• Zamboanga hosts the 9th Philippine Bird Festival

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    The children attending the 9th Philippine Bird Festival in Zamboanga City from February 26 to March 2  Photo by Albert Balbutin Jr.

    The children attending the 9th Philippine Bird Festival in Zamboanga City from February 26 to March 2 Photo by Albert Balbutin Jr.

    (First of two parts)

    In Zamboanga City, predominant dialects Chabacano, Yakan, Tausug, Bisaya, Tagalog, English, and more are spoken in this 98-baranggay locality known as “Asia’s Latin City.” But besides its diverse language and culture, Zamboanga is also known for its variety of birds found in the mangroves in Mindanao’s oldest cities.

    Despite challenges faced in the past year, the people of Zamboanga City are still very welcoming as they continue to love and share the beauty of their environment. In their skies, the birds still fly free.

    There are the Silvery Kingfishers or alcedo argentata and the Philippine Falconets or microhierax erythrogenys that can only be found in the Philippines. These birds are one of the many fowls that continue to forage and nest in Mindanao’s habitat.

    There are 15 birds noted by the Communications Division of the Haribon Foundation during its visit to the 9th Philippine Bird Festival held in the beautiful Zamboanga City on February 26 to March 2. The total sightings of the festival delegates were almost double, estimated to be at least 30 bird species.

    Birds found by the Haribon team includes: the Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica); Black-crowned Night Heron (nycticorax nycticorax); Black-winged Stilt (himantopus himantopus); Brown Shrike (lanius cristatus); Elegant Tit (parus elegans ); Glossy Swiftlets (collocalia esculenta); Gray-streaked Flycatcher (muscicapa griseisticta); Great Egret (ardea alba / casmerodius albus); Guaiabero (bolbopsittacus lunulatus); Philippine Falconet (microhierax erythrogenys); Philippine Needletail (mearnsia picina); Philippine Pygmy Woodpecker (dendrocopos maculates);  Philippine Serpent Eagle (spilornis holospilus); Rufous Night Heron (nycticorax caledonicus); and Whiskered Treeswift (hemiprocne comata).

    Zamboanga City holds one of the largest watersheds in the country, Pasonanca Natural Park, which is also an Important Biodiversity Area, PH 112, encompassing 17,511.9 hectares.

    And for the first time, it has been discovered that a species of migratory bird, the Great Egret (ardea alba), is actually breeding in the mangroves surrounding a college campus there. That means this bird may no longer be designated as “migratory”, or a visitor to the Philippines.

    People from different parts of the globe came to Zamboanga City to visit once again. Through the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and the Zamboanga City government put together the 9th Philippine Bird Festival.

    Beautiful bird-hunting locations

    Joel Baysa guided the Philippine Bird Festival delegates from around the world who trekked Mt. Baluno, Zamboanga City. He has been guiding bird tours for more than 12 years. They had climbed down a dirt road where a beautiful Bagras tree (eucalyptus deglupta) also known as the Mindanao gum or Rainbow gum, stood to welcome visitors.

    Within this same facility, nests of Glossy Swiftlets (collocalia esculenta) were found on beams in the ceilings. A Philippine Falconet (microhierax erythrogenys), the smallest raptor in the Philippines, stood perched with its black head and wings. Further down more birds were spotted, like the Whiskered Treeswift (hemiprocne comata), a beautiful bird with whisker-like white streaks on its head.

    The Pasonanca Park Watershed, is source of water in Zamboanga City. It is 17, 511.9 hectares wide, which provided delegates intimate views of egrets, eagles, and kingfishers. Without the delegates knowing at first, a Philippine Serpent Eagle (spilornis holospilus) perched itself above a footbridge near the entrance to the park.

    After trekking for sometime, a Silvery Kingfisher (alcedo argentata) revealed itself. Both the Philippine Serpent Eagle and the Silvery Kingfisher can only be found in the Philippines.

    Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology (ZSCMST) Mangrove forest is credited to having grown and maintained the only mangrove forest within the heart of Zamboanga City. The mangrove forest lines the school’s fishponds and has grown sufficiently enough to become a new home for Great Egrets (ardea alba/ casmerodius albus). It was here that members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and ZSCMST administration headed by Dr. Milavel D. Nazario discovered that Great Egrets were breeding and nesting there.

    In the wetland areas of Baranggay Victoria, the Black-winged Stilts (himantopus himantopus) prefer open areas close to foraging sites with a good degree of visibility.

    With the Barn Swallow, the flagship bird for the 9th Philippine Bird Festival, it is a reminder that the Zamboanga City birds, like the Barn Swallow itself, represent the overall harmony of human and nature.

    If the residents of Zamboanga City can plant mangroves, conserve their watersheds and wetland areas, while being understanding and tolerant of the different perspectives that live within the city, why can’t other places in the world do the same?

    Indeed, the people of Zamboanga City and communities like them around the world are the first people nature conservationists and peace-loving tourists alike should visit when asking such questions.

    To be continued

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