The Philippines, with no less than 180 endemic bird species and some of the most threatened on earth, must surely be the priority country to visit for a world lister. Birding the Philippines is hard work and perfect logistics and timing is surely the key for success. We therefore ask Tim Fisher for planning and organizing all the logistics as we wanted to visit 6 islands within 21 days. We did have great luck as very few unexpected events occurred which is a real performance considering the political, social and economical situation of this country. NPA (New People Army) is still active but we did not encountered any troubles while there, neither did we face any disease and Filipinos are friendly. No special vaccination certificate is required, although vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended. On Palawan, Malaria is widespread and it is advisable to take mosquitoes repellant as well as adequate drugs.
Philippine Frogmouth © Marc Ameels
I would strongly advice to contact Tim Fisher (firstname.lastname@example.org). For our 3 weeks itinerary, we paid him 2.175 US $ / person. The price included all accommodations (2 rooms), all transport with drivers, all domestic airfares (incl. taxes), guide fees and camp staff costs, ferry to Cagayan (incl. 2 staterooms), boats in Sabang and Rasa, all permits, food and drink at Kitanglad camp.
A field guide to the birds of South-east Asia. Craig Robson. 2000. New Holland
A guide to the birds of the Philippines. Kennedy, R.S., Gonzales, P.C., Dickinson, E.C., Miranda Jr., H.C. & Fisher, T.H. 2000. Oxford University Press. ESSENTIAL
Where to watch birds in Asia. N Wheatley. 1996. Christopher Helm.
Birdwatching Trip Report - THE PHILIPPINES – January – April 2003 Sam Woods, Rob Hutchinson,& Andy Adcock OBC – Oriental Birding and Conservation (N° 30 at http://www.orientalbirdclub.org/sales/tripreports.html ) - ESSENTIAL
Birds of tropical Asia 3 by Jelle Sharringa. This 3d Edition has many endemics of the Philippines. ESSENTIAL
9 tapes borrowed from Tim Fisher.
Many thanks to Tim Fisher and his sun Alphy for their excellent job as well as to the guides (Carlito, Danny, Zardo, Oking, Chito) and the drivers. Many thanks to Ward Vercruysse and Georges Wagner for help and for the very usefull recordings they provided.
Difficult to settle as many endemics are hard to find and often localised on only one place. Therefore, keep in mind that you need a lot of time for connecting islands and/or places. Palawan surely deserves more time than what we did as well as Mt Makiling.
Palawan Peacock-pheasant © Marc Ameels
We arrived on sunday, February 17th with KLM at around 11.00 am at international airport, met our driver and went directly to Mount Makiling near Los Banos. We checked at our Hotel, had a short lunch and headed to the University Campus where we soon encountered our first target : 2 Indigo-banded Kingfishers. Along the stream we had our first Colasisi, Philippine Bulbul (very common), Philippine Coucal, Philippine Woodpecker, Plain-throated Sunbird, Pied triller, Strip-sided Rhabdornis, cinnamon bittern (the single of the trip). At the Dairy Husbandry both Spotted andBarred Button-quails were easy to see on the track. Other birds there included Striated Grassbird, Oriental Pipit, Ashy Minivet, Brown Shrike (very common throughout). We decided to continue the “buttonquails” track of the Husbandry which leads to the lower slopes of Mt Makiling with some good birds : Asian brown flycatcher (single of the trip), Balicassio, and Scale-feathered Malkoha. We tried at night for Scops owl just in front of the Trees Hostel without success. We celebrated our first night at the thermal swimming pool of the hotel : great sensations !
