Soligao Zor was the first port of call, and its well known Brown Wood Owls, with the possibility of the odd bit of birding here and there before moving on. As often happens, the total birding in the vicinity of the village was a lot better than expected. Soligao Zor is a small village set in a clearing in the woods, with reasonably large church at its centre. A small pool at the base of a dry stream through the woods is used by the locals to bathe and wash clothes, and a Whistling Thrush could be heard from there first thing. First light found the tree which was supposed to support the Owls, and, although this was Owl-less, one of the pair flew in to another tree, and its mate, about 50m away. One of the pair then flew into the roosting tree straight above us. Alongside the village, the wood gives way to a mini valley which is set in a more open area, and at the start of the day this is alive with bird activity. After we had spent some time on the Owls, we headed to this spot, and the birds included White-browed Bulbuls, Jungle Babblers, Blue-winged Leafbird, White-bellied Drongo, and plenty of Golden Orioles flying around. A Flameback made 2 attempts to land right in front of us, but was very wary. Further to the south and west, the ground goes up to a couple of open fields for Larks and Pipits. Raptors started to rise later in the morning, with Booted Eagle and Oriental Honey Buzzard among the Kites. The upward walk held a Southern Grey Shrike, which seemed to have less white in the wings than expected, being confined to the tertial and median covert edges. The plateau at the top had approachable Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, perched White-eyed Buzzard, and, at long last, the much preyed for Baya Weaver, in stunning non-breeding plumage (just as boring as it looks in the books). Just before the egg and stale jam sandwich breakfast feast, we stopped by the bathing pool for final superb views of the better marked Wood-Owl.
The first hint of Maem Lake is a let down, with tat stalls lining the approach road. Once the dam is passed, and the parking at the resort completed, the people are also left behind. The lake itself is quiet and closed in, with very little exposed shoreline, with the walk around it passing through fairly dense woodland, with very few clearings. The first leg of the walk was uneventful, until we found a Grey Nightjar roosting on a tree at the apex of the path. There was a question over its identity at first, due to its apparently rufous appearance, but this was dispelled by a scramble up the hillside to eyeball it on a level. Further round, where the track leaves the side of the lake, a gaggle of Red-whiskered Bulbuls signalled the start of some good birding. A short distance in, at least 6 Coppersmith Barbets were in one tree, sharing the branches with Thick-billed Flowerpeckers. In the denser undergrowth was a one of the local race Blackbirds, which was mid to slate grey, with a darker cap, yellow eye ring and yellow bare area extending behind the eye.
The last site stop of the trip was at a place called Tikana, which doesn't seem to be generally well known. Naresh has known about it for 3 years. The birding focus consists of a causeway leading to a small village, which separates a tidal inlet from a lagoon on the eastern side. The latter is where most of the birds are found, since it is surrounded by wet pasture land and paddyfields. This was another good stop, with a different variety of birds yet again. Around the lagoon was a reasonable collection of Glossy Ibis, some Woolly-necked Storks, 3 species of Kingfisher, 3 Small Pratincoles on a mini causeway, and, as luck would have it, a perched Lesser Spotted Eagle, which then obligingly flew into the adjoining paddy before leaving. The more distant paddyfields contained 3 Lesser Adjutants, and a closer look revealed a mix of Pintail & Common Snipe. Over the rice paddies, hirundines gradually built up in number, and were found to have a mix of Streak- throated Swallows and Little Swifts in with the Red-rumped Swallows.