Sunday, 5 January 2014

Golden Bellied Flyeater - heard but not seen

Go for a morning walk (yeah ... I know it is tough to let of that soft pillow... but do try!) and you will invariably hear a rather happy sounding bird whistling to itself. I have heard this bird for ages, and now I finally know who it is.
The recordings and video on the net do not exactly coincide with what I have been hearing daily (perhaps different birds, different tunes?!) , but this gay sounding bird is definitely the Golden bellied flyeater. I sure hope to see you some day... but till then... in a sad attempt to imitate James Bond, the golden bellied flyeater remains ...

...Heard, not seen

Meanwhile, I will keep myself happy looking at this photo by Jun Osano (Maia bird calls it one of the 10 most common urban birds - she means in Manila, of course)

Photo shamelessly lifted from 10 most common urban birds, copyright et al!


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Swift? Swallow? Who Knows...

Every time I am down and out
as life gives me my share of blows and raps
I watch you soar, swift and high
an acrobat, soaring in the sky

My troubles leave me, just for a while
and my mind soars with you, leaving my
troubles far behind, just for a moment
just for a while, just for a while

What art thou called, I know not, bird
A swift? A swallow? Mearnsi? Apus?
All I know is that, you are to me
Hope, just for a while, just for a while.

- (c) The City Warbler

If you know the name of this bird, do let me know.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Of Shrikes and Nightingales

Is it not amazing how, once one has learnt to identify the bird call  of a particular bird, that one suddenly ends up spotting it everywhere?

Can you identify the tree? 10 points to the person who can identify the tree this shrike is perched upon (Clue : It is a tropical tree endemic to Philippines)

I spent no more than ten minutes today, looking at the trees, listening keenly, armed with my new found knowledge of what a brown shrike sounds and looks like, and how to spot the difference between the  brown shrike and yellow vented bul bul (they look surprisingly similar from a distance the uninitiated - that is me!)

 Listen to avocet's recording of the brown shrike's incessant chatter in the Philippines here

And there - to my glee - I spotted no less than a dozen (well, actually it might have been closer to six each - always alone - but it felt equally good!) brown shrikes and yellow vented bul buls, perched on different branches at different times.

Here are some photos I took. Yes, they are all taken in Washington Sycip park - a patch of greenery right in the midst of Makati, a suburb of bustling Manila (Philippines).

And all over, all I could hear (in the midst of the gurgling sounds of the bulbul) was the cheep cheep bird call of the brown shrike (always sounds like an alarm call - even when not in alarm!)

Arkive reminds me of how similar the brown shrike (Lanius cristatus) looks to the eurasian sparrow - both are equally cute! Avibase has some cute photos and bird calls of this masked bandit (!). I like the maps posted on Xeno Canto - but can someone please remind them to add Philippines as one of the places where the brown shrike is seen?

Surprisingly, the brown shrike did not make it to ebon's list of Ten most common urban birds (the bulbul did make it to this listing)

Oops - 
By now, avid birders must have spotted the error in the title of this blog - the bulbul is not the nightingale (a common mistake, though not as common as mistaking the maya bird for the eurasian sparrow!).  The nightingale is really Luscinia megarhynchos, while the Bulbul we see commonly in Manila is the yellow vented bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier). 

But "of shrikes and nightingales" sounds far better as a blog post than "of shrikes and bulbuls" - don't you think? Or do you have different views? Do let me know. Twenty points to the most diverse opinion.

A note to the ultra particular birder : 

Staunch birders will probably (correctly) correct me that this bird (and any brown shrike spotted in the Philippines, for that matter) is more precisely called  Lanius cristatus lucionensis. Yes - the ones we see in Philippines belong to lucionensis - one of the four subspecies of the brown shrike.

Thanks - 

  • To Birdguide, for the excellent photos of the brown shrike 
  • To the other websites mentioned (and linked) above which gave me useful knowledge on the brown shrike. 
  • And of course, to the always evolving encyclopedia at wikipedia
Further reading -  Why do birds sing?

