Whos keeping an eye on me....

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Philippines 2014 - Pt 4 Luzon (Subic Bay Area)

Subic Bay

Day 1:

The less said about the journey through Manila the better, but we did eventually arrive at our hotel near Subic Freeport. We had the very helpful sketched map from the Birding2asia website that made the driving around the Subic area a little easier. This would be the only Island that we would not have a guide. We expected the birding therefore to be a little harder and no doubt we would miss a few things along the way, but hey ho lets see how we go on. We arrived well after  midnight but needed a beer (or two) then bed for an early start.

Our first location was a road leading up to Subic heights, which looked like a complex of now disused accommodation.  Our first birds on the road were Elegant Tits, a pair of Guaiabero

 and a pair of the brilliantly funky Red Crested Malkoha.

The most prolific bird were certainly the Black Naped Orioles who seemed to over run this particular section of roadside woodland. Philippine Bulbul, Bar Belied Cuckoo Shrike and an un-identified Raptor that now  having re- read my notes could have been a Jerdons Baza , unfortunately it will have to go un-recorded..... a Grey Faced Buzzard was identified though. We drove a little further up the road to the disused complex and recorded dozens of White Breasted Wood swallows, Yellow Vented Bulbuls and a pair of obliging Stripe Headed Rhabdornis.
We continued up towards the hospital and past an abandoned US telecom point that had some promising looking habitat, however  it only provided an Olive Backed Sunbird a few Red Capped Bee-eaters, as well as a Guard that caught me snooping around.... for birds of course.
We continued on towards the Boton falls Trail where along he way we picked up this stunning  Whiskered Tree-swift

Other birds in good numbers were Streaked Flycatchers and Brown Shrikes and a perched Crested Serpent Eagle.

A flock of around a dozen Brahminy Kites flew over while this wonderful White Eared Brown Dove gave close up views



Not long after we came across a party of the weird looking Coleto. They could have entertained us for even longer than the 10 minutes we stood and watched their antics.

New birds were quickly seen with Slender Billed Crows, Crested Myna and then a raft of woodpeckers. White Bellied Woodpecker (we only heard this species on Bohol) Luzon Flameback and a pair of Sooty Woodpeckers! One of which perched motionless on this tree trunk for well over 15 minutes.

We moved location and headed past the airfield and headed toward the ocean adventure park for lunch. We picked up a good flock of Red Capped Bee-eaters in the grounds of a derelict building and then some more near the park itself.
We drove to the checkpoint and after having a hard time from an over zealous policeman we eventually snook past him and were able to park up near the bunkers and walk an area of road towards Hill 394. After some sorting of IDs we could nail down the Blackish Cuckoo-Shrike and now figured we had indeed seen the dark form of Balicassiao, play back helped us sort this lot out. Philippine Green Pigeon a largish flock of Black & White Triller (after much deliberation, this species is definitely going on the trip and life list). 
The gate at Hill 394 was always going to be tricky to get past, and sure enough the guards were in no mood to let us in but did give us details of how to do it in future, a bit late for us on this occassion but this info may help people in future who wish to visit and maybe able to contact them before arriving in Subic. I have no idea how to find this place but here are the contact details anyway.
Limay Factory: Barangay Lamao, Limay, Bataan.
Tel Nos: 047-2445772 (73) or (74)
Fax: 047-2445810
We spent the early evening trying in vein to locate a Scale Feathered Malkoha but did add some Purple Needletails, Dollardbird whist Blue Naped Parrots ended the days birding and to be honest it was good to get out of the searing heat. We stopped at the Giant Fruit Bat colony for spectacular views of 1000s taking to the air, an amazing sight. 
Day 2:
An early return to Hill 394 fto try to find the Scale feathered Malkoha again.... and again no luck. A cracking view of a Yellow Breasted Fruit Dove and Green Racket Tail were probably the highlights of the morning as we walked up and down a stretch of this road.
An afternoon lunch at the amazing Bunker Bob restaurant close to the dilapidated Botanic gardens recharged the batteries. The afternoon got us good views of  a pair of Red Jungle Fowl perched low in a bushy tree, Black Chinned Fruit Dove and more Sooty Woodpeckers

Bar Bellied Cuckoo-Shrike

 and a new trip species with Blue Headed Fantail
Day 3: Only an hours birding before the long drive to Los Banos brought us a pair of wonderful Luzon Hornbills
male Luzon Hornbill

female Luzon Hornbill

Jeff and myself always knew this leg of the trip would be more difficult. We didn't hire a guide so we were aware that the logistics or just being being in the exact location for a particular species was crucial. Not knowing all the calls and the ID of tricky birds or birds that the views were either obscured or very distant. However the real frustration was the heat. It wilted both myself and Jeff but also it made the birding very quiet from around 10am onwards.
It was enjoyable in a masochistic sort of way, certainly the beer in the evenings was just reward for a tough days birding.
Next stop Los Banos and a trip to Canadaba


theconstantwalker said...

A wonderful post Dave... Fantastic images.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Amazing trip. Some of those birds (that one shrike) don't even look real ...the most exotic birds I've ever seen.

Linda said...

Stunning captures.

NatureFootstep said...

so much beautiful and interesting birds. But, if I got close to a Red Crested Malkoha I probably thought something was wrong. :)

Stewart M said...

Its posts like this that show the diversity in Biodiversity!


Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Richard Pegler said...

A super, and beautifully llustrated, account Dave. I can feel your discomfort with the heat of the day, and that refreshing beer (or three!) in the evenings. Superb birds!

FAB said...

A stunning selection of exotic species.

Connie Smiley said...

That's an amazing collection of beautiful birds for just 3 days! I love the bee-eater and the Luzon Horrnbill.

John Holmes said...

Subic looks well worth a visit; - thanks for posting these pics and the other information.