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Philippines; OBC fund-raising tour

24th March - 9th April 2019


Leader: Pete Simpson


Max group size: 7

The Oriental Bird Club is an proactive organisation, focussing on the birds and their conservation within the Oriental region. This tour raises funds for the OBC conservation fund and we are happy to be able to support their efforts in the region.

The Philippines archipelago is comprised of more than 7100 islands yet the total land area is slightly smaller than the British Isles. The astonishing degree of biological endemism within the Philippines is well represented by the country’s avifauna, and although the total list for the Philippines is not large at just over 690 species, of approximately 450 resident species more than 250 are endemic.
During this tour we will concentrate on three of the largest islands – Luzon, Mindanao and Palawan which account for more than two-thirds of the land area. They have the largest numbers of endemic species, of which we can expect to see over 140 including such spectacular species as Philippine Eagle, Palawan Peacock-Pheasant, Whiskered, Philippine and Steere’s Pitta, Southern Rufous Hornbill, Celestial Monarch, Philippine Trogon and Cinnamon Ibon, potentially an endemic family. In addition, there’s an amazing set of endemic owls to see, a spectacular set of endemic kingfishers including Spotted Wood and Southern Silvery Kingfishers, and Spotted Wood Kingfisher, and a brace of racquet-tails among the endemic parrots which contain such exotic-sounding species as Colasisi and Guaiabero.
Sadly, much of the rainforest which once cloaked these beautiful islands has already disappeared and many bird species which are dependent on primary forest are in serious decline. However, the Philippines still offers some of the most exciting and fascinating birding in Asia including many of the regions rarest and most desirable birds.

Day 1: 
International arrivals into Manila International Airport. Night in Manila.

Day 2: 
We begin the tour with a morning within Metro Manila where a local park has become the easiest place to find the otherwise skulking Ashy Thrush, with a good chance of Lowland White-eye, Grey-backed Tailorbird and Philippine Magpie Robin, a newly recognised endemic which is difficult elsewhere. We then continue to Subic Bay for an overnight stay. In the afternoon we will begin our birding as there are several target species to be found that are difficult to see elsewhere including Green Racquet-tail, Blue-naped Parrot, Rufous Coucal, Luzon Hawk Eagle, Rufous Coucal, White-lored Oriole, Blackish Cuckooshrike, Philippine Fairy Bluebird, Luzon Flameback, Luzon (Philippine) Pygmy and Northern Sooty Woodpecker, Green-backed Tailorbird, Luzon Hornbill and hopefully the localised White-fronted Tit. At night we will concentrate on finding Chocolate Boobook but we might also find Luzon Boobook and Philippine Scops Owl if we are fortunate. Night at Subic Bay.

Day 3: 
We will spend another morning around Subic Bay Naval Base. The remaining lowland rainforest within the American Naval Base at Subic offer excellent birding and we will still have some of the localised specialities to find as well as a chance for more widespread species which might include Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike, Luzon (White-browed) Shama, Luzon Balicassiao, Philippine Falconet, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis, Red-crested Malkoha, Spotted Wood Kingfisher, White-eared Brown Dove, Philippine Green Pigeon, Red Junglefowl and two recently recognised endemics; Brown-breasted Kingfisher and Rufous-crowned Bee-eater. After lunch we make the long drive through Manila to the southern Sierra Madre mountain range, stopping along the way to look for Philippine Eagle Owl if they’re present at a regular breeding site. Night in Sampaloc.

Day 4: 
We have a full day at this new birding site, with lush sub-montane forest lining the roadsides. The star birds here include the enigmatic Whiskered Pitta at one of its most accessible sites, Flame-breasted and Cream-bellied Fruit Doves, Northern Rufous Hornbill, the elusive Bicol Ground Warbler, and sometimes the rare Grand Rhabdornis. At night we have a good chance to see Luzon Scops Owl. Night in Sampaloc.

