Thursday, July 14, 2022

Birding in Lake Holon, Tiboli, South Cotabato

At the onset of July I found some good relief after a busy June brought by some changes of personnel in the workplace. Lake Holon was the very first site off Southern Mindanao that I visited this month together with Sean for a birding adventure in a lesser-known Simedo Trail on July 8-10. With Pete Simpson taking charge of the coordination and practically everything about the trip, I met for the first time international birder Forest Jarvis and Allan Barredo from Koronadal City.

Forest Jarvis is a good birder and mentor

It was a long travel from Sta. Cruz all the way to the town of Tiboli in South Cotabato which had us picking up Forest in between at General Santos Airport on July 8. We waited close to 2 hours in the airport and delightedly saw open grassland birds Pied Bushchat and Paddyfield Pipit among others while praying for glimpse of a Black-shouldered Kite which did not show up.

This place is indeed as good as advertised. I got 5 lifers here, a good record of special Mindanao montane endemics. The first part was the site of flocks of Short-tailed Starling, Coppersmith Barbet and Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis, a bird I noticed appeared singly in other parts of Mindanao. A significant patches of forests in Simedo Trail was sacrificed for some horizontal infrastructures built by the government for some unviable reasons. Despite that, bird species considered this an abode because of a very good ration of native vegetation which were frequented by Philippine Hanging Parrot, Warbling White-eye, Olive-capped Flowerpecker, Red-eared Parrotfinch, Buzzing Flowerpecker, Bicolored Flowerpecker, Flame-crowned Flowerpecker, Little Pied Flycatcher, Philippine Mountain Leaf Warbler and the interesting Tiboli Sunbird.  

Stripe-breasted Rhabdronis
Coppersmith Barbet

Flame-crowned Flowerpecker
Buzzing Flowerpecker
Olive-capped Flowerpecker
Little Pied Flycatcher
Warbling White-eye

Just before lunch we headed off a steep trail with a good sightings of Cinnamon Ibon, Black and Cinnamon Fantail, a pair of McGregor’s Cuckoo Shrike, Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove, Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker and Rufous-headed Tailorbird, the latter often heard than seen. Our morning highlight was the often-shy Long-tailed Bush Warbler which appeared very shortly. White-browed Shortwing was another calling bird in the site which we all considered excellent birding place in the next two years until maybe when somebody whom they said “bought” the land converts it into a resort or a rest house.  

Yellow-breasted Fruit Dove
Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker
McGregor's Cuckoo Shrike
Rufous-headed Tailorbird

Long-tailed Bush Warbler (Record Shot)

Tiboli Sunbird (Record Shot)

Sean was excited to witness Mindanao Lorikeets in their kingdom just below the first site but before proceeding we were given good view of Citrine Canary Flycatcher (this one a lifer to me as I have not seen one in Mt. Apo), Rusty-breasted Cuckoo, Turquoise Flycatcher and Rufous-headed Tailorbird, this time appeared more visible. Our drive off the Lorikeet kingdom was interrupted with presence of couple Mindanao Hornbill and Coleto, but that did not ease the urge to continue to check on the Mindanao Lorikeet. Alas, there were around 30 of them, playing around after waiting for 30 minutes. Mindanao Lorikeet is a near-threatened species according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but here they settled freely even more dominant than other invasive birds like Yellow-vented Bulbul and Philippine Bulbul (in Tiboli’s case could become a local endemic bird in the future). The presence of Lorikeets in Tiboli sends a strong message that government functionaries should re-assess its plans on putting up more road projects in the future otherwise Mindanao Lorikeets will further move up to distressing conservation status.

Mindanao Hornbill
Mindanao Hornbill
Mindanao Lorikeet
Buff-spotted Flameback
Mindanao Hornbill Family with Coleto 
Turquoise Flycatcher
Citrine Canary Flycatcher

A solitary Whiskered Tree Swift, a feeding Buff-spotted Flameback and a Mindanao Hornbill were another beholding scene in the Lorikeet Valley.  Our attention were captured specifically by the Mindanao Hornbill which approaches to its nest in around 10 minutes and then flew back to the other side of the mountain to collect food items and vice versa, very intimate background provided only by the kindness of Mother Nature in this lovely place. Wow, that Day 2 experience deserved an early bed time in a cozy hotel located at the heart of Poblacion Tiboli.

