Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Philippines - second half

From Banaue a longish drive, after you've guessed it, a very early start, got us to Subic Bay, an oasis of calm traffic, strict traffic enforcement, decent restaurants, etc.   It's the site of a huge former US military base and they kept a lot of the infrastructure and habits from when the military were present.

The regrowth forest on the site of the former base hosted lots of good species including this Little Pied Flycatcher:

In the former Officers' quarters a large flock of Blue-throated Bee-eaters had gathered ahead of breeding:

A Dollarbird surveyed the landscape in the sunshine:

Everywhere remnants of the US base were visible.  Some of these facilities remained locked, some had been converted to illegal housing:

We did some night birding at Subic, seeing a few good species including this Philippine Scops Owl:

From Subic Bay we drove through Quezon City to Infanta Road, a place where in January the guide had found two murder victims dumped in a gully on the roadside, almost certainly killed by a government hit squad as part of a programme that has seen some 20,000 Philippine citizens killed by their government so far.  The police tape was still there...

Along the road the birding was reasonable, albeit frequently disturbed by day-tippers and general traffic.  A Brown Shrike had caught something:

Asian Fairy Bluebird:

The dawn on the way up was stunning with views over the hills:

Sunset was equally spectacular with the sunshine cast on the water:

From Infanta and a shocker of an accommodation we headed to Los Banos, finally putting our foot down on the schedule and standards of the tour.   With a now grumpy guide we birded the forest from the back of the university campus, seeing Spotted Kingfisher:

The accommodation was basic but clean, quiet and with a decent local restaurant.   We lost half a stone each on the starvation rations on the holiday and that was with a week of eating properly, starting in Los Banos.

Anyway we drove back to Manila to fly on to Palawan, the last and most beautiful of the places we were to visit:

It's pretty stunning wherever you go on the Island:

Great birding too with many Island Endemics, though this is the widespread (in The Philippines) Yellow-vented Bulbul:

The landscape was accentuated by dramatic sunsets:

One trip we particularly enjoyed was a visit to the entrance to the underground river, a famous tourist location and UNESCO World Heritage site:

In the forest behind the facilities we had close-up views of a Hooded Pitta:

The last bird we saw on our last morning on Palawan was The Philippine Red-bellied Pitta, we'd seen four species of Pitta on the trip.   As a bird guide he was excellent, it was just the rest of it...

Anyway we had a night in Manila to get some food and some sleep before it was off to Sulawesi, Indonesia, we'd never been there before either...


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