Thursday, March 20, 2014

9th Philippine Bird Festival to Boost Zamboanga Tourism Efforts

Wazzup Pilipinas!

It was funny seeing Tweety Bird being chased by Sylvester the Cat on the Loony Tunes cartoon, educationally endearing learning our ABCs and 123s with Big Bird on Sesame Street, had spent a great deal of grinning every time we heard the song "Please Don't Touch My Birdie" of Parokya Ni Edgar, enjoyed a hilariously fun time wrecking the pigs quarters with super-powered flying birds in the Angry Birds game, and had a quite exhilarating and hair-pulling experience playing Flappy Bird even until the app developer pulled it out of online distribution.

It seems many of us are fond of "birds" all throughout our lives. My childhood, until now that I'm a lot older, has always been around "birds" of every kind. In a more serious note, these flying creatures are really magnificent creations that will forever amaze us. This is probably why there are groups dedicated to the study of birds, as part of their work, as a hobby, or as a contribution to the preservation of their many species for the overall welfare of society.

Among them are the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) led by Gina Mapua as their present club president. According to their Facebook page, the WBCP was established in July 2003 to promote bird watching as a hobby and the responsible enjoyment of nature, and to build records of bird observations open for public access. They were brought together by one thing - the beauty of wild birds of the Philippines in their natural habitats.

A signage indicating that teh site for our first Bird Watching activity is near

Recently, bird watching was promoted as a tourism activity at Zamboanga City. The 9th Philippine Bird Festival (PBF) was held at this city to promote the hobby among local and foreign tourists. The 9th PBF drew in delegations from different parts of Asia which could signify the potential huge interests for bird-watching activities that may occur for Zamboanga once it is promoted in full.

This will be very helpful for the city that has struggled against a recent tragedy known as the Zamboanga Siege that resulted to the death and injury of quite a number of people, damage to the homes and businesses of a few barangays, and the displacement of some of its residents. I personally saw these situation when we went around to tour Zamboanga city, but fortunately it is only at a very small area of the city that was affected. As a whole, Zamboanga still remains beautiful and the local government, as well as the Department of Tourism and other government agencies, are spearheading several efforts to build a better Zamboanga. As what Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said, "The city is on its way to recovering from the Zamboanga siege in September 2013."

The Baluno Ecological Research and Training Center grounds was our destination and off we go farther away in search for birds
This is also a continuation of my stories about Zamboanga where I recently visited to attend the many festivities happening during that almost one week of stay at Asia's Latin City where people speak Chavacano and feast on "curachas". Your friendly neighborhood pambansang blogger was glad to have joined a small group of media invited by the Department of Tourism Region 9. It was several days filled with non-stop activities that were not even enough to see all the beauty of the city.

For now, let me share you the story of our birdwatching, specifically at the Mount Baluno site. But you won't be seeing too many birds here on my blog, what you will be seeing are my shots of the people who actually enjoy this kind of hobby.

What was amazing about the bird-watching activities done during the 9th PBF was that it was my very first time to join a group with an interest that is not very commonly seen among residents of Manila. I rarely see groups gathered together enjoying looking up into the trees and skies using their binoculars, telescopes and cameras with powerful zoom lens trying to catch a glimpse of the birds. It was not a priority to capture it with cameras, but personally seeing the birds was enough and rewarding already for these birdwatchers.

Bird watchers at Mt. Baluno

More Bird watchers doing what they do best

Aside from the bragging rights to share that they've seen this beautiful type of bird with their own eyes, they were generous enough to share their shots and finds with their fellow bird-watchers, including the other people that came along who were not really bird watchers but belonging to particular agencies of the government, like me who is considered part of media and specifically the only blogger out there, who were given an opportunity to observe the activities.

Our guide from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Below are some of the individual photos of the bird watchers while they were taking shots or looking at birds.

Yes, I was watching the birdwatchers do some birdwatching. Hahaha.

Birdwatchers checking on the identity of the bird they captured on camera

Some of the bird watchers have references that they brought along with them to help in identifying the birds that they saw. They will compare the images caught on camera, with their books or pamphlets containing the list of birds. It was actually a sight to behold as I, instead of watching the birds, was actually watching the bird watchers.

Who watches the bird watchers? I did, as well as a few more of us....but I have to share with you one shot that I got of a Serpent eagle that flew near our camp.

Serpent eagle caught on camera

The camera that I brought with me was not designed for bird-watching so I was lucky enough to even capture one with its wings spread. I guess this was a friendly bird who wants to show off her beauty to the bird watchers.

