Natural Davao

In the woodland at the bottom end of our land we found a few of these centipedes (the body is the width of my thumb).

While breaking open the fossilised coral that litters the land (for a path), we found several of these huge millipedes. Those are the nasty looking red jaws at the bottom of the jar.

The morning after the previous photo, three or four more millipedes had been found. I was being observed while taking this photo, and just seconds later, the chickens attacked and ran off with their prizes. We weren't sure how toxic the millipedes were, but despite local rumours of acidic secretions no harm seemed to come to the chickens.

As can be seen in this photo, the giant millipede is twice the length of our Suzuki Multicab

And they make a tasty snack for a hungry foreman

A variegated grasshopper on a variegated plant


Preying Mantis

Stick Insects

I barely noticed this out the corner of my eye

So cryptic that none of the local family had ever seen one before!


This great beetle was in the middle of Davao in a tile warehouse

Giant Deer-horn Stag Beetle M. deyrollei. This giant was sitting on a concrete parking area outside Villa Hager hotel in Lupon. Right after this photo it took off and flew to the nearest tree.

This magnificent Longhorn beetle Coleoptera landed on a banana tree trunk.

Flying Lizards

Knowing my interest in wildlife, the family is constantly capturing and bringing me live specimens for photographing. I've never got close to one of these flighty lizards before, so I don't know how they managed to capture it.

The 'wings' are flaps of skin which spread out from the rib cage

The wings disappear when the lizard is on its feet


Each night before bedtime, we check the walls for the Tokay gecko. Each of the bahay kubo has its own family of Tokays and my observations by ear are that every coconut tree has a family of Tokays.

Frogs & Toads

This 'painted frog' turned up outside our bahaykubo for a couple of nights and then disappeared again.

Cascade Frog at Kawakawa Falls

Cascade Frog at Kawakawa Falls

Note the large sticky pads on the tips of its fingers and toes which help the frog grip rocks in the fast water

Note the large sticky pads on the tips of its fingers and toes which help the frog grip rocks in the fast water

...and the hideous bleached monster from the deep.

...and the hideous bleached monster from the deep. No sticky pads on these fingers to help it lumber out of the pool

In 15 years of frogging and toading, the monster on the right is the biggest I've ever seen. It makes a nightly appearance outside the balay


Dragonflies & Damselflies

In addition to these fearsome monsters, I also found these beautiful and delicate dragonflies and damselflies at a return visit to Hagimit Falls near Pena Plata.

Pseudagrion sp.? (To be confirmed)

Neurothemis sp.

Orthetrum sp (to be confirmed)

Crimson Dropwing (Trithemis aurora) at Hagimit Falls

Crimson Dropwing Trithemis aurora at Hagimit Falls


Neurothemis Dragonfly

Caught, photographed and released unharmed

Caught near Lupon, photographed and released unharmed




Great Mormon (Papilio sp.) butterfly

Great Mormon (Papilio sp.) butterfly photographed in Lupon


Skipper near Lupon

Skipper on our property on Samal


Geoffrey's  Rousette (Rousettus amplexicaudatus) - bats by the million

Geoffrey's Rousette Rousettus amplexicaudatus - bats by the million

Visit the bat caves

Visit the bat caves

A recent visitor suggested a dusk tour of the Monfort bat cave (just north of Babak). He understood that this was far more interesting than looking at a couple of million roosting (and it has to be said), smelly bats. We drove there and were turned away on our first attempt (at about 5pm) as the Monforts had changed the rules the previous day about dusk visitors (without fully explaining the rules to the guard – or the Joker – at the gate, it seems). We returned a little earlier the next day and squeaked in, but then had to negotiate an evening pass, as the attendant confusingly tried to charge us the day rate plus the evening rate – the Riddler, maybe.

It takes a long time for 2M bats to get airborne and it’s a gradual process of the swirling tornado getting more intense rising up from each of the cave apertures. Unfortunately, I only had my pocket camera with me, which has a weak flash. Next time, I’ll take the big brother and snatch some better photos. Still, it’s an impressive event and worth the wait.

