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A Report from

Birding trip to the Philippines (part 2),

Sander Lagerveld

31 January

Because of the hardly tickable views of the Cockatoo we returned to Rasa. This time the sea was calm so we could reach the roost. At dawn we saw ca. 20 Cockatoos at a distance of 150 meters. After that we returned to Narra, had breakfast and checked out . On our way to Puerto Princesa we stopped again at the paddies where we saw a Changeble Hawk-Eagle, some Swinhoe´s Snipe and Long-toed Stints. We stopped also at some Fish Ponds near Puerto Princesa. Best bird was a female Watercock. After lunch in Puert Princesa we drove to Sabang. We made one stop and walked a small trail into the mangroves. Copper-throated Sunbirds were common here (10+). We also saw Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and Pygmy Flowerpecker. Late afternoon we arrived in Sabang where we stayed in the Last Frontier Resort. We did a short walk behind the chalets where we saw Dark-throated Oriole. After dinner we did some nightbirding behind the chalets. We had excellent views of a Javan Frogmouth which we taped in.

Javan Frogmouth

1 February

Left Sabang at 5.30 and walked along the beach to St Paul´s where we saw a pair of Malaysian Plovers. At St. Paul´s we first walked to the HQ seeing Yellow-throated Leafbird, Lovely Sunbird, Palawan Blue Flycatcher, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Palawan Tit, White-vented Shama and Palawan Hornbill on the way. We continued along the Stream Trail where we heard two Palawan Peacock Pheasants and two Falcated Ground-Babblers. We spent four hours taping and playing back the Ground Babbler, but they wouldn´t show. After lunch in Sabang we tried the Ground-Babbler again and after two hours we finally glimpsed one bird. We also saw Blue-naped Parrot and Blue-headed Rackettail. After dark we stayed on the Mangrove Trail and taped in a Palawan Scops Owl which was not seen.

2 February

Left Sabang in a chartered boat and were dropped off at the underground river at 5.45. Arnel instructed us to hide behind the huts as this was the best way too see the Peacock Pheasant (this bird follows two Tabon Scrubfowl who are foraging every morning behind the huts) . Soon the Scrubfowl came in and we heard the Pheasant. After waiting 30 min we had excellent views of the male Peacock Pheasant, brilliant! After seeing Palawan Flowerpecker and (finally) perched Blue-headed Rackettails we left at 9.00 as many tourists were arriving. The boat dropped us off at the HQ and we did the Stream Trail again. This time we had excellent views of a Falcated Ground Babbler which was singing 5 meters from the trail. In the afternoon we found a pair of Blue Paridise Flycachters along the Jungle Trail and a male at the Stream Trail. The latter trail produced also Ashy-headed Babbler and Sulphur-bellied Bulbul. We did again some nightbirding on the Stream Trail hearing one Javan Frogmouth and two Palawan Scops Owls, but nothing was seen.

Falcated Ground Babbler                                       St Paul's

3 February

St Paul´s again. At the beach we saw the female Malaysian Plover and a juvenile Peregrine. Late morning we visited the area behind the chalets where we saw a pair of Blue Paradise Flycatchers. After lunch we went back to Puerto Princesa, stopping on the way at the Lion Cave, where Wim lost the battery of his video camera. Late afternoon we arrived in Puerto Princesa.

4 February

At 4.30 we arrived at the Balsahan trail. I tried to cross a stream on a treetrunk. When it rolled over I fell in, socking not only me but also my speakers. Fortunetaly they survived as did my minidisc. We taped in Palawan Scops Owl and we had excellent views of a pair, we even saw then mating! Javan Frogmouth and Brown Hawk Owl were only heard.  Soon after dawn we had several Melodious Babblers. Arnel pointed out a territory of Palawan Flycatcher. After giving one blast, a small flycatcher popped up, flew almost against my head and started singing, but was never seen again. Later we heard another approximately 150 meters from the original spot (maybe it was the same individual). At 10.00 we left and went to the airport. Flight to Manila (11.25 - 12.40) en later to Cebu City (15.00 - 16.10). During the latter the crew encouraged us to sing a song (we didn´t) and later they organized a sort of quiz. ´Who has a tie´ the first one to respond got a small present. The also asked for a white hair. Before I could raise my hand we heard a scream from the seat behind us. A lady had torn out a (indeed white) hair from the head of her 70+ year old mother! They seemed both very happy with the mobile phone case they had won. In Cebu City we took a taxi to the Tonros Hotel. That evening we met Sol who told us that she would pick us up at 4.00 next morning.

