We were five birders from Ontario, Canada – Hugh Currie (HC), Bob Curry (BC), Sandy Mackintosh (SM), Ross Mackintosh (RM) and Glenda Slessor (GS). After Palawan, we were joined by Dave Langford (DL) of Toronto. We are all retired and in our 60’s or close to it. Our leader was 32 year-old Nicky Icarangal, who had been assigned by Tim Fisher, and often local leaders joined us. Nicky has an Applied Biology degree. We arrived at 6:40 PM Manila time January 1 and checked into the very comfortable Best Western in downtown Manila. Our field guide throughout was the indispensable “Guide to the Birds of the Philippines”.
The tour was organized perfectly by Tim Fisher firstname.lastname@example.org an expatriate Englishman now living in Manila, and a Birdquest leader. His price of US$2050 included all hotels, internal transportation (ferries, inter-island air, vehicles), and leaders but not meals or drinks except at the Ecolodge where we were given excellent meals given the circumstances. Basically we followed the same tour offered by Ben King and Birdquest. The weather was mostly sunny with highs 25-28 Celsius. We had rain at Makiling, Banaue, Bacolod and PICOP but it seldom interfered with birding.
All of us except DL had to get a 3 month visa for C$86. Our personal costs averaged about U$10 per day for meals drinks and tips. Recommended tips are $6-8 from the group as a whole per day for the leader and in addition there were tips various bellhops, cooks who came to work at 3 AM, and waiters to be taken care of.
WHEN TO VISIT.
The best times for birding are January to March because then it is coolest and driest. In January not all the birds are singing and by late March it is getting pretty warm. There should be little rain anywhere at this time except southern Mindanao. A possible disadvantage to January was the fact that no-one had birded in December so stakeouts were few and the Great Philippine Eagle nest had not yet been found. Also the trails were still mucky.
The deforestation was least in Palawan where over 50% of the original forest remains intact and worst on Cebu where much less than 1% still stands. At PICOP in Mindanao, the forest and birds are going quickly and some sort of intervention is urgently needed. A few years ago the whole area was thrown open to squatters and hunters, although much forest is still there as of 2006. There seemed to be good forest in other areas to the south that we passed in our vans. Perhaps there is no road access or there is some other problem that prevents birding in these areas.
These ranged from basic tents or mattresses with sleeping bags on the floor of Ecolodge to palatial at Puerto Princesa and Cebu City. They were always the best available.
The Philippine peso is currently at 0.0227 to the Canadian dollar and the Canadian dollar is about 90% the value of the US dollar but rates of exchange were much more favourable to us in Manila than North America. US dollars are widely accepted and American Express is the most widely accepted credit card.
Tagalog is spoken on the two biggest islands but there are several languages still used on the Visayan islands so that Nicky occasionally could not understand what was being said there. Because of the lengthy American presence (until 1946 and military presence beyond), English is very widely spoken and most signs are in English.
Malaria is the biggest danger but is threatened only on Palawan and portions of Luzon and Mindanao. One member of Ben King’s tour contracted it in 2005 and our Palawan coleader, Arnel Mallari died of it in April 2006. Our group remained healthy with only occasional mild stomach upsets. Glenda sprained an ankle while trying to hop from rock to rock over a stream in Iwahig. Getting up every morning at 4 AM, walking in hill country, and owling each evening left us somewhat fatigued at times.
We inquired about buying recordings from the British Museum but decided they were too pricey at L2.50 each. Dave Beadle loaned us his personal tapes and Tim Fisher mailed us 8 cassettes so we had almost all the Philippine endemics. Bob Curry transferred them to mini compact discs then we returned the tapes to Tim when we got there. Unfortunately one of the 6 disks he created had failed for some reason. Also we had no player so we used a cassette player with a tape counter that we purchased in Lucena City in combination with Bob’s own mini speaker.
We birded six of the largest islands, these being in order, Luzon, Palawan, Negros, Bohol, Cebu, Mindanao and back to Luzon.
January 2 Mt. Makiling including the university area
January 3 Mt. Makiling again
January 4 Mt. Makiling in AM then Quezon NP (this took the place of Hamut in our original planning which had sounded too strenuous for us).
January 5 Quezon in AM then back to Manila.
January 6 We drive north with a 2-3 hour stop at Candaba marsh before proceeding to Benaue.
January 7 We bird Mt. Polis all day.
January 8 All day drive SW to Subic Bay.
