12th feb – 9th march 2007


- Pre-departure planning
- Communications
- Mt. Makiling
- St. Pauls
- Rasa Island
- Mt. Kitanglad
- Hamut Camp


Here are some notes based on a 4 weeks trip. I met George Wagner at Cagayan de Oro airport to join me for Mt. Kitanglad, PICOP and Hamut Camp. This trip was good to see almost all of the endemics and other good birds at the sites:

Mt. Makiling; St. Pauls; Rasa Island; Mt. Kitanglad; PICOP and Hamut Camp.

Most notably were:

Great Philippine Eagle; 4 Pitta’s of which the 2 endemics; 9 Kingfishers of which 5 endemics; Mindanao Wattled Broadbill; 3 Racquettails and Philippine Cockatoo; All 5 possible Hornbills; All possible endemic Fruitdoves; Luzon Bleeding-heart; 3 Endemic Coucals; 5 Owls; 2 Frogmouths; The endemic Malkoas; The endemic Mynas; The Woodpeckers; All possible Cuckooshrikes; Both Leafbirds; The Fairybluebird; all 3 endemic Tits; 2 of 3 Rhabdornises; all 3 Ground (Wren) Babblers; The possible Shamas; all possible Tailorbirds; all possible Fantails; 3 of the 4 Monarchs; all Sunbirds (not Lina’s didn’t go the site); The Spiderhunter; The Bullfinch; and last but not least: both endemic Parrotfinches!
There are three links to downloadable soundfiles hereand here that I have to thank George Wagner for by recording them in the field during this trip. I’ve included the ones that are not found on the Birds of Asia recordings which are commercially available through:

Pre-departure planning

Best time to go is around feb-march since this reduces your chances of heavy rain for days.It is the average driest time of the year which is also outside the typhoon season.

The current animated satelite images of developing depressions can be seen at:

The best portal for information on the philippines is:

This is by the writer of the best travelguide of the Philippines (Jens Peter). It gives you more information than the lonely planet does. You will find also all the local airlines there were you can book the local flights over the internet before leaving. This is handy because it saves you valuable time and planning in country. You can use the printout from home and directly check in for the local flights. Air philippines; Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines seem to be reliable and cheap. If you want very recent tips from backpackers you may try to search the thorntree of lonely planet:

The best trip report is:
The complete report, with useful maps is available through Oriental Bird Club.
The following site has some other reports:

A few small reports that are not on it can be found here:

To set up for a good trip you may want to contact Tim Fisher in advance:
He may give you the mobile phone number of his companion Mark, who is more easy to reach when Tim is in the field during the day. Mark or Tim can reach the local people who can be ready to pick you up or to arrange things for you to stay at Mt. Kitanglad and Hamut Camp. Tim will charge you for the services. He can transfer funds to local accounts in advance for them to buy permits and food ahead for Mt. Kitanglad and Hamut Camp.


It is a good idea to buy a local SIMM card to be able to communicate with local people. The mobile phone network is very good especially if you buy a smartcard SIMM. With a few dollars this makes it possible to get confirmations from local people to expect you. This is better than a total rip off by your own phone company for charging heavily for communications by calculating the costs of international fees. Frequency is 900/1800. Check your phone for it to know if you can use it. It should be "SIMM-lock free" to change the SIMM of course. I found the Smartcard very cheap and very reliable with extremely good coverage.

Just go with your mobile to the nearest shop (ask around). The people in the shop will help you if you have no clue how to switch a SIMM-card. With a local Simm card it makes it possible to send text messages or phone from anywhere cheaply (even on slopes of MT. Makiling; Higher altitudes near Hamut Camp, Palawan etc.) This is handy if you change your mind or to be sure that people are ready for your next stop or in case you miss out on an appointment or they miss out for some reason. Don’t buy a Globe card as it’s coverage is just a fraction of what the Smartcard offers. See this site for the details about coverage (click on link for coverage for the different providers):

Here are some mobile numbers but they may be obsolete by the time you go. Probably the best thing to do is to ask Tim in advance for the mobile numbers of the local people to contact.
Arding (guide at Palawan) 09194711664
Mark 09162449683
Driver for Manila- Mt. Makiling 09167851119
Tim 09285033290
Wawa (driver for Palawan) 09218508609
Zardo (guide at PICOP) 092071668379

Detailed site information

The best detailed information is exchanged through a GPS file. If you have a Garmin GPS with USB connection for a PC, you may want to mail me for the file: mdeboer{at} You then can transfer my GPS file to your GPS using the Mapsource program that comes with the GPS. Through the program you can also see exactly where the locations are if you use the "View in Google Earth" feature if you have bothered to udate the Mapsource program at the Garmin website version 6.11.5 or higher should do it. Anyone who is familiar with this and has another file to share of a different area please mail me mdeboer{at} I have files also for Sumatra and Ecuador.


