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Site/Locality: El Nido, Palawan
Start Date: 5/10/2007
End Date: 5/13/2007
Name of Birder(Reporter): Jonas Rune


Thanks to a visit from my Father-in-Law I got a chance to go to El Nido a couple of days in early May. I had never birded in Palawan before save for a binoless two-day island-hopping frenzy with some non-birding friends in 2005 (on the level that I convinced one of them that a huge beetle that buzzed by actually was a Palawan Bugbird), so I had great hopes for this trip.

We ended up in Las Cabañas, south of town. A small resort nicely enclosed amidst a coconut grove. There were not many people around and it seemed the birds still considered this as their home. Sadly but not surprisingly they had a Hill Myna and a Blue-Naped Parrot in two aviaries on the resort. As tradition holds I taught the Myna to say "Mike Lu" anyway.

Day 1 Dude birding

I spent the first day on the beach with my kids, binos at hand of course, but not expecting to get too much birding done. I was gravely mistaking. The birds where everywhere!

I had 23 species (8 lifers) before lunch and didn't even leave the resort. I've been up and down Makiling with fewer species than that. All species had some claim of being common, either from Kennedy or, in the case of the Common Flameback, by its name. That was the species highlight of the day, but the overall hightlight was how AMAZINGLY visible and outgoing the birds were. And all from the comfort of a deckchair. No "rivers of raptors" but indeed a constant trickle of gems.

Day 2 Kingfisher Bonanza!

Spurred by the first day's success, I set out early to check out the forest surrounding the resort. If it was that good at the resort, just imagine how the forest would be. The hubris was obvious. The forest was quite badly bruised, and soon I was too, after again experiencing the basic equation: shorts + dense undergrowth= pain. The first 45 min felt like being on Makiling in -05 again. I heard lots of calls of which I knew almost none, and I didn't see as much as a feather. One call I was sure had to be a Greater Coucal (sounded a 45 rpm recording of a Phil Coucal played at 33 rpm) and I did see a black tail disappear into the thickets, but all I ended up with when I tried to follow the skulking shadow was more scratches.

The turnaround was, the so far only, bird that I've managed to identify by its sound before I saw it. A flash of blue which I thought it was a kingfisher landed in a tree behind a nipa palm. As I went around to get a view it started barking like one of those small dogs some elderly ladies like to carry round in their purses for a reason I have not yet figured out. I always find it hard to relate to the phonetics in bird guides, but this was right on the mark. A Hooded Pitta revealed itself in the high branches of a tree, and minutes later another one on the ground. From then on it was Palawan again, great views of Stork-billed Kingfisher, Palawan Flowerpeckers, White Vented Shamas and a Sulphur-bellied Bulbul. The real treat was still to come.

Black-headed Bulbul Stork-billed Kingfisher
Black-headed Bulbul (left) and Stork-billed Kingfisher (right)

On my way back I saw another black tail disappearing into the undergrowth. Since I apparently have a hard time learning from my mistakes I followed this one too. Four scratches later it turned out to be a squirrel. But three meters below the squirrel was a Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. Superb bird guides, squirrels. One should train them. A few minutes passed when I saw a new orange bird land in the next tree. It was a Ruddy Kingfisher, relentlessly sporting it's 80's fashion of orange and purple as if New Wave never died. So now I had two of the most beautiful kingfishers in Philippines separated by maybe 20 meters. I wished I had two sets of eyes and two binos (it would be convenient, wouldn't it). After a while they flew off and I headed back to the resort. And who was waiting for me in plain sight atop a coconut palm when I came back. The Greater Coucal.

Day 3-4

Palawan Hornbill
Palawan Hornbill

The following day and a half I had some nice raptor sightings, one (maybe two) Palawan Hornbills, two White-bellied Woodpeckers but not much new. But El Nido had one last present for me. When we arrived at the airport a fairly large raptor flew in from the mangrove area south of the airport, swooping across to the other side. The wings appeared light and were too large and too rounded to be a falcon; the tail was long and appeared dark. I thought it was a harrier until I got to check my book and found one does not occur on Palawan and the other should have migrated by then. Still don't know what is was. Any ideas?


1. Eastern Reef-Egret Egretta sacra 3
2. Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis 15+ Farms around El Nido
3. White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster 2
4. Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis cheela 1
5. Raptor sp. Accipitridae/ Falconidae sp. 1 By airport, wingspan around 1200
6. Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus x Presumably. 3 birds darted off into the jungle as soon as they saw me at a distance of 30 yards. THEY DID NOT FLY THOUGH, so I'm not sure.
7. Lesser Sand-Plover Charadrius mongolus 1
8. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 3
9. Pink-necked Green-Pigeon Treron vernans 2
10. Green Imperial-Pigeon Ducula aenea 5
11. Pigeon/ Dove sp. Columbidae sp. 1 Longish tail, semi open country
12. Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo Cuculus pectoralis x HO
13. Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus 1
14. Edible-nest Swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphagus 2
15. Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta 4
16. Swift/ Swiftlet sp. Apodidae sp. 100+
17. Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 1
18. Oriental Dwarf-Kingfisher Ceyx erithacus 1
19. Stork-billed Kingfisher Pelargopsis capensis 2+
20. Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda 1
21. White-collared Kingfisher Todirhamphus chloris2
22. Palawan Hornbill Anthracoceros marchei 1+
23. White-bellied Woodpecker Dryocopus javensis2
24. Common Flameback Dinopium javanense 1
25. Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida 2
26. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica 4+
27. Yellow-throated Leafbird Chloropsis palawanensis 1
28. Common Iora Aegithina tiphia 3
29. Olive-winged Bulbul Pycnonotus plumosus 6+
30. Grey-cheeked Bulbul Criniger bres 4+
31. Sulphur-bellied Bulbul Iole palawanensis 1
32. Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 2
33. Dark-throated Oriole Oriolus xanthonotus 4
34. Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 2
35. White-vented Shama Copsychus niger 5+
36. Rufous-tailed Tailorbird Orthotomus sericeus 1
37. Mangrove Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rufigastra 1
38. Asian Glossy Starling Aplonis panayensis 25+
39. Plain-throated Sunbird Anthreptes malacensis 2
40. Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis 4+
41. Palawan Flowerpecker Prionochilus plateni 2
42. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 6 only in el nido town
43. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 1