INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON
Inquirer Northern Luzon : Hundred Islands: Birds' haven
First posted 10:58pm (Mla time) Oct 10, 2006
By Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes
Editor's Note: Published on Page A16 of the October 11, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
ISLAND-HOPPING at the Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos City
in Pangasinan does not only offer a close view of the marine
creatures that abound in its waters. Different species of native and
migratory birds have also found haven there.
"Bird watching is a big thing around the world and bird watchers in
the country are excited about the proliferation of different birds
on the Hundred Islands," said Ramon Siojo, program director of the
Eco Rescue Volunteers.
Siojo informed Agerico de Villa of the Wild Birds Club of the
Philippines about his "find." Thrilled, De Villa brought British Jon
Hornbuckle, one of the world's top bird watchers, to the park to
identify the species.
One cloudy day in July, De Villa, Hornbuckle, Camarines Norte Judge
Irma Boncodin, Rolando "Buboy" Franciso (one of the founding members
of the University of the Philippines Mountaineers) and Ismael Najera
of the city government, boarded a speedboat to inspect the islands
and the Alaminos River.
The adventure started on the northern islets where bird watchers had
seen roseate terns (Sterna dougallii) and black nape terns.
Although there was no roseate tern sighted, the group was delighted
to find black nape terns "flying and diving with other birds."
After some minutes, De Villa, in a report, said the boatman pointed
to a chick peeping out of a hole along the side of an islet-a black-
nape hatchling "with a parent nervously guarding (it)."
The trip did not disappoint the bird watchers who, while going
around the islets, were treated to a "show" of Philippine ducks
flying or perched atop a cliff, Asian glossy startlings, Pacific
swallows and swiftlets.
De Villa said an island was populated by black-crowned and rufous
"They seemed disturbed, probably because of egg poaching that
occurred a week earlier during which 60 eggs were taken," he said.
A major island, Kamantiles, is home to the pompadour green pigeon
(Treron pompadora), white-eared brown dove, mangrove blue
flycatcher, oriental magpie robin, sunbirds, hooded pita, Philippine
coucals, yellow-vented bulbul and pied fantails, and Philippine
Roseate and Black-naped Terns
"On two occasions, I [heard] distinctly a sound like a chicken's. I
[tried] to find it but the sound only brought me [deeper] into the
thickets. I was looking for a jungle fowl. I later asked the boatman
if jungle fowls had been seen in the island and the boatman said
there used to be plenty with [him] personally catching some of them
when this was not yet prohibited," said De Villa.
The Alaminos River, which has thickly forested banks, is another
bird sanctuary where the bird watchers counted at least 38 species.
"Little terns, black-crowned night heron, rufous herons are perched
all over the fish pens. The fish pen owners seemed not to be
interested in scaring them off, or even shooting, these as in fish
pen areas elsewhere in the country," De Villa said.
There could have been more birds in there, but the party had to go.
Off they went into a mudflat where they saw red-necked stints
(Calidris ruficollis), lesser sand plovers, greater sand plovers,
godwits and Philippine ducks.
The group counted 57 bird species on the islands. It is expected
that until October, thousands of migratory birds will arrive to find
shelter in the national park.
Mayor Hernani Braganza said the large number of wild ducks, terns
and herons may have chosen the islets as their habitat because of
their improved vegetation or abundance of food, tranquility and
proximity to the city's mangrove park and bodies of water.
Hornbuckle, in a meeting with Braganza, lauded the local government
for its efforts to protect the wildlife in the national park. He has
identified 8,000 bird species across the globe for almost 30 years.
He said birds are basically an indicator of a good or healthy
environment. He believed that the birds had found a perfect niche
where they could grow and multiply.
And bird watchers, both local and international, can find the
islands a perfect place to enjoy a picture-perfect view of both
water birds and forest birds in one setting.