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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Philippines, 1 February-1 March 2008,
From 1 February to 1 March 2008 I made a birding trip to the Philippines in the company, as so many times before, of my brother Frans.
We decided to follow a more or less “standard” itinerary for our first visit to the Philippines and to take our time at the different sites. So we visited Mount Makiling, Mount Polis and Candaba Swamp on Luzon, Mount Kitanglad and PICOP on Mindanao and the island of Palawan. Beside these sites we opted to visit Hamut Camp on Luzon, which turned out to be quite an adventurous trip.
Most birders also visit Subic Bay near Manila but we ran out of time.
In retrospect we both found that our itinerary worked out fine, especially when you take into consideration the unfavourable weather conditions, but we could have had an extra day on Palawan.
Several months before our actual departure, I contacted Tim Fisher to take care of all the logistics during our stay.
After a couple of e-mails we agreed on our itinerary, where we tried to avoid the major bird tour companies as they also claim the local guides. Carlito on Mnt. Kitanglad and Arding on Palawan are very helpful in finding some of the more difficult species and/or they can point out the locations where to look for them, but especially Zardo is absolutely essential to bird PICOP. It is 1-2 hour drive to the few remaining forest fragments at PICOP and the situation is also changing rapidly so you really need him at this site.
Tim Fisher arranged the following for us:
All domestic flights (5 in total)
All the services of the local guides
All the food/drinks at Mnt. Kitanglad and Mnt. Hamut (10 days)
All the services of horses and porters at these 2 sites.
During our stay at Mnt. Kitanglad and PICOP we were joined by Belgian birder Stijn de Win.
We had to pay Tim Fisher about € 2200, for his services.
So we only had to pay for food and drinks for another 18 days in the country.
When you stay less then 3 weeks in the Philippines, they issue a visa on arrival in the country. But if you, like us, stay for a longer period you have to apply for a visa at home. The annoying thing is that they insist that you collect your visa IN PERSON at the ambassy/consulate. We had to pay € 45 for our visa.
GETTING THERE – FLIGHT
We flew with KLM from Amsterdam to Manila. It takes between 12 to 14 hours. We paid for a return ticket € 980,, including airport tax. But we had to pay anyway 750 Peso departure tax in Manila.
The currency used in The Philippines is the Peso. During our stay the exchange rate was:
1 Euro = 60 Peso.
1 US$ = 40 Peso.
We took some cash Euros and Dollars with us and we changed in total some 300 €, which was sufficient for the whole period. We also had some traveller cheques with us which we never used and a credit card as back-up.
At larger cities and airports you will find ATM machines where you can obtain cash money.
But when Stijn wanted to collect some money at an ATM on Palawan he only succeeded at the third machine as others were out of order.
GETTING AROUND – CAR – ACCOMODATION – FOOD & DRINKS
As all logistics were arranged by Tim we did not have to bother about all this.
Everything went smoothly with the exception of the Cebu-Pacific flight from Puerto Princesa to Manila which was cancelled unexpectedly. But we were rescheduled to an Air Philippines flight later that day without problems but unfortunately they forgot to inform us about this.
So when we arrived at the airport, we made at first a lot of hassle about it, without knowing that the problem was already solved for us.
The ground transportation was with vans or so-called jeepney’s, which are suited to cope with the rough roads in certain areas, like PICOP, Mnt. Polis and around Mnt. Hamut.
Accommodation varied from very good to basic, depending on location. The accommodation at Sabang could have been better, especially as better options were available nearby.
Food and drinks are very cheap. We often had good Chinese meals but also pizza.
Most people in The Philippines speak English so no problems in this respect.
HEALTH & SAFETY
During our stay we were never sick and we had never any food related problems.
I suffered just from a slight cold, which was probably caused by the airconditioning of one of the hotels.
As malaria is prevalent on Palawan we took profilaxis against it on Palawan and the week after our visit to this island. (Malarone)
Though there are still no go areas in The Philippines, that does not comply for the sites visited by us. In the southern islands Abu Sayaf is active and in some remote areas communist guerrilla groups can cause problems.
We never had any problems and we found the Philippine people very friendly.
We deliberately choose the month of February to bird The Philippines as February and March are considered the driest months on average.
But not this year. It was unseasonable wet this year according to Tim and the local guides.
Actually we had only a few days with bright blue, sunny skies. Mostly days with overcast weather conditions and a lot of rain. Stijn visited Palawan for 6 days in January and had 6 brilliant, sunny days while we had mostly gloomy weather, strong winds and even some rain.
We experienced really torrential rain at PICOP and especially Hamut and that made birding at the latter site rather unpleasant.
The temperatures were generally pleasant, not very hot. But early mornings at Mount Polis were cold.
Birding is generally hard work in The Philippines. Friends told me already 20 years ago that I had to visit The Philippines soon as the forest is disappearing at an alarming rate. Besides that, birds are being trapped at a large scale and as a consequence generally rather shy.
The exception is Palawan, where St.Pauls N.P. is a good example. This island is still covered in large tracts of pristine forests. But birding on Mnt.Kitanglad, Mnt. Polis, Mnt.Hamut and especially PICOP can be rather depressing. Here you witness the encroaching of civilisation.
Surprisingly the birds can still be found in the patches of good forest left.
An extra disadvantage was the weather we encountered during our trip, but despite this we still found most of our target species.
We observed almost 150 endemic species and highlights were many.
We observed 4 species of Pitta, including the two endemics, THE Eagle, all possible Hornbills, all possible Fruit-Doves, 4 of the 5 endemic Kingfishers, Wattled Broadbill, Philippine Cockatoo, Luzon Bleedingheart, 5 Owls, 2 Frogmouths, the endemic Malkoha’s, all possible Cuckoo-Shrikes, all endemic Tits, both Leafbirds, Philippine Trogon, all 3 Rhabdornises, Long-tailed Ground Warbler, all possible Shamas, all possible Tailorbirds (1 heard only), all possible Babblers (except Bagobo Babbler), all possible Fantails, all Monarchs, Naked-faced Spiderhunter, all possible Sunbirds, all possible Flowerpeckers, Red-eared Parrotfinch and White-cheeked Bullfinch. And a lot more. See annotated list of observed species.
During this trip we covered the well-known sites on Luzon, Mindanao and Palawan.
Logically a future trip would cover sites on Mindoro, Cebu, Bohol, Negros and Panay.
I brought a small Leica telescope with me, which I used frequently when birding on broad trails/roads. Highlight was when I had a Great Philippine Eagle in the scope when it passed us with a Flying Squirrel in its claws.
I also used sporadically a small cassette player with a sennheiser mike for taping in species.