5 February

Woke up at 3.30, ate something next door and left at 4.00 for Tabunan. After a 1,5 hour drive we arrived at the house of Oking. When walking up to the old platform we heard Philippine Hawk-Owl, Philippine Nightjar and Black Shama. At the platform we saw Streak-breasted Bulbul, Blue-crowned rackettail and the distinctive race of Coppersmith Barbet. Suddenly Oking heard Cebu Flowerpecker. The bird flew a few metres above our heads against the sun, frustatingly we couln´t see any colors. At noon Lushela (Okings daughter) kindly brought us fried chicken. After lunch we explored the forest, seeiing Black Shama and excellent views of Streak-breasted Bulbul. In the afternoon we went to the new platform, which offered far better views at the canopy. Here we saw a female Orange-bellied Flowerpecker of the endemic pallidius race, until recently believed to be extinct, but no sign of the Flowerpecker. After drinking coffee at Okings house we left at 16.30. Back in Cebu City, we bought a new battery for the video camera.

6 February

Because of the untickable views of the Flowerpecker we returned to Tabunan, arriving at dawn. We went straight up to the new platform. We saw Crimson Sunbird (Okings third sighting) and a lot of Flowerpeckers, but not the one we needed. At 10.00 heavens opened and after 4 hours of torrential rain we were picked up and brought to the harbour. Being frozen and soaked we got on the (aircon!) ferry to Bohol. At Tagbilaran we were picked up at the harbour and brought to Chocolate Hills.

7 February

At 6.00 we were picked up and brought to RSNP. At the clearing we saw Besra, Philippine Trogon, Samar Hornbill. We played the tape of Striated Wren-Babbler and got an immediate response and excellent views of a pair. After that we walked the Steeres, Oriole and Tarictic trail seeing Azure-breasted Pitta, Black-faced Coucal, Brown Tit Babbler, Philippine Leaf Warbler, Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher, Blue Fantail, Yellow-bellied Whistler and Buzzing Flowerpecker. Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove and Yellow-breasted Tailorbird were only heard. At dusk we did the clearing again. We saw Philippine Hawk Owl. Philippine Scops Owl and 3 Philippine Frogmouths were only heard.

8 February

More or less same birds as the day before. New birds were: Philippine Hawk Cuckoo, Philippine Drongo Cuckoo, Philippine Oriole, Rufous-fronted Tailorbird and Coleto.

9 February

Arrived in the dark, but didn´t manage to get Philippine Frogmouth into view. We walked the Brahminy Kite trail, our last chance for the Broadbill and seeing Yellow-breasted Tailorbird, but no luck. After playing the tape we had excellent views of a Rufous-lored Kingfisher which perched 10 meters above us. At 12.00 we were picked up, had lunch at the Chocolate Hills and left for Tagbilaran at 14.00. Halfway a truck had turned over, blocking the road. Fortunetaly our driver knew another road. We arrived just in time to catch the 16.00 Supercat to Negros. There were a lot of people at the port of Dumaquete, but nobody to pick us up. After two hours we finally contacted our guide Rene. We bought some beer for the coming days and checked in the Bethel hotel.

10 February

René and our drivers picked us up at 4.00. With five people and our luggage on two moterbikes we drove south along the coast road and turned inland on a dirt road. Because this road was very slippery we hired an extra moterbike for the last part. On the way we saw a turned over jeepney. At 10.00 we arrived at Elvi´s house, René arranged three extra porters and after a 2,5 hour straight walk we reached the edge of Canaway Forest, cooked  fish and rice in one of the huts. It was not bad, at that time we didn´t know fish and rice would be the one and only Canaway-dish, also for breakfast. After seeing a Philippine Hawk Eagle we entered the forest. After 500 meters the trail ´disappeared´, we cleared a flat area next to a stream and pitched the tents. René and his man made a trail for us going up. When doing this they flushed two Negros Bleeding-hearts!!! While trying for the Bleeding-heart we saw a family of the highly distinctive (Negros) Greater Flameback and Lemon-throated Warbler. Sad news was that only one can of beer had survived the trip. At night we heard Philippine Scops-Owl, too tired to get up.

