REMOTE PHILIPPINES BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Tour Day 1 The tour begins this afternoon at Manila airport, from where we take a flight to Bacalod on Negros for an overnight stay (followed by three nights at Dumaguete).
Tour Days 2-4 We will make an early start each day in order to visit some of the remaining forested areas on Negros. A number of very interesting specialities occur on Negros and with diligent searching we should come across Visayan Hornbill, Negros Scops Owl, White-winged Cuckoo-Shrike (which patrol the area in noisy flocks), Visayan Drongo, Visayan Shama, Visayan Fantail, the localized White-vented Whistler, Black-belted (or Visayan) Flowerpecker, Magnificent Sunbird, the colourful Maroon-naped Sunbird and, with a bit of luck, the increasingly threatened and extraordinary Flame-templed Babbler with its beautiful, whistled song.
We should also see the only species endemic to Negros, the Negros Striped Babbler, and the local form of the White-browed Shortwing, a potential split.
We also have a reasonable chance of finding some of the rarest birds of the area, which include the southern form of Indigo-backed Kingfisher, Yellow-faced Flameback, Ashy-breasted Flycatcher, White-throated Jungle Flycatcher and the Visayan form of the Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis.
More widespread species on Negros include the Negros form of the Amethyst Brown Dove, Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Blue-crowned Racket-tail, Philippine Needletail, Lemon-throated Leaf Warbler and Yellowish White-eye.
Tour Day 5 Today we will travel by ferry to Tagbilaran on Bohol from where we will make our way to the Chocolate Hills for a two nights stay. The Chocolate Hills are an area of peculiar rounded hills which protrude from the otherwise flat landscape and are a popular tourist attraction. Upon arrival, there should be time for some initial exploration.
Tour Day 6 Bohol lies in the Central Visayas and has a fauna similar to that of neighbouring Leyte, Samar and Mindanao. The island had been cleared of forest by the end of the nineteenth century, but following successful replanting after the Second World War there are now some extensive areas of dense secondary growth. Adjacent to the Chocolate Hills is the densely forested Rajah Sikatuna National Park and we will spend all day exploring this productive site. Although bird densities in this habitat are low, there are a number of specialities, notably Samar Hornbill, Black-crowned Babbler, Yellow-breasted Tailorbird, Bohol Sunbird and, with luck, the unobtrusive Visayan (Wattled) Broadbill.
Other good birds we may well see here include Black-chinned Fruit-Dove, Winchell’s (or Rufous-lored) Kingfisher, Philippine Pitta, the spectacular Azure-breasted (or Steere’s) Pitta, Philippine Fairy Bluebird, Striated Wren-Babbler (or Streaked Ground Babbler), Rufous-tailed Jungle Flycatcher, Visayan Blue Fantail and Philippine Leaf Warbler. If we are very fortunate indeed, we will come across the rare and elusive Mindanao Bleeding-heart.
We also have a good chance of finding the superb Philippine Frogmouth and Philippine Nightjar, and, with luck, Luzon Hawk-Owl and Everett’s Scops Owl.
Tour Day 7 After a final morning in Rajah Sikatuna National Park we will travel back to Tagbilaran and take a ferry to Cebu City for a two nights stay.
Tour Day 8 Our short stay on Cebu, one of the smaller islands in the central Visayan region, will not be wasted as Cebu is the home of three endemic species of birds. Two of these were thought to be extinct due to the near-complete destruction of forest cover on the island. After many years, the Cebu (or Four-coloured) Flowerpecker was rediscovered in 1992, but its position remains very precarious as it is dependant on the few small relict stands of virgin forest, indeed it may now be extinct. The Black Shama has managed to adapt rather more successfully and can be found both in primary forest and in secondary growth, and can even be found in bamboo groves on the fringes of urban areas. The third endemic is the recently-described Cebu Hawk-Owl. We will visit Tabunan in the Central Cebu National Park where we have an excellent chance of seeing both the shama and the owl.
Other species that we may well find include Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo, Philippine Magpie-Robin, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher and, with luck, the rare Cebu form of the Streak-breasted Bulbul, thought to be extinct on Cebu until its rediscovery.
Tour Day 9 Today we will take an early morning flight across to the little known island of Camiguin, situated not far from the northern coast of the huge island of Mindanao, for a two nights stay. Here we will explore the remaining forest fragments while looking for the speedy endemic Camiguin Hanging Parrot and, after dark, the endearing endemic Camiguin Hawk-Owl. The gorgeous Dimorphic Dwarf Kingfisher is relatively easy to find here and there are also endemic Camiguin forms of Yellowish Bulbul, Black-naped Monarch and Yellowish White-eye.
Tour Day 10 After a final morning on Camiguin, we will return to Manila for an overnight stay.
Tour Day 11 This morning we will take a flight to San Jose on the island of Mindoro and then, in order to visit one of the last remaining areas of lowland rainforest on the island, transfer to Sablayan for an overnight stay. We will have our first chance today to explore the surviving forest, while at a nearby lake, we may well see such species as White-browed Crake and sometimes Grey-throated Martin (scarce elsewhere in the Philippines). In the late afternoon we should see numbers of pigeons and parrots going to roost, including Metallic (Wood) Pigeon, Blue-naped Parrot and, with a lot of luck, the ever-scarcer Spotted Imperial Pigeon. Then, as dusk falls, Savanna Nightjars should emerge from their daytime hiding places. Our main quarry, however, will be Mindoro Hawk-Owl, a little known endemic which surely has some of the strangest vocalizations of any owl, and we may also find Chocolate Boobook.
