April 10 to 12, 2003
Kalayaan is an hour's drive from Los Baños and Tibanglan,
a hilly village where I spent two nights (April 10-12), can
be reached after an hour's hike. The trail to Tibanglan is
easy going during the dry season. The site is at the southernmost
tip of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. The hills as far as
my eyes can see are covered in green although many areas in
the immediate vicinity are planted to coconut and other agricultural
crops. The most pressing environmental issue in this upland
district is carabao logging. As early as 6:00 am, four carabaos
towing four logs each were seen passing our small cottage.
The procession continued throughout the day with different
groups of carabaos passing at about an hour's interval each.
The trails where carabaos pass everyday with the precious
hard wood cargo have become very deep and narrow channels
filled with water. Near the foot of the mountain, I counted
around a hundred logs 7 ft long and at least 30 cm in diameter
stacked and waiting for distribution in the black market.
I felt appalled at the rate at which the loggers were draining
the lifeblood of the forest. One can hardly blame them. Trees
are a source of fast cash to these people. When the military
campaign against the NPAs (New People's Army) started in the
district, people gained access into the hinterlands. Kaingin
or slash-and-burn farming became the most prevalent form of
agriculture. I have nothing against utilizing the resources
of the forest to feed people. For centuries people have done
shifting cultivation without adverse impacts on the environment.
It is my conviction that there is a way of harvesting the
produce of the forest without taking too much from what belongs
to the future generation.
My friend Liza Dans whose family owns 75 hectares in this
village invited a mutual friend Renee and I to check out their
farm. Liza has plans to offer a nature trek and birdwatching
adventure package at a reasonable fee with most of the proceeds
going to the rehabilitation of the area. The project hopes
to involve local hunters and loggers for field guides. Recently
the Dans family established a tree nursery for the community.
We are thinking that if the people commit themselves to planting
fast growing trees they will be able to harvest these in ten
years. This we hope will ease the pressure on the dwindling
resources of the forest. Garbage segregation and composting
is being practiced in the farm and this supports lush vegetable
gardens that are productive throughout the year. We are hoping
that the community will learn to plant their own vegetable
gardens in their own backyards. It is our dream that they
will become self-sufficient and will contribute to the rehabilitation
of their forest. While there, I visited the local elementary
school to check the venue for our planned conservation education
campaign. My bird watching jaunt was limited because we had
work to do in the farm.
The following are the birds that I have personally heard or
seen. Some of the calls that were not familiar to me and were
identified by the local hunters.
1. White-eared Brown-dove "Bato-bato" - heard only
with call similar to a Coucal's coo but faster. The call was
identified by a hunter.
2. White-collared Kingfisher (2) - seen perched on a tree
in an open area.
3. Coucal "Sabokot" - seen flying away and alighting
on a thicket in the middle of a cultivated area. It's most
probably a Lesser Coucal with call a descending series of
coos/hoots. Ng' Zaldy, a local hunter, taught me the call
using my hands.
4. Philippine Eagle-Owl (at least 3) - heard only with call
a loud, long, wailing woooh or hoooo believed to be a harbinger
of bad luck.
5. Philippine Frogmouth "Kuwao" - heard only with
call identified by the local hunter
6. Nightjar "Tagkaro" (at least 10) - it was already
dark when they came out swooping low after insects so I wasn't
able to identify which species it was.
7. Yellow-vented Bulbul - many seen in small trees bordering
8. Philippine Bulbul - many seen and heard along the trail
9. White-browed Shama - heard only along trail in a dense
10. Elegant Tit (3) - seen along the trail and looking rather
fat for tits (breeding?).
11. Tailorbird - many heard but not seen along the trail in
a partially covered secondary forest
12. Blue-headed Fantail (2) - seen along a ridge in a nice
patch of secondary forest. They respond positively to "pishing"
by coming closer to investigate.
13. Black-naped Oriole (1) - seen among coconut trees near
the rice paddies.
14. Balicassiao (3) - first heard its distinctive musical
calls then seen flitting from branch to branch.
15. Large-billed Crow (2) - seen flying while making its harsh
16. Brown Shrike (1) - seen sallying for insects from atop
a large rock in a clearing.
17. Bicolored Flowerpecker (1) - also seen feeding on Jade
Vine flowers; the mate was probably hiding nearby. I first
thought it was a Buzzing Flowerpecker but the distribution
was off. The color was white on the underparts and dark brown/black
on the back.
18. Purple-throated Sunbird (2) - seen feeding on a flowering
19. Lowland White-eye (5) - flock was seen flying off to a
small tree across a creek.
I heard more than I have seen but my birdcall vocabulary is
not that good. I believe there are a number of owl species
in the area since there were several different kinds of hoots
and wooos heard that were softer and faster than that of the
Philippine Eagle-Owl. Residents also informed me that Tarictic
hornbills are sometimes seen feeding on large fig trees in
the area. I'm inviting birders, biologists, and nature enthusiasts
to come and support the conservation effort in Tibanglan.
For more information, please contact Michael Lu at email@example.com.