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Using Photography for his Advocacy
By : Raffy Paredes*

Manila Bulletin
Date: May 11, 2005
Picture Perfect section,
Through a Lens, Clearly

Agerico M. De Villa, Associate Professor at the Philosophy Department in U.P. started birding in July 2004. At about the same time, he acquired a Pentax MZ10 and started taking pictures of the various birds on campus. In less than a year, Jerry has accumulated photos of 61 different species of birds. While he expresses some dissatisfaction with the quality of about a third of the images, they make not only for a very impressive collection. They provide the necessary proof and documentation for Jerry's current advocacy - ecotourism.

Since last year, Jerry became part of an ad-hoc committee tasked with cutting costs on some university services. He realized that aside from cost-cutting measures, the university must also increase its income. One strategy that he has come up with is for the university grounds to earn its upkeep. Jerry, a long-time mountaineer, professional divemaster and recent birder, saw the potential of replicating the Anilao (fish-watching) experience on university soil. How? By developing bird sanctuaries within the campus grounds. With birdwatching (called birding by enthusiasts) being the fastest growing hobby in the world today, expect local and international birders to come visiting once ecotourist-friendly measures have been put in place.

Jerry's photo collection of 61 species includes 2 that have yet to be fully identified. He has been able to "shoot" a Cuculus pectoralis or Philippine Hawk Cuckoo which only last year was recognized internationally as a separate species. Another interesting bird considered rare and recorded on campus is the Muscicapa dauurica or the Asian Brown Flycatcher. Jerry's photo records it for the first time in Luzon (Previously, it was recorded only in the Visayas and Mindanao.) Photo was taken at the vicinity of the Faculty Center. An uncommon bird on the endangered list, Zoothera cinerea or Ashy Ground Thrush was also photographed on campus.


Brown_Shrike
Brown_Shrike

Photo was taken at the vicinity of the Faculty Center. An uncommon bird on the endangered list, Zoothera cinerea or Ashy Ground Thrush was also photographed on campus. Why is the bird inside the car? (see photo) Because this bird, as often happens on campus crashed into a window that may have seemed like a passageway among the trees. Since Jerry had arranged a personal "deal" with the building guards to report such instances, he was immediately informed of the accident. The Ashy Ground Thrush eventually recovered after some hours of care and was free to fly again.

Among the measures Jerry envisions for UP are making gardens and buildings bird-friendly. Jerry has ample proof of the dangers the birds face daily on campus. 2 of the 61 species photographed are those of dead birds. Having the right trees and plants at the right places will not only cut down the bird casualty but will attract more birds.

Blue_Rock_Thrush Blue_Rock_Thrush

As of today, Jerry is still hopeful of adding at least eight more species to his photo collection. He has already spotted these birds but as luck would have it, they have not shown up when his camera's on hand. He believes though that the number of species could total to a lot more if other sightings by fellow birders are taken into account. Jerry uses a 500 mm telephoto lens complemented by a 2x converter. Film speed is 400 ISO/ASA. He is currently saving up for a good electronic flash so he can use a slower film for sharper pictures. Another method he is considering is digiscoping or connecting a digital camera to a spotting scope. Aside from ease of use, the savings on film processing becomes considerable over time.


To spread the word, Jerry plans to start a series of lectures on birding among university students. Recently, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (to which Jerry is a member) invited a bird expert from England for a lecture at the Faculty Center. Jerry has gotten the College of Science authorities to declare the college premises a bird sanctuary. He has also elicited the support of a student organization to raise funds for the landscaping of Vinzon's Hall. In the works too are negotiations for industry sponsors for that all important funding. Eventually, Jerry De Villa hopes that the university can be a venue for an annual birding conference and festival that can have international participation.

 

Some of Jerry's photographs of birds on the U.P. campus can be seen at www.pbase.com/propjerry

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines maintains a website at www.birdwatch.ph


*Occasionally pitching in for Jim