Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Forest Birding Around Subic Bay

Coleto, a starling relative, is a common forest edge bird. Its head is covered in bare pink flesh.

On the afternoon of March 3 and the morning of March 4 our group looked for birds in the forested hills around Subic Bay. The birding was somewhat difficult for a few reasons: the birds were not present in large numbers or variety (though a different group visiting later in the week had great birding there), the forest was thick and dark, and the light, after sunrise, made any bird in the canopy appear in silhouette. It may have been a timing thing, or perhaps these trails had been recently hunted (subsistence hunting has a major impact on wildlife in the Philippines). But we saw just a few birds well, but many more birds fleetingly. And we heard far more than we saw.

Most of our group in the forest near Subic Bay, scanning the canopy for small birds.

The main trail we walked along on the morning of March 4 was perfect for group birding—safe footing, and wide enough for all to find a good vantage point. There would be times on this trip when we'd all miss birds along a narrow forest trail. There is a Zen to forest birding. Quiet bird watchers moving slowly always see the most birds.

The Subic forest trail.

A canopy of bamboo.

With few forest birds coming close enough to photograph, I decided to photograph the forest itself.

Some bamboo species are native to the Philippines, others are imported for cultivation.

Lest I give the impression that we saw nothing, let me say that nearly every single bird we encountered was a lifer for me. Not all of them gave me the kind of "bee-eater" looks I'd gotten earlier on March 3: great views, lots of photos taken. But, as is the habit of an addicted bird photographer, I did not let the improbability of capturing a decent image stop me from taking dozens of frames.

A soaring brahminy kite.

Silhouetted against the light: a female tarictic hornbill: the smallest hornbill in the Philippines.

Yellow-vented bulbuls were everywhere.

Slender-billed crow.

White-throated kingfisher.

Soon it was mid-day and we were on the move again to another island: Cebu, via the Manila airport. As we loaded into the mini-bus for the ride back to our hotel to pack up, the cool, air-conditioned comfort laid many of us low. We nodded off with dreams of the Cebu flowerpecker dancing in our heads.

Sleepy birders on the bus.

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At 6:35 PM, Blogger rmharvey said...

The next time BWD cycles around to the standard how-to-choose-a-scope article you can use the second picture from this blog entry as an example of Why People Choose Angled Scopes.

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Anna said...

I never seen a group of birdwatchers, look at all that equipment. You have also captured some nice bird photos. Anna :)

At 11:06 PM, Blogger caroline said...

My 9th grade geography class is currently researching various countries in the eastern hemisphere. One of the kids has chosen the Philippines, so I have been sharing your postings with her every morning. She has been enthralled, especially by the Candaba bird dancers and the flying foxes.
Thanks, you have made some dry facts and statistics come alive for one kid in South Dakota who won't experience it first hand like you just did.
Caroline in the Black Hills

At 7:39 AM, Blogger KatDoc said...

OMG, that kingfisher! Why, with all the fabulous color on this bird, did they name it for a white throat which is barely visible? GORGEOUS!


At 9:34 AM, Blogger Bill of the Birds said...


Thanks so much for letting me know about the 9th graders in your class! That gives me more incentive to make these posts meaty and interesting!


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