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MINDANAO ISLAND

PHILIPPINES
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# Species:370
# Excl Vagrants:370
# Endemics:113
# Near Endemics:6
Habitat: Lowland forest, montane forest, degraded forest, roadsides

ABOUT THE BIRDING

Mindanao Island is one of the larger islands in the Philippines and a must place to visit for birding tours. Over 30 endemics are found on the island that are not present on either Luzon or Palawan Islands.

MT KITANGLAD

Mt Kitanglad is located about 100km by road from Cagayan de Oro on Mindanao Island. Most birders visit the extremely basic Del Monte Lodge, if one wants to call it that, or camp at a similar elevation on the mountain. Both sites are located near the base of the mountain and are accessed by a road that is often impassable to vehicles. The lodge area is good for night birds such as Mindanao Scops-Owl and Philippine Frogmouth as well as the much sought after Bukidnon Woodcock. Birding is along a track that first goes through some cleared agricultural areas and then proceeds up the mountain through several altitudinal zones. The hike up can be quite strenuous, especially if the trail is muddy, and involves about a 350m (1200ft) elevation gain. Some of the trails farther up to get higher elevation species can be quite steep. Different zones feature different endemics. The lower section of the road features birds such as Olive-capped Flowerpecker. Flame-crowned Flowerpecker (quite scarce), Pygmy Flowerpecker, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, and Gray-hooded Sunbird. As one proceeds up the mountain, new possibilities include Rufous-headed Tailorbird, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Stripe-breasted Rhabdornis. Several species require a trek to still higher elevation, including Blue-capped Kingfisher, Mindanao White-eye, Cinnamon Ibon, Apo Myna, and White-cheeked Bullfinch. Certainly everyone's number one target bird is the majestic Philippine Eagle that typically nests on the mountain and regularly appears soaring overhead.

An Alternative is birding the back side of the mountain along the trail up Mt Dulang-dulang. This rarely visited site features several species not likely on the Del Monte side, namelyMindanao Jungle-Flycatcher and Bagobo Babbler. Species never recorded on the Del Monte side but seen on the back side are Mindanao Lorikeet and Mountain Serin, both found at higher elevation than can be reached on the Del Monte side.

BISLIG & PICOP

PICOP is a logging concession located near the town of Bislig on Mindanao Island. It's a rather lengthy drive from Cagayan de Oro or Davao, some 6 hours from the latter. The road between Mt Kitanglad and Bislig is very bad and can take 12-14 hours slow driving. Birding the area can be depressing due to the abject poverty of the area and the continual deforestation taking place. In addition, numerous illegal settlers are adding to the deforestation even further. Malaria is an issue so pills against Falciparum are needed. Conditons are hot and sometimes rainy. Nevertheless, the site is an important place for finding Philippine endemics while forest remnants remain. The birding is excellent because the birds are crowded into small remnants of remaining forest, the canopy is open, and so the birds are easier to see than in dense forest.

Everyone uses 4x4 jeepney to get around the really bad roads. Two birding sites remain. Road 1-4 takes 1¼-1¾ hours to reach the quarry trail and badly degraded forest. Road 4-2 2⅓ hours of rough driving each way and is the only chance for Celestial Monarch (a stunning bird that is not easy to see). Despite the rugged travel conditions, the birding is top notch while it still remains. Other target birds to be found there are Southern Silvery-Kingfisher ( a highly localized endemic), Rufous-lored Kingfisher, Mindanao Hornbill, Writhed Hornbill, Azure-breasted Pitta, Philippine Oriole, Rufous Paradise-Flycatcher, Yellowish Bulbul, Rufous-fronted Tailorbird (a split from Philippine Tailorbird), White-browed Tailorbird, Striated Wren-Babbler, and Naked-faced Spiderhunter. Other Philippine endemics possible at the site include Pink-bellied Imperial-Pigeon, Philippine Drongo-Cuckoo, Black-faced Coucal, Philippine Trogon, Philippine Dwarf-Kingfisher, Blue-breasted Pitta, Short-crested Monarch, and Little Slaty Flycatcher. Interesting night birds to be found there include Chocolate Boobook, Mindanao Boobook, and Philippine Frogmouth.

Near PICOP but at higher elevation is Mt Pasian, an inconspicuous ridge where it always rains and is always shrouded in mist and fog. The access road is extremely bad but the site is regularly visited by birders to PICOP. The main attractions are the Russet-tailed (Cryptic) Flycatcher and the recently described Lina's Sunbird. Also present is an undescribed Shortwing. Other than that, birding is usually very slow unless one encounters a mixed flock, in which case some interesting species can be seen.

Birding around Bislig consists mainly of visiting the regional air field that is bordered by grassland and marshes. Though an active airport, little air traffic goes in and out. Some of the interesting birds to be found there are Wandering Whistling-Duck, Philippine Duck, Blue-breasted Quail, (a main target bird there), and Oriental Reed Warbler. At dusk likely possibilities include Australasian Grass-Owl and Philippine Nightjar.

PASONANCA NATURAL PARK

Pasonanca is located on the far northwest peninsula of Mindanao and is rarely vipaged by international birders. It nevertheless has potential as a very important site for lowland birding on Mindanao. The forest is well protected. unlike Picop, and most of the same species are present. It's also easier and less time consuming to reach. There have been security threats and travel advisories, but the same can be said for Davao and other parts of Mindanao including Bukidnon. Recent (June 2014) strongly worded advisories against traveling to the Zamboanga area are no doubt a strong deterent against travel there. On the other hand, birders in the Philippines and other countries who have visited during 2010-2014 as well as locals are of the opinion that the dangers are not as bad as indicated by the travel advisories. Anyone interested in the birding the area should get up to date information from reliable sources. Birding at Pasonanca excellent. A number of species occurring there that are difficult or seldom seen at Picop include Mindanao Bleeding-heart, Mindanao White-eye, McGregor's Cuckooshrike, Flamecrest, Zamboanga Bulbul, Mindanao Plumed-Warbler, Mindanao Jungle-Flycatcher, White-browed Shortwing, Russet-tailed Flycatcher, and Whiskered Flowerpecker. The two main sites are Canucutan and Baluno, both readily reached from Zamboanga city as day trips and both deserving of 2 days birding. Canucutan is the area around the city water intake, located 7km north of the city, and features good lowland forest and some good trails. Baluno Forest Station is 25km from the city with the last 4-5km required 4-wheel-drive. The track skirts primary forest and goes through secondary forest, cleared patches, and plantation borders and reaches somewhat higher elevation where some different species are present. A third site is the Bog Lake near Zamboange golf course, worth an afternoon of birding. Much more detailed information is available at this website.

LOCATION OF SITE

Mindanao Island is in the far south of the Philippine Islands. It's typically reached by flying from Manila to Cagayan de Oro or Davao. Travel time along badly deteriorated roads from Cagayan de Oro to the base of Mt Kitanglad is about 2-3 hours. Travel time from Bislig to the base of Mt Kitanglad is about 10-14 hours by bus. Reaching Zamboanga is a long and potentially risky place to reach by land and is best reached by air. Daily flights are available from Manila, Cebu, and Davao