day before the actual birding activity, I went to the UP Arboretum
to do "reconnaissance birding" and to ask permission from security
guards protecting the area. It was actually my first visit to theArboretum
in my 9-year stay at UP. To make this event more memorable I decided
to cross the 6-lane Commonwealth Avenue instead of using the overpass.
After asking permission, I was warned by the guards about the illegal
settlers who began arriving last month near the Hydraulics Center.
After they were driven away from the area, they established a new
community Near Area 2 (see attached map) where several blue tents
can be seen at present. The threat of the illegal settlers to disrupt
peace and order in the community was the very reason why Mads did
not post the activity in the e-groups.
I go to my birding report, I would like to share some information
about the UP Arboretum taken from the article "Shattered Sanctuary"
by Mr. Jo Florendo Lontoc:
Before UP took control of the UP Arboretum in the 1960s, the area
was the tree nursery of the government's Forestry Administration
Agency. A survey conducted in 1997 revealed that as much as 5,000
trees are spread on the 12-hectare land, consisting of more than
170 species. In 1997, UP documents referred to the Arboretum as
the "only natural rainforest in Metro Manila". This distinction
was bestowed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
because of its diverse flora and fauna, enough rainfall to sustain
life and that "it doesn't need reforestation since the trees are
growing naturally and surviving on their own". This distinction
was contested by some people, since the trees were planted by man
and that the annual rainfall is less than 100 inches to classify
it as a rainforest. The confusion doesn't stop here. Inside the
Arboretum is an abandoned open dumpsite where the UP Community used
to dump its garbage.
census conducted several years ago reported the presence of 258
families at the Arboretum, including the squatters who began building
their homes in the early 1980s. With the increasing number of illegal
settlers in the area, so do the number of trees relentlessly cut
down for residential space and the complexity of the issues hounding
this endangered sanctuary.
March 8 (Saturday) Mads, Luan and Allan
Birding time: 7:00 9:00 am
asking permission (again) from the guard and telling them what we
are to do, Mads, Luan and I went to the nearest possible birding
area designated in the map as Area 1, a topographic low (depression)
compared to the surrounding area. Area 1 is hidden from the main
road by large trees and is traversed by a stream in the middle section,
which is planted with "gabi" and other root crops. Following the
trail from the main road, we started to search the area of birds.
The first bird that we saw was an unidentified dovespecies, which
Luan saw perched on a leafless tree with an ear lobe- shaped fruit.
After minutes of observing the bird and looking at bird books for
identification, we finally gave up. Going towards the central portion
of Area 1, we encountered bulbuls, brown shrikes and pied fantails.
Pied fantails, to my surprise, are very common in the Arboretum.
Children in the community call fantails as "paypay", obviously due
to its tail movements. In the central portion, among the leafless
trees, I noticed something unusual. We were about 50m away, but
the form is unmistakable I am looking at a very big bird.
identified the bird as a black-crowned night heron! The heron's
camouflage was perfect, blending well with the trees. After staying
for a few minutes admiring the heron's beauty, we went out of the
trail and proceeded to Area 2, which is near the area being claimed
by the illegal settlers. Area 2 is some sort of a botanical garden
that doubles as a tree nursery. Unfortunately, we were not able
to observe any birds in the area. For whatever reason this could
be, your guess is as good as mine.
Going out of Area 2, we followed the road towards Area 3, which
is near the former dumpsite. In this area, common birds includebulbuls,
fantails, brown shrikes and lots and lots of sparrow. Luan saw an
olive-backed sunbird and I saw a white-collared kingfisher.Mads
pointed to us a grey wagtail. This reminded me of the unidentified
bird we saw a few weeks before at the MSI-Math-Science area. Other
birds observed in the area include purple needle tail andbarn swallow.
Near Area 3, across the main road, we saw arcticwarblers.
Going out of the main road again, we went further andencountered
a community where not much trees are left. Despite this,
we saw white-collared kingfishers larger in size than the ones observed
in the MSI-Math-Science area. These kingfishers, we learned from
the kids, are being hunted by their elders. From here, we walkedback
to where we have started thinking about the future of the birds
in the Arboretum. We ended our birding at McDonalds PHILCOA
Madsand Luan ate fried chicken for breakfast. (",)
March 11 (Tuesday) Allan, Hillel and Xsa
Birding time: 6:00 8:30 am
NIGS Group went back to the Arboretum to conduct mapping, birding
and at the same time to interview people regarding the present situation
in the area. We were disheartened by what we've heard the
illegal settlers are now cutting trees in Area 2. Because of limited
time, we only visited Area 1 and portions of Area3. We did not saw
the heron in Area 1, but we saw 2 pairs of barred rails. Just like
the previous birding, we observed fantails, bulbuls, brown shrikes,
sparrows and arctic warblers.
BIRD LIST(March 9, March 11):
Black-crowned night heron 1 -
2. Brown shrike 3 2
3. Grey wagtail 1 -
4. Olive-backed sunbird 1 -
5. Arctic warbler 2 1
6. White-collared kingfisher 3 2
7. Purple needletail 1 -
8. Pied fantail 10 5
9. Yellow vented bulbul 3 5
10. Sparrow common common
11. Barn swallow 1 -
12. Barred rail - 4