Sunday, October 30, 2016

Whimbrel...finally

Two years ago, October 29, 2014, to be exact, I was invited by fellow bird photographerand friend, Prof. Reuel Aguila to do some birding in the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area or LPPCHEA. To the non-birders, this is the coastal area along the Coastal Road leading to Cavite and Las Pinas. For reference, here is a map that I copied from Google Maps.

Aerial Map of LLPCHEA. The left "wing" is called Long Island while the right "wing" is Freedom Island. 

Anyway, back to the story.  About a week or so prior to this Oct 29 sortie, another fellow bird photographer friend, Capt. Floyd Bermejo posted a photo of a Whimbrel taken at LPPCHEA.  This bird was the reason I went with Prof. Reuel.  Unfortunately, we didn't see the bird that day.  I can't recall if there were any sightings of it in 2015.  But I don't recall any photos posted on Facebook.  

Fast forward to early September 2016. Another friend Pastor Tony Lim posted a photo of a Whimbrel taken at LPPCHEA on August 29, 2016.  I immediately messaged him asking where in LPPCHEA was he able to photograph said bird. But as (bad)luck would have it, (or perhaps it's fate?), I never got to go to LPPCHEA the whole time I was in Manila. I went back to Coron and stayed for quite sometime and got back only on the 7th of October. I was not hopeful about seeing the Whimbrel anymore (for this year), but I decided to try my luck on the 9th.  My birding companion that day was another birder-friend, Ed Santos.

We got to the site around 6am and proceeded to the end of the abandoned pier area at the end of the center road.  We were greeted by the usual suspects - Collared Kingfishers on the big rocks, Little Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Egrets and Whiskered Terns, flying about.  Plus the ever present Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Yellow-vented Bulbuls, and a couple of Brown Shrikes. Here are some of our early captures:

Little or Striated Heron

Immature Rufous Night Heron

After about twenty minutes at the pier and no sign of the Whimbrel, we decided to transfer to the "beach" area to the left of the abandoned pier.  When we got there, we were dismayed at the amount of garbage. We already knew that there was a lot but seeing it up close just disgusts you.

Again, no sign of the target bird.  We did see some juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons on the rocks:
Immature Black-crowned Night Heron

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron showing already the black crown.

And a Grey-tailed Tattler...
Grey-tailed Tattled in a beach full of trash

Another bird scavenging in the trash, a Rock Dove (most likely, a domesticated pigeon)

Rock Dove

And some Sandpipers...
Common Sandpipers flying low over a sea of garbage

A fisherman came in from the sea and I showed him a photo of the Whimbrel on my phone.  He said it frequents the rocks along the shore of Long Island. So after a few more minutes, we decided to use our cars and bird along the road on Long Island. Driving slowly, I saw a Collared Kingfisher on one of the rocks but it flew away as soon as I stopped the car.  Further down the road, we saw a couple of Common Sandpipers on the rocks.

Common Sandpiper

A pair of Common Sandpipers

The area was not that birdy that day.   I had sent a message to another birder-friend, Caloy Pangilinan who was at LPPCHEA earlier in the week, asking for the location of the Whimbrel.  He finally answered that it was in "Stinky Island", referring to the garbage ridden part of Freedom Island.  So off we went to the other "wing".  After parking near the DENR station, I went to the bird watching "hide" in front of Pond 1 and saw a couple of birds hidden in the tall grass.  I took a couple of shots and when enlarged, it showed two Purple Swamphens which was later corrected by Maia Tanedo as a Common Moorhen (it looked purple to me! hehehe).

Common Moorhen

The DENR personnel stationed in the area greeted us and after logging in, I showed the Whimbrel photo to the guys there and they said that it was just there at the beach along Freedom Island flying back and forth.  So off we went to the beach area.   Again we saw the usual suspects. A few minutes later two large brownish birds came flying from our right.  It was only when they were near that I saw the long beak pointing down.  I blurted Whimbrel! But they were gone before we were able to take any shots. So we waited again. 

Ed watched a Little Egret for some time while I got bored so I started fiddling with my tripod.  Soon the Egret started catching something from the sea and in one of its "dips" it caught a fish and the bird sort of juggled it with its beak before swallowing it.  I was not able to capture the special moment because I was fumbling with my tripod and camera. All the while, Ed's shutter was clicking and clacking like a machine gun. Haaaaay....

A Little Egret, juggling the fish in its beak.  Awesome photo by Ed Santos. 

After some time, a lone Whimbrel came flying in.  This time, I was able to get some shots. 



Whimbrel, lifer # 255. 

The Whimbrel landed on a spot on the dirty beach too far for us too shoot.  After several minutes of waiting for it to comeback, I decided to go nearer.   
Me, walking amidst Metro Manila's garbage.  Photo courtesy of Ed Santos.

After walking about fifty meters, the bird flew and landed on a spot nearer to Ed. So I slowly walked back careful not to spook the bird. Stopping every few meters to take shots.  One of the shots showed another bird in the foreground.  It was later ID'ed by birder friends Bob Kaufman and Jose Limbaga as a Terek Sandpiper, another lifer!

Whimbrel with Terek Sandpiper, a bonus lifer!, #256. 

Whimbrel

Whimbrel in flight once again

After sometime, we decided to go to the foresty area near Pond 1.   

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron at Pond 1

After several minutes of not seeing much bird activity in the forested area (save for a couple of Fantails), we decided to call it a day.

A satisfactory morning of birding.



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