Monday, 30 September 2013

Brown Shrike - Lanius cristatus

A commonly heard and seen (and oft mistaken for a sparrow), I spotted this brown shrike (aka tarat and pakis-kis) perched on the branch of a Calachuchi tree

The brown shrike is a traveller, migrates to Philippines often from China and Taiwan, and makes a distinct cheep cheep bird call.

A Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)
Traveller in the city - Photos of brown shrike by the city warbler

Hmmm... that looks like an interesting insect... shall I eat it?

Hellloooo ?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Golden Bellied Flyeater - Heard but not seen

Five shrill notes of different pitches 
sounding a lot like a naughty child 
imploring you...

Golden bellied Flyeater (Gerygone sulphurea)

I hear this bird's unique call every morning - right from around 5:45 am. I have been hearing it anonymously (a lot like hearing a tune without knowing who sang it or what it is called ) for quiet some time.

That was, until today, when I chanced upon the identity of this hitherto unknown mystery singer, quiet by accident, on the internet (Bird call here  with the best You tube video here).

Image source : Ten most common urban birds

A.k.a : Gerygone sulphurea
Size : Terribly small - some guides to spot it can be found here  as per birdwatch Philippines (I wonder if I will be able to ever spot it!)
Bird call : Here on Xeno canto

Hungry for more images? 
More information on Golden bellied fly eater (also known as the melody queen!) :

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Yellow Vented Bulbul

Yellow Vented Bulbul
Pycnonotus goiavier

Bird call - on you tube and elsewhere including this really cute one

Disclaimer : All photos on this page were taken by the city warbler in Makati, Manila, in the midst of active city life. No birds were harmed when shooting these photos. All copyrights with God and Nature who created this bird.
Yellow Vented Bulbul - Washington SyCip park, Makati, Manila, Philippines. Photo by the city warbler

This cute chappie was sitting on a tree, on the edge of the park, patiently waiting for me to adjust my camera and take a photo of him.

A few hundred photos later, I ran and opened my bird guide (a.k.a Google to the uninitiated!) and there it was - easy to spot ... the yellow vented bulbul.

The yellow vent itself is difficult to notice (unless you shamelessly stare there!) as it is at it's ..... ummmm...nether regions.... but the rest of the bird is pretty distinct to identify.
A Yellow Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) in the midst of greenery Spotted in Makati, Philippines by the city warbler

After listening to it's bird call, though, I wish I could have heard it, as it sounds like the fresh tinkering of handheld chimes.

Here are some more photos of the yellow vented bulbul that I took later - 

The yellow vent is seen quiet clearly

Thinking up it's next melody...

The yellow vented bulbul, partly hidden in the midst of leaves and fruits

... and here is a pair of them!

Further information - 

  • Wikipedia, the ultimate source of information (and misinformation) introduced me to Pycnonotus goiavier, and led me to Naturia's informative page on the Yellow vented Bulbul. 
  • Oiseaux showed me more photos of the yellow vented bulbul, thus making me surer of my paltry information.
  • The Philippines bird watchers group showed me some real good photos they had taken and Xeno Canto is an amazing and trendy resource for bird information. 
  • This and this were some interesting blogs about it

A note of Thanks - 

Thanks to all the above (and many more, all of whom it would be impossible to name) for posting information on the net, to Tim Berners - Lee for the world wide web, to Larry Page and Sergey Brin for Google, to Nature  for making all of this possible, and to God for enabling us to appreciate her beauty.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

My name is Maria Capra

An interview with Maria Capra

(a.k.a the pied fantail, a.k.a Rhipudira Javanica)


Tweet tweet

My name is Maria Capra.

I am a pretty black and white bird. What? You say monochrome is out and colour is in? How dare you! TWEET! I will bite you, for I am known to be territorial and aggressive. So beware, watch your tongue!

Maria Capra (Pied Fantail) with Senor Capra.
Photo by Adri Constantino. Doodling by The City Warbler

Through the ages, I have fought with beasts and giants of all kinds - cats, dogs, even that big menace people call homo erectus or human being! I have even fought with my own reflection!

