle Dove
Red Turtle Dove

The first fishponds had one GREAT EGRET, one WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHER and one WHITE-THROATED KINGFISHER. However as we drove further in, there seemed to be less birds. Nevertheless we got down at the farthest end where the last of the fishponds were located. A female BLUE ROCK-THRUSH perched conspicuously atop the lone structure. We heard the sweeet-sweeet call of a sunbird. Mark located the OLIVE-BACKED SUNBIRD on a flowering vine drapped on a tree. Nearby, we heard a BARRED RAIL calling. In the distance, I saw a flock of GREAT EGRETS on the field and decided to walk towards that direction. However, as I turned around to talk with the other birders, I noticed an electricity line with lots of perched birds - RED TURTLE DOVES (again !), CRESTED MYNAHS, BLUE-TALIED BEE-EATERS & BLUE-TAILED BEE-EATERS ! It was such a wonderful sight ! Elsewhere on the surrounding fields, there were ZEBRA DOVES, COMMON SANDPIPER and a single GREY WAGTAIL.

We cut short our ricefield birding and had breakfast at the Bajit residence. Later on, we spent time watching BARN SWALLOWS perched on the 2nd story balcony of the exhibit building. One of the BARN SWALLOWS had a somewhat reddish belly which Mark and Lala identified as the subspecies saturata. Other birds seen at Phil Rice were CATTLE EGRETS and a small flock of WHITE-BREASTED WOODSWALLOWS. Later in the afternoon, Cabanatuan-based birder Linda Gocon came for a visit to meet up with us. We may not have enough time to bird but the Bajit couple's hospitality and company of fellow birders is more than we can ask for. Rene is already planning a return trip for the next batch of WBCP members in February 2005 !


Date: 8 November 2004; 5-7 AM
Location: CLSU campus, Muñoz, Nueva Ecija

1. Great Egret [Ardea alba] - 20
2. Little Egret [Egretta garzetta] - 2
3. Cattle Egret [Bubulcus ibis] - 26
4. Black-crowned Night-Heron [Nycticorax nycticorax] - 1
5. Barred Rail [Gallirallus torquatus] - 1 (heard only)
6. Common Sandpiper [Actitis hypoleucos] - 2
7. Red Turtle-Dove [Streptopelia tranquebarica] ^ 50
8. Zebra Dove [Geopelia striata] - 4
9. Common Kingfisher [Alcedo atthis] - 1
10. White-throated Kingfisher [Halcyon smyrnensis] - 1
11. White-collared Kingfisher (Collared Kingfisher) [Todirhamphus chloris] - 2
12. Blue-tailed Bee-eater [Merops philippinus] - 6
13. Barn Swallow [Hirundo rustica] - numerous, including one individual of the subspecies saturata
14. Yellow-vented Bulbul [Pycnonotus goiavier] - 10+
15. Blue Rock-Thrush [Monticola solitarius] ^ 1 female
16. Golden-bellied Flyeater (Golden-bellied Gerygone) [Gerygone sulphurea] ^ 1 (heard only)
17. Striated Grassbird [Megalurus palustris] ^ 2+ (heard only)
18. Grey-streaked Flycatcher [Muscicapa griseisticta] - 1
19. Pied Fantail [Rhipidura javanica] ^ 2+
20. Grey Wagtail [Motacilla cinerea] - 1
21. Yellow Wagtail [Motacilla flava] - 2
22. White-breasted Wood-swallow [Artamus leucorynchus] - 11
23. Long-tailed Shrike [Lanius schach] - 1
24. Brown Shrike [Lanius cristatus] - 8+
25. Crested Myna [Acridotheres cristatellus] ^ 10+
26. Olive-backed Sunbird [Cinnyris jugularis] - 2
27. Eurasian Tree Sparrow [Passer montanus] - numerous