The Philippines - A Special 2 Week Tour
Sunday 16th January – Sunday 30th January 2011
Situated in South-east Asia, the Philippines comprises over 7100 islands in the Pacific Ocean and is home to an amazing selection of endemics and around 400 resident species of bird. Our specifically designed new 2 week itinerary amidst this beautiful, bird-rich country concentrates on 3 of the largest islands, Luzon, Mindanao and Palawan where we hope to see around 100 endemics, plus a good selection of other south-east Asian specialities. High on the wanted-list of every birder is the extraordinary Philippine Eagle, whilst other mouth-watering birds include Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Bukidnon Woodcock, Azure-breasted Pitta, Silvery Kingfisher and Stripe-headed Rhabdornis. This promises to be an extraordinary adventure as we search for some of the world’s rarest birds amidst the rugged, rainforest-clad mountainous islands of the Philippines archipelago.
Day 1 Arrival in Manila (Luzon)
Upon arrival in Manila we will transfer to Los Banos for a 2-night stay. There may be some time to visit the Los Banos University Campus specifically for Spotted Buttonquail, Philippine Coucal, Red-keeled and Pygmy Flowerpeckers, Tawny Grassbird and Lowland White-eye before dark. Night at City of Springs Resort.
Day 2 Mount Makiling (Luzon)
We have a full day on the beautiful forested slopes of Mount Makiling and may well begin our birding before the sun has risen if we still need Northern Philippine Scops-owl or Philippine Hawk-owl. The beautiful Spotted Wood-kingfisher resides here and we will make a special effort to find this truly stunning species. Amongst the 50 or so other endemics present in this bird-rich area we shall hope to find Black-chinned Fruit-dove, Guaiabero, Colasisi, Philippine Hawk-cuckoo, Philippine Drongo-cuckoo, Scale-feathered and Red-crested Malkohas, Luzon Hornbill, Pygmy Swiftlet, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Philippine and Yellow-wattled Bulbuls, Balicassiao, Elegant Tit, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, Striped-headed Rhabdornis, White-browed Shama, Grey-backed Tailorbird, Lemon-throated Leaf-warbler, Elegant Tit, Black-and-white Triller, Yellow-bellied Whistler, Coleto, Flaming and Handsome Sunbirds and both Buzzing and Striped Flowerpeckers. Some nearby streams are also worth checking for the superb Indigo-banded Kingfisher. At the end of a great day’s birding we will head to the Heritage Hotel in Manila for an overnight stay.
Day 3 Manila – Fly to Cagayan de Oro – Mount Kitinglad (Mindanao)
After a morning flight to Cagayan de Oro in North Mindanao, we shall proceed to Dalwangan in Bukidnon at the foothills of the Kitanglad Mountains. Firstly we will pay our respects to the village elders and attend a small ceremony to allow us to visit the mountain, before driving a little further up to Damitan, where we will be met by our local guides and horses who will carry all our luggage, food, drinks, ice and bedding up to the remote lodge which will be our base for the next couple of days. The walk is not difficult and takes approximately an hour, birding along the way. The lodge comprises a large room upstairs where we sleep dormitory style, although there will be some large tents for those who wish for a little more privacy.
Days 4 - 5 Mount Kitinglad
We have two full days birding around this wonderful area in search of Philippine Eagle and 25 or so other Mindanao montane endemics. The walking is not difficult and much of the lower areas are open and under cultivation, but excellent forest cloaks the main hills. The camp is at around 1350 metres and at least on one day we will walk up to 1800metres in search of such birds as the Apo Sunbird and Apo Myna. Other birds to be found in this area include Bukidnon Woodcock, Giant Scops-owl, Philippine Frogmouth, Philippine Swiftlet, Mindanao Tarictic Hornbill, Yellow-breasted Fruit-dove, Mindanao Racquet-tail, Philippine Nightjar, Blue-capped Wood-kingfisher, Sulphur-billed Nuthatch, McGregor’s Cuckoo-shrike, Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, Rufous-headed Tailorbird (split from Mountain Tailorbird), Long-tailed Ground-warbler, Mountain Leaf-warbler, Mountain White-eye, Buzzing, Bicoloured, Olive-capped and Flame-crowned Flowerpeckers, the distinctive race of Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Mountain Verditer-flycatcher, Black-and-Cinnamon Fantail, Mindanao Tit (a potential split from Elegant Tit), Brown Tit-babbler, Mountain Shrike, Grey-hooded Sunbird, Black-masked White-eye, Cinnamon Ibon, Short-tailed glossy Starling, Red-eared Parrotfinch and White-cheeked Bullfinch.
