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A Report from

Birding trip to the Philippines, 27 Jan - 11 Mar 2002,

Sander Lagerveld

Bohol, Cebu, Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros & Palawan

Rice terraces at Bay Yu, Mount Polis

Sander Lagerveld
Oudegracht 216A
1811 CR Alkmaar
the Netherlands


Acknowledgements / references.
Daily log.

Species recorded.


27 Januari – 11 March 2002 Wim van der Schot ( and I visited the Philippines. Because we wanted to maximise our time in the field, we employed the services of Tim Fisher (, which worked out very well. Besides the ´ordinary´ places, he advised us to go to Canaway Forest on Southern Negros and Apaya in Northern Luzon. Tim charged us $ 2000 each, which incuded all internal flights (8), land and sea transport, accommodation and guides at Palawan, Tabunan, Negros, PICOP, Hamut and Apaya. He also borrowed us his tapes, which proved to be very usefull.

We flew with Malaysian Airlines, Amsterdam – Manila (€ 750). A visa (which is required if you stay more than three weeks) was obtained from the Philippine Consulate in Amsterdam

(€ 40). Other costs were around € 600 each on food, tips etc. Accommodation ranged from a the comfortable Paper Inn at Bislig to a tent in the remote areas.

The weather was generally warm, sunny and dry. Only on Mindanao we experienced a lot of rain every day. Early mornings on Mt Polis and Mt Talinis were very cold. We took malarial preventatives during the whole trip. The only mosquitos encountered were on Palawan. Leeches were abundant at Mt Katanglad.

Except on Palawan and Mt Makiling we encountered illegal loggers, settlers and hunters in every forest. Especially PICOP was depressing in this respect. Despite being often rude to the environment, we found the Philippinos invaribly friendly. Most of then spoke excellent English.

Birding was hard work. We spend long days in the field and generally birds were never common and always shy. The trekkings to Canaway, Hamut and Apaya were quite demanding due to long distances to cover on foot on a fish-and-rice diet. At the end of the  trip I weighed only 66 kilos, having lost 8 in only 6 weeks.

We recorded 331 species of which 151 were endemic (including Black-chinned Fruit-Dove and Philippine Cuckoo-Dove). Highlights being Philippine Eagle, Palawan Peacock-Pheasent, Philippine Cockatoo, Javan Frogmouth, Whiskered Pitta, Philippine Needletail, Falcated Wren-Babbler, Celestial Monarch and Slaty-backed Jungle-Flycatcher. Other favorites were: Philippine Falconet, Bukidnon Woodcock, Luzon Bleeding-heart, Azure-breasted Pitta, Black-hooded Coucal, Scale-feathered Malkoha, Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Silvery Kingfisher, Sooty Woodpecker, Luzon Redstart, all Rhabdornises, Golden-crowned Babbler, all Shama´s, Black-headed Tailorbird, Little Slaty Flycatcher, Blue-breasted Flycatcher, Mountain Shrike, Apo Myna, Naked-faced Spiderhunter, Red-eared Parrotfinch and White-cheeked Bullfinch.

Overall we had an excellent trip. We only regret that our time at Canaway and Apaya was limited. These places surely deserve more attention. We hope this report will encourage other birders to visit Canaway and Apaya and explore it more thoroughly. Hopefully Negros Fruit-Dove and Isabela Oriole can still be found there.


We would like to thank Jan van der Laan for encouriging us to make this trip, Rolf de By and Raf Drijvers for very usefull sound recordings and trip reports, Tim Fisher for organising our logistics and borrowing his tapes,  Chris Lodge and Pierre van der Wielen for being excellent company on Mindanao, Merlijn van Weerd for arranging our access to Apaya,  Arnel Malliari (Palawan), Peter Widmann (Rasa), Rene Vendiola (Canaway Forest), Sol and Okin (Tabunan), Zardo (PICOP), Bimbo (Hamut) and Charlie (Apaya) for guiding us and Jelle Scharringa for preparing and commenting on the sonagrams.


