original story can be viewed at http://mobilemediaph.com/escape2004/index.html.
The article is entitled Manila's Feathered Charms, with pictures
from Romy Ocon's gallery.
We've all seen birds -- through our windows at home and in
the office, or probably glimpsed them in the trees while taking
a walk, or spotted them on electric poles. If you live in
Metro Manila, chances are you think these birds are mayas.
not everything you see flying here are mayas, and the birds
of your grandmother's stories are all around you in Manila
if you only knew where to look. I came across the Wild Bird
Club of the Philippines (WBCP) last year when its
president, Mike Lu, posted an invitation to a local
e-group for photographers to join one of their trips. Since
most of the trips (or "birdwalks" as they call them)
were held on weekends in Metro Manila, I took time out to
join them for the first time at the American War Cemetery
in Taguig (just beside Fort Bonifacio) in October 2003.
a few minutes have gone by when I saw through my binoculars
my first wild bird, a white-collared kingfisher. The sight
of such a wonderful creature right in the middle of the city
instantly won my heart that I immediately signed up for membership.
I have since joined the group in places such as the University
of the Philippines campus in Diliman, the Ateneo de Manila
University, the Old Nayong Pilipino, the Libingan ng mga Bayani
and the La Mesa Watershed.
desire to see more birds has now brought me to more distant
locations like Laguna and Batangas. An hour or two of driving
out of the city is really worth the effort for the charms
you will find, and there is an endless list of birds to see.
In 2003, the club recorded an astonishing number of 120 species
in Metro Manila alone!
months and ten birdwalks later, the kingfisher still counts
for me as the most beautiful winged creature, and I see it
in each trip that I join. Right now, I include among my friends
a pair of pied fantails that I see daily through my bedroom
window and whose songs I first hear when I wake up in the
morning. Several yellow-vented bulbuls also fly around my
terrace in the afternoons. I also get occasional visits from
a few zebra doves and olive-backed sunbirds, and some white-breasted
wood-swallows do make fly-bys while I'm hard at work washing
my car in the driveway.
these without having to step out of our gate, and I live in
the middle of Quezon City! It's hard to imagine that I once
thought these animals only existed in National Geographic
and Discovery Channel simply because I didn't know how to
differentiate them from the mayas.
I actually met them, I expected the people from the Wild Bird
Club to be of the very serious and the academic type. A birding
trip is not all serious and scientific stuff. We actually
do crack jokes (clean and otherwise) while looking for the
Some members simply walk with the others, looking at the birds
as they come and go. Some take matters to heart a little more
and take notes of the birds that they see. Still others dig
a little deeper and actually record the exact spot where they
saw the animals and what these were doing when seen.
Wild Bird Club has a varied mix of members, from ordinary
students and employees to the more unusual geographer and
astronomers. We also have photographers, artists, information
technologists, teachers, writers and a few in the broadcast
and print media. There are businessmen and people from the
corporate and banking world. Aside from several scientists,
there is also a psychologist and a veterinarian. I once thought
I was the only doctor in the group until someone reminded
me that my wife is also a member. As of the moment, we are
still waiting for an astronaut to join us but that may be
out-of-this-world! (no pun intended).
Bird watching (or birding for short) is a very inexpensive
hobby. At the barest minimum, all you actually need are your
pair of eyes, which of course come free with you. If you want
to see the birds up close, then a pair of binoculars is a
must. These are inexpensive and locally available.
you become a member, the club can lend you a pair of binoculars
(bins for short) if you haven't acquired one yet. For those
who haven't signed up yet, the club can rent them out for
just PhP50 per use.
bird guide is also a very helpful tool and there are several
good ones available in most bookstores starting at only a
little over PhP300. You may also want to browse the Internet
for pictures and descriptions and there are several Web sites
catering to local birds (search in google.com).
you sign up for membership for only PhP300, you get free guided
trips and free use of the club's binoculars. It's very rare
to find someone who just saw a pied triller and a bright-capped
cisticola through a pair of bins for the first time have second
thoughts of signing up as a member.
watching is for everybody. For the health conscious, think
of birding as a very ideal low -impact exercise. Without noticing
it, several hours have passed and the distance you've actually
walked is more than what you thought you could do.
the sports-minded, go ahead and make a game out of it. Check
out who made the highest number of confirmed sightings and
identifications, or who covered the farthest distance within
the shortest period. For the outdoor guy or girl, you can
include bird watching the next time you go rock-climbing or
hiking. For the naughty ones, we have birds that are
actually called bulbuls, tits and flowerpeckers! For
those in love with nature, it's one of the best ways to get
closer to it and actually immerse yourself in its beauty.
For the environmentally vigilant, you can in fact make these
birds a barometer of the conservation efforts in each locality.
For those who are still stuck in comics and cartoons, there's
nothing like meeting Woody Woodpecker in person (and we do
have woodpeckers here in the city).
To actually see a roadrunner will need a little more luck,
however. For those who simply love to have good, clean fun,
well, I dare you to come up with a more wholesome activity
may want to simply look at them and appreciate their beauty,
or you may want to keep track of your sightings by
recording the types you have seen and watch your list grow
every time you go out. Or, you may want to be a little more
thorough and actually note the time you saw them, the exact
place where you found them and what they were doing then.
You may choose to go to the extreme and bring several equipment
with you such as a GPS receiver and an altimeter to take down
the coordinates of each spot and a thermometer, barometer
and hygrometer to note the exact
conditions of the environment you are in. I haven't met anybody
who does this yet for we simply want to have fun and escape
from the daily hassles of life. We do keep records of our
sightings, however, and we are serious when it comes to these.
you may have a little difficulty identifying the creatures.
Not to worry, the more experienced members will help you out
on, your skills will develop such that you can already identify
the birds simply by listening to their calls or even by looking
at their flight patterns. I have read of instances where the
more hardcore birders can identify the species based on their
footprints or fallen feathers. I have yet to hear anyone,
though, who can identify species based on their
droppings! But I won't be surprised if one day I meet
someone who can actually do this.
Nothing is impossible. After all, in bird watching. To say
the least, this is one hobby where the sky is literally the