I ended 2016 with no birding at all. December was extra busy with the preschool’s Christmas program, my sister’s wedding, and a quick trip to Cebu to celebrate my grandfather’s 95th birthday. As 2017 began, I felt the first few days of the new year flying by and I was desperate to go out and bird.
I was really grateful for the chance to go birding in Palo Alto Residential and Leisure Farms in Baras, Rizal. Together with Sirs Chin , Chris, and Nes , we entered the private subdivision just before 7AM. We drove slowly into the property and were immediately greeted by a couple of Whiskered Treeswifts perched on the electric wires.
From both sides of the road, birds were starting to call and forage in the trees: Philippine Bulbuls, Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, Elegant Tits, and Olive-backed Sunbirds. I was hoping for the Luzon Tarictics to show (they have been seen and photographed on earlier trips there) but I wasn’t so lucky. I did get to see both Rough-crested and Scale-feathered Malkohas in the same cluster of trees! A very tall and verrrrrry far away cluster of trees =P
We stayed for a while in that stretch of road and forest and more birds came out as the morning got warmer. A Coleto perched very high and called loudly and a couple of Balicassiao flew across the road.
The road was almost deserted save for the occasional car or motorbike that would pass. One side of the road had a residential area which were made up of a cluster of kubos (huts) and the other side was still forested.
We left the area and drove around to check out the area where Chris saw some Mugimaki Flycatchers on a previous trip. We waited a bit in the area but no flycatchers made an appearance. Some kids and teenagers on bikes were in the area and some of them were interested to see what we were doing. They stayed for a chat and shared about the birds they would see in their property which was a block away from where we were. Even if the flycatchers didn’t show, we did see a small flock of Eye-browed Thrushes but they didn’t come out for any photos. Story of my life =P A Grey Wagtail did show and posed a bit for a photo.
We made our way near the entrance to Palo Alto and checked out the flowering African Tulips by the rotunda. A lot of birds were feasting on the bright orange blooms of the trees: Yellow-vented Bulbuls, Colasisi, and Olive-backed Sunbirds.
It was already noon and we decided to have lunch. We agreed to make another quick drive before leaving and found ourselves in another birdy area! Some Blue-throated Bee-eaters were perched very low by the sidewalk and an Ashy Minivet even joined them!
Some Philippine Pygmy Woodpeckers also flew into the low trees as well as a Coppersmith Barbet. The boys decided to follow the barbet when it flew further down the road and I stayed by the car, enjoying the views of the shy Philippine Drongo Cuckoo that appeared.
While waiting, I was surprised when a raptor flew just above the car!! It was gliding so low I couldn’t take any photos as it filled my camera’s LCD screen as a blur! It followed the road and turned and disappeared at the bend. I tried to spot it but couldn’t see it anymore. Boo! I rushed to the boys and told them about it and, of course like any good friends, teased my that I was just making it up =P
We all got in the car and on our last loop, we spotted the raptor! It was a Philippine Hawk-Eagle and it wasn’t flying as low as when I saw it, but it was low enough for us to see that it had something in its talons! I wasn’t able to get a very clear shot but I’m happy we were all able to see it!
We ended our morning on that exciting note and left Palo Alto to have lunch. We went to a lovely little restaurant along the highway called Park, Rest, Dine which served good bulalo and calamares and also excellent unlimited brewed coffee. It was a short, simple, but very satisfying birding morning to start a new year exploring a new site.