Georgie R. Encanto
The idea of bird watching in La Vista had come up several
times in the course of our La Vista Newsletter meetings but
it was only recently that a confluence of events made it possible
to actually go "birding" right here in our own environs.
Felice Santamaria would often mention that there were a lot
of birds in her garden and that a house guest had even identified
a rare kind of bird that she spotted while visiting her house
on Ilongot Street. llita Logarta said that Ruby Benitez, another
resident, spotted a bird in her house which was green and
red so she called it "the Christmas bird." without
much prodding, nature lover Llita wrote 2 articles on birds
in the August 2003 and May 5 2004 issues of La Vista Newsletter.
Felice, who dreams of identifying all the birds in La Vista
gave Lita a copy of Birds of the Philippines by Robert Kennedy,
et al for her to read and write a book review on.
In the meantime, while having a leisurely lunch in a Taiwanese
vegetarian restaurant with Patty Adversario, a faculty member
in the College of Mass Communication Journ Department where
I teach, sometime in April, I mentioned that some La Vista
residents were interested in bird watching. Patty said she
had been bird watching for five years and had gotten into
it in Singapore while she was based as a reporter for Straits
Times. She offered to put me in touch with Mike Lu, the president
of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP).
Before I knew it, Mike and I were communicating via our cell
phones and I had become a broker for the La Vista would-be
birdwatchers. He suggested that we have an initial reconnaisance
tour of La Vista to determine the sites where they can be
found. I texted Aida Josef, Treasurer of La Vista Ladies to
ask if the La VIsta Ladies Association was interested in sponsoring
the bird watching but she said most of the officers were out
of the country so she said it would not be possible for the
association to sponsor any activity in the summer.
But since we wanted to avail of the offer of Mike Lu to guide
La Vista residents and teach us how to bird watch, we set
the recon tour on Saturday, May 8. Mike said the real birdwatching
could take place sometime in June. Patty Adversario got my
email address and sent me some tips for first time birdwatchers,
like what attire to wear and how to behave during the "birding".
The tips seemed obvious enough but the way they were phrased
still greatly amused me. According to the 5 Behaviour Basics
of Birdwatching, the first tip was "Be quiet. Birds have
very good hearing, and are startled by loud noises. Try and
keep any talking to a low murmur, but don't whisper. Birds
hear high-pitched noises like whispers better than they hear
our normal voices." The second tip was to "wear
dull-coloured clothes" as birds "have excellent
color vision. Bright colours, such as reds and yellows can
alarm birds and make them harder to see. Wear dark blues,
browns or greens instead." Tip no. 3 was to "move
slowly. Like people, birds' eyes are attracted to sudden movement.
If you move slowly and steadily, you are more likely to have
good view of birds." Tip no. 4 exhorted birdwatchers
to "use your eyes and YOUR ears. You will see a lot more
if you listen to bird calls, or for birds moving in the bushes."
That was a revelation to me because although I often hear
birds chirping, warbling, and even apparently answering each
other in song while I struggle up Cardiac Hill daily, I did
not realize that one could identify birds by their birdcalls.
And tip no. 5 admonished first time birdwatchers not to "destroy
the environment." In no uncertain terms, that guideline
said: "This means: don't bushbrack, break branches, litter
or otherwise damage the surrounding bush while birdwatching.
You are just visiting, but it's the birds' home." That
guideline certainly did not mince words as it puts things
in the right perspective !
Patty Adversario kept on texting me Wednesday and Thursday
to ask me how many La Vista residents were going to join the
birdwatching. I had no way of determining that so I told her
probably four or five. The assembly place was la Vista Clubhouse
at 6 AM. For some reason, I couldn't get to sleep the night
before and was up in the wee hours of the morning. I did'nt
dare fall asleep because I wanted to be in the clubhouse ahead
of time to welcome Mike Lu, Patty Adversario and other members
of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines who were coming over
to La Vista so I was a bit groggy and this probably explains
why I was not at all alert while we were birdwatching.
To our pleasant surprise, no less than eleven eager birdwatchers
(one of them a balikbayan) showed up at the clubhouse. They
included La Vista Homeowners' Association VP Floy Aguenza,
LVHA Treasurer Kiko Josef, his wife Aida and her sister Emi
Cruz from Canada, Ronnie and Marisa Romero, Andy and Felice
Sta. Maria, Annie Guerrero, Lisa Gatmaitan and me. The WBCP
birders were Mike Lu, Kitty Arce, Jeanette Bagaman, Patty
Adversario, Alice Villa-real, Crysta Rara and Greg Yan.
