We stayed with Delia's parents in Manila and had the use of a car. We alternated between family and friend time and birding. As a result, we relied on birding forays we could make easily using Manila as a base. Assuming one doesn't have a car available, all the places we went to are reachable by public transportation. Probably the best resource, aside from previous reports is the Lonely Planet's guide to the Philippines. All places noted below can be day-trips from Manila, although overnights are best for early morning or night birding. We overnighted only at Tali Beach and near Quezon National Park (in Lucena).
Good spot to easily find Barred Rails, particularly early in the day, plus the ubiquitous Collared Kingfisher, and Lowland White-eye (harder to find). Spotted Buttonquail have been reported here, but we haven't seen them. There was a pair of Gray-faced Buzzards this past trip, and they have been routinely reported there. The memorial to war dead is also quite beautiful and moving worth looking at in addition to searching for birds. A guard will check you in and have you read guidelines. When we were there he also asked us to open our trunk because of the recent bombings in Manila.
The guard ignored us both times we were there. Otherwise, tell the guard why you're there, and entry should be no problem. This location has more accessible grassland habitat, and we found the corner near the stone wall with a warehouse type building on the other side quite productive yielding both Scaly-breasted and Chestnut Munia, Bright-capped Cisticola, and Lesser Coucal. Striated Grassbird is an easy find here. The edges are worth exploring all around the cemetery, although the end opposite the entrance seems about to be developed.
This is a private university north and east of Makati. A day-pass can be secured at the gate. We just began to explore the environs, and found particularly productive the small valley across from the Jesuit residence on the far end of the campus (Philippine Coucal and Oriental Magpie-Robin), the wetland/nature preserve area (Cinnamon Bittern and White-breasted Waterhen), and the wetland, wooded area just off a medium-sized parking lot off the main drive, about in the middle of campus near the gymnasium (White-browed Crake and Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo).
This campus has an extensive central lagoon where we found White-throated Kingfisher and Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker. We did not have time to explore the arboretum or the other edges of the campus, although they look to be very promising.
A treasure trove of birds, similar to Quezon National Park, although more inhabited than QNP. The trail to the summit starts from TREES building, at the Forestry School on one edge of the campus of the University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UP-LB). (UP-LB is known locally as College; to find Mt. Makiling, ask directions to Forestry.) If you can hire a jeepney or 4-wheel drive to take you as far as the track goes, it may help (we walked both up and down). The trail is 8 km long and one can get half way up by vehicle. We made 2 trips here, one in varying rain that didn't produce much, the other in clear weather that was excellent (Tarictic Hornbill, Philippine Falconet, Lovely Sunbird, Drongo Cuckoo, Brush Cuckoo [heard only], White-browed Shama).
We were birding while eating lunch at the Delampasigan Restaurant (excellent local food) near the Municipal Building in the town of Los Banos. The Restaurant is located on stilts just offshore on Laguna de Bay. Highlights here were Grey Heron and White-winged Tern.
Looks to be a rich resource for birds plus swimming and eating pleasure. Somewhat pricey. Birders will compete with people who go for the hot springs. We saw several birds when we were there, but were hampered by heavy rain and our friends who mainly wanted to do the hot springs, so we ended up with only 1 bird identified - a lifer.
This town is on the rim of a dormant volcano, the rim yielding a spectacular view of the lake in Tali Volcano. The inside rim is forested which we did not have time to explore except as we ate at Josephine's (excellent local food). We did see a Rufous-bellied Eagle soaring up over the rim, however, as we drove along the rim road heading towards Nasugbu.
We had friends who owned property there, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to enter this gated community. Nasugbu beach nearby should offer similar species and habitat (ocean shore and reefs plus scrub habitat and some forest offshore).
