Sunday, July 12, 2015

Villa Khadine...the cradle of Birdwatch Coron...

If Darayonan Lodge is considered as the birthplace of Birdwatch Coron, then Villa Khadine is the cradle because for most of us, that is where we had our first taste of real birding. Villa Khadine is short for Villa Khadine Grand Vista Lodge (whew!), a resort owned by Ms. Gigi Velasquez, a grade school classmate and more importantly, a friend of mine. It is located in Sitio Jolo, Bgy. Poblacion 5, in Coron. Back when we were kids, Jolo was a place that was unknown to many Coronians because there was no road going there.  There was a steep road going down to the municipal cemetery, a place called Dinagpan.  But beyond the "sementeryo" was a hilly forested area. Today, Jolo is home to three posh resorts, all of them owned by non-Coronian investors, (two or three more are being built). At the moment, Villa Khadine stands as the lone resort in Jolo owned by a "native" Coronian. So perhaps it is but fitting that it played a big role in the establishment of Coron's first (and so far, only), birding club.

Lacking the fame of nearby Capayas, (where the "Three Kings" hold court), Villa Khadine is nevertheless a good birding site.  As a whole Jolo and the adjacent Dipulao river area, are decent birding sites, especially for beginners. On a personal note,I've had eleven (11), lifers in the area, ten (10) of them within the Villa Khadine compound. 

The following photos are some of the birds that I have photographed at Villa Khadine over the past three years.

My first target bird as a birder was the Black Hooded Pitta. During the birding training in August 2012, Den Wakefield, one of my birder friends from Puerto Princessa, got several close captures of VKGV's Hooded Pitta (using an ordinary 70-300 lens!).  However the bird eluded me in the following months. It was not until April 28, 2013, that I was able to photograph this bird (at the Kayangan Lake Trail). This particular shot below was taken at Villa Khadine while we were preparing for the Mutya ng Coron 2013. It is one of my favorite Pitta shots. One afternoon, to get some respite from the stress, I sneaked out to do some birding and I was rewarded.

Black-hooded Pitta or just Hooded Pitta.  "Wawa" in Cuyonon.  August 23, 2013.

Last December 2014, I decided to sleep at Villa Khadine for one night (after the CATE Christmas party).  Early the following morning I did some birding before going to the airport for my flight  back to Manila. I was mildly disappointed because all I saw were common birds.  I already was on the way back to my cottage when this bird perched on a tree beside the path. 

Spot-throated Flameback. Called "Karpentero" in some areas in Coron. December 22, 2014.

Last February, I had Prof. Reuel Aguila and his son Pio, as guests on a four day birding tour. After two and a half days at Capayas Creek, the Aguilas had seen/photographed all the target birds except for the Blue-eared Kingfisher. So on the afternoon of Day 3, we gave up on the third king and went to YKR to search for the Palawan Hornbills, but we were not successful. On the way back to town, we decided to pass by Villa Khadine before going back to Darayoan. Within minutes of entering, this Grey-streaked Flycatcher welcomed us by posing for some time.

Grey-streaked Flycatcher, "Tuldikan" in Cuyonon.  February 1, 2015.

Villa Khadine is also home to common birds such as the Asian Glossy Starling, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Olive-backed Sunbird, Crow, Bulbuls and Munias.

Asian Glossy Starling (immature).  "Losyang" in Pilipino.   Photo taken February 1, 2015.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow, commonly known as the Maya (although it is not the real Maya). 
Photo taken February 2, 2015.

While we were photographing the Starlings and Olive-backed Sunbirds, Erwin Edonga, our bird-guide blurted out, "Ibang klaseng Chiwit dan!"  (It's a different kind of Sunbird!). We debated about it but since the light was already poor, none of our shots was good enough to see the details and settle the debate. Early the following morning, the Aquilas and I, with Erwin, trooped back to Villa Khadine with the hope that we will be able to photograph this new Sunbird. Before long, we were rewarded. 

Brown-throated Sunbird. My first lifer for 2015.  February 2, 2015.

So far Villa Khadine is the only place in Coron where I have seen this bird and I have not seen it again since that day withe the Aguilas. We saw both male and female so hopefully, they will multiply and grow in numbers.

One of the usual suspects at Villa Khadine is the Ashy Drongo. It is a plain colored bird with orange eyes but there is a certain elegance to this bird.  It's unique feature is a tail that looks like a fish tail.

Ashy Drongo, "Salang-ikog" in Cuyonon. Photo taken February 2, 2015.

Another photo of the male Brown-throated Sunbird

Pigeons and doves are always a joy to photograph. Aside from being relatively large in size (making them easier to spot), they are usually colorful and pretty. One of my lifers at VKGV is the Pink-necked Pigeon.

Pink-necked Pigeon (male). One of two green doves called "Punay" in Cuyonon.  February 8, 2015.

Sometime in early June of this year, I texted Gigi and asked if the Hooded Pitta had already made an appearance at her place.  When she replied yes, I made it a point to go to VKGV that same afternoon.  While going to the area where the Pitta usually appears, I detected movement in the ground and almost lost hold of my backpack when I saw that it was a Barred Button Quail.  I had previously seen this bird last September 2014 in Jolo (but outside VKGV).  I staked out said area for three straight mornings and saw the bird each time but was never able to get a good photo. And here it was walking around and not minding me. 

Barred Button Quail, "Umbok" in Cuyonon.  June 6, 2016.