Mt. Makiling (Luzon)

If you land in Manila in the morning you are better off going straight to the site to avoid the usual polluted, crowded, expensive, relatively unsafe city of Manila, as opposed to the nice relaxed, safe, cheap, hassle free up country area, as everywhere in these countries. And importantly to not miss the next early morning birding. The cheapest way is to take a taxi to the bus station and then a bus to Los Banos or Santa Cruz and get off at Los Banos. Ask the driver or other passengers for the Jeepney-stop for the Forestry department area of the campus ground (just ask for "Forestry"). Another way to do this is to get a contact number from Tim or Mark to arrange a taxi or try to bargain one directly from the airport (wouldn’t do this if you were alone, taxi drivers at airports are the worst extortionists there are). Ask for the local mobile number to make sure you can contact them if things go wrong. My driver didn’t turn up due to car trouble and I could not contact him or Tim so had to arrange my own way to Mt. Makiling which is fairly easy and doesn’t take a lot of time.

There are two places to stay that are conveniently located on the campusgrounds.(see map of campus grounds)
TREES lodge (this is frequently full but the most convenient situated right at the boundary of the campus grounds and the start of the path into the forest).
SEARCA Hostel or Dormitory (cheap and not too far to get to the forest)
There are very frequent busses going up to the forestry area of the campus grounds. They even start very early though not always before sunrise. But it is walkable from this hostel to the forest when you need to be there before sunrise. The jeepneys which go to the forestry end of the campus end their route near the TREES lodge and the path up to the forests of Mt. Makiling. One can hop on from anywhere by waving down (one ride is 2 or 4 pesos, I forgot, but very cheap). This may also help you to go down to the Animal Husbandry and back to see the Spotted Buttonquail. For Indigo banded Kingfisher you need to be at the river of the botanical gardens on the campus grounds (see map). When I was there the river had shrunken to a pathetic little stream and I was not very hopeful to see it in afternoons when there are lots of people there also. But even when people chase it away by hopping on rocks of the stream, the kingfisher can still be seen. Apparently the stream is not in better state far away from the botanical gardens. I went there a few afternoons before I saw it. Not needing the early morning which is the most valuable time for other birds. Mind that Spotted Woodkingfisher is not far from the start of the trail and you need to be there before sunrise to have the best chances. This bird is very vocal but hardly ever responds to whistles unless before sunrise. It can be quite tricky to see, especially later in the day. If you have to catch a morning flight to other Islands you even can get a very early morning taxi from the campus grounds to the airport to catch your flight if Mark of Tim can help you to arrange it. This can be a bit pricey because the taxi has to come from Manila to pick you up. Before the morning rush hour starts the drive can be done in just over 1 hour from campus to the airport but it could take more than 2 hours if you find yourself in the rush hour.

Birds seen:

Philippine bulbul; Black and white Triller; Coleto; White throated Kingfisher; Stripe-headed Rhabdornis (common); Yellow bellied Whistler; Grey streaked flycacher; Brown Shrike; Balicassio; Red crested Malkoha (common); Scaly feathered Malkoha; Luzon Hornbill; Philippine Trogon; Ashy Minivet; Yellowish White-eye; Red-keeled Flowerpecker; Buzzing Flowerpecker; Lovely Sunbird; Colasisi; Yellow wattled Bulbul; Elegant Tit; Purple throated Sunbird; Brush Cuckoo; Coppersmith Barbet; Black naped Monarch; Philippine Woodpecker; Flaming Sunbird; White eared Dove; Besra; Spotted Woodkingfisher (1); White browed Shama; Blue headed Fantail; Lemon throated Leafwarbler; Grey backed Tailorbird; Sulphur billed Nuthatch; Scarlet Minivet; Grey faced Buzzard; Black chinned Fruitdove; Plain throated Sunbird; Black crowned Babbler; Indigo Banded Kingfisher (1); Spotted Button-quail (1); Barred Button-quail; Tawny Grassbird; Striated Grassbird; Scaly breasted Munia; Bright-capped Cisticola; Pacific Swallow; Richards Pipit; Pied Triller;

