Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Olongo Island, 9/11/12

After taking a day off from birding to recover from Honey's cousin's 40th birthday party(too much San Miguel and karaoke!)I was ready to get back to birding. Waking up at about 6:30 and seeing that it was partially clear I got the urge to go over to Olongo Island to check out the shorebird scene. Checking the tide charts, there was an early morning high tide so I didn't see any reason to hurry and we had time for a proper breakfast. Honey, her sister Hara and friend Jecka joined me in the taxi ride from Minglanilla (400p) to the Angasil Warf on Mactan Island, near the site where Magellan met his demise at the hands of Cheif Lapu Lapu. We paid 10p each to the 20 minute pumpboat ride to Olongo Island and hired a tricycle (120p) for the ride to the RAMSAR shorebird preserve. The tide was dropping as we arrived at 11AM and exposing the coral flats. Birds were arriving in small flocks so I got the camera ready and spent the next four hours wandering the flats while Honey and company enjoyed the fresh air and scenery. Animated Terek Sandpipers probed the wet sand and ran around like wind-up toys.
Here's a flyby Common Redshanks.
There were several Gray Plovers around but I think this may be a Pacific Golden-plover judging by the dark flecks on the undertail coverts. Anyone agree?.
Olongo Island is a great place to see the endangered Asian Dowitcher.
My fourth godwit species of the year, Bar-tailed Godwit.
Another great species at Olongo is Great Knot.
Gray-tailed Tattlers were common.
I studied this tern quite a while trying to decide on Common or Roseate. Comments are welcome.
Here's my list for the day. Little Egret 68 Striated Heron 5 Rufous Night-Heron 1 Black-bellied Plover 5 Pacific Golden-Plover 1 Lesser Sand-Plover 10 Greater Sand-Plover 15 Terek Sandpiper 6 Gray-tailed Tattler 20 Common Greenshank 3 Common Redshank 5 Eurasian Curlew 3 Bar-tailed Godwit 12 Ruddy Turnstone 3 Great Knot 3 Red-necked Stint 3 Curlew Sandpiper 40 Asian Dowitcher 4 Gull-billed Tern 4 Whiskered Tern 3 Roseate Tern 1 Collared Kingfisher 5 Golden-bellied Gerygone 3 Brown Shrike 1 Pied Fantail 1 Barn Swallow 1

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Raja Sikatuna and Nuts Huts, Bohol 9/2-6/12

After recovering from the jetlag, I made a five day trip to the adjacent island of Bohol to do some birding and bugging. After getting off the ferry I hired a habal habal (motorcycle) to take me to Nuts Huts, a tourist lodge on the Loboc River. This funky set of bamboo huts along the river with a restaurant on the hillside overlooking the river caters to budget minded tourists from around the world. While I was there, other lodgers hailed from Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, Poland, Israel and Hong Kong. They stay there to get a taste of the jungle but I've had good luck with birds here in the past and was hoping the bugs would be good also. As it turned out the birding was poor this time. Maybe it was seasonal or maybe due to the loud music played on the river restaurants that constantly ply the Loboc River but bird numbers and diversity was way down. My best bird was found the first evening above the restaurant. This cracking Black-faced Coucal was a surprise as they are normally high in the trees in the forest.
My goal in Bohol was to look for two of my nemesis birds, Yellow-breasted Tailorbird and Streaked Wren-babbler at Raja Sikatuna Nature Preserve. It tool me two trips. The first visit was by a motorcycle I rented at Nuts Huts. The second trip was by local bus and was much cheaper and more interesting. After a miserable nearly birdless day hiking the steep slippery trails in the rain forest on the first day, I decided to hire the services of local guide Ryan Sugala who with aid of recorded calls was able to find both of the species for me. Ryan is a nice young bird enthusiast who works for the forest service and knows the area birds well. I recommend him highly. Here's the Streaked Wren-babbler that finally showed after a lot of work.
While Ryan was able to get me my two target species, birding at the park was much slower than in my past visits. I did manage to see Silvery Kingfisher, Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Coleto, and Metallic-winged Sunbird, but I missed Steer's Pitta, Rufous-lored Kingfisher and Visayan Wattled Broadbill (heard only). Meanwhile odes were disappointing in their numbers and diversity but spectacular in their beauty. Here's a common Nuerothemis species.
This one looks like the Planiplax were get at Bentsen.
Back at Nuts Huts I also managed to find a few odes. Most spectacular was this beauty hanging out in the restarant. It's shade loving nature reminded me of Three-striped Dasher.
So far I've only found three damsel species. This one along the Loboc River was the coolest. I'll have to do some research when I get home.
Best vertebrate award goes to this Hydrosaurus. This 30 inch lizard is the largest member of the family Agamidae and gives the tourists a thrill at Nuts Huts.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What's shakin?