January 9 We bird Subic in AM then to Manila and fly to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. We drive N to Sabang with numerous stops for shorebirds and various stakeout specialities.
January 10 We travel by motorized outrigger very early to the 2nd ranger station. We walk back from the first ranger station.
January 11We walk the trail uphill from our hotel then drive back to P. Princesa with several stops.
January 12 To Narra and a late afternoon boat ride to Rasa Island
January 13 We bird some hill country then Iwahig penal colony.
January 14 We bird the Zig Zag road and a shorebird lagoon, then to airport.
January 15 We fly to Negros then we proceed to our hotel near the Kanlaon mountains.
January 16 We fly to Cebu in order to take a large comfortable ferry to Bohol. We do owling in the evening.
January 17 We bird all day in the Chocolate Hills at Rajah Sikatuna park (near Carmen).
January 18 We bird Rajah Sikatuna in AM then ferry to Cebu.
January 19 We drive to the tiny village of Tabunan then walk an unbelievably muddy trail to the first lookout platform for Cebu Flowerpecker.
January 20 We travel all night by ferry to Cagayan, then by vans to the village of Dalwanyan then hike up to the Del Monte Ecolodge.
January 21 We get up early for the trek up to the first lookout on Mt. Kitanglad where we wait all day for the eagle in vain.
January 22 Back to the lookout – this time we get lucky.
January 23 Walk down to the village, then an all day drive to Bislig via Davao, arriving at 7PM.
January 24-27 Birding PICOP. Various locations for Celestial and Short-crested Monarch, Silvery Kingfisher etc. See map.
January 28 Back to Davao then flight to Manila
January 29 We fly to Taiwan for a birding visit (see my write-up on the Birding in Taiwan website).
ZARDO’S MAP OF PICOP
January 2. After mostly unsuccessful attempts at sleep due to jetlag, we set out for Mt. Makiling which is only an hour or two from Manila. Shortly after starting up the hill, we found a huge flowering tree which gave us many species over the next three days. In it the first day we saw our first Stripe-headed Rhabdornis – a new family for us all. Others at this spot included Philippine Falconet, Philippine Coucal, Pygmy and Uniform Swiftlets, Dollarbird, Coppersmith Barbet, Flaming Sunbird and Yellow-wattled Bulbul. Higher up we encountered our only Island Thrush. We went down to the campus where we found Indigo-banded Kingfisher. We succeeded in finding the bizarre looking Scale-feathered Malkoha. At the end of the day we watched a dirt road between two wet fields and saw Spotted Buttonquail and Plain Bush-hen. I got a glimpse of what may have been a Small Buttonquail.
January 3. We birded Makiling again seeing our first Philippine Serpent-Eagle. A female Violet Cuckoo visited our favourite tree also Koel, Purple Needletail(HC,GS),eventually a pair of Spotted Kingfishers, a Luzon Hornbill, a pair of Greater Flamebacks, Blackish Cuckoo-shrike, Black-and-white Triller, many Ashy Minivets, a pair of Black-naped Monarchs seen by a few of us, our first Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, and a total of 4 Sulphur-billed Nuthatches appeared on the trail. Sunbirds seen were Plain-throated, Olive-backed and Lovely. .
January 4. We birded Makiling again in the AM then took another comparatively short drive to Quezon NP with a stop to buy a cassette player. At Makiling we had both Yellow-breasted and Black-chinned Fruit-Doves and a flock of Elegant Tits and at a nearby wooded park, both Scale-feathered and Red-crested Malkohas. At Quezon we found both Arctic and Yellow-throated Warblers.
January 5. Back to Quezon where we found a total of 5 Barred Honey-Buzzards. We got the first of several fleeting looks at an Emerald Dove. We saw our first Tarictic Hornbill, a Sooty Woodpecker, had a leisurely look at a juvenile Red-bellied Pitta, also a Gray-headed Tailorbird and some White-breasted Woodswallows. We returned to Manila.