Days 6 - 8 Mount Kitinglad - PICOP
Unfortunately we have to leave camp today and return to Damitan where our vehicles will be waiting for us and the walk back down the mountain could provide us with sightings of Asian Glossy and Chestnut-cheeked Starlings, as well as White-bellied Munia. We shall then drive for most of the day across Mindanao to Surigao where we will spend two whole days birding around the vast area of PICOP, a large logging concession. Although the forest is disappearing it is still rich in birds and has some excellent species. Our aim is to see as many of the Mindanao endemics as possible and we will be travelling around in jeepneys which are able to navigate these rough roads. It will probably take an hour or so to get to the birding sites in the morning and the vehicles will stay with us all day. The area is rich in species and birds that we hope to see include Steere’s and Barred Honey-buzzards, Amethyst Brown-dove, Black-chinned Fruit-dove, Pink-bellied and Spotted Imperial-pigeons, Blue-crowned Racquet-tail, the rare Blue-backed Parrot, Black-faced Coucal, Philippine Needletail, Silvery and Rufous-lored Kingfishers, Rufous and Writhed Hornbills, Philippine Trogon, Mindanao Wattled Broadbill, Steere’s and Red-bellied Pittas, Black-bibbed Cuckooshrike, Naked-faced Spiderhunter, Philippine Leafbird, Yellowish Bulbul, Philippine Oriole, Streaked Ground-babbler, Pygmy and Rusty-crowned Babblers, Philippine Leaf-warbler, Black-headed and Rufous-fronted Tailorbirds, Rufous-tailed Jungle-flycatcher, Rufous Paradise-flycatcher, Little Slaty Flycatcher, Blue Fantail, Celestial and Short-crested Monarchs, Yellow-bellied Whistler and Metallic-winged Sunbird. One afternoon, we will return a little earlier and visit the airport where many wetland birds can be found as well as Asian Grass Owl and Philippine Nightjar. We will also need to make a special effort to key in on some of the fantastic night birds which include Southern Philippine Scops-owl and both Mindanao and Chocolate Hawk-owls. Nights at Bislig.
Day 9 Bislig - Davao - Fly to Manila (Luzon)
We should have time for a few hours birding before driving to Davao Airport for our afternoon flight to Manila, where we will make the short transfer to the Heritage Hotel for the night.
Days 10 - 11 Candaba Marsh - Subic Bay
An early start will see us leave the urban sprawl of Manila behind and visit the wonderful Candaba Marsh which is an excellent site to begin our birding adventure in the Philippines. Masses of wildfowl are usually present, including many familiar species but we’ll be more interested in the Philippine Ducks that are quite easy to see here. The small islands in the main lake are usually dripping with Grey and Purple Herons and Black-crowned Night-herons, whilst a little more searching should reveal many Yellow and some Cinnamon Bitterns, plus a few skulking White-browed Crakes. We usually get good comparisons between Oriental Reed and Clamorous Reed-warblers here, whilst this is our first chance of many for the endemic Plain Bush-hen. Numerous other species are present here including lots of egrets, Barred Rail, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Greater Painted Snipe, and a few waders are normally in the surrounding fields. We’ll leave here and by mid morning drive to our excellently located lodge close to Subic Bay for a 2 night stay which will allow us plenty of time to search the remaining lowland rainforest around the former American Naval Base for a number of endemics. Primarily we will look for Green Racquet-tail, Luzon Hawk-eagle, Luzon Hornbill, Rufous Coucal, Sooty Woodpecker, White-lored Oriole, Blackish Cuckooshrike, Philippine Fairy-bluebird, White-fronted Tit and Philippine Tailorbird which are all difficult to find elsewhere. More widespread endemics include Philippine Falconet, Philippine Serpent-eagle, White-eared Brown-dove, Guaiabero, Red-crested Malkoha, Black- and-white Triller, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker, Coleto, Stripe-headed Rhabdornis and Blue-headed Fantail. Other species present here include Great eared-Nightjar, Blue-naped Parrot, Island and Grey-rumped Swiftlets, Whiskered Treeswift, White-breasted Woodswallow and Dollarbird. Night birding is a feature of this tour and we will spend at least one evening trying to put Northern Philippine Scops-owl and Philippine Hawk-owl in the spotlight.
