On October 28, one of my new birder friends, Chito Limchiu, posted in the WBPP page, a beautiful photo of an immature Purple Heron in flight which he photographed during a recent trip to Candaba. The photographer in me immediately said, I want one (hehehe). I wrote in the thread that it was one of the places I would like to bird. Alain Pascua reacted by posting "who wants to go to Candaba on Oct 31st?". There seemed to be no takers so I thought the trip will not push through anymore. So I was pleasantly surprised when I got a text in the evening of October 30, (while watching the movie Thor), informing me that the Candaba trip the following day was a GO. I was told to be at the house of fellow WBPP member Rocky Sison by 5am the following morning. Upon reaching Rocky's house, I learned that my companions will be Rey Sta. Ana, Alain Pascua, Jimmy Javier and of course Rocky Sison. All were seasoned bird photographers who have birded in many different parts of the Philippines and even abroad, and whose photos I often admire. Needless to say, I felt like a rookie.
We reached Candaba around 7am and immediately saw a multitude of barn swallows perched on an electric cable. Then we saw a lot of Egrets in the rice fields. Most looked like Cattle Egrets. Driving on, we reached an area where the rice had already been harvested and what was left was a muddy area with shallow water. Rocky parked the van on the side and we began taking photos of a flock of Black Winged Stilts. My companions who have all been to Candaba previously observed that there were not many birds yet. But for someone who is used to searching for birds in trees, what I saw was plenty (to my eyes, anyway). A couple of days before, I reviewed my life list and knew that I already had 97. So I was really hoping that I would see at least three lifers so I could reach 100.
The first lifer I saw at the mudflats was this bird (see photo below). It was later identified as a Wood Sandpiper.
Wood Sandpiper, Lifer #98, great reflection too!
A few minutes later, I saw this:
Long-toed Stint, Lifer #99
We walked around a bit and started photographing a flock of Black Winged Stilts and a mixed flock of Egrets and Herons.
A flock of Black Winged Stilts in flight.
A Grey Heron in flight.
A Great Egret, I think... or is it Intermediate?
Mixed among the Egrets and the Grey Heron, I found my 100th Lifer, the Purple Heron, the bird that spurred me to go to Candaba in the first place. It seems fitting that it is my 100th. I have several photographs of it taken during that day but none as beautiful as Doc Chito's. Posting here one of my better shots of the Purple Heron taken that day.
Purple Heron, Lifer # 100.
After seeing the Purple Heron and logging my 100th lifer, I was already happy. But lady luck and the birding gods were with me that day. I next saw a Cinnamon Bittern, Lifer #101.
Docu shot of a Cinnamon Bittern, Lifer #101
We also saw a Yellow Bittern, Brown Shrike, Zebra Dove, Red Turtle Dove, A Common Kingfisher, and of course the usual Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Yellow Vented Bulbul.
Red Turtle Dove
Then while driving along the trail, I saw two more lifers!
Docu shot of a Barred Rail, Lifer # 102
Common Moorhen, Lifer # 103
Before reaching the Mayor's house, we saw some Black Crowned Night Herons in the distance. And in one of the trees near the Mayor's house, we saw an Arctic Warbler. I have photos of these but nothing worth sharing. My companions wanted to see ducks and some of the people at the Mayor's house told us there are already some in the next pond (wherever that is). So off we went. Along the way, Alain, told Rocky to stop beside a couple of trees by the roadside and he began craning his neck. Suddenly he whispered loudly, "Starling!", and began shooting. I was beside him but could not really see what he was shooting at because we were in an awkward angle and there were lots of leaves and branches. Plus the sunlight was harsh and strong from our right side but under the canopy, visibility was not so good (plus I have poor eyesight to begin with). I just pointed my camera to the direction of what he was shooting at and focused on something grayish and just let our a burst. It turns out that we were photographing the White Shouldered Starling, another lifer.
White Shouldered Starling, Lifer # 104
A little further on we saw a Little Grebe swimming in a pond.
We stopped beside a farmhouse because the road forward was not passable. Rey, Jimmy and Rocky elected to stay near the van while Alain and I walked further on, in search of the ducks. We saw about twenty (20) Wandering Whistling Ducks standing in the middle of the field. The Purple Heron also did a distant fly-by and we also encountered a Blue Throated Bee Eater.
The sun was getting too hot and there were not that many birds so we decided to call it a day and started the drive back. When we got to the muddy area, we met a flock of Common Greenshank in flight. Then I saw a little bird in the mudflats. Another Lifer.
Little Ringed Plover, Lifer # 105.
And a few meters down the road, I saw my ninth lifer of the day, a Pied Buschat.
Pied Buschat, Lifer # 106
And as we were leaving the area, I managed to snap another photo of the Purple Heron in flight. Not a great photo by any measure. But this gives me a perfect reason to go back to Candaba.
After eating lunch at SM (where else?), we headed back to Manila. Though we did not see that many birds (per my companions' standards), I went home contented. Nine lifers in half a day of birding isn't bad at all...