Great Philippine Eagle: I briefly saw a bird flying above me that I identified as this species but at the same time could not believe my eyes. In my notebook I wrote: Very distinctive flightpattern with enormous wings which were very broad; long tail and long neck with strong bill; tail a little darker than the drawing in Kennedy’s guide; dark band along trailing of wing a little wider than the drawing in Kennedy’s guide.
I began to think that one of the birds of the sanctuary were escaped or so. Luckily I saw the bird again at Mt Kitanglad again but in very different circumstances.


St. Pauls (Palawan)

There are frequent Jeepneys from Puerto Princessa to Sabang. They depart when full.
You may also try to contact Arding (if his mobile number is not correct anymore ask Tim or Mark for the right number. Wawa (taxi driver) can also take you from the Airport to Sabang while stopping at a few areas where birders want to check trails that can produce good birds. Very good for Copper-throated Sunbird. If Arding can join you he will bring you to a shore site for Chinese Egret and can take you to sites for Palawan Flycatcher. At Sabang it is good to settle at Taraw (good food, they can make takeaway lunches) but Mary’s and Michi’s are a little closer to the start of the forest. See map.

At least one morning you need to get the 6.00 am boat to the entrance of the underground river. This way you are certain for the Pheasant if it is still alive and also stand the best chance of seeing Parrots, the Hornbill and Pigeons (a good place is up the wooden stairs almost on top of the cliffs). Not far from the top of the cliffs I saw also a female pheasant (very shy). Heard a few males at other sites but didn’t see them. Apart from the one near the station for the underground river this could be a very difficult bird to get.

Birds seen:

On route to Sabang at a few stops Mangrove and lowland forest:

Eastern Reefheron; Intermediate Egret; Greater Sandplover; Lesser Sandplover; Grey-tailed Tattler; Common Kingfisher; Coppery Throated Sunbird; Palawan Flowerpecker; Yellow-throated Leafbird; Common Flameback; Common Iora; Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike; Slender billed crow (sounds very different here, almost like a dollardbird); Rufous-tailed Tailorbird; Ashy Drongo; Blue paradise flycatcher; Grey-cheeked Bulbul; Blue-headed Racquettail; Emerald Dove.

St. Pauls

Falcated Ground babbler; Palawan Hornbill; Palawan Tit; Palawan Flowerpecker; Citrine canary Flycatcher; Grey-cheeked Bulbul; Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher; Stork-billed Kingfisher (h); Collared Kingfisher; Common Flameback; Hooded Pitta; Bar-bellied Cuckooshrike; Yellow throated Leafbird; Asian Fairybluebird; Striped Tit babbler; White-vented Shama; Mangrove Whistler (h); Hill myna; Purple Throated Sunbird; Blue Paradise Flycatcher; Philippine Cuckoodove; Green Imperial Pigeon; Palawan Peacock Pheasant (2); Tabon Scrubfowl; Thick-billed Green Pigeon; Greater Flameback; Blue-headed Racquettial; Blue-naped Parrot; Olive-winged Bulbul; Pygmy Swiftlet; Ashy-headed Babbler; Palawan Blue-flycatcher; Palawan (Horsfields) Frogmouth; Brown Hawkowl

Rasa Island (Palawan)

You need to go to Narra. It seems to be a little tricky to find the right boatsman to get you to this Island. Unfortunately I forgot to take his name. I got there by a ride with another birder and the driver found the right man who took us to the island. If you want the Mantani Scops Owl you need to be there well after dark (20.00 o’clock to go back is very tight). An evening visit is also good to see the Cockatoo. Cockatoos also fly to the mainland in the early mornings sometimes. (see GPS file for the place). Some boatsman do not want you to stay in the evening. You need to pay the boatsman and also donate for the conservation project.

