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Bataan hosts bird watchers festival

Posted on: October 7, 2009

Bataan hosts bird watchers festival

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net First Posted 19:52:00 10/07/2009 Filed Under: Travel & Commuting, Tourism & Leisure

MANILA, Philippines—Bird watchers, scientists, conservationists and nature enthusiasts will troop to Balanga City in Bataan on October 9 and 10 for the Philippine Bird Festival, the country’s largest celebration of avifaunal diversity and bird lore awareness.

Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) vice president and festival chairperson Alice Villa-Real said the club’s celebration will mark the arrival of wintering shorebirds from the Asian mainland and Japan in Balanga Nature and Wetland Park, the first protected wetland along Manila Bay.

This year’s theme “Ibong Dayo, Kaibigan Tayo!” (translated to “The Migrant Birds: Our Friends”) aims to spread awareness about the importance of bird life in the country, promote public interest in conservation of forests and wetlands that shelter birds and encourage the creation of more public green spaces such as Balanga wetland park, she said.

Villa-real said Bataan was chosen as the spot for the festival because the wetlands of Puerto Rivas in Balanga City attract one of the largest concentrations of migrant shorebirds and waterfowl anywhere in the Philippines.

In the Asian Waterbird Census of January 2009 recorded a total of 15,251 birds in Sibacan and Tortugas sites of Balanga including migrant birds like the rare Chinese Egret, Grey Heron (talabong), Whiskered Terns (kanaway), sandpipers and plovers (tarinting), said Villa-Real.

“Winter affects the supply of food of birds so they fly to warmer tropical countries like the Philippines to feed on insects, small rodents and fish The map of where they fly is etched in their genetic memory and it is like communing with nature when we see them arrive at our shores,” said Villa-Real.

Villa-Real said birds serve as “natural barometers” that indicate the health of an environment.

“The more the species of birds found in a location, the better the state of the environment. If their populations decline, so does our quality of life because their absence in the area reflects the denudation of forests or wetlands that serve as nesting grounds to endemic species and migratory birds,” Villa-Real told INQUIRER.net.

In a separate interview, WBCP president Micheal Lu, who founded the organization in 2003, said WBCP has been teaching the importance of birds in the Philippines through lectures, bird festivals and bird watching or the observation of birds in their natural habitat using binoculars or camera lens.

“The Philippines is blessed to have over 600 species of birds, of which 200 are endemic or only found in the archipelago. Sadly, 67 of these endemics are threatened by extinction due to habitat loss from land conversion. Through bird watching and festivals like this, we hope to raise awareness on taking care of birds and conservation of the environment where they live in,” said Villa-Real.

The isolation of the country’s 7,107 islands accounted for the high number of endemics in the country, in terms of flora and fauna while the stretches of coastal and freshwater wetlands, mudflats and magrove areas provided shelter for migratory birds, said Lu.

The Philippines is a common pathway for birds using that pass by the Asian flyway or the general route of migratory birds in East Asia that span the area from New Zealand and Australia in the south and Eurasian mainland in the north, he added.

“The Balanga wetlands consistently land in the country’s top five wetlands with the most number of wintering water birds. Other sites are the Candaba Marsh in Pampanga and Olango Island in Cebu. We hope to promote it as an ecotourism destination and to bring awareness among Filipinos about the need to conserve not only the Bataan wetlands but the entire coastline and waters of Manila Bay,” said Lu.

Seven years from now, Villa-Real hopes more Filipinos are aware about the importance of birds and more green parks advocating conservation efforts are constructed.

To view the schedule of activities for the two-day event, visit the WBCP website at http://birdwatch.ph/html/corp/2009schedule.html.

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