The Umbok is a very difficult bird to shoot because they are very skittish.  When I was a kid growing up in Dipulao, our houseboy taught me how to set up a snare for the Umbok (patawad po). During the same afternoon, I also saw another adult with three chicks trailing it but they never came close enough for a good shot.

A blurry docu shot of an adult Barred Button Quail with three chicks. June 6, 2015. 

I wanted to get better pictures but I did not make any attempt to try to get closer to these birds because of the presence to the young.  I just waited for them to come close to where I was but unfortunately, they never did.

While waiting for the Pitta and also keeping an eye on the Quail, I heard a Coucal making a call.  After a few minutes, I saw movement and something blackish. Then it showed itself but as it was continuously moving, I could not get a clear shot. I carefully followed it's movements until it went up a bare branch of a nearby tree. It was against the sun so I had to make may way around to get better light. Fortunately, it stayed long enough.

Lesser Coucal, "Kolokok" in Cuyonon.  Photo taken June 6, 2015.

Right after the Coucal showed itself, I saw movement somewhere on my right.  I turned, saw a black bird, fired a few shots at it and went back to stalking the Coucal.

White-vented Shama, "Saya-saya" in Cuyonon. Photo taken June 6, 2015.

I was not happy with my Pitta shots on June 6th so the following afternoon, I went back to VKGV.  I still was not able to get my desired shots of the Pitta but another bird posed for me several times.

Pied Triller. Photo taken June 7, 2015

While waiting for the Pitta, I decided to walk around VKGV. I saw a green bird fly by and land on the ground on the main path. Common Emerald Dove! I got excited because it was one of my favorite birds and I did not have a great full body shot taken in Coron. But before I could even aim, it flew again. Walking forward, I espied three of them walking on the ground, too far for a good shot.  I patiently inched my way to them, hiding behind the trees and the resort's cottages.  After about half an hour, (and climbing up and down VKGV's slopes), my efforts paid off.  I was crouched beside one of Villa Khadine's many cottages when it flew across me and perched on an open branch, I slowly rose planted my left elbow on a window ledge and fired away. 

Common Emerald Dove, "Mamatad" in Cuyonon. Photo taken June 7, 2015

I was still not able to get the Pitta that day but my photos of the Mamatad more than made up for it.  

I went back the following day (June 8) but the Pitta was a no show. I was back again the following morning (June 9). Upon reaching the area behind VKGV's honeymoon cottage, (it was unoccupied,otherwise I would not have stayed there), the Asian Glossy Starlings, Ashy-fronted Bulbuls and a lone Pied Triller were flying around. A couple of sunbirds were also darting about in one bush.

A female Sunbird.  Presumably, it is an Olive-backed Sunbird.

After waiting about half an hour for the still absent Pitta, I decided to walk to the other side of the resort where there was a small hill with lots of trees. This was the area where I previously photographed this bird. As I approached, I heard and then saw several shamas. Then my eyes centered on a Malkoha.  It was about thirty five meters away but I froze for fear of spooking it.  I fired a couple of insurance shots but there were so many branches and twigs crisscrossing that there was no clear shot.  Slowly , I transferred position. Then the bird flew to another tree and luckily, I was able to get a decent shot. 

Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, "Manok-manok" in Cuyonon.  Not an endemic bird but in the Philippines, it can only be seen in the Palawan faunal region.  Photo taken June 9, 2015.

Before leaving, I went back to the area at the back of the honeymoon cottage and the Pied Triller was still putting on a show.  So I obliged.

Pied Triller. June 9, 2015

That evening, CATE's regular monthly Board Meeting was going to be held at Villa Khadine. Knowing that I will have a full day on June 10th and leaving on June 11th, I decided to go to VKGV around four (4)in the afternoon and try for the Pitta one last time.

Upon reaching my usual spot, the Shama appeared. With such a great bokeh, what am I to do except shoot. 

White-vented Shama. June 9, 2015

The CATE meeting was scheduled for 6:00pm so at 5:30, I started to make my way back to the main cottage when I hear the unmistakable call of the Hooded Pitta.  It was coming from the other  side of the resort. I dropped by backpack at one of the picnic tables and walked to where the call was emanating.  I had not gone twenty (20)meters when I saw it on the ground, pecking away. I stopped, set down my tripod and fumbled to aim but before I could get set, it moved and kept moving.  Needing to be more mobile, I decided to leave my tripod and just shoot handheld (although the light was fading fast). The Pitta kept hopping about and I kept shooting whenever it stopped but all my shots were either blurry (not the pleasing kind) or it was facing away. It went up a fallen tree and stayed for a couple of seconds but never facing me. Then it moved to the bushes on the small hill (where I photographed the Malkoha that morning). And I thought, that was it. Another failed opportunity. Needless to say, I was disappointed.  I was standing near the resort's cistern, and was about to trudge back when I saw the Pitta hopping down the slope of the small hill.  

Then it perched on a short stump.

Hooded Pitta. June 9, 2015. 

After a few seconds, it left the stump and hopped and skipped in the ground and stopped on top of a rock and looked directly as me as if to say "siguro naman makukunan mo na ako nito".

Hooded Pitta, posing for me...

A few more seconds it stopped again for another pose before it disappeared from my view.  
One of my last shots of the Pitta last June 9, 2015.

I decided to end my birding on that positive note. 

Villa Khadine, still one of the better birding places in Coron.


  1. Great photos Chin! Looking forward to going back to Coron and birding at this resort!

  2. Thanks Trinket! You can choose to stay here if you wish. I can arrange it with Gigi :-)

  3. I am long overdue a return trip to Coron as well! =)