Further I collected a good selection of vocalisations on an I-Pod. I collected vocalisations from the CD-Rom of Birds of Tropical Asia which can be ordered at Bird Songs International B.V. – www.birdsongs.nl
Trip Reports & Articles
Birdwatching trip report of The Philippines Sam Woods, Rob Hutchinson
January – March 2003 AndyAdcock. OBC publication, with maps. Still very useful.
The Philippines 28th January – 2nd March 2007 Rob Hutchinson. BirdtourAsia.
The Philippines 12th feb. – 9th march 2007 Michiel de Boer.
The Philippines 4th – 26th March 2007 Sam Woods. Tropical Birding
First of all I like to thank Tim Fisher for organising a hassle-free trip.
Further Peter Logtmeyer for providing us with a lot of useful info and of course my birding
Companions, Stijn de Win and my brother Frans.
Day 1: Friday February 1 Geldrop – Amsterdam – Manila.
We took the 9.10 am train from Eindhoven to Schiphol Airport.
The evening before we had already printed our boarding passes through the KLM website.
We were a little worried that they would charge us extra for our luggage as we had some overweight because we had to take sleeping bags and mattresses with us, but we did not have any problems in that respect.
At 14.30 pm we left for our 12½ hrs.flight to Manila.
Day 2: Saturday February 2 Manila – Los Banos/Mnt.Makiling
After an uneventful flight, seeing 5 movies, we landed at Manila on 10.00 am.
We quickly collected our luggage, changed some money and then I heard my name announced at the speaker that a driver was waiting for us at a certain spot.
Here we met our driver Gabri, who drove with us through a traffic-congested Manila in 3 hours to the Trees Lodge, right at the beginning of the main trail up Mnt. Makiling. This would be our base for the next 3 days. We had lunch at the Chow King and after dropping our gear at the hotel we started to bird the first stretch of the mountain. 13.30 – 17.00 pm.
Meanwhile I asked Gabri to buy a local sim card (Gold or Smart) + a 300 Peso card for my mobile phone. This was a very good advice I got from Michiel de Boer’s report. It is very cheap and handy to phone around the country this way to contact guides, drivers etc. Furthermore it is also a lot cheaper when you want to phone outside the country to Europe for instance.
Anyway along the main trail of Mnt.Makiling we scored our first endemics like Steere’s Honeybuzzard, Philippine Serpent-Eagle, Luzon Hornbill, Philippine Bulbul, Luzon Balicassiao and we had nice views in the scope of White-eared Dove and Black & White Triller. The latter turned out to be the only observation of the species during the entire trip.
Later we observed Guiabero, Red-crested and Scaly-feathered Malkoha, Philippine Woodpecker and excellent, close views of a singing White-browed Shama.
Not a bad start of our trip. When we came out of the forest we discovered a perched Philippine Falconet in a dead tree right next to our lodge.
At 17.00 we drove to the nearby university campus to a known stake-out of Indigo-banded Kingfisher. And after some time we had good views of 1 bird. We then continued to a trail which is quite reliable for the endemic Spotted Button-quail. And we were not to be disappointed as we had good views of several birds and also Barred Button-Quail and Barred Rail. After dinner we crashed out.
Day 3: Sunday February 3 Mnt.Makiling
Before dawn we started to bird along the main track, up Mnt. Makiling. Unfortunately the weather had changed overnight and the first hours we had a nasty drizzle. Later it cleared and we birded most of the day on the mountain up to the food-stalls, near the start of the trail towards the hot springs.
We heard several Grey-backed Tailorbirds singing but could not persuade them to show.
Several times we heard and saw Philippine Serpent-Eagles. When we played the call of Spotted Wood-kingfisher we got an immediate response and within seconds the bird flew in and gave astonishing views. In the same area we had good views of 2 ♂♂ Violet Cuckoo.
Higher up the mountain we found several Yellow-wattled Bulbuls and Frans was lucky enough to observe briefly a Blue-headed Fantail, which we could not relocate.
Near the food stalls we saw quite some nice species of sunbirds and flowerpeckers: Plain-throated Sunbird, Purple-throated Sunbird, Olive-backed Sunbird, a nice ♂Flaming Sunbird, a ♂ Metallic-winged Sunbird, a ♂ Handsome Sunbird, 2 Striped Flowerpeckers, some Red-striped Flowerpeckers, Buzzing Flowerpecker, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker and at least 4 Pygmy Flowerpeckers. A Naked-faced Spiderhunter and a Yellowish White-eye was also a nice find.
We also met Tim Fisher on the mountain with a group of Danish birders and we decided to have dinner together in the evening.
We had a late lunch at our favourite Chow King restaurant and late afternoon we strolled again over the campus area, looking for Lowland White-eye which we could not find.
We did observe another Indigo-banded Kingfisher.
At dusk we tried for Philippine Hawk Owl but despite the fact that it called nearby we could not persuade the bird to show itself.
We drove to the hotel where Tim was staying and had a nice meal and some beers together.
Day 4: Monday February 4 Mount Makiling
Before dawn we tried again for the Hawk-Owl but though we got close again, no views.
We birded up to 13.00 pm along the main trail, up to the food stalls. Heavy rain between 12.00 – 15.00 hrs. After hearing a Black-chinned Fruit-Dove we went of trail and had brief views of it. Just before the food-stalls I was lucky to flush 2 Luzon-Bleedinghearts just next of the trail. I only saw them in flight. One bird responded to the tape but did not show.
Other notable birds seen that morning include Colasisi, Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo, 2 Spotted Kingfishers which showed well, plenty of Luzon Hornbills and Sulphur-billed Nuthatch.
When we came out of the forest we had no less than 5 Philippine Falconets in the tree near our lodge, also some Stripe-headed Rhabdornisses and a single Coleto.
Late afternoon again on the campus. Again no White-eye and we observed a single Eye-browed Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush and a few Oriental Pipits. When we visited the Spotted Button Quail site we unexpectedly bumped into Belgian birder Stijn de Win, who would be our birding companion for the next 10 days. Observed a single Spotted Button-Quail and our first Philippine Coucal, while Plain Bushhen was only heard.
In the evening we finally spotlighted a Philippine Hawk-Owl near the Trees Lodge.
We had pizza in town.
Day 5: Tuesday February 5 Mount Makiling – drive to Manila
Again on the trail before dawn. Our main target today was to observe Grey-backed Tailorbird as I know that this site was the only one we could reliable find it.
Despite the fact that several times we had a good response to the tape and we really got close, we failed. Not even a glimpse of one. This was rather frustrating.
