Expeditions in unexplored territories of the Philippine King of Birds

An update by J Kahlil B. Panopio, EDGE Philippine Eagle Fellow

 

 

We still know very little about the expanse of Philippine Eagle territories in Mt. Mingan, let alone in the whole Sierra Madre Mountain Range of Luzon, Philippines. But now, with the help of local communities and stakeholders in Mt. Mingan, we are slowly shedding light on just how large can a Philippine Eagle territory be in the forests of the central part of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

EDGE Fact: Philippine eagles will hunt in pairs, one acting as a decoy, while the other swoops in with a surprise attack on a group of monkeys! Click here to see a video of a Philippine eagle bringing food to a chick.

Through Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) Fellowship Programme, I have been leading several expeditions to explore Philippine Eagle territories in Mt. Mingan, Sierra Madre Mountain Range. We started the series of expeditions last June-September 2015 and have so far surveyed the municipalities of Dingalan, Aurora and Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija’s side of Mt. Mingan.

The Philippine Eagle field expedition team is composed of Haribon Foundation’s wildlife biologists, representatives from the local Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices, and representatives from our partner municipal local government units. We also identify locals that are highly knowledgeable about Mt. Mingan and recruit them as local guides.

Each trip starts with trekking up mountains and looking for areas with favourable conditions to set up camp. As soon as the team finds a suitable camping ground and has established a camp site, we split into three groups with different responsibilities. To increase the chances of observing the species during each visit, we employ a combination of several methods of observation. The first group is tasked to climb up trees to gain vantage view of entire mountains and forests to observe soaring eagles and listen for raptor calls, the second group looks for meadows with vantage view of the mountains to establish a second observation point, while the last group explores the surrounding area to look for signs of Philippine Eagle prey while occasionally observing the skies for soaring raptors.

 

The results of the trips has been very encouraging. During the visits in Dingalan last June-July 2015, the team was able to visually identify an individual Philippine Eagle soaring above the forests of the western side of the municipality adjacent to Gabaldon. In Gabaldon on the other hand, we were able to record the presence of an individual Philippine Eagle in one locality during the last week of August and then a week after, a pair was observed in a separate locality not far from the first one. The sightings in Dingalan and Gabaldon are just a few kilometres away from each other suggesting that a pair of Philippine Eagles have a territory along the boundary of Gabaldon and Dingalan.

As of this moment, the Philippine Eagle expedition team for San Luis, Aurora’s side of Mt. Mingan is preparing for a month long survey this October. By finishing the last leg of the field surveys, we hope to get a view of the bigger picture and evaluate the state of Philippine Eagles in the Mingan Mountain Range.

An earlier guest blog written by Kahlil is available here, for those interested in finding out more about the project

The Philippine Eagle Project on Mt. Mingan is made possible with funding and support from Birdlife International, Toyota Foundation, ZSL-EDGE, GIZ PAME, DENR and the local governments of Gabadon, Dingalan, and San Luis. For more information about Philippine Eagles in Luzon, please email: wildlife@haribon.org.ph.

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