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Tambo Mudflats and Coastal Road

Plovers Everywhere and An Osprey or Two (A Trip to the Mudflats) by Ned Liuag

Location: Tambo Mudflats and Coastal Road, Manila Bay IBA
Date: February 2, 2003
by Ned Liuag & Mike LU

Mike Lu and I set off to explore the southern reaches of the Manila Bay reclamation area this morning 02 February hoping to locate a suitable site to replace the Bay City grasslands which is slated for bulldozing this month. We birded for three and half-hours under hazy to bright conditions with a total of 25 species observed.

We reached Coastal Mall at 6:30 and parked near the Building 1 loading dock. From there it was a short walk across Macapagal Boulevard and into the grassland beside the unfinished section of the shopping complex. Large swathes of the grassland had been partly cleared last month by grassfires, allowing better views of the habitat and easy going along paths. Already the grassland was regenerating, with the first shoots sprouting from the ashy covered ground.

The sun was just peering above the horizon and mist and smoke from cooking fires hung low in the grass. We followed a dirt track westward into the grass, moving parallel to the channel marked as Lagoon B in the CitiAtlas (Map 90) that separates the Public Estates Authority property and ASEANA Business Park. Here we encountered our first bird of the day; an ORIENTAL REED WARBLER perched on a reed near some scrub.

About 100 meters from Macapagal Boulevard, we took a steep narrow path leading to the water's edge. As we descended to the bank, we disturbed clouds of sand hoppers that launched themselves in the air with a crackling sound. It turns out we arrived as the tide was receding, leaving large sections exposed of the channel. From my recollection, CitiAtlas Map 90 does not provide an accurate picture of the Reclamation Area, since Lagoon B continues toward the bay, where it is blocked by a seawall.

In the sandbar directly across us and to our right, were over 20 plovers, mostly LITTLE RINGED PLOVERS, and a few MALAYSIAN and LESSER SAND-PLOVERS.Our presence also disturbed a COMMON SANDPIPER, which flew to a post on the opposite bank, offering us very good views. Our approach also flushed four LITTLE TERNS, distinguished by their small size and dark napes. While we were enjoying our views of the plovers, PACIFIC SWALLOWS and an occasional BARN SWALLOW would shoot past, occasionally dipping into the water to drink. A few moments later, Mike called my attention to a pair of LITTLE EGRETS flying far down the channel. As we watched the birds, we could hear voices down the track and spotted small groups of children and men following the dirt track to the bay to gather clams or catch fish. We decided to follow them and take a closer look at the egrets.

A flock of five plump birds burst from grass and landed on the fence, momentarily catching us off-guard. As we trained our binoculars and determined these to be EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS, visibly larger than their city-dwelling cousins, we missed the route taken by the foraging party and ran into a chain link fence. The fence separates the property from the extensive mud flats and mangrove remnants called Lagoon C with which Lagoon B is linked by a narrow channel. The track became a narrow path alongside the fence and disappeared into the tall grass still clung with dew. Along the track, we managed a single BRIGHT-CAPPED CISTICOLA, which announced its presence with its call.

As we proceeded deeper into the grassland, we found sections of the sandy path were at the high tide mark. As we looked for a way to approach the beach, we heard something plop into the water but could not locate the source. Further down, we found an opening in the fence and ventured close to the water, which was alive with fish. We were kind of hoping to find a way across but the water was still too deep and wading across wasn't an attractive idea. Next time we bird here, we should bring rubber boots.

Recon turned up more plovers than we cared to count and identify and the two Little Egrets we'd seen earlier. In the distance to the southeast, a line of shorefront houses inside the Marina Baytown enclave in Asia World City next to a ramshackle fishing village, offered a stark example of the vast gulf between the rich and poor in this country.

We returned to the path until the fence terminated at a hut and a sign that said No ID, No Entry. A woman at the hut hailed us and asked the purpose of our visit. She explained that the place was called "Floating Village" and that it was part of Tambo in Para-aque. A sign on one side of the hut announced that the community was organized as the Katipunan ng Mangingisda ng Tambo and listed the committees, among which we found a Livelihood Committee, the local Shore Patrol and one for Marine Conservation. Mike had to leave ID at the checkpoint and we realized the reason was that Floating Village was right in front of Marina. The villagers' bancas were beached right in front of the villas, with only one security guard to patrol the length of shore during the day.

As Mike and I walked across the mud flat, we could hear the calls of a homeowner's exotic avian collection. We hardly moved 10 meters, when we caught sight of four PURPLE HERONS circling in the air before these landed in the scrub thickets on the western edge of the Asia World City property. Our short visit there also turned up the first of several WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHERS and one clump of mangrove, which had survived the reclamation work.

On the way out, I asked which institution was running the livelihood project in the community, but the man at the entrance had no idea. He was, we learned, a guard assigned there by the Public Estates Authority. It turns out the entire area was still public land and was not expected to be developed for some time. He also said lots of seabirds and herons could be found along the path we had just taken. You could rent a boat in the village, he added. Which seemed like an interesting idea, except that the waterline was now 500 meters down, which meant you had to carry the banca some distance across the mud.

