Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mas masaya pag shama shama...

In the first one and a half months of 2016, the star birds at WBPP (Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines), were arguably the UP Diliman avian residents/migrants namely the Philippine Scops Owl family, the Blue Rock Thrush, the male Spotted Wood Kingfisher, and lately the Cuckoos (Brush and Philippine Hawk) and the Philippine Nightjar couple. However, in the past three weeks or so, the friendly White-browed Shama of Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan has captured everybody's attention.

Doña Remedios Trinidad is a first class rural municipality in the province of Bulacan, Philippines. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 19,878 people.[3] It is also known as the "Bulacan's Last Frontier" because of its untouched hidden beauty of nature and most less travelled town in the province.On September 13, 1977, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1196 creating the municipality of Doña Remedios Trinidad.[4] The municipality of Doña Remedios Trinidad was named in honor of the late mother (Remedios T. Romualdez) of then First Lady, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who was a Bulakeña from Baliuag.

The municipality covers seven barangays, originally part of Angat, Norzagaray, and San Miguel. These are Pulong Sampaloc and Camachile of Angat; Bayabas and Kabayunan of Norzagaray; Talbac, Camachin and Kalawakan of San Miguel.

Doña Remedios Trinidad is the largest municipality in Bulacan, occupying almost 1/3 of the total land area of the province. It lies on the southern edge of the Sierra Madre mountain range, and partially embracing two major portions of the Angat Watershed reservation: the Bulacan forest reserve and the Biak-na-Bato National Park, comprising 327.3 km² of alienable and disposable public land. (Wikipedia). - copied with permission from the FB post of Mr. Rocky Sison.

The White-browed Shama, (Copsychus luzoniensis) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is endemic to the Philippines. (source: wikipedia). It is hard to photograph because it is very skittish however the one at DRT seems very friendly to humans allowing for very close captures. Hence the excitement of the bird nuts. After coming back from Coron last February 23rd, I asked who was planning a trip to DRT over the weekend of February 27-28. My friend Lorenzo Barreli messaged me that he was going to DRT with another friend Paolo Dolina on the 27th and that I was welcome to tag along. After securing permission from higher authority, I confirmed with Lorenzo. The day before, my son Luis, asked if he could go along and with Lorenzo's permission, (we used his car), Luis went with me.

We met up at a gasoline station along Edsa a little before 4am and was soon at NLEX. But we missed the Balagtas exit and took the Tabang/Malolos exit by mistake. But with Lorenzo's driving skills and Paolo's navigating (aided by waze), we were soon at the winding road to DRT. We arrived at the parking area, got our local guides, arranged for our food and we were off. After a short walk, we saw a Brown-breasted Kingfisher, then a pair of Red-crested Malkohas, a Scaly-feathered Malkoha, and a flock of Ashy Minivets. Another group of bird nuts arrived - Conrad Olayres, Ben Go and James Uy, all WBPP fellows.

Ben Go and I tried to get a photo of the Red-crested Malkoha (one of my targets for the day), but the birds were perpetually moving and always under the leaves. A real skulker.

Our host, Jonet Carpio, soon arrived and off we went to the site of the Shama. Along the way, we passed the area where the Indigo-banded Kingfisher frequents but it wasn't there so we moved on. This was Lorenzo's target for the day.

We crossed a river and trekked for about 15-20 minutes and soon we reached the area and set up our gear. The bird appeared shortly after and what followed was a photo shoot comparable to the Whiskered Pitta of Bangkong Kahoy (minus the long uphill trek). However what's amazing to me was this bird did not require use of photography hides or any feeding of earthworms or whatever food. It perched, posed, foraged for food in the ground, and perched and posed again. Sharing some of the many photos I took of this bird.

The friendly White-browed Shama of DRT

After getting my fill of photos, the bird stayed on and allowed me to do a short video.

In the end, we were the ones who gave up.

I was able to get photos of other birds in the area but will not post them here as I would like to dedicate this post to the White-browed Shama. 

Posing for a "group hug" after we had re-crossed the river. (From left; Lorenzo, a companion of James whose name I couldn't recall, one of our guides whose name I also could not recall, myself, Ben, Paolo, James, and Conrad).

I would like to thank our hosts Jonet Carpio and Claris Catahan for welcoming us to their town and their home.  This trip would not have been possible without their generosity and hospitality. 

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