Just Luzon Things

My August trip back to SNA was a great success, and after that I took advantage of my remaining few weeks off before returning to school and work to properly relax for a bit. Of course, it was a whole three weeks, so it would be silly to think that I wouldn't get out once more to look for more birds while I wasn't busy eating as much chicken adobo and Bicol express as possible. 

Nikki and I took a weekend trip to Baguio on August 24, mostly to enjoy some mountain air and do some food tripping. We did spend an afternoon at Camp John Hay, one of the better birding spots in the city, where we went for a hike and saw some nice endemic birds, including a mixed flock with Elegant Tits, Blue-headed Fantails, Citrine Canary-flycatchers, and Sulphur-billed Nuthatches, the latter one of my favorite Philippine birds. I tried looking for Red Crossbills and Benguet Bush-warblers, but with no luck- the rain we ran into didn't help with that.

Elegant Tit

Sulphur-billed Nuthatch 
The trail in Camp John Hay

A very cute leaf beetle (Aulacophora sp.)

Lorquin's Satyr (Ptychandra lorquinii)

On my last week, we took a trip with Irene to Infanta, Quezon, probably the best place for a birding day trip out of Manila. My main targets were Luzon Scops-owl and Flame-breasted Fruit Dove, which I'd managed to miss or hear only on my many previous visits. We departed Manila at 2 in the morning to arrive at the birding site before sunrise, and we heard a Luzon Scops-owl calling almost as soon as we got out of the car. What followed was a frustrating hour of walking up and down the road and clambering up the steep hillsides in an effort to get a proper look at a scops-owl, while it displayed its talent for calling from only a few meters away without actually revealing itself. I finally got a decent look at one as it flew from one side of the road to the other, good enough to call it a lifer although I didn't get a picture.

The early morning was rather quiet, as Infanta so often is. We spent a while looking for Flame-breasted Fruit Dove, and while we heard it calling, it remained out of sight as it has every time I've tried for the damn thing. There were fewer mixed flocks than usual, so I wasn't able to add as many new birds to my year list as I'd hoped. One did come through with Blue-headed Fantails, Yellow-bellied Whistlers, and Lemon-throated Leaf Warblers, which was much appreciated. 

Blue-headed Fantail

Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler

Yellow-bellied Whistler

Probably the highlight of my morning was our very close encounter with an unusually tame Scale-feathered Malkoha, certainly one of the strangest and best-looking Philippine endemics. They're usually seen far away in the canopy or at awkward angles, but this one stayed at eye level for several minutes, letting me get my first good pictures of this species- nearly enough to make up for dipping on the fruit dove once again.

Scale-feathered Malkoha

The remainder of the morning was fairly quiet, although we also got unusually good looks at a Grey-backed Tailorbird, much more often heard than seen in Luzon. We also got good looks at a Tawny Grassbird, a female Flaming Sunbird (not quite as spectacular as the male), another mixed flock with Elegant Tits and Blue-headed Fantails, and a very cute Buzzing Flowerpecker. The best non-bird find of the morning was a pair of mating Pyrops polillensis, strange endemic lanternflies.

Grey-backed Tailorbird

Flaming Sunbird

Tawny Grassbird

Elegant Tit

Buzzing Flowerpecker

Some kind of large firefly

Pyrops polillensis

We left back to Manila in the early afternoon, and I spent the remaining afternoon and my final afternoon in the Philippines getting some rest and buying last-minute souvenirs. Returning to the Philippines after nearly a year felt like coming home, and I was incredibly lucky to have the month there that I did. If nothing else, it's nice to look back at as I suffer through yet another United States winter...


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