Mountain forest habitat (under 1000m). This is the single best place we visited for birding potential. We hiked the concrete trail off the zig-zag road near the lagoon parking and concession area. This may not be where most people have birded, but we found good birds and met no one on the trail. This is the only place we went to where we ran into no people. We were assured by the park superintendent that the area was clear of National People's Army (NPA) so safety did not appear to be an issue. It's helpful to sign up for a day pass (nominal fee) at the superintendent's office, near the intersection of where the zig-zag road goes uphill from the road to Pagbilao.
Most trip reports have mentioned the Pagbilao rice paddies. These are located along the major highway to Malicboy outside the town of Pagbilao. We were, for the most part, disappointed, and saw only few birds while we were there, although we were not able to visit this particular area in early morning, or to spend much time there. The habitat is promising, and should produce much more than we had time to see. Highlights for us here were the Slaty-breasted Rail, Dollarbird, and White-throated Kingfisher.
Got to American Cemetery about 7:00 a.m. Saw the usual Barred Rails, Crested Mynas, Collared Kingfisher, and Zebra Doves. Found 2 Grey Wagtails and 1 Richard's Pipit on an open grassy space, about 100m south and east of the Memorial
Arrived at Libingan ng mga Bayani (National Heroes Cemetery) about 7:30 and stayed until 10 a.m. Striated Grassbird abundant. Found an Artic Warbler in the trees, and at least 1 Spotted Dove on the lower left side (from the entrance) of the cemetery circle. On the upper left side, where there's a smallish grassy plot just before the stone wall near the warehouses we found Chestnut Munia.
Got to Ateneo de Manila about 7:30. Heard Philippine Coucal near the Jesuits' residence, watched a Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo just off the marshy area near the gymnasium, in which we also saw White-browed Crake, and then saw 3 Cinnamon Bitterns and 2 White-breasted Waterhens in the nature preserve area on the highway side of the main drive between the highway and the college buildings. Long-tailed Shrikes were abundant in the grassy and building areas.
Went to Hidden Valley with friends, mainly for the hot springs, getting there about 9:30 a.m. We had heavy to light rain during our entire stay. Frustrating. We saw several birds, but identified only an Oriental Bush Warbler that sheltered from the rain in a palm near the buffet shelter. Since there wasn't much else to do except eat, we watched it for a good 10-15 minutes from about 7m away.
Back to Ateneo, getting there at 7:15. We started in the little marshy valley off the Jesuits' Residence, finding an Oriental Magpie-Robin and 3 Scaly-breasted Munia. We got another view of the White-breasted Waterhen in the marshy area near the gymnasium. From about 9:00, we briefly checked out the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City. In the central riparian area, we found a White-throated Kingfisher and a Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker. We didn't manage to find the arboretum although we saw it on the map we had, and had to leave by about 10:30.
Trip to Quezon National Park. Between Pagbilao and Quezon NP, we spotted a Dollarbird out in the open, although not far from nearby forest. We arrived by car at Quezon NP about 3:30 p.m. and walked a bit up the trail (slippery concrete) near the lagoon parking/concession area, finding 2 Oriental Honey Buzzards soaring above. Along the trail we heard a Coppersmith Barbet, saw a Yellow-bellied Whistler, and found both Red-crested and Scale-feathered Malkohas.
Started up the Quezon NP trail (same trail) at 6:30. Saw a Rufous Coucal near the start of the trail, then found a Lemon-throated Leaf-Warbler. A Whiskered Pitta gave us reasonable views about a third of the way up, and we watched a Pechora Pipit foraging near the top of the concrete path. Had to leave before we wanted because of a lunch date with a friend. On the way back to Lucena, we stopped by rice paddies near Pagbilao, and spotted 3 Slaty-breasted Rails and a Slender-billed Crow.
At Mt Makiling about 8:30 with friends, one of whom got nauseous every time she looked up into the trees. It was raining off and on, and visibility was less than ideal, and we ended up with only 9 species for the walk on the mountain. Walking from the TREES building where we parked our car, we found 2 Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and a pair of Blue-breasted Flycatchers about a third of the way from Trees to the concessions area. We found a Velvet-fronted Nuthatch just a bit higher on the trail. Since it got rainier as we went higher, we retreated to the town of Los Banos and the Delampasigan Restaurant, where we had lunch and watched 4 Grey Herons in the distance as they worked their way among the fishing stations in Laguna de Bay.