Day 5: 
After a final few hours if required we continue to Los Banos in time for afternoon birding, looking for Northern Indigo-banded Kingfisher on the rivers then moving to the nearby grasslands where both Barred and Spotted Buttonquails are possible, with occasional sightings of the elusive Plain Bush-hen. Night in Los Banos.

Day 6: 
Morning birding at Mount Makiling which still has some of the finest forest in the Philippines. We can expect to see several widespread endemics together more difficult species including the stunning Scale-feathered Malkoha, Red-crested Malkoha, Philippine Trogon, Luzon Hornbill, Luzon (White-browed Shama), Flaming Sunbird, Spotted Wood Kingfisher and even rarities such Luzon Bleeding-heart are occasionally seen. After lunch we return to Manila to take our flight to Davao, and from there drive to the east coast town of Bislig where we will stay for the next three nights.

Days 7-8:   
We will have two full days to explore the ex-logging concession at PICOP. Although deforestation has damaged much of the concession, some good forest still remains and gives us a good chance to find a big list of Mindanao’s lowland forest specialists. Possibilities here include Rufous Hornbill, Writhed Hornbill, Mindanao Hornbill, Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Short-billed Brown Dove, Pinsker’s Hawk Eagle, Steere’s Honey Buzzard, Blue-capped Wood Kingfisher, Southern Silvery Kingfisher, Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Philippine and Steere’s Pitta, Philippine Trogon, Little Slaty Flycatcher, Orange-tufted and Naked-faced Spiderhunter, Rufous-fronted and Black-headed Tailorbird, Streaked Ground Babbler, Philippine Fairy Bluebird, Philippine Oriole, Philippine Leafbird, Mindanao Yellowish and Yellow-wattled Bulbul, Mindanao Metallic-winged and Handsome Sunbirds, Black-bibbed Cicadabird, Mindanao (Black-and-white) Triller, and Philippine Needletail. We will try hard to locate mixed species flocks as these often contain Mindanao Blue Fantail, Philippine Leaf Warbler, Rusty-crowned and Mindanao Pygmy Babblers, Everett’s White-eye, Olive-backed Flowerpecker, Short-crested Monarch, Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher, Rufous Paradise Flycatcher, and gives our best chances of finding the rare Celestial Monarch or Mindanao Wattled Broadbill. Black-faced Coucals can often be found skulking in think tangles while more often areas are good for viewing Blue-crowned Racquet-tail or some of the raptors that frequent the area among them Steere’s Honey-buzzard and Pinsker’s Hawk Eagle. We will always be on the lookout for rarities like Southern Sooty Woodpecker, Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher, Mindanao Bleeding-heart or Spotted Imperial Pigeon but they are very rarely seen. Night-birding possibilities include Philippine Frogmouth, Chocolate Boobook, Everett’s and Giant Scops Owl, and Mindanao Boobook. Closer to the town we will visit the disused Bislig Airfield where we have a good chance of seeing Philippine Duck and Eastern Grass Owl. Blue-breasted Quail are often in the grassy fringes of the runway and the marshy vegetation is home to the skulking Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler. Nights in Bislig.

Day 9: 
After a final morning at PICOP we drive south again to Davao for an overnight stay on the slopes of nearby Mount Apo. Night at Eden Resort.

Day 10: 
Morning birding near Eden Resort in search of two very localised specialities; Cryptic Flycatcher and Whiskered Flowerpecker. From here we drive north to Bukidnon province, stopping at the village of Damitan from where we will trek into the Kitanglad Mountains to a tented camp, which will be our home for the next three nights. We will spend any remaining time in the afternoon birding above the camp and in the evening have our first attempt to see Bukidnon Woodcock ‘roding’ near the camp while further night-birding around our lodge could produce Philippine Frogmouth, Philippine Nightjar and with a good deal of luck, Everett’s or Giant Scops Owls. Nights at Tented Camp, Mount Kitanglad.