11 February

We explored the trail and recorded, amongst others, White-winged Cuckoo Shrike, Visayan Hornbill and White-vented Whistler. Again one of our porters saw a Bleeding-heart! Because we were at approximately 1000 metres and could not find the other Visayan specialities we asked to make a trail down as well. Late afternoon we saw a very tame Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon near the forest edge.

Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon                                                 Camp Canaway

12 February

On the trail down we could not find anything new. Back at the camp René pointed out a call  which was according to him the Bleeding-heart. Despite considerable effort nothing was seen. I made a (poor) sound recording of it. We left Canaway around 10.00. The fish-and-rice-only diet of the last days had weakened us. It took us more than three hours to reach Elvi´s house, completely exhausted. After lunch (fish and rice of course) we got on the motorbikes and drove back to Dumaquete. We went straight to the Jollebee´s, ate a few quarterpounders and drank a lot of coke. After one beer we collapsed.

13 February

Our drivers picked us up at 4.00, brought us to Rene´s house, we drank some coffee and continued to Mt Talinis. We followed a hunter´s trail and at 7.00 we reached the ridge where it was very cold. Within ten minutes I had seen one Striped-Babbler which Wim missed. An hour later I saw two birds but Wim was too late again. Fortunetely he saw one in a group of Mountain White-eye´s. When we got down it started to rain and the trail became very slippery. We fell numerous times. After lunch we visited Casa Roro and saw Visayan Flowerpecker, we could not find Flame-templed Babbler. At 16.00 we took the boat to Cebu, arriving at 19.30. We stayed again in Tonros Hotel.

14 February

At the airport we met Pierre van der Wielen and Chris Lodge. We almost missed our plane because there was so much to tell! At Davao airport we were picked up by Zardo. On the way we drove along a demonstration against the Military presense of US troops on Basilan. We didn´t mind our vehicle had dark windows. At Bislig we stayed in the Paper County Inn. In the afternoon we visited Bislig Airfield. Best birds: Grass Owl, Plain Bush-Hen,  Middendorf´s Grashopper Warbler, Wandering Whistling Duck, Blue-breasted Quail.

15 February

Zardo picked us up at 4.00. Probably the most memorable day in the Philippines as birds were everywhere, despite the rain, poachers and loggers. We started at the beginning of road 1-4, where we recorded Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Mindanao Hornbill, Philippine Leafbird, Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, Naked-faced Spiderhunter, Yellowish Bulbul, Olive-backed Flowerpecker, Pygmy Babbler, Rusty-crowned Babbler and Black-bibbed Cicadabird. Zardo showed us the stake-out of Little Slaty Flycatcher where we immediately saw a Azure-breasted Pitta, hiding for the rain. After giving a few blasts the Flycatcher responded and a male gave us excellent views. Also seen here were Black-headed and Rufous-fronted Tailorbird. We met a poacher who had just excavated and killed two Mindanao Hornbill chicks. Difficult to stay nice. Late afternoon we went to the pools along road 1 where we had superb views of Silvery Kingfisher.

16 February

The day started with clear blue skies! At Road 4A we saw a pair of Writhed Hornbills, Spotted Imperial Pigeon, Azure-breasted Pitta, Amethyst Dove and Naked-faced Spiderhunter. We tried the tape of Celestial Monarch, without succes. Later we visited a piece of primary forest along road 11. After seeing a Greater Flameback heavy rain started, forcing us to hide in the car for a couple of hours. Because it wouldn´t stop raining we visited some paddies and a lake along road 7. No Philippine Ducks could be found. We asked Zardo to bring us to Mt Pasian next day. Unfortunetely that was not possible because there was a military operation in that area.

PICOP                                                                                        Philippine Trogon

17 February

The day started foggy with a light drizzle. For a couple of hours we could bird road 5/6. Despite the depressing habitat destruction we saw Pygmy Babbler, Mindanao Hornbill, Rufous Hornbill and Blue-crowned Rackettails. Pierre heard Sooty Woodpecker. Torrential rain started again, forcing us back in the car. We decided to go to the airfield to try Philippine Duck. After a few hours in the rain we finally obtained good views.

