Philippines dating trip report
Oking guided us through a maze of cultivated plots along the forest edge, where we picked up Magnificent Sunbird, Philippine Magpie-Robin, Pygmy Swiftlet, and the endemic, red-headed subspecies of Coppersmith Barbet.
Once we entered the forest the birding became challenging due to a combination of dense vegetation, low light, and treacherous footing as we followed the overgrown trail over slippery, jagged limestone karst.
Although we spent an hour or more watching the canopy from this vantage point we were not lucky enough to see that species (Oking claimed to have last seen one in the fall of 2017, Nicky not since 2006…), but we did come away with close views of Elegant Tit, Everett’s White-eye, Philippine Coucal, and the ubiquitous Red-keeled Flowerpeckers.
Black Shama was our primary quarry as we made the descent back into the forest, and it was not long before we had one at point-blank range, too close to raise the bins.
Nicky carries an awesome 95-mm Swarovski scope at all times, which gave me much better views of many species than would otherwise have been possible since I had not had room in my luggage to bring my scope (packing a single 20-kg bag for a professional conference, birding trip, and post-conference SCUBA diving was a logistical challenge that necessitated a few sacrifices! And traveling and birding with a male companion (usually two, as a local guide accompanied us at most sites) gave me a welcome sense of security I would not have had birding on my own in this country.
The standard field guide to Philippine birds is Kennedy et al.’s “Guide to the Birds of the Philippines” which was published in 2000 and is now sorely out of date.
They offered to put together a 5-day tour for me, arranging all transportation, accommodations and the services of their lead guide, Nicky Icarangal.
Although this cost more than I had originally anticipated spending, I was very glad in the end that I had taken this easy route, and saw far more than I would have had I attempted to visit either site on my own.
Each of the medium-sized islands in this region hosts one or more endemic species, and some of the more widespread Philippine species can be found more easily here than on the three main islands (Luzon, Mindanao and Palawan) that are the focus of most birding tours.
Many of the species resulting from recent multiway splits (e.g., 7-way split of Philippine Boobook, 5-way split of Tarictic Hornbill) are not depicted, and the taxonomic affiliations and common names of a number of species have also changed, in a few cases drastically.
The pocket-sized photographic guide “Birds of the Philippines” by Tanedo et al.
This is a pleasant, older establishment with nice grounds, and I spent some of the afternoon looking for birds in the hotel gardens, picking up a few of the common Philippine endemics such as Red-keeled Flowerpecker, Philippine Pied-Fantail, Philippine Bulbul, and the ubiquitous Gray-rumped Swiftlets (recently split from Glossy Swiftlet).
Nicky met me at the hotel for dinner, and we reviewed the logistics for the next day’s trip to Tabunan forest. for the one hour drive to Tabunan and our rendezvous with local guide, Oking, whose house is at the start of the trail into the forest.