By Federico D. Pascual, Jr.
The Philippine Star 01/30/2005
TRIPPING: Want to go on a weekend nature trip today but
have run out of destinations close enough to Manila? Try bird
watching in the marshes of Candaba and renew your love affair
with Nature. You've never tried bird watching? No problem.
Just go - bring binoculars and telephoto lens for your camera
- and enjoy whatever awaits you in the wind-swept swamp of
Candaba. (The fresh country air alone - to blow away the soot
in your city lungs - will be enough reason to come over.)
birds flying in perfect formation from as far as China have
chosen for their winter haven the wetlands, particularly a
74-hectare tract in sitio Simang, opened to nature lovers
by Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo. The best time to watch the
pass-by, the hovering and the landing of the birds is at sunrise
and sunset. But since you probably will read this after sunrise,
your next option is to be there before 5 p.m. today. * * *
BANNED: Or if you have time, camp out through the night
and rise with sun break in time for the early morning flyby
of the birds. The press photographers who did this recently
came back with magnificent shots of the coveys circling and
landing in the marsh.
you witness late in the afternoon are mostly feathered flocks
already in the area that flex their wings and fly around to
pick which clump of trees to roost on for the night.
trees, by the way, were planted by Mayor Pelayo as part of
a conservation program that now includes an ordinance passed
by the local council banning the hurting or hunting of the
winged visitors and their native counterparts.
mayor has made the wetlands more hospitable to migratory birds.
Before he came around with his conservation gospel, hunters
armed with nets and shotguns would appear this time of the
year and haul down the birds indiscriminately. * * *
EXITS: Taking the new North Luzon Expressway – another
breezy experience for the city dweller – the would-be bird-watcher
can exit either at the Sta. Rita, San Simon or the San Fernando
listed the exits in the order of their nearness to Manila.
But if you are coming from Angeles and other points north,
reverse the order, with San Fernando as the nearest exit on
your way to Candaba.
recommendation for those coming from Manila is take the Sta.
Rita exit, to save time and avoid that stretch of dirt road
from the Candaba town proper to the Pelayo reserve in sitio
Simang, which is the most convenient watching point.
the Sta. Rita exit, you hit Pulilan town, then Baliuag (both
in Bulacan). Do not go up the overpass leading to Baliuag
town proper, but go to the service road to its right and turn
left under it toward Candaba. Keep driving to barangay Bahay
Pare, where you turn right after a small bridge toward the
rice fields. You may want to stop now and then to ask for
direction just to be sure.
the first side road about a kilometer away, turn left. After
another kilometer, you will find yourself driving atop an
irrigation embankment (called paligi in Capampangan). It might
be better to use a van smaller than such SUVs as the Expedition
and the Suburban.
you are on the "paligi," you can lower your window and start
flushing your lungs and your vehicle with fresh air. And with
the fields bathed in the mellow afternoon sunlight stretched
before you, you may want to start taking pictures. * * * \
CENSUS: In the Asian Waterbird Census 2005 last January,
Candaba swamp was confirmed to be the chosen haven of 35 species
of waterbirds with a total population of around 10,200 within
a 200-hectare census area.
this feathered population is a large number of Philippine
ducks sighted with three more species of wild ducks: garganey,
northern shoveler and northern pintail. The wild ducks alone
totaled more than 3,000 in the census area.
long-legged white birds posting themselves in the rice paddies
on both sides of the North expressway in Bulacan and Pampanga
are egrets, more of which you will see in Candaba. I think
the local name is "tagak."
your way to the Pelayo resthouse, where you can park and mount
your long lenses, you will notice some small farms with ducks
huddled in small ponds. You can take pictures, but those waterfowl
are not what you are being asked to watch. * * *
A LIST: During the January census, Candaba hosted representatives
of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the DENR, Wild
Bird Club of the Philippines, Haribon Foundation, Conserve
Candaba Swamp Foundation, Candaba Swamp Migratory Birds and
Wildlife Foundation Inc., Kaakbay sa Kalikasan and other enthusiasts.
Fisher, an authority on Philippine birds, identified during
the census the purple gallinule – a species of waterbird that
has not been seen in Candaba for the last 10 years because
of the hunting (now banned) and the previous deterioration
of the habitat.
the species officially sighted in the last three years by
the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and other enthusiasts
were: Philippine Duck, Asian Golden Plover, Bittern, Black
Bittern, Black Crowned Night Heron, Black Winged Stilt, Blue
Tailed Bee Eater, Bright-capped Cisticola, Brown Shrike, Buff-banded
Rail, Chestnut-breasted Munia, Cinnamon Bittern, Clamorous
Reed Wabler, Common Green Shank, Common Kingfisher, Common
Moorhen, Common Red Shank, Common Sandpiper, Common Snipe,
Eastern Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Garganey, Grassbird
Striated, Grassowl, Great Egret, Greater-painted Snipe, Grey
Heron, Intermediate Egret, Island-collared Dove, Kentish Plover,
Lesser Coucal, Little-ringed Plover, Little Egret, Little
Grebe, Long-toed Stint, Marsh Sandpiper, Middendorf’s Grasshopper
Warbler, Olive-backed Sunbird, Oriental Pratincole, Oriental
Skylark, Pacific Swallow, Peregrine Falcon, Pheasant-tailed
Jacana, Pied Bushchat, Pied Fantail, Purple Heron, Richards
Pipit, Spotted Dove, Scalt-breasted Munia, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper,
Tawny Grassbird, Watercock, Whiskered Tern, White-breasted
Waterhen, White-browed Crake, White-winged Blacktern, White-winged
Blacktern, Wood Sandpiper, Yellow Bittern, Yellow-vented Bulbul,
Yellow-vented Bulbul, Yellow Wagtail, Zebradove, Zitting Cisticola,
Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Oriental Reed Warbler,
Tufted Duck, White-collared Kingfisher, Cattle Egret, Chinese
Pond Heron, Coot and Purple Gallinule.
his conservation measures apparently paying off – as evidenced
by the regular winter arrival of migratory birds – Pelayo
is trying to consolidate with the help of concerned groups
at least 500 hectares in the 32,000-hectare swamp to widen
the protected habitat. * * *
Sightings Beyond The Maya