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Remote Philippines

17th March - 7th April 2019


Leader: Mike Nelson

Max group size: 7


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

Day 2:
We begin with a very early morning flight from Manila to Bacolod from where we transfer directly to Gawahon Ecopark. Our morning at Gawahon will target two species rarely seen elsewhere; White-throated Jungle Flycatcher and Southern Indigo-banded Kingfisher although both are extremely difficult. We also have a good chance of finding the spectacular Flame-templed Babbler and other commoner visayan endemics like Black-belted Flowerpecker and Visayan Fantail. After our morning birding we drive south to Dumaguete for a three-night stay.

Days 3-4:
We have two full days to explore various sites near Dumaguete with a whole suite of endemics awaiting us; Visayan Hornbill, Visayan Shama, Visayan Fantail, Visayan Brown Dove, Visayan Tailorbird, Visayan Balicassiao, White-winged Cuckooshrike, Maroon-naped and Magnificent Sunbirds, Black-belted Flowerpecker and at night Negros Scops Owl. If not already seen, then Flame-templed Babbler is a big target and the rare Yellow-faced Flameback is possible. There will also be more opportunities to see Visayan Balicassiao, Visayan Fantail and other nice species such as White-vented Whistler, a local form of Yellowish White-eye, Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler, Blue-crowned Racquet-tail, Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon and Philippine Needletail. We should also look out for the rare Visayan Rhabdornis which sometimes sits up on open branches in the early morning, and there are further opportunities for Black-belted Flowerpecker in the lowlands. On one day we ascend the steep slopes of Mount Talinis which is one of a very few places on Negros where we can find the islands only true endemic; Negros Striped Babbler, with the local form of White-browed Shortwing which is surely a future armchair split. Nights in Dumaguete.

Day 5:
We should have a few hours to seek out any remaining targets before we take the fast ferry across to the neighbouring island of Bohol. We head inland to our quaint accommodation in the centre of the island which is conveniently located close to Rajah Sikatuna Natural Park (RSNP), our focal point for the coming days.

Days 6-7:
We have two full days to explore the park, which protects the most extensive forests on Bohol. There is excellent birding on a network of trails where we might hope to find all major targets; Visayan Wattled Broadbill with mixed feeding flocks, Yellow-breasted Tailorbird, Black-crowned Babbler, Samar Hornbill, and the recently split Bohol Sunbird and Visayan Blue Fantail. There will be plenty more to keep us entertained and this is an excellent place to see the likes of Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher, Streaked Ground Babbler, Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Short-billed and Amethyst Brown Dove, Black-bibbed Cicadabird and Steere’s Pitta. At night we will try to find Philippine Frogmouth and Everett’s Scops Owl.

Day 8:
We have a final morning within RSNP looking for any remaining targets, before heading back to the ferry terminal for the relative short hop across to the island of Cebu. Night in Cebu City.

Day 9:
We have a full day in the forest at Tambunan, one of the few forest patches remaining on the island, which retains just 0.03% of it’s original forest cover. We will be looking for Black Shama and Cebu Bulbul (three way split from Streak-breasted) but should also fine White-vented Whistler, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Magnificent Sunbird and others. We will remain after dark to search for the recently described Cebu Boobook. Night in Cebu City.

Day 10:
A short flight brings us to the small volcanic island of Camiguin Sur, just of the north coast of Mindanao, surprising hotbed of endemism. We have the remainder of the day on the island searching for the island endemic Camiguin Hanging Parrot but also making sure to see ‘Camiguin’ Yellowish Bulbul and distinctive taxa of Black-naped Monarch and Yellowish White-eye. Dimorphic Kingfisher is fairly common on the island and at night we will look for the recently described Camiguin Boobook. Night on Camiguin Sur.

Day 11:
We have a final morning on Camiguin Sur to concentrate on any endemics we didn’t find the previous day before taking the ferry across to mainland Mindanao, and driving west to Cagayan de Oro for an overnight stay.

Day 12:
Two flights take us to Tuguegarao in the very north of Luzon, and from here we travel into the foothills of the Sierra Madre in search of one of the world’s rarest birds.

