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South Reclamation Area

Return to the Grasslands by Mike Lu
South Reclamation Area

Date: January 19, 2003

Birders !

Late Saturday night I decided that I had to go birding the following day even without a buddy :) ... So, at 6.15 am Sunday the moon was still up there and a cold breeze was blowing, as I got into my car and headed for the grasslands in the reclamation area. In less than half an hour, I was training my binocs on a lone LITTLE EGRET manning the muddy island in the waterway behind the Church . The grassy lot has been cut down leaving the barbed wire fence exposed. The banks across has been dumped with a fresh load of sand, proof that constructions would soon start on that portion of the Aseana Business Park. Apparently it was low tide and the mud islands had surfaced and supposed to be good birding time. A slight movement on the rocky banks further down turned out to be a fat brown stray cat eyeing something in the waters. I thought the feline presence meant there would not be much birdlife left but my birding instinct told me to wait a while more. Soon enough the birds revealed themselves. Two tiny plovers

were scurrying about. Further down I could see a LITTLE HERON in a tidal pool in the middle of the island. A tiny bird that flew by and perched on a bamboo pole turned out to be a migrant COMMON KINGFISHER. At that time, the view from my binoculars contained all 4 mentioned species ! Just then a melodious call from above made me look up to see a pair of BLUE-ROCK THRUSH. The male with its hazy blue body was perched on a lower ledge while the female with its spotted chest was on the roof. They probably were protesting my presence behind the church and promptly flew away. The church facade had the usual ROCK DOVES & EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS, but no CRESTED MYNAHS today.

I thought I better make time for the grassland birds and drove my car to the farthest end of what will soon be the Mall of Asia. I scared off a SPOTTED DOVE but it kept on landing just a few feet in front of my car. This proves that birds are less wary of humans inside moving vehicles. Later on I also birded a BRIGHT-CAPPED ZISTICOLA from my vehicle as it perched on a grass stalk.

Reaching my destination, I could see there was much human activity along the promenade. PACIFIC SWALLOWS were flying about, tracing circles in the air. Just then a flock of CHESTNUT MUNIAS alighted on the flowering grasslands in front of me .... I counted over 30 ! Probably the juveniles I saw last time with Mads had grown up ! Two noisy STRIATED GRASSBIRDS tried to outcall each other. Not much bird activity so I headed for the seaside promenade to catch a glimpse of the seabirds. However there was NO bird activity in the calm Manila Bay waters - not a single tern ! As I walked back to the main avenue, I could see a dark figure flying from the direction of Roxas Blvd. The shape grew bigger until I realized it was a PURPLE HERON flying with slow, deliberate flaps as it disappeared towards the direction of Corregidor. This bird is definitely larger than the resident heron at the Manila Zoo. Two BROWN SHRIKES were chattering loudly when I noticed there were a few fisherman in the seawall right behind the Senate building.

I went back into the grasslands, and flushed out a pair of ZEBRA DOVES.

This time however Ned's so-called 'Wait-A-Minute' vines lashed out on my exposed legs. Compared to the amorseco's prickly ball of thorns, this vine should have been called the Cinturon ni Judas. The brown blades were covered with fine spikes. When I reached the top of the bridge that span across another waterway, I had to stop and pick off the spikes that got embedded in my legs now bruised with tiny specks of blood. Birding from the bridge, I could see 3 dazzling WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHER and 4 COMMON SANDPIPER in the muddy riverbeds. I went for a short walk and discovered that I could actually walk along the uneven seawall all the way to the back of the Film Center where we first birded months ago. It's a dangerous trek but not entirely impossible :) Not much birds here except 3 YELLOW-VENTED BULBULS to add to the birdlist. Aside from the grasslands behind the Coastal Mall, we probably could explore this strip of land further next time.

We better make it soon too. I spoke with a security guard and he confirmed that promenaders are only allowed from 5am until 8am. The contractors will start to move in by February, diggings are scheduled for February 16. In answer to my query regarding bird observations, he relates that during the daytime, one can only see the small birds but at night "malalaking ibon" would come and go inside the "bundok" - referring to the heavily-vegetated mound that Christian tried to venture in but was prevented by the sinking sands. The "malalaking ibon" were scary enough for some of the security guards. I was almost tempted to say that I wanted to come back at night and wait for the arrival of the birds. :)

1. Little Egret -1
2. Little Heron - 1
3. Common Kingfisher -1
4. Blue Rock Thrush -2, male and female
5. Spotted Dove - 1
6. Bright-Capped Cisticola - 1
7. Chestnut Munia - 30+
8. Pacific Swallow - common
9. Striated Grassbird - 2
10. Purple Heron -1
11. Brown Shrike - 2
12. Zebra Dove-2
13. White-Collared Kingfisher -3
14. Common Sandpiper - 4
15. Yellow-Vented Bulbul -3

There were actually 2 species of plovers but I could not make a positive ID and hence decided not to include them in my list..

The South Reclamation Area is the future site of SM's Mall of Asia, projected to become Asia's largest mall. Excavation work started in mid-February 2003 and passersby are not allowed in the area.

Hopefully the migratory birds have left and the residents have flown to the adjacent lots.