The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

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Background

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines was established in July 2003 to promote bird watching as a hobby and the responsible enjoyment of nature.

A CLUB IS FLEDGED

The events culminating in the creation of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines started on 9 January 2003 with the launch by a handful of Metro Manila-based amateur weekend birdwatchers of Birdwatch Philippines, an internet-based community for sharing information, observations and planning joint activities.

Like a fledgling taking its first flight, e-group members enthusiastically explored potential bird sites, eagerly added to the growing bird list and recruited new members along the way. In a short time, the Birdwatch Philippines e-group attracted a lively mix of correspondents, including professional scientists, amateur naturalists, students and outdoor enthusiasts. Its activities also attracted attention from leading newspapers and respected television programs.

By June, a survey undertaken among e-group correspondents resulted strongly in favor of the establishment of a formal society.

 

Incorporation at Manila Zoo.
Incorporation at Manila Zoo.
Front row L-R: Mike Lu, Kitty Arce, Lala Espanola, Ned Liuag, Tina Alejandro.
Back row L-R:
James McCarthy, Drew Galano, Jon Villasper, Arne Jensen.

An interim executive committee was organized to foresee the day-to-day operations of the club with Mike Lu (President), Ned Liuag (Vice-President), Kitty Arce (Secretary), James McCarthy (Treasurer), & Jon Villasper. Other co-founders of the club are Tina Alejandro, Mads Bajarias Jr., Ricky de Castro, Lala Espanola, Lu-Ann Fuentes, Arne Jensen.

A VIBRANT YEAR

The first year proved a busy time for the Club. We made an initial investment consisting of 10 pairs of 8 x 40 binoculars, which were immediately put to use during monthly guided bird walks. Later in the year, we added a Bushnell spotting scope to our inventory. The spotting scope donated by Canadian birder Todd Pepper multiplied our capability to locate and accurately identify our feathered subjects.

Book launch of the Guide to Birds of the Phils
Book launch of the Guide to Birds of the Phils at the National Museum with Dr. Bob Kennedy
Seated: Dr Bob Kennedy and daughter
Standing L-R: Mike Lu, Sean Co, Mark Villa, Nilo Arribas, Lala Espanola, Genevieve Broad, Jon Villasper and museum personnel.

 

Our weekend bird walks proved popular. We organized four trips to the American Cemetery, the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Tambo mudflats, and the Coastal Road in Metro Manila for beginning and first-time birders. These activities are organized for the public and free of charge, except for the minimal binocular rental fee. Because of public interest in the bird walks and its usefulness as a medium for promoting the hobby and recruitment, the Club plans to continue with this activity in 2004 and organize one every month. To our knowledge, we are the only organization that is engaged in this activity in the country.

Our Club initiated 13 trips for members within Metro Manila, including special permit areas like the abandoned Nayong Pilipino park beside the airport and the La Mesa Dam watershed in Quezon City, and day trips to Mount Makiling in Laguna, Mt. Palay-Palay in Cavite and Candaba Marsh in Pampanga.

We were invited to conduct four bird watching sessions for Environment Management students enrolled in De La Salle University in Manila and to organize one Alternative Classroom activity each in the state-run University of the Philippines in Diliman and Ateneo de Manila University in Loyola Heights, both in Quezon City. We also organized two bird watching activities for the staff of Haribon Foundation and assisted in the annual Candaba Marshlands birdwatching trip that drew 70 first-time birdwatchers.

Our Club gave a presentation on birdwatching to the members of the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation and guided photography enthusiasts to document urban green areas including the Arroceros Forest Park in Manila.

Club members were present to welcome Dr. Robert Kennedy, author of the comprehensive Guide to the Birds of the Philippines, during the book launch at the Museum of the Filipino People. With 13 members in attendance on a weekday, The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines was easily the largest contingent among the environmental and conservation organizations. It is interesting to note that the book was already sold out months in advance of Dr. Kennedy's visit in October.

During the year, Club members also extended assistance to birders visiting from abroad – Todd Pepper of Canada, Ivor Lee of Singapore who contributed several photographs appearing in our website, Carlos Pijoan of USA and Anders Forsberg of Sweden. We would like to continue doing this and invite birdwatching hobbyists, scientists and conservationists to get in touch with our Club when they are in the country.


BUILDING OUR RECORDS

As early as 2002, the individuals who were brought together in the Birdwatch Philippines e-group, the precursor of our Club and retained as our information service, started compiling records for Metro Manila and areas outside the capital region.

Among the first initiatives undertaken by the interim executive committee was the establishment of the Philippine Records and Rarities Committee to ensure reports conform to internationally accepted standards and scientific procedure. The Committee includes ornithologist Arne Jensen and long-time birdwatcher James McCarthy. Our Club believes that birdwatchers can and should contribute to the scientific record.

 

nest with eggs
Close-up shot of the nest with eggs found in the Black-Crowned Night Heron colony in Paranaque

Our bird lists draw from data gathered by individual members, nature conservation groups and international sources. The bird list for Metro Manila, to our knowledge is the first one in existence. The Country bird list contains data sent in by Club members on trips outside Metro Manila and is supplemented by records from birdwatchers visiting from abroad, and the Haribon Foundation.

Our activities did not go unnoticed by policy makers. The Manila Bay Environment Management Project, an arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources requested our Club to present our findings concerning bird life along coast of Parañaque. This resulted in an agreement to cooperate in spearheading the Asian Waterbird Census in the section of Manila Bay within the National Capital Region in January 2004.


SPOTLIGHT ON BIRDWATCHING

Birdwatching captured media attention in 2003. Investigative reporter Howie Severino did a segment for GMA-7's late evening news program SAKSI on birdwatching and the breeding grounds of the Oriental Pratincole and Black-Crowned Night Heron that the Club discovered in the South Reclamation Area. The PROBE TEAM, internationally-acclaimed telemagazine produced the episode "Mga Tagong Ibon ng Maynila" [The Hidden Birds of Manila], presented by artist-birdwatcher Robert Alejandro.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism took note of Howie Severino's report and published it as "Birdwatchers in the City" in the September 2003 issue of the quarterly I-Magazine. Birds and birdwatching received an interesting review in reporter Maida Pinedas "Sightings Beyond the Maya" which appeared in StarWeek magazine, the Sunday supplement of The Philippine STAR.

TOWARDS THE FUTURE

The Philippines is a mecca for birdwatchers and scientists. And while our Club is not yet in the position to undertake projects that are vital to the conservation of habitats and bird species, our aim in the medium-term should be to promote birdwatching not as an end in itself but as the means to influence public opinion.

In the few months that we have been birding around Metro Manila, we have seen rapid disturbance in bird habitats. We recognize that commercial development will have to take place sooner or later, but it is in the common interest to temper this development with environmental planning and protection and the maintenance of public free spaces and green areas.

As a self-financing, membership-driven organization, the WBCP is in a best position to educate by example and to inspire in others the responsible enjoyment of nature. But we cannot go it alone. So it is with sincerity that we extend our offer to cooperate and share information with scientists, educators, birdwatchers and nature conservation organizations here and abroad.


Crossing the channel in Tambo mudflats