On Monday 18th, early morning we met our friends, Ward Vercruysse and Jurgen Dewolf , and together decided to bird along the 8 km road leading to the summit, and, despite a rainy weather we found some good birds : a nice female Philippine Trogon, a taped-out White-browed Shama (showing very close), Gray-backed Tailorbird (difficult), Lemon-throated Warbler, Blue-headed Fantail, , Black-naped Monarch, Greater Flameback, Elegant Tit (common), Sulpur-billed Nuthatch, Bicolored and Buzzing Flowerpeckers, Yellow-bellied Whistler and a Stripe-sided Rabdornis. We heard , at least 2 Luzon Bleeding-hearts but were unable to locate it. On our way back a party of Luzon Hornbills delighted us as well as both Scale-feathered and Red-crested Malkoha. At night we tried the Philippine Hawk-Owl just in front of the Trees Lodge entrance and obtained immediate response with 2 birds showing very well.
On Tuesday 19th, we started at dawn along the same road in search of the Ashy Thrush that we barely glimpsed the previous morning. The best way to find this shy thrush is by walking slowly and scanning the road at each turn. We logged one sitting on the middle of the road where there is a red “T32” painted on the crash barrier. The bird stayed for more than 2 minutes allowing excellent views and poor distant shots. We continued to walk along the road for quite a while up to the food stalls and added some new birds : White-eared Dove, a skulking Pechora Pipit, Striped Flowerpecker, and Flaming Sunbird. On the track heading right towards a hot spring, we enjoyed a brilliant Red-bellied Pitta exploring the forest floor. On our way back we spotted a distant Oriental hobby, an immature Rufous-bellied Eagle, more Red-crested Malkohas, a couple of Black-and-white Trillers, a dozen Ashy Minivets, a Handsome Sunbird, and finally a nice Lowland White-eye in a mixed flock of bulbuls and Rhabdornis. We said Good-bye to our friends at noon (and missed by a quarter a Brown-headed Thrush ! Aargh !) checked out the hotel (Schrenk’s Bittern from the terrace) and drove to the Manila Centennial Airport for a flight at 4h30 to Bacolod (Negros)
We were picked up by the driver at 3.30 am on the 20th to Mambucal where we started up Mount Canloan. Birding was slow and birds difficult to see as usual but we soon heard the Visayan race of White-browed Shama (another Soon To be Split) which performed nicely after as short play-back. This was followed by a long hike to the upper slopes with very few birds (our first Philippine Serpent-Eagle, 1 Oriental Hobby, a couple Purple Needletails and 1 Arctic Warbler). The top of the hill was better with a fruiting tree full of birds : Coleto, Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, and Yellowish White-eyes but not a sniff of our major targets except for a White-winged Cuckoo-shrike distantly calling ! We suddenly heard several Blue-headed Fantails the core species of flocks often associated with our main target : the Flame-templed Babbler. We played the song and it responded immediately. Adrenaline level was high ! Unfortunately the flock was rapidly moving, the vegetation very dense at that particular place and the babbler eluded us ! So close for nothing. After this frustrating moment, we decided to continue our way further searching for the Cuckoo-shrike. After half an hour of searching we finally logged a female White-winged Cuckoo-shrike high up in the canopy. We enjoyed great views of one couple together with a Philippine Oriole. We walked down, back to Mambucal (Philippine Leaf-Warbler along the track) for a delicious dinner at the local restaurant while looking at hundreds of roosting Golden-crowned Bats, the biggest fruit-eating bat of the world ! After lunch we decided to look for the endemic race of red-keeled Flowerpecker, also called by some authors the Visayan Flowerpecker (Dicaeum haematostictum) and we soon had a brilliant male just behind the bridge close to the restaurant. Frustrated by the babbler, we walked up the upper slopes of Mt Canloan again for another chance of seeing this jewel, but the afternoon was very quiet with very few birds (the only new bird was a Tawny Grassbird). Before dusk, during our last minutes up there we tried “a last chance” for the Flame-templed Babbler at the exact same location where we missed it this morning and to our great surprise, one bird responded immediately and we were lucky to locate 2 birds this time ! A great moment. Even our guide confessed us he had never seen it late in the afternoon. The long slippery walking back in the complete darkness and facing a torrential downpour was something ! Back to the hotel at Bacolod we celebrated our obstinacy crowned with success !
