A fantastic start to the birding part of this trip at Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, a second visit to this great shorebird site: a lifer in Far Eastern Curlew and some great birds.
When I saw the curlews, and we are talking about 20 – 30 birds in total one stuck out even at a distance of about one kilometre away on account of appearing much darker. I needed to investigate and to do this I had to do a bit of wading myself. Other smaller birds were also visible but very indistinct. But the birds were on terra firma at the shoreline. This involved wading from the larger of the two shelters back to the land but I knew it was all flat sand and with the tide going out there would be no major danger.
As I approached the land, the views progressively became better and better. The first significant bird was a Chinese Egret in breeding plumage, spindly nape plumes and a yellow grey bill. As I looked landward to the waders I could see Bar-tailed Goodwits, with their distinctive upward pointing bills, and Grey Plovers mixed up with the curlews. I could see many of the godwits were already in full breeding plumage or in transition: a real feast for the eyes with rufous, red and brown colours transforming the appearance of these birds, which I normally see as flat,drab grey. As I approached I could see some of the Grey Plovers were also in transition.
“My” curlew really stood out in size, bigger, and colour, darker, than that of the Eurasian Curlews and its bill also looked longer. In fact there were at least two other similar “curlews” nearby. I also noted that the streaking on “my” curlew’s neck and breast was much stronger: longer and more pronounced to the point of appearing to be almost striped. Then “my” curlew had a stretch, opening its wings for a brief flap and kindly displaying extensive streaking under its wing. I knew this feature would enable me to confirm the identification one way or another. I just wasn’t sure at this point which of the two possible curlews had the darker streaked underwings. I needed to look at the field guide for this and on return to the office I did this: it confirmed heavily streaked underwing as a distinguishing field mark. Far Eastern Curlew – a much sought after lifer.
I only keep a Thai list so I’ll need to open up a Philippine list and probably a world list. But I am not really driven by lists, although I do like to know what I have and haven’t seen.
So I had a glorious hour draped in late afternoon sun looking in awe at these wonderful birds. Of equal satisfaction if not more was the sight of at least 6 Chinese Egret, one of which was probably the same bird I had seen as I approached. What a sight. It seems the Philippines at the right time of the year is a good place to see Chinese Egret as they presumably migrate. I expect to see them when we arrive in Negros Occidental.