Day 12 Subic Bay – Fly to Puerto Princessa – Sabang (Palawan)
After some final birding at Subic early this morning we will catch the late morning flight to Puerto Princessa on Palawan. A nearby beach is often a good bet for Chinese Egret, as well as some waders such as Grey-tailed Tattler and Greater Sandplover. The surrounding bushes are also a good site for Rufous-tailed Tailorbird and the common Olive-backed Sunbird. From here we will drive to Sabang and our excellent lodge situated right on the beach for a 2 night stay. Along the way the roadside birding is very good with a number of endemics and simply good birds to try and find. Possibilities include Oriental Hobby, Asian Drongo-cuckoo, Hooded Pitta, Common Flameback, White-vented Shama, Dark-throated Oriole, Yellow-throated Leafbird, Palawan and Pygmy Flowerpeckers, Copper-throated and Purple-throated Sunbirds, Palawan Spiderhunter (a potential split from Little Spiderhunter), Grey-cheeked and Olive-winged Bulbuls and Palawan Drongo. Our evening excursions could be very rewarding with Palawan Frogmouth and Palawan Scops-owl (a recent split from Javan Frogmouth) both present nearby. Two nights at the Last Frontier Resort.
Days 13 -14 St Paul’s NP – Sabang Road – Pandan Island
We will visit St Paul’s National Park and the area around Sabang over these next couple of days. The park is beautifully located between high limestone cliffs and white sandy beaches and is covered by pristine forest. The area is rich in birds and we have good chance of seeing Tabon Scrubfowl, Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Blue-naped Parrot, Blue-headed Racquet-tail, Chestnut-breasted Malkoha, Palawan Swiftlet, Stork-billed and Ruddy Kingfishers, Palawan Hornbill, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Hooded Pitta, Yellow-throated Leafbird, Sulphur-bellied Bulbul, Palawan Tit, Ashy-headed Babbler, Falcated Ground-babbler, White-vented Shama, Palawan Blue Flycatcher, Blue Paradise-flycatcher, Pin-striped Babbler (split from Striped Tit-babbler), Lovely Sunbird and Palawan Flowerpecker. On our last afternoon we will take a small boat over to Pandan Island where we will have to wait until dusk to find Mantanani Scops-owl, a bird which is restricted to just a few small islands around the Philippines and Borneo. There is also Grey and Pied Imperial-pigeons, Pied Triller and Brown-throated Sunbird present as well. Our last night here will be spent at the Asturias Hotel in Puerto Princessa.
Day 15 Iwahig – Manila – End of Tour
This morning we will visit the Iwahig penal colony and follow the Balsahan Trail through some excellent forest. Our main target birds here are Melodious Babbler and Palawan Flycatcher, but this is also a good site for Falcated Ground-babbler as well. Other birds we can find here include Hooded Pitta and Palawan Tit, whilst the nearby rice fields usually have a good selection of waders including Long-toed Stint and both Marsh and Wood Sandpipers amongst others. However, by early afternoon we will have to take the return flight to Manila in order to make our onward connecting international flights.
Leaders: Nick Bray and Tim Fisher.
TOUR PRICE: £2650.00 per person
Single supplement: £275.00 Deposit: £400.00
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 5 and maximum of 10 with 2 leaders.
Included in cost: All meals and accommodation in mostly en-suite twin rooms, transport in air-conditioned coach throughout the tour, bottled water, boat trips, all reserve entrance fees and services of the leaders.
Not included: International flight, insurance, drinks, tips, excess baggage fees, international airport departure tax, optional tips for the local guides and items of a personal nature.
Flight information: If travelling from the U.K please note that you need to arrive in Manila by midday of Sunday 16th January. Departure should be from Manila in the evening of Sunday 30th January or the early morning of Monday 31st January. Please contact our agent Shane Wheatley at Dial-a-Flight on 01732 591470 or 01732 593196 for the best up-to-date flights that you can book for your requirements.
Accommodation: Ranges from very good to quite basic. On Luzon and Palawan we will stay in comfortable hotels/lodges with full en-suite facilities. On Mt Kitinglad we are staying in a basic lodge with shared facilities, but is right in the heart of the birding action. We are using the best accommodation available closest to the birding sites to utilise our time to best effect.
Previous Tour Report: January 2010