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Surprises in the Manila Bay Reclamation Area Part 2

South Reclamation Area, Asia World City and Coastal Road
Location: Tambo, Parañaque
Date: May 25, 2003
Time: 9:00 am to 10:00 am
Weather: Overcast skies, scattered drizzles
Mike Lu, Jon Villasper and Ned Liuag

From the Manila Film Palace, we decided there was still time to reconnoiter the site behind the Coastal Mall in Tambo, Parañaque. (Ref CitiAtlas Map 90)

It threatened to rain when we arrived at the edge of the grassland surrounding the unfinished Coastal Mall extension building on Macapagal Boulevard. As we walked to the channel called Lagoon B, we encountered saw a TAWNY GRASSBIRD, a solitary ZEBRA DOVE, a small flock of CHESTNUT MUNIAS in the grass and two PACIFIC SWALLOWS on the wing.

The tide was rushing up the channel at a fast rate and though we were hoping for some over-wintering birds, perhaps a tern or two, the migrants had long returned to their northern breeding grounds.

The sun had emerged from behind the screen of clouds and several youths and men were on the trail to the bay carrying fishing rods and picnic lunches. Taking the right-hand fork in the trail we followed the narrow path along the bank of Lagoon B. Our attention was drawn to the piping call of what might have been a plover in the ASEANA Business Park grassland across the channel. Scanning the opposite bank of the channel, we were unable to get a good view of the source of the call but were rewarded with the sight of two raptors patrolling low over the grassland some 150 meters from our position.

The pair had slender bodies and long pointed wings which they flapped in between glides. Using a pair of 8 x 40 binoculars with uncoated lenses, the upper parts seemed dark grey to me. Mike, who was using a 7 x 35, and Jon a 10 x 40 -- both with coated lenses -- said the upper parts were brown. The flight pattern was not like the direct, powerful, piston-like manner of a Peregrine Falcon nor the buoyant and hovering wing beats of a Eurasian Kestrel, which has been seen hunting in the South Reclamation Area. The wings were sharply angled during glides.

Both birds had long, narrow tails, which neither flared during the time they were in sight. I was observing the one hanging around the western side of the grassland. The rump and tail on this one seemed white in the direct sun, and I noticed a dark bar when it turned. The under parts appeared white without any visible streaks or bars. I looked at the silhouettes for the North American Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus in the Sibley Guide and found the general impression and shape similar. So I thought these might have been immature birds of either the resident Pied or the migrant Eastern Marsh Harrier.

While we were watching the mystery raptors, another dark shape came flying across the grassland towards the channel. As the distance between the bird and us closed it turned out to be a LITTLE HERON. We would encounter three more of this species in the mangrove and aroma thicket located along the channel that branches off Lagoon B. The depth of the water was such that fording it on foot was impractical requiring a makeshift raft to reach the opposite bank.

Around the edges of the thicket, we heard a GOLDEN-BELLIED GERYGONE singing but could not get closer because of the fast rising tide. We also spotted the first YELLOW BITTERNS of the trip as it flew for cover. Mike remarked that he and visiting Canadian birdwatcher Todd Pepper had come across bitterns in the same area during their visit here in March.

Still at the edge of the thicket, we had the luck of spotting a single
RUFOUS NIGHT HERON flying south high above the Tambo mudflats. From our position, we could see that a large section of the scrub in the Asia World City property had been cleared during the dry season, robbing the herons of their roosting place.

We decided to call it a day when the heat became unbearable. Moving back down the trail a tern-like shape came flying up from Lagoon B. The bird had olive-brown upper-parts and a white rump. The color of the head and breast were also olive-brown (like the dark plumage on the Common Sandpiper) and the belly seemed white. Mike and Jon noticed a forked tail. The bird disappeared south in the Asia World City property. The solitary bird spotted fits the shape and plumage of an ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE.

On our way back, our approach to the main trail flushed a Little Heron and a Yellow Bittern in the channel off Lagoon B. The team also encountered a ZITTING CISTICOLA flying in the grassland.

We ended the birding day with exquisite views of a Yellow Bittern flying serenely across Lagoon B. We watched the bittern coming across the water before it landed in a dried bush on the bank. We had nice close-ups of the bird, whose colors easily blended with the dull landscape.

Tambo Grassland and Mangrove Thicket BIRDLIST:
1. Little Heron (4) - Flying in the vicinity of Lagoon B or flushed near mangrove thicket
2. Rufous Night Heron (1) - Flying south above mudflats
3. Yellow Bittern (4) - In Lagoon B, others flushed near mangrove thicket
4. Harrier spp (2) - Possibly immature Pied or Eastern Marsh Harrier, seen coursing low over ASEANA Business Park property
5. Oriental Pratincole (1) - Seen in flight over branch of Lagoon B
6. Zebra Dove - 1 in the grassland
7. Pacific Swallow (2) - In grassland
8. Golden-Bellied Gerygone (1) - Heard singing in vicinity of mangrove thicket
9. Tawny Grassbird (1) - Very vocal and conspicuous
10. Zitting Cisticola - Several in the short grass
11. Eurasian Tree Sparrow - Several
12. Chestnut Munia (3+) - edge of the grassland near Macapagal Boulevard