Birds seen:

Coppery Throated Sunbird; Pied Triller; Philippine Cockatoo (50+); Green Imperial Pigeon;

Mantani Scops owl (heard; only glimpsed landing in a tree nearby and taking of within half a second, very unsatisfying).


Mt. Kitanglad (Mindanao)

If Tim is not able to help you out because he is too busy you could also go to Dalmitan via Dalwangan and ask around for Carlito but this takes more time and you could find him guiding other people. Probably you are better off contacting Tim in advance if you go there prime time (feb-march) when other groups also want to go there. If you are lucky you may make it to the lodge the same day as you landed at Cagayan de Oro airport (that is if you arrive in the early afternoon and people expect you so that they have permit and food arranged). If they can pick you up and drive you to Dalwangan and then on to Dalmitan (see GPS map for an idea of the distances).

It is about one to two hour walk up from the village of Dalmitan to the Lodge. This is when you have your backpack put on a horse or a waterbuffalo which makes it much easier climbing. From the lodge up to the Lowest Eagle viewpoint is another one to two hours walking (longer if you are birding thoroughly of course). The lower view point is an open area where you are watching for the Eagle so bring umbrella (always handy for the rain but here also for the sun) and sunblock against the sun (very hot). You need to go up to higher altitude for the Apo sunbird (see map: Apo) where trees are getting much smaller. Higher altitude was also the only place were we heard and saw White-faced Bullfinch. Carlito is a good guide. He knows the birds the best locations for the trickier ones knows the calls and is very helpful in spotting. His helpers can also make your stay more pleasant by bringing lunch in the afternoon and they prepare nice food. According to Carlito this is the sound of the Sound of Giant Scops Owl.

Birds seen:

Philippine Hawk-cuckoo; Colasisi; Grey hooded Sunbird; Brown Shrike; Grey Wagtail; Tawny Grassbird; Straited Grassbird; Long tailed Shrike; Long-tailed Bushwarbler (h); Chestnut Munia; Barred Honeybuzzard; Yellow vented Bulbul; Olive capped Flowerpecker; Elegant Tit; Montain Whiteeye; Sulphur billed Nuthatch; Cinnamon and Black Fantail; Brown Tit-babbler; Barn Swallow; White-heads Swiftlet (1); White-cheeked Bulfinch; Cinnamon Ibon; Mindanao White-eye; Apo Sunbird; Apo Myna; McGreggor’s Cuckooshrike; Yellow-breasted Fruitdove; White bellied Munia; Whiskered Treeswift; Plain Bushhen (h); Philippine Coucal (h); Bukidnon Woodcock; Short-tailed Starling; Stripe breasted Rhabdornis; Coppersmith Barbet; Grey streaked Flycatcher; Richards Pipit; Mugimagi Flycatcher; Montane Racquettail; Mindanao Racquettail; Philippine Serpent eagle; Philippine Hawk eagle; Great Philippine Eagle (1); Fire breasted Flowerpecker; Philippine Frogmouth; Mindanao Scopsowl; Red-faced Parrotfinch; Blue capped Kingfisher; Rufous headed Tailorbird; Little Pied Flycatcher; Mountain Verditer Flycatcher; Coleto; Arctic Warbler; White troated Kingfisher; Crested Goshawk; Spangled Drongo; Philippine Nightjar; Eye-browed Trush; Spotted Dove and presumably heard: Giant Scops Owl.



PICOP (Mindanao)

To give you any idea about the state of the forest quite some time ago (2002) and the exact locations of good birds have a look at the GPS coordinates in Google Earth:

Broadbill= location were we saw the Mindanao Broadbill
SILVKING= Small pond with Silvery Kingfisher
Rd 42= good forest with many good birds
The status is as far as I know still officially a logging concession. Although there are reports of trouble between the government and the logging company which made it very uncertain if this status will hold. If it doesn’t hold than this place surely will be doomed in the future as other parties are ready to destroy the place for quick cash out of as much high quality hardwood as they can get as cheaply as possible. The place may be doomed anyway because it is getting thinner every year and quite a lot of people are living in it nowadays. Zardo (Fizaraldo Goring) is a very good guide and reliable in the very early mornings to pick you up from the Paper Country Inn. He knows the places for all the specialities which is a important if you have little time. He also knows the forestry people so this does not complicate things if you are stopped at the gate. You might still need a permit officially and we found the gate to be guarded even in the very early mornings sometimes. Also we were asked names by local people within the area. If you are not able to contact Zardo beforehand (see Mobile numbers) then you may try to contact him through the Paper Country Inn: Phone: (086) 853-3079; Fax: (086) 853-4144
He needs to be contacted in advance.
It takes a very long drive (about 2 hours) to get to the best spots for most of the specialities so one needs to start very early. The Paper country Inn can be used for a stay though it seems to be a little overpriced. The takeaway food is surely overpriced but it was always ready in the very early mornings.

