Monday, January 21, 2019

Maligcong Birding Summary July 2018 to January 2019

My recent trip to Maligcong was like 80% chilling, 20% birding.  Though I managed to squeeze in a visit to Favarey to add to my portraits documentation of the village elders as well as a morning foray to Alab Oriente to meet up with possibly the oldest citizen of Bontoc, Apo Herbert Tongyad.  In any case, I got more serious with birding and capturing them for posterity and record-keeping for a couple of reasons. 

Brown-breasted kingfisher high above the rice terraces
For one, there's plenty flying around, it's fascinating to find out what kinds are there aside from the Eurasian Tree Sparrows.  Secondly, it's interesting to find a hidden world -- birds surround us even just at the homestay -- oblivious to most guests who are caught up with the hikes and the views.  Thirdly, a few years back I found out that some of the kids play around with the hatchlings of a blue bird we later identified as the Mountain Verditer Flycatcher; it would be nice to perhaps, interest the locals on the wildlife they have here.   Fourthly, I met and befriended a homestay guest over a year ago who turned out to be the founder of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, Ma'am Alice Villa-Real.  She was using a Canon bridge camera and that convinced me that perhaps, I can do the same with a Nikon zoom camera (would've wanted a Tamron 150-600 lens but it's not affordable and I've already disposed off my Nikon DSLRs). 
Anyway, in a short span of time, I was hooked.  So much so that I often forego shooting scenery in favor of looking, finding and shooting birds.   And why not?  Even when I was house-bound for five days during a week-long break last year, I can hear, see, and spot birds in the confines of Suzette's Maligcong Homestay.  It's a relaxing hobby for me and I try not to pressure myself with a quota for spotted birds per day.  Or get stressed out when the dogs flush out the birds from the bushes or trees; I appreciate them being there for me even though they may get bored wondering why on earth are we not proceeding any further down the road.

Anyway, I think I've got plenty enough birds on my list to start a gallery of sorts.  Perhaps that can inspire a reader or two to add birding/birdwatching to their to do list next time they find themselves in Maligcong.  It's free, it's a nice way to add to the appreciation of the place and of the natural world.

Now sharing some insights on the birding: 
 - Lucked out this time with getting clear captures of the blue bird I saw flying above the terraces last November.  It turned out to be a Brown-breasted Kingfisher.  Maybe some people think you can just go out and an hour later come home with a bounty of nice bird images.  Well, it doesn't happen that way.   If there's anything that birding taught me first and foremost, it's about being very, very patient.  Those gorgeous Nat Geo or Animal Planet wildlife shots or footages were painstakingly planned for, waited for.  This kingfisher caught my eye two months ago.  One Saturday afternoon, I escaped the noise of some rather boisterous guests in the homestay and walked a bit on the terraces when something blue caught my peripheral vision.  Lo and behold, it was the kingfisher I missed last November, busy swooping down the flooded terraces for mudfish and critters.
Eastern Grass Owl (juvenile)

- Being a regular visitor here has its perks:  the locals can trust you with their secrets.  To wit, I wouldn't have found this juvenile Eastern Grass Owl if it weren't for friends.  For one, they're elusive and nocturnal -- you've got to admire those owl shots you see in books and the birding websites as they're really, really hard to track, even more difficult to shoot.  Anyway, the presence of the mother and hatchling owl gives a good idea of the health of the forest; they wouldn't be here if there weren't food (snakes, lizards, field mice) and if there's great human threat.  Speaking of the latter, it's the reason why we'd rather keep the location secret as not every human would be benevolent to these birds.

- I believe it's the tailend of the migration season, hence the proliferation of birds even within the confines of the homestay.  If one cares to walk a bit along the Finnaker main road,
he/she would likely stumble upon so many more birds like the Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers, Philippine Hanging Parrots (Colasisi), Chestnut-faced Babblers and others sharing in the bounty of flowering and fruiting trees especially during the sunset hour.

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