Trip Report: Philippines, March 30 - April 14, 1996

Richard Fairbank, Assistant Registrar, University of Sussex, England;

The following is a report on short trip to selected sites in the Philippines from 30 March to 14 April 1996 made by Nick Preston, Barry Stidolph, John & David Cooper and myself.

We had no hassles at all and found the Philippines a very friendly, inexpensive, country. The trip was very successful although hard work due to low bird densities. I saw c165 species in total of which c70 were new for me (all but 3 being endemic). The best birds were Red-bellied & Steere's Pittas, Wattled Broadbill, Philippine Frogmouth & Eagle, Spotted Wood & Hombron's Kingfishers, Rufous Hornbill, Philippine Bullfinch and Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, more or less in that order. The trip cost about UK£850 in total.


30 March

Left London Heathrow at 11.00 hrs on Singapore Airlines direct flight to Singapore.

31 March

Arrived Singapore 07.45 hrs leaving 09.35 hrs and arriving in Manila at 12.50 hrs. Visited American Cemetery by taxi after dumping bags at the Townhouse (a cheap hostel off Roxas Boulevard). Sheer number of graves was awesome. 22 species seen including Peregrine, wintering Violet-backed and White-cheeked Starlings, the endemic Philippine Pigmy Woodpecker and two Barred Rails.

1 April

05.00 hrs flight to Cagayan de Oro (Mindanao) arriving 06.30 hrs. Chartered minibus to take the five of us the c100 km's to Dalwanyan. After some delay Mrs Maghanoy arranged for five motorbikes to take us and bags part way up to the rest house on Mount Katanglad. Walked the last 3 km's, all uphill and quite steep in places. Arrived at rest house mid afternoon. Very pleased to dump bags (which contained food for next five days) and look around immediate vicinity. 21 species seen, nearly half being endemic.

2 April

Slow walk up to Philippine Eagle lookout where three hours of observation produced distant views of two individuals, one visiting the nest site which is overlooked (although hidden from view and at least 1 km range). The eagle looks big but at that range I'm distinctly unimpressed. Even less impressed to miss Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis. Rest of day spent walking up to higher viewpoint and back. A good day with nearly 40 species seen including a superb Philippine Falconet, 3 Cinnamon Ibons and a flock of 35 Chinese Goshawks presumably migrating north.

3 April

Taken across the valley by local guide Carlito to look for Hombron's Kingfisher although soon only Barry and I remained with him, Nick being ill. Amazingly Carlito's whistling (which had begun to get on my nerves) paid off when Barry located one flying in to check us out. A pair then called in response and we got excellent views through the 'scope. Brilliant. Rest of day on what is best described as a route march along little used forest trails culminating in climbing down a sheer slope into the valley and back up the other side coming out at the higher lookout. Frustratingly heard Philippine Bullfinch but did not see it. 4 Apo Mynas from the lookout late afternoon and a superb Philippine Frogmouth in the forest opposite the rest house early evening. This amazing bird has wispy feathers above its eyes and bill. Another good day with 45 species seen including 2 Yellow-breasted Fruit Doves and a Mindanao Hornbill.

4 April

Barry and I decided to go further up the mountain to concentrate on the Bullfinch and Mountain Shrike. I got distracted by a calling Bush Hen which I did not see despite rushing into the tall grass it was calling from (not strictly in my Fieldcraft manual) and when I met up with Barry at upper lookout discovered he'd seen 3 Bullfinches! Not best pleased, I dipped on another before having excellent views of a pair above the highest lookout and saw two more later in the day (very impressive but I do like Bullfinches). We continued walking up the mountain for another hour before finding a Mountain Shrike in an overgrown clearing, the walked slowly back. 40 species recorded including 4 Mountain Racket-tails flying over the higher lookout, 2 Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, 2 McGregor's Cuckoo-Shrike and an Apo Sunbird. David saw Hombron's Kingfisher but John and Nick dipped.

5 April

Last day at Katanglad so went back to the eagle lookout. Saw one bird twice, both times much closer than before. First it glided down the valley in font of us and later circled up over us. My earlier disappointment with the species immediately evaporated. Then spent rather frustrating time trying to see Katanglad Parrotfinch and only succeeded in getting very poor flight views. Walked down towards Dalwanyan in early afternoon and got lift back to Cagayan in Department of Tourism jeepney arriving after dark. 40 species seen, mostly repeats, but did include male Pied Harrier and c75 Eye-browed Thrushes on lower slopes and a Philippine Serpent Eagle and Nick and John saw Hombron's Kingfisher allowing us all to rave about it.

6 April

At airport for 07.20 flight to Cebu (and later Bohol) but it was cancelled due to low cloud (couldn't land) and the next flight was not until 8th. Luckily the Cagayan Princess sailed that afternoon direct to Bohol taking 7 hours and arriving just after dark at Jagna where we were forced to say the night. 18 Red-necked Phalaropes at sea but only one other species identified (Tree Sparrow).

7 April

Got first (04.30 hrs) bus towards Tagbilaran, changing at Loay and getting the 06.30 bus to Bilar (which was delayed for 30 mins while a puncture was mended). At Bilar got 2 motor-cycle rickshaws to take us the 4 km's to Logarita Forest Station arriving before 09.00 hrs. Dumped our bags in pleasant guest house and headed for the Valley Trail tense at the possibility of seeing a new Pitta. Started well with a Ruddy Kingfisher on the way and within less than half an hour on the trail heard a Steere's Pitta calling. It immediately responded to tape playback and flew in to give stunning views. By mid-day we'd seen two more and walking the trail a second time produced a 4th! Rather frustratingly heard Philippine Scops Owl, Hawk Owl and Frogmouth in the clearing by the guest house at night, but despite going out after each one failed to see anything apart from a rather nice flying lemur. 20 species seen including Philippine Trogon and first Coletos.

