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Wetland Bird Count at Malasi Lakes

Date: 26 January 2008
Location: Malasi Lakes, Municipality of Cabagan, Isabela Province, Luzon
Birders: Merlijn van Weerd & Jan van der Ploeg
Trip report by Merlijn van Weerd
Bird List by Merlijn van Weerd
Photos taken on-site by Romy Ocon,

We try to count the ducks at the Malasi Lakes every year towards the end of January since we found these lakes in the municipality of Cabagan during a survey of wetlands and waterbirds in Cagayan Valley in 2001/2002 (results published in Forktail 20: Van Weerd and Van der Ploeg 2004).

Wandering Whistling Ducks fly above the Malasi Lakes

In January 2002 we counted 1320 Philippine Duck Anas luzonica here making the two tiny Malasi Lakes a wetland of international importance under the 1 % population criterion of the RAMSAR convention. This criterion is triggered when a wetland contains more than 1 % of the total estimated global population of a water bird species; the total population of the endemic Philippine Duck is estimated at 10,000 individuals.

Unfortunately, the number of congregating Philippine Ducks in the Malasi Lakes seems to be decreasing steadily from year to year despite the fact that the lakes themselves have been awarded some protection by the DENR and the Local Government Unit of Cabagan which has decreased duck hunting in the area.

Perhaps the causes of the decline are caused by factors that impact the breeding success of the ducks or their survival when they disperse into the surrounding grasslands from March to October.

The Malasi Lakes remain an interesting area however with Philippine Ducks always present during November – February as well as large numbers of resident Wandering Whistling-Duck and variable numbers of migratory duck species.

The reed-beds and grasslands surrounding the lake are also good for open area raptors such as Pied Harrier, Eastern Marsh-Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite and the occasional Osprey. This January 2008 we were treated with the spectacle of a Peregrine Falcon attacking ducks in flight, with success. That sort of hunting is difficult to control we understand.

The seldom-seen White-shouldered Kite resides in Lake Malasi

Bird List:

1. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis - 1
2. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea - 3
3. Great Egret Egretta alba – 2
4. Little Egret Egretta garzetta – 1
5. Wandering Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna arcuata – 200
6. Northern Pintail Anas acuta – 200
7. Green-winged Teal Anas crecca – 6
8. Philippine Duck Anas luzonica – 235
9. Eurasian Wigeon Anas Penelope – 3
10. Garganey Anas querquedula – 30
11. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata – 2400
12. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula – 3
13. Osprey Pandion haliaetus – 1
14. Black-shouldered Kite – 1
15. Eastern Marsh-Harrier Circus spilonotus – 2
16. Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucus – 1
17. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrines - 1
18. Blue-breasted Quail Coturnix chinensis - 2
19. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus – 4
20. Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis – 1
21. Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus – 2
22. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus – 1
23. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach – 2
24. Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis – 2
25. Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata – 1
26. Chestnut Munia Lonchura malacca – 20