By Rommel Ramos
Punto! Central Luzon
Apr 20, 2009
MALOLOS CITY—Unabated conversion of
the country’s wetlands into agriculture production areas,
like the 32,000-hectare Candaba Swamp, slowly deny migratory
birds of needed habitat, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
Michael Lu of the WBCP made this assessment
at the conclusion of a two-week exploration in Central Luzon
for the rare Streaked Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus sorghophilus)
where they only found one specie bird.
The small and inconspicuous Streaked Reed-Warbler
is a migrant from Northeast Asia whose breeding grounds remain
unknown to this day, and spends the winters exclusively here
in the Philippines.
Lu said that a joint Filipino-British team
of ornithologists surveyed reed beds at six sites in Central
and Southern Luzon using fine nylon mist nets. They caught
The exploration team caught only one Streaked Reed-Warbler
in a stand of reeds in Candaba.
Other species caught and later released were 84 resident
Clamorous Reed-Warblers (Acrocephalus stentoreus) and 57 other
migrant warblers (48 Oriental Reed-Warblers Acrocephalus orientalis
and nine Middendorf’s Grasshopper-Warbler Locustella
A number of other species, including three
species of bitterns, a few Siberian Rubythroats, Striated
Grassbirds and Brown Shrikes and lots of the common Yellow-vented
Bulbul were also caught.
In the early 1980s, ornithologists found
the Streaked Reed-Warbler to be common in Candaba in its preferred
habitat of tall reeds by open water.
“Mayor Jerry Pelayo, who supported
the exploration, has taken useful steps to protect birds and
promote birdwatching at Candaba,” said Lu noting that,
“there may be other Streaked Reed-Warblers out there
somewhere, but they are clearly very few and far between.
Our main concern is that the population is declining to extinction
due to habitat loss.”
The Candaba Swamp has been nominated as an
internationally important wetland site under the Ramsar (Wetland)
But Lu said that only one percent of Candaba
Swamp’s original 32,000 hectare land area remain as
reed bed habitat.
The rest has been converted to rice fields,
thus, the exploration team had difficulty in locating areas
of extensive reed beds anywhere in Central Luzon.
The exploration team was led by a Briton,
Philip Round, a warbler expert based in Thailand, who was
accompanied by WBCP researchers Carmela Espanola, Jonathan
Villasper and Desmond Allen.
Caught birds were fitted with an alloy bird
band on one leg. Each band was stamped “DENR Manila”
and bears a unique identifying number.
This is the first time that bands specifically
made for the Philippines have been used. All data of the species,
dates and locations of the birds are lodged with DENR.
In this way the band numbers of the birds
later captured or found dead, if communicated to DENR, will
help elucidate the movements and life history of Philippine
Lu said aside from the Streaked Reed-Warbler,
the team also found a single Black-browed Reed-Warbler, a
common winter visitor to mainland South East Asia which breeds
widely in China and in South East Russia. It was previously
recorded to have visited the Philippines only once.
The survey was initiated and funded by the
Wetland Trust, and organized by the WBCP with the collaboration
of the DENR-PAWB and with the help of local municipalities
He called on not only for the protection of wetland but for
its conservation as it serves as migratory birds’ habitat.