January 6. We took a long drive north broken only by a very pleasant lunch and a visit to Candaba marsh. At Candaba we had many species not seen elsewhere. These included Little Grebe, 12 Purple Herons, 15 Yellow Bitterns, 3 Cinnamon Bitterns, 50 or so Black-crowned Night-Herons, Garganey, Northern Pintail, Philippine Duck, Common Teal, Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup (the first for the Philippines in over 100 years but extremely common where we come from on Lake Ontario in winter), the globally threatened Baer’s Pochard (we couldn’t help liking this one better than the scaup because it was a lifer), Buff-banded Rail, Barred Rail, 6 White-browed Crakes, Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, 6 Pheasant-tailed Jacana, 4 Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plover, a snipe (Swinhoe’s or Pintail?), Common Tern, Island Collared Dove, 3 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, and 3 Reed-Warblers viz Streaked, Oriental and Clamorous. Other noteworthy sightings included 3 Eastern Marsh-Harriers, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, 30 Gray Herons, a Peregrine Falcon, and more than 100 Wood Sandpipers. On the dikes were Lesser Coucal and Pied Bushchat. Four of our species were code 4 according to Ben King. These were Streaked Reed-Warbler, Common Tern, Purple Swamphen and Eurasian Coot. A Curlew Sandpiper on the 10th was our other code 4.
January 7. We left our comfortable old English style Banaue Hotel very early to drive up Mt. Polis in the northern Luzon mountains. We tried for Luzon Scops-Owl but the trees had been cut at the known site. A pair of Common Buzzards flew and we saw our first of many Philippine Swiftlets here. High up were 2 Blue Rock-Thrushes. We heard several White-browed Shortwings on the upper trail past the statue but got only glimpses of this secretive bird. A Gray-capped (aka Mountain) Shrike was seen well. Here we also found Philippine Bush-Warbler (aka Luzon) and Long-tailed Bush-Warbler (aka Ground Warbler). There were a few Mountain Tailorbirds elusive as always and about 3 Mountain Leaf-Warblers. There were 2 Green-backed Whistlers, several Golden-crowned Babblers and some Chestnut-faced Babblers. Down at the village of Bay-yu, we scoped a distant Luzon Redstart and we see a pair of Red Crossbills – a lifer for Nicky and perhaps eventually a new species for us.
January 8. Whereas Candaba had given us our biggest one day species total at 65, today was the worst with only 21. We drove all day to the abandoned US naval base at Subic Bay in the Bataan Peninsula and checked in at the Day’s Inn Hotel. According to Nicky the whole area was blanketed in ash after Mt. Pinatubo erupted. Dave Beadle told us that many of the smaller birds perished at that time and have not yet recovered their numbers. We saw numerous fruit-bats. A truly bizarre looking spider on its web had white on top, black and yellow below and 2 long antenna-like projections behind. Macaques are frequently seen here.
January 9. Early morning on the trail to Hill 394 got us 20 Guaiabero, a sizable flock of Pompadour Green-Pigeons and a pair of handsome Whiskered Treeswifts all of which provided good scope views. A Golden-bellied Gerygone (aka Flyeater) was the only one of the trip. We dipped on the White-fronted Tit but luckily we were to get one later at PICOP. We saw our first Pied Triller. There were a few White-lored Orioles – another Subic specialty. We drove back to Manila.
January 10. We boarded an 8 AM flight to Puerto Princesa in Palawan. We were met by Arnel Mallari then taken first to White Beach near Nagtabon. On the walk in we saw up to 10 Brown-backed Needletails. At ocean’s edge we saw Pacific Golden-Plover and both sandplovers (often side by side). There were Gray-tailed Tattlers, Red-necked Stints and it was especially pleasing to find two Chinese Egrets among the Little Egrets. There was also a single Pacific (Eastern) Reef-Heron. A patch of woods beside the road yielded a beautiful Blue Paradise-Flycatcher and another copse gave us our first Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. Yet another Arnel stakeout spot gave us Copper-throated and Purple-throated Sunbirds plus Little Spiderhunter and Dark-throated Oriole. We heard our first Rufous-tailed Tailorbird but in subsequent days we would see them comparatively well. In late evening Arnel called up two Palawan Scops-Owls, we heard but didn’t see a Spotted Wood-Owl, we saw two Javan Frogmouths well and we encountered our first Large-tailed Nightjar. We checked in at the Frontier Resort where we are the only guests. In fact the staff came and left with us from Puerto Princesa. It was definitely a cut below other accommodations to date but it was the best in Sabang. In fact, this accommodation was quaint, with individual rustic cabins, the meals delicious, fresh, home-made, prepared and served in the main lodge/dining room, and we had it all to ourselves! It had all the faded grandeur of an old hunting lodge.
