Monday, 4 October 2010

Subic Bay, Zambales Province

Glossy Swiftlet
Subic Bay Forest Park

Subic Bay, the former US navy base in Zambales province, adjoining Bataan, is now a marvellous birding site; low level forest containing a wide variety of interesting birds. Visiting birders could easily visit this site unguided: the roads in the site and in the surrounding area are excellent quality, probably a relic of Uncle Sam's time in the province, plus the trunk roads are tolls so they are well maintained. It would be feasible to visit from nearby Clark Airport. If Subic Bay International Airport ever opens to commercial flights then you could literally fall off a plane into the park.

Our only downer was finding the recommended sites especially "Hill 394". It is not marked or signed in any way. I would recommend you  to stop at the animal rescue in the park and got the directions to the main birding sites from the very helpful staff there.

As we loitered aimlwssly we observed what appeared to be a pair of  peregrine falcons high in the sky; what really makes me feel confident I have got this ID correct was their impressive swoops. Elswhere a very noisy philippine bulbul demanded our attention and I might easily have dismissed it as a streak-eared bulbul on initial sighting because of the obvious streaking in the ear covert area. However it was obvious this streaking was extensive so a quick view of the field guide confirmed the Philippine bulbul, an endemic and a lifer.

When we made it into the Hill 394 area there was a distinct dearth of birds barring glossy swiftlets. I managed a few pictures of these birds on the nest. They nest in disused shelters built by the US military. I have no doubt this area warrants much more extensive investigation and would yield great birds especially with time and a dawn start. From here we made it to Nabusan and here I managed to sight a few white-bellied woodpeckers and a rufous coucal, unmistakable with its green bill and all rufous feathers: an uncommon bird according to the field guide and an endemic and another lifer. Elsewhere we saw a philippine coucal, some some white-vented mynas and a white-bellied kingfisher. Now there aren't a lot of mynas in the Philippines unlike Thailand!

The mangrove walkway at Triboa, the other recommended birding site in Subic, is closed for renovation at present. I didn't take photos other than the swiftlets. By the time we found perched woodpeckers it was too dark and a rain storm was coming in. In the final analysis I am happy with the day - three lifers two of which are endemics. Like General MacArthur who, according to expedia , stated : "I came out of Bataan and I shall return". He's best remembered for the second part of the quote but I think the preceding clause makes it much more interesting. How appropriate!

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