Environmental group Haribon Foundation recently held its first bird watching activity of the year in the wetlands of Candaba, Pampanga.
Led by Haribon wildlife researcher David Quimpo, the bird watching came at one of the best times of the year to spot migratory birds coming from other sites before departing to another location. Particularly, it is the season to search for the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, along with our other avian visitors.
The bird watching location was a former marshland that was converted into an agricultural area.
At the beginning of the activity, flocks of Philippine and Wandering Whistling Ducks greeted watchers from afar, gathering on one spot in the marshes. Unfortunately, the Black-faced Spoonbill the explorers spent hours searching for was not sighted.
However, more than 30 species of migratory and resident bird species were spotted including the Grey Heron, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow Bittern, Wandering Whistling Duck, Philippine Duck, Eastern Marsh Harrier, White Browed Crake, White Breasted Waterhen, Purple Swamphen, Greater Painted Snipe, Whiskered Tern, White-winged Tern, Red Turtle Dove, Zebra Dove, Lesser Coucal, Common Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Barn Swallow, Yellow Vented Bulbul, Pied Bushchat, Golden-bellied Gerygone, Arctic Warbler, Striated Grassbird, Pied Fantail, Long-tailed Shrike, Brown Shrike, Olive-backed Sunbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and Chestnut Munia.
Haribon members and volunteers who participated in the activity remarked that it was a relaxing and enjoyable expedition. Some of the participants already experienced bird watching in Candaba before, while others had just laid eyes on the magnificent view for the first time.
Towards the end, many of the participants expressed concern about the unsighted Black-faced Spoonbill in the swamp. According to Quimpo, this endangered bird is a rare sight, as this species usually voyages from one location to another during their migratory season, explaining its absence during the activity.
Returning participants Heavenly Garcia and April Enriquez said that they were excited to be back in Candaba after some years. But according to them, it was evident that many of the bird species they sighted some years back were not present during this visit.
“I spotted much more birds when I went here in Candaba for the first time. It’s disheartening that avian sightings are rarer these days,” lamented Garcia.
Echoing the same sentiment, Enriquez shared, “More bird species were seen before, an even greater number per species.”
Probable causes of fewer bird sightings include the area being changed for agricultural purposes, as well as erratic climate patterns. “I was told that this place has been converted which is why we see a lesser number [of birds]. But so far, I am satisfied with the experience because I discovered new species today that I would never see in the city,” said Haribon member Princess del Castillo.
Though much has changed in the area, Candaba remains a haven for migratory birds coming from the far north. Haribon’s bird watching activities aims to gauge if our lands are still able to provide subsistence for our feathered tourists and if these places still serve as a satisfying home for them. The call is clear: It is high time that we maintain, protect and conserve these homes for our birds.
James Aldrin Concepcion/Haribon Foundation