Close Encounters with Mindoro Birds

Naujan Lake offers waterbird species, and during the bird migration season, most of these are migratory birds. But the island of Mindoro offeres Mindoro endemics and subspecies of birds that can only be found in the island. These Mindoro endemics include the Tamaraw (dwarf water buffalo). Mindoro also hosts Philippine Warty Pigs, Philippine Deer, Hairy-tailed Cloud Rat, Mindoro Shrew, Golden-crowned Fruit-bat, and Philippine Crocodile. Mre on this can be read at World Wildlife Fund site.

The WWF site said that the Mindoro ecoregion contains eleven endemic or near-endemic bird species (Kennedy et al. 2000; table 2). Two bird species, the Mindoro bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba platenae) and the black-hooded coucal (Centropus steerii), are considered critically endangered, and four species are considered vulnerable: Mindoro imperial-pigeon (Ducula mindorensis), ashy thrush (Zoothera cinerea), Luzon water-redstart (Rhyacornis albiventris), and scarlet-collared flowerpecker (Dicaeum retrocinctum). Three of these species, the Mindoro bleeding-heart, the Mindoro imperial pigeon, and the black-hooded coucal, are strict island endemics (Collar et al. 1999; Stattersfield et al. 1998).

Sorry to disappoint that we were only able to see one Mindoro endemic bird and another Mindoro subspecies. The others, we need to go back again on summer when they can be easily photographed. Here’s one Mindoro endemic bird.

Birdlife says that the Scarlet-collared Flowerpecker occurs within a small, severely fragmented and declining range, and populations are suspected to be declining rapidly as a result of the destruction of lowland forest. It is therefore listed as Vulnerable.

Seeing this bird in our trip was quite accidental, and personally I didn’t see it even as WBPP Fellows Djop Tabaranza and Olan Balbido were already excited seeing it. I was already at the far end of the hanging bridge when their frenzy caught my attention that led to these photos.

The Mindorensis subspecies of the Philippine Coucal showed up while we were on our way to another forest. It was really skittish this skulker that separates it from the rest of the endemic Philippine Coucals with its nearly black or dark wings. 

We only got it under the twigs and the branches the first time we saw it, but on our way home. A couple came out in the same area and started coming out of the branches and flew to the top of the plants, enabling us to frame it in the open and while flying.

One of the exciting incidents in our last day of birding is our encounter with the Philippine Serpent Eagle. We have been hearing it in the morning calling and kept of hearing it as we hiked from across the river and back. As we went near the edge of the mountain slope, suddenly we saw it perched on a tree on top of the other side of the mountain range across the river. There it stayed calling. And suddenly it flew towards us, but we were saddened when it suddenly turned right right before reaching us and it was gone. I was able to photograph it while it was still perched and calling, and was able to get a couple of shots when it flew towards us. Below is a composite of two shots – one while on perch and another while on flight.

Then after some few minutes, Olan noticed something big over us. We turned around and started shooting the closest encounter that we have of the Philippine Serpent Eagle. So close it was above us that not a few of my shots got it with cut-off wing tips. It circled its way to the top, twice or thrice it did, until it was gone! Here’s a shot that makes it glowing with the bright sun above it!

Earlier, while inside the forest at the other side of the river, we twice two raptors which we could not easily identify. One and then two were flying high above. We thought they are honey-buzzards, but Desmond Allen later confirmed that these are an adult and immature Philippine Hawk-Eagles.

The most exciting encounters that last day were when sunbirds and flowerpeckers suddenly appear eating and hopping from one calamansi tree to another in the plantation where we were. It was an astounding find to see the Handsome Sunbird in Mindoro. WBPP Fellow Bj Capacite, Jr. got a good photo of the bird, while I was not so fortunate enough. All of us, however, got good shots of the Philippine endemic Pygmy Flowerpecker.

I made a composite of three photos of the bird. I like its preening actions and I was able to get some good frames. Here’s the composite.

Many thanks to the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (MBCFI), the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro (environment and tourism offices), and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the province and in Socorro for partnering with WBPP in this endeavor.

Thanks Djop for bringing WBPP in Naujan Lake and Oriental Mindoro!

All photos were taken using Canon EOS 7D + EF 300mm L USM IS + 1.4x (or 2x) Teleconverter, oftentimes with Benro GH-2 Gimbahl Head and Tripod.

See also Part I Birds at Naujan Lake and Part II Chasing Pato Tsinas in Naujan.