Birdingpals Trip Report
Trip Report Mt. Palay-Palay National Park, Ternate, Cavite, Phillipines – April 10, 2004
by Birdingpal Mike Lu
CJ David, Ana Maria Gonzales, Mike Lu, Mark Villa, Jon Villasper
by Ana Maria Gonzales
by Mark Villa
The trip to Mirant was postponed for the nth time, so WBCP president Mike Lu organized an instant birding activity to one of the club's fave bird haunts - Mt. Palay-Palay.
It was also an opportunity for birder CJ David to take video footage for a possible entry to the Moonrise Film Festival.
Not too many birders aspired for video stardom, so it was a motley group of hard-core members that headed out to Palay Palay at about 4 am. It was a rare appearance for
Jon Villasper whose birding trips are now few and far between. WBCP uberguide Mark Villa, fresh from whale watching in the Babuyan Islands, joined at the last minute. I wanted
to see if I can put in a few more species in my life list as an aspiring hardcore birder.
7:30 am - It was unusually warm for that time of the day and for me, a little too quiet. I wasn't feeling too optimistic - we'd passed a few burnt out patches along the road,
and the forest seemed drier, less lush than the last time I saw it a couple of months ago.
Jon had also talked about his bird jinx, so that also made me a little afraid. I had some beginner's bird luck, so I crossed my fingers and hoped my pixie dust and good thoughts,
the combination of Mike's ever cheerful optimism, Mark's dogged determination and CJ's rare bird talisman would overcome Jon's famous jinx.
First bird was a Crested Serpent-eagle perched on a tree across the ravine. No wonder there weren't too many birds. They didn't want to be breakfast.
The guys started to walk faster down to the end of the road. "Hornbill !" exclaimed Mark. The scope was quickly set up, and there they were - two Rufous Hornbills, an immature
and an adult, playing hide and seek on the tree. A lifer for me. Suddenly, the tarictic I saw the last time seemed, uh, diminutive.
Then things started to happen quite fast. I had a sense that we were "speed-birding," because the guys seemed to be pointing to a new bird every few seconds. The scope was
trained on a Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, another lifer! It flew away, but on a nearby tree were two Green Imperial-pigeons, looking very regal. They sat around for what seemed
like an eternity. They were soon joined by a Luzon Tarictic Hornbill who looked like he had too much to drink the night before, so scraggly were his feathers. A far cry from the
tarictic that posed for us a few weeks back during a club trip.
Still, it was such a thrill, looking at these three birds so close to us and close to each other. As Jon said, "parang zoo" (similar to being in a zoo).
At this point, we relaxed and started to eat our "baon" (snacks). The birds weren't moving so we had a staring contest with them.
Another bonus was we were able to determine the relative size of the imperial-pigeons. Either they were huge, or that particular tarictic was a runt.
Things got a little slower, we saw a Balicassiao, blue back shining in the sunlight as it flew. Raptors circled overhead. The usual Brahminy Kite and serpent-eagles.
The guys ignored the numerous Philippine Bulbuls clamoring for our attention. A male Blue Rock-thrush perched on a nearby, er, rock. A Stripe-sided Rhabdornis caught our
attention, then quickly disappeared. Then for a long time, there didn't seem to be anything except for the occassional swiftlet, bulbuls and the insistent percussive call of
the Coppersmith Barbet.
I knew we'd reached a low when Jon started to train the scope on a flying lizard, although that too quickly disappeared. We were fascinated by the butterflies, though, and wished
Lydia was with us to help identify them. CJ named one"the serpent eagle butterfly" because it had similar markings.
Mike decided to move to another spot where they spotted a barbet perched on a particular tree. From there we had a spectacular panoramic view of the Palay-Palay range, sadly
noting a few bald spots damaged by erosion and what seemed to be kaingin.
We were immediately rewarded by the sight of four Rufous Hornbills in flight, in cross formation. There were two adults and two immature birds. Then, another lull. By this time,
we had decided that we should learn more about butterflies, trees and reptiles. Two flying lizards were chasing each on a tree, yellow "chin-wings" flapping, prodding us onto
visions of creating the greatest nature documentary. CJ trained his camera on the two, saying, "I hope they start mating...." I think it was Mark or Jon who said, "No, a raptor
will suddenly swoop down and eat them." So much sex and violence, so early in the morning...
After a while, Jon gave us a lecture on slow-moving magma and the eroded rock-face of the road. Feeling that no more birds were to be seen, we moved on to the DENR station and
hiked through the rocky stream where we were greeted by the sounds of tailor birds. Lots of butterflies and a glimpse of the Red-crested Malkoha.
By 11 am, it was quite warm, so Mike decided to move on. But of course, as usual, he brought us to the falconet perch, a favorite. We were not disappointed. There were three
Philippine Falconets just sitting around and staring at us. One of them transferred to another tree, and we found out why. It was daintily devouring what seemed to be a cicada.
We also figured that a nearby post must have had its nest, because when Mark decided to investigate, a falconet flew quickly near it, quite suspicious of us humans. We noticed
that CJ and Jon had stopped back about a 100 meters from the falconet perch. CJ had spotted Whiskered Treeswifts on the electric line! One of them sat there for what seemed like
an eternity, and we watched, mesmerized by its flying white eyebrows and whiskers.
As usual, we could not resist commenting on the bird. I suggested having a costume party where the birders can come as their favorite bird. The whiskered swift would be such a
cool costume, looking as it is like a character from Star Wars. Jon would come as Philippine Bulbul... (Ask him how he'll do it), Anyway, we knew that with the Whiskered Treeswift,
our day was indeed COMPLETE. We headed back down to the Cavite lowlands, feeling blessed by another morning of great birding - sightings of Rufous Hornbills to Whiskered Tree
Swifts were enough to send us to paroxysms of delight, providing our "bird -fix" for the week.
Oriental Honeybuzzard - 1
Brahminy Kite - 5+
Crested Serpent-eagle - 2
White-eared Brown-dove - heard
Black-chinned Fruit-dove - heard
Green Imperial-pigeon - 2
Common Emerald Dove - 2
Scale-feathered Malkoha - heard
Red-crested Malkoha - 1
Philippine Coucal - heard
Glossy Swiftlet - common
Whiskered Treeswift - 2
Spotted Wood Kingfisher - heard
Luzon Tarictic Hornbill - 10+
Rufous Hornbill - 4, including 2 immature
Coppersmith Barbet - heard
Pygmy Woodpecker - heard
Greater Flameback - heard
Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike - 2
Yellow-vented Bulbul - 2
Philippine Bulbul - common
Balicassiao - 10+
Black-naped Oriole - 2
Stripe-headed Rhabdornis - 1
Blue Rock-thrush - 2
Yellow Wagtail - 1
Brown Shrike - 1
Coleto - 10+
Olive-backed Sunbird - heard
Red-keeled Flowerpecker - 2+
Pygmy Flowerpecker - heard