After a few hours of birdwatching, we returned back to camp to eat some snacks composed of native delicacies known to us as "kakanin" and  as drink we had fresh "buko" juice straight from the coconut itself.

Yummy "suman" sprinkled with coconut and sugar

Had three of these "puto" or rice cake for merienda

I forgot the name, but this "kakanin" was the favorite of the majority of the foreign delegates

Buko juice straight from the coconut

Among the many birds that can be found in Zamboanga are:
1. Mindanao Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides affinis (Mindanao endemic)
2. Philippine Falconet Microhierax erythrogenys (Philippine endemic)
3. Bicolored Flowerpecker Dicaeum bicolor (Philippine endemic)
4. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker Dicaeum trigonostigma
5. Zamboanga Bulbul Hypsipetes rufigularis (Mindanao endemic)
6. Coleto Sarcops calvus
7. Philippine Serpent Eagle Spilornis holospilus (Philippine endemic)
8. Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta
9. Green-backed Whistler Pachycephala albiventris (Philippine endemic)
10. Spangled Drongo Dicrurus hottentotus
11. Philippine Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus olivaceus (Philippine endemic)
12. Guaiabero Bolbopsittacus lunulatus (Philippine endemic)
13. Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea
14. Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis
15. Slender-billed Crow Corvus enca
16. Purple-throated Sunbird Leptocoma sperata
17. Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta
18. Pacific Swallow Hirundo tahitica
19. White-eared Tailorbird Orthotomus cinereiceps (Mindanao endemic)
20. Pinsker's Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus pinskeri (Mindanao endemic)
21. Philippine Trogon Harpactes ardens (Philippine endemic)
Group photo of the birdwatchers and delegates along with others from the government sector who joined us in Mt. Baluno
We did birdwatching at one site per day for three days. So that's a total of three sites that were identified among quite a number where its ideal to look out for birds. The second site was at the Watershed Reservation located somewhere at the Pasonanca Natural Park, also teeming with different kind of birds, and the third was at the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology (ZSCMST) mangrove forest and fond where we saw lots of Rare Great Egrets.It is the nesting the lace of the Egrets as well as at least 26 other species of birds.

Watershed Reservation signage at Pasonanca Natural Park

The ZSCMST Mangrove Forest signage

I will tell you stories of these birdwatching sites separately in other blog posts so I could give you more details and photos. So you better watch out for more of my stories about my Zamboanga adventure soon.

"I think everyone agrees with the splendid work done during the 9th PBF by the WBCP, the people of Zamboanga City, and the government units (LGU, DOT, DENR), as well as participating schools and institutions, to bring bird-watching activities up close and personal. 
It was definitely worthwhile making Zamboanga city bird-friendly. Most noticeable were the outrageous congregation of swallows in the city center (I don't mind being pooped on by Hirundinids), to the beautiful forest endemics of Pasonanca NP Intake and Mt Baluno, and also the fantastic up-close birding at the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology (ZSCMST) fishponds and Victoria wetlands. 
The city does indeed have an amazing potential for birding - for mere fact it offers a ready glimpse of its peninsular endemics - highlighted by the beautiful Zamboanga Bulbul, and the many species unique only to the country (Philippine endemics). Moreso, the spectacular collection of species unique only to Greater Mindanao faunal region (Mindanao endemics). 
I do hope that the security issue around the city is kept good, if not further strengthened to keep birders (both local and international) at ease and comfortable. My experience at the 9th PBF definitely help curbed my hesitations and enjoyed my week long participation as a visiting birder and lecturer – having shared knowledge but also learned a lot from the experience." shares JC Gonzales, one of the delegates and a member of the WBCP. 
Indeed, individuals like JC experience a passion that could only be described by seeing their expressions personally. You should have seen how their eyes sparkle when they see a bird in one of the branches of the trees and how they marvel on the accomplishment when they are able to identify them. It is with greater joy if they were able to capture the birds on their camera. Now that's something you should have seen.

These people invest a great deal of time exploring birdwatching sites, and hard-earned money buying equipment and reference materials to support their hobby or interest. This includes also the clothing, shoes and other gears fitting for the trekking.

Like any other hobbyist, these investments seem like nothing compared to the excitement and fulfillment they get in exchange. When one is able to experience an accomplishment and progression with their collection of finds and sights every now and then, the feeling to be able to see the birds up close and personal, and the opportunity to share to the world to respect and protect these creatures, is rewarding enough for these kind of people.

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