The highlight was undoubtedly the brief and rather distant views of an Ashy Thrush on the track. Other species seen were a single Scaly Thrush, another Spotted Kingfisher, Elegant Tit, Ashy Minivets, Arctic Warbler, Yellow-bellied Whistler and Stripe-headed Rhabdornis.
After lunch we made a last stroll around our hotel and left for Manila.
Tim had reserved a nice room in hotel La Corona which is conveniently located near the airport and which would be our base, every time we stayed overnight in Manila. As Stijn had not made a reservation and the hotel was fully booked, we put an extra bed in our room.
Day 6: Wednesday February 6 Manila – Cagayan de Oro – Damitan – MntKitanglad
We had very early flights from Manila to Cagayan de Oro. First we dropped Stijn at the domestic Airport for his 6.30 am.flight with Cebu Pacific and then we drove to the nearby international airport for our 6.45 am flight with Air Philippines.
After arrival at Cagayan de Oro, our minivan with driver was waiting for us and we first drove to a nearby hotel for a late breakfast. We then continued to the small village of Damitan where we met our guides and horses for our trek up the mountain to the Delmonte Lodge.
We said goodbye to our driver who would pick us up again in 4 days and started our trek. Meanwhile it was already pretty hot. Our luggage was stowed on the horses while we walked.
It took 1½ hour (12.30 am) to reach the Delmonte Lodge, a basic lodge at around 1350 m.alt., which would be our base for the next 4 nights. The spacious, open ground floor had a large, wooden table and a small kitchen, 2 toilets + shower. Basic but sufficient.
We could have tea, coffee and crackers all day.
We slept on the second floor where we put our sleeping bags on the mattresses provided by the lodge. Carlito, the main guide was on the mountain with a group of BirdtourAsia. His wife made us lunch and as we were eager to start birding she arranged that one of her sons accompanied us up the mountain to show us the right track.
We birded the full afternoon along the main track to the Eagle View Point. (an one hour walk)
After a while the weather changed and it became overcast and foggy but we saw our first endemics in the area.
We recorded 2 Yellow-breasted Fruit-Doves, a few Colasisis, Philippine Woodpecker, no less than 6 McGregor’s Cuckooshrikes, small flocks of Eye-browed Thushes, beautiful Black & Cinnamon Fantails, Elegant Tits, Sulphur-billed Nuthatches, Olive-capped Flowerpecker, a rare Black-masked White-eye, Cinnamon Ibon and Short-tailed Starling. We had great views of several Apo Myna’s near the viewpoint.
On our way down, close to the lodge we met Rob Hutchinson, Carlito and the BirdtourAsia group. Just before dusk we tried together with them for Bukidnon Woodcock and nightjars. We heard the woodcock and I had brief, distant views of one and we heard Philippine Nightjar and saw one.
Had a good dinner and a beer that evening and crashed out early.
Day 7: Thursday February 7. Mount Kitanglad.
After a very early breakfast we left with Carlito for a full day on the mountain.
We birded the first forest patches in the early morning but we wanted to be at the Viewpoint before 9.00 am, because our main target for today was THE Eagle. The weather was bright and sunny and at the end of the day I had a sun burn on my face.
At the viewpoint you are really exposed to the sun, so we used our umbrellas to construct some kind of a sunscreen. The next day we persuaded Carlito to construct something more substantial at this site. I put up my scope and the wait could begin. And suddenly at 11.15 the Eagle appeared from the right side of the viewpoint and passed us with a flying squirrel in its claws, gliding down over the ridge into the valley where it probably had a nest. And all the time I had the bird full frame in the scope. For me the highlight of the trip.
After a couple of minutes the bird reappeared at a greater distance and started to soar above the forest. Glided down again and perched out of sight.
At 1 o’clock one of Carlito’s sons appeared on horseback with our drinks and lunch. This was the usual routine for the next couple of days.
We birded all afternoon along the main track but also on smaller tracks through remnant forest patches where we searched among others in vain for Bagobo Babbler.
Species we added to our list today were a nice perched Grey-faced Buzzard, Rufous-headed Tailorbird, Philippine Leaf-Warbler, Mountain Verditer Flycatcher, Brown Tit-Babbler, a small flock of Stripe-sided Rhabdornis and Grey-hooded Sunbird.
We heard Long-tailed Ground Warbler but it refused to show. We also tried to find the elusive Red-eared Parrotfinches at a scrubby area where Carlito had seen the species a few days earlier but no success today.
At dusk again Bukidnon Woodcock heard as well as Great-eared Nightjar and Philippine Nightjar. During a spotlight session in the evening we heard Philippine Frogmouth near to the lodge but again we failed to spot the bird.
Day 8: Friday February 8 Mount Kitanglad.
I woke up at 4.00 am, as a Giant Scops Owl was calling very loud, right next to the lodge!!
Quickly I got out of my sleeping bag, warning the others and rushed outside but just when I arrived at the tree were it called from, it stopped calling. When we played the tape it unfortunately did not respond.
The plan for today was to ascend higher on the mountain beyond the viewpoint to 1800 meters to look for some high altitude species in the company of Carlito and his son-in-law Danny, which is also quite knowledgeable about the whereabouts of the local specialties. But first we tried the small trail behind the lodge as a Blue-capped Kingfisher was calling at dawn. And sure enough we had excellent and close views of this beautiful endemic kingfisher.
After this success we hiked straight up the mountain, above the viewpoint and spent all morning in this area. We had good views of a small flock of White-cheeked Bullfinches, a few Black-masked White-eyes, Apo Myna’s, good numbers of Mindanao Rackettail of which several showed nicely, perched in the scope and finally a pair of Apo Sunbirds. These were readily whistled in by Carlito. We also briefly saw a Philippine Trogon, 3 Amethyst Brown Doves and briefly a Long-tailed Ground-Warbler right in the middle of the trail.
In the afternoon we slowly walked back to the lodge. After some effort we had brief views of a fanatic calling Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo.
In the evening we again tried for the Frogmouth but again failed to tape it in.
Day 9: Saturday February 9 Mount Kitanglad
On our last day on the mountain we decided to try for some species we still missed like Red-eared Parrot-Finch and Bagobo Babbler. We also would spend some time at the viewpoint hoping for more views of the Eagle.
First we tried a forest patch (so-called Bagobo Woods) to try for Bagobo Babbler but no response. I guess that too many birders try at the same area for this already very shy bird.
Then we walked to the viewpoint, where we spent the remainder of the morning but the Eagle did not show. In the afternoon we birded again a scrubby area where Stijn finally located a small party of Red-eared Parrot-finches. It took some time but in the end we all had good views of this species, including some nice males.
