Sunday, December 8, 2013

Handog ni Yolanda (Yolanda's gift): a day of endemics

I have not posted any bird photo since November 8, 2013,... a day that will live in borrow a phrase from former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Of course we all know that FDR was referring to Pearl Harbor but the effect of super typhoon Yolanda on the Philippines, is just as catastrophic, maybe even more so.  

Coron, my beloved hometown was the sixth and last landfall of Yolanda (as recorded by PAGASA) although since Coron belongs to the Calamianes Archipelago, one can argue that the typhoon made multiple landfalls in the area - Delian Is., Coron Is., Siete Pecados, Busuanga Island, Carbon Is., Culion, Calauit, Bulalacao, etc. etc.  It does not really matter anymore except that Yolanda left a swath of destruction and devastation wherever she went.

Fortunately, (or maybe unfortunately), I was in Manila the night of the typhoon.  I arrived in Coron on the 11th of November and was shocked to see the number of fallen trees.  My first concern was Darayonan, of course but being a birder, the welfare of the birds was a close second. But any thoughts about birds or birding was quickly set aside due to the task of clearing all the debris and starting with the repairs. The following day, November 12, while supervising the repairs in our lodge, I saw a Chestnut Breasted Malkoha perch on a bare branch.  And of course, I did not have my camera with me (happens everytime with this bird). On November 13, I was part of the team sent out by our Mayor to assess the effects of Yolanda on the tourist spots.  At Twin Lagoon, we saw a Stork Billed Kingfisher, again perfectly perched on a bare branch.  And while I had a camera with me, I didn't have my birding lens. Short lens, handheld, overcast, plus a rocking banca, equals a blurry blob of aqua and orange. Haaay... 

On November 20, my friend and fellow CATE and Birdwatch Coron member, Hilbert Enriquez, invited me to go to Sitio Capayas with him to distribute relief goods.  I went with fellow Birdwatch Coron members, Judith Bulls and Jelyn Libunao.  While the goods were being distributed, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was birdguide Erwin Edonga.  We talked some and he told me the condition of the birding site, including finding a dead Ruddy Kingfisher.  I told him we will come back with more relief in the next few days.

November 26, after delivering relief goods to Sitio Dipulao, we proceeded to Sitio Capayas to bring food packs to Erwin and his immediate neighbors.  When we reached his area, we discovered that the usual trail to his house is blocked by fallen trees.  They had to make a new trail 20 meters down the road.  After we parked the van, and unloaded the relief goods, Jelyn's eagle eyes saw a Malkoha, again on a bare branch and of course all I had with me was a point and shoot with low battery.

Bringing goods to Erwin and his immediate neighbors

These last two photos show the remaining half of Erwin's house and his now al fresco family room.

We bade Erwin goodbye and told him we were coming back the following day to go bird and assess the status. This will be my first time to go birding since Yolanda.  

On the morning of November 27, Judith, Jelyn and I arrived at Erwin's house almost 7am.  Immediately we saw a couple of Yellow Throated Leafbirds and even before I can set up my camera, Jelyn was already excitedly saying, Lovely!  A male Lovely Sunbird was on a small calamansi tree in the middle of Erwin's yard. Then the male Palawan Flowerpecker made an appearance.  What followed was an hour and a half of standing in Erwin's yard and shooting at birds within 3 to 5 meters. I used up two 4GB memory cards in that time. Judith who left her point and shoot at the van thinking that she will not be able to photograph anything, went back to get it (the van was parked some distance).  She has since posted her images in her own FB page. 

Enjoy the following images, a gift from Yolanda:

 Palawan Flowerpecker (male). First time I was able to photograph this bird showing both its red-orange spots (breast and top of the head)

Palawan Flowerpecker (male), showing its backside

Palawan Bulbul (formerly Grey Cheeked BB), photo lifer for me.

Palawan BB, up close and personal.

Yellow Throated Leafbird, another endemic.

Profile pic of the YTLB.  This pretty bird proved to be the bully of the day as it kept chasing away all other birds from the bunch of bananas.  Even the bigger bulbuls were no match for this feisty yellow green bird.

Distance and docu shot of a Common Emerald Dove, walking underneath Erwin's motorcycle.

The star of the day, the Lovely Sunbird (male), Palawan endemic.

Here he is again, looking at me straight as if to say, don't you have enought photos already?

I even got a KIF - Kilit In Flight. Blue Headed Racquet Tail in english and also a Palawan endemic.

Then as we were about to leave, the Ashy Drongo, also an endemic, made an appearance.

Followed by the Ashy Fronted Bulbul (formerly Olive Winged BB), also a Palawan endemic.

The female Lovely Sunbird (who is not as lovely as the male), also showed up.

Not to be outdone, the Olive Backed Sunbird also appeared.

And when we had our fill and was about to leave, the male Palawan Flowerpecker gave us a bow... as if to say, till we meet again.

Overall, a very productive morning photography wise.  We also saw a Rufous Backed Kingfisher, a couple of Spot Throated Flameback Woodpeckers, a Palawan Blue Flycatcher (male) and a White Vented Shama.  On the down side, there were noticeably fewer birds and we did not see the Blue Paradise Flycatcher and Black Naped Monarch which were sure sightings in previous Capayas trips.

We went home happy to have seen most of the birds we usually see.  At the same time, hoping and praying that we will see more of them in the coming days.