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Hundred Islands: Birds' Haven

INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON
Inquirer Northern Luzon : Hundred Islands: Birds' haven

First posted 10:58pm (Mla time) Oct 10, 2006
By Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes
Inquirer

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)."

A show

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 night herons.

"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 bulbul.

Roseate and Black-naped Terns

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.

Habitat

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.