The next day was a long transfer, with a flight to Cebu at 9.00 am followed by a supercat Ferry at 12 noon to Tagbilaran, Bohol, with en route only Grey-tailed Tattler, Oriental Skylark and Oriental Practincole as new species for the trip. We arrived at the Rajah Sikatuna National Park (RSNP) late afternoon and birded the Steere’s Trail with our guide Chito; we soon encountered our first Black-faced Coucal, Blue Fantail and Samar Hornbill. We taped-out a gorgeous Steere’s Pitta, one of my favourite one so far, and ended the day with a very cooperative couple of Philippine Tarsiers (allowing great shots!), a rare sight of this critically endangered mammal. At night, We heard Philippine Scops and Frogmouth but none came close enough in spite of tiresome efforts.
Steere’s Pitta © Marc Ameels
On Friday 22th, we started at 4.00 am from the Chocolate Hills Guest-house for a very quiet birding morning with only a glimpse at an Amethyst dove, a Samar Hornbill, an Everett’s White-eye, a beautiful male Trogon, our first Metallic-winged Sunbird of the trip, and a female Red Junglefowl. Luckily, at the junction of the Brahminy and Tarictic trail, in a mixed flock we spotted a couple of Visayan Broadbills among Whistlers, Fantails and Bulbuls. We enjoyed very close views of these terrific birds ! We lunched at the swimming pool (Chinese Goshawk and Purple-throated Sunbird) and headed to look for the Silvery Kingfisher afterwards. We enjoyed great views of this secretive kingfisher along a stream. I also flushed a female Schrenk’s Bittern in the paddies. We ended the day at the Magsaysay clearings with 2 nice Great-eared Nightjars and a Flying Lemur at dusk but nothing else. As the previous day, we desperately broke our teeth at both calling Philippine Frogmouth and Nightjar (and Scops-Owl!) but nothing would show up !
Saturday 23th was our last morning at RSNP; we sticked again at the Steere’s Trail for another try at our main targets. After another slow early morning birding with very few new birds (Black-capped Babbler, only for Thomas), frustratingly listening to invisible Tailorbirds and Ground Babblers, we finally logged a party of 2 Streaked Ground-Babblers and one Yellow-throated Tailorbird ! What a relief (and a deception for Thomas who decided to give up with these suckers and birded the Brahminy trail instead). Back to the Nature centre, while waiting for the Van, a Rufous-lored Kingfisher started to call from the forest. We played the tape and a beautiful male crossed the clearing and perched in full view. A perfect ending ! We left at 1.00 pm and proceeded to the supercat Terminal, took the ferry to Cebu and checked in at the Montebello hostel for one night.
Sunday 24th was devoted for the “Cebu platform birding’” at the 150 ha only Cebu forest left at Tabunan, with the local guide Oking. The Cebu Shama was indeed very easily taped-in, but the Cebu Flowerpecker is another matter ! We heard it, Michel had a glimpse at a bird chased by a Red-keeled Flowerpecker and that was it for the day !!! Some compensation came into the form of the recently rediscovered cebu race of Streak-breasted Bulbul (2 ex.), a close-by showy Rusty-breasted cuckoo, a charismatic Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove, a Crimson Sunbird, cooperative Everett’s White-eyes, Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher and White-vented Whistler (H0). We left the spot with an impression of missing something….We returned to Cebu and caught the Overnight Ferry to Cagayan (Mindanao) for a very comfortable night in “Presidential” cabins.
On Monday 25th, we arrived (late) at Cagayan at around 9.00 am (scheduled at 6.00 am); unfortunately our driver was not there ! We will understand later that he was waiting incomprehensively at the Airport ! I would therefore advice, while you are there, to check regularly with Tim or his sun for the logistics ! We took a taxi and proceeded to Dalwangan in Bukidnon at the foothills of Kitanglad Mountains and walked up the mountain (about 1 and ½ hour walk) and met our guide Carlito Gaimara for the next two days. The weather was rainy but the bushes around the lodge were full of birds : Cinnamon Ibons, Mountain White-eye, Eyebrowed Thrush, Arctic Warbler, Moutain-Verditer Flycatcher, Little Pied Flycatcher, Black-and-Cinnamon Fantail, Yellow-bellied Whistler, Olive-capped Flowerpecker, Buzzing Flowerpecker, Long-tailed Shrike, and Short-tailed Starling among others. At dusk, Carlito showed us 2 Bukidnon Woodcocks at the clearings next to the Lodge and afterwards we searched hard for a calling Philippine Frogmouth and, after about 1 hour chasing, ended with great views of one sitting close.
