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DIY Birding Mount Makiling

DIY Birding Mount Makiling
25-28th July 2007

Alan and Doris OwYong

Introduction:

I am on a short business trip to Manila and decided to take a few days off to check out the Philippine endemics.

This is my first time birding in the Philippines but had gone through reports in Wild Bird Club of Philippines web site "birdwatch.ph". I also looked up Ding Li's, Bingwen's, Kim Seng's and others' reports on WildbirdSingapore.

With Doreen's help, I contacted the President of the WBCP, Mike Lu and Committee Member Jon Villasper for information. Due to the short notice and being weekdays, none of the members were free to take us to Mt. Makiling.

Red-crested Malkoha
Red-crested Malkoha

Getting there from Manila :

Jon Villasper emailed me the detailed directions to me. The JAM bus station at Buendia corner Taft Avenue is where to catch the Santa Cruz via Calamba bus ( P180). Ask to be dropped at the Caltex Station at Los Banos in front of Oliveraz Plaza. You can have lunch here and stock up at the supermarket below. From here you can hired a Jeepney to take you directly to the hostel ( P100). The hostel is the last building before the entrance to the Park. The taxi driver taking me to JAM agreed to take me all the way to hostel for an acceptable price. He also offered to pick us up and take us to the airport ( at a price of course). This suited us fine. The journey took 2 hours despite the heavy traffic before entering the Southern Highway.

Accommodation:

I emailed annie.cereno@gmail.com at the T.R.E.E.S hostels ( Tel: 49-536-2639) to book my room. The hostel is inside the grounds of the University of Philippines in Los Banos at the forestry Campus. The hostel has 22 aircon rooms and is just outside the entrance to the Makiling Park. The rooms at P 700 a night are clean and comfortable with hot water showers. We had the ground floor room that comes with a mini fridge and a hot and cold water cooler. This is great for making hot drinks early in the morning and filling up water bottles. Good forest can be found outside and round the back of the hostel and we got most of our bird sightings here.

Food:

Basic meals can be bought at student hall's canteens nearby. Don't expect much. You can also jump into a jeepney to the town for a more decent meal. We had raisin bread and Milo bought from the super mart for breakfast. Coincidently a batch of Korean students was staying at the hostel and we joined in their catered dinner (P150 each) which was great. The meat dishes are good enough for us to enjoy the meal. The caterer arranged packed lunch for us. So we do not have to walk out for our meals. This is the best part of the stay.

Mt. Makiling:

Mt. Makiling is an extinct volcano about 65 km south of Manila covered by a lush rainforest ecosystem. 2,000 flowering plants, 45 mammal species and 181 species of birds many of these endemic, make their home here. Interesting features like mudsprings, flatrocks, waterfalls and exotic trees are welcome distractions to a visitor to the park. An uneven road good for 4 WD vehicles winds it way gently up to the camp sites. Birding is done along the road. But even on weekdays, motorbikes, private cars and jeepneys go up and down disturbing the tranquility of the park. The side trails to the flatrocks and mudsprings are a change of terrain and a chance to see more of the ground species. The surprising thing for me is that my mobile phone works even half way up the hill.

Balicassiao
Balicassiao

Birdlife:

Daybreak is at 5.30 am and things can be pretty quiet by 7.30 am. So get use to getting up early. We must have come at a wrong time. It is also the rainy season in the Philippines but it was hot and humid during our 3 days stay. It was tough birding and we had to struggle to tick off the birds up at Mt. Makiling. I don't think we had more than a few bird sightings during our two trips up the hill. Calls are quite frequently heard but chances of seeing the birds are almost zero. It was not much better at the Botanic Gardens but we were there during the later part of the morning. The campus grounds are surrounded by trees and wild vegetation but species wise it is poor. In all we had about 22 species about half of which are endemics. Can't complain!

Luzon Tarictic Hornbill
Luzon Tarictic Hornbill

Highlights:

Our first was the endemic Philippine Falconet perched on top of a thin branch of the dead tree in front of the hostel. We went out for a walk after dinner and it turned out to be an inspired move. The Philippine Hawk Owl flew on to the top of the telegraph pole just before the guard house. It stayed there for good long views but keep silent throughout the night.

We spend the last morning sitting outside the hostel birding. Good thing too, as a pair of Luzon Tarictic Hornbills make it appearance. In fact more than half of our sightings were recorded in front of the hostel. These includes a flock of Strip-sided Rhabdornis, a pair of Black and White Triller and Red-crested Malkoha and six Guaiaberos flying from tree to tree.

The two birds that I came to see, Philippines Trogon and the Red-bellied Pitta did not make its appearance or maybe I do not know where to look for them. Well, maybe next time?

Makiling Botanic Gardens:

Just 5 mins down the road from the hostel is the MBG, a 300 hectare tropic garden planted with trees and plants from different parts of Philippines. We went to the river a few times to look for the Indigo-banded Kingfisher but dipped.

For such a green garden, the birdlife is poor, except for some sunbirds and flowerpeckers flirting about.

If you care to climb up the 155 steps, the Philippine Center for Raptors maybe worth a visit. It is always sad to see these majestic birds of prey confined to cages no bigger than a small room. They all look resigned to their fate. Lela, the captived Philippine Eagle died last year. Visitors can now see the stuff eagle in the office together with other raptors that died at the center.

CHECKLIST:

1. Philippine Falconet
2. Red Jungle Fowl
3. Scale-feathered Malkoha
4. Red-crested Malkoha
5. Glossy Swiftlet
6. Coppersmith Barbet
7. Luzon Tarictic Hornbill
8. Pacific Swallow
9. Red-rumped Swallow
10. Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike
11. Blackish Cuckooshrike
12. Black and White Triller
13. Philippine Bulbul
14. Balicassiao
15. Asian Glossy Starling
16. Olive-backed Sunbird
17. Strip-sided Rhabdornis
18. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
19. Philippine Hawk Owl
20. Guaiabero
21. Velvet Fronted Nuthatch
22. Ph. Pygmy Woodpecker (H)