This is my local patch in The Philippines, ten minutes from my wife’s family home in Sum-ag, Bacolod City, sitting on the edge of the Sulu Sea. Punta Taytay has changed quite dramtatically since my last visit here two years ago; then there was a sea wall and a few food stalls and little else. It has been developed with the addition of larger sit down restaurants covering the length of the sea wall and there are also a couple of viewing areas too. My initial fear that this might be for the worse was soon allayed: the mangrove is actively being regenerated and within five minutes of arrival I had seen three Chinese Egrets.
I must confess to being surprised by the ease with which I am seeing this species – I happily own to a litany of identification errors. I have checked my field guide and what I am seeing can only be Chinese Egret. They cannot be Eastern Reef Egrets, the most likely species with which to confuse them as they have clearly visible nape plumes and I wouldn’t expect to see Reef Egrets in this mudflat/mangrove habitat but more so in rocks and outcrops. I also had the privilege of watching one of today’s Chinese Egrets feeding in the sea and true to form, it angled its neck to 45 degrees and started to run and flash its bill like a dagger after prey – an impressive and amusing sight. So I am completely certain these are the real thing. Nine Chinese Egrets in two birding sessions – wow!
On arrival, Chinese Egrets apart, a small, mixed group of Eurasian Curlew and Whimbrel took to the air – the white patches on their respective rumps were visible and the Whimbrel could be distinguished by their call and smaller size. I then noticed some biggish birds emerging from the trees at the back of the mangrove and once I got these in my sights it was clear they were Black-crowned Night-heron. These are new birds for this patch; in fact a check in the Kennedy field guide shows that when this excellent work was published in 2000 this species had not been recorded in Negros and it is in fact classified as “uncommon” for the rest of The Philippines. [see comments for an update on status]. Well these night-heron look as if they are roosting here during the day.
I then noticed a small flock of waders flying in and touching down towards the mangrove edge. A quick scan revealed about 25 Grey-tailed Tattler and a closer look revealed a further 15 or so already settled down. These are not birds I see that often in Thailand but they can be reliably seen here and in good numbers too. A couple were showing breeding pluamge. I decided to try and get in closer and as I walked in a fair few other waders became visible notably Lesser and Greater Sand-plovers but also good numbers of Pacific Golden Plover (40+) and Ruddy Turnstone, a count of six in the end, but like tattlers, not a bird I see often in Thailand.
So an excellent session whose only downside was I got my feet cut on sharp rocks as I waded back in to the sea wall. A little bit sore! But Punta Taytay will now be a fixture for me and so long as my feet are not hurting too badly tomorrow I’ll go out for more.