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