January 11. We took an outrigger boat ride at dawn to the second ranger station in idyllic St. Paul’s National Park. It was with much relief and pleasure that we learned of the continued presence of the male Palawan Peacock-Pheasant. Not only that, he had 2 females with him this year. The bird walked around our group several times at a distance of perhaps 3 meters offering wonderful photo ops. This bird was very high on all our wish lists. Also present were Tabon Scrubfowl attending their mounds and some very large monitor lizards. At the mouth of the Underground River only 100 m away we saw a Malaysian Plover on the sand. We went back to the first ranger station by boat then walked and birded back to the hotel from there. We were unlucky not to see Palawan Hornbill as another birder encountered them both days we were there. However, we were more successful with Blue-headed Racquet-tail and there was a Lesser Coucal in the marsh behind our cabin. German’s Swiftlets were flying near both ranger stations. We saw our first and only Stork-billed Kingfisher and spotted an Olive-winged Bulbul near the first ranger station. We finally got a good look at a Rufous-tailed Tailorbird and also the very striking and tape-responsive White-vented Shama. Here too, we found our first Palawan (aka Melodious) Babbler and also Striped Tit-Babbler. We dipped on Falcated Wren-Babbler. In open areas near the ocean we noticed a pair of White-bellied Munia on a lawn.
January 12. In the morning we took a trail uphill behind the resort. There was varied habitat including open areas and we added some new species. Flying above us was a Gray-faced Buzzard and another Changeable Hawk-Eagle. A Blue-eared Kingfisher was seen by some of the group (RM, SM) and we heard a Hooded Pitta calling. Also seen were Fiery Minivets and Asian Drongo-Cuckoo (HC, BC). We then drove to Puerto Princesa with a long stop on the way trying for Palawan Hornbill and possibly Palawan Cockatoo but it was all in vain except for a Thick-billed Green-Pigeon. We spent the night at a La Vista hotel in PP. GS and BC think it was here they were bitten by bedbugs. (130 on GS, 70 on BC)
January 13. At the Iwahig penal colony, extensive forest remains and, because Arnel worked there, several stakeouts were possible. Prisoners here are considered to be unlikely to attempt escaping and they seemed to roam fairly freely. Here we walked a trail which criss-crossed the Balsahan River. At one of these crossings, Glenda slipped and sprained her ankle and this bothered her for the next couple of weeks. A magnificent pair of Crested Serpent-Eagles soared overhead. A Sulphur-bellied Bulbul and a Hair-crested Drongo were additions to our list. In the afternoon we drove about 80 km to the SE to Narra and checked in to La Vista lodge. We boarded a boat in late afternoon for Rasa Island. Here the cockatoos are rigorously protected and we met the local conservationists. We stayed well offshore on the north side of the island where the cockatoos are supposed to roost after foraging on the mainland all day, but we saw only two or three. We later learn that Ben King’s group next month were to see none at all. After dark we tape in two Mantanani Scops-Owls, Arnel’s “old friends”, for crippling views. These were also missed by Ben King’s tour although overall they saw more species than us.
January 14. We drive to the airport area via Zig Zag road. At the zigzag we find a road crew and their camp which we feared had disturbed the nesting territory of the resident Palawan Flycatchers but luckily they were still present and one eventually responded to tape playback. In the background of the tape, a Palawan Blue-Flycatcher can barely be heard but one of this species appeared and lingered so we could appreciate its beauty at leisure. Next we went to a marshy lagoon area where we find a pair of Common Redshanks and another Striated Heron. Yellow Wagtails were common here. All told, we have seen 14 of the 16 Palawan endemics. We proceeded to the airport and flew to Negros. Our hotel was the Royal Amrei in Bacolod.
January 15. We drove a road which became increasingly rough, finally we had to walk up the trails of Kanlaon Mountain for a few hours. Some were fortunate to see a Slaty-breasted Rail. Bob spotted a Pechora Pipit walking the forest floor close by. The heavily streaked back distinguishes it from Olive-backed Tree-Pipit. We saw 3 White-winged Cuckoo-Shrikes, a species found only on Negros and Panay. We saw our only White-vented Whistlers of the trip here. We were relieved to find at least half a dozen Yellowish White-Eyes because they had eluded us on Luzon. Another new one was Philippine Oriole although we were to see many on Mindanao. We saw hundreds of fruit bats at another stop, a popular picnic and barbecue park where we went specifically to see Visayan Flowerepecker. Later we visited a butterfly emporium and a small zoo to see tarsiers in captivity, the only opportunity we had to see these tiny animals.