Day 13:
Isabela Oriole vanished for nearly 50 years before being rediscovered in this corner of Luzon in 2003 by Rob. These days much research has been carried out but the species in still known from just a handful of pairs and hopefully we will be able to enjoy them this morning at one of their few known localities. With this rarity under our belts we return to Tuguegarao for lunch and in the afternoon begin out trek out into the heart of the mountains. This initial walk is through mostly denuded hillside but we will concentrate on any areas of bushes and trees which can often produced Spotted Imperial Pigeon and Philippine Collared Dove, the latter having disappeared from most of its former range. Night camping.

Day 14:
Continuing our walk into Sawa we pass through progressively improving habitat. Furtive Flycatcher prefers the bamboo thickets at the forest edge but as we reach good forest a whole new set of species appear with commoner species like Philippine Fairy Bluebird and Blackish Cuckooshrike sometimes joined by White-lored Oriole and the fascinating Sierra Madre Crow. Night camping.

Days 15-16:
We have two full days here with many targets to keep us entertained. The impressive Whiskered Pitta will be a major target but while searching we’ll also be on the look out for feeding flocks which might contain Golden-crowned Babbler and Luzon Striped Babbler. Blue-breasted Blue Flycatcher will hopefully be found in their favourite stream side gullies, and the hopefully we can tease the very skulking Sierra Madre Ground Warbler into view. Cream-bellied Fruit Dove can often be tracked down thanks to it’s distinctive purred calls, Luzon Bleeding-heart is often heard but difficult to see and we’ll need considerable luck to see Flame-breasted Fruit Dove which typically prefers higher elevations. White-fronted Tit is possible and we’ll also be scanning the canopy in the hope of a Grand Rhabdornis. There should be plenty of comer species around and these often include raucous flocks of Rufous Coucals, Luzon Flameback and Northern Sooty Woodpecker. Night camping.

Day 17:
Time to walk back out to civilisation and connect with our afternoon flight back to Manila where a very welcome soft mattress, warm shower and extensive buffet await! Night in Manila.

Day 18:
Early morning flight to San Jose, Mindoro then transfer to Sablayan. After lunch, the rest of the day will be spent birding within Sablayan Penal Colony. We will begin our searches for the islands endemics and also remain after nightfall to search the forest edge for Mindoro Boobook. Night in Sablayan.

Day 19:
Full day birding at Sablayan Penal Colony. The penal colony has some of the last remaining lowland forest on the island and here we will hope to find Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker, Mindoro Hornbill, Black-hooded Coucal. We will also expect to find the Mindoro Bulbul, a cryptic member of the former ‘Philippine Bulbul’ complex, and the recently split Mindoro Racquet-tail. We will also have a chance of several tricky Philippine endemics that are now easier to find here than elsewhere in the islands such as Spotted Imperial Pigeon, Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon and Black-bibbed Cicadabird. Night in Sablayan.

Day 20:
We depart early this morning to drive back to the capital San Jose for our flights firstly to Manila, then onwards to the rarely-visited island of Tablas. When we arrive we will transfer directly to our base in the sleepy town of San Agustin. In the afternoon we begin our birding and make our first attempts to see the recently described endemic Romblon Boobook, with a good chance of Mantanani Scops Owl too. Night in San Agustin.

Day 21:
Full day birding within the nearby Dubduban Watershed, the only substantial remaining patch of forest on the island. We will be looking out in particular for the island endemics; Tablas Bulbul, Tablas Fantail and the spectacular lyre-tailed Tablas Drongo. There will be other more widespread endemic present, the pick of which is the recently split Dimorphic Kingfisher if we didn’t already fine them on Camiguin Sur, but in the past we’ve also seen Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove, Blue-crowned Racquet-tail, Philippine and Hooded Pitta, Rufous-lored Kingfisher and Luzon Paradise-flycatcher. Night in San Agustin.

Day 22:
We have a final few hours of birding on Tablas if required before we return to Manila in the early afternoon to connect with our international departures.

Tour Photo Albums

Remote Philippines, 2013

Remote Philippines custom, April-May 2016

Remote Philippines, 2011