On our final spotlight session we had astonishing views of a Philippine Frogmouth. The bird perched close at eye-level. Don’t ask me why this time it flew in immediately while it did not
come in at all the previous nights. I guess that is what makes spotlighting night birds so unpredictable and exciting.
Day 10: Sunday February 10 Mnt.Kitanglad – Damitan – Surigao/Bislig
After breakfast we said goodbye to Carlito and his large family and walked down to the village of Damitan. Our van was already waiting for us and then we left for the long drive to Surigao/Bislig. We had a pizza for lunch and around 17.00 pm. we arrived at the Paper Country Inn, a small but comfortable and friendly little hotel. Visited a small pharmacy near by to get something for my sunburn. In the evening we met again Rob H. and his group, and the local guide Zardo. We changed some information and found out that they had experienced a lot of rain during the last couple of days which hindered their birding considerably. Was this a prediction of what we would experience during our stay??
Talked to Rob in the evening about the services of Zardo the next morning. This guy is really indispensable at this site. After their morning birding session they would leave for Davao, so we agreed that Zardo would accompany us to a good site and that he would then join Rob to make sure that all the ground arrangements would go smoothly for them.
Day 11: Monday February 11 PICOP
Well before dawn we left our hotel and we drove together with Zardo to road 1-4.
We tried for both Mindanao Hawk Owl and Chocolate Boobook but no response. The weather was not cooperative either as we experienced quite some rain. We also visited a known site for Little Slaty Flycatcher in the early morning during one of the dry spells, but though we heard the species briefly, it did not show. We did see our first Philippine Leafbird, Philippine Fairy Bluebird, Black-faced Coucal, Pygmy Babbler and Rufous Paradise Flycatcher. We continued to the Quarry area where Zardo showed us the nice trail behind the quarry before he left us to join Rob H. and his group. We put on our rain gear and birded along the trail for a couple of hours. Despite the weather we had exceptional views in the scope of an Azure-breasted Pitta. Other species seen were Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Philippine Green Pigeon, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, a ♂ Philippine Trogon, Mindanao Hornbill, several Blue Fantails and Greater Flameback. Red-bellied Pitta was only heard and I was lucky enough to observe 2 Writhed Hornbills in flight.
At noon we drove to a pond which is a reliable stake-out for Silvery Kingfisher. Our driver had been instructed by Zardo. It did not take long before we had fantastic views of a pair of this kingfisher. Again one of the species the guide does not do justice to.
Philippine Coucal and another Black-faced Coucal were also seen at this site.
At 13.00 Zardo arrived at this site and with him we birded the rest of the afternoon along road 14. The habitat is mostly scattered trees, secondary scrub and fields.
Notable new species seen were Philippine Falconet, Plaintive Cuckoo, Whiskered Treeswift, a pair of White-bellied Woodpeckers, a ♂ Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow-wattled Bulbul and scope views of a Yellowish Bulbul. We also succeeded in obtaining great views of a responsive White-browed (Black-headed) Tailorbird, surely one of the best-looking ones of this genus.
A group of at least 25 !! Coppersmith Barbets in one tree is also worth mentioning.
Late afternoon we drove to the deserted airfield of Bislig. While birding along the edge of this airfield we saw a few Blue-breasted Quails but best of all close views of a Philippine Duck on the deck. We climbed on the roof of our jeepney to scan the surrounding swamps, grasslands and fields. Our target species this evening was Eastern Grass-Owl.
We observed at least 2 birds and one bird gave nice, close views. As soon as we left the airfield it started to rain heavily
Day 12: Tuesday February 12 PICOP
Our original plan was to leave before dawn, but as it had rained all night and it continued to rain, we decided to postpone our departure. After breakfast we left anyway to the Quarry area, despite the rain. Saw a Plain Bush-hen crossing the track. When we arrived at the quarry area it was still raining heavily which made birding impossible, so we sheltered in the jeepney until the rain ceased a little.
We mainly walked the small trail up and down behind the quarry and we scored some nice birds. At least 2 different males Philippine Trogons performed nicely, 1 pair of Azure-breasted Pitta’s, Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatcher, a few Black-naped Monarchs and best of all brief views of a ♂ Short-crested Monarch in a small flock.
At the edge of the forest we spotted a nice ♂ Handsome Sunbird, attending a nest.
Late afternoon it became dry and we decided to visit a nearby spot where in the past Celestial Monarch had been observed and which was also reliable for Hornbill species.
The Monarch we did not find but we had scope views of a perched Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon, we saw a Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo, a small flock of Philippine Needletails, 2 Mindanao Hornbills, 2 rare Writhed Hornbills but no Rufous Hornbills, a few Yellowish Bulbuls, Rusty-crowned Babbler and Brown Tit-Babbler. Rufous-fronted Tailorbird was only heard. At dusk we were back at road 1-4. Again we heard Chocolate Boobook and Mindanao Hawk-Owl but rather frustratingly, no views. Drove back in the dark for our hotel where we arrived tired and wet and after a hot shower followed by dinner, we crashed out.
Day 13: Wednesday February 13 PICOP
Again rain in the early morning but we decided to go anyway to the quarry. We spent all morning on the trail behind the quarry and from time to time we sheltered in our jeepney for the rain. We had good views of a Red-bellied Pitta and at one time we heard Stijn, who had wandered of for a few hundred meters, shout: ” Broadbill”. We quickly joined him but the bird had flown of. He had good views of a ♀ Wattled Broadbill in a small flock. But the flock was still around and suddenly the Broadbill appeared again and gave excellent views to all of us.
In the afternoon we drove again further to the ‘Hornbill site”. We had excellent views of 3 Plain Bush-hens and a single Barred Rail foraging at a muddy roadside pool.
Both Pygmy Swiftlets and Philippine Needletails swooped by at close range.
And finally 4 Rufous Hornbills flew in and perched on some dead branches right in front of us, giving great views in the scope. As the rain had stopped we decided to try our luck this evening in the quarry area for owls. Within 1 hour we heard Philippine Scops-Owl, Chocolate Boobook and Mindanao Hawk-Owl but no views. Disappointed we drove back.
