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New Discoveries by Taguig Lakeshore

Date: 31st July 2005
Place: Hagonoy Pumping Station, Barrio Hagonoy, Taguig
Time: 7:00 A.M - 9:00 A.M.

Birders: Maritess Cervero, Gerry De Villa, Mike Lu, Alex Tiongco

Trip report by Alex Tiongco
Bird list by Mike Lu

Osprey Osprey

The expedition to explore the Laguna Lake dike along Taguig for a possible alternative birding area pushed through as planned on 31st July 2005.

The group met promptly at 6 A.M at Fort Bonifacio. At the briefing there, Prop Gerry advised that we were aiming for the Hagonoy pumping station, and that in order not to waste time at getting lost, we should follow the familiar jeepney routes which would lead us to the dikes. As the group was leaving, a pied triller gave out a call as if wishing the group good luck.

It was a sign of better things to come.

As we crossed the bridge over the C-5, we were on high ground. The sky was almost cloudless but the light amber haze that usually hung over Metro-Manila was laden with mist. It was not going to be a clear day.

The jeepney route was narrow and tortuous but we made it to the pumping station after about 40 minutes and one false stop. We turned left from the main road onto a winding dirt road a few segments of which were heavily muddy. Mike's car threatened to get stuck twice in the mud but made it through. We were not so lucky coming back as Mike's car did indeed get stuck and Prop Jerry & I helped by giving the car a nudge to get it off the mud).

We climbed the watch tower of the pumping station and saw that the lake was a sheer carpet of water-lilies, hyacinth, water cabbage and kangkong with only patches of coffee-colored water. It was indeed a good birding ground for waterbirds but the sun was in our eyes. Although we noticed a lot of bird movements they were all silhouetted against the sun and the heavy mist made sighting the birds illusory.

At one point Prop Jerry identified saw a black bittern perched on a bamboo stump. Mike thought it was a little heron. We searched in vain for the tell tale yellow streak running up its neck. Was it there? Was it not? The mist and the sun made it impossible to tell.

Finally, Mike and Prop Jerry decided that the watchtower was not a good place to bird in the morning as it faced the bright morning sun. I found out later on that Mike also found the guard railings dangerously low for his tall frame. He felt that the scope and himself were in constant danger of toppling over into the lake. At 4'11" Maritess and myself were closer to the earth and did not have that problem.

We left the tower, walked along the dike and saw an Osprey winging by towards the west. Barn Swallows wore their distinctive necklaces and Pacific Swallows went without them. Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns provided us with a wonderful aerial show, displaying their almost luminous colors in the early morning light.

"There are more bitterns here than Eurasian Tree Sparrows" said Prop Jerry.

Amid the green carpet Mike noticed that there were no reeds growing on the lake.

"There should be reeds here in order to provide a habitat for reed birds" Mike said.

"Yeah, if you plant them, they will come." said Maritess in a low solemn voice.

"Anu yan Field of Dreams?" said Alex.

Clamorous Reed-warbler
Clamorous Reed-warbler
A Zitting Cisticola flitted by silently in front of Prop Jerry. Then a Clamorous Reed-warbler darted away. It was not warbling nor was it clamorous. Is it because it does not have a reed to stand on?

It was decided that the group should go further into the lake onto a covered platform. To get there we must hire some boats. Prop Jerry made arrangements and he got into a small flat boat. Maritess, Mike and myself got into a narrow dugout with no outriggers.

The dugout ride proved to be extremely thrilling. The boat rhythmically swayed from side to side at each stroke of the boatman's pole. At each sway, lake water, coffee-colored with the consistency of thin chocolate toddy threatened to swamp the boat. We were all hanging on to dear life. The scope attempted to jump overboard during one of the unusually heavy sways. I dared not attempt to save it fearing that any abrupt movement from me would capsize the boat. (Mike, between my life and your scope, I choose to save your life.) We made it safe to the platform. Both my shoes and socks were wet and sticky with lake water.

Common Moorhen
Common Moorhen

At this time, the mist had mercifully lifted and the sun was at its fullest. It was serious birding time.

We spotted a very very tiny heron with no tail, perched on the side of the thin bamboo pole. We could not make out what it was. Maritess said it was a very Little Heron. Indeed it was. There are such things as Little Herons. Mike said it was an immature Little Heron.

Maritess saw a bird disappear into a clump of hyacinth as it swam. "I see a small duck!" She enthused."If it's small, it must be panduck!" I joked. Mike was not amused as he trained his scope into the direction.

Then a bird appeared from the clump as it swam majestically towards us. It was a Common Moorhen. It looked so elegant as it glided on its own reflection on the water. It was like two birds swimming in harmony, one upright, the other, inverse.

"It looks like two hens mating" I mused. Mike was not amused.

A pair of White-breasted Waterhens sunned themselves by flapping their wings in rhythm close to the base of the platform. They were so close, there was no need to use binoculars to see them clearly.

To the delight of Prop Jerry, there were indeed Black Bitterns around! The yellow streaks running up their necks were quite evident now. These had never been sighted within Metro Manila! Mike had his scope on one black bittern, when what should peek into the scoped area?

It had big triangular red beak at the tip of its big head at the end of a grayish, redish blue neck!

It was a Purple Swamphen!

The explorers had a double whammy for the day!

Then Prop Jerry saw a second one to the west, and then a third one in its finest glory, full bodied, sunning and preening itself on top of some hyacinth!

"With its big head and awkward plump body, it looks like a small Dodo bird!" said Maritess.

Maritess can be quite dramatic but we hope she is not prophetic. We do not want this beautifully awkward looking bird to go the way of the dodo. According to Mike, the Purple Swamphen for the last few years in Candaba until early this year.

Prop Jerry and Mike also recalled that long ago and far away, Laguna de Bay teemed with Pelicans. These are said to be now extinct in the Philippines.

We were glad to learn from the boatmen that the people around the area did not hunt the birds. We did spot people of top of poles with air guns. However, we were advised that these people were hunting for tilapia. We were incredulous at first but they pointed out that if these birds were indeed hunted we would not be seeing them displaying themselves, quite impervious to our presence, like they do now.

You know what? I believe them, after all they have allowed the black bittern and the purple swamphen and the countles of other birds in this teeming area to survive.

1. Little Heron - 12+
2. Black Crowned Night Heron - 15+
3. Cinnamon Bittern - 15+
4. Yellow Bittern - 20+
5. Black Bittern - 3
6. Osprey - 1
7. White-breasted Waterhen - 6
8. Common Moorhen - 3
9. Purple Swamphen - 3
10. Barn Swallow - 2
11. Pacific Swallow - 10+
12. Yellow-vented Bulbul - 3
13. Clamorous Reed Warbler - 3
14. Zitting Cisticola - 2
15. Long Tailed Shrike – 1