Tuesday 26th was a rainy day, again. We started early for a long climbing to the Eagle watch-point. On the way up we logged a few targets : Mcgregor’s Cuckoo-shrike, White-cheeked Bullfinch, Gray-hooded Sunbird, Mugimaki Flycatcher, the apo race of sulphur-billed Nuthatch, and Brown Tit-Babbler. The rest of the day was an hopeless waiting for the “big show”, and a tiny consolation in the form of Philippine Cuckoo-Dove and 4 Mountain Racquet-tails flying. On our way back, a couple of brilliant Red-eared Parrotfinches and Rufous-headed Tailorbird was a nice reward for our patience. At dusk we had decent views of sitting and flying Philippine Nightjar. The following search for Giant Scops-Owl took us along into the deep valley with only distant calling birds. Nothing really responded to our useless taping attempts (what a damned sucker !).
Wednesday 27th started as the previous day, with a long walk to the Eagle Watch-point, with nice views of taped-in White-browed Shortwing. This time, we soon observed a perched Philippine Eagle from a 900 m long distance. After a few minutes the bird took off and disappeared into the deep forest ! That was it for the star bird of the trip ! The eagle is not guaranteed as it can stay for hours sitting on a branch and it is not nesting at the moment. The young bird, born in 2005, is still hanging around, and the adults are regularly seen but patience and a bit of luck are necessary. We stayed there up to noon in the hope of better views but nothing happened…
The afternoon was devoted to the steep climbing on the Kitanglad mountain slippery slopes in search of many endemics. We scored a tremendous list in just 2 hours : Apo myna, Apo Sunbird, Mountain Shrike, a gorgeous Blue-capped Kingfisher, Long-tailed Bush-Warbler (1 seen), more sitting Mountain Racquet-tails , Mindanao White-eye, the Kitanglad race of Island Thrush, Moutain Warbler, and I had a glimpse on a Mindanao Bleeding-heart flushed by Carlito preceding me. Excellent ! We decided to search for the Bagobo Babbler, probably one of the most elusive bird I ever experienced in my live. We searched for almost 3 hours listening to its highly pitched song and I had a three seconds view of a bird hopping on the ground just a few feet from me. Thomas and Michel enjoyed better views just before dusk. The night was again devoted for Giant Scops-Owl. We gave up on this one.
The next day started with a White-browed Shortwing hopping on the trail and a beautiful Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove followed by a depressing 9 hours driving to Bislig noticing how far deforestation has eradicated the entire forest. Unbelievable ! Cold beers and dinner was the best event of the day.
