A recent sighting of a juvenile Philippine eagle in the Mingan Mountains of Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija led to the formation of a team to validate the sighting. This story documents the search of the majestic bird in the said area.
Day 1: A month after the initial sighting, Haribon, the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office of Dingalan, and the Regional Eagle Watch Team of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Region 3, set out on a three-hour hike to validate the sightings of our rare national bird.
The fieldwork began by establishing an observation area at vantage point on top of a ridge facing east at 800 meters above sea level. The observation point is 20 minutes away from our campsite. The team observed for the whole day but the eagle was nowhere in sight. The observation was still significant with the sighting of notable birds such as the Red Crested Malkoha, Philippine Fairy Bluebird, Luzon Tarictic Hornbill and the Rufous hornbill, which are Philippine endemics.
Day 2: It was windy with light rain showers in the morning while the afternoon was sunny with occasional wind bursts from time to time.
Even under the unfriendly weather, the team was still able to observe an Eagle soaring just above the canopy of the forest cover between 8a.m. to 10 a.m. The team ended the observation with a confirmed sighting of a Philippine Eagle.
Day 3: It was they day we were able to take a photograph of the Philippine Eagle just above the forest cover. We started our usual observation early morning and started hearing a Philippine Eagle calling. It was 9 a.m. when we saw an Eagle fly over the spot where it was initially reported. We carried on with our observation and around 12 p.m., we got a chance to photograph the Philippine Eagle flying over a path following the forest river system.
Day 4: The team wasn’t able to do raptor observations because of strong winds and heavy rainfall. It was pouring the whole day but Kalaws or Rufous Hornbills calls were still being heard near the campsite. However, the Philippine Eagle was not heard the whole day.
Day 5: Even as it was still foggy with occasional drizzles, the team started early with the observation. At 9:30 a.m., strong winds started to blow away the clouds and fog surrounding us. By 10 a.m., the sky cleared up. We were looking around to spot the slightest movement in the surroundings as part of the routine observation. When I turned towards a tree about 20 meters away from our observation point, a juvenile Philippine Eagle was resting.
It was astonishing seeing the country’s national bird close and personal. The juvenile stayed perched on top of a Tanguile tree about 30 meters tall. The large eagle was drying off its feathers, preening once in a while and looking around its habitat. It was even visited by a Rufous Hornbill and had what seemed like a staring competition that lasted 10 seconds before the hornbill flew off.
Day 6: The team was starting to pack up and trek back to our jump off point and continue observation at a lower elevation. At 5:15a.m., the team heard a Philippine Eagle call twice towards the direction of our close encounter with the juvenile. About an hour later, we heard a large bird swooping down in a tree just above our campsite. It was the juvenile. At around 5 p.m., the team noticed two raptors soaring high in the sky flying in circles while walking back to base. Looking through our binoculars, we saw two Philippine Eagles, and with one carrying a monkey. The pair flew off to the direction where the team observed the juvenile. There is no better way to conclude our mission to look for the Great Philippine Eagle.