Anniversary trip report.
Mindanao and Mindoro, 23-25 February 2014
Participants; Jan van de Leur, Helena Relou, Stijn De Win
Mount Apo - Davao, Siburan and Lake Libuao - Sablayan.
Having started birding about 30 years ago it was in August 2008 that Birding2asia.com went online building on no less than 25 years of worldwide birding experience. In August 2013, to celebrate for B2A being so young we were thinking about birthday cakes and gifts for our guests and one of our bird guides suggested we could also offer a 10% discount on some specific tour or 'anniversary tour'... On my turn I suggested we could offer something the others won’t. I mean; “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best!” You have guessed it right, working hard always to achieve “happy clients”, I had ‘free’ on my mind! And so we went offering on the website during August ’13 various options for free trips. Jan and Helena took up the offer and so it was decided that we would visit Mindoro as a free extension to our main Philippines tour in February 2014.
With the anniversary trip dates coming near things even got better. The main tour did end in Kitanglad and we had not missed the news of an easily accessible nest site of the Philippine Eagle in Davao on the same island. Of course we could not resist the opportunity! Arrangements were made with our friend Pete from Davao for a morning visit to the nest site which fitted nicely in between evening beers and our onward travel to Mindoro. We’d be celebrating in style, yeah!
You loved the Tucson so much Pete… and now we’re on our way up a rough road in a brand new luxury 4WD MonteroSport…? Let us not forget the bread still hot from the oven, fresh banana cake and strong local coffee. It’s always a delight to be out birding with Pete and now we’re on the viewpoint positioned rather perfect to watch the Philippine Eagle chick and mother on the nest below us. The nest is located in a forest giant down the steep slope and it’s not only the occupied tree but the whole valley and indeed the summit of Mount Apo that can be viewed on this clear morning. The Eagles had made a very early catch that morning and the female was already feeding the Eaglet as we arrived on the viewpoint. No need to say we were privileged to watch such a spectacle but what when the male flew in for a change of guard after which the female gave an eye-level flight show through the valley… mind blowing it was!
We must have been stuck on the Eagle viewpoint for over 3 hours and enjoying every second of it we were reluctant to leave as if it felt we had only be present for a couple minutes. I’ve experienced this a couple years previous on Kitanglad. Our group was watching a perched Philippine Eagle which sat rather perfect and not too far across a narrow valley. After the bird took off someone asked how long we’d been there and I did reply 20 minutes. The clock didn’t lie however and it had been over 2 hours… With all the Eagle excitement I should not forget to mention we were delighted to see both Rufous and Writhed Hornbills from the viewpoint with the latter even perched for a while. Then, having pulled ourselves away we had time to visit a nearby forested gully were we actually relaxed and enjoyed hanging on a bench that served as a vantage point for watching a little flock of birds at close range and at eye-level or even below. An Orange-tufted Spiderhunter certainly was the best bird while beauties like Black-naped Monarch and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker were enjoyed tremendously. And I never knew Philippine Leaf Warblers could be such tape responsive, thanks to Pete’s new recording that is.
A fine view on Mount Apo summitand a detail of the same mountain digiscoped.
The next day it was still early when we arrived in San Jose Mindoro where we first had some fun using the local motorized tricycles in the laid-back town. I can not leave it to mention it became quite romantic when our couple was tactically positioned in a bright pink one. Anyway, we found the local people to be very helpful and friendly and in no time a brand new Toyota GL Grandia arrived so we could not only avail of the odd 9 seats between the 3 of us but also use wifi on-board. Mindoro occasionally appears on those tough remote Philippine tours but no such for us, we were going to do it in full style, no less! Remember we are on a celebration trip! After all, the forest is only a 35 min. drive and then a 5 min. walk from a good hotel in town so it’s hard to believe how they can pull it off advertised as ‘remote’??