18 February

Road 1-4 again with only a few showers. Rufous-lored Kingfisher showed extremely well. After playing the tape for 2 hours at the Celestial Monarch stake-out, finally Wim heard a bird respond. We all had good views of a male which even raised his crest! At 10.00 we left, had lunch and said goodbey to Zardo and our driver. We were picked up at 12.00 and brought to Davao where we stayed in a good hotel. At night we bought three boxes of food and beer for our stay on Katanglad.

19 February

Left Davao at 5.00 and drove to Mangagoy, arriving there at 12.00 . On the way we saw a few javan Pond Herons and a Peregrine. After a few arrangements we drove through the pineapplefields to a small village on the base of Katanglad. Our luggage was put on horses and after a 1,5 hour walk we arrived at the Lodge. Although it was rainy, birding was productive. We walked to the lower eagle viewpoint seeing Mc Gregor Cuckooshrike,

Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, White-browed Shortwing, Eye-browed Thrush, Rufous-headed Tailorbird, Black and Cinnamon Fantail, Short-tailed Starling, Grey-hooded Sunbird, Olive-capped Flowerpecker and Cinnamon Ibon. At the viewpoint I discovered I was covered with  leeches, in one shoe I had 15! At dusk Bukidnon Woodcocks were roding around the lodge. Philippine Frogmouth was only heard.

20 February

Tried Blue-capped Kingfisher with Chris at dawn, no luck. We continued on the (Kingfisher) trail down to the river, crossed the river at the clearing and found a small (short) trail on the other side. When we entered the trail we immediately saw two babbler-size birds. When we saw a broad white/pale ring around the eye we realized that we were looking at Slaty-backed Jungle-Flycatcher! The birds soon disappeared, leave us perplex on the trail. We went back to tell Wim and Pierre. As we approached the lower eagle viewpoint we heard them shout PHILIPPINE EAGLE. After breaking the world record on 100 meter we saw the Eagle perched in a tree on the other side of the valley, brilliant! Wim and Pierre had also seen Island Thrush and Red-eared Parrotfinch After enjoying the Eagle we went back to the Goodfellow´s trail, no sign of the birds. Heavy rain had started, making birding not pleasant. We did see however two new birds: Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and Black-masked White-eye. At night we heard Giant Scops-Owl close to the Lodge which refused to show. We also heard a single note call with a similar pitch as Mindanao Scops Owl. Back in Manila Tim Fisher told us that he also had heard that call, it is not Mindanao Scops Owl, but it is still a mystery what it is....

21 February

No luck again with the Kingfisher. We continued to the Goodfellow´s trail and heard (most probably) Bagobo Babbler. It was the same sound as on tape, but because we did not even see a movement in the understory we are not 100% sure. We also heard Long-tailed Ground Warbler and saw Red-eared Parrotfinch. Wim and I walked to mossy forest where we saw perched Mindanao Racquet-tails and two flocks of Apo Myna. Heavy rain forced us back to the lodge. Pierre had seen Flame-crowned Flowerpecker and Mindanao Racquet-tail at the higher Eagle viewpoint. Two other UK birders had arrived: John Clarke and Spike Millington (who lives in Manila).

22 February

Finally excellent weather, sunny with only a few showers. Tried again the Kingfisher at dawn, but no response. Walked up to Mossy Forest where Wim and I finally found a pair of Apo Sunbird but no sign of Mountain Shrike. At 14.00 we reached the lodge again. After a nap I tried the Goodfellow´s trail again. No sign of the Flycatcher or the Bagobo Babbler. Finally very good views of Red-eared Parrotfinch. On the way back I flushed a Long-tailed Ground Warbler. Of course the Philippine Frogmouth didn´t show. Pierre and Chris had seen Philippine Eagle. It even flew almost over their heads!

23 February

Finally a good night of sleep. At 7.00 we left the lodge and walked down. At 9.00 we were picked up and brought to Cagayan de Oro. At the airport we met Kingbird tours. Ben King had broken his arm when he fell of a motorbike on the way to Canaway Forest on Negros. Took the 12.30 flight to Manila. We were picked up by Spike´s driver (!) and went to the American Cemetary. Golden-bellied Gerygones were everywhere and soon we found a small group of Lowland White-eye´s, but no Starlings could be found. Night in Townhouse.

Part 3

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