Saturday, December 15, 2018

Birding in Maligcong: Migration Season and Lucky Finds

Island thrush spotted in Mt Kupapey summit, Nov 2018 • © Oggie Ramos
We really wanted to get started on birding in Baguio, spending the second morning of our two days stopover enroute to Bontoc and Banaue but fate had other ideas.  My Nikon B700's battery discharged itself overnight and I didn't have a spare.  We saw birds on the Eco-Trail in Camp John Hay but got no pictures.  I even saw an olive-backed pipit high up on a tree but even after repeated charging using my buddy's powerbank, my Nikon kept turning itself off.   So much for expecting a find or two following a reading of Maia TaƱedo's blogpost on her visit here four years ago.  But they say that when a door closes, a window opens.  And open it did a day after heading to Maligcong, Bontoc.  

I was actually contemplating on sleeping the morning away instead of hiking up Mt. Kupapey but decided to join my friend, Ironwulf, to go up the mountain for the nth time, perchance to shoot the sunrise (no sea of clouds that morning) but we lingered until 8am, just enjoying the peace and quiet, as well as keeping our ears peeled for the birds.  We traded the B700 back and forth between us (Ferdz was luckier than me in spotting the small birds that favor the higher branches of the pines on the mountain summit) but I guess when luck decides to search for you, it leads to a series of really fortunate events.

Little pied flycatcher spotted in Suzette's Maligcong Homestay

With Maku accompanying us as we shoot, I was calling back the dogs, trying to see if the other canines, Kunig, Tam-Tam and Tiny, would return after joining the other two guests who decided to descend earlier, when something streaked past my peripheral vision.  I know it's not the usual bird we see around here, most probably a migratory bird visiting for the season.  Then it went past us but in close proximity, skimming low among the bushes until settling, lingering on the wooden post that held the barbed wire fence of the lookout overlooking Favarey and the distant terraces stretching east.  Dark body, orange feet and claws, sized like a spring chicken, we didn't know its name then (many thanks to our Wild Bird Club of the Philippines friends, Ma'am Alice Villa-Real and Ruth Francisco for always coming to our rescue and identifying these flying beauties) but we were awestruck, thankful we decided to wait a little longer than usual on the summit.
Blue rock thrush spotted near Vilma's Homestay, Maligcong

We stayed in Maligcong for a short three days but we spotted several more birds, some right there from the yard of Suzette's Maligcong Homestay, others along the main road or on the rise from the terraces near Vilma's Homestay.  If you ever find yourself in Maligcong, I suggest you go birding.  Especially during the colder months, the birds searching for "warmer" climes might be roosting on the nearby trees.  Grab a cup of hot coffee or mountain tea, put on a warm jacket, join the quiet of the early morning or late afternoons, wait for the birds.  Look up and wonder.
Rock thrush spotted at Suzette's Maligcong Homestay


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