Day 14: Thursday February 14 PICOP
This was our last full day at PICOP and our target for today was the Celestial Monarch. We drove to a remnant forest patch spot at road 42 (an almost 2 hour drive) where the species occurs and is regularly seen. We knew that Rob Hutchinson also tried this spot on his last morning and though he heard the species, failed to see it. After a hasty breakfast in the field we walked to the spot but unfortunately when we heard a Celestial Monarch responding to our tape, it started to rain! We tried for a while but no luck. We were rather more successful when we called in a very responsive Streaked Wren-Babbler which was seen very well by all of us. When the rain stopped, I asked Carlito to proceed a little further along the track to a spot where last year Philippine Pygmy Kingfisher (our last endemic Kingfisher) had nested. We did not find the Kingfisher but when we played the call of the Celestial Monarch we got a response from down the valley. After some nervous minutes suddenly a ♂ Celestial Monarch appeared and perched right in front of us, raising his full crest. What a bird. The ♀ was also observed in the same tree.
We stayed a while in the area and unexpectedly in a small flock we observed a ♂ Wattled Broadbill. Then torrential rain came in. We decided to return to our hotel and we spent most of the afternoon in our hotel. It never stopped raining that day.
Day 15: Friday February 15 PICOP – Surigao/Bislig – Davao – Manila
No rain this morning. Before dawn we were at the quarry. We heard to less than 4 species of Owl: Philippine Scops-Owl, Giant Eagle-Owl, Chocolate Boobook and Mindanao Hawk-Owl. But again no views.
Carlito suggested to visit another site for Little Slaty Flycatcher.
We were about to give up when we got a response. Initially we only glimpsed the bird, when it flitted through the undergrowth, but finally Stijn and I were lucky enough to obtain brief views of a perched bird.
In the same area we also saw a few Rufous-fronted Tailorbirds, a species which has eluded us up to now. At 9.00 am we drove back to Surigao/Bislig, packed our gear, said goodbye to Zardo and left for Davao at 11.00 am. After a 5 hour drive we arrived at the airport of Davao.
Here we said goodbye to Stijn who would continue his trip to Cebu, while we would fly to Manila and the next day to P. Princesa, Palawan.
We left Davao at 17.50 pm. and arrived at Manila at 19.40 pm. We phoned our driver Egay and he drove us to hotel Corona.
Day 16: Saturday February 16 Manila – P.Princesa – Sabang
Early morning flight 5.00 am to P.Princesa on Palawan. Arrived at P.Princesa at 6.30 am.
After collecting our luggage we were met by our driver, but not our guide Arding. Meanwhile our itinerary had been changed and we would drive to Sabang with birding stops on the way.
We were a bit confused and when we already had left the airport I suggested to our driver, he better call Arding for further info. Fortunately I had his mobile number from a birding report.
When he succeeded in contacting him, it turned out that Arding was still waiting for us at the airport!! So, we quickly turned around and picked him up. The weather on Palawan was initially sunny and hot.
First we drove to a nearby coastal area for shorebirds and egrets. Unfortunately the tide was too high and it was also very windy, a feature which would hinder our birding during our entire visit to Palawan. We walked into the mangroves and had good views of our target species, Chinese Egret, a species I had missed years before at Beidahe, China. There were only a few wader species present and we did not make much effort to find and identify all of them.
We drove back to P.Princesa where we had a nice lunch in town. After lunch we left for our drive to Sabang. During a roadside stop we had good views of at least 2 ♂♂ Copper-throated Sunbirds.
A second stop produced Yellow-throated Leafbird, White-vented Shama, the vocal very distinctive Palawan Crow, Blue-naped Parrot, Black-headed Bulbul, Shelley’s Sunbird, Pygmy Flowerpecker and we were very lucky to observe a couple of Palawan Hornbills.
Slowly we birded towards Sabang and at the end of the day we reached our base for the next couple of days, the rather basic Taraw Resort.
At dusk we drove a few km.back towards P.Princesa to the Lion’s Cave Track where we observed Great-eared and Large-tailed Nightjars and spotlighted a Palawan Frogmouth.
We only heard briefly a Palawan Scops Owl. In the evening Arding made arrangements for our boat trip early next morning to the Underground Ranger station at St.Pauls N.P.
Day 17: February 17 St. Pauls N.P.
At 6.00 am we were ready at the jetty of Sabang but no boats man. It took another 45 minutes before we could leave. The weather was rather overcast and quite windy. After 30 minutes we waded ashore and within minutes we observed a gorgeous ♂ Palawan Peacock-Pheasant.
This particularly bird has become ridiculous tame during the last couple of years.
In the same area we saw several Tabon Scubfowl. During the time we birded the area around the Underground River ranger station we did not notice much bird activity. At the mouth of the underground river we observed a Stork-billed Kingfisher, a ♂ Malaysian Plover and 2 Palawan Tits.
We again boarded our vessel and went to another, the main ranger station, closer to Sabang.
From here we walked the so-called Stream Trail and then further back towards Sabang.
Again the birding was slow. Halfway the Stream Trail, we finally heard a Falcated Ground-Babbler and with a lot of patience and taping we finally had brief views of this species. Ashy Wren-Babblers were a lot easier to observe and on our way back I briefly saw a Hooded Pitta, hopping just next to the trail. We also had 2 fly-bye’s of Rufous-backed Kingfisher.
After lunch we returned to the main road between Sabang and P.Princesa. We made several birding stops in the area roughly 10 – 15 km. from Sabang. It was quite hot, overcast weather conditions and windy. We tried to find some of the endemics we still had not seen and especially Blue-headed Racket-tail. We did not find the Racket-tail but observed our first Palawan Flowerpeckers. Other species seen included Pink-necked Pigeon, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Common Flameback, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird and Dark-throated Oriole. The biggest surprise this afternoon was however the observation of 3 distantly perched Philippine Cockatoos.
At dusk we tried again for Palawan Scops Owl. This time we got very close but in retrospect I think I made a mistake in playing its call again to persuade the bird to come in closer while in fact the bird was already very close. Anyway it flew of and despite trying again for some time we failed. Night at Taraw Resort.
Day 18: February 18 St.Pauls N.P. – Pandan Island
Again an early start before dawn and we walked over the beach to St.Pauls N.P. We waded through the creek and started birding towards the Stream Trail. Unfortunately it was again very windy so no chance to find the Mangrove Blue Flycatcher.
We birded a full morning on this trail and also the first part of the Stream Trail but birding was very slow. We tried for some time for the Falcated Ground Babbler, to get better views as the day before, but no response at all. We heard Blue-headed Racket-tail and observed 3 birds flying over the canopy. But no Palawan Blue Flycatcher or Blue Paradise Flycatcher.
So we decided to leave and after an early lunch we left Sabang for the drive to P.Princesa.
We made a few birding stops and we finally observed our first Sulphur-bellied Bulbuls.