At dawn, Friday 29th Our Guide Zardo picked us at the Hotel heading to the picop concession. Logging is still going on (will the Passover Island’s story be repeated again ?) and we had to drive a long way before eventually reaching some decent “remains of forests”. In addition, Birds are heavily hunted and therefore very shy. We stopped en route at dawn for owling but again had no luck with very poor views of a Brown Boobook and even less of a very close-by calling Philippine Frogmouth. The next stop was more productive with our first targets : Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, Philippine Leafbird, a party of Mindanao Hornbills, White-bellied Woodpecker, Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shrike, a couple of Naked-faced Spiderhunters and a Rufous-lored Kingfisher. We continued our way and birded along the roadside and on a track in degraded forests with some nice sightings : a Red-bellied Pitta on the track, Yellowish Bulbul, Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo, Philippine Falconets (common here), Violet Cuckoo, Philippine Needletail, Yellow-wattled Bulbul. We finally taped-out a stunning Steere’s Pitta allowing prolonged views and superb shots. Further, we logged a bird flock holding one couple Short-crested Monarchs with blue Fantails. The rest of the day was very quiet with a lone but cooperative White-browed Tailorbird as the only new bird. On the way back, we stopped at the less and less reliable “Racquet-tail stake-out”. We stayed almost an hour taping but nothing was responding, except for a lured Plaintive Cuckoo well watched for a while . After a long wait we finally logged a silent Blue-crowned Racquet-tail at the top of a dead tree. All parrots are difficult to see now as most have been trapped for cage bird market. The roost of Azure-rumped Parrot no longer exists and the species has not been seen by Zardo for more than a year. After a quiet mid-afternoon birding enjoying a couple of shy Rufous Hornbill along the track, We decided to spend the rest of the day on the Airstrip of Bislig Airport where we flushed Blue-breasted Quails, had distant Philippine Duck, five Wandering Whistling-Ducks, White-browed Crakes, Yellow Bittern, Oriental Reed Warbler, and finally the ghostly Grass Owl !! We celebrated this memorable day at the local Janet nightclub.
Mantanani Scops Owl © Marc Ameels
Saturday 1st March started again very early at 4 am heading directly to Road 42, undoubtedly the best spot still holding good forests. The first part is steep on 50 meters, turns right, and becomes flat for a long portion. Mindanao Bleeding-heart has been seen by different birders the last months around the turn (on the track and slopes right from the track). I would suggest scanning throughout the way as often as possible as bleeding-hearts are sometimes seen walking along the trail. After about 1 km you enter another valley (left of the track) holding Celestial Monarch. We did see one distantly singing at the top of a tree after more than 1 hour searching. Short-crested Monarchs are surprisingly not so scarce, but elusive with many contacts and finally brilliant views. We also spotted our first (and only) Philippine Hawk-Eagle of the trip, and the Mindanao race of little spiderhunter among others. Philippine Tailorbird was heard a few time but not much responsive to our Luzon race recordings. We strolled back slowly with Rusty-crowned and Pygmy Babblers on the way together with more Short-crested Monarch, and a Ruddy Kingfisher. We ended the day on road 40 (good for pigeons!) enjoyed a few new ticks such as Guaiabero, Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike spotted more Philippine Needletails our first Asian Koel of the trip, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove, Black and White Triller, and heard Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon hidden on a treetop. On the drive back a four-bit byte fly-by Whrited Hornbills was a nice sight.
We had an early start on Sunday 2nd , a long quiet walk on road 42 due to heavy rain with a lone Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon to add to our tally. A Brilliant Metallic-winged Sunbird and Pigmy Flowerpeckers are also noteworthy. Thomas took his chance on his own way and tracked a brilliant Wattled Broadbill that we had barely glimpse previously from the trail. He also found a Mindanao Bleeding-heart walking silently. We were very lucky indeed to relocate the bird afterwards allowing some record shots and great views for a couple of minutes ! Thank you so much Thomas ! Undoubtedly THE bird of the trip. A couple of obliging Rufous-lored Kingfishers seemed a bit shadowed by the Bleeding-heart but looking at the pictures remind us a great moment afterwards. We also heard a Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher deep in the forest. We continued for the next couple of hours, got soaked completely, and enjoyed a well-deserved dinner and beers before heading back to road 40 where, this time we logged Black-chinned Fruit-Dove among more common Green-Imperial Pigeons. At night we taped-out a very cooperative Philippine Frogmouth.
On Monday 3rd , we headed out again before dawn in the hope of finding some night birds, this time producing excellent views on a taped-out Chocolate Boobook and a Philippine Nightjar sitting on the tepid runway. A Mindanao Scops-Owl was also calling but did not respond to our taping attempts neither did any of the calling Hooded Pittas. We than searched for the elusive Little-slaty Flycatcher at the usual spot and a male immediately responded to the tape. After a few minutes we logged a stunning male of this shy bird. It stayed close to the ground, was difficult to locate and soon disappeared in the dense undergrowth. We stayed in the vicinity before leaving, saw more Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shrikes and added a few new birds : Philippine Fairy-bluebird and Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher. We left Picop at noon for a long drive to Davao Airport, took the flight on Cebu pacific at 6.00 pm arriving at Manila around 7.30 pm and had a wonderful seafood diner in a restaurant close to our La Corona Hotel.
