Monday, November 3, 2014

Kalag-kalag Birding

"Kalag" is the Cuyonon word for soul. Kalag-kalag is an activity where your friends or neighbors play a practical joke on you and blame it on the "kalag" or souls that are out on the night of October 31st (call it our local version of All Hallows Eve, or Halloween).  According to local lore, some of the common pranks are transferring your neighbor's tethered carabao to another location, picking fruits or veggies from your neighbors garden (sounds like stealing to me, hehehe), or hiding the slippers that are normally left outside near the stairs or in the "balcon" of a typical nipa hut in the barrios.  When I was small, one of our houseboys said they once carried a small banca fro the wharf and left it in the middle of the plaza (town square) in barrio Bintuan (our ancestral home), but I was never able to verify if this was a true story o just plain "burit" (bragging). Having grown up in a town where the only other activity (aside from visiting the cemetery) was "kalag-kalag", I have come to associate this term to any activity I do on All Saint's Day-All Souls Day.  

For 2014, our original schedule was visit my father at Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig in the morning and then go to Kawit cemetery in the afternoon to visit Lorna's relatives.  For Nov 2nd, I secured permission to go birding at La Mesa Ecopark because of a sighting of the a rare migrant, a Ferruginous Flycatcher.  There were actually two sightings on Friday, Oct 31, within hours of each other - the first in BK Valley and then in LMEP. But we were unable to make an early start so we got to Heritage around noon and stayed until 2pm.  We had late lunch before heading home and decided that we will just go to Kawit the following day. (There goes my birding...). 

While waiting for our food, I opened my FB using my phone and lo and behold, the first thing I see is a photo of a Chocolate Boobook (an owl), full body shot(!), taken from LMEP. Both the owl and the flycatcher were photographed by LMEP king, Anthony Balbin.  A few days before this, the same owl was photographed in UP's Hardin ng Rosas by WBPP's Rocky Sison and Roy Daantos, but fellow birder (and neighbor) Bob Kaufman and I never saw it. I immediately sent a message to Anthony asking if the flycatcher was still there.  He replied, "pati po yung owl nandito pa".  

After we got home, I immediately changed to birding attire, grabbed by camera backpack and tripod and rushed to LMEP hoping to still catch the birds before it was too dark.  I arrived at 4:30pm, parked and walked as fast as I could to the mini forest.  Called Anthony for the exact location but he rejected my call.  So I just walked on and as soon as I reached the area of the orchidarium, I saw several green clad people with tripods looking up.  I was pleasantly surprised when I recognized that one of them sa Maia Tanedo, the person whose blog and fb posts sparked my interest in birding. Also present were Anthony Balbin and Rocky Sison.  It turned out that they were shooting the Bown Hawk Owl, alternatively called the Brown Boobook or Chocolate Boobook (scientific name: Ninox scutulata). 

Brown Hawk Owl or Chocolate Boobook

Another photo with its eyes closed.

After getting several shots, Rocky urged me to go to the IBK pond where the Ferruginous was because it was starting to get dark.  Maia had left a few minutes earlier.  I found her with Jops Josef, Olan Balbido and Arnel Cerriola.  What followed was about 30 minutes of shooting this rare migrant in two spots (beside each other). Ferruginous Flycatcher (Musicicapa ferruginea)

Ferruginous Flycatcher

It was already getting dark so I decided to go back.  I left Arnel still shooting.  On the way down, I saw Maia and Jops still photographing the owl.  So I also took a few shots.  Here is one of the last shots I took.

Chocolate Boobook

We soon called it a day because it was already dark (although it was only 5:45pm in our watches).  Two lifers in a little over an hour of shooting.  Not bad at all. No "kalag-kalag" pranks on me that day.


  1. Ang saya!! Nothing like a very successful twitch! =) Congrats on the lifers! =)

  2. Congrats on your 2 lifers in an hour feat! Great images as well.

  3. Thanks Maia. It was really nice bumping to you and Jops that day.

  4. Hi, I've been seeing a few birds here in my location which is Valenzuela, Metro Manila. I took pictures of them but I don't know their names in english and in tagalog. I saw pictures of Asian glossy starling which I also been seeing here in my place. They fly in groups, sometimes only two which I suspect they are partners. I also know now that they are called "Losyang" in tagalog. This is the first time I discover your blog, and I like it very much. Hope to see more pictures of local birds, their local name and stories about them. Thanks a lot.

    1. Thank you sir. Yes Asian Glossy Starlings are called Losyang in Pilipino.

      I also have an FB page of the same title. This is generally my photography page but lots of birds here too. Here is the link:

      If you are interested in bird, I suggest you also go to the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines Facebook page.