Following a tip of Stijn, we had contacted a local birder for a visit to the small island of Pandan from Hundo Bay, near P.Princesa. Apparently this island is a very reliable place to observe Mantanani Scops Owl. As it is not allowed anymore to land on Rasa Island after dark and the Mantanani Scops Owl are also very difficult to spot there anyway, this was to be our only chance for this species. So I had called Joy Matilliano and we agreed to meet that afternoon at Hundo Bay. We met Joy and 2 of his students at the jetty and we arranged a boat to bring us across.
After a smooth ride we landed on the small island. As it was still light we walked along the shore to a scrubby area. Stijn told me that he had observed the rare Grey Imperial Pigeon on the island so we carefully checked every pigeon we saw. At dusk we heard at least 2 Mantanani Scops Owls calling but according to Joy they are much easier to see in the more open coconut trees near the small village. So we walked back to the village and within minutes we heard a Mantanani Scops Owl. We walked straight up to the call and had exceptional, close views of a pair which were perched in a small tree just next to a basketball ring. Later we saw another individual nearby. And all this without having to use a tape!
After this great success we returned to the mainland and drove to our hotel in P.Princesa.
A good meal and some beers in the evening. As we wanted to be on the Balsahan Trail before dawn, to try again for Palawan Scops Owl, we agreed with our driver that he would collect us at 5.00 am. Arding, who lives near Iwahig, would be waiting for us at the entrance of Iwahig.
Day 19: February 19 Balsahan Trail – Narra – Rasa Island
At 5.00 am No driver. At 5.30 am we phoned Arding. He later phoned back that the driver had overslept. At 5.45 am we left for Iwahig and after collecting Arding we drove quickly to the start of the Balsahan Trail. Unfortunately when we crossed the first stream on this trail, it was already too late for the Owl. So the late arrival of our driver had ruined our last chance for the Scops Owl. We were of course not very amused about this. Arding and I decided to walk back the short distance to our car to get our pre-arranged breakfast while Frans opted to stay at the stream. When we returned he called to us that he had a ♂ Palawan Blue Flycatcher, a species that has eluded us so far, in his bins. I never got good views of the ♂ again but the ♀ of this pair showed very well. Despite playing the song of this species several times again, also later in the day and the next day, we never got a response again.
We continued along the trail where we spent all morning. One of the specialties of this site is Melodious Babbler and it did not take long before we noticed its beautiful song. After a little playback we got good views of it. Late afternoon we returned to the picnic site at the start of the trail and had a very productive hour around this picnic site. Best species was a pair of Blue Paradise Flycatcher. We also visited some banana plantations which are sometimes visited by Blue-headed Racket-Tails. A surprise was a single Rufous Night-Heron, which was shown to us by an inmate, covered with intimidating tattoos.
We also checked some wet rice fields before we continued to the La Vista Lodge at Narra.
Late afternoon we drove to the HQ of the conservation project of Philippine Cockatoo. Here we showed our permits, got some info about the project. We then left for the harbour where we boarded our tiny boat. They already told us, that because of the rough sea, we would not be able to visit the regular roost site and instead we would cross over straight to the island, enter the mangroves and walk to a watch tower. And indeed the crossing was rough.
We waited some time at the watch tower and just before dusk we first observed some flocks of Pied Imperial Pigeons, a distant Lesser Frigatebird and finally 2 Philippine Cockatoos which landed in a bare tree and could be observed well in the scope.
After another rough boat crossing back to the mainland we drove back to our hotel.
Day 20: February 20 Zig Zag Road – Balsahan Trail – P.Princesa – Manila
Without breakfast we left our hotel. It turned out that everybody of the staff was still in sound sleep.
At dawn we arrived at a known stake-out along the Narra to P.Princesa road for Palawan Flycatcher. We tried for 30 minutes to get a response but did not succeed. I phoned Stijn to ask directions where he had heard the species 3 weeks earlier but even with his directions we could not locate the exact site. We decided to try for this species along the Balsahan Trail again. We spent all morning along this trail which was rather birdy. At one time when we played the tape of the flycatcher a small brown flycatcher type bird flew in but it unfortunately perched rather concealed so we could not see any details. It certainly did not sing and after half a minute it disappeared, never to be seen again.
Some you win, some you loose!!
We observed a few Melodious Babblers, 2 Palawan Tits, a nice perched Palawan Hornbill and a ♂ Blue Paradise Flycatcher.
At 13.00 we said goodbye to Arding and first we drove to P. Princesa for lunch and later we continued to the airport for our late afternoon flight to Manila.
Here we got news that the Cebu Pacific flight to Manila was completely cancelled and that the Air Philippines flight, which was scheduled to depart 1 hour later, was fully booked.
So we made a lot of hassle and finally I called Alfi (Tim’s representant ) in Manila to sort things out. Fortunately he told me that he had already rebooked us on the Air Philippines flight but he had failed to inform us and/or the people of Cebu/Pacific about this.
After another 30 minutes delay we finally left P.Princesa for Manila. I phoned Egay and he drove us again to Corona hotel. It turned out that he would be our driver to Banaue/Mount Polis and also to Tuguegarao for the next 4 days.
Day 21: February 21 Manila – Candaba Swamp – Banaue
We left Manila at 4.30 am.and arrived at Candaba Swamp at dawn. We spent 3 hours of leisurely birding at this site. The place was teeming with waterbirds, including large numbers of the endemic Philippine Duck.
A nasty drizzle started at 8.00 am and at 9.00 am we left for the long drive to Banaue where we arrived at the end of the afternoon.
We had a very nice room in this colonial style hotel. The weather was chilly and foggy.
During a short stroll around our hotel we observed a flock of Yellowish White-eyes.
Striated Swallows were nesting under the roof of the hotel.
Day 22: February 22 Mount Polis
At 4.30 am we left with our jeepney to the pass at Mnt. Polis where we arrived just after dawn. It was cold and foggy at the pass. From the pass we walked down and we birded for a couple of hours the first 2 km along the main road. Despite the fact that there were road works going on along this road we managed to observe the following: A pair of very obliging Mountain Shrikes, a few Island Thrushes foraging next to the road, Chestnut-faced Babbler (common) and Luzon Bush Warbler. The latter was commonly heard and we saw some very well. We also heard Long-tailed Ground-Warbler and noticed that the vocalisations were different from the birds we heard at Mnt. Kitanglad on Mindanao.
When we walked back to the pass, we met 2 other birders, Frank Rheindt and Martin Kennewell, who had been travelling all night from Manila to Benoue and on to Mnt. Polis. While we decided to try the ridge trail behind the communication towers, they opted to walk along the main road going down, as we had just done.
