Monday, 11 October 2010

Danjungan Island, Cauayan, Negros Occidental

Collared Kingfisher
Danjugan Island

Danjugan Island is one of the best places I have ever been lucky to visit. It wasn't brilliant from a birding perspective but I was really impressed by the how the island is managed by the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. It really is a true conservation project and is virtually untouched by human hands. I think of Ko Libong island, Thailand, and what a disappointment that was due to the amount of development and the mercenary approach of the resort at which we stayed. If you want to get away from it all for a few days this is the place and is a short 30 minute boat ride from the mainland. The jumping off point can be reached from Bacolod City by bus, allow about 4 hours' travelling time.

I arrived Friday 8th October in the late afternoon but birding was impossible as a deluge battered down. On arrival at the "lodge" I sat down with a cup of coffee and enjoyed the view over a beautiful lagoon surrounded by mangrove and forest. The lodge is a perfectly designed large, open shelter sitting over the lagoon which functions as a kitchen/dining/day area. An ideal birdwatching place in rainy conditions as I was able to set up the 'scope without any worry about my equipment getting wet. I observed a number of black-naped orioles frolicking in the canopy but visible due to their bright yellow plumes. At a distance I also observed through the 'scope a small flock of White-breasted  Wood-swallows, unmistakable white breast and white rump, cavorting about on tree-tops: lifers no less. Nearby there may have been a variable dwarf-kingfisher or alternatively a common kingfisher; unfortunately I didn't take a note of the bird's key features at the time and it was gone. All I can say is the bird struck me as being very small and after consulting the field guide I appreciate that a note of the bill colour would have enabled me to correctly call it. 

On Saturday 9th October we walked from the lodge to the Typhoon Beach via Tabon Beach, the latter so-called because of its association with tabon fowl. It wasn't visible today. On the way along I picked up a Pied Triller in the shrubs overlooking one of the lagoons with its distinct white supercilium and pronounced white wing bar: a fairly common bird but a lifer for me. On Tabon Beach there were about 5 Common Sandpipers with their distinct bobbing tails. Little else visible or identifiable. Our walk took us past a cave with millions of small to medium sized bats: what a smell and racket! There was also an abundance of Glossy and Pygmy Swiftlets, the latter another lifer, distinguished by its small size and distinct white rump.

Stork-billed Kingfisher
Halcyon Capensis Gigantea
Danjugan Island

Over lunch we viewed the above Stork-billed Kingfisher at a distance. This belongs to the sub-species "gigantea", an endemic, due to its lighter-coloured head and underparts. You can view the other Philippine sub-species of this bird, halcyon capensis gouldi, at this link; this was taken in Palawan earlier this year. The collared kingfisher at the top of this post posed for me. This bird is truly ubiquitous in the Philippines. Not a bad picture! A fair number of little herons skimming over the lagoon surface as well as more black-naped orioles, some Philippine bulbuls, white-breasted wood-swallows and a good number of tiny Golden-bellied Flyeaters, also known as Golden-bellied Gerygones in Thailand, moving very rapidly through the shrubs. There were a fair few unidentified birds: they move fast here!

I also observed another lifer, the common Pacific Swallow, perched on the rails of a boat moored in the lagoon.  The tail and lack of blue/black breast band distinguish it from the equally common Barn Swallow.

After lunch we went for a boat ride and a White-bellied Sea Eagle appeared and soared high above us. Its wingspan is huge, I kept thinking "Barn doors", which is how my friend Tony McGowan in Scotland describes the wingspan of the Golden Eagle. Later in the afternoon at Typhoon Bay his lordship reappeared at a much lower elevation, causing mayhem as lesser avian mortals scurried away from the canopy to avoid becoming part of his prandial intake. There is nothing quite like the site of an eagle!

I must confess to a slight disappointment with the birding although I don't know why! I wanted to see pigeons and doves and I drew a complete blank. These species are never easy to see as most of them are quite shy and retiring. However I didn't really venture into the jungle proper rather stayed on the trails. I have no doubt Danjugan has great birds and that I will need to come back and spend more time here. I reckon that it will also be possible to see pelagic birds due to the island's position in the Sulu Sea. What a great prospect! I think we'll do a week here next April.

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