This bat appeared to be performing sentry duty on the edge of the cave aperture. It later took off and landed in a nearby tree.

Not a clear photo, but you can get some idea of the numbers of bats in the air and still roosting in the cave

A little better, but I think I can do better still with another camera.

More on night viewing of the Bats of Babak here.

12 caves in Davao placed under protection


Arachnaphobes need to look away now…

This rapid mover jumped onto the new red wheelbarrow and challenged allcomers.

Hunting Spider

Orb Weaver Spider

Orb Weaver - a battling pair of these keep kids happy for ages

Orb Weaver - a battling pair of these 'tigri-tigri' keep kids happy for ages

Spider fighting: For adults not kids?

Macaranga tanarius - Elephant's Ear

Macaranga tanarius - Elephant's Ear



This coconut tree must have been watered with San Miguel

In the little spare time available during my most recent trip, I captured a few more interesting creatures on film. Better than this was the news that the campsite has a tree regularly visited by Fruit Bats (aka Flying Foxes). Apparently, these huge bats wait for the full moon to raid the tree causing a shock to the geese (and human residents). When I get to see them, I’ll be taking lots of photos. Also present on the land are Coucals, the biggest cuckoos around.

Birds of Samal – from the balcony

For any interested ‘twitchers’ reading this, here’s a short list of birds I’ve spotted from my balcony recently:

Birds of Samal

Red-keeled Flowerpecker – Diceaem astrale (Philippine endemic)
Chestnut Munia – Lonchura malacca
Pied Fantail – Rhipidura javanica
Large-billed Crow – Corvus macrorhynchos
Black-naped Oriole – Oriolus chinensis sp.
Collared Kingfisher – Halcyon chloris
Philippine Coucal – Centropus viridis
Asian Koel – Eudynamis scolopacea
Emerald Dove – Chalcophaps indica
Peaceful Dove – Geopelia striata
Philippine Glossy Starling – Aplonis panayensis
Brown Shrike – Lanius cristatus
Olive-backed Sunbird – Nectarinia jugularis
Pied Triller – Lalage nigra
Brahminy Kite – Haliastur indus

Whale Sharks in the Gulf of Davao

Around the beginning of August 2011, as the vehicular ferry neared the dock in Samal I saw the fin of a large fish or dolphin break the water right next to the dock. Despite keeping watch for a few minutes, I saw nothing else so couldn’t identify the creature. This week, at the end of August, my son saw the same thing in almost the same place. His shout alerted me (and many other passengers on the ferry). This time there was no doubting what we saw: a large shark tail followed the fin and then as the boat neared the dock, we were able to look right down on the slow moving and unmistakable Whale Shark. (And for the sake of one of our fellow passengers, no, this was not a dead cow floating in the sea!)

If you are taking the Samal Ferry, keep your eyes open for Whale Sharks (the gentle denizens of the sea) – they are about!

It could be a good thing if Davao and Samal tourism capitalised on the presence of the Whale Sharks; but only if they did it more sustainably and with more forethought than the undignified scramble underway in Tan-awan (near Cebu).

Towards the end of the 2nd week of December 2011, my eagle-eyed son saw the head of a huge Sea Turtle break the surface near the ferry before we left the wharf in Babak. Again I was too slow retrieving my camera, but the head was about the size of a soccer ball. By far the biggest Sea Turtle I’ve ever seen.

An interesting article about the endemic Tarsier.


6 thoughts on “Natural Davao

    • Thanks for the correction! Have you ever had one of those conversations where someone starts telling you something, gropes helplessly for the word and jumps on the first suggestion that comes along and says, ‘yes that’s it!’?? That’s how I got henna! Thank you!

    • John, it’ll be great to meet a like mind and organise some forays. I haven’t been paying close enough attention recently, but I’m sure that there’s a lot to discover. I’ll send you my contact details.

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