Birding trip to Samar and Bohol
Samar Island Natural Park
It was our first time to visit the island of Samar in Eastern Visayas. We went to the Samar Island National Park (SINP) for a birding trip to see some Visayan and Mindanao endemics.
On our first afternoon there, we went birding in the trail behind the SINP Headquarters (HQ.) We started our birding adventure with nice views of a Yellow-breasted Tailorbird which was followed by good views of a couple of White-eared Brown-Doves. We ended the afternoon with views of both the male and female Little Slaty Flycatcher.
Our accommodations for the following days were near the HQ and it was there that we got to observe a Philippine Frogmouth. Early the next morning, we were on the road to the Milan Falls towards Taft. Birding early in the morning along the road at the start of the trail proved to be excellent. An Amethyst Brown-Dove showed while Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon proved to still be very common throughout the area and up to twenty individuals were spotted during our stay. Large groups of Samar Hornbills and up to ten Rufous Hornbills all showed very well that morning. We made our way up the trail to the Milan Falls and encountered our first small mixed flock holding some Visayan Pygmy Babbler and Everett’s White-eye. We spent some time in the clearing watching more Samar and Rufous Hornbills as well as several Philippine Fairy-Bluebirds. We also got stunning views of a single Azure-breasted Pitta. Other goodies that were spotted along the trail include: Philippine Trogon, a small flock of Black-crowned Babbler, Visayan Blue Fantail, Philippine Leaf-Warbler, Yellow-bellied Whistler, and even the elusive Rufous-Fronted Tailorbird.
Road-side birding towards Taft was excellent too. Walking along the road allowed good views of lots of birds: Philippine Serpent Eagle, Besra, Chinese Goshawk, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove, Philippine Coucal, Island Swiftlets, Philippine Needletail, Whiskered Treeswift, Philippine Trogon, and Dollarbird. Probably the best birds for that day were two Southern Sooty Woodpeckers that were seen very well. Also seen were Buff-Spotted (Greater) Flameback and White-Bellied Woodpeckers as well as the very common Yellowish Bulbul and Yellow-wattled Bulbul. Several Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and Streaked Ground Babblers were seen and heard and the Yellow-breasted Tailorbird showed itself again. We saw a lot of sunbird species particularly the Purple-throated Sunbird, Metallic-winged Sunbird, Handsome Sunbird, and Grey-throated Sunbird. Also seen were Naked-faced Spiderhunter and Olive-backed Flowerpecker, which proved to be more common here than in other sites. In the afternoon, we saw our first Slender-billed Crows. Their distinct behaviour and sound indicated that it is a different species, specifically Mindanao Crows. We spent the following morning taking many photographs and sound recordings. These are the results of two days birding along the road and the trail towards the Milan Falls.
The next two days were concentrated on the trail behind the SINP HQ. It is a nice trail that starts with secondary forest and gently climbs up towards nice primary limestone forest. The trail was very good and we saw several mixed flocks which had: Mindanao Drongo, Elegant Tit, Visayan Pygmy Babbler, Black-crowned Babbler, Brown Tit-Babbler, Philippine Leaf-Warbler, Rufous-Fronted Tailorbird several Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatchers, Visayan Blue Fantail, Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, Yellow-bellied Whistler, Olive backed Flowerpecker, and Everett’s White-eye. We also saw the occasional Naked-faced Spiderhunter and Stripe-headed Rhabdornis. The Rufous-lored Kingfisher, another Azure-breasted Pitta, and Visayan Wattled Broadbill showed very well along the trail and several Scarlet Minivets were seen in the higher canopy of the forest.
Samar has great birding potential with lots of the Visayan and Mindanao specialties seen on our trip birding in the Samar Island Natural Park. Surely more explorations of the park are needed to spot more birds as the group also heard Mindanao Bleeding-heart and Celestial Monarch during our stay. It is sure worth considering Samar on our future tours.
Bohol Rajah Sikatuna
After several visits to the Rajah Sikatuna National Park (RSNP), I decided to visit this wonderful park again after our Samar adventure. This park on Bohol holds lots of similar species with the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP). At least two to three full days are needed to cover this park. Many of the specialties were seen during my short stay, with birding done mainly along the trails and at the Magsaysay Park clearing. Two stunning Azure-breasted Pitta showed very well allowing me long observations. Other birds that showed very well were Amethyst Brown-Dove, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove, Black-faced Coucal, and Oriental Cuckoo. There were plenty of Philippine Frogmouths calling at night time and one was found on a nest. Philippine Trogons were also spotted several times and the Northern Silvery Kingfisher was seen at its regular spot. Samar Hornbills were more commonly heard than seen but two birds were spotted at the Magsaysay Park clearing. We got great scope views of the Buff-Spotted (Greater) Flameback and the rarely seen Black-bibbed Cuckoo-shrike. Mindanao Drongo and Philippine Fairy-Bluebird were seen regularly as well as Streaked-ground Babbler and Yellow-breasted Tailorbird. Several mixed flocks had Black-crowned Babbler, Philippine Leaf Warbler, Rufous-Fronted Tailorbird, Visayan Blue Fantail, Yellow-bellied Whistler, and Black-naped Monarch. Rufous-tailed Jungle-Flycatchers were observed twice during my stay. The clearing around Magsaysay Park proved to be excellent for spotting Everett’s Scops-Owl, leaving me with crippling views of two individuals. The park also holds a good population of the stunning Philippine Colugo (Flying Lemur) with no fewer than 10 individuals observed. The Rajah Sikatuna National Park in Bohol is included in our 2014 Remote Philippines Tour.