4 a.m.—I will be guiding Haribon Members and their friends for a mini-safari/birdwatching/biodiversity walk in a few hours, so I have to make sure to beat the sunrise for today to be a success.
5 a.m.—Have done it multiple times already, but just to be sure, I’m conducting a last minute review of our equipment. Binoculars, complete and in good condition.
Spotting scope, check. Bird identification guides, all accounted for. With that, nothing left to do but wait for our members to arrive and we’re ready to go. Our destination is Manila’s remaining natural forest and the only watershed inside it: the La Mesa Nature Reserve.
5:45 a.m.—Made it to the perfect time to go birdwatching. The rising sun slowly creeping up on the horizon signals roosting birds to come out of hiding, stretch their wings, and forage for food. Better not waste this time.
6:30 a.m.—In the middle of our walk, and already the number of Philippine native wildlife that our members’ know have increased exponentially. It’s always fulfilling to see people’s faces light up when they become aware for the first time about the amazing biodiversity we have. Saw a small gathering of endemic species in Lowland Whiteeyes and Philippine Bulbuls, but they were too jumpy to take a photo of. No matter, we’re after rarer species only a few have seen.
8 a.m.—We’re on the back of a pickup truck riding through mud and boulders. Turns out, we have to go deeper in to the forest to find out target. This is feeling more like a safari with each passing moment.
9:30 a.m.—Trekking once more off the trail across a small stream and we finally see what we’ve been looking for: the Philippine Frogmouth. Standing completely still on top of its nest with a raised head, it took a while for our whole party to see.
Its brown feathers camouflage it completely among the branches, but its wide mouth and large eyes are hard to hide from birdwatchers. We didn’t stay long though so as to not disturb its nest.
10:30 a.m.—Back to the jump off point. It took a 4-kilometer walk to get back, but it was worth it. Surrounded by nothing but native trees with the sound of a gently flowing river and the calls and songs of various birds as our soundtrack. That’s what we came here for and we have the mud on our shoes to show for it. The final count: 25 species seen including 10 that can only be found in the Philippines. Not bad at all.
11:30 a.m.—Arrived back in our headquarters just in time to talk to students and potential new members. They’re starting their own organization in school for the environment and are asking if we can help. Fortunately, student formation and activities are our specialty and it’s always refreshing to see new people trying to get involved in their own way to protect Philippine biodiversity.
1:30 p.m.—Time to compile all my people and wildlife photos to write an article about our mini-adventure to share to our members who couldn’t make it. This is the time when carrying a lens thicker and heavier than my arm pays off.
2:30 p.m.—It’s time to prepare a presentation for my upcoming talk for students about biodiversity. This La Mesa experience is going to be a good story to share.
4 p.m.—All done, time to finally get myself cleaned up at home.