Philippines - Subic Bay, Canadaba, and La Mesa Eco Park - December 6th - 7th and 21st 2013

Published by Jim Holmes (jfholmes AT ucdavis.edu)

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Prior to a guided trip to Bohol, Negros and Mindanao, I went to Subic Bay, Canadaba marsh and Palawan on my own. On the day I left Manilla for home, I birded Las Mesa Eco Park in Quezon City. This trip report provides up to date logistics for Subic Bay, Canadaba and La Mesa Eco Park.

Itinerary

December 6: Subic Bay (arriving early am and owling until daylight)
December 7: Subic Bay in am and Canadaba marsh afternoon
December 21: La Mesa Eco Park in morning (Saturday)

Birds and Reference material:

For a field guide, A Guides to Birds of Philippines by Robert S. Kennedy. Although it needs a taxonomic update, it is still the best. I downloaded target species to my MP3 player from xeno-canto. I brought a small speaker to tape in species.

Guides:

I was self-guided at all sites.

Timing of the trip:

I went in December. This is the end of the rainy season. I was lucky in that I had no problems with rain. Prior reports have had rain problems in December.

Airport:

I flew into Manila. Upon clearing customs in terminal 1, I walked across the street and got my rental car sorted out. I rented from Europcar. A van took me from the counter to the rental car parking lot. There, I got my car and headed to Subic Bay. Manila has 4 terminals. You can check the airport website for a listing of the airlines based on the terminal. I departed from Manila to Puerto Princessa out of Terminal 3. The International terminal is terminal 1.

Transportation:

Driving is on the right side of the road and the vehicles have the steering wheel on the left side of the car (standard USA driving). Driving in Manila was challenging (even at 11pm at night). Roads were not signed/poorly signed. I printed out detailed Google Maps with distances between turns prior to my departure and enlargements for all important turns. I drove from Manila airport to Subic Bay, then from Subic Bay to Canadaba, then to Manila airport. Remarkably, I only got lost once (i.e missed a turn and had to go back).

For my trip from Manila to Subic Bay to Canadaba marsh and back to Manila, I had a regular car. There was no need for 4WD or high clearance. I did not have to get a Philippines driver’s license or show an International Driver’s license. My California (USA) driver’s license was satisfactory.

Taxis and local transportation:

Taxis (motorbikes with a side carriage) were common. You can get to Subic Bay by bus (from Manila) but once there would need to arrange local transportation with a taxi. Canadaba would require a car or taxi. I do not think any bus goes to Canadaba. I took a taxi from my airport hotel to La Mesa Eco Park and back.

Language:

The official languages are Tagalog and English.

Money:

Currency is the Philippine Peso. I exchanged US dollars at the airport. There were ATM machines at the Manilla airport.

Hotels and Food:

Subic Bay:
RK hotel, rkhotelsubic@yahoo.com (047) 252-9998

RK Hotel

It was located at the junction of the road into the birding areas (Argonaut Highway) and the road to Olangapo city (Rizal Highway) (Google map coordinates: 14.823469,120.298898). It had internet (WiFi). Price was 2,400 Pesos for a Superior Room (i.e. simple room) but included wireless internet and breakfast (unfortunately served from 7-10am).

There are hotels (Legenda Suites and Crown Peak Tiara) at Crown Peak in Subic Bay Freeport Zone that are cheaper but they did not have internet (they did have air conditioner).

Manila:
Remington Hotel. It is in Resorts World Manila (near terminal 3). The hotel provides free transportation to/from the terminals.

Remington Hotel

There are certainly cheaper options in Manila.

Directions and logistics to sites:

When I list google map coordinates, simply copy and paste the coordinates into the google map search bar. Do not use a differnt mapping program.

Subic Bay (Google Map coordinates 14.767745,120.287762)

The information from Birding2Asia is very good. Please see their website: Subic Bay

I will only add the following two points:

1) Hill 394 is currently not accessible without previously obtaining a permit. There is a gate with guards that prevents access to the area. The gate is at google map coordinates: 14.758584,120.302063 This is unfortunate because the best access for White-fronted Tit is the road beyond the gate.

2) The best area is now probably the trail that goes along the ridge near the hospital. It is listed as Boton Falls track on Birding2Asia website. Take the road to the hospital and you will see a sign for Boton falls with a trail large enough for a car to go down. Park on the road and walk down this trail. Within ~30 meters, the trail down to the falls is on your left. Do not take the trail down to the falls but stay on the old track. I was told that this ultimately meets up with Hill 394 trail but I am not sure. The start of Hill 394 trail is only 1500 meters from the hospital (as the bird flies).

I spent most of my time on Nabusan Road, Group Road 6 (near the new gate on the Botanical Gardens road) and Hospital road and trail.