We explored the ridge trail for a couple of hours and had good views of Green-backed Whistler, Luzon Bush Warbler, Chestnut-faced Babbler and Frans was lucky enough to observe briefly a rare ♂ Flame-crowned Flowerpecker. On our way back to the main road we had exceptional good and close views of a Long-tailed Ground-Warbler, creeping like a mouse up and down a branch. We met Frank and Martin who had just seen a Pale Thrush.
We decided to go further down the main road by car to the small village of Ba-Yo and to have lunch there. Our target was the localised Luzon Water-Redstart.
When we arrived at Ba-Yo we walked down along a small trail towards the river and the hanging bridge which is a well-known stake-out for the redstart. When we start descending some of the local people tried to explain something to us but we just waved and continued. Later we found out what they wanted to explain to us.
As soon as we arrived at the bottom of the river valley we walked to the bridge and within seconds we discovered a pair of Luzon Water-Redstarts, foraging between and on the big boulders in the river and which gave great views. After our lunch we climbed back up to the village and the main road. From Egay and our jeepney driver we heard that Frank and Martin who had arrived after us and also wanted to go down, had some arguments with the local people. It turned out that the local tribe had just finished planting the rice and their custom is that, after finishing this planting, the first 4 days no strangers are allowed to go near the rice fields. To avoid evil spirits. So that was what the people tried to explain to us and what we ignored! In the end the argument with the elders of the village was settled by our local jeepney driver and we had to pay some money. Well, if you come all the way to this site as a birder to observe a Luzon Water-Redstart, it would be a huge disappointment if you are not allowed to descend to actually observe this bird!!
After this intermezzo we decided to return to Benaue and to photograph the famous 2000 year old rice terraces on the way back. Later in the afternoon it became again foggy and we had some rain.
In the evening we met Frank and Martin and tried for Philippine Scops-Owl near our hotel but no response. Decided to leave very early next morning and to try together on the ridge trail for Luzon Scops-Owl.
Day 23: February 23 Mount Polis – Banaue – Tuguegarao
We left at 3.00 am and arrived at 4.00 am at the pass. Birded until 8.30 am on the ridge trail.
Though we heard at least 2 different Luzon Scops-Owls in the area we never came close enough to tape one in. We had brief views of White-browed Shortwing and best bird was a ♀ Flame-crowned Flowerpecker.
We then returned to the main road and tried to find Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove and Benguet Bush-Warbler. A few km. further down the road we finally heard a Benguet Bush-Warbler but only at a distance. Then the rain came in and Frans and I left at 11.30 for Benaue.
After lunch and collecting our luggage we drove from Benaue to Tuguegarao in pouring rain. We later heard that landslides had damaged a water pipeline and that hotel Benaue did not have water for 24 hours.
It took us 5 hours to reach Tuguegarao and it rained almost constantly. In Tuguegarao we had a nice room in hotel Lorita. In the evening we bought some extra rum for our stay at Hamut Camp. Heavy rain all night.
Day 24: February 24 Tuguegarao – Baliwag – Camp 1 Hamut.
We were supposed to meet Aquilino Escobar at 5.00 am but he did not show.
After several phone calls we got news that he got stuck in the mud. A certain stretch in the road was almost impassable because of the constant heavy rainfall.
He finally arrived at 7.30 am in a very rundown jeepney. Then we had to visit a big supermarket to stock up with supplies for the next 5 days. This was something he should have done before. As a result we missed a complete afternoon of birding around Camp 1. This was important because it turned out that it was the only dry afternoon of the next 5 days.!
We drove to the village of Baliwag where we met our porters (5 men). It took another hour before we actually left for our 3 hour walk up to Camp 1. Initially we walked through grasslands and fields and gradually we saw some remnant forest patches. The walk was horrific because the track was exceptionally muddy and slippery. All the time we had to stop as the thick mud got stuck on our hiking boots and had to be removed. At one time I flushed a bird next to me but I was so busy with myself that I did not notice it at all but Frans, who walked 50 meters behind me at the time, had good views of the bird in flight, gliding down the grassy slope and it turned out to be a Chinese Francolin. According to Tim F. this species has never been seen in the area and it was generally thought to be extinct in the Philippines.
Finally we arrived at camp 1 at 14.00 pm. where we met at least 20 porters of Tim Fishers group. Tim was doing a Remote Philippines trip with 4 birders for Birdquest and was coming down today from camp 2. He had sent his staff down to prepare their camp at camp 1. It took some time before we claimed enough space for ourselves and meanwhile Frans and I started to bird in the surrounding area. Unfortunately it started to rain heavily soon after we had left camp. Nevertheless we observed a few Blackish Cuckoo-Shrikes and we had good views of White-lored Oriole. Other species observed were Philippine Cuckoo-Dove, Luzon Hornbill, Fiery Minivet, Lemon-throated Leaf-Warbler, Blue-headed Fantail (common) and Elegant Tit.
At the end of the afternoon we met Tim and his group. They looked if they had just come out of a mud-wrestling tournament. It had been a very difficult descent from the mountain because of the extremely muddy, slippery and steep trails. At least one full day at camp 2 was completely rained out. Tim had a nasty wound on his forehead as a result of a fall on the mountain. It should have been stitched but that was of course not possible. It will probably be forever a memory for him of this Hamut Camp trip. Together with Tim and his group (a French, British and 2 American birders) we had a nice dinner with candle light.
The birding up the mountain had been extremely difficult and they had missed quite a few targets, including Whiskered Pitta. So Frans and I now knew what to expect.
At one time a Philippine Scops Owl started to call nearby and when we played the tape it immediately flew in and gave great views in the spotlight. Sometimes it is so easy.
Day 25: February 25 Camp 1 – Camp 2 Mount Hamut.
At 6.00 am. Tim and his group left for the walk down to Baliwag. They did not have time for much birding as they had to drive further to the airport for the flight to Manila and the continuing flight to Davao on Mindanao. Frans and I decided to bird a couple of hours in the vicinity of camp 1 first before we would continue up the mountain to camp 2.
Suddenly we heard a Whiskered Pitta call. We quickly (as quickly as possible on a steep, muddy trail) walked closer and met Tim’s group on the trail. In response to playback they had briefly seen a Whiskered Pitta fly over the trail and seen landing on a branch, partly visible. After seconds it flew of, never to be seen again. We also saw a probable Rusty-faced Babbler crossing the trail but too briefly to be sure. We then continued birding around camp 1.