Last night I was lying in bed in Honey's family's humble house here in Minglanilla south of Cebu city, reading Simon Winchester's rivoting account of the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 near the island of Java. I had just finished the chapter discussing the history and theory of plate tectonics and the west Pacific's rather unstable geologic underpinnings when I felt the room start to shake. My first thought was, "Wow, the kids (Honey's brother has three small children) are really jumping around and shaking the house." Then I noticed the whole room and bed I was lying on was gently swaying back and forth several inches (it seemed) and I knew what was going on. It only lasted a few seconds and then Honey came in the room and exclaimed we had just had an earthquake. While I was gently swaying in bed, she had been in the bathroom taking one wild ride on the toilet. Within minutes we were on the internet and discovered that a 7.9 earthquake had just occurred deep within the earth near the Philippine Trench, about 200 miles east of here. Pretty ironic. Such is life here on the Pacific Rim. Anyway, while I was reading I heard the squeaky song of a Pied Fantail outside and managed to get this pic through the window. They're pretty common.
Another common species is the Collared Kingfisher. They prey on anything that moves and are often far from water.
Each of the three evenings we have been here there has been a dragonfly patrolling nonstop over a parked car in the yard. It seems to behave like a glider or emerald. I'll have to do some research.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mabuhay! from Cebu, Philippines

Well, here were are in he Philippines. Honey and I are visiting her family in Minglanilla, just south of Cebu City. We just got here yesterday and I'm already sweating like a pig. Staying here for four weeks without air conditioning will be a lot of fun although it wasn't too bad last night. Anyway I hope to get around a bit and see some cool birds and bugs. Still suffering from jetlag, so far all I've managed is a short walk around the neighborhood. With just Honey's point and shoot Elph I did manage a few pics. This sharp looking dragonfly seems to be common in the area.
I don't know if this is the female or something different.
We saw some interesting butterflies but this skipper was the only one that would pose.
Birdwise I've only seen four species so far. Lots of Eurasian Tree Sparrows, a few Olive-backed Sunbirds, a Glossy Swiftlet and the Pied Fantail that is calling out the window right now so I gotta go!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sugar House Pond, 8/21/12

With the recent cold front (not very) I thought it might be a good idea to check out the Sugar House Pond. This shallow 40 acre pond receives effluent from the nearby sugar mill. With the long standing drought it's some of the only water around and it's on the eastern edge of Hidalgo County so it can attact birds normally seen on the coast. This morning's two hour visit proved very productive and quite a spectacle. Here's some of the 1018 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks.
I estimated 2000 Wilson's Phalaropes based on a count taken last week.
Some thing flushed many of the shorebirds but they came back to the same spot.
Good finds for the day include a Willet.
And my first Hidalgo County Black-bellied Plover for 2012 (#289). Here it is at about 300 yards.
Five Northern Pintails seemed early to me.
So about 5000 birds including 15 species of shorebirds and eight duck species made for quite a morning. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 40 Fulvous Whistling-Duck 1018 Mottled Duck 1 Blue-winged Teal 890 Northern Shoveler 10 Northern Pintail 5 Redhead 3 Ruddy Duck 8 Least Grebe 2 Pied-billed Grebe 1 Snowy Egret 1 Cattle Egret 12 Common Gallinule 1 American Coot 53 Black-bellied Plover 1 Snowy Plover 1 Killdeer 10 Black-necked Stilt 483 American Avocet 156 Willet 1 Lesser Yellowlegs 300 Upland Sandpiper 1 Long-billed Curlew 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper 10 Western Sandpiper 2 Least Sandpiper 250 Baird's Sandpiper 5 Stilt Sandpiper 1000 Long-billed Dowitcher 65 Wilson's Phalarope 2000 Black Tern 10 Horned Lark 2 Bank Swallow 1 Barn Swallow 2 Cave Swallow 5 Great-tailed Grackle X

Monday, August 20, 2012

August Warblers

There's not a month in the year when there's not a few warblers around in the Rio Grande Valley. The summer is a bit thin though. After the last straggler Magnolias and Canadas leave in early June the only warblers about are a few Common Yellowthroats and the odd Tropical Parula. In July there's always a little migration burst that brings a few Black-and-whites and Louisiana Waterthrushes from up north but then there's usually very few around till late August and September. But this August has been different with plenty of southbound migrant warblers across the state. Here in the RVG, between Santa Ana NWR and Frontera, I've seen nine species in just the past week. Here's a few of them. Most numerous are the Yellow Warblers.
Black-and-whites often come in twos or threes.
This Louisiana Waterthrush was at Willow 1 at Santa Ana.
My first Canada of the fall.
To me it seems Yellow Breasted Chat is the second most common early fall migrant warblers. Soon it will be possible to see a couple dozen during a miles walk at Santa Ana. Once you learn their "cluck cluck" call you hear them all over the place. But you do well to get more than an obscured look through the brush.
This Yellow-throated Warbler was a bit of a surprise at Frontera.
But not as big a surprise as this Kentucky Warbler. After seeing my first ever in August at Frontera, I found a second in the pittosporum outside my bathroom window at home.

It's Alive!

Gee, it's been nearly a year since my last post. What happened? Well, I got kinda lazy. The birds and the bugs were so good last fall that it just became a pain to keep the blog going. I mean I need to download pics and edit. Then I have to put my days birds into eBird and then post to Texbirds. After that, well, then I feel like a nap. I'll see if I can't do better.