Birds seen:

Minadanao Hornbill; Black naped Oriole; Azure Breasted Pitta; Guiabero; Writhed Hornbill; Philippine Trogon; Grey streaked Flycatcher; White eared Dove; Red-bellied Pitta; Pygmy Babbler; Philippine Oriole; Barred Honeybuzzard; White throated Kingfisher; Oriental Magpie robin; Black and White Triller; White breasted Woodswallow; Yellow vented Bulbul; Philippine Bulbul; Philippine Drongo Cuckoo; Coleto; Spotted Dove; Philippine Coucal; Spangled Drongo; Black-faced Coucal; White-browed Tailorbird; Rufous-fronted Tailorbird; Coppersmith Barbet; Little Spiderhunter; Violet Cuckoo; Black chinned Fruitdove; Pompadour Green Pigeon; Philippine Needletail; Uniform Swiftlet; Philippine Falconet; Large billed Crow; Pygmy Swiftlet; Naked Faced Spiderhunter; Colasisi; Philippine Leafbird; Silvery Kingfisher (2); Guiabero; Straited Swallow; Little Slaty Flycatcher; Rufous Lored Kingfisher; Short-crested Monarch; Yellowish Bulbul; Blue-capped Kingfisher; Pink-bellied Imperial Pigeon; Amethyst Dove; Yellow Watlled Bubul; Purple Throated Sunbird; Metallic winged Sunbird; Everetts Whiteeye; Blue Fantail; Olive backed Flowerpecker; Buzzing Flowerpecker; Striped Flowerpecker; Island Swift; Slaty-legged Crake (1 bathing in a pond on the road, not so shy!); Orange bellied Flowerpecker; Black naped Monarch; Philippine Fairy bluebird; Philippine Serpent eagle; Black-bibbed Cuckooshrike; Rufous fronted Babbler; Minanao Wattled Broadbill (2); Rufous Hornbill; Chocolate Boobook; Great eared Nightjar; Rufous Paradise Flycatcher; Lovely Sunbird (minuta ssp); Metallic winged Sunbird; Mindanao Hawkowl (h); Red-keeled Flowerpecker;

Philippine Leafwarbler; Bicolered Flowerpecker; Celestial Monarch (frustratingly heard only while finding one Short crested and Black naped after the other in a good forest flock); Streaked Groundbabbler.

Beach between PICOP and Mangagoy:
Greater Sandplover; Lesser Sandplover; Kentish plover; Rufous-necked Stint; Black headed Gull

Airstrip and surroundings:
Philippine Duck (15+); Common Moorhen; Barn Swallow; Richards Pipit; Chestnut Munia; Snipe spec.; Purple Heron; Clamorous Reedwarbler; Oriental Reedwarbler; Asian Glossy Starling; Pacific Swallow; Javan Pondheron; Wandering Whistling-duck; Zitting Cisticola; Yellow Wagtail; Cinnamon Bittern; Woodsandpiper; Grass Owl (several hunting from late afternoon onwards).


Hamut Camp (Luzon)

To give you an idea of the locations here is a projection of the coordinates in Google Earth. Mind that the state of the forest is that of 2003 and not 2007

First stretch from Baliuag to camp 1 is in the open. Better not walk in the hottest time of the day.