Mike Lu only had a few binoculars to rent, but one of the
other WBCP birders brought some more. He then gave a brief
orientation to the group, emphasizing the "amazing diversity
of birds found in the Philippines." He said that there
were as many as 500 in the entire country. He also mentioned
which birds we would probably see in La Vista.
He then divided the group into two and suggested we concentrate
on opposite directions of the greenery just in front of the
La Vista Clubhouse. It took some time for us to quiet down
and even figure out which group we belonged to ! One or two
had bright colored clothing which meant they had not gotten
the birdwatching tips we'd circulated via e-mail. But after
some time with help of the more adept birdwatchers like Mike
Lu, Greg Yan and Kitty Arce, we learned how to look out for
movement in the bushes or trees, to observe or listen to the
birdcalls. I clumsily tried to focus my binoculars on the
birds but by the time I was able to spot them, they had flown
away already !
Among the first birds we were able to spot were the Eurasian
Tree Sparrow (maya), and the Yellow-vented Bulbuls (malipago),
which would perch on the branches and later on the electricity
lines. Greg Yan would mimic the birdcalls of the birds we
spotted and they sounded like whistling to me. But I would
not for the life of me be able to recognize them again or
tell which bird they belong to.
At some point, Mike spotted a colasisi which we learned was
the smallest of the Philippine parrots. He explained that
the colasisi hangs on tightly to the branches which feed them
and can even hang upside down on them. Amused by the explanation,
some of the La Vista ladies laughed and said, "no wonder,
mistresses are referred to as kulasisi. Malakas kumapit kay
From the La Vista Clubhouse, the group decided to explore
another area near Gaddang. We had to pass through the Ifugao
Park which, we discovered had rail bridges abd walkways through
which one could pass. That was my first time to see that area
which I realize, some other esidents (one of them the former
La Vista association Manager Mrs. Fe Arcinas) had tried to
develop into a park but which few residents visited and was
now threatening to deteriorate because of the exposure to
the elements of the bridges and walkways. It was close to
eight and we first time bird watchers were starting to sweat
heavily while the veteran birdwatchers still seemed to have
a lot of stamina and continued to point out birds they spotted.
I was later to learn from the report of Mike Lu that he had
once spotted four Barred Rails or tikling last year when he
was in this exact area with his friend Philip Marin. This
time, he saw a White-collared Kingfisher with aquamarine wings,
an Olive-backed Sunbird or Tamsi, a Chestnut Munia or Mayang
Bukid in flight, and a Brown Shrike or Tarat which everyone
was able to admire.
Having reached the other end of the road in front of the house
of Tats Manahan, we trained our binoculars on some more birds,
and this time, I shouted out in glee because I finally got
to see the yellow in the Yellow-vented Bulbul ! For me, that
was enough to call it a day. We started to walk back to Ifugao
Street while the other ladies headed by Floy Aguenza who had
the foresight to instruct her driver to bring her car over
to where they were (on Gaddang Road), got into the car and
headed for 74 Ifugao Street where breakfast was waiting for
When they entered my garden, Mike Lu and the veteran birdwatchers
continued to identify the birds which often perch on the windowsills
at the back of my house, according to my very reliable neighbors
Ronnie and Marisa Romero. The Romeros and the Encantos have
the good fortune to enjoy the sight and sounds of many birds
whose names we do not know, whether we are in our respective
gardens or sitting together sharing an al fresco breakfast
! Over breakfast, the La Vista birders happily discussed what
fruit trees to plant to make our resident birds happy and
feel well-appreciated by their human neighbors.
Later in the day, Patty Adversario who had religiously been
taking down notes and even recording when a particular bird
was spotted, emailed me a copy of the report that she and
Mike Lu had prepared, she explained that the birders who belong
to their club are trying to be as scientific as possible by
mapping out the areas where they see birds, even recording
the exact time and how many they spotted.
She also texted me that they had spotted eleven bird species
in La Vista and by some coincidence, there were also eleven
participants that day. Was that a gentle reminder that every
La Vista resident has to take responsibility for at least
one bird ? Although I did not spot all of those birds and
did not have the patience to keep on looking out for those
nimble-footed creatures, I have become more observant of the
birds in La Vista, their colors and movements, and thankful
that they continue to uplift our days just by being here.