On Tuesday 4th, we caught the Cebu Pacific flight to Puerto Princessa, Palawan, arrived around 9.00 am, met our guides and drove directly to Long Beach (also called Garceliano Beach) for a major target : the Chinese Egret. We spotted one exemplar in full breeding plumage, a great relief for a bird we missed already in China, Borneo and Thailand ! A callidus Peregrine, Grey-tailed Tattler, Lesser Sandplovers, Pacific-reef Egret and Lesser Coucal, were also present at “the beach” (a dead coral reef colonized by mangrove). On our way to Sabang , the first stop on the journey allowed us prolonged views on a brilliant couple of Purple-throated Sunbird another long-awaited new bird for all of us. A little further our first Blue-Paradise Flycatcher was a nice sight. Along this very scenic road, the second stop around Tagabinet proved very productive : White-vented Shama, Blue-naped Parrots, Palawan Flowerpecker, Palawan Hornbill (HO), Asian Fairy Bluebird, Dollarbird, Crested Goshawk, Thick-billed Pigeon, Fiery Minivet, and finally fantastic views of 2 males and a female tape responsive Palawan blue-Flycatchers. We ended the journey at the charming “coconut beaches” of Sabang, enjoyed a great seafood dinner and tried some nightbirding but, again, without success ending only with poor flight views on Palawan Frogmouth and even less of Palawan Scops-Owl. We finally did set up for the night in our lodge on the edge of St Paul’s National Park.
We had an early pumpboat (“banca” in local slang) ride on Wednesday 5th to the Underground River and soon enjoyed stunning views of the ridiculously tame male Palawan Peacock-Pheasant. Tabon Scubfowl were shyer allowing only brief views of 2 birds walking on the forest floor. We sticked in the vicinity of the ranger station for a while and taped for Ashy-headed Babbler. A party soon responded and came close, sometimes hopping on the trail. We also logged a Hooded Pitta of the Palawan race sitting on a low branch only a few feet away. Delighted by these observations, we decided to take the boat back and headed to the Central Park Station. We landed on the beach, had a short look at the Striated Heron and dark phase Pacific Reef Egret, signed the logbook, and entered the forest for a long walk trying to find our main target here : the Falcated Ground-Babbler. After about an hour searching, with nothing new except for an elusive Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, we had a calling bird responding to the tape and skulking around for some time. We tried obstinately to get view on this bird which never showed except to Michel! We gave up and headed to Sabang. After half an hour , another unobstrusive FGB started to call, but this time responded to tape and approached closely allowing some very good views ! A great contenting as we had to leave already this scenic place. On the beach a couple of Malaysian Plover was our last addition before a delicious lunch made of local crabs in a tasty sauce. We left the place , direction Pandan Island in Honda Bay for some Island birding. This Island holds both Grey-Imperial and Metallic Pigeon, two “hard to get” species. Unfortunately the strong wind was blocking the boats on the jetty. A passing squadron of 10 Lesser Frigatebirds was much unexpected and very welcomed. Around 5 pm we eventually found a boat willing to go to Pandan Island. It was too late for the pigeons but time for another target high on our wish list : the Mantanani Scops-Owl. The ride takes between half and 3/4 hour depending on the direction of the wind. This Island is touristic with lots of cabins and coconut trees. The owls start to be active after dusk and are easily seen. We had perfect views of both phases. We were told that 8 couples are on the Island. Large-tailed Nightjars are also common. The long ride back on a completely black see (no light on the boat!) was something. We celebrated this excellent day in a local Karaoké in Puerto Princessa.