January 16. We flew to Cebu then took a ferry to Bohol arriving at 4 PM. From the ferry we saw quite a few Whiskered and White-winged Terns also two Great Crested Terns. We checked into our cabins at the Chocolate Hills guesthouse. The area has numerous smoothly rounded hills which bake to a brown colour in the summer. We birded late in the day seeing Rufous-lored Kingfisher and hearing Philippine Frogmouth.
January 17. We birded all day at Rajah Sikatuna Park. A pair of Chinese Goshawks was seen. Two Amethyst Brown-Doves were feeding in the valley below our cabins (missed by HC and BC). Black-faced Coucals were common here. Azure-breasted Pittas were calling from high in the trees at dawn but proved difficult to see. A Yellow-breasted Tailorbird was exceptionally difficult to tape out even for this notorious family. A Black-crowned Babbler was seen well by some of the group poorly by others. This forest is supposed to be good for Visayan Broadbill but we had no luck. We saw occasional pygmy-squirrels and a colugo was gliding.
January 18. We birded in the morning again at Rajah Sikatuna then took the ferry to Cebu in the afternoon. The Amethyst Brown-Doves were seen again, again HC and BC dipped. We heard then saw a lovely Philippine Trogon just after dawn later joined by its mate. Nearby along the road, the Azure-breasted Pitta was calling again. A Striated Wren-Babbler (aka Streaked Ground Babbler) was seen although with difficulty. Rain beginning about 10 AM curtailed our birding. At 4 PM we took a ferry to Cebu.
January 19. We departed our gorgeous Montebello hotel early for the village of Tabunon. We were assigned a local guide named Oking, and we struggled over a rather bad trail to the first lookout. However when we got there things began to look very promising indeed. There was a fruiting tree close by which was attracting many Red-keeled Flowerpeckers. Additionally our guides cleared away the nearby branches giving us excellent views in all directions. It was pleasant and relaxing and we settled in for a “Big Sit”. We saw lots of birds but to make a long story short – no Cebu Flowerpecker. Most groups seem to miss it if they allow only one day. There is another location now for this species but apparently it was not an option to go there. We saw a total of three Blue-crowned Racquet-tails. We studied a Brush Cuckoo along the trail. A pair of Streak-breasted Bulbuls, listed as nearly extinct, was a good consolation prize. Black Shamas, also a world rarity, responded vigorously to tapes here. Among the Red-keeleds there was a Crimson Sunbird. The Everett’s White-eyes here are a distinctive subspecies, rumoured to become a full species. The Balicassiao’s here have white bellies.
January 20. We took a very comfortable ferry for the overnight cruise to Cagayan in NW Mindanao. Then we were transported in two vans first to breakfast then on via Dalwangan to Damitan at the base of Mt. Kitanglad. Our suitcases were strapped onto horses and Glenda was given one to ride as her ankle was still bothering her. Then we began the 2 hour trek up this mucky trail. We arrived at our quarters at 1350 m which had the deceptively grand sounding name of the Del Monte Ecolodge. The two couples were given tents while the rest of us slept on the second floor on mattresses and in sleeping bags. Despite assurances to the contrary, there were quite a few mosquitoes at night. The meals were excellent and varied as provided by Carlito’s wife and there was good birding all around the lodge.
January 21. While there are several target birds here, the biggie is the Great Philippine Eagle which is the sine qua non of any Philippine birding trip. With its 74 inch wingspan, it is the largest eagle in the world. Accordingly we headed up another bad trail to the first lookout. There is considerable marginal farmland all the way up. Despite temptations all around, we were afraid to leave the spot because the eagle might appear at any moment (and be gone the next). It never did. Lunch was brought up to us. We saw our first Philippine Hawk-Eagle. At dusk we got superb looks at the newly described Bukidnon Woodcock and we heard Giant Scops-Owl close overhead. Philippine Nightjars were seen well thanks to Carlito’s skill. We saw our first Mindanao Hornbill. We found Paddyfield (aka Oriental) Pipit and Olive-backed (aka Olive-tree) Pipit, the latter on a late afternoon stroll. Hundreds of Eye-browed Thrushes went to roost late in the day. There were Philippine Leaf-Warblers along the trail also our first Black-and-cinnamon Fantails. Here too are Bicolored Flowerpeckers of the bicolor race. Small flocks of Short-tailed Glossy Starlings were seen from time to time. A leech sucked on the fingers of GS at supper but this was the only leech we were to see.