Days 11-12: 
We will have two full days to explore the remnant forest on Mount Kitanglad. The main targets here will be the magnificent Philippine (Monkey-Eating) Eagle – the national bird of the Philippines. We will work both the lower areas and the higher trails up to at least 1800m in search of the Mindanao endemics and other specialities which are restricted to this montane habitat including Mindanao Racquet-tail, Red-eared Parrotfinch, White-cheeked Bullfinch, Short-tailed Starling, Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, Blue-capped Wood Kingfisher, Olive-capped Flowerpecker, Grey-hooded Sunbird, Apo Sunbird, Apo Myna and if we are fortunate, the skulking Mindanao (Long-tailed Ground Warbler) and slimmer chances of Buff-spotted Flameback or Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove which are also found elsewhere. In mixed feeding flocks we can expect to find McGregor’s Cuckooshrike, Black-and-cinnamon Fantail, Rufous-headed Tailorbird, Black-masked Dark-eye, Turquoise Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Whistler, Mindanao (Philippine) Pygmy Woodpecker and the fascinating Cinnamon Ibon alongside commoner species like Philippine Mountain Warbler, Elegant Tit and Sulphur-billed Nuthatch. There are usually good numbers of overwintering Eye-browed Thrush present and sometimes Mugimaki Flycatcher. While scanning for the Philippine Eagles we might also find Pinsker’s Hawk Eagle, Rufous-bellied Hawk Eagle or the resident form of Oriental Honey Buzzard. Nights at Tented Camp, Mount Kitanglad.

Day 13: 
After some final morning birding we depart from the camp, returning to Damitan, then make our way north to Cagayan de Oro and fly back to Manila for another stay in our very comfortable hotel there.

Day 14: 
After a morning flight to Puerto Princesa we visit a nearby coastal area in search of Chinese Egret, and if the tide is suitable a good selection of waders. In the afternoon we will continue to Sabang on the edge of St. Paul’s National Park in time for an afternoons birding which will likely produce a good selection of Palawan endemics like Lovely Sunbird, Pale Spiderhunter, Palawan Flowerpecker, Yellow-throated Leafbird, Palawan Fairy Bluebird, Palawan Blue Flycatcher, White-vented Shama, Sulphur-bellied, Ashy-fronted and Palawan Bulbul, and with Palawan Hornbill, Blue-headed Racquet-tail, Blue-naped Parrot, Palawan Tit and Blue Paradise Flycatcher exciting possibilities. In the late afternoon we will visit a regular area for Philippine Cockatoo and hope to see these Critically Endangered birds as they head to roost. Night in Sabang.

Day 15: 
Today we will spend a full day birding around St. Paul’s National Park. In the beautiful, untouched forest within the park we will expect to find most of the islands remaining endemics, hopefully including and the spectacular Palawan Peacock Pheasant which is often found in the proximity of Tabon Scrubfowl. Outside the park we will explore other forest patches where we hope to find Ashy-headed Babbler, the skulking yet beautiful Falcated Ground Babbler, Red-headed and Spot-throated Flameback, Black-chinned Fruit Dove and any other endemics not yet seen. Palawan shares much of its avifauna with neighboring Borneo and there are therefore many more widespread species that we don’t find elsewhere on the tour such as Fiery Minivet, Pin-striped Tit-Babbler, Common Hill Myna, Black-headed Bulbul, Ashy Drongo, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.
The area near our resort is a good area to search for Palawan Frogmouth and Palawan Scops Owl and we will make a special effort to search for these elusive birds. Night in Sabang.

Day 16: 
We will spend a final day birding in the St. Paul’s area before heading back across the island in the afternoon to Honda Bay where we will take a boat out to an offshore island in search of Mantanani Scops Owl, a true small-island specialist. Night in Puerto Princesa.

Day 17: 
Today we will bird along the Balsahan river within the Iwahig penal colony. There is considerable overlap with species present at St. Paul’s so we have last chances at anything missed so far, plus Melodious Babbler and Palawan Flycatcher which are very difficult elsewhere. We return to Manila in the afternoon to connect with international flights.


Tour Photo Albums

Philippines, 2017

Philippines, 2016

Philippines, 2015

Philippines, 2014

Philippines, 2013

Philippines, 2012