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ULTIMATE PHILIPPINES

Sunday 26th January - Friday 28th February 2014

Dani López-Velasco

The rare Giant Scops Owl (tour participant Yann Muzika)

The rare Giant Scops Owl (tour participant Yann Muzika)

Due to the increasing popularity of our Philippines tours, surely because of our high success rate with the endemics, this year Birdquest operated 2 “Ultimate Philippines” tours, the first one led by Simon Harrap and the second one, starting just 1 week later, led by me, both finishing with excellent results. This second tour comprised of the main tour and two post-tour extensions, resulting in a five-week endemics bonanza. The first three weeks focused on the better-known islands of Luzon, Palawan and Mindanao, and here we saw some of those mind-blowing, world´s must-see birds, including Philippine Eagle, Palawan Peacock-Pheasant and Azure-breasted Pitta, amongst many other endemics. The first extension took us to the central Visayas where exciting endemics such as Flame-templed Babbler or the recently described Cebu Hawk-Owl were seen well, and we finished with a trip to Mindoro and remote Northern Luzon where several other endemics performed, best of all definitely being the fantastic Whiskered Pitta, although megas like Luzon Bleeding-heart or Grand Rhabdornis came close. Our success rate with the endemic targets – the ones you come here for- was overall very good, and highlights included no less than 14 species of owl recorded, including mega views of Giant Scops Owl, 12 species of beautiful kingfishers, including Hombron´s (Blue-capped Wood) and Spotted Wood, the 6 possible endemic racket-tails and the four possible species of pitta – always trip favourites! The once almost impossible Philippine Eagle-Owl showed brilliantly near Manila, odd looking Philippine and Palawan Frogmouths gave the best possible views, impressive Rufous and Writhed Hornbills (amongst 8 species of endemic hornbills) delighted us, and both Scale-feathered and Rough-crested (Red-c) Malkohas proved easy to see. Three Ashy Ground Thrushes were seen hopping on the road, skulking Falcated and Striated Wren-Babblers were lured out into the open for prolonged views and the amazing Celestial Monarch, getting very rare these days, was seen nicely together with Short-crested Monarch. 13 species of flowerpeckers, including the scarce Flame-crowned, were seen, as well as no less than 15 species of sunbirds, including Apo Sunbird, together with the 3 world´s rhabdornis (formerly placed in their own family and now considered to be “just” starlings), including the seldom seen Grand Rhabdornis. Deforestation is at its worst in the Philippines, and seeing the forest disappear in front of your eyes is always a sad sight. In no time and unless urgent conservation work takes place, some of these exciting endemics will no longer exist, so it´s a bit of a privilege every time you get to see these endangered birds.

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant (Dani López-Velasco)

Palawan Peacock-Pheasant (Dani López-Velasco)