March 6, 2013, 12nn. We were having our 3rd trim conduct deliberations for the Grade 6 batch in the Grade 4 classroom. During one of the more quiet minutes, I decompressed my lower back by walking to the window to look out on the neighboring vacant property which was heavily wooded (2nd growth). We were in a second-floor classroom so I was actually looking down when I spotted (at last!) perched on the cyclone fence, a Spotted Wood Kingfisher (Actenoides lindsayi). The fence was bordering our school’s Sampaloc Garden and, for the past 2 years, 4 anecdotal sightings of the bird have been reported to me by faculty members and by maintenance staff. Since none of them were birders, I did my best to arrive at a best guess by showing them pictures both from the web and from Kennedy. I myself had a quick glimpse around March of 2012 but twilight was fast approaching then, the light was tricky, and (Murphy often makes sure of this) I didn’t have any bins on me since I was on a quick errand to the Science Lab to check on some experimental set-ups. So I reported the Spotted Wood as a tentative in our TRCP bird species list until now.
The past two years of habitually scanning the trees of the Sampaloc Garden (and I did it as often as my academic obligations permitted) was finally rewarded by at least 8 minutes of glorious birdwatching time. The bird perched on the fence (it was itself looking down on the woodland property) oblivious to mine pair of eager eyes watching it (devouring it would be more apt) from the second-floor window. Needless to say, I interrupted the conduct deliberations as I hailed Teacher Emma and Teacher Rubby who were themselves bird enthusiasts (and I knew they would never forgive me for not calling them on a moment such as this). Teacher Emma, our Center Director, immediately took pictures with her i-phone while Teacher Rubby dashed to get our school library’s most decent point-and-shoot (dang the fact that I didn’t have money enough yet for a real SLR with a decent birding lens!).
To cut a long caper short, the two teachers even had time to go down to the garden and take shots from a distance of about 10 meters. The bird must have had something interesting to occupy its attention for it obliged us by not flying away until we’ve had our fill (well, nearly). The three shots posted here are the best we have but they can never approximate the thrill I felt upon seeing for the first time a bird as magnificent as the Spotted Wood Kingfisher. This is certainly a lifer for me (for non-birders, a lifer is a bird sighting that stands out in a list of numerous sightings).
PS The Spotted Wood Kingfisher (Actenoides lindsayi) is a lowland forest bird which perches in dark understory recesses singly or in pairs. The adult measures 10″ from beak to tail (about one ruler’s length). The species is found only in Luzon, Marinduque, Panay and Negros. To learn more, kindly visit the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (After consulting Kennedy’s Guide, my best guess is that the pictures above show an adult female).