Tagaytay today with friends, getting there about 12:30 p.m. Pygmy Swiflets and Pacific Swallows were plentiful. After a 3 hour lunch, we managed a little driving around, and found a Philippine Coucal in a grassy/shrubby area off the highway on the rim.
American Cemetery by 7:00. We showed our friends great views of 2 Gray-faced Buzzards, Collared Kingfishers, a Blue Rock-thrush, Pied Bushchats, and Barred Rails. We also spotted a Eurasian Kestrel flying over the grasslands in the restricted area.
Arrived with different friends at Tali Beach by 2:30 p.m. Walked on the beach about an hour before dusk and found a Common Kingfisher, an Eastern Reef Egret, and a Greater Sand-Plover.
Started toward the beach at 5:45 a.m. Treated to a Peregrine Falcon flying overhead. The beach was relatively empty, although we spotted a Little Heron flying to shore, and saw 2 Common and 5 Collared Kingfishers. On the way back to the house we were staying at, we found a pair of Tawny Grassbirds with nesting material in the scrub off the beach. We also heard a called White-eared Brown Dove. From the house, overlooking a cove on the water, we watched a Grey-headed Fish-Eagle, 4 Olive-backed Sunbirds, and an Oriental Magpie-Robin. When swimming a little later, we had a Yellow Wagtail pay the shore nearby a brief visit. Then, while driving home, we had a Rufous-bellied Eagle soar up over the rim of Tali Volcano as we were driving through Tagaytay.
National Heroes Cemetery by 7:00. Limited time to bird. We checked out the grassy plot on the upper left of the cemetery circle from the entrance, and found an abundance of both Scaly-breasted and Chestnut Munia plus a Bright-capped Cisticola. Then 3 Lesser Coucals made an appearance, and we watched them fly and call in the grassy area for about 20 minutes.
Mt Makiling by 6:30. This turned out to be our most productive day, partly because of good weather, and the fact that we spend 8 hours on the mountain (and we still got only about 5.5 km up the 8km trail). (Please note: the last 3 kilometers is a steep ascent on a narrow trail. We were warned there were many leeches). We heard 8 Coppersmith Barbets and failed to see any. Highlights included the 4 Tarictic Hornbills of which we were able to get great views, including seeing them about 20m away (eating fruit from a tree) about a third of the way from TREES toward the concessions. Beyond the concessions, we were treated to 2 male Lovely Sunbirds, 2 cooperative Yellow-wattled Bulbuls, a soaring Crested Serpent-Eagle, a tail-wagging Striped Flower-pecker, 2 Philippine Orioles, 2 Yellowish White-eyes, a Colasisi, and a Philippine Falconet.
