Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I was looking for a King but found Cleopatra instead

I was finally able to visit the Kingfisher Park Tambayan on April 1st.   With fellow Birdwatch Coron members Maween Reyes and Anthony Araojo (also our in-house guide at My Blue Backpack), we left Coron town at around 6am and headed to Sitio Malbato.  Several decades ago, my mother, Letty, when she was still single, worked as book keeper at the office of the farm/hacienda in Malbato.  She relates that my father, Ching, would pick her up (in his army surplus Willy's Jeep), in the afternoons and they would walk near the river before heading back to town.  Of course, they would always be accompanied by my Uncle Boy, (Mama's younger brother), as chaperone.  Mama says that Uncle Boy would discreetly walk behind or ahead of them.  But I digress... 

We picked up KP birdguide Boyet Factuar at the waiting shed near the Stone Chapel and reached the KP mangrove area around 7am.  

The KP Tambayan area, picnic ground and jump off point to the various eco-tourism activities offered by KP (Mangrove Kayaking, Sea  Kayaking, Firefly Watching, Fishing, and soon Birding, hopefully) 

After a quick breakfast of pan de sal and 3-in-1 coffee, we were ready to go kayaking in the mangrove area. Maween did not want to ride the kayak so she stayed at the Tambayan.   Upon the advice of Tunggs Reyes, owner of KP, I took a sibid instead of a kayak, (a sibid is a small motorless banca with outriggers).  So I paired with a guide called Jimjim, and Anthony paired with Boyet and they took a two-man kayak.  Incidentally, my boatman was Jimjim who was married to Rhenrhen and my nickname is Chin-chin. I read somewhere that only Filipinos do this - name their kids twice with the same name. 

While rowing to the moth of the river, we saw a Black Crowned Night Heron fly by.  Upon entering the canopy of mangroves, I noticed that it was quiet.  Not many birds chirping.  We rowed and drifted slowly and suddenly, a Stork Billed Kingfisher, my target for the day, came flying from nowhere and perched on a mangrove branch directly in front of us.  I aimed my camera but before I could press the shutter, it flew away.  We wait for about half an hour for it to come back but it was a no show.   We pressed on and came to a narrow point in the river where another small banca was partially blocking the way. The kayak was able to pass through easily but we could not, so we waited a bit for the boatman of the other boat to move his sibid out of the way.  I saw Anthony make a hand signal to me but I did not understand.  When we finally reached them, he said they saw three wild ducks ahead and motioned us to go forward.  As we rounded another bend, a blue kingfisher flew across our bow.  I could not be sure if it was a Common or a Blue Eared KF.  After yet another bend, we finally saw the ducks swimming in the water.  I started firing (my camera of course).  After a few minutes, they flew away.  At that time, I was not sure what kind of ducks they were.  I assumed they were Wandering Whistling Ducks. 

We continued paddling until we exited into the sea again.  However, where the sea was so calm an hour before, it was now rough and we were farther from the shore.  Jimjim was able to bring me (and my camera) to the shore safely but I had several scary moments. 

When we got to the shore, I immediately reviewed my shots and saw that the duck had an "eyebrow".  By chance we brought the Kennedy Guide, so we immediately flipped through it.  The image on my camera looked like a Philippine Duck but the book said it was not found in Palawan.  So when I got back to Darayonan, I immediately posted the photo on FB and asked for identification. Within minutes WBPP President, Rey Sta. Ana identified it as Anas luzonica, the Philippine Duck.

Philippine Duck, with its distinctive "Cleopatra" eyebrow, endemic to the Philippines and a favorite hunting target of some politicians from the north.  Probably the first photograph of this species taken in the Calamianes archipelago.

I thank siblings Manny and Tunggs Reyes for allowing me access to Kingfisher Park.  This is where I was first able to photograph the Kilit (Blue Headed Racquet Tail), and the Pikoy (Blue Naped Parrot) last June 2013.  Now the Philippine Duck.  Hopefully, I will also get to photograph the Palawan Hornbill here.  

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