Category Archives: Travel

Philippine Frogmouth of Mindanao

The frogmouth a group of nocturnal birds related to the nightjars. They are named for their large flattened hooked bills and huge frog-like gape.

The Philippine Frogmouth (Batrachostomus septimusis) is an endemic species found throughout the Philippines. The ones in Mindanao are of the nominate subspecies septimusis.

In May 2014, I had a chance to see this species while on a trip to PICOP, Mindanao. In an inconspicuous part of a dark patch of forest, sat a lone upright figure than was motionless and could pass off as another stick.

Philippine Frogmouth
The Philippine Frogmouth sitting on at the end of a horizontal branch with 4 side branches projecting out. The mound it sits on is the nest that consist of its own downy feathers which is held in place using spider silk, moss and lichens. An on it presumably sits a single egg.

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Fire-tufted Barbet at Fraser’s Hill

The Fire-tufted Barbet (Psilopogon pyrolophus) is a species of barbet found in montane areas in Malaysia, Indonesia and southern Thailand. It is a rather unusual Asian barbet that it has its own genus, and have a proportionally longer tail than the rest. Its name is derived from the prominent red tuft of bristles extending over the base of the bill.

Of course, I knew none of these information when I made my maiden birding trip out of Singapore to Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia back in March 2011. The plan was to go have a family vacation and try to take some bird photos, whatever species they may be.

On the first evening, I explored the area around my hotel. As luck would have it, intermittent rain made me turn back to the hotel. While waiting for it to clear, I saw this green bird perched rather low on an evergreen tree. Without alarming it, I made my way closer. I had a long lens and had to back out to get the bird barely in frame, with the tripod touching the wall of the hotel.

Fire-tufted Barbet
An almost full frame shot of the adult Fire-tufted Barbet, perched low.

 
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Ibisbill in Bhutan

I had the good fortune to travel to Bhutan between April and May 2013. One of the first bird species I saw was the Ibisbill (Ibidorhyncha struthersii) at Paro River, which is near the international airport.

The Ibisbill is a peculiar looking bird. Its long, down-curved bill is red as is its eyes. The name is derived from it’s curved bill like the ibis. It is however a unique species related to the waders but sufficiently distinct to form its own taxonomic family.

They are found on stony riverbanks of the high plateau of Central Asia and the Himalayas, from Kazakhstan to China and southwards to India.

Below is my photographic account of the species.

 

Ibisbill
A drop of water hanging from the unique red curved bill after a dip on the river looking for food. The striking purple leg and feet is a breeding adult feature.

 

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Everett’s Scops Owl of Mindanao

One of the places I visited while in Mindanao, Philippines was a place called PICOP. It stands for Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines. As the name implies, it was a logging site that produced paper and other timber products. It has long since been closed down and the forest now is unfortunately being decimated by other factors. Nonetheless, it is still an important site to get a lot of endemic Philippines birds.

One of the endemic bird there is the Everett’s Scops Owl (Otus everetti). It is a recent split from the Philippines Scops Owl, and the outskirt of the town of Bislig is apparently a good place to find it. At dusk, we arrived at a nondescript place with a patch of secondary forest, a road, and nearby some sort of worker’s compound. The place did not seem like much, but we were assured that the bird has been spotted here before.

Once the place got dark, the guide started playing the call of the owl to attract its attention. Minutes passed by, and then some more. Nothing. Motorbikes passed by every now and then. Mosquitoes abound and took a liking to us, and it looks like the guide was getting quite nervous. I was getting a bit impatient.

It must have been at least 15 minutes and the place was really dark when suddenly a flash of a bird flying pass. Everyone scurried to the landing place and the torches were aimed squarely at the owl. No one made any noise save for the rapid shutter sound from the cameras.

Everett's Scops Owl
(Everett’s Scops Owl with a Philippine Parachute Gecko in its mouth, perched on a bamboo clump)

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Giant Scops Owl of Mindanao

The Giant Scops Owl (Otus gurneyi) is an endemic owl of the Philippines. Also known as the Mindanao Eagle-Owl, it is intermediate in size and structure to the scops and the eagle-owl. It is a threatened species due to habitat loss but little is known about it’s biology and behaviour.

On my trip to the Philippines to see the Philippines Eagle nesting in Mindanao, I had an opportunity to encounter this bird. While staying in a resort near Davos, our bird guide mentioned that he will be looking for this owl species at the resort itself in the early hours of the morning as he had heard its call on a previous trip. If he succeeded, he will wake us up immediately to get a view.

We thought little about it, and proceeded to sleep peacefully that night. In the middle of the night I was rudely awaken by some shrieks just outside my chalet room. I thought what an awful noise made by some unknown animal and try to get back to sleep. Just then, the phone rang, with our guide informing us that he had seen the bird. Without much preparation and just with my bare camera and lens, I rushed out to meet the guide who was shining his torchlight at a short distance away.

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Assam Macaque of Bhutan

The Assam Macaque (Macaca assamensis) is a species of monkey found in South and Southeast Asia. Their numbers are in decline due to human activities and development, including land clearing, hunting and logging.

I had a chance to have a quick look at this species in one of the highway in Bhutan in April 2013. As we were in a car, not too many photo opportunities.

Assam Macaque
(A male eating)

Assam Macaque
(A female with a baby)