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

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City slickers take to bird watching in Metro Manila

By Jessica Santiago
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Dressed in light-colored shirts to blend in with their surroundings, they prowl around Metro Manila in search of their prey.

But members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) do not trap or kill the game they spot. Instead, they hone in on their targets, not with guns but with binoculars and cameras.

Founded in 2003, the club has been taking city slickers on a bird watching adventure within Metro Manila to help them develop an appreciation for nature and its feathered residents.

“One of the club’s main objectives is to raise awareness about bird watching and we do this through guided trips,” said Jops Josef, a government employee and WBCP member since 2007.

“Bird watching is relaxing and is a good chance to escape from the stresses of the day,” said Ned Liuag, a marketing manager at a Makati bank and one of the group’s founding members.

For Liuag, bird watching is like being away from the city but without leaving it. By putting on a bird watcher’s binoculars and walking among the trees, a person can become “one with nature.”

The thrill of the chase was also part of the bird-watching experience: walking as quietly as possible so as not to scare your prey, shooting them with a camera for posterity and recognizing each bird call.

“It’s like hunting but without the blood,” he said.

For the first-timer, spotting birds with binoculars and identifying their calls can be difficult.

At times, the birds may be a no-show. Should this happen, Liuag has this advice: “The point is to feel the ground beneath your feet and hear the rustling of the grass.”

He noted that people can get too preoccupied with their binoculars that they forget to do what they came for in the first place—watch the birds.

Bird watching is about learning how the birds live, how they fly and how they look; people do not always need binoculars or scopes to do that, Liuag said.

Part of the experience is also seeing “lifers,” representatives of a bird species a person sees for the first time.

Josef said there are 600 species of birds in the Philippines and spotting even one kind for the first time is something to remember because the longer someone goes bird watching, the fewer the species that can be spotted.

Still, Josef said the activity does not depend on the number of lifers one can find in one trip: “It’s about being proud of all the species we have in the Philippines and enjoying what we have.”

The WBCP is still giving guided bird trips for the remainder of summer between 5:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. or between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

One of the sites they are offering this season is the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecoutourism Area along Coastal Road, declared a critical habitat by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on April 27, 2007, through Proclamation No. 1412.

The club also offers trips to the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, and Mt. Palay-Palay in Cavite.

Those interested can schedule a guided trip in groups of at least five through WBCP’s official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BirdwatchPhilippines or send an e-mail to jjosef@gmail.com.