We spent the morning of Thursday 6th at the Iwahig Penal Colony for a few specialities. We saw Palawan Tit on, at least, two occasions (2 or 3 birds). Iwahig seems the best spot for this less and less frequently seen endemic. Melodious Babbler was not too difficult either, with three birds attracted simultaneously by the tape giving good views. After the 4th river cross, Michel and our guide saw independently one Palawan Flycatcher, but we did not relocate this elusive bird. The exact location is 50 meters after 4th crossing on the left in a thick bamboo ridge. This species is a lot easier on Zig-Zag road and, as Melodious Babbler is also there, Iwahig has been more facultative actually. A stunning Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher gave also gorgeous views. Incomprehensively, We dipped on Sulphur-bellied Bulbul while searching among more common Olive-winged Bulbuls. On the raptors side, Gray-faced Buzzard and Crested Serpent-Eagle were new for the trip. We enjoyed good views on a few more Blue-naped-Parrots, before heading for Rasa Island , probably the last “stake-out” for the Philippine Cockatoo our ultimate target. You need a special permit to land on the Island and therefore you should contact the Cockatoo Conservation Programme. The Office is at the Gymnasium in Narra (See Sam Woods Reports –2003- for details) . We met the Officer who explained us the great efforts the Government is doing to save this species from extinction. Cockatoo are doing well on the Island with a slightly increasing population of about 100 couples. Surprisingly, The Officer did not let us go to the Cockatoo roost, but fortunately you don’t need to get to the roost as the Cockatoo is easily seen during the day from the boat or the platform (not always reachable pending on the wind situation). We were unbelievably lucky with a splendid Cockatoo, flushed by Michel, landing next to the platform. Thank you so much Michel! From the boat we logged a Great-billed Heron, difficult elsewhere on Palawan. We also saw a distant White-bellied Sea Eagle and Pied-Imperial Pigeon, quite common here(Grey-Imperial are sometimes seen) It is important to note that they don’t let birders going at night anymore for Mantanani Scops-Owl during the nesting season of the species.
Philippine Cockatoo © Marc Ameels
We started on Friday 7th at dawn for another desperate owling search with both Palawan Frogmouth and Scops-Owl calling but not attracted despite valiant attempt. We soon reached the km 35 on Zig-zag road and encountered Yellow-throated Leafbird, Handsome Sunbird, Blue-Paradise Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Bulbul, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, among others. We heard distantly the Palawan Flycatcher and after a long search logged one close-by singing on the lower branch of a thick bush. We took some honourable shots. By this time, we had to leave as our Air Philippine Flight was schedule at 11.30 am. The Engine of our van broke down on our way and, while waiting for a saver passing-by bus, we were lucky enough to logged 3 exemplars of Blue-headed Racquet-tails. We finally did catch our plane and arrived at Manila in the afternoon before heading to Subic for an overnight stay (after some vain attempts, again, for defiantly invisible owls!).
Saturday 8th, we awoke on a windy early morning for our last day and set off for the Subic forests. The first part of the journey was very quiet with only a group of 20 Ashy Minivets noteworthy. After 2 hours we crossed an interesting flock with Blackish Cuckoo-shrikes and a flying Green Racquet-tail. On the trail a couple of Red Junglefowls let us admiring them while we flushed some Barred Buttonquails. On the way back, a flock including a smart White-lored Oriole, more Blackish Cuckoo-shrikes together with Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes moved through the trees overhead. Late morning was quiet again as wind strengthened and we decided to move for more sheltered lower elevation. There we enjoyed a couple Sooty Woodpeckers, sitting Green Racquet-tail, Whiskered Treeswift, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Philippine Falconet. Just before leaving, we met Ward and Jurgen again and finished our trip with smart views on a hiding quartet of Rufous Coucals, a nesting couple White-bellied woodpeckers more Sooty Woodpeckers and a close Luzon Hornbill.
We ended our trip with 288 species, fantastic memories despite an apocalyptic vision of deforestation and its consequences. We will surely have to concentrate our efforts on Luzon Panay and Mindoro for additional endemics.