Ah - yes, it is ok. I can hear your apologies. That is better.

My food....

Well, you can make me happy by inviting me for lunch. I love insects - especially the flying winged variety (Mmmm.... their winds are so crunchy!) - But do remember, I like them fresh. (Yes - I follow Confucious in that matter). If you look close, my bill is ringed with spines (rictal bristles) which help me catch insects, even in dim light. Now, my mother (her name is nature) is smart, is she not?

Pied fantails like to eat winged insects
It has been suggested that by revealing the white tips of the tail, insects are startled into movement 

Is it true that you are among the Top Ten Most Common Urban Birds?

Yes - I received that distinction, along with my friends, including the Eurasian tree sparrow (who many urban idiots mistakenly call the Maya bird - the Maya bird is actually the Chestnut Munia seen so commonly in rice fields even today), the Yellow Vented Bul Bul (yeah - she has a wonderful tinkling gurgling voice) and the Olive Backed Sun Bird.

Can you tell us more about your name ?

Why am I called the pied fantail? Well, pied means "black and white"- which are my colours. Fantail of course is due to my tail, which I spread out like a fan or a Spanish abanico, and move it up and down, especially when I am dancing or hopping about. My broad tail helps me change direction quickly when I am hunting for insects. You see, I like to startle them with my movements, they move, they reveal themselves, I catch them quickly, I reveal my hunger, I revel in  the delight of "fresh catch of the day".

In Tagalog (or rather, Pilipino, to be more politically correct), I am called Sipao, and when I fly around in the Visayan islands, the kids point at me and shout Tarerekoy Tarerekoy! But some people seem confused, as I have also heard people call the bushchat "Maria Cafra". Idiots! Don't they know that we are not even of the same family - let alone species?

Why am I called Maria Capra?

Ah - that is my romanticized name in The Philippines. (Though some people also call me Maria Cafra - due to the habitually intermixed "fa" and "pa" sounds - a hangover of the Spanish colonial era and the mass hispanisation that people indulged in - then and ever since.)

But that still does not answer WHY?

Well - it is nice, it is attractive, it is beautiful, it sounds a lot like Maria Clara, but much stronger than her. You do know who  Maria Clara is, right? The heroine of Jose Rizal's novel Noli Me Tangere who Ibarra falls in love with ? Have you read it? Yes - she looked beautiful in the TV series, but sadly turned out to be a real faint hearted wimp in the novel.
Fantail eat winged insects.
You read?

Of course I do! Have you not heard the phrase "bird brained"?

Well that still does not answer why Maria Capra...

Gosh - you are one pesky person. Well - it is time for me to fly away..
Tweet Tweet - and see you tomorrow - at a garden close to you..

The fantail is known by different names in different places - but the ones I like most are Maria Capra (Philippines) and Muray Gila (Malay - literally means crazy thrush!)

Note :

Maria Capra / Cafra in contemporary times..
  • Maria Cafra is the name of a 1970s Pinoy rock band (Here on Facebook and You tube )

References -

Much of the information used in this post is from the below references, to whom I am indebted. If not for them, I would not have been able to figure out any of the above No copyright violations are intended. All  information posted under Creative Commons License.
  1. Syliva Ramos' Blog
  2. Infosheet on Fantails by Department of conservation, NZ
  3. The call and behavior of the Pied Fantail - Eating a dragon fly - Antics of the Pied Fantail - Bird Ecology study group
  4. Birdwatch Philippines
  5. Blog - When Maria Capra sat on his hand
  6. The Bird Photo Catalogue
  7. Joiz Tolero's blog which led me to Fisher and Hick's book on Birds  of The Philippines
  8. Facebook - Wild birds of Aurora
  9. Ten Most Common Urban Birds - Maria Tanedo
  10. Habits of the Pied Fantail
  11. Photo Blog - A short nesting story of a pied fantail
  12. Pied fantail on the website of everything
  13. A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines by Robert S. Kennedy et al