Three members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines were asked to share the story of their first encounter with a Philippine Trogon (Harpactes ardens).
The three WBCP members who shared their stories are:
- Mike Lu – Past President, Founding Member, and current Treasurer of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
- Melanie Tan – former Treasurer of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and go-to person for just about all bird and bird club related information.
- Cristina Cinco – artist, passionate birder, and one of the Club’s volunteer bird guides
The following are links to recordings of the song of the Philippine Trogon:
The Philippine Trogon is but a mythical creature, the elusive Ibong Adarna spoken of in local folklore. A figment of an exhausted birdwatcher’s imagination. Dude birders like me, knew better than to add it to our wish list.
But on that magical mountain known as Pico de Loro, where bird club founder James McCarthy once narrated of a “hill bursting with the cries of a hundred tarictics,” he captured the Club’s first photograph of a female Philippine Trogon.
Years later, and only after my idol photographer couple, Tonji and Sylvia Ramos came back from roadside birding on Pico de Loro with what I considered the best shot of a male Philippine Trogon, did I finally dare to dream of seeing this bird in the wild.
And so last year, on a lean birding day at Pico de Loro, a blob of red caught my eye as I scanned the precious tangle of greenery above the bend on the road below. My heartbeat quickened, my mind conditioned me to think that it would not turn out to be the underside of a leaf or a red fruit. True enough, as my Minox scope zeroed in on the red spot, my Philippine Trogon came into view.
It was a surreal. The bird had the exact pose as the Ramos couple’s photo. He perched proud and out in the open with a take-a-look-at-me-now attitude. My eyes could not absorb so many colors all at once – red, pink, blue and brown and so much more. I just had to share this “lifer” moment with everyone else.
As soon as everyone uttered their oooohs and ahhhhs, my Ibong Adarna disappeared into the understorey.
No second looks. Not another chance.
I have been blessed. Who am I to complain ?
The Philippine Trogon is one of the most beautiful birds you can find in the country. It’s got a long tail and lots of vibrant colors with a combination of pink, red, yellow, cinnamon and blue. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Sadly, it was one of the birds in my ditch bird list, always heard never seen.
It was April of 2009 when I was invited to go on a trip to Bohol. I had never been to Bohol for birding so I did not pass up on the opportunity, what with me being a semi-twitcher and all the lifers I can get. So when I found myself birding with one of the club’s top birding couples, I was really excited.
It was a beautiful morning when we got to Rajah Sikatuna Park. We walked along the road and saw some of our target birds right away. While looking at the yellow breasted tailorbird we heard a call of what to me sounded like a laughing horse. The couple instantly said, “Oh, Philippine Trogon”. I was like “Wait, where, I want to see.” They looked at me and said “What? You’ve been birding for a long time and you haven’t seen a Trogon”. I just said “Yah, and I want to see it.” So our ever patient guide called and searched for it. It was not long before they saw it and pointed to me where it is. Me being so excited and tense couldn’t seem to locate where it is. So lead guy said follow my light and I did. There it was not very far from us perched in the open. I was happy to finally see it and cross it out of my ditch bird list. I said, “Ok I saw it, it was ok.” They said, “What? It’s so pretty and you said its just ok?” I said, “Look, it’s got its back to us and I like the tail it’s long and pretty.” They placed the Trogon on the scope and it seemed like the bird heard me and hopped around to face us. There it was showing us its full beauty, posing, and looking all macho. All I said was “Ohhh… soooo handsome!”.
After that we walked back to get in the trail. Along the way we saw more lifers and just as we were a few meters in the trail, we heard it again as if the Trogon was following us. We weren’t really paying much attention anymore since we already saw it earlier until one of the couple saw it flew by. He/She said “There it is also in the open, it’s the female trogon”. I hurriedly searched and pointed my bins towards the direction and there she was so pretty with just the right amount of sunshine to enhance her assets. I was so elated this time to not only have a lifer but have both male and female in one morning. We continued on our birding sortie for the whole morning and kept on hearing the call.
The Philippine Trogon is truly a sight to behold. This Trogon taught me to raise my standards a bit and to not be contented with just seeing a fly by or seeing the back. If you haven’t seen one go find it and when you do I’m sure you will understand why I said that it was a sight to behold. Of course, make sure you’re with good company to add to the fun and unforgettable experience just like I did.
Cristina R. Cinco
“Oh, it looks like a big, fat Philippine Bulbul !” that was what I thought of upon seeing this unfamiliar bird. I had to call the attention of Manong Zardo, our bird guide, for him to identify upon viewing it from a distance with its back turned away from us. The forest area filled with entangled vines and lush foliage, was dark despite the time of around 9 o’clock am, steadily perched without moving. Manong Zardo finally declared. “ It is not a Philippine Bulbul but a Philippine Trogon!”
The misidentification on my part turned out to be a great discovery. Call it luck, call it destiny, but this was my first encounter with the Philippine Trogon . The encounter happend on our last birding day of 22nd of September, 2010. Leni Sutcliffe organized a five day birding trip to PICOP, Bislig, Surigao del Sur, before proceeding to Davao for the First Asian Bird Fair,which was then scheduled from the 24th to the 25th of September. Our team was composed of seasoned birders namely Leni Sutcliffe, Christian Perez, Debbie McGuinn, Ipat Luna and Violy Tolosa. Our guide was Zardo Goring. I am what you may call an intermittent birder, being only on my second year as a member of the WBCP. PICOP proved to be a great birding experience for me. PICOP was indeed a treasure chest of bird species that filled almost half of my lifer list.
I couldn’t help but smile recalling my first sighting of this beautiful bird. Our team was about to wind up our roadside birding at Road 11 of PICOP before making our last stop at Tinu-yan Falls. We decided to do a last exploratory walk in a heavily forested area. We were already content with our bird list . The call of the Philippine Eagle, the sightings of several Mindanao Hornbills plus more than 20 other species of birds at Road 11.Lo and behold upon entering the forest, the Female Philippine Trogon, was waiting for us, regally perched upon a branch, seeming waiting to viewed by her eager audience . I call my first Philippine Trogon my bonus bird. A grand finale to a very enriching birding trip to Surigao del Sur. Well, my next Philippine Trogon was in Bohol, but that is another story.