Prior to driving back home on July 10 we took another half-day birding in Simedo just to have second look of the incredible avian species of Lake Holon which I consider birder’s paradise. Yes, this place is a must-visit attraction in Mindanao for birding and bird photography.

Lastly, thank you Pete Simpson for organizing the activity which could never have happened without your effort. I am happy that Sean was able to join a serious birding outside Davao Region and able to mentor two other kids in the Simedo village, his first ever and definitely an unforgettable experience in an early birding life of this little boy. Thank you Gabo for the lens you provided at least for that session. 

It was great meeting you for the first time in person Forest and Allan.   

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Mt. Sarerab’n, the Drizzle Peak of Sta. Cruz (1,360 MASL)

My quest to explore the mountains of Sta. Cruz is not over yet. Last month the latest site we visited was another summit located within Saliducon and Sinoron but accessible via barangay Binaton of Digos City. It is still part of the Unified Bagobo-Tagabawa Ancestral Domain and Mt. Apo Natural Park particularly within Strict Protection Zone (SPZ). 

Local and tribal leaders of Saliducon call this place Mt. Sarerab’n, a Bagobo term which means drizzle or mist and translated by Visayans as salibu. They explained that more often than not this place experiences light liquid precipitation normally caused by low stratiform and stratocumulus cloud.

The adjacent forest of Mt. Dinor, Tagaytay Range, Mt. Baryara and Mt.Loay is visible on a clear day. The summits of Mt. Buribid, Mt. Tampurong and Mt. Apo form part of the scenery on the other side. I managed to spot one Philippine Serpent Eagle flying above us but overall Mt. Sarerab’n is a cool site for birding. In that 2-hour trek I recorded 28 bird species.

It was an easy hike of 1.2 kilometers trail up to the summit measuring 1,360 MASL. Although located in Mt. Apo’s SPZ but the vegetation at the summit is mostly ferns and grasses. A good trail from the summit connects to a more forested area where Mt. Buribid commences all the way to sitio Kidaran of Tibolo and sitio Baras of Kapatagan, Digos City.

Efforts have been geared towards identifying Mt. Sarerab’n particularly its political boundary. The proponent Indigenous Peoples organization is now working with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and National Commission for Indigenous Peoples so that appropriate measures will be undertaken to make it another community-managed tourist attraction within an Ancestral Domain. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Postcards from Mount Kiamo

Mt. Kiamo is a minor hiking attraction in Malaybalay, Bukidnon which has become very popular now among weekend warriors and trekkers in Mindanao. This mountain came out as an alternate especially since other major mountains in Bukidnon are still closed for trekking such as Mt. Dulang-dulang, Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan. The mountaineering activity here is undertaken by the Higao-onon tribal group and certain amount is collected as entrance and camping fees, as well as guide fee for those who want to scale the summit of Mt. Kiamo.

My visit here was part of the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) on June 11 and 12 as resource person from an invitation of a good friend and Mt. Apo guide Arjay Seron of Explore Mount Apo. It was participated by more or less 50 mountaineers from all over the country.

The jump off point to Mt. Kiamo is just a 20-minute ride from Poblacion Malaybalay. The ideal itinerary is to stay overnight at Sabangan campsite and take a hike to the summit very early the next day. Sabangan campsite is a huge, verdant campsite surrounded with panoramic view of Malaybalay mountain ranges. For me this is the biggest tropical campsite in the Philippines which can accommodate thousands of campers.

Sabangan campsite is also a good subject for landscape photography because of its wide and open panorama with vegetation of assorted pines distributed evenly in the surface. Here are some of my photos during that 2-day activity.

It has been so long since I last climb a mountain in Bukidnon. The latest was in 2017 in Mt. Kalatungan and it is always good to be back to this province which is known for mountaineering as its name connotes.