I participated in the Jan-Feb [private] tour to the Philippines guided by Rich Lindie…. I have to say that Rich’s … indefatigable attempts to make our trip a success was exemplary in every way. His birding skills are definitely well above the norm in birding companies I am familiar with (including some very elite companies.) Rich is also enthusiastic, energetic, fun loving, patient and always in full control of his clients. In short, he is in the elite echelons of the guiding profession and should be considered a valuable asset to your organization. It is my intent to single out trips guided by him for my travel considerations.
Our Visayan Islands Birding extension is a tour that takes in the smaller islands of Cebu, Bohol and Negros where we target some highly sought-after and endemic birds. These include Flame-templed Babbler, Visayan Hornbill, the lovely White-winged Cuckooshrike, Visayan Broadbill and the smart Yellow-breasted Tailorbird. Here we also stand our best chance for the strange Philippine Colugo as well as the endearing Philippine Tarsier, while the scenery at the spectacular Chocolate Hills is second to none!
Flame-templed Babbler, Visayan Hornbill, White-winged Cuckooshrike, Visayan Broadbill, Yellow-breasted Tailorbird, Black Shama, Streak-breasted Bulbul
Philippine Colugo, Philippine Tarsier
lowland and montane rainforest, woodlands, rivers and wetlands
hot and humid, rain expected
moderate to brisk pace, some long walks on forest trails
Chocolate Hills, fast disappearing forests
Day 1: Manila to Bacolod
Today we fly from Manila to the centralised city of Bacolod on the mountainous island of Negros, where we will overnight at a local hotel.
Day 2: Mt. Kanlaon
We will set out very early this morning for some bird watching in the Philippines, driving up the steep, bumpy slopes of Mt. Kanlaon. Although basketball is the official national sport of the Philippines, cockfighting would have to rank as the most popular rural pastime for men who can afford to raise them: as we ascend, we’ll see fields of small wooden tents with roosters crowing atop almost every pinnacle!
The physical climb today is not too difficult; throughout the day we will ascend on foot through tropical forest from 400m up to 900m in elevation. Along the way, we will be listing for the harsh calls of the scarce White-winged Cuckooshrike as well as White-vented Whistler, the tough Tarictic Hornbill, Black-belted (Visayan) Flowerpecker, and the distinctive Visayan races of Blue-headed Fantail and White-browed Shama, both of which may achieve full-species status in the future. Another highlight today will be tracking down the incredibly patterned Flame-templed Babbler, a scarce species that usually gives away its presence by its melodious song given from dense tangles in the middle and lower story levels of the forest. Although extremely unlikely, we will also listen for the mournful calls of the critically endangered Negros Bleeding-heart that has all but been extirpated from the area by illegal trapping.
Day 3: Bacolod to Cebu
We will take a morning flight to Cebu where we will settle into our hotel. This afternoon, we will then hike up the degraded hillside at Tabunan to access one of only a handful of dismally small scraps of forest remaining on the island. The first of our targets here to show itself is usually the endemic Black Shama, which more than makes up for its lack of colour with its incredible song. Less common is the handsome Streak-breasted Bulbul that inhabits the canopy and mid-story tangles, but with persistence, we should find a few birds. The most difficult endemic, however, is the nearly extinct Cebu Flowerpecker and we will spend some time sitting on a rocky outcrop, carefully scanning the treetops and flowering plants while sifting through numerous Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, hoping to strike it lucky and glimpse this extraordinarily rare species. To keep us entertained, we will also likely encounter the bright Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, outrageous male Crimson Sunbird that often frequent the same flowers as preferred by the flowerpeckers, and local races of both Elegant Tit and White-vented Whistler.
We have the option to also try for the newly split Cebu Hawk-Owl and to spend some night birding in the area, after which we will return to our hotel in Cebu for an overnight stay.
Day 4: Cebu to Bohol
After breakfast this morning, we will go to the pier and catch a ferry to Bohol. Thereafter we will transfer overland to the unusual and amazingly scenic Chocolate Hills, to spend our afternoon birding in the forested Rajah Sikatuna National Park.
The open patches surrounding the forest at dusk can be productive for Everett’s Scops Owl, as well as mammals that may include Philippine Tarsier, large numbers of Philippine Flying-Fox and the incredible gliding Philippine Colugo – a large arboreal mammal that has generous amounts of skin membrane between its forelimbs and tail in order to glide extreme distances from tree to tree, and one of only two representatives of a very bizarre mammal family.
Day 5: Rajah Sikatuna National Park
Today will be devoted to exploring the avian riches of Rajah Sikatuna National Park, where we will be birding along the narrow trails accessing a sizable tract of lush tropical forest. Although challenging to locate at other sites in the Philippines, the calls of Azure-breasted Pitta are fairly common here and we have excellent chances of obtaining views of this colourful creature, as well as the uncommon Winchell’s (Rufous-lored) Kingfisher. In addition, we will be concentrating on locating the striking Yellow-breasted Tailorbird and Black-crowned Babbler, both of which hide in the dense undergrowth, and the terrestrial Striated Wren-Babbler. Samar Hornbills are normally seen here with some regularity, as well as Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher and Blue-crowned Racquet-tail – that screech noisily overhead. Two very difficult species that also inhabit this forest in inexplicably small numbers are the fantastic Visayan Broadbill and the very rare Mindanao Bleeding-heart, though we will require some luck in finding them while bird watching in the Philippines!
Interestingly, there are a large number of frogs and lizards present in the reserve. These include the flying lizards of Asia (of the genus Draco), which have wing-like membranes connected to long expandable ribs on each side, enabling them to glide without ever coming to the ground.
Day 6: Bohol to Manila
This morning, we may have time for some final birding on Bohol, after which we will catch a flight back to the city of Manila, the Philippine capital on Luzon, where the tour concludes.