Day 300: The Great Philippine Eagle

On his last day in the Philippines, Noah hunts for the country’s most iconic bird.

October 27, 2015, Manila, Philippines — The Great Philippine Eagle search continued this morning. Nicky, Blacky and I sat on a hilltop, scanning the skies, hoping for a flyby. We saw lots of raptor activity - a pair of Chinese Sparrowhawks, many Brahminy Kites, a Pinsker’s Hawk-Eagle, and a Gray-faced Buzzard - but, alas, the big eagles were elsewhere today.

The Philippine Eagle is this country’s most iconic bird, a top predator which compares toe-to-toe with South America’s Harpy Eagle (of 10 size measurements, I’m told, the Philippine is bigger in seven). It is critically endangered but, in the right circumstances, you’ve got a decent shot at seeing one. Nicky called an ornithologist who studies the eagles and the man gave us the latest info: No nests are active at the moment and a radio-tagged individual was hanging out in an inaccessible area. Come back in a couple of months, he said. I consoled myself with the fact that, for this project, a Philippine Eagle counts the same as a House Sparrow, and we left the mountains behind.

As our short flight to Manila lifted off this evening (delayed again, a perfect 7/7 record in the Philippines), I watched the island of Mindanao recede into dusk. It was so humid that, inside the plane, the vents turned into fog machines, and you could only see a few rows back in the mist—quite a spectacular effect. Outside, a full moon rose in deep orange. Nicky and I touched down in time for dinner on the waterfront.

Thanks everyone for the nice comments (via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc) in the past couple of days! I haven’t had wifi or data service (or, say, a shower) in the Mindanao highlands, so it was fun to catch up when we reentered civilization this afternoon. Five thousand down and won’t slow down!

New birds today: 2

Year list: 5014

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