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Pampanga River Birding
by Gil Dy-Liacco

Date: October 11, 2003
Time: 1230-1830.
Pampanga- Basak- Guagua River from Apalit to river mouth that drains in Manila Bay and back
Annette Tamino, Arne Jensen, Mike Lu & Gil Dy-Liacco
Birdlist and notes by Arne Jensen

The Pampanga River Cruise is the second of two birding activities which Haribon Foundation organized on a day trip to Pampanga on October 11, the first being morning birding at the Candaba Swamp.

After what seemed like an interminable drive from the Candaba Swamp through Bulacan porvince and re-entering Pampanga, our convoy of five vans arrived at the Rio Grande Riverboat Terminal in Barangay Sulipan, Municipality of Apalit. We had an early lunch of fried Tilapia, steamed okra fruit and sweet potato leaves, a rice cake called pichi-pichi, rice, fermented shrimp paste (bagoong) and fermented rice (buro), which buro connoisseurs found very good.

Then, it was time to get on the boats for the river cruise. There were two houseboats with two decks each and two smaller boats. The organizers assigned me to one of the houseboats, and I found myself a nice lounging chair on the second deck. It was a leisurely and pleasant cruise, with pleasant weather to boot. Starting from the Apalit municipality, the cruise passed by several river towns, ending with the mouth of the river at Manila Bay. The brochure said the mouth of the river is near the village where Tarik Soliman, the first Luzon warrior to resist the Spaniards in 1571, was born. Mike Lu says he suggested this eco-tour when he learned of the river cruise from the Heritage Society, of which he is also a member.

The other houseboat and one of the smaller boats developed engine trouble and we had to wait for them at the mouth of the river. Our own houseboat's engine also stopped for a while. We were not sure what to expect. Initially, our cruise guide pointed out the squatter community under the Apalit bridge, which some of the participants found amusing that that was of interest. But as we went down river, we began to see birds: first, terns, then shrikes and pied fantails, then a few egrets. A little further down, we also saw white-collared kingfishers, bee-eaters and little herons, and finally as we approached the mouth of the river, easily hundreds of intermediate egrets, great egrets, purple herons and terns and more. Arne has carefully documented the bird life in the list below.

Little Egrets

As a final note, if the cruise down river was leisurely, it was excruciatingly slow (pardon the cliché) going upriver, and we got back to the terminal well after sunset to another meal of steamed veggies, rice and maya-maya . But it was well worth the trip.

1. Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
2. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 4
3. Great Egret Egretta alba 50
4. Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 1000+
5. Little Egret Egretta garzetta 350 White Egrets sp. 1000 (intermediate)
6. Little Green Heron Butorides striatus 6
7. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis 4
8. Asian Golden-plover Pluvialus fulva 3
9. Common Redshank Tringa totanus 5
10. Common Greenshank Tringa guttifer 5
11. Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
12. Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis 1
13. White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus 10+
14. Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus 2,000+ Sterna sp 3,000
15. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata 32
16. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 4
17. White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris 5
18. Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis 10
19. Barn Swallow Alcedo atthis 100+
20. Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis 1
21. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus goiavier 1
22. Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica 2
23. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 5
24. Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 4


For larger numbers of terns and egrets the figures are rough counts and estimates not intended to present exact figures. Minimum 1,400 Egrets observed at high tide roosts in remaining mangrove forest at the southern banks of river mouth. Largely all terns were concentrated in the river mouth, around the tidal areas north of the river and in adjacent larger fish ponds under construction.

Several new fish ponds were under constructions, mangroves were being cut, in-migration with new settlements under establishments and larger reclaimed areas and areas under reclamation apparently guarded/owned by local business entrepreneurs.