A chirp here. A rustle of feathers there. At a distance, quick flashes of colors fly into the sky. This is the daily milieu of Wesley Caballa, bird watcher par excellence.
“I didn’t know anything about birds. In fact, I could only identify the maya,” Caballa confessed.
This all changed when he became the senior manager for Sports, Recreation and Sustainability at the hideaway resort town of Costa del Hamilo. As part of the sustainability program, he began to identify the flora and fauna of the area, to build up the database provided by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
“Birds were the most obvious creatures, for we heard their songs and calls every single day. It was not easy to spot them. However, the more I observed, the more I appreciated this task-turned-hobby,” he said. “Eventually, I bought a camera with a modest telephoto lens and joined the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines (WBPP), an organization with environmental conservation at its core.
A graduate of the University of the Philippines, Caballa has documented 110 species so far. But he suspects there are 150 variants — 80 percent resident and the other 20 migrants — he just needs to see them at the right moment.
Discouraged whenever his target avian fails to show up, a clear camera shot of the subject more than makes up for it.
This is what he had to say on his favorite feathered friends:
Philippine Pitta (Erythropitta erythrogaster)
Extremely colorful with a unique mating call, they are active at the onset of the wet season — ideal to forage for food or for mating.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF WESLEY CABALLA
Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordid)
The only Pitta in the Philippines with a black head, I love them for their bright green color. This is easier to spot as they always fly out in the open.
Philippine Hanging Parrot (Loriculus philippensis)
It is the smallest parrot found in the country. Resembling the colorful make-up of a mistress, the red on the bird’s head and rump is true to its Tagalog name kulasisi.
Rufous-crowned Bee-eater (Merops americanus)
They feed on bees and other insects as they catch their food in flight — such precision to target small flying critters. Observing these birds always amazes me.
Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis)
With its powerful wings, it hovers back and forth to reach the nectar at the center of the flower like a hummingbird. It is definitely a sight to see in action.
Black -naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea)
The sexes dictate the colors — the male brighter blue, a black spot on the head and a black half collar around its neck, while the female is duller with olive brown wings, without the black marks.
Due to its blue shine, it is my favorite.
Rough-crested Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus superciliosus)
A species of cuckoo endemic to our islands, it is a large bird, predominantly black with bluish green gloss. Its unique red crest and bulging round eyes are what attracts most.
White-browed Shama (Copsychus luzoniensis)
Endemic to our nation, it is a shy bird, only conspicuous by its beautiful song. Initially, I thought it was a large bird. I was wrong — it is only about six to seven inches in length.
Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)
The tikling, which this bird belongs to, seems like it walks between grass stems. The name is a reference to our folk dance Tinikling.
Philippine Serpent Eagle (Spilornis holospilus)
Endemic to our archipelago, it eats snakes and other reptiles and amphibians. It possesses a distinctive whistling call, while soaring high above the forests. It is considered as the most conspicuous of all Philippine raptors.
Philippine Serpent Eagle.
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