A guide to the birds of the Philippines, R. Kennedey et al, 2000, Oxford.
Threatened birds of Asia – Part A, N. J. Collar et al, Birdlife International.
Threatened birds of Asia – Part B, N. J. Collar et al, Birdlife International.
Where to watch birds in South-East Asia, N. Wheatley, 1996, Helm.
Taxonomic status of the Negros Bleeding-heart Gallicolumba keayi from Panay, Philippines, with notes on its behaviour, E. Curio, 2001, Forktail 17, Oriental Bird Club.
Philippines, February – April 1997. R. Drijvers 1997, trip report, Oriental Bird Club.
The Philippines Winter 1996/97. B. Gee 1997, trip report, Oriental Bird Club.

Several other trip reports, obtained from:




Leave Amsterdam 12.00



Arrival Manila Luzon  14.15, transfer to Mt Makiling



Birding Mt Makiling and Campus, transfer to Manila



-> Puerto Princesa Palawan (8.20 - 9.35), Garceliano Beach, transfer to Narra, Rasa Island



Rasa Island, transfer to St Pauls, Birding near Sabang



St Paul's



St Paul's



St Paul's, transfer to Puerto Princesa



Balsahan trail, -> Manila Luzon (11.25 – 12.40), -> Cebu City Cebu (15.00 - 16.10)



Tabunan Forest



Tabunan Forest, supercat to Tagbilaran Bohol (16.00 - 18.00), transfer to RSNP









RSNP, transfer to Tagbilaran, supercat to Dumaquete Negros (16.00 – 17.30)



transfer to Mantiquil, walk to Canaway Forest, late afternoon birding



Canaway Forest



Canaway Forest, walk to Mantiquil, transfer to Dumaquete



Mt Talinis, Casa Roro, supercat to Cebu City Cebu (16.00 - 19.30)



 -> Davao Mindanao (8.00 - 8.50), transfer to Bislig, late afternoon birding Airport marsh



PICOP - road 1-4



PICOP - road 4A – 11



PICOP - road 1 - 5/6, Airport marsh



PICOP - road 1-4, transfer to Davao



transfer to Mt Katanglad, afternoon birding



Mt Katanglad



Mt Katanglad



Mt Katanglad



transfer to Cagayan de Oro, -> (12.30 – 13.55), American Cemetary



-> San Jose Mindoro (6.00 - 7.00), transfer to Sablayan Penal Farm, afternoon birding



Sablayan Penal Farm



Sablayan Penal Farm, transfer to San Jose



-> Manila Luzon (7.30-8.30),-> Tuguegarao (10.10-11.00), transfer to Baliwag, walk to camp 1



walk to Hamut






Hamut, walk to camp 1



walk to Baliwag, transfer to University Campus Llagan



transfer to Disulap, walk to Dibulan



walk to Apaya, afternoon birding



Apaya, walk to Ambabok



walk to Disulap, transfer to Banaue



Mt Polis



Mt Polis, transfer to Manila



Arrival Manila, American Cemetary



chilling out -> Kuala Lumpur Malaysia (15.20 – 20.25)


All sites visited are covered thoroughly in other reports, except for Apaya and Canaway. Therefore only these two are threated here.


A lowland area (100 – 300 m) with primary forest near San Mariano (Northern Luzon). The reason to visit this place was a recent sighting of Isabela Oriole by a Dutch researcher Merlijn van Weerd (

To get there, take one of the regular jeepneys to San Mariano from the main road Tugugerao ó Santiago. Ask in downtown San Mariano for Doy (the driver of the Sierra Madre Conservation project), apparently everybody knows him. Ask Doy to find Charlie (the guide) and if he is able to bring you to Disulap with the project vehicle (a truck with high clearance). On the way to Disulap there is a broad and deep (> 1 m) river to cross, which probably can´t be done in a regular Jeepney. At Disulap porters can be hired and maybe horses. From Disulap it is a 1,5 hour straight walk to Dibulan, where it is possible to stay at the Substation. From Disulap it is a 1,5 straight walk to Ambabok, which is still degraded. The Isabela Oriole was seen here, not in the primary forest! To get to Apaya takes another two hours, where you have to camp next to a small river. In only 12 hours of birding at Apaya we recorded Celestial Monarch five times. Other good birds: Philippine Hawk-Eagle, Cream-breasted Fruit-Dove, Spotted Imperial-Pigeon (a flock of 15 between Disulap and Dibulan), Luzon Bleeding-heart, Indigo-banded Kingfisher (Ambabok), Spotted Kingfisher, Rufous Hornbill, Sooty Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Babbler, Luzon Striped-Babbler, Lemon-throated Warbler, Furtive Flycatcher (in bamboo, close to the forest edge). Also possible here: Philippine Eagle-Owl, Philippine Dwarf-Kingfisher and Isabela Oriole (seen by Merlijn van Weerd).

