Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Pitta Overload

Due to work and family obligations, I was not able to do much birding since my Bangkong Kahoy trip last Feb 8.  I was very excited about my Cebu birding trip but I basically dipped on that sortie (though I did catch a quick glimpse of the Black Shama and the Crimson Sunbird and heard five or six other birds that would have been lifers also if I saw them).  Because of this, I was really looking forward to the third week of May when several birders from both WBPP and WBCP will be in Coron. It will be four to five days of birding. Still, I did not expect to see ten (10) Pittas in two days. 

Fellow WBPP member Alex Ting arrived on the morning of May 18 and immediately proceeded to Capayas with Anthony, (one of our in-house guides at My Blue Backpack).  I was at the opening of a resort for lunch so I followed around 2pm.  Upon reaching Capayas, the first thing I noticed was the heat.  It was HOT! After just a few minutes, I was drenched in sweat.  I found Alex with Anthony and Taptap, (birdguide Erwin Edonga's kid who was assigned to Alex because Erwin was with Jude and Doc Cha and another lady whose name escapes me at the moment.  All three were also WBCP members).  Alex and Anthony had already seen the Ruddy KF but no photos yet.  While walking around, we saw the Oriental Dwarf KF fly by twice but again no photos. We were soon joined by Jude and co., guided by Erwin who promptly bragged about the Oriental Dwarf and the Blue Eared KF's at La Natura.   We went back to Erwin's house a bit dejected. Even the Yellow Throated Leafbird at Erwin's house was a no show.  The only birds that were easy to photograph were the nesting Black Naped Monarch and Blue Paradise FC on two different branches of the mango tree in front of Erwin's house. After a while Erwin and company arrived and they again said they saw the Ruddy after we left.  To make matters worse, Doc Cha began reviewing her shots taken using her bridge camera.  We, who had the long lenses, could only look (Haaay...).  Though we had some photos (bird photographers are trigger happy by nature...), there was nothing to really rave about. 

While waiting for our ride home, we say a Hair Crested Drongo, local Cuyonon name, Chichibiao, flying around a large tree and acting like a woodpecker.  BWC member Maween Reyes calls this bird "ang Drongo na feeling Woodpecker".

Hair Crested Drongo, local name Chichibiao.

We began the following day at the river beside the La Natura resort to wait for Kingfishers.  Erwin's elder son, Dondon was supposed to meet us there but he was nowhere to be found so Anthony went to their house. Within minutes after Anthony left, I saw a Black Hooded Pitta fly across the river and into a clump of bamboo.  Alex and I waited, and waited, and waited but it never showed up again.  But we could hear Pittas calling on both sides of the river.  A few minutes later, Anthony and Dondon arrived.  We waited around the area for the Kingfishers. It was so hot even at that early hour and it seemed the birds will be scarce.  We could hear them but no photo opportunities.  I ventured away from the group and when I looked up, I suddenly saw a Black Hooded Pitta perched on a wire but before I could take a photo, it flew away.

We trudged to Erwin's house to have breakfast. Along the way, we saw some Zebra Doves sunning and pecking themselves.
Zebra Doves

While we were shooting, this bigger bird perched on a lower branch.  I did not know what it was at the time I photographed it.  It has since been identified as a Bar Bellied Cuckoo Shrike, a lifer for me.
Bar Bellied Cuckoo Shrike

We again saw the "Drongo na feeling Woodpecker"...
Hair Crested Drongo, creeping on the trunk of a tree, probably eating insects.

We reached Erwin's house a few minutes later and had our breakfast.  Pretty soon, the regulars came to feed on the bananas.  The regulars being the Yellow Throated Leafbird and the Ashy Fronted Bulbul.
Yellow Throated Leafbird

Ashy Fronted Bulbul, formerly Olive Winged BB, locally called Tabeleklek

After sometime, we went back to the river side.  I went with Jude and co. and took another route.  We saw a Spot Throated Flameback and a male Palawan Blue Flycatcher along the way.  We later met up with Alex and Anthony who were waiting for Kingfishers (still a no show). Soon it was noontime and Jude and party went back to town to rest until 3pm.  We stayed near the river with our three guides - Erwin, Anthony and Dondon.  But there were no birds although the Pitta's could be heard and the Blue Eared KF did a flyby.  Amazingly it was being chased by two Oriental Dwarf KF's!