8 April

On Valley Trail soon after dawn, walking it twice during the day (but no more pittas and frustratingly only heard Winchell's Kingfisher), once continuing to come out on Swimming Pool Trail. Visited the Scout Camp Clearing in late afternoon where Nick wandered off just before dusk and came running back shortly after having found a Wattled Broadbill. We rushed to the site but it had move on although David refound it further down the track as the light was going. Luckily I had my spotlight and we got excellent views of 2 pairs as they were preparing to roost. 27 species seen including 2 Philippine Trogons, 3 Samar Hornbills, 4 Black-faced Coucals, Black-chinned Fruit Dove and Samar Tailorbird.

9 April

Early morning in Scout Camp Clearing (but no sign of the Broadbills) and then walked the Valley Trail where an absolutely amazing Red-bellied Pitta was found by Barry, Nick and me. We watched it for about an hour before being able to drag ourselves away to find John and David, returning almost immediately to watch it again. 25 species seen including Blue-crowned Racket-tail (over the Scout Camp Clearing), Philippine Trogon, Ruddy Kingfisher and 2 Samar Hornbills.

10 April

Up in early hours after calling Philippine Hawk Owl we gave good views in spotlight. Gave the Valley Trail a break starting with Swimming Pool Trail where I saw a female Broadbill. Then walked out in nearby paddies and were amazed when two white birds flying round the forest edge turned out to be Philippine Cockatoos and not egrets (we nearly didn't bother looking at them)! They then appeared to be prospecting nest hole sites. Visits to Scout Camp Clearing and Valley Trail were unproductive although John and David had seen Winchell's Kingfisher in flight on the latter. 27 species seen including 9 Pacific Golden Plovers and a Black-faced Coucal.

11 April

On the Valley Trail at dawn for last time. We watched the Red-bellied Pitta for another hour and I saw another Steere's Pitta but we again failed to get an acceptable view of Winchell's Kingfisher and I only saw 5 other species! Left Logarita soon after 09.00 hrs by jeep (with bags tied on roof) for Bilar where after a short wait we got a bus to Tagbilaran and then motor-cycle rickshaws to airport. Flew to Manila at 14.50 hrs arriving at 16.45. Chartered taxi to take us to Lucena, 3-4 hours south of Manila and the closest town to Quezon National Park (although still c20 km's short of it). Stayed at Fresh Air Hotel in north of town.

12 April

Early jeepney into the centre of Lucena where we quickly chartered another jeepney to take us to Quezon National Park. Road there very poor and didn't arrive until 07.30 hrs. Walked the Summit Trail hearing a distant Red-bellied Pitta and two frustratingly close White-browed Shamas but saw little. Walked down the road to the park entrance at Malicboy (where the 'resident' Indigo-banded Kingfisher was a delight) then got another jeepney back to the Summit Trail again. Frustratingly heard the 2 White-browed Shamas on the Summit Trail again but still could not see them despite much effort. Walked back down to the entrance seeing family party of 3 Rufous Hornbills from viewpoint in the rain. Bus back to Lucena and motor-cycle rickshaws to Fresh Air Hotel. Arranged an early jeepney to get us to Summit Trail for first light next morning. 27 species including 2 Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, 4 Luzon Hornbills and single Philippine Hawk Eagle, Guaiabero, Rough-crested Malkoha and Sooty Woodpecker, but very few small birds.

13 April

Arranged jeepney took us to Quezon at 04.00 hrs, arriving at the start of the Summit Trail just as it was getting light. Walked part of the Summit Trail, seeing 2 Spotted Wood Kingfishers and Rufous Coucal near the start (but only hearing the 2 Shamas again). Walked down the road to the viewpoint (Rufous Hornbills still in area but much better views today) and back, a bit more of the Summit Trail and then back to the entrance at Malicboy where after another look at Indigo-banded Kingfisher our jeepney then took us to Pagbiliao Fish Ponds for a couple of hours mid afternoon. Good selection of waders in nice plumage. Returned to Lucena for bags and then got 18.00 hrs bus to Manila arriving about 22.00 hrs. Taxi to Townhouse. 25 species seen at Quezon including Green Racket-tail, 20+ Chinese Goshawks and 3 excellent Stripe-headed Rhabdornis. 40 species at Pagbiliao including Yellow Bittern, Banded Rail and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

14 April

Taxi to Manila Airport soon after first light. Left Manila at 08.30 hrs arriving Singapore 11.30 hrs, departing 12.30 hrs and arriving at Heathrow at 18.50 hrs.

Species List

The following lists species seen by Richard Fairbank in the Philippines in April 1996. Species not seen by RJF but by other members of the group are included (Nick Preston, Barry Stidolph and John & David Cooper). The sites visited were American Cemetery in Manila (afternoon of 31 March), Mount Katanglad, south of Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao (1-5 April), Logarita, central Bohol (7-11 April), Quezon National Park (12 & 13 April) and Pagbiliao Fish Ponds (afternoon of 13 April), the last two both south of Lucena in southern/central Luzon.

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This page served by Urs Geiser;; September 3, 1996; updated March 31, 1999