LPPCHEA (Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, whew!) or more commonly known to birders as the Coastal Lagoon, was one of the first birding areas, outside of Coron, that I visited when I first became a birder in 2012. The Philippine Bird Fest, organized annually by WBCP, was held in Manila on December 2012 and among the activities was a visit to the Coastal Lagoon on December 7. I arrived at approximately 7am for the guided trip and we soon discovered that there were four birder-guides from WBCP and only one guest, (me), prompting, one of them (Christian Perez, if I remember correctly), "great, there are four of us guides, and one guest, who is also a birder". That trip has been followed by a few other sorties in the following months and as a result, I have a few lifers there. However, sometime in 2013, new rules required that one has to get a permit at the LPPCHEA office in Quezon circle seven days prior to a visit. So I haven't been there in almost a year. When fellow birder, Prof. Reuel Aguila, said he is going there on October 29, with a TV crew, I asked to go with him.
We met at the faculty center in UP Diliman at dawn and soon we were off to LPPCHEA. After a quick breakfast at a Jollibee, along Macapagal Blvd, we met fellow birder Win Paler at the market area along the Coastal Rd. As expected there were Egrets and Herons in the lagoon beside the market so we took some shots although most of them were quite far. We took out our gear and started shooting. As usual, Win's set up generated words of awe and from our non-birder companions (he has an 800mm prime lens attached to a D4 body). And ever the friendly birder, Wins invites everybody to take a look.
Egrets and a Grey Heron
A few Little Egrets ventured near the shore...
Little Egret, foraging near the shore...
After a while we tried some BIF (birds in flight) shots...
A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
A Common Kingfisher did a quick fly-by and perched on a banca somewhere to our left but it was quite far and backlit so no good shot presented.
After some time the people from LPPCHEA joined us. And of course, they were all awed and "paid homage" to the 800mm lens (hehehe, sorry couldn't resist, peace, ser Wins). Then we decided to proceed to LPPCHEA. We stopped at near the container van turned office at the crossroads between Freedom and Long Islands.
Walking along the road, I saw Prof Reuel shooting at three Collared Kingfishers perched on a wire. My real target for the day was a couple of Whimbrels that fellow birder Floyd Pison Bermejo was able to photograph at LPPCHEA a couple of weeks back. So I went towards the shore hoping to catch a glimpse of my target. No sign of the Whimbrels, but I was able to shoot a Little Egret in flight up close.
A few minutes later, some Whiskered Terns also came close to where I was...
We went back to the road and saw a flock of ducks which we later ID'ed as the endemic Philippine Ducks (that a politician up north insisted that they hunted it outside the Philippines...endemic nga di ba)
A flock of Philippine Ducks
We proceeded to the area near the LPPCHEA station. In one of the ponds, we saw an adult and a juvenile Black-crown Night Heron perched close to each other.
Adult Black-crowned Night Heron
Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
Walking along the (dirty) shoreline, we spotted more egrets and terns (but sadly no Whimbrels). We did see a couple of waders.
Asian Golden Plover
We also took sometime photograph the Terns that dove to the sea to catch something to eat. Below is a photo showing one of the terns just after it emerged from the water.
Whiskered Tern, with its morning meal
After about an hour on the (dirty) beach, we went to the other island of LPPCHEA in search of the Whimbrels (I cannot recall which one is Freedom and which one is Long). Again, no Whimbrels in sight. We did find a Grey-tailed Tattler.
I first saw this migratory bird on September 29, 2013 at the reclaimed area in Coron. A couple of weeks later, I birded in LPPCHEA and saw this bird again on this same area of the coastal lagoon. It amazes me that these migratory birds fly all the way from Siberia or some place cold and far and end up in the Philippines, sometimes even all the way to New Zealand.
Prof. Reuel and I, with a guide, walked all the way to the end of the island but unfortunately no Whimbrels. We contented ourselves with more egrets.
Egrets, foraging for food.
Coincidentally, while we were searching for the Whimbrels (in vain!), the guy who was able to photograph them passed by overhead (Capt. Floyd Pison Bermejo is a PAL pilot). Later that day, he posted this photograph in this timeline and asked if there were birders at LPPCHEA because he saw a black SUV (Wins' car).
Aerial photo of LPPCHEA, courtesy of Capt. Floyd Pison Bermejo
We met a couple of retired military men, who we found out were with the security company employed by the Indonesian firm Amari (of PEA-Amari fame). They brought us to the quarters of their people at the edge of the wooded area and talked to us about the many birds in the area. They also told us we can just go in anytime and just ask for the security chief (he mentioned the name but I could not recall it at the moment). I sensed some kind of tension between him and the LPPCHEA people. But maybe, I am mistaken. (The LPPCHEA people were not with us at that time).
It soon started to rain so we went back to the DENR area for lunch. We ate a simple but sumptuous lunch of rice, and inihaw na isda and liempo, washed down with ice cold coke. At around 1:30pm, I bade my companions good bye because I still had to pick up my son. I later found out that as soon as I left, Prof. Reuel was able to photograph a Clamorous Reed Warbler which landed on a branch in front of him. Such is the nature of birding. When you leave early, a lifer arrives.
But birding is never a boring activity. Even if one does not get his target birds, the trip, the chase, and the company of fellow birders always make it a worthwhile exercise.