Detail trails in forest:

CLEARHUT= Clearance with hut probably best site to see White-lored Oriole
011= viewpoint near junction of turnoff to camp 2 and upwards trail (called "Ridgetrail");
Ridge trail is good to see Flame-breasted Fruitdove; Luzon Bleedingheart (saw it down also as you can see on the map); supposedly relatively good for Long-billed Rhabdornis; and the Racquet tail. Ridge trail leads towards Hunters Camp (HUNT). We continued a bit further but fewer birds, harder climbing and more leeches.
The local guide we used is Aquilino Escobar from the village of Baliuag. He knows some of the important birds. Aquilino has a Jeepney and can collect you from the airport and bring you to a supermarket to stock up for the food. You will also need porters to carry up the food and your gear for your stay. The porters and Aquilino come from the village Baliuag were you will have to start for a long walk to camp 1. Aquilino may know the fruiting trees for Flame breasted Fruitdove which is also favoured by Cream-bellied Fruitdove it seemed. The fruit they take is locally called "Rattan-fruit". See picture for its unusual looks.

It is about the size of a marble. We saw it along the Ridge Trail.

We were surprised to find the porters to be poaching in the early mornings. This we did not like and made us decide to not tip them as we would have done otherwise. They probably would do so anyway when we wouldn’t hire them but we did not like the idea to pay them while poaching. We freed a Civet one morning when we found it just before the porters would collect it. It may be a good idea to make a deal beforehand for the porters to not poach and agree on a better price and tell them that they can make more money while not poaching. Usual fee is about 350 pesos a day for a porter so you need to top that. The guide is just a little more expensive. We found the best place for the pitta to be just above camp 1. Just within the forest and not far from the village Palay.
The bamboo near the village Palay can hold Green-faced Parrotfinch. When we were there there were still some seeds from last year’s (or even the year before?) rare blooming and seeding event and we were lucky to see 2 of them amongst the White-bellied Munia’s.

Sound of Cream-bellied Fruitdove

Sound of Flame breasted Fruitdove

Birds seen:

Tracking up to forest (to camp 1):

Philippine Nightjar; Island Collared Dove; Red turtle Dove; Chestnut Munia; Chestnut headed Bee-eaters; Blue-tailed Bee-eaters (both migrating); Buff banded Rail (GW only); Ruddy breasted Crake; Pygmy Flowerpecker; Olive backed Sunbird; White browed Shama; White-breasted Woodswallow; Pacific Swallow; Pied Bushchat; Singing Bushlark; Pichards Pipit; Barn Swallow; Asian Palmswift; Philippine Coucal; Philippine Bulbul; Yellow vented Bulbul; Oriental Magpie Robin; GW went back a little at a sight for Plain Bushhen and managed to tape one out.

Around camp 1:

Sooty Woodpecker; Whiskered Pitta; Great eared Nightjar; Philippine Hawk-owl; Blue headed Fantail; Luzon Striped Babbler; Pygmy Flowerpecker; Scaly feathered Malkoha; White-fronted Tit (1 flew in nearby but we failed to find it again, GW missed it).

White-lored Oriole (I missed it; GW saw them at the clearing above camp 1); Arctic Warbler; Lemon throated Leafwarbler; Philippine Tailorbird; Olive backed Flowerpecker; Philippine Falconet.

Up to camp 2 and around:

Rufous Hornbill; Scaly Groundthrush; Blackish Cuckooshrike; Blue breasted Flycatcher; Rufous Coucal (3); Luzon Bleeding-heart (1 flushed); Cream-bellied Fruitdove (1); Rabor’s Wrenbabbler; Purple Needletail; Philippine Hawk-owl; Brown-headed Thrush; Green backed Whistler; Philippine Cuckoodove; White eared Dove; Amethyst Dove; Golden fronted Babbler; Snowy browed Flycatcher; Island Thrush (1 just above hunters camp); Yellowish White-eye; Elegant Tit; Blue-headed Fantail; Flame-breasted Fruitdove; Philippine Serpenteagle; Luzon Hornbill; Colasisi; Metallic winged Sunbird; Whiskered Pitta; Philippine Fairybluebird; Yellow-breasted Fruitdove; Philippine Trogon; Stripe-headed Rhabdornis; Bicolored Flowerpecker; Violet Cuckoo; Rufous Paradise Flycatcher; Philippine Hawkeagle;

Down again from camp 1:

Lesser Coucal; Crested Myna; Green-faced Parrotfinch (2); Pied Harrier; Long-tailed Shrike; Scaly Munia; White-bellied Munia; Blue Rock-thrush; Bright capped Cisticola.