'classic' short tour.
Luzon, Mindanao and Palawan
Tour leaders; Stijn De Win, Pete Simpson.
The Philippine archipelago has been geographically isolated from mainland Asia for a long period of time resulting in an avifauna with extremely high endemism. Birds in the Philippines are special. Of course we have the Philippine Eagle but the first time visitor will also be amazed by such strikingly attractive species as Silvery Kingfisher, Philippine Trogon or Steere’s Pitta. Sadly enough the habitat of these birds is severely threatened. On this tour, we visit some of the last remaining but excellent tropical forests in which we should find many of the wonderful rarities and endemics.
This is a relatively short journey with an emphasis on comfortable and relaxed travel to some of the most enjoyable birding areas in the country. "This tour does focus on getting a maximum number of endemics possible within the time frame." The itinerary offers a comprehensive cover of only the very best birdwatching sites in the Philippines, hence it is highly productive without making this a tiring long tour. Those indeed are birding sites that never fail to deliver on superb birds. We will work hard to serve you an extraordinary Philippines experience!
2009 / 2010 / 2011! / 2012 Feb. / 2012 March / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2019
Palawan Peacock PheasantSpotted Kingfisher
"Excellent double chance on the Eagle on this tour!!"
First at Kitanglad, then Mt. Apo in Davao as a back-up site -just in case!
Having arrived in Manila the day previous we make this an early start for a visit to La Mesa Eco-park as it has been a good spot to catch up with one of the more difficult endemics, the Ashy Thrush.
Next we travel to Candaba Marsh, a good spot to get the Philippine Duck on our list as well as a host of waterbirds including the scarce Purple [Philippine] Swamphen, Black Bittern, Barred Rail, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Painted Snipe, Oriental Pratincole... The place does attracts vagrants regularly and these did include Baer's Pochard and Baikal Teal in February of the last couple years.
We should reserve the last hour of daylight for some initial birding in the excellent forests on the Subic Bay naval base. Being a good time of day it is no wonder a Spotted Wood Kingfisher was the first bird off on our last 2016 tour. Our hotel, with pool, is located by the beach inside the Subic Bay Free-port Zone.
A full host of new endemics and other delights wait for us at Subic. By the start of our tour this will provide us with the perfect introduction to some of the most enjoyable yet rewarding birding found in the country. Green Racquet-tail, Sooty Woodpecker, Rufous Coucal, White-fronted Tit, Purple Needletail, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove, Blackish Cuckoo Shrike, Red-crested Malkoha, Scale-feathered Malkoha, White-browed Shama, Philippine Hawk Owl, Chocolate Boobook, Philippine Falconet, Luzon Hawk Eagle, Guaiabero, Luzon Hornbill, Stipe-sided Rhabdornis…
This day will also come with a proper lunch and some rest back at the hotel during the hot hours of day. We will be out for owling in the evening.
Another full morning is certainly needed to do the Subic rainforest any justice. After lunch we travel to Los Banos -Mt Makiling. Enroute we first visit daytime stake-outs for Philippine Scops Owl and Philippine Eagle Owl. Our hotel comes with swimming pool again, and this time it’s fed by water from the hot springs. Makiling still has some volcanic activity indeed.
We spend the day birding at Makiling. This includes sites on the spacious green university campus and the botanical garden. We also walk part of the track up the mountain which preserves some of the best rainforest left on Luzon. Birding can be a bit slow here but with the good time birding at Subic we had, our target species list for this site got reduced greatly so we can focus on what is important. Over 50 endemic bird species have been found at Makiling and species we would likely still want to look for include Indigo-banded Kingfisher, Flaming Sunbird and Spotted Buttonquail.
An early morning flight will take us from Manila to Cagayan de Oro where our driver and minivan wait to transfer us to Damitan village, jump-off point for Kitanglad. From here Del Monte lodge is just two hours away on the mountain. We then spend the afternoon looking for the first of the endemic bird species and other specialties above the camp. One of the first birds to notice and common indeed is the Cinnamon Ibon, a handsome species certainly not done any justice in the field guide. Note that Ibon is the word for ‘bird’ in Tagalog. Of course it will be the more elusive species we will focus on, some of the plenty goodies to look for are Apo Myna, -worth the trip alone-, as well as Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, Mc Gregor’s Cuckooshrike, Red-eared Parrotfinch, Mindanao Racquet-tail, Mindanao Hornbill, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch and Long-tailed Ground-Warbler.
