By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
Phil. Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:31:00 04/08/2009
WBCP presents Birdwatching in the Phils
(L-R) Atty Roger Quevedo, Pampanga Congressman
Dong Gonzales, Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio,
Mike Lu, Sen Loren Legarda, Cel Tungol, Tintin Telesforo,
Ixi Mapua, Jhoel Jorda
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga - It could
well be a reminder of Holy Week. Frequent sightings of jacanas,
called â€œkahot-kahotâ€ by locals
but known as "Jesus birds" in other parts of the
world, are drawing nature lovers to the Candaba Swamp. They
have long thin feet and attenuated claws which enable them
to walk with their weight distributed on water. Negotiating
floating vegetation in shallow lakes and waterlands is the
reason they are known as Jesus birds, according to tropicalbirds.com.
Jacanas are also known as "Lotus birds"
and "Lily trotters," according to avianweb.com.
Mike Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
(WBCP), said the species sighted in Candaba are the pheasant-tailed
jacanas (Hydrophasianus chirurgus). They are widespread in
the country but can be easily seen at the Pelayo bird sanctuary
in Barangay DoÃ±a Simang and in the vicinity
of the Total North Gas Complex in the Apalit side of the North
Luzon Expressway, both in Pampanga province.
"As they are a common sight at the Candaba
Swamp, people assume they are migratory birds. They are actually
resident birds. The pheasant-tailed jacanas can be found in
other parts of the world such as India, Southeast Asia and
Taiwan," Lu said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Sightings of jacanas and other birds such
as the common moorhen and the barred rail near the gasoline
station on the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) prompted the
pit stop's developer, G-Star Ventures and Development Corp.,
to work with the WBCP and the Society for the Conservation
of the Philippine Wetlands Inc. to build a wetlands information
G-Star has set aside 163 square meters to
build the center and has allotted 1.5 hectares for a boardwalk
from which visitors can view the birds. The facilities will
be finished by the end of the year.
Launched on Sunday by Sen. Loren Legarda
and Gov. Eddie Panlilio, the project supports environmental
conservation efforts at the Candaba Swamp, a 36,000-hectare
marshland on the boundaries of Bulacan, Pampanga and Nueva
Ecija, according to Roger Quevedo, G-Star president.
Pheasant-tailed Jacana in Candaba Marsh
In the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) in January,
the WBCP and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(DENR) counted 12,613 birds out of 41 species in Candaba.
They included the pheasant-tailed jacana, the rare black-faced
spoonbill and pied avocet in the Do Simang and Paralaya portions
of the Candaba Swamp, giving new records for the Philippines.
The AWC is an annual program coordinated
by Wetlands International in the Netherlands, a global organization
that monitors the status of wetlands and waterbird populations.
Most of the birds were sighted in the 120-hectare fishpond
that the family of Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo has not cultivated
to provide a regular refuge for the birds. The local government
has banned bird poaching in the town.
The center will allow visitors to view or
learn more about the birds and their habitat, "proving
that it is possible to enjoy nature without harming the environment,"
said G-Star's Quevedo.