Philippines November - December 2005

Published by William Ruscher Jr. (imonacan AT

Participants: Bill Ruscher Jr.


Arrived on 11/15 at Mactan Int. airport , Cebu City. The main purpose of this trip was to complete the necessary paperwork and wade through the mountain of red tape, required to secure the US citizenship of my baby daughter that was born in Cebu, and to escort her and my wife back to the United States.

My 23 days there were consumed with this task, and other family matters, that limited my few travels to Cebu. I had planned a late honeymoon trip to Palawan with my wife, on a special package through the agency in Cebu that booked our travel home. $360.00 3 days/2 nights (airfare and all meals included) ,with tours of Sabang and the underground river, with a local birdwatching expedition. Any better suggestions for Palawan? Please email me!

Unfortunately, I had to cancel because of problems with my daughters paperwork and passport processing at the US Embassy. I will definitely make Palawan, next time around.

However, I was able to make several day trips, for pleasure, and do some birding on Cebu.

November 19 - Tubod Flowing Water Resort Minglanilla, Cebu

A great place to go for an outing with spring fed clean pools for swimming. Beautiful well kept grounds and gardens. The only birds were :

Glossy Swiftlet - 10+
Asian Glossy Starling - 6+
Olive-backed Sunbird - 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow - hundreds ....everywhere we went

There was a butterfly sanctuary on the grounds that was free to visit, as long as you payed the entrance (per head) fee to the resort. It contained a cage with captive Doves, and another smaller cage with one Colasisi. The sanctuary was full of beautiful native plants species, orchids and flowers that attract the feeding butterflies, that were confined to the large dome area that had netting on the high ceiling. This was unlike the Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary in Cebu City, that I visited in 2004 , where the butterflies were free to come and go, with no roof netting. The well manicured gardens and pathways in the sanctuary made it a pleasure to walk through. Butterfly species that I could ID were:

Papilio alphenor (Common Mormon)
Papilio romanzuvia (Scarlet Mormon) large magnificent birdwing type species
Papilio demoleus
Hypolimnus bolina (Common Eggfly) males and females interacting
Euploea mulciber paupera
Danaus melanippus edmondii
Neptis hylas (Common Sailor) - flying around the grounds of the resort
Junonia iphita (Chocolate Pansy)
1 Nymphalidae species that I have yet to ID - have picture
Another “White”species with a single black wing dot, a graceful flyer with a few lazy wing beats and then glides ??? I need help with this ID !
Several other smaller (one yellow and one tiny violet) species in the gardens of the resort .
If anyone has ideas on what these species could be...please email me !
I have camcorder footage and still photos of most species described above.

On the ride back to the city, I had :

Brown Shrike- 2
White-winged Tern- 6 ( flying over the coastal fish ponds)

November 21 - Olango Island Sanctuary

After mentioning my intentions to visit the sanctuary on a day trip, one of my “Ninongs” (a male witness of my wedding that is considered our Godfather) and neighbor of my wife, told me he could arrange a pumpboat trip over on the day of my choice, from the beach on Talisay. It was an alternative from hiring a banca, on Mactan , and staying overnight, like I had done in April of 2002. I was assured - if I payed for a tank of fuel, and brought our lunch, that the rest would be taken care of, by the owner of the boat and barangay captain.

Myself and my wife , brother in-law and 4 neighbor friends showed up at the beach in the morning, and saw only a large motorized banca boat. We asked the boatman there, and he told us that it Was the one, and that he was expecting us. Unfortunately, the barangay captain and his larger pumpboat were elsewhere. We waded out to the banca , where my “Ninong” joked about the newly constructed seawall, of the South Coastal Highway, that ended at the beach in Talisay. The locals there have named it “the longest toilet in Cebu”. At first, I didn’t understand, but after I understood his joke, I made sure to make my way , quickly, into the banca.. There was enough room for all of us in the boat, but barely. I had the pleasure of sitting on the floating fishing net, with my brother in-law, and left the seats for the two ladies. It was a much longer trip from Talisay, then from Mactan, taking almost 1.5 hours. We passed the fish sanctuary with several large pumpboats anchored with divers and snorkelers. I would have liked to join them , but no extra time, unfortunately. On the boat ride over and back , I had :

Whiskered Tern - 15+
Flying Fish - 1

The tide was very low, and our approach to Olango had to be carefully navigated with a bamboo pole through the shallow sea. From my memory, it seemed that we should approach from the side of the island facing Mactan, to get close to the sanctuary. Our boatman was taking us to the far side, and told me the near side was too shallow for the banca. We anchored at several hundred meters out, and waded to shore and into a small coastal village. We were directed to walk through a mangrove area and wade through shallow tidal flats, where right away I had :

