The Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary in Busuanga has always been one of my favorite places in the Calamianes. Whenever I am in Coron and we have a tour group going to Calauit, I always make it a point to go with the group. So when I learned we had a group going last February 21st, I decided to go (even if I had a wedding to attend at 3:30pm that same day). I wanted to see and photograph the Green Imperial Pigeon which is abundant in Calauit. Perhaps I could also get a couple of other species not easily found in mainland Busuanga.
However, we were so busy on February 19 and 20 - Darayonan, CATE, and Palanca family meetings, food tasting of new dishes, photo shoot of these new dishes, a wedding function at Darayonan, more meetings - I actually ended my day past 12:00mn of Feb 20. I needed to be up at 3:30am for the Calauit trip. Woke up at 2:30am and decided it was too early so I dozed off. When I woke up again, it was already 5:00am. The tour had already left. Stayed in bed for a while but at 6am I decided to bird at Yulo King Ranch, (YKR).
When I arrived at the ranch, there was still fog in the "kereb" or meadows, what we now call the Calamian Savanah.
Morning mist at the Calamian Savanah
I espied some Egrets on top of a tall tree so I paused to snap a few shots.
Cattle Egrets, (Agrok)
I was driving slowly with both van windows open and scanning the trees. I saw a bird on top of a bare tree which at that time I assumed to be a Crested Goshawk because I had previously seen one in the same tree. I stopped the van, stopped two shots while still seated at the driver's seat.
Said bird has been identified as a Kestrel by famous British Ornithologist, Desmond Allen.
Kestrel, lifer #2 for 2016; #238 overall.
I then went down and circled the van to get my tripod. But as I rounded the van, I saw a bigger bird perched on a bare tree nearer to me! I just pointed my camera and clicked away. After several insurance shots, I got my tripod and took more photos. At that time, I felt it was a Changeable Hawk-Eagle. The ID has since been confirmed by Mr. Allen. he further said that it is a pale morph or light phase.
Changeable Hawk Eagle, pale morph.
Preparing to take off
I watched it fly away and perch on the tree where the Kestrel was. I took photos from the road side but it was so far (maybe 40-50 meters), so I decided to go nearer. I walked through the meadow, stopping to shoot every few meters. I think the closest I got was about 20 meters.
Changeable Hawk Eagle
Changeable Hawk Eagle, majestically perched and surveying the surroundings.
After it flew away, I drove on and stooped at a tree that I knew was being frequented by Blue Headed Racquet Tailed Parrots. True enough a flock was there but the position of the tree vis-a-vis the sun is always bad in the morning. And the Racquet Tails are experts in blending in the foliage. I was able to manage one passable shot.
Blue-headed Racquet Tailed Parrots - (Kilit) - female (left, hidden) and male (right)
Driving past the airport, I stopped by a clump of trees that are usually frequented by different birds. A Pied Triller and an Ashy Drongo made an appearance.
Ashy Drongo, (Salang Ikog)
After a while I decided to try the new road being built which will connect YKR to Busuanga without passing Sitio Carmelita (said road will link up with the National Highway near Kiwit.
The new road being constructed
Upon entering the road, a couple of Racquet Tails flew across but unfortunately didn't perch in the open. I drove through but I reached the end of the paved portion near the trail to Guchie Falls without seeing much birds. Driving back, I saw a Brown Shrike perched on top of a bare tree.
Driving slowly, I could not help but stop and appreciate the scenery before me.
Morning scene at the Calamian Savanah. Praying that this area stays this way.
The road back to town.
At approximately 9:30am, I happily ended my birding and headed back to town in high spirits knowing that I had good shots of the Changeable Hawk Eagle.
Thank you Lord for the beauty of your creation!