Whiskered Pitta Adventure, Aurora
We visited the Central Sierra Madre Mountains in Baler, Aurora near San Luis. We spent four nights camping and three full days birding in the middle of these excellent, forested hills. This proved to be a splendid site for several of the Sierra Madre specialties. Whiskered Pitta gave stunning views with at least 3 birds heard and one seen during our trip. The area was indeed a good spot to search for this species. Philippine Dwarf-Kingfishers seems to have a healthy population in the area with the group getting several prolonged views of this tiny beauty. Long observations of a nesting Short-crested Monarch was rather interesting. During our 3-day stay, lots of other species were observed, including very good views of Cream-bellied Fruit-Dove, Red-crested Malkoha, Rufous Coucals, Philippine Trogon, and a Spotted Wood-Kingfisher. Rufous Hornbills were commonly heard throughout the area with our group getting several good views of this striking hornbill. Northern Sooty Woodpecker, Luzon Balicassiao, Philippine Fairy-Bluebird, Elegant Tit, and Stripe-headed Rhabdornis joined several mixed flocks together with Golden-crowned Babbler, Lemon-throated Leaf-Warbler, Green-backed Tailorbird, and Blue-headed Fantail. The rare Blue-breasted Flycatcher was seen once, but seen very well, during our visit. Other birds seen include Yellow-bellied Whistler, Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, a single Naked-faced Spiderhunter, and several Olive-backed Flowerpeckers. We also got stunning views of Flaming Sunbird and Purple-throated Sunbird. The Luzon Bleeding-heart was heard only during the trip. Further exploration of the area is highly recommended and it is sure worth visiting if you are looking for the Whiskered Pitta and Philippine Dwarf-Kingfisher.