Day 6 & 7
‘The’ star bird on Mt.Kitanglad and of course our main target indeed is the Philippine Eagle (Monkey-eating Eagle) and we’ll head straight up to the Eagle viewpoint on our second day. Also the trail above the viewpoint needs a visit as the forest at this slightly higher altitude is the best spot to look for White-cheeked Bullfinch, Apo Sunbird, Amethyst Brown-Dove and better chances on Mindanao Racquet-tail. Evenings around the camp come with possibilities on Philippine Frogmouth, Philippine Nightjar, Bukidnon Woodcock and with a bit more luck even Everett's and Giant Scops Owls. All are present in the immediate vicinity of the lodge.
Another full morning to catch up on any bird species we might still need on Mt.Kitanglad. After lunch we head down again for our onward journey to Davao city.
This morning we bird near Davao city on the slopes of Mt Talomo and Mt. Apo.
Whiskered Flowerpecker and Cryptic Flycatcher are birds present here and not otherwise found anywhere else on this tour if not Philippines! The area has a lot more on offer but many species are the same as the birds found on Kitanglad. This includes the Philippine Eagle. Hence we keep designated time to just one morning which besides getting the two specialities could double-serve as a back-up for the Eagle in the unlikely case it was missed on Kitanglad.
After lunch we travel to Bislig where we may already visit the airfield for the Grass Owls, Blue-breasted Quail and more. Night in Bislig city.
Day 10 & 11
The last remaining bits of rainforest at Picop need little introduction. Excellent birding in fast disappearing habitat would describe it all. A couple species may be gone already these days but on the other hand the list of endemic birds still clinging on remains very long including; Rufous Hornbill, Writhed Hornbill, Wattled Broadbill, Philippine Trogon, Steere's Pitta, Black-headed Tailorbird, Streaked Ground-Babbler, Blue Fantail, Philippine Oriole, Mindanao Hawk Owl, Short-crested Monarch, Yellowish Bulbul, Black-faced Coucal and Silvery, Blue-capped and Rufous-lored Kingfishers. We may also visit the airfield again in the late afternoon if desired.
A last full morning birding at Picop. After lunch we head back to Davao city for the night.
We'll be on two connecting flights to reach Puerto Princesa on Palawan. From the airport it is only about 40 min. to Irawan Eco Park. The forest and second growth here seem ever more productive. In 2016 we recorded Palawan Hornbill, Blue Paradise-Flycatcher, White-vented Shama, Palawan Flowerpecker, Palawan Tit, Lovely Sunbird, Palawan Crow, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Blue-headed Racquet-tail, Blue-naped Parrot, Melodious Babbler and Ashy-headed Babbler from just 1 single location within the park, a 100m stretch of dirt track. Venturing further may produce Spot-throated and Red-headed Flameback, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha and Palawan Flycatcher.
In the evening we hop over to a tiny island just 15 min. offshore. This is the home of the Mantanani Scops Owl which was easy enough for us to find in both 2015 and '16.
We have another morning birding at Irawan Eco Park. After lunch we continue to Sabang for birding various locations along and off the road. Last stop, at around 5pm, will be Cockatoo viewpoint. Increasingly reliable sightings thanks to improved protection are a happy note worth mentioning. Our 2015 tour recorded 5 Philippine Cockatoos and 2016 produced seven birds at the viewpoint. Night in Sabang.
Boat trip to the Underground River ranger station. The area features some good forest and is home to the Palawan Peacock Pheasant, Philippine Scrubfowl, Stork-billed Kingfisher, White-vented Shama, Hooded Pitta… There will be time for the 40 min. boat trip into the enormous caves which are classified as a Unesco World Heritage site. Afternoon birding near Sabang, and we have another night-birding option. Night in Sabang.
Last morning birding in St. Pauls / Sabang. After lunch we drive back to Puerto Princesa with birding stops en-route. Our evening flight back to manila will mark the end of the tour.
Comfortable accommodation in good standard hotels with private facilities except at the more basic Del Monte lodge on Mt. Kitanglad. Transport by air-conditioned van. Walking difficulty is easy to moderate throughout. Weather is mostly pleasant at this time of the year. Some rain can be expected however and on sunny days it might get fairly hot at noon. Food is good, plentiful and hygienic. Bird photography may often appear a challenge but we always seem to encounter some good photo opportunities on our trips.
We hope you may enjoy our photo gallery.
Please note all photos on this page taken on previous B2A trips.
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Forest on Mount MakilingMount Kitanglad view
Palawan Scops OwlSouthern Silvery Kingfisher
Ashy ThrushPhilippine Needletail
Whiskered FlowerpeckerRed-headed Flameback