Tour Day 12 As we walk stealthily along the forest edge and then along a well-defined trail that heads into the forest, we will be concentrating on Mindoro endemics. We have a very good chance of seeing Mindoro Hornbill, Mindoro Racket-tail, Mindoro Bulbul and the attractive Red-collared Flowerpecker, whilst with luck we will also see the secretive Black-hooded (or Steere’s) Coucal. However, we would have to be exceptionally lucky to find the rare, and heavily-trapped Mindoro Bleeding-heart. Other species we may see in and around the forest include Plain Bush-hen, Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon, Black-and-white Triller and Black-bibbed Cicadabird. In the late afternoon we will return to San Jose for an overnight stay.
Tour Day 13 This morning we will take a flight back to Manila and then travel to the Sierra Madre mountains to the northeast of the city for a two nights stay.
Tour Days 14 Here in the southern Sierra Madre we will be targeting one of the great Luzon rarities; the stunning Whiskered Pitta. We have an excellent chance of seeing this splendid bird, and whilst searching for it we also have a good chance of finding Cream-bellied and Flame-breasted Fruit Doves, the northern form of the Rufous Hornbill and the ultra-skulking Bicol Ground Warbler (formerly known by the grand name of Rabor’s Wren-Babbler), as well as a number of other more widespread endemic species found in Luzon. If we are lucky these will include the uncommon Grand Rhabdornis.
Tour Day 15 After some more birding in the Sierra Madre, we return to Manila for an overnight stay.
Tour Day 16 We take a morning flight to Tuguegarao in northern Luzon for a two nights stay. We will begin our exploration of the area on arrivalo
Tour Day 17 In the Tuguegarao area we will focus on seeing the critically endangered, endemic Isabella Oriole, which we have a good chance of finding. There will of course be plenty of more widespread Philippines species to enjoy.
Tour Day 18 After some final birding around Tuguegarao we will take an afternoon flight to Manila, where the tour ends.
TABLAS & PANAY EXTENSION
Tour Day 1 The tour begins at Manila airport this afternoon. From there we drive to Batangas Port and take an overnight ferry to Tablas Island in the Romblon island group, where we arrive the following morning.
Tour Day 2 Today we will explore this little known island, where we will spend one night. During the daylight hours, we will explore the limited remaining forest patches in the Dubduban watershed where in particular we will be looking for the endemic Tablas Drongo (with its long deeply-forked tail) and Tablas Fantail. A number of other interesting subspecies occur including a distinct form of Yellowish Bulbul (which may in the future be split off as Tablas Bulbul) as well as endemic forms of Rufous-lored Kingfisher and Orange-bellied Flowerpecker. We will also put in a concerted effort to find the smart Dimorphic Dwarf Kingfisher which is fairly ‘seeable’ on this island. As dusk falls, we should be serenaded by the calls of the endemic Romblon Hawk-Owl, and hopefully we will have little trouble tracking down this smart owl. Mantanani Scops Owl is also common here, and again, it should not take too long to fix one of these desired owls in our spotlight beam.
Tour Day 3 After some final birding on Tablas, we will cross by ferry to Caticlan at the northern tip of the large island of Panay and transfer to Pandan for a two nights stay.
Tour Day 4 Today we will head south from Pandan and then turn inland to explore a remote valley with relict areas of forest in search of the spectacular Walden’s Hornbill, which clings on in this area. We have a good chance of finding this rare and spectacular endemic. During the walk in to the site (it’s around a 3km walk) we will check the river crossings for the uncommon southern form of Indigo-banded Kingfisher which is frequently seen in the area, whilst in the forest, we will keep a keen ear and eye out for the rare White-throated Jungle-Flycatcher.
Tour Day 5 Today, we will make our way first by road, and then a fairly demanding five hour hike to the basic research station at Sibilaw, where we will stay for two nights. Located in the centre of the northwest peninsula, the research station at Sibilaw gives access to some of the best remaining forest on Panay, and in particular it is the best site in the world to look for the rare but beautiful Negros Bleeding-heart which we have a reasonably good chance of finding. We will have time for some initial exploration this afternoon.
Tour Day 6 Today we will spend the whole day exploring the forest around and below Sibilaw. Clearly our focus will be on the bleeding-heart, but a number of other Visayan endemics are also possible, and indeed it is a great site to find the stunning Yellow-faced Flameback and the subtle White-throated Jungle-flycatcher as well as the distinctive Visayan form of Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis. We also have a good chance of finding other Visayan endemics (in case we missed them on Negros) such as Visayan Tarictic Hornbill and, after dark, the delightful Negros Scops Owl. We also have another chance to see other more widespread Philippine specialities such as Luzon Hawk-Owl, Philippine Frogmouth, Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove, the increasingly rare Pink-bellied Imperial pigeon and the delightful Maroon-naped Sunbird; a fitting finale to our Philippine adventure!
Tour Day 7 After a final morning around Sibilaw, we will walk back out and then drive to Pandan for an overnight stay.
Tour Day 8 Today we will transfer to Caticlan and take a morning flight to Manila, where the tour ends.