Once you start, you can never stop birdwatching!

27 04 2013

As I am on the mend it is progressively getting easier to walk though staying upright for long is still difficult. But I am getting out and about and I can confirm that adage that once you start birdwatching you never stop. On Friday afternoon after a big rain storm I was enjoying looking at the abundant Olive-backed Sunbirds in my mother-in-law’s garden when a Yellow-vented Bulbul perched high up on a tree and hung around for a while, like five minutes or so. I was surprised by how unfazed it was as there was a lot of human activity below. In Thailand I always associate this species with skittishness and it takes off at the slightest disturbance. Also for an area as built up as this, where the human pressure on every  square inch of land is palpable, I don’t really expect to see much more than Euarsian Tree Sparrows and Olive-backed Sunbirds. So while a relatively common bird, it was good to see the Yellow-vented Bulbul here.

On a hunch I decided to accompany my wife and mother-in-law to visit my deceased father-in-law’s grave in The Sacred Heart Cemetery in Sum-ag. Boy Baradero was a decent man sorely missed by his wife, daughters and his five nephews and one niece. I was very fond of him and was sad to see him go at a comparatively young age.

My hunch, bolstered by previous visits to the cemetery, was there might be some good birds to see here – it’s lush and peaceful and there are several “wild” sections. So I said my prayers and took a short stroll. The first bird to get my attention was a Chestnut Munia and as I progressed I could see it was here in very good numbers. I also picked out a couple of Scaly-breasted Munias and also a Java Sparrow, a really delightful looking bird; I am sure there must have been others but I only could pick out one. When I reached one of the wild places I picked out a green pigeon which flew in and parked high up in the canopy of some higher trees. It then disappeared. I really didn’t get enough time on it other than making out a dominant colour of green. Very interesting. A couple of largish Brown Shrikes and an Oriental Magpie Robin were perched on wires and a few Pied Fantails were also busy. I am sure this cemetery warrants further investigation and must give it more time on my next trip.

Saturday morning we flew to Cebu. There were a few Striated Grassbirds perched on wires as we approached the airport at Silay. Of much more interest was the number of Red-rumped Swallows visible from the departure lounge. These were unmistakable with their long forked tails and whitish, rufous rump patches. I think they must be nesting in the eaves below the departure lounge – whatever, a delight to get a grandstand view of these guys darting around. I don’t know their status – if they are nesting as I say then they are in all likelihood residents. So if you are waiting for a flight at Bacolod make sure you have a good look at the swallows.

As I said at the beginning you can never stop looking at birds once you have started – be warned!


Chinese Egrets

24 04 2013

ImageA few weeks ago, as the fever kicked in, I made it to San Enrique, a small coastal municipality about 45 minutes south of Bacolod City. Godfrey Jakosalem of The Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc recommended a visit: earlier this year a Little Curlew was recorded, a very rare bird in The Philippines, and also some Nordmann’s Greenshanks.

I only managed the briefest of looks at the site but was impressed by the number of waders and terns I could see in the distance on a late afternoon recce. I decided I would get up early the next morning and proceed into the area at low tide. Sadly I was too feverish the next morning to contemplate anything other than staying in bed. Anyhow my late afternoon walk, my recce, produced once more some Chinese Egrets, without doubt the bird of this trip. As you can see I managed a shot of one of these Chinese Egrets, helpfully perched on a bamboo pole, in the late afternoon and if you look at its left leg you will see it has a red/orange band.

ImageAs an occasional bander nothing quite gets my juices flowing as sighting a bird sporting a band or ring. This means science! It opens up the possibility of both learning a little about the bird and also of contributing information about the bird and its location to the scientific community. For me absolultey intriguing stuff.

Dave Bakewell from Malaysia suggested getting in touch with Niall Moores of Birds Korea. I also made an enquiry to a Korean biologist who has been involved in banding Chinese Egrets.

At this stage enquiries are still progressing – according to Niall it appears that there has been some “opportunistic” banding done in both China and Korea and there is some uncertainty about who has been doing what. My Korean biologist, Bo-yeon Hwang, from Songnisan National Park Office, confirmed s/he had been banding Chinese Egrets but  could rule out my bird because s/he had been banding their right legs. S/he did however send me a photo taken by a Chinese photographer, Bai Qunguan, of a Chinese Egret sporting a similar sort of red/orange band on its left leg; it is fair to say this is on the upper leg,the fibula, whereas on my bird the band is at the ankle joint – this might be explained by something as simple as slippage. I think when I get back to Thailand I’ll need to get my Chinese friend, Soorng Yingtao, to get in touch with Bai Qunguan and see if we can learn anything more about my bird.

So a strong possibility that my bird was banded in China. I really would like to learn more and hope we can make some progress in the next few weeks.

Ill Health

22 04 2013

My extended trip to The Philippines did not result in a lot of birding and its associated thrills and spills. For my sins I developed  cellulitis in my left leg, probably as a result of the cuts I sustained to my feet at Punta Tay Tay during my first week here.

In the end I was admitted to hospital for ten days, underwent a surgical procedure involving a general anaesthetic and before and after this took a lot of antibiotics, both intravenous and oral.

So I had to cancel a trip to Bohol and a return visit into The North Negros Natural Park plus all opportunists for birding in and around Bacolod City have been lost.

I was discharged from hospital a week ago today but it’s only really in the last few days that I have felt comfortable on my feet. The doctors have advised that the infection is under control and I can return to Thailand as planned on 28th April 2013.

I really doubt whether I’ll be birding again until I get back to Thailand. Such is life. For all that I feel disappointed I am glad to be on the mend; health is clearly the most important consideration. This type of thing can and does happen and in real terms up to this point I have enjoyed a rather charmed existence, free from infection and disease, notwithstanding a liking for wild places. As I say I am grateful to be on the mend more than anything else and like a famous American general said: “I shall return”.