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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This tourism is more than just for the birds

By Joy Angelica Subido
Saturday, October 11, 2008 Phil Star

Birdwatch

This activity is not for the lazy, faint-hearted and impatient. Luxurious amenities and excessive pampering are the least of your concerns, and participants often find themselves standing in the knee- deep water of marshlands, pelted by precipitation, or cramped and cold beneath swaying boughs of trees. There, they wait in quiet anticipation. However, the endurance of less-than-comfortable conditions is well rewarded when the birds fly in. The cameras of photography enthusiasts quickly start clicking, while others are content to just stand, observe, and delight in the experience.

Bird watching is an interest that is fast gaining popularity as eco-tourism gains more ground worldwide.

It holds vast opportunities for the country, especially as the Philippines is being recognized by aficionados as a prime destination due to its vast species diversity. The excitement and enthusiasm of bird watchers remains high due to a recent discovery of new species. In 2004, the Calayan Rail (Galliralus calayanensis) was discovered in the Calayan Islands. And thus, it is not surprising that bird buffs continue to dream of finding another unknown bird variety.

Moreover, an added advantage is that the Philippines is a year-round destination for bird watching. The months of September to February are when large numbers of migratory shore species, forest species and raptors fly in. On the other hand, coastal plains and marshes harbor over- wintering migratory birds until March or May. Endemic species may be restricted to small islands and limited habitat size.

However, of more than 600 bird species already identified throughout the archipelago, close to 200 are endemic to the country. The Philippine Eagle is the world's biggest eagle with a wingspan that can reach up to two meters, while the flowerpeckers and melodious babblers have colorful feathers.

To promote bird watching, the Department of Tourism, with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) and Recreational Outdoor Exchange (ROX), recently launched the first volume of a guidebook called Birdwatching in the Philippines. "We are offering an experience, so far enjoyed by a few, to more bird enthusiasts as we open our islands to bird watching,"says Tourism Secretary Ace Durano in the book's foreword. "The Department of Tourism has embarked on an active campaign to promote bird watching to both Filipino and foreign wildlife enthusiasts. With bird watching as an exciting new travel product, we shall also put into the tourism mainstream emerging destinations such as Bani, Pangasinan and Balanga City, Bataan." Among the sites identified for bird watching tourism are Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Rasa Island, Hundred Islands National Park, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Candaba Marsh, Villa Escudero and others.

The ecological advantages of promoting bird watching as a tourism attraction are indisputable. Aside from the fact that bird watching tourism brings revenue to an area, thereby diminishing the need to trap the birds for food or commerce, the activity promotes ecological education. Enthusiasts are extremely conscious of the need to preserve habitats, so that there is minimal disturbance of natural environments. The awareness is passed on to nearby communities, so that residents do their share to protect the birds.