Lesser (Mongolian) Sandplover - 4 seen on the incoming walk
Whimbrel - 1
Pacific Swallow - 10+

We walked into a larger village and found some waiting bicycles with sidecars . After some chat for directions , we were heading out across a very large tidal flat area, that was barren and dry, reminding me of a desert, with only small mangrove shrubs in the distance. It was quite an experience seeing the dry sea bed with Fiddler Crabs of different colors scurry off down their holes to avoid the bicycles. I asked our driver to stop, as I noticed some standing birds, that turned out to be :

Greater Sandplover - 7 seen on incoming ride

I felt sorry for the driver who really had to pedal hard to make it with my wife, our hand bags, and my larger then normal (Filipino) ,sized body.
The long hot ride across the flats ended at a bamboo shelter outpost near the edge. We rested awhile, and then waded across another shallow mangrove area, where I saw a scurry of activity in the water, that turned out to be a few Mudskippers, that avoided our walking. They watched us from a distance with their large frog- like eyes, sticking above the muck. I had several fly by :

Little Heron - 2

We walked onto the first paved road we found, and caught some tricycles that took us for a longer ride through Santa Rosa, and finally to the sanctuary. We signed in at the welcome center office, where I found our guide Boy, who had also guided me in 2002, willing and ready to walk me and my wife out to the enclosed observation platform. He brought along his 60mm scope and tripod, and scanned the shallow flats, while I did the same with binoculars. We had the following:

Whimbrel - 2
Barn Swallow - 6+
Ruddy Turnstone -5
Bar-tailed Godwit - 1
Common Greenshank - 12+
Common Redshank - 10+
Rufous-necked Stint - 1
Grey Plover - 1 (Black-bellied Plover)
Terek Sandpiper - 2
Grey-tailed Tattler - 12+
Great Knot - 4
Kentish Plover - 2
Chinese Egret - 6+
Gull-billed Tern - 1

One notable miss - was Curlew Sandpiper. Boy told us it was due to the very low tide. Unfortunately, I could not find time to make the trip back during higher tide.
I took camcorder footage with many still photos of our walks and rides into the sanctuary, and of the sanctuary itself. Anyone interested to see these, please email me.
While eating our lunch under some trees on the sanctuary grounds, we had :

Yellow-vented Bulbul - 1
Pied Triller - 2
Glossy Swiftlet - 5+
Rufous Night-Heron - 1 That was sitting up in a tree. Our guide ,Boy, mentioned that it was domesticated.

During the boat trip back passing Mactan, we had a flock of :

Little Egret - 50+
Flying Fish - 2

December 2 - South Coastal Highway

We often rode this new highway from Talisay to Cebu City. One of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s projects in Cebu. It is almost completed, except for the two lane bottleneck at the highways end ,in the port area of Cebu City. A tunnel is currently under construction and due for completion in early 2006. There is a nice open wild area ,in the middle of this stretch of highway, that I am hoping will be protected and remain this way. I often would ask the taxi drivers to slow down so I could scan this area for birds. On this day, I had a very friendly driver that pulled over to accommodate me, and was interested to share my views . On the coastal side I spotted :

Little Heron - 1
Purple Heron - 1

On the tall grass, open side with the central mountains as a background, I had:

Brown Shrike - 2 flying in between and perching in the small trees
Striated Grassbird - 1 perched on a small shrub
Cattle Egret - 1

Several small passerine species in the distance, were out of the range of my 8x42 binoculars. I am sure they were not the local “Maya” (Eurasian Tree Sparrow). I feel this area is worth a closer look with a spotting scope, and will certainly do so in the future. Unlike the rest of the few undeveloped areas around Cebu City, it is still relatively clean. I can only hope that it will be monitored , and not allowed to be used as a garbage dump .

My References used for birds was : “A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines” Kennedy / Gonzales / Dickinson / Miranda Jr. & Fisher - Thanks for publishing this excellent guide.

My References used for butterflies : are the specimen plates I have collected and studied, and various references I have found on the internet. There is not an overabundance of info on Philippine species of Leps. I am greatly anticipating the upcoming guide to be published .
Thanks to All of you that read this report, and I hope it is useful and enjoyable. Any comments or questions are always welcome. I plan on spending my time doing a whole lot more birding on my next trip over. Palawan and Mindanao are my next hopefuls.

Best Regards,

Bill Ruscher Jr. Rochester, NY USA