The Tabuk Marine Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is a mangrove, fish and bird sanctuary located at Tabuk Island, just a short distance (about 10 minutes pumpboat ride) from the shores of the town of Palompon in the province of Leyte.

At the northwest side of the mangrove forest, at the section dubbed by locals as the “Bat Kingdom,” one would find thousands of sleeping giant fruit bats hanging upside down atop the mangrove trees.

Authorities have identified five different  species of fruit-eating bats inhabiting the island. This includes the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon jubatus) – a rare fruit bat considered the largest known bat in the world. The species is endangered and is currently facing the possibility of extinction due to poachers and food hunters. They are endemic to the Philippines.

Just before sunset, one can witness hordes of bats taking off from the island, flying out to far distant places to begin their nocturnal hunt for food. They would return to the island shortly after daybreak the following day.

These giant fruit bats have been cited for their major role in rainforest conservation and fruit trees propagation, thus earning the monicker, “The Silent Planters.” This they do via their natural droppings of seeds as they fly and cover long distances.

I cannot say for certain, however, that the photos here are those of the Giant Golden-Crowned Flying Fox.

But these, for sure, are huge bats!

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The Municipality of Palompon is in the province of Leyte, Philippines. It is  124 kilometers from Tacloban City, the Leyte provincial capital, and 66 kilometers from Ormoc City, Leyte. There are regular boat trips from Cebu City, 72 nautical miles away.

Source: Wikipedia & http://pinoyecotraveler.com

 

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Much to my surprise, I was more than delighted with the number of “likes” my post on “Birding Fun in Samar (Part I)” generated at Facebook. It was much higher than I expected and more than my usual, average figures. It only goes to show how many still admire these fascinating flying wonders rarely seen in the metropolis, much less photographed.

So here’s Part II of the birding fun we had last February 24 & 25 at the Samar Island Natural park (SINP) at Paranas, Samar:

7.) The Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectarinia sperata or Leptocoma sperata), also known as Van Hasselt’s Sunbird, is a species of bird in the Nectariniidae family. It is found in Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical mangrove forests.

These tiny birds (about 2-3 inches tall) are really active and colorful, especially the male which has an iridescent plumage, emerald green head, dark violet wing feathers and crimson breast and the shiny purple throat which gives it its name.

8.) (Below, left) A Red-keeled Flowerpecker (Dicaeum australe) – a species of bird in the Dicaeidae family. It is endemic to the Philippines.

(Right) A female Purple-throated Sunbird (Nectarinia sperata)

[Source: Wikipedia]

9.) The Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis), also known as the Yellow-bellied Sunbird, is a species of sunbird found from Southern Asian to Australia.

The sunbirds are a group of very small Old World passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Their flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering, but usually perch to feed most of the time.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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After the seemingly unceasing rainy days of recent weeks that saw several provinces in Eastern Visayas being declared under a state of calamity, the clouds broke up early last week and things seemed to get sunny once again eliciting one giant collective sigh of relief from everybody.

I was extra blessed this passing week with my spotting of two sunbirds – one, a favorite of mine, the Siwit, the local name for the Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) also called Yellow-breasted Sunbird; Yellow-bellied Sunbird;  and, secondly, a not-so-common bird called Naked-faced Spiderhunter – a lifer (first time to view at its natural habitat) for me! – at Lake Danao in Ormoc City, Leyte.

The sunbirds and spiderhunters are a family, Nectariniidae, of very small Passerine birds (perching birds/ songbirds).

I missed seeing the Siwit at our veranda during the incessant rains I began to wonder whether she’d moved on and found a better refuge.

Then just a couple of days ago, I heard her familar call!

She was back!

At Lake Danao in Ormoc City, Leyte last Friday, February 11, 2011, I was again in luck. Gee, the lake goddess surely loves me!

About 2 months ago it was there where I was able to spot several lifers and seldom seen ones, among them a Samar Tarictic Hornbill (Penelopides samarensis) and an Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis). (See previous post: http://callezaragosa.com/gerryruizphotoblog/?p=1013)

This time I was more than fortunate to have spotted what I initially thought was another ordinary sunbird. It was immediately identified by birder friends as a Naked-faced Spiderhunter – not yet classified as an endangered species, but certainly a rare, hard-to-find one.

A quick search in the internet mentions sightings and photographs of it only in Mindanao and at La Mesa Dam Eco Park in Quezon City. There’s no mention of sightings nor a photo taken of it in Leyte!

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It’s not everyday that one gets to meet and be friends on a first-name basis with a genuine VIP from another country.

A real, genuine one.

And it’s certainly a rare one when you get to travel with His Excellency and a small group of friends for 6 consecutive days (yes, sir six – count ‘em!) – enjoying a full load of fun and banter the whole stretch, having meals, drinks and cigarettes together, and enjoying  a not-so-common recreational activity under heavy rain and scorching sun on unholy hours in some of the most remote areas of the country!

How many times in a man’s lifetime can one experience something like that?

Unless, of course, you were born to royalty. Or your job entailed socializing with the high and almighty.

And so when I was invited by a cousin, Nestor Dolina to join a small group of bird watchers for a birding tour he was organizing – a small group which included a  VIP (a fact which was mentioned as an aside before the trip) – it would have been crazy to turn down such an invite.

His Excellency, Ambassador Robert Brinks, the Ambassador from Netherlands, however, had to emphasize time and again that, no, he was traveling not on official business, not as a diplomat representing his country; he was here as a private individual.

A private citizen.

Here to enjoy one recreational activity, which became apparent as the days wore one as high in the list of his personal pastimes he truly enjoys doing most – bird watching.

Private citizen Robert Brinks’ last assignment was just a stint in Baghdad (no mean feat!), where he confessed he felt more like a virtual prisoner amidst the constant bombings left and right.

And coming to the Philippines, he must have felt what being “free as a bird” truly meant!

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