Canaway forest

One of the few remaining patches of forest on Southern Negros at an altitude of around 1000 meter. Apparently all the Negros and Panay specialities can still be found here, except for the Striped-Babblers. There are even recent reports of Negros Fruit-Dove.

From Dumaquete go south on the coastal road. At 1 there is a village where food can be bought and motorbikes can be hired. Soon the road becomes a dirt road which can be very slippery. Ben King who tried to reach Canaway Forest broke his arm here when he fell off a motorbike. Elvi and his sons can be hired as porters. From his house it is a 2,5 hour (straight) walk to the forest edge. Ca. 500 meter from there, is a small flat area where you can camp next to a small stream. Probably it is also possible to stay in the huts near the forest edge.

The person to bring you here is Rene Vendiola. He can be contacted at:

Liptong Valencia
Negros Oriental
Tel #225-2120
Rene is a very nice guy and a good birder.

During our stay we recorded amongst others: Philippine Hawk-Eagle, Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon, Blue-crowned Racquet-tail, Philippine Scops-Owl, Philippine Needletail, Spotted Kingfisher, Tarictic Hornbill, Greater Flameback, White-winged Cuckoo-shrike, White-browed Shama, Lemon-throated Warbler, Blue-headed Fantail and White-vented Whistler. Our porters saw Negros Bleeding-heart and we taped a call which was according to Rene this species. Tim Fisher was unfamiliar with the sound when he listened to the recording afterwards. Rene had seen Negros Fruit-Dove here last year. In the past he had also shot it when he used to be a hunter! According to him the male looks like a miniature Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove. Other species recorded by him in Canaway: Lord Walden´s Hornbill, Flame-templed Babbler and Negros Jungle-Flycatcher.

Daily log

27 January

Left Amsterdam 12.00, flight MH17 to Kuala Lumpur.

28 January

Arrival in Kuala Lumpur at 7.30, flight MH704 to Manila (10.20 – 14.00). We were picked up at the airport and brought to the University Campus at los Baños where we stayed in a guesthouse near the Forestry. A late afternoon stroll around the campus produced our first endemics: Balicassiao, Red-crested Malkoha, Philippine Falconet, Philippine Bulbul and Stripe-headed Rhabdornis.

29 January

Woke up at 4.00 and walked up to Mt Makiling. Philippine Hawk Owls were calling everywhere as were Spotted Woodkingfishers, but nothing was seen. Later we heard two Luzon Bleeding-hearts, despite tape playback they refused to show. We did see however a lot of new birds like Philippine Serpent Eagle, Luzon Hornbill, Black-crowned Babbler, Black-and-White Triller,  Striped Flowerpecker and finally Grey-backed Tailorbird. Late morning we visited the Botanical Gardens where we saw a female Indigo-banded Kingfisher sitting on a rock in the stream and a male Black-chinned Fruit-Dove. Even more impressive were two Philippine Eagles, unfortunately in a cage. In the afternoon we did an unsuccesful attempt to find Spotted Buttonquail at the University Campus. At  17.00 we were picked up and brought to the Townhouse in Manila. That evening Fred (staff of Tim Fisher) gave us the tickets for the rest of our trip.

Philippine Falconet                                                                   Black-chinned Fruit Dove

30 January

Morning flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan (8.20 - 9.35). At the airport we met Arnel Malliari and our driver. We first went to Garceliano Beach where we saw several Chinese Egrets. After lunch we drove to Narra, stopping on the way at some paddies (Swinhoe´s Snipe). Our boatman was still out on sea so we drove to the house of Peter Widmann, who kindly brought us to Rasa Island. Because the sea was quite rough we could not go to the northern tip of Rasa where the Cockatoo-roost is situated. Fortunately we saw one from the western side of the island sitting in a treetop at a distance of 500 meters. Usually it is not allowed to enter Rasa Island but Peter made an exception for us. In the dark we heard two Mantanani Scops Owls. We stayed in the recently opened La Vista beach resort. Despite being the only guests, we had live music at dinner.

Twitching Philippine Cockatoo

Part 2

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