With the dearth of birds, I contented myself by shooting the Dragonfly's (using a telephoto lens, wala talagang ibon eh)...
One of my subjects...

We walked back to Erwin's house for lunch, feeling dejected once again.  It seemed that the birds were so "mailap" (the english word escapes me at the moment).  After lunch, the male Olive Backed Sunbird showed up in the flowers near Erwin's house.
Olive Backed Sunbird (male), locally called Chiwit.

We were shooting the Olive Backed Sunbird when Rey Sta Ana arrived with five foreign birders along with one of our guides, also named Dondon.  They promptly joined us in shooting the OBS.  There were four of them from mainland China and their gear included two D4S bodies attached to Nikkor 800mm lenses and two Canon FX bodies (sorry not familiar with the Canon models), attached to a 600mm and a 500mm.  Suddenly my 300mm f4 felt so puny (hahaha).

I had to go back to town for some pressing matters so I left Alex with Anthony and Rey & co with the two Dondons.  Erwin was still with Doc Cha and party.  I got back to Capayas around 3:30pm and saw the Chinese birders staked out near the trail where one Black Hooded Pitta was previously observed.  The two Dondons were seated nearby.  I went to Capayas Creek Bird Preserve to look for Alex who was still stalking the Kingfishers with Anthony.  But I did not find them.  I did see a couple of Black Chinned Fruit Doves perched on a branch across the creek. 
Black Chinned Fruit Dove, alternatively called Punay and Balud by locals. But the Green Imperial Pigeon and the Gray Imperial Pigeon are also called Balud and the Pink Necked Pigeon is also called Punay.  That is how it is with local names.

As I was shooting the Dove, I heard a Pitta calling and saw it on a fallen tree trunk.  But it flew away before I could take a photo.  I walked slowly towards where it landed but I could not see it.  So I decided to go back to Erwin's house since it was past 5:30pm.  As I was about to go out of the CCBP gate, I saw movement near the "Sitaw" (String Bean) Patch.  It was the Black Hooded Pitta hopping on the ground. As quietly as possible, I made my way nearer, set up my tripod and fired several shots.
Black Hooded Pitta, local name Wawa or Wah-wah

So while the boys with the big lenses were waiting, I was able to get a reasonably close photo of the same bird.  As I was leaving CCBP, I saw a White Vented Shama.
White Vented Shama, local name Saya-saya

The following morning, we were at Capayas as early as 6am.  Alex was still searching for the Kingfishers.  I tagged along with them.  We saw a pair of Oriental Dwarf KF's fly to a clump of bamboo.  We waited for them to come out.  While waiting, I felt the call of nature so I walked along the trail and once out of sight, I set down my tripod.  As I was answering the call of nature, a Black Hooded Pitta drops on the branch in front of me.  Birding is really a case of being at the right place at the right time.
Black Hooded Pitta

We walked a bit and after a while Alex decided to go back near the creek to wait for the Kingfishers.  I waited at the trail and when I glanced at a distant tree, I saw another Hooded Pitta!
Another Black Hooded Pitta

I went back to the other side of the creek and the first thing I noticed was Alex grinning from ear to ear which could only mean one thing, he got the Ruddy KF.  After a couple of minutes he went to the spot where the Chinese photographers were waiting for the Red Bellied Pitta.  I was standing on the trail leading to the creek, when I saw something reddish brown fly-by.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw not one but two Reddish Cuckoo Doves land on a tree across the river.  This has been one of my target birds for the past eight months.  Again, being at the right place and at the right time...
Reddish Cuckoo Dove, the largest dove in the Philippines

I was in seventh heaven after I got these shots.  I ambled over to where the rest of the group were waiting for the Red Bellied Pitta.  We were not disappointed.  Two mature RBP's showed up and we clicked away.
My first nice photo of a mature Red Bellied Pitta.  

That my first nice photo of a mature Red Bellied Pitta was taken in Coron made it even more special...   

All in all, I saw about 8 Black Hooded Pittas and 2 Red Bellied Pittas in two days. 

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