|Pacific Reef-Egret (dark-phase)||1 on 1/ 3/2001 Tali Beach|
|Intermediate Egret||1 on 12/28 and 20 on 12/29/2000 Pagbilao area
1 on 1/ 7/2001 Laguna de Bay, Los Banos
|Gray Heron||4 on 12/31/2000 Laguna de Bay, Los Banos
1 on 1/7/2001 Laguna de Bay, Los Banos
|Striated Heron||1 on 1/ 4/2001 Tali Beach|
|Cinnamon Bittern||3 on 12/25/2000 Ateneo de Manila
2 on 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila
1 on 12/27/2000 UP, Quezon City
|Oriental Honey-buzzard||2 on 12/28 and 1 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP|
|Grey-headed Fish-Eagle||1 on 1/ 4/2001 Tali Beach|
|Crested Serpent-Eagle||1 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Grey-faced Buzzard||1 on 12/28/2000 Quezon NP
2 on 1/2/2001 American Cemetery
|Rufous-bellied Eagle||1 on 1/ 4/2001 Tagaytay|
|Philippine Falconet||1 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Eurasian Kestrel||1 on 1/ 2/2001 American Cemetery|
|Peregrine Falcon||1 on 1/ 4/2001 Tali Beach|
|Barred Rail||2 on 12/23 and 6 on 12/29/2000 American Cemetery|
|Buff-banded Rail||3 on 12/29/2000 Pagbilao area|
|White-breasted Waterhen||2 on 12/25 and 1 on 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila|
|White-browed Crake||3 on 12/25/2000 Ateneo de Manila|
|Greater Sandplover||1 on 1/ 3/2001 Tali Beach|
|Whiskered Tern||2 on 1/ 7/2001 Laguna de Bay, Los Banos|
|White-winged Tern||1 on 1/ 7/2001 Laguna de Bay, Los Banos|
|Rock Dove||common around Manila|
|Spotted Dove||1 on 12/24/2000 National Heroes Cemetery|
|Red Collared-Dove||2 on 12/29/2000 Pagbilao area
4 on 1/2/2001 American Cemetery
|Zebra Dove||multiple sightings at American Cemetery, National Heroes Cemetery and Ateneo de Manila|
|White-eared Dove||heard 1 on 1/ 4/2001 Tali Beach|
|Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove||heard 2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Spotted Imperial-Pigeon||heard 1 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Philippine Hanging-Parrot||1 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Hodgson's Hawk-Cuckoo||1 on 12/25/2000 Ateneo de Manila|
|Brush Cuckoo||heard 2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Drongo Cuckoo||saw 1 and heard at least 1 more on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Red-crested Malkoha||2 on 12/28 and 1 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP
2 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Scale-feathered Malkoha||2 on 12/28 and 1 on 12/29/2000Quezon NP
1 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Philippine Coucal||heard 1 on 12/25/2000 Ateneo de Manila
saw 1 on 1/1/2001 at Tagaytay
heard 1 on 1/2/2001 at American Cemetery
heard 2 on 1/7/2001 at Mt Makiling
|Lesser Coucal||3 on 1/ 6/2001 National Heroes Cemetery|
|Rufous Coucal||1 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP|
|Whiskered Treeswift||2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Glossy Swiftlet||2 on 1/ 3 and 3 on 1/4/2001 Tali Beach|
|Pygmy Swiftlet||fairly common at Tagaytay and Mt Makiling|
|Purple Needletail||3 on 12/25 and 2 on 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila|
|House Swift||10 on 1/ 2/2001 American Cemetery|
|Common Kingfisher||1 on 1/ 3 and 2 on 1/4/2001 Tali Beach|
|White-throated Kingfisher||1 on 12/27/2000 Univ of Philippines, Quezon City
1 on 12/29/2000 Pagbilao area
|Collared Kingfisher||common in lowlands, including inhabited areas|
|Dollarbird||1 on 12/28/2000 Pagbilao area|
|Tarictic Hornbill||4 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Coppersmith Barbet||readily heard (we never saw one) at Quezon NP & Mt Makiling|
|Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker||1 on 12/27/2000 Univ Philippines, Quezon City
1 each on 12/31/2000 and 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Whiskered Pitta||1 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP|
|Golden-bellied Flyeater||easily heard, seen with some effort in lowlands|
|Yellow-bellied Whistler||2 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP
1 on 12/31/2000 Mt Makiling
|Blue-headed Fantail||1 on 12/28 and 4 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP
2 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Pied Fantail||seen regularly in lowlands in numbers from 1-3 in shrubs|
|Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher||1 on 12/28/2000 Quezon NP|
|Balicassiao||readily seen and heard at Quezon NP and Mt Makiling|
|Slender-billed Crow||1 on 12/29/2000 Pagbilao area|
|Large-billed Crow||2 on 12/28/2000 ricefields off South Superhighway|
|Philippine Oriole||2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Black-naped Oriole||1 on 12/28/2000 Quezon NP|
|Bar-bellied Cuckoo-shrike||1 each on 12/31/2000 and 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
1 on 1/2/2001 American Cemetery
|Pied Triller||1 on 12/23/2000 and 2 on 1/2/2001 American Cemetery
2 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Brown Shrike||easily seen in the lowlands|
|Long-tailed Shrike||12 on 12/25 and 8 on 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila
1 on 1/3/2001 Tali Beach
|Blue Rock-Thrush||1 on 1/ 2/2001 American Cemetery|
|Crested Myna||4 on 12/23/2000 and 1/2/2001 American Cemetery
3 on 12/27/2000 Univ of Philippines, Quezon City
|Coleto||1 each on 12/28 and 12/29/2000 Quezon NP|
|Gray-spotted Flycatcher||1 each on 12/25 and 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila
1 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Blue-breasted Flycatcher||2 on 12/31/2000 Mt Makiling|
|Oriental Magpie-Robin||1 on 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila
1 on 1/4/2001 Tali Beach
|White-browed Shama||heard 2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Pied Bushchat||1 each on 12/24/2000 and 1/6/2001 National Heroes Cemetery
2 (pair) on 1/2/2001 American Cemetery
1 on 1/3 and 2 on 1/4/2001 Tali Beach
|Velvet-fronted Nuthatch||1 on 12/31/2000 Mt Makiling|
|Barn Swallow||common in lowlands|
|Pacific Swallow||common in lowlands, in towns and along water|
|Yellow-wattled Bulbul||2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Yellow-vented Bulbul||common in the lowlands, including inhabited areas|
|Philippine Bulbul||readily heard and seen at Quezon NP and Mt Makiling|
|Yellowish White-eye||2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Golden-headed Cisticola||1 on 1/ 6/2001 National Heroes Cemetery|
|Manchurian Bush-Warbler||1 on 12/26/2000 Hidden Valley, Atimonan|
|Arctic Warbler||1 on 12/24/2000 National Heroes Cemetery
1 on 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila
|Lemon-throated Warbler||2 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP|
|Tawny Grassbird||watched a pair carrying nesting material on 1/4/2001 Tali Beach|
|Striated Grassbird||common in grasslands in the lowlands|
|Stripe-sided Rhabdornis||2 on 12/31/2000 and 1 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Elegant Tit||readily heard and seen at Quezon NP & Mt Makiling|
|Eurasian Tree Sparrow||abundant in inhabited areas|
|Scaly-breasted Munia||3 on 12/27/2000 Ateneo de Manila
10 on 1/6/2001 National Heroes Cemetery
|Chestnut Munia||1 on 12/24/2000 and 4 on 1/6/2001 at National Heroes Cemetery|
|Yellow Wagtail||1 on 1/ 4/2001 Tali Beach|
|Gray Wagtail||2 on 12/23/2000 and 1 on 1/2/2001 American Cemetery|
|Richard's Pipit||1 each on 12/23/2000 and 1/2/2001 American Cemetery
1 on 1/2/2001 at National Heroes Cemetery
|Pechora Pipit||1 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP
1 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Striped Flowerpecker||1 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|White-bellied Flowerpecker||2 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
|Pygmy Flowerpecker||1 on 12/29/2000 Quezon NP|
|Olive-backed Sunbird||4 on 1/ 4/2001 Tali Beach
1 on 1/7/2001 Mt Makiling
|Lovely Sunbird||3 on 1/ 7/2001 Mt Makiling|
We found the recently published (Oxford University Press, 2000) A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines (Kennedy, Gonzales, Dickinson, Miranda, & Fisher) to be extremely helpful. The inclusion of habitat, range maps and behavior, in addition to approximations of the sounds, made many more birds identifiable than would otherwise have been possible.
Also available is a small photo book by Tim Fisher and Nigel Hicks called A Photographic Guide to Birds of the Philippines, 2000. An introduction to birds of the Philippines, it contains photographs of 214 of 570 species and some habitat information. Helpful for seeing birds as they can appear in real life.
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