Canadaba marsh:

This site is pretty difficult to get to without help. Google map coordinates: 15.073781,120.874329. Most people come to it from Manilla via Baliuag. I drove from Subic through the City of San Fernando, Mexico, and then to the town of Canadaba. In Canadaba, I drove southeast towards Baliuag before taking a left turn near the Bahay schools (there is small river here). This road quickly bears to the left (if you follow the river for more than 1KM you have gone too far) and will take you to the best area. Except for the diving ducks, the road from Canadaba to Bahay was as good (shorebirds, egrets, etc) as the Canadaba marsh proper area.

La Mesa Eco Park is in Quezon City

I got a taxi from my hotel and negotiated with the driver to wait for me while I was birding (price from the airport to La Mesa Eco Park and back and waiting 2 hours while I birded was 2,000 Pesos). On a Saturday morning, it took just under 45 minutes to drive there at 0500 and about 55 minutes to drive back at 0800.

Park at this spot: google map coordinates: 14.712722,121.072099
The best area is: google map coordinates: 14.711202,121.078525

Weather & Clothing:

I had no problems with rain but it is best to be prepared. It was wam.

Biting animals:

No problems with mosquitos at any site.

Advice:

I would advise 2 nights and 2 full days (minimum) at Subic Bay. I missed some species (probably because of Hill 394 trail being closed and being self-guided). One morning at La Mesa Eco Park and one morning/afternoon at Canadaba should suffice.

Lists for each site are below. More details may be found in my eBird lists (which are linked below).

Species Lists

Subic Bay (December 6, 7, 2013):
eBird list Subic Bay Dec 6 owling
eBird list Subic Bay Dec 6
eBird list Subic Bay Dec 7

Red Junglefowl
Philippine Serpent-Eagle
Philippine Hawk-Eagle – Nabusan Road
Chinese Sparrowhawk
Barred Rail
Spotted Buttonquail – Group 6 road
Barred Buttonquail
Rock Pigeon
White-eared Dove
Philippine Green-Pigeon
Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove
Green Imperial-Pigeon
Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo
Red-crested Malkoha
Rufous Coucal – seen on Nabusan road and Hospital road, also heard on Group Road 6
Philippine Coucal – seen on Nabusan road and Group road 6
Philippine Eagle-Owl- take the road from crown peak to the hospital. After leaving the buildings but just before you get to the Aparri Road, I had the owl.
Luzon Boobook – seemed most common on Nusban road but heard in several locations.
Great Eared-Nightjar
Purple Needletail
Glossy Swiftlet
Pygmy Swiftlet
Whiskered Treeswift
Common Kingfisher
Brown-breasted Kingfisher
Rufous-crowned Bee-eater
Dollarbird
Luzon Hornbill
Coppersmith Barbet
Philippine Woodpecker
White-bellied Woodpecker – only on Hospital road
Luzon Flameback
Northern Sooty-Woodpecker - common
Peregrine Falcon
Guaiabero
Green Racquet-tail – six birds seen at various locations (Nabusan Road, Group 6 road and road to Hospital)
Philippine Hanging-Parrot
White-breasted Woodswallow
Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike
Black-and-white Triller
Blackish Cuckooshrike
Black-bibbed Cuckooshrike
Brown Shrike
Black-naped Oriole
Balicassiao
Philippine Pied-Fantail
Large-billed Crow
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Philippine Bulbul
Arctic Warbler
Green-backed Tailorbird – Hospital trail
Philippine Fairy-bluebird
Gray-streaked Flycatcher
White-browed Shama – Nabusan Road
Coleto
Stripe-sided Rhabdornis
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Canadaba Marsh (December 7, 2014)
eBird list Canadaba Marsh
Philippine Duck
Northern Shoveler
Garganey
Tufted Duck
Little Grebe
Yellow Bittern
Gray Heron
Purple Heron
Great Egret
Intermediate Egret
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White-browed Crake
Purple Swamphen
Eurasian Moorhen
Black-winged Stilt
Kentish Plover
Pheasant-tailed Jacana
Common Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
Marsh Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Long-toed Stint
Common Snipe
Whiskered Tern
Red Collared-Dove
Zebra Dove
Common Kingfisher
Collared Kingfisher
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Guaiabero
Golden-bellied Gerygone
Brown Shrike
Long-tailed Shrike
Gray-throated Martin
Barn Swallow
Pacific Swallow
Oriental Reed-Warbler
Clamorous Reed-Warbler
Tawny Grassbird
Striated Grassbird
Zitting Cisticola
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Oriental Pipit
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Chestnut Munia

La Mesa Eco Park (December 21, 2014):
eBird List La Mesa Eco Park
Slaty-legged Crake – walked across trail in forested area
Zebra Dove
White-eared Dove
Spotted Kingfisher – forested area
Rufous-crowned Bee-eater
Philippine Woodpecker
Red-bellied Pitta – forested area, walking on the ground just off the trail
Golden-bellied Gerygone
Brown Shrike
Black-naped Oriole
Philippine Pied-Fantail
Black-naped Monarch
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Philippine Bulbul
Lowland White-eye
Philippine Magpie-Robin
Ashy Thrush – forested area
Olive-backed Sunbird
Eurasian Tree Sparrow