Mt. Polis at the boundary of the provinces of Ifugao and Mountain Province, just after the famous town of Banaue and before Sagada is one good site for birding and photographing montane birds, many endemic to Luzon and the Philippines. Montane birds are birds that can only be found at high elevations, usually above 1,000 meters above sea level.
Wikipedia says Mount Polis is a 6,216 feet (1,895 m) mountain peak that ranks as the third highest mountain in Ifugao province and the 124th highest mountain in Philippines.
Before we discovered Bangkong Kahoy Valley in Dolores, Quezon, Mt. Polis is the birding site for montane birds.
It was November of 2010 when I birded Mt. Polis, together with fellow bird photographers Rey Sta Ana and Ralf Nabong, and with bird guide Nicky Icarangal. There are two good things about birding in Mt. Polis – the weather which is like birding in an airconditioned room and the angle of shooting which is always shooting down the ravines. These are also the same challenges as the weather changes from one moment to another with some rains, and the birds are quite elusive.
The photo below is that of Luzon Water Redstart, a Philippine endemic classified as Vulnerable because it has a very small range, and rather strict ecological requirements that are likely to make it more sensitive to habitat loss and degradation, resulting in rapid population declines.
Luzon Water Redstart -1/200, f/5.6, iso320, Manual Exposure… Canon EOS 50D + EF 400mm f/5.6 L + Benro Half-Gimbal Head & Tripod
The two photos below are those of Mountain Shrike, another Philippine endemic but classified as Near Threatened.
The Luzon Water Redstart and the Mountain Shrike are two Philippine endemic species that belong to the top of the list of target birds in Mt. Polis.
Mountain Shrike – 1/200, f/5.6, iso800, Aperture Priority… Canon EOS 50D + EF 400mm f/5.6 L + Benro Half-Gimbal Head & Tripod
Below are the photos of another Philippine endemic Luzon Sunbird, formerly labelled Metallic-winged Sunbird but it was recently split when new discoveries confirmed its uniqueness. The male is more colorful with telling shades of blue than the female as may be seen from the photos below.
There was a warbler that almost knocked us out of frustration. We called it Mr. Bush. It was so skittish and so difficult to catch in frame. Mr. Bush readily answered bird calls and he really came very near, almost just one or a couple of meters away, but it was still very hard to photograph. For so many times, we called him… for so many times he answered back and went near us, but we continuously failed to nail him. Rey said that Mr. Bush is either a very good bird target to sharpen one’s stalking and shooting skills, but it can also knock out a bird photographer who might suddenly give up because Mr. Bush is hard to frame. After some tries, we just ignored him, even if he himself was making the calls and was very near. Luckily I got some good frames of Mr. Bush whose name was previously Luzon Bush-Warbler, but is now called Philippine Bush Warbler.
SHOOTING DETAILS: Philippine Bush Warbler – 1/400, f/7.1, iso400, P Mode, Handheld… Canon EOS 50D + EF 400mm f/5.6 L + Benro Half-Gimbal Head & Tripod; 1/250, f/5.6, iso400, P Mode, Handheld… Canon EOS 50D + EF 400mm f/5.6 L + Benro Half-Gimbal Head & Tripod
Based on several trip reports and articles available online, the possible birds that can be found in Mt. Polis, and the entire Cordilleras are the Luzon Water Redstart, Luzon Racquet-tail, Flame-breasted Fruit-Dove, Mountain Shrike, Chestnut-faced Babbler, Long-tailed Ground-Warbler, Philippine Bush Warbler, Green-backed Whistler, Luzon Sunbird, Flame-crowned Flowerpecker, White-bellied Woodpecker, Scale-feathered Malkoha, Philippine Swiftlet, Elegant Tit, Blue-headed Fantails, Sulphur-billed Nuthatches, Whiskered Pitta, Crested Myna, buff-banded rail, mountain tailorbird, green-backed whistler, olive-backed pipit, mountain white-eyes, white-browed shorting, little pied flycatchers, mountain verditer flycatchers, Black-belted flowerpecker, citrine canary flycatcher, benguet bush-warbler, oriental bush-warbler, mountain leaf warbler, arctic warbler, red crossbill, fire-breasted flowerpecker, blue-rock thrush, island thrush, philippine bulbul, white-cheeked bullfinch, tawny-breasted parrot finch, grand rhabdornis, snowy-browed flycatcher, common buzzard, luzon scope-owl, bukidnon woodcock, long-tailed bush-warbler, yellowish white-eye, pygmy flowerpecker, philippine coucal, striated swallow, philippine scope-owl, great-eared nightjar, mugimaki flycatcher, whitehead’s swiftlet, luzon jungle-flycather, worcester’s button quail, buzzing flowerpecker, philippine hawk-eagle, bicolored flowerpecker, grey wagtail, brown shrike, spotted button quail, spotted imperial pigeon, philippine dwarf kingfisher, luzon hornbill, blackish cuckoo-shirks, long-billed rhabdornis, yellow bunting, Philippine Eagle, among others.
These birds of Cordilleras have not yet been heavily photographed yet, mostly have been sighted and documented, but very few are exhibit and book quality. Very few bird photographers have extensively photographed wild birds in those mountain ranges, but the birding sites in Banaue, Sagada, Baguio, Benguet, Mt. Data, Mt. Polis, Mt. Pulag, etc. are havens of montane birds waiting to be captured in frames.
Other Philippine endemics that I have photographed are the Pygmy Flowerpecker above and below the Elegant Tit, Chetnut-faced Babbler, and the Philippine Leaf Warbler. There are also the resident montane birds Mountain Tailorbird and Mountain White-Eye. Resident birds can also be found in other countries but they do not migrate.
These six montane birds can also be found in Bankong Kahoy Valley in Dolores, Quezon.
SHOOTING DETAILS: Mountain Tailorbird – 1/125, f/5.6, iso800, Program Mode… Canon EOS 50D + EF 400mm f/5.6 L + Benro Half-Gimbal Head & Tripod; Philippine Leaf Warbler – 1/320, f/5.6, iso800, Aperture Priority, Handheld… Canon EOS 50D + EF 400mm f/5.6 L
The photos may be viewed larger and higher resolutions by clicking on them.
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