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Counting. More Fun in the Philippines.

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) launched the first-ever Philippine ‘Big Year’— BIG YEAR PH on its 9th anniversary last 14 July. The BIG YEAR PH is an informal race among members of the WBCP to spot, identify, and list the most number of species of wild birds seen alive and unrestrained within the boundaries of the country in the span of one year. It aims to raise awareness about habitats and contribute to our better understanding of birdlife in the islands.

Some of the participants of the first Big Year Ph contest. From L-R Gina Mapua, Ruth Francisco (organizer) Anna Gonzales, Karen Ochavo, Diuvs de Jesus, Ixi Mapua, Tinggay Cinco, Krees Castañeda, Christian Perez, Sylvia Ramos, Tonji Ramos, Allan Fernando, James Biron, Ivan Sarenas, Dyanne Realubit, Leni Sutcliffe. Photo by Alexander Loinaz.

To date, a total of 600 bird species have been recorded in various islands, elevations and habitats across the archipelago.  161 of which are found only in certain islands of the country; some are even clumped only in small habitats. Furthermore, many bird species found in the Philippines are considered by the IUCN as either critically endangered (14) or endangered (15). There are also several species that occur only as rare or accidental migrants in the country.

Aside from recorded species, the race also allows birders to search for, observe, and report species never seen or recorded previously in the country. (For some avid birders, the thrill of searching for new records or rare species far exceeds the excitement of building a big ‘year list’ or ‘life list’.)

This means that, on top of having the patience, perseverance and preparation of an avid birder, finding the most number of birds across the archipelago may entail a whole new kind of adventure — driving through rough roads, hiking through difficult terrains, crossing multiple rivers, sailing through rough seas, riding a horse or habalhabal (motorcycle) to remote areas, wading in muddy fields, or camping for days in rain forests. As a bonus, doing a big year across the Philippine islands also implies witnessing the glorious sunrises and sunsets, experiencing the unique hospitality and warmth of Filipino people in the archipelago, and discovering the many natural wonders of the archipelago.

All these will make counting the most number of species seen in the Philippines within a year more fun, exciting and most challenging for the 24 thrill-seeking WBCP members who signed up for the year-long birding adventure. Five of them are submitting their ‘Philippine Year List’ under the ‘Pro Category,’ and 19 are competing under the ‘Regular Member Category.’

As with other big years, BIG YEAR PH follows the honor code and considers birds that are seen and identified only during the race period.

The year-long race