Birding on Bohol and Olongo Islands
by Dan Jones
(Weslaco, Texas, USA)
During a December 2003 trip to visit my fiancee in Cebu, we were able to make short trips to Bohol and Olongo Island to do some birding. All birding was done without tapes at a somewhat relaxed pace.
We took the Super Ferry from Cebu City to Tagbilaran, Bohol during the morning. The cost was about 450 pesos each and took about an hour and a half. At the ferry terminal we bought our return tickets and found a taxi to take us to Nuts Huts lodge for 400 pesos. A tricycle to the bus station and bus trip would have been much less.
Nuts Huts is a semi comfortable lodge run by a couple from Belgium on the Loboc River a couple of kilometers past the town of Loboc on the highway to Raja Sikatuna National Park and the Chocolate Hills.
Nuts Huts charges 385 pesos for a bamboo cottage with cold water showers and mosquito nets. The mattresses were a little thin for my spoiled American bones.
The cottages are located along the Loboc River in a grove of coconuts and coconuts fell with loud thuds throughout the night. The lodge has a very pleasant restaurant located on the steep hillside with a great view of the river and opposite hillside. The food was great and very reasonably priced.
We arrived at about two in the afternoon and only saw a few birds - White-breasted Wood Swallow, Black-naped Oriole, Purple-throated Sunbird (common), White-eared Brown-dove and the ubiquitous Asian Glossy Starling. Philippine Frogmouth called at night and large fruit bats fed in a nearby tree during the night.
We leave the cottage for Raja Sikatuna at 7:00 AM and hike up the steep hill and the the .8 km walk to the highway. At the rice paddy near the highway we find White-breasted Waterhen and Barred Rail.
After a few minutes of waiting, we flag down the bus to Carmen and get a ride to Biliran for 10 pesos each. We pick up a few things to eat at the market and hire a motorcycle to take us the three km to the park for 50 pesos.
We arrive at the park at 8:00 am and hike up the trail behind the Logarita Pool. Birding was much slower than our last visit in July.
Birds in the forest included Blue-throated Bee-eater, Yellow-breasted Fruit-dove, Spangled Drongo, Red-keeled Flowerpecker and White-bellied Woodpecker.
I caught a glimspe of what was probably a Steere's Pitta, but was frustrated by an inability to find the few calling birds I heard.
We eventually ran into the Steere's Pitta Trail and came out in the clearing by the headquarters.
We can't find the Sivery Kingfisher we saw last July at the pond behind the headquarters. We have a problem with the tame monkeys harassing us for food and are forced from the clearing and walk back towards the highway.
We do glimpse a Red-bellied Pitta in the road cut just beyound the clearing. In the rice paddies that boarder the forest we see Little and Intermediate Egrets, Yellow Wagtail, Large-billed Crow , Barn Swallows and Pygmy Swiftlet. We hike back to the highway and catch a very loaded bus back to the Nuts Huts trail.
We spend the morning having breakfast at the restaurant and birding near the cottages and on the hill above the lodge.
Birds seen include Yellow-wattled, Yellow-vented and Philippine Bulbuls, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Orange-bellied and Red-keeled Flowerpeckers, Purple-throated and Metallic-winged Sunbirds, White-breasted Waterhen and Black-naped Oriole.
After lunch we hire a pumpboat to take us to the river mouth and waterfalls for 500 pesos. There was much evidence of recent serious flooding.
Birds seen included White-collared Kingfisher, Barn and Pacific swallows, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Little Heron, Common Sandpiper, White-breasted Wood-swallow, and Olive-backed Sunbird.
We spend another day taking it easy and birding around the lodge. A return to the rice paddy near the highway get us a White-throated Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. Other birds seen along the trail and the cottages were Plain Bush-hen, Pied Triller, Oriental Magpie-robin, Asian Palm-swift, Brown Shrike and other birds previously mentioned.
We get to see a large monitor lizard sunning in the garden near the restaurant, two large sail-backed lizards looking like Chinese Water-dragons and a bizaare flying lizard that glided from one coconut to another above our heads.
We add Philippine Coucal during breakfast and take a boat to Loboc for 100 pesos and get a jeepney to Tagbilaran for 10 pesos each and then head back to Cebu.
After spending the night at the so-so Hotel Cesario (1000 pesos per night) on Mactan Island, we get a tricycle (70 pesos) to take a to the Angasil boat launch where pumpboats regularly leave for Olongo Island.
We had been offered a three hour special ride tour of Olongo Island for 2000 pesos, but instead opt for the regular pumpboat costing us 12 pesos each. After the 20 minute trip we find a tricycle (50 pesos) to take us to the Olongo Island Bird Sanctuary.
We are fortunate to find "Boy" one of the guides there who chages us 120 pesos to visit the sanctuary. He lets us borrow a very nice Nikon 60 mm ED scope and is also able to accompany us for 2 hours at the nice photo blind and help us with the shore bird ID's.
We saw Chinese and Little Egrets, Little Heron, Kentish, Mongolian and Grey Plovers, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Terek sandpiper, Asian Dowitcher, Gray-tailed Tattler, Rufous-necked Stint and Gull-billed Tern.
We spent a very enjoyable 6 hours at the blind before heading back.