January 22. We, well all of us but one, got up well before dawn for another torturous slog up the hill to the first lookout. To make a long story short, Nicky finally spotted a distant Philippine Eagle at about 1 PM. While we watched the bird disappeared into the trees then reappeared with what appeared to be a monkey in its talons. Apparently it had come from another eagle territory beyond the hill to our right. Soon after we left the Philippines, Carlito found an eagle nest close to our lookout, below and to the left. Other new birds included White-bellied Woodpecker, Little Slaty Flycatcher, Island Flycatcher (aka Mountain Verditer), Rusty-crowned Babbler, some Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, a Gray-hooded Sunbird, White-bellied (Buzzing) and Fire-bellied Flowerpeckers, neat-looking Cinnamon Ibons, weird Apo Mynas, and a White-cheeked Bullfinch. Nicky saw a MacGregor’s Cuckoo-Shrike missed by the group but we really should have gone up to the second lookout to give ourselves a better chance for this one. We dipped on Bagobo Babbler. We found a nondescript 2-foot snake which was the only snake we will ever see on our tour.
January 23. We walked down to the village finishing with a triumphant baton-twirling march over the final 100 meters to the astonishment of the locals. We did the long drive to Bislig via Davao arriving at 7 PM.
January 24. Long before we reached Bislig in Surigao del Sur province, we were driving on awful roads destroyed by logging trucks through extensive forested areas. We checked in to the very comfortable Paper Country Inn. The PICOP (Paper Industry Corporation of the Philippines) area still has much forest but squatters now occupy perhaps half the land close to the roads. Our local guide here is to be Felizardo Goring, nicknamed Zardo and he is very good. We travelled every day in a rented jeepney. We encountered our first Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon. Glossy Swiftlets were common here. Likewise Scarlet Minivets and Yellowish Bulbuls were seen every day. For once I was the lucky one as a White-browed Tailorbird popped into view but only from my vantage point in response to tapes. We finally caught up to Oriental Magpie-Robin, which is actually a shama. A Chicagoan, birding with his guide, had located a site for Celestial and Short-crested Monarchs so of course we went there. We did see a Celestial although it was very high in the trees and we could hear Short-crested but were asked not to follow it into the woods. Here we saw our first Brown-Tit-Babblers. Another good one was the Blue Fantail. We were dazzled both by the Philippine Fairy-Bluebird and the incredibly beautiful Silvery Kingfisher. Of interest were the green flying lizards. At day’s end we went to the abandoned Bislig airport where an Australian Grass-Owl flopped over the reeds. Waterfowl were easily seen here including a flock of Wandering Whistling-Ducks and we saw Philippine Ducks again.
January 25. We had been hearing Red Junglefowl at various times during the tour but today we actually saw one. Nicky spotted a Metallic Pigeon but unfortunately couldn’t show it to us before it was gone. We saw the first of several Azure-rumped (aka Blue-backed) Parrots. Our second and last Violet Cuckoo of the trip was a beautiful male. We had delightful and fairly prolonged views of a pair of Wattled Broadbills. A Rufous-fronted Tailorbird finally showed itself after quite a bit of taping. A Chestnut- (aka Rufous-) tailed Jungle Flycatcher was seen by Zardo only. One Stripe-headed Rhabdornis proved to be unique for us at PICOP. Metallic-winged Sunbirds are numerous here.
January 26. We observed the recently split Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo thanks to Nicky’s alertness. We finally got good looks at a group of Writhed Hornbills feeding in a treetop. A Black-bibbed Cuckoo-Shrike was our first list entry for this species because we missed it in Luzon.
January 27. For our final day of birding we went back to PICOP. A Besra was new for our trip. We heard a Mindanao Hawk-Owl but it is still Philippine Hawk-Owl according to Clements. A little roadside feeding flock included at least two Pygmy Babblers. Very surprising was the lone White-fronted Tit which passed in front too quickly for the tail end of our group. This was the first sighting at PICOP in 7 years according to Tim. Another new one was the Olive-backed Flowerpecker. We ended the day by driving to Davao then flying to Manila.
Our species total was 317 and 133 endemics including heard only and leader birds. Our leader, Nicky Icarangal, worked diligently and exhaustively to find us all the birds we saw. As previously mentioned our sound equipment was of poor quality, and in spite of this impediment, he was able to hear, find, and show us these notoriously difficult, skulking, cryptic birds. His perseverance and determination always overcame our tiredness. As North American birders, we are perhaps insensitive to the challenges of birding where each animal knows it is a potential meal; Nicky made the difference between an excellent trip and what could have been a most disappointing one.