May 10, 2008 01:56:00
Philippine Daily Inquirer
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines--The Candaba Swamp scored
another record when Filipino and British conservationists
found a black-browed reed warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps)
in Barangay Visal San Pedro in Candaba, Pampanga, on April
"It's the first Philippine record for that species,"
Michael Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
(WBCP), told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Friday.
The black-browed reed warbler is brown in color and slightly
bigger than the maya (sparrow), Lu said. It was found near
the main pond in the 100-hectare fishpond owned by Candaba
Mayor Jerry Pelayo.
The mayor and his wife, Lanie, have stopped cultivating their
property since 1997 and turned it into a home for migratory
birds. It is located within the 33,000-hectare swamp that
spans the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Bulacan.
Lu said the black-browed reed warbler, which is common in
Asia, "spends its time foraging close to the ground inside
undisturbed reed beds."
Streaked reed warbler
The recent four-day survey in April of the Candaba
Marsh in Pampanga was aimed at locating the globally
threatened streaked reed warbler (Acrocephalus sorghophilus).
A team from WBCP and the UK-based Wetland Trust covered
a representative selection of sites but did not find
any streaked reed warblers, although the search led
to the discovery of the black-browed reed warbler.
Lu said the streaked reed warbler "is globally
A member of the team is Philip Round, a well-known
ornithologist, who came from China and failed to see
the warbler. Round was hoping to find it in the Candaba
Swamp, Lu said, because the insect-eating bird knows
no other ground to escape winter in northeast Asia,
except the Philippines.
Round made international news in 2006 when he found
a live large-billed reed warbler that had not been
seen for some 140 years at a water treatment plant
In past news reports, he was quoted as saying: "I was
dumbstruck, it felt as if I was holding a living dodo."
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a flightless bird which has
been extinct since the mid-to-late 17th century.
The last time the streaked reed warbler was sighted in the
Candaba Swamp was seven years ago.
Lu said it was likely that the warbler still dwelt in the
marsh because a week before the April 24-27 survey, a visiting
birdwatcher swore that he saw one.
The population is thought to be "very small" because
there were little patches of reeds to live on, he said.
Lu said this species was "regularly seen in small numbers"
at the swamp until the mid-1990s. Very few sightings had been
recorded in recent years.
In Candaba, reeds are burned to make way for fishponds or
farmlands or to grow crops for animal feeds, it was learned.
The WBCP and the Wetland Trust have urged the Candaba government
to discourage communities from burning wetland vegetation
so the remaining patches can sustain wetland birds, especially
the critically endangered ones.
In spite of its failure to find any
streaked reed warblers, the survey was nevertheless
highly valuable, because it gave the "first overview
and survey of the condition of wetland habitats in Candaba,
which remain of national importance for a great range
of water birds, including herons, bitterns, egrets and
the threatened endemic Philippine Duck (Anas luzonica),"
The WBCP plans to do another survey in Candaba in January
or February 2009 or before residents burn the reeds.
Other bird sanctuaries in the country will be surveyed
Philip Round of the Wetland Trust
in Candaba Marsh
17,000 birds in 24 hours
The bird census in January this year proved that the Candaba
portions of the swamp have been kind sanctuaries to globetrotting
birds. The Eurasian spoonbill was spotted here for the first
time, giving another record for the Philippines.
Teams from the WBCP and the Department of Environment and
Natural Resources recorded almost 17,000 birds in the 24-hour
That high number, Lu said then, was "not only a record
for Candaba but for the whole Philippines."
The migratory fowls, more than 80 species in all, were seen
in two spots--at Pelayo's fishponds and in nearby Barangay
Conservationists also saw Shrenck's bittern, great bittern