We went back down the path and entered the cut in the fence, hopped across the brook where we earlier saw the fish and went up the rise on the opposite bank. This spot afforded a 360-degree view of the bird area. The two Little Egrets were still in the flats searching for their meal, as were a pair of White-Collared Kingfishers and scores of Little Ringed, Kentish and Malaysian Plovers. The males of this last species were quite easy to spot.

We were scanning the horizon watching scores of terns milling offshore about one kilometer west of our position when a group of large birds came into view above the Asia World City property. Mike had seen one flock and called my attention to it. I was however already busy tracking another group and was also asking him to shift his focus there. Happily, both groups merged in flight resulting in a count of 25 birds, mostly RUFOUS NIGHT-HERONS with a handful of BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS mixed in. This is around one-tenth of the number reported in this area and close to a third the required number of Rufous Night-Herons congregating in one area for a particular site to be considered an Important Bird Area. Turning back to the landward side, we were lucky to observe at length a pair of CLAMOROUS REED WARBLERS in a thorny aroma shrub 10 meters below us.

Having satisfied our curiosity, we headed back to the main track. This time we followed the channel from inside the fence. Here we discovered the source of the plopping sound we heard during our hike to the Floating Village. Mike pointed to a migrant COMMON KINGFISHER sitting on a branch of a dead mangrove. As we walked past the remaining mangroves towards the main channel, the sight of a few seedlings sprouting in the mud buoyed my spirits. We explored one of the paths leading to the channel, where we hunkered down to watch more swallows, plovers and common sandpiper. Here, we also saw a single WHISKERED TERN venture up Lagoon B from the bay.

It was already 8:30 when we quit the grassland. On the way to the car, we came across another Oriental Reed Warbler, a Bright-Capped Cisticola, a BROWN SHRIKE, an occasional pair of ZEBRA DOVES in flight above the grass, and feral ROCK DOVES probably from the Tramo squadron.

We thought there was still time to visit the Coastal Road. Traffic was light and we reached the rundown restaurant complex shortly after. The tide was receding rapidly and from the bottom of the embankment we were able to count up to 55 GREY HERONS - these uncommon migrants stood hardly moving in the flats opposite the restaurants, a pair of INTERMEDIATE EGRETS and one White-Collared Kingfisher. We also added a flock of 22 Rufous Night-Herons and possibly Black-Crowned Night-Herons that landed in the scrub inside the Ital-Thai Construction area half a kilometer south of the restaurants. This flock however might contain the same birds Mike and I earlier saw above the Asian World City property.

We headed for the Ital-Thai Construction compound, which we had birded at high tide last November. The grass and scrub on the sides of the ditch and road had recently been cleared, but on the way in we easily spotted a pair of White-Collared Kingfishers in the small pond at the bend in the road.

The flats were as expected occupied by dozens of plovers and a few common sandpipers. A LITTLE HERON flew across the flats to cover inside the Ital-Thai Construction compound. While Mike was pointing this out for me, I had my binoculars trained on a pair of OSPREYS circling nearby. We watched the Ospreys as they patrolled the skies above the estuary, then turned to counting egrets, which included 8 Little and 12 Intermediate Egrets. We also added a Brown Shrike and three PIED FANTAILS in the scrub thickets.

As I finished writing this report tonight, I found out that today is International Wetlands Day.


Species List:
1. Purple Heron - 4 in Marina Baytown in Asia World City
2. Grey Heron - 55 in mud flats 100+ meters from rundown restaurants off Coastal Road Intermediate Egret - 2 in mud flats off rundown restaurants, 12 in flats outside Ital-Thai
3. Little Egret - 2 in Lagoon C mud flats, 8 in flats off Coastal Road outside Ital-Thai area
4. Rufous Night-Heron - 20+ above Asia World City
5. Black-Crowned Night-Heron - about 3 to 5 in flock above Asia World City
6. Little Heron - single in estuary flats outside Ital-Thai construction area
7. Osprey - 2 above flats outside Ital-Thai construction area
8. Little Ringed Plovers - Common throughout
9. Malaysian Plover - Few in all sites
10. Lesser Sand-Plover - Few in all sites
11. Common Sandpiper - Singles in all sites
12. Whiskered Tern - 1 in Lagoon B off ASEANA Business Park
13. Little Tern - 4 flushed from Lagoon B off ASEANA Business Park
14. Common Kingfisher - 1 in Tambo brook off Lagoon C
15. Zebra Dove - Pairs in flight in PEA grassland off Coastal Mall
16. Feral Rock Dove - Up to 10 seen in Tambo over Lagoon C mudflats and surrounding area
17. White-Collared Kingfisher - 3 in Tambo Floating Village mud flats, 1 off restaurants in Coastal Road, 2 in Ital-Thai
18. Barn Swallow - Singles around Lagoon B off ASEANA Business Park
19. Pacific Swallow - Pairs in Lagoon B off ASEANA Business Park
20. Clamorous Reed Warbler - 1 in Reclamation Area grassland, 2 in Tambo grassland
21. Oriental Reed Warbler - 1 in scrub off channel bordering ASEANA Business Park
22. Bright-Capped Cisticola - 2 in PEA Reclamation Area grassland
23. Pied Fantail - 3 in scrub thicket outside Ital-Thai area
24. Brown Shrike - 1 in PEA Reclamation Area grassland, 1 in scrub outside Ital-Thai
25. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - 5 on fence in confluence of Lagoons B and C

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