The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

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The Quest for Aerial Sightings

Wild Bird Club of the Philippines to hold 4th Philippine Bird Festival
Lucci C. Coral

Imagine watching a live episode of a National Geographic special through a pair of binoculars. Peeking into the aerial world of birds provides a first-hand perspective on how these animals act in their natural habitat, and can also be an educating yet relaxing activity for its viewers.

BirdwatchBird watching has become a very potent tourism product for the country, and this year, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) will be holding the 4th Philippine Bird Festival in Puerto Princesa City with the theme "Aba! Kakaiba!" on September 12 and 13—just in time for the winter migration of birds from mainland Asia and Japan.

The excitement brought by discovering these aerial voyagers will be heightened by the activities of the festival. A grand showcase of the different birds endemic to our country will be shown through exhibits, lectures, film showings, and a variety of activities for young participants. These days of aerial sightings will also include a trip to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Park (September 13) and Rasa Island (September 14) sponsored by Katala Foundation. Aside from viewing one of the nominees for the Seven Wonders of Nature, participants will also get a chance to view one of the much-threatened Katala, or Philippine Cockatoo, which is endemic to these two sites. Puerto Princesa and Rasa Island are also included in the birdwatching hotspots in the Adventure Philippines program of the DoT and R.O.X.

"The Philippine Bird Festival aims to get people excited about nature and conservation through recreational bird watching and bird photography," says nature enthusiast Michael Lu, president of the WBCP, the country’s premier bird-watching society, which held the first bird festival in 2004. "Habitat loss from ill-planned development and urban pressure is the greatest threat to bird populations and other wildlife. The WBCP hopes to get communities and professional planners actively involved in developing ways to help wildlife through green spaces and nature-friendly property management."

Observing these species has brought awe and interest to those who have tried the adventure. During the bird festival’s launch in R.O.X. held recently, members of the WBCP showed immense enthusiasm about bird watching. These men and women have come from different fields of work and they converge to travel together and seek for more discoveries through observing different species.

Whether in your own backyard or in a far away marshland, bird watching provides a path to discovering an aerial world. Aside from travel expenses, bird watching only requires a pair of binoculars, an open mind, and an interest in witnessing an enchanting event unfolding. One of its members, UP professor and bird expert Carmela Española, discovered a new species named "Calayan Rail" while doing research in Calayan, the largest island in the Babuyan Group of Islands.

Our country is naturally endowed with more than 200 endemic bird species, and with the aggressive promotion, the big population of bird watchers all over the globe can come and have a peek at these aerial creatures. This advocacy does not only promote Philippine tourism but the attachment to these flying beings naturally encourages environmental protection as well.

"The other reason why I am so excited about bird watching in the Philippines is because we will be bringing into mainstream tourism a lot of communities which are still not part of it, such as Balara City in Bataan," Tourism secretary Ace Durano said. According to him, there is a big market of birdwatchers—millions in United Kingdom alone. However, putting together this tourism product was challenging since a bird watcher’s manual is required, which contains photos and descriptions of different bird species endemic to the Philippines. It also has to be included in packaged tours through travel tour operators, and bird watching guides, such as biology graduates, were trained to lead bird watching groups, especially beginners.

Many organizations and companies have given their share to make this event possible. Included in the participating organizations for the Philippine Bird Festival are Katala Foundation, Birdwatch Palawan, WWF-Philippines, Conservation International, Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Isla Biodiversity Conservation, Philippine Butterfly Habitat Conservation Society, Art Thrive, My Zoo Foundation, and Birding Adventure Philippines. International organizations such as the Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network, Wild Bird Society of Taipei, the Chinese Wild Bird Federation, Xiamen Birdwatching Society, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, and the Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) have confirmed their participation in this year’s project.

Promoting tourism through bird watching is a special project of the WBCP in partnership with Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), Puerto Princesa City, Team Energy Foundation, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club, Landco Pacific Corporation, Katala Foundation, Birdwatch Palawan, Aigle and the Recreational Outdoor Exchange (R.O.X.) Bird watching is included in the Adventure Philippines project of the DoT and R.O.X., which is committed to building and nurturing the adventure travel community.

Everybody is invited to join the festival and discover the joy of watching these birds in their natural habitat. For more information, visit www.birdwatch.ph. (Photos courtesy of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines)