I ended January satisfied that I just had my best month ever as a birder. I saw almost 60 species including some lifers and photo lifers. When my first birding trip in February (at Bangkong Kahoy), netted me 12 lifers, I felt I was off to a good start for the month. I was looking forward to adding several more lifers on my end of the month Zamboanga trip for the Philippine Bird Fest. But I guess the birding gods wanted to keep me away from Zamboanga. The Birdfest was originally scheduled last October 2013 but a war broke out in September so it was cancelled and re-scheduled for late February. After much fixing of my schedules and finally purchasing my tickets, my father was confined. So I had to cancel. Suddenly, I recall the song I learned in grade 2 - Don't you go, Don't you go, Zamboanga... I never really understood what that song meant. But it felt like I was not meant to go there.
I flew to Coron mid March or the Ides of March as the Romans called it (in the old Roman calendars, this fell between the 13th and the 15th of the month). It was also the day Julius Ceasar was murdered. I did not plan to murder anyone (or any bird) of course but I wanted to "shoot" some birds for the BY2014 and for an upcoming photo exhibit. I scheduled my first birding trip on March 12, with the Blue Eared Kingfisher and the Palawan Hornbill as my main targets. I still didn't have a decent shot of the BEKF and it has not been seen since Yolanda, until the previous week when Ramon Quisumbing was able to photograph not one but two BEKF's. I have never seen the Palawan Hornbill, but there have been recent sightings. Prior to 2014, the only photograph on record was taken in Culion by BWP member Cathy Estrada last December 2013. But the previous week, WBPP fellow Bj Capacite saw and photographed the Hornbill in Capayas, twice!
On the morning of the 12th, I woke up with a ton of things on my to do list so I texted birdguide Erwin Edonga that I will not be going to Capayas that morning and will go the next day instead. He immediately called back to say that the leafbirds and bulbuls were already in front of his house. I made a quick decision to go for a short birding trip. I arrived about 7am and off we went. And after a few steps, we see the Blue Eared Kingfisher beside the creek in the property across Erwin's house and it stayed for several minutes as I clicked away.
After the BEKF finally left, I set out to look for my secondary targets - the male Blue Paradise Flycatcher and the Black Naped Monarch since I still did not have decent shots of these two. After walking a bit, we again meet the BEKF and after a few minutes of shooting the kingfisher, the male Black-naped Monarch appeared. It is a skittish bird and all I managed was a few blurry shots. Posting the best of the lot.
A little further on, we met the male Blue Paradise... it posed for me but unfortunately it was backlit.
Since it was already past nine in the morning, I decided to call it a day and come back the following day for the Hornbill. On the way out, we met Rudy! Who of course, posed for me again.
Four decent captures in two hours of birding wasn't bad so I was excitedly looking forward to the Hornbill the following day. We had to hike up a small hill early morning. on the way up, I saw two Malkohas perch on a nearby bare Cashew tree but they flew away before I could get a good shot. We saw two more in the distance on a bare branch but they never came near. I was also hopeful that we will get to see the Blue Headed Racket Tails because it was also seen in that area recently. But as lucky as I was the day before, I never saw or even heard the Hornbill nor the Kilit. The Malkohas did not get to within photography distance. Soon it was time to go down the hill. We heard a Rufous backed Kingfisher and a few minutes later saw a pair of them but they both flew away before I could take any shot. Even, the Common Emerald Dove that I saw the day before and was hoping to photograph this time was a no show. As a consolation, I saw the Lovely Sunbird and the Philippine Cuckoo Dove (but no photos again!).
Later that morning, as I sat in the meeting of the Coron ECAN board, I met an American who was developing a property in Sitio Jolo. He wanted to put up an organic garden and a birdwatching site. He got all excited when he found out I was a birder. We saw each other later that day and he showed me photos of the birds at or near his property. What caught my attention was a Chinese Egret, photographed just a few days prior. This is an endangered bird with an estimated 2500 birds left in the world. I once saw it in Balanga from very far. And this guy had a close up photo using a 70-300 zoom lens! (shooting auto at that). So I asked permission to visit his property the following day.
I was there with Anthony, our in-house guide early the following morning. And for the second day in a row, I dipped. The only saving grace for the day was a raptor that was later identified as an immature White Bellied Sea Eagle. Although my new American friend insists that it is an Osprey.
Immature White Bellied Sea Eagle
And that is what makes birding fun, you never know when or what you will see.... I guess, just like Julius Ceasar when he went to the Roman Senate on the Ides of March. But then again, that did not end happily for him...
Still, the month is not over yet so who knows...