This is a report on a series of birding trips to Subic, all made in February – May 2008. For detailed information on Subic Bay, incl. birding maps, detailed directions and a bird list, please visit the Asian Birding Sites Database on the Birding2asia website : www.birding2asia.com Any locations mentioned in the daily accounts below are described on these pages.
Trip 1 - February 2008
Wednesday 20th Feb: A late morning trip to Hill 394 didn’t produced a big number of birds as fairly strong winds picked up soon. However, the walk was absolutely worth it because I got good views of the rare White-lored Oriole which traveled at mid-level through the forest together with 2 Blackish Cucoo- shrikes. Other birds included Sooty Woodpecker, which is always nice to see, as well as Red-crested Malkoha. Two Stripe-sided Rabdornis gave good views while Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and Philippine Bulbul were common. A single Purple Needletail was spotted overhead. Philippine Coucal gave brief views from the grass by the roadsides and Glossy Swiftlet (Grey-rumped) were common.
Saturday 23rd Feb: A short trip for roadside birding at the Nabusan beach road produced some nice birds incl. excellent looks at 2 Sooty Woodpeckers, a Greater Flameback, Guaiabero, Philippine Coucal, Green Imperial Pigeon, Coleto, Balicassiao and Black-naped Oriole. Philippine Tailorbird was heard only.
Trip 2 - April 2008
Thursday 3rd April: An early morning trip to the area around the entrance of the Apalin trails produced 2 sightings of White-bellied Woodpecker, Greater Flameback, a White-browed Shama along the first 100m of the long trail, Ashy Minivets, Luzon Hornbill, 3 Blue-naped Parrots in flight, Coleto, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Stripe-sided Rabdornis and White-eared Brown Dove. The late morning was spent walking the track to Hill 394, best birds included 2 Philippine Fairy Bluebirds which gave perfect looks, 1 Philippine Cuckoo-Dove, heard only Hooded Pitta, Philippine Falconet, Coleto, Philippine Tailorbird, Blackish Cuckoo-shrike and many Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes.
Trip 3 - May 2008
Wednesday 21st May: having rented a motorbike at Baloy beach I went cruising the many quiet roads on the Naval base for some roadside birding. I only got to the birding areas in the afternoon today so decided not to go for the tracks and trails as it gets a bit hot for long walks later in the day. Nevertheless, I got to see a nice selection of species. On my way in a White-bellied Sea Eagle flew overhead near the airport. Both White-breasted Woodswallow and Coleto were nesting in electricity poles by the roadside. The first real good birdwatching spot I hit was the dead-end road to the Water station. From the motorbike I noticed 2 birds being perched in some dead branches, which turned out to be a pair Green Racket-tails and they gave great views. Better than the usual fly-by sightings at least. A White-browed Shama gave excellent views a bit further on and was still active singing this late in the day. Not much else here but nice was an Emerald Dove that walked on the road on my way out. In the area around the Botanical Garden, Guaiabero gave nice views while perched. I found a Cuckoo-shrike very high up in a tree but couldn’t really confirm it’s ID just with binoculars, they’re usually just Bar-bellied but this one had something different and it might have been Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shrike. The species should be possible at Subic but I’ve never heard about a confirmed sighting for it. Balicassiao had a nest with chicks in it, hanging from a branch above the road. Other sightings this afternoon from random roadside spots include Red-crested Malkoha, a female Blue-naped Parrot in flight, 3 sightings of Luzon Hornbill, imm. Black-naped Oriole, a female White-bellied Woodpecker, Philippine Coucal and Whiskered Treeswift.
Thursday 22nd May: A early morning trip to Hill 394 produced some good birds. On my way in I heard Red-bellied Pitta calling from the first intersection after having turned-off at The botanical garden. On the track I got good looks at Philippine Tailorbird which seemed to come in to tape a little better than they do earlier in the year. Two Rufous Coucals were skulking in some dense tangles and it took almost 30 min. to get good looks, with the birds calling all this time. I got incredible close looks at Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove which were taped in with the call of Black-chinned Fruit-Dove which I was trying to get, strangely enough. A Hooded Pitta was calling from inside the forest, two groups Blackish Cuckoo Shrike were encountered as was a Philippine Trogon. Other nice sightings include a male Sooty Woodpecker, Stripe-sided Rhabdornis and Luzon Hornbill. After my walk I continued exploring the roadsides near the entrance to the track where I found a Philippine Serpent Eagle nicely perched as well as 3 sightings of Philippine Falconet. Purple Needletail gave away a show and I got good looks at the white lores. Best bird of the day I got on my way out near the bat colony were a White-fronted Tit was seen by the roadside, while me still sitting on the motorbike!
Saturday 24th May 2008: Heavy rain cut short my time for birding when I went out this afternoon. Still got a few nice birds though. I picked the road to the hospital and Boton Falls this time to be checked. Best birds found were a nice party of 4 Elegant Tits (2 imm.) and a number of Blue-naped Parrot sightings. (3 perched, 3 + 3 + 1 fly-by) Both male and female Luzon Hornbill gave good looks and also a single Black-naped Monarch was seen, which seems to be not so common at Subic.
Stijn De Win
A bird list for Subic Bay is on my website. Birding2asia