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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A Bird-Watcher's Haven Story from the Manila Bulletin

Aficionados say that some of the best bird-watching can happen at your own backyard.

James McCarthy, a 37-year-old British who has been residing in the Philippines for the past 12 years, is a self-confessed bird-watcher.

James, his wife Natalie, and their two boys, live in Ayala Westgrove Heights, a high-end residential development surrounded by greenery, rolling terrain and thousands of mango trees, situated in Silang, Cavite.

On weekends, he spends his time looking through his binoculars, telescope, and digital camera, to get more up-close with the birds.

"I was a trained zoologist before. I've always loved wild birds since I was six years old. There is so much beauty and excitement in watching wild birds in their natural habitat. You can find them everywhere, especially in this country - in your local park, forests, anywhere you travel," observed James.

James added that bird-watching involves learning to identify the birds and understanding their songs and behavior.

Hobbyists like James can immediately notice and even identify a bird from its shape or call.

Apart from the endemic or resident species all over the archipelago, the Philippines is fortunate to get a host of foreign (bird) visitors, which can number up to 40 percent of bird populations at any given time.

At Ayala Westgrove Heights' vast landscape, James has identified about 87 different species of endemic and foreign birds, including the Brown shrike, Coppersmith barbet, Olive-backed sun-bird, Grey-faced buzzard, Philippine Scops Owl, Philippine nightjar, White-throated kingfisher, Buzzing flower pecker, among other varities.

His hobby has taken him to Greenland, Africa, and other countries, and locally, in Bohol, Palawan, Olango Island, Makiling, Banahaw, and Cebu.

At present, James is working with Ayala Land, the developer of the subdivision, in coming up with a small book that will document the various birds species which frequent Westgrove, and hopefully serve as a "field guide" to budding bird-watchers.

"Bird-watching in the Philippines is in its infancy stage. I know only about 20 people who are into the hobby, and this is a very small figure compared to the five perfect of the population of England who are interested in birding", said James.

"There are some NGOs which are promoting the hobby, like Haribon, but we need to create more awareness about this activity...which can essentially help us plan a better, more sustainable relationship with our environment," James added.

James is currently working with other Filipinos Birders to start a website (www.birdwatch.ph) for those interested in learning more about birds and going out birding.

"The natural habitat of birds has been reduced over the years that's why it is important that companies work hard to preserve and enhance their habitat within their developments. Helping homeowners with garden planning and providing seedlings of `bird-friendly' trees is one of the core projects of the Ayala Westgrove Home-Owners environmental committee."

According to James, this can be achieved by planting a good balance of fruit-bearing trees and shade trees, or other plants that make the whole area attractive. Small marshes also serve as a breeding ground for birds.

"Birds, or any animal for that matter, can live side by side with people, but we should be more considerate. For me, I get to enhance this personal connection through bird-watching. It's a fulfilling hobby, a quest to appreciate the immense beauty of nature, that will stay with you all your life," remarked James.