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Rare bird found in Candaba marsh

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 09:26:00 04/16/2009

Filed Under: Animals, Nature

The lone Sttreaked Reed-Warbler caught during the 2-week survey
The lone Sttreaked Reed-Warbler caught
during the 2-week survey

MANILA, Philippines—A joint Filipino-British team of ornithologists found a rare streaked reed-warbler (Acrocephalus sorghophilus) during a recently concluded survey of the Candaba Marsh in Pampanga province, according to the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP).

Michael Lu, WBCP president, said the streaked reed-warbler “is globally threatened” and was last seen at the Candaba Swamp eight years ago.

The small and inconspicuous species is a migrant from northeast Asia whose breeding grounds remain unknown to this day, according to Lu. It spends the winters exclusively in the Philippines.

Last year, a team from WBCP and the UK-based Wetland Trust surveyed the same area but did not find any streaked reed-warblers. The search, however, led to the discovery of the black-browed reed warbler (Acrocephalus bistrigiceps), which turned out to be the first on Philippine record.

Expedition member Jon Villasper extricating a bird from the mist-net
Expedition member Jon Villasper
extricating a bird from the mist-net

This year’s team, led by Briton Philip Round, a warbler expert based in Thailand, included WBCP researchers Carmela Espanola, Jonathan Villasper and Desmond Allen.

They surveyed reed beds in six sites in central and southern Luzon, using fine nylon mist nets. Despite catching and releasing a total of 235 birds, only one streaked reed-warbler was found—in a stand of reeds in Candaba.

In the early 1980s, the streaked reed-warbler was a common sight in Candaba in its preferred habitat of tall reeds by open water. In recent years, Lu said “its population declined almost to extinction due to habitat loss.”

In spite of having been nominated as an internationally important wetland site under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, less than 1 percent of Candaba’s original 32,000 hectares of mainly reed bed habitat remains. The rest have been converted to rice fields.

Indeed, the survey team experienced difficulty locating areas of extensive reed beds anywhere in Central Luzon.

Other birds caught, tagged and released included 84 resident clamorous reed-warblers (Acrocephalus stentoreus) and 57 other migrant warblers consisting of 48 oriental reed-warblers (Acrocephalus orientalis) and 9 Middendorf’s grasshopper-warbler (Locustella ochotensis).

Captured birds were fitted with an alloy bird band on one leg. Each band was stamped “DENR Manila” and had a unique identifying number. This was the first time that bands specifically made for the Philippines were used. All data of the species, dates and locations of the birds are lodged with DENR. This way, band numbers of birds later captured or found dead, if communicated to the DENR, will help plot the movements and life history of Philippine birds.

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