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Rare Birds Sighted at Candaba Swamp

Rare birds Sighted at Candaba Swamp
Published on page A20 of the Jan. 16, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Tonette Orejas with additional editing by Mike Lu

CANDABA, Pampanga -- Three species of rare migratory birds have been sighted in bigger numbers at the Candaba Swamp here.

Seven Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio), two Chinese Pond Herons (Ardeola bacchus), and 556 Black-crowned Night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) have been seen, according to the Asian Water Bird Census 2006 by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Purple Swamphen
Purple Swamphen

Philippine Duck
Philippine Duck

At a single sighting event for the same period last year, the club and the DENR saw only one swamphen, one pond-heron and more than 250 night- herons, according to Michael Lu, president of the 130-member bird watchers' club.

Lu said the globally threatened Philippine mallard counted over 1,200 from only about 800 last year.

They were among the 35 species found at one site stretching about 70 hectares of land in Sitio Doņa Simang, Barangay Vizal San Pablo.

The total bird population reached nearly 11,500, a number that Lu found "very high." "It's too small a site, but the birds are in greater number this year," Lu said.

WBCP birders Mark, Anna, Moises and Telor
(from L to R) WBCP birders Mark, Anna, Moises and Telor


Asked why this was so, he said the birds tended to flock at the Doņa Simang site, comprised of two ponds, because farmers had begun the planting season. The farms were either being fallowed or already bedded with seeds.

These activities disturb the birds that come from October to February to seek winter refuge at the 32,000-ha swamp that extend to the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Bulacan. Lu said the birds had made the ponds their sanctuaries.

Uncultivated as a fishpond during the rainy season or rice farm during the rest of the year, the ponds, owned by Mayor Jerry Pelayo, have naturally nurtured lily plants, like the tukal, that are the favorite food of the birds.

The black-crowned night-herons might have arrived in bigger flocks because of forest fires in Indonesia. They have shown signs of breeding in the Philippines and have become residents as well, Lu said. Lu said the migratory birds had not yet been found to be free from the avian influenza virus. But tests done on migratory birds in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore showed that they birds were not carriers of the fatal disease. "If they (birds) are sick, they'll be hard put by exhaustion to reach their destinations," he said.

WBCP birders Mads, LuAnn and Mike
(from L to R) WBCP birders Mads, LuAnn and Mike

Neither did the creatures show signs of mixing with domestic fowls, he said, citing the open duck farms from the stretch of Barangay San Agustin to Vizal San Pablo.

The Candaba Swamp is one of over 60 wetlands sites monitored by the DENR during the Asian Waterbird Census. It is also home to various reptiles, insects and plants.