Quite a scenic drive I must say, from San Jose to Sablayan
and certainly comfortable and air-conditioned for about 2
hours. We’d started to like this island even before our
birding had begun. In Sablayan it took 5 minutes to get the
required permit for visiting the forest on Siburan Penal
farm. We then enjoyed an extremely “fresh” lunch. They took
off indeed and no other than a couple minutes later arrived
with our vegetables and fish from the market. That is now
what I call fresh and healthy. Let us celebrate they haven’t
got any fast food chains settled in Sablayan yet. Delicious
food, some good mid-day rest and we were off with our
friendly driver (just sweet I’d say) for the best hours of
the afternoon. It really proved excellent to go easy and
relaxed and after we got appointed to us some trusty inmates
went on the forest trail first hearing lots of birds before
we stumbled into…… -yes you may tell them don’t worry-...
good views of the critically endangered Black-hooded Coucal.
Best bird of Mindoro! We had not even heard it, we knew
people miss this often, we had not set hopes high, we are in
the forest for 10 min., and then what happens it’s the first
bird we can find!!! All I can think of afterwards is what
would have happen if we’d been nervous, anxious or overly
keen to dive into lifers in the hot midday forest straight.
We would have been sweaty, tired and itchy seeing nothing
for hours believe me sweetie. This is what I personally
value the most about my odd 30 years of experience; True
love for birds and birding without competition or personal
lists needed as a drive to keep going, true enjoyment while
being out in the field, to be keen yet relaxed and easy
going…as a result be in the forest at the best time of the
day, well rested, focused and happy!
Black-naped OrioleScarlet-collared Flowerpecker
After a while on the trail we felt it would be more pleasant to get ourselves a view of the forest edge and this proved a good move as it didn’t take long before we could add Mindoro Hornbill, Mindoro Racquet-tail and Mindoro Coucal (the ‘black’ guy) to the island endemics we got good looks of. Plenty other birds were enjoyed of course, the Osprey yes sure, the Mindoro race of Beer-bellied Cuckooshrike (no bars since you ask), a flock of Balicassiao, those amazing Purple Needletails, Coleto, Black-naped Oriole, Rufous-crowned Bee-eater, Barn Swallow (none in Netherlands at this time of the year), Thick-billed Green Pigeon, White-bellied Munia, White-bellied Woodpecker and 'Philippine' Bulbul leaving only a couple targets for the next morning.
Via our back-entrance-short-cut it only took half an hour drive to Siburan in the morning where we picked up our ‘trusties’ for a visit to Libuao Lake. In one of the most scenic settings in the Philippines we made a stroll around the lake exploring the forest and greenery at the water’s edge but first we scanned the vegetated water body itself which was good for about 50 Philippine Ducks, 5 Wandering Whistling Ducks, a Yellow Bittern, a Javan Pond Heron and more than 20 White-browed Crake. We found Mindoro Hornbill again before we did well to pick out a Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon perched at quite some distance away. No portrait photo but still good to add and watch through the scope as I’ve illustrated on this page. The 'Colasisises' looked fun as we realized they are from the island endemic mindorensis race. Brown-breasted Kingfisher sat by the lake’s edge while Philippine Serpent Eagle came close overhead and Jan catched up on a Chinese Goshawk he had not seen well earlier on the tour.
Brown-breasted KingfisherWhite-browed Crake
Before we got halfway around the lake it became clear the degraded forest on the lake’s edge wouldn’t get much better at the other side either and it was decided to turn back and revisit the much better and taller forest behind the sub-prison again for the remainder of the morning in search of our last remaining target, the Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker, which was a smart move yet again as it turned out. We heard the Pecker again at yesterday’s spot but it remained well out of sight so we decided to hang around our Black-hooded Coucal site where nothing much happened for quite a while. Then we first found a Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove perched in a small fruiting tree before we glimpsed the Flowerpecker on a snag but we had to identify it on voice only as it took off immediately. Is this bird going to come back ever? We needed some luck indeed and something good to finish our anniversary trip with. I mean apart from Black Forest Cake and Red Horse Beer in the San Jose beach resort… so just 5 minutes later the Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker flew in again posing on his snag and abruptly ending its ‘hard to find’ status, then out of nowhere came a Hooded Pitta which must have been just as perplexed as we were to find us just meters from his landing spot. It was then relax and try to get an angle at the Fruit Dove as it still sat in the same tree. Now that’s a good end to 5 successful years.
We would like to add a big thank you to all our previous guests, friends, associates, family… in short everyone who helped us make the previous 5 years absolutely great. We are excited and ever ready to continue our ways. Thank you to all!
on our anniversary trip.
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