First we saw Philippine Tailorbird and then we had brief but good views of a male Blue-breasted Flycatcher and also a White-fronted Tit made an appearance. Meanwhile our crew had gathered our equipment and had left for camp 2. Together with Aquilino we started our ascent of the mountain. It was rather wet and foggy but it did not rain at least. Slowly we walked the trail. Frans had brought a lightweight walking stick with him from home and this was an essential item to have in these circumstances. Aquilino made one for me from bamboo and without this stick my trip up and down the mountain would have been a lot more treacherous, dangerous and it prevented me from falling many times. During our climb we observed a few new birds like Golden-crowned Babbler, Luzon Striped Babbler, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and at least one Grand Rhabdornis. About halfway, during a lunch stop, I played the call of Whiskered Pitta and to our surprise we got an immediate response. We climbed up a little into the vegetation and waited. The bird kept on calling but it did not come closer and when we climbed up the slope a little closer, Aquilino saw it fly of. Later I was lucky enough to observe a Luzon Bleedingheart, walking in full view on the trail. Unfortunately it flew of before Frans could focus on the bird. We continued to Camp 2 and had good views of Cream-bellied Fruit-Dove on the nest near camp 2, where we arrived at 16.00 pm. in heavy rain.
Dinner was rice, beef and beans and at 19.00 we crashed out (again)
Day 26: February 26 Camp 2 – Ridge Trail – Mount Hamut.
The first 2 hours we birded around our camp. It was dry with occasional light rain.
We tried the area behind our campsite which is traditionally a good area for Whiskered Pitta.
Though we played the tape several times we never got a response.
Then torrential rain until noon. We could only bird a little from under our large, canvas sheet, which protected our gear, tents and camp.
In the afternoon the rain ceased a bit and so we decided to try our luck and we birded from camp 2 to the viewpoint and from there the first stretch of the ridge trail.
Along the ridge trail we heard several times Whiskered Pitta but never close enough to tape it in. On our way back we got brief views of a Whiskered Pitta hopping on the trail in front of us, before leaving the trail in dense undergrowth. What a relief.
We also succeeded in taping in 2 Sierra Madre Crows along this trail.
We returned to our camp and again rice, beef and beans. We checked ourselves carefully for leeches. Heavy rain all night.
Day 27: February 27 Camp 2 – Ridge Trail – Mount Hamut
Heavy rain in the early morning. After a while it stopped for a short period. Again we checked the area behind our camp site. When we played the tape of Whiskered Pitta we did not get a response but suddenly I noticed a Pitta walking up to us. While I continued playing, the pitta circled around us, giving excellent views.
Soon after this, torrential rain forced us back under our canvas.
A couple of hours later we decided to bird up to the viewpoint but again heavy rain forced us back. Very frustrating. In the afternoon the rain again ceased a bit and we tried again.
When we arrived at the viewpoint it was dry and we finally noticed bird activity. At one time Frans noticed a large raptor, gliding down the slope, which landed on a bare branch down in the valley. When we focussed our bins on this bird we could not believe our eyes: Philippine Eagle!! We had left our scope behind in Baliwag because it would be a real burden to take it up the mountain, together with a tripod under the present conditions but at that moment I wished that I had taken it anyway. After 15 minutes the eagle disappeared in the valley below us. We also had very good views of 2 Grand Rhabdornis near the viewpoint.
The rest of the afternoon was again spent on the ridge trail where our main target was Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove but we failed to find it. Cream-bellied Fruit-Dove, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove and Black-chinned Fruit-Dove were seen. Late afternoon again heavy rain.
Rice, beef and beans for dinner. Meanwhile our feet were falling apart because shoes and socks were very wet and under these conditions stayed wet. We tried to dry some stuff at a fire. Rain all night.
Day 28: February 28 Camp 2 – Camp 1 – Baliwag – Tuguegarao.
Today we would walk down to camp 1. Frans and I decided that if it still rained when we arrived at camp 1, we would continue straight down to Baliwag.
We slowly walked down and we had only occasional showers. Just below the viewpoint we heard the call of Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove. Twice we flushed one and saw these birds in flight and Frans saw briefly 2 birds perched. Unfortunately it was rather foggy so we could not really appreciate its full colours. We continued slowly and it was again a very difficult descent.
At one time a heard a constant unknown “tsip”call, coming from the undergrowth and when I imitated this call suddenly a small warbler with a very short tail popped up and showed in full view. It took only seconds before I realised that I was looking at an Asian Stubtail. At that time I thought that it was a new bird for the Philippines so we quickly made a description of the bird, which was no sinecure because of the rain. We observed the bird for several minutes before it disappeared again in the undergrowth. We continued our descent.
When we arrived near camp 1 we told Aquilino that we wanted to continue further down. The original plan was to bird the full afternoon around Camp 1 and to try for species like Sooty Woodpecker, Rufous Coucal and Furtive Flycatcher. But under these rainy conditions that was a mission impossible. Another thing was that the next day we had to walk down fast (3 – 4 hours) to Baliwag, collect our stuff and drive to the airport for our flight to Manila. And that while we were wet, dirty and covered in mud.
So we decided to walk further down to Baliwag, collected our luggage that we had left behind, drove in the jeepney of Aquilino to Tuguegarao where we took again a room in hotel Lorita.
Actually I was ashamed to enter a hotel the way we looked and smelled at the time but we had no options. It took some time before we had cleaned ourselves, our shoes and some of our gear. We picked several leeches from our gators when we put them off.
After dinner with French fries we really crashed out as we were exhausted.
Day 29: February 29 Tuguegarao – Manila
After a good night sleep we felt reborn. When we looked at our curtain we saw a leech crawling up against it. We drove with the hotel van to the airport and at 13.20 we flew from Tuguegarao to Manila. Gabri and Egay picked us up and as there was still time we drove to the American Cemetery to tick our last Philippine endemic: Lowland White-eye, a bird we had failed to find at the campus of Los Banos. And within 10 minutes we found our target species. At Corona hotel we met again Rob Hutchinson who was between tours. He had just visited privately a remote area on Mindanao at Sitio Siete for 5 days with Frank Rheindt to find species like Mindanao Miniature Babbler, Whiskered Flowerpecker, Cryptic Flycatcher, White-eared Tailorbird and Goodfellow’s Jungle Flycatcher.
We had dinner together with Rob, Gabri and Egay at a “special” restaurant. This meant that all the time, nice, young girls are hanging around your table, making sure that you have a good time!!
Late evening we checked in through internet for our KLM flight to Amsterdam, the next day.
Day 30: February 30 Manila – Amsterdam – Geldrop
After another good night sleep and an extensive breakfast we left for the airport.
We had to pay an international departure tax of 750 Peso each and at 12.00 am we left for the 14 hour flight to Amsterdam. 5 films later we landed at Schiphol airport 18.50 pm local time. Took the train home where we arrived at 21.30 pm. Another exciting tour has ended.