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

Back to Home

Birdwatching Philippine Style

Am Cham Journal, January issue of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines

By Ross Harper Alonso

The Club has discontinued guided birdwatching trips at the American Cemetery pending the present administrator's policy of not encouraging the use of the memorial for other purposes
The Club has discontinued guided birdwatching trips at the
American Cemetery pending the present administrator's policy
of not encouraging the use of the memorial for "other purposes"

Philippine Tourism Secretary, Ace Durano says birdwatching in the country is the next big tourism draw. It’s about time someone up there took notice since the Philippines is home to approximately 600 bird species and about 200 endemic to the country, suggesting the Philippines might have the highest concentration of indigenous bird biodiversity in the world.

On July 14, 2003 the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines was organized by Mike Lu, a distributor of industrial hand tools and a small group of birdwatchers, one year after American ornithologist, Dr. Robert Kennedy launched his book Guide to the Birds of the Philippines in Manila. Today the club members and directors are as diverse as the species they seek. They’re an interesting blend of bankers, astronomers, graphic artists and people with interests ranging from photography to butterfly and dragonfly watching. Single handedly, the group has put together an impressive database of Philippine bird sightings, providing the scientific community with valuable information that would otherwise cost them millions of pesos to gather. “Seeing a rare bird for the first time is an experience, but adding new species to our records is even more fulfilling,” Mike points out. We’ve already recorded more than 130 species spotted in Metro Manila alone. It doesn’t make much sense to claim we’re also working to raise the level of environmental awareness and natural habitat conservation if we don’t know the kind of birds we have.” Private organizations and companies such as power plants, real estate companies and golf courses have also asked for the club’s birdwatching services since birds are excellent environmental indicators. The more the species of birds found in a location, the better the state of the environment.

The club conducts public monthly guided birdwatching trips to several sites in and out of Metro Manila. The Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat along the coastal road never fails to awe guests. “People are surprised to see birds thriving in this wasteland,” says Mike. “I have to remind them not all birds nest in trees. Different species live in different habitats. It’s a shame people don’t realize how they can witness birds flying in from the North,” he adds. “My first sighting was a flock of 60 egrets flying around Manila Bay towards Cavite. On later trips, we would see smaller birds like terns and plovers by the hundreds. Once, Arne Jensen, a Danish ornithologist and I watched about 8,000 whiskered terns flying out of the bay. Grouping themselves like a cloud, they suddenly swooped down on the water like a passing rain shower.” Other urban sites include the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, the La Mesa Eco Park and although the American Cemetery at the Fort is no longer included in the list, it remains one the club’s favorites.

“All the sites have been interesting for different reasons but I liked the American Cemetery not only because it was so close to where I live in Makati but also it was an experience I could share with my children,” recalls Lisa Kircher-Lumbao, a permanent resident in the Philippines and environmental consultant working on water and wastewater/sanitation projects in the country and the Asia region.” The best part about going with the bird club is when someone sees an interesting bird, they set up a spotting scope for all to look through, making it very easy to see the birds even for my kids,” ” she adds. “Without them, it’s difficult for a novice like me to find the bird using binoculars and practically impossible for my kids to do so. The bird club has done an amazing job of exposing people, especially students, to the beauty and wonder of birds. Hopefully this love of nature will translate into a desire to protect it – reduce the amount of solid waste you generate, dispose of solid waste properly, reduce air pollution from your vehicle, don’t waste water, etc. They may even be motivated to go further, to volunteer to plant trees or get involved in other environmental clubs and projects.”

The out of town sites include Mount Makiling, Subic Bay, Mount Palay Palay near Puerto Azul but the day trip to the Candaba Marsh, a major stopover point for 50 species of migrating water fowl 67 kilometers North of Manila is the most attended. One is literally surrounded by birds..

The Bird Club relies solely on membership fees, binocular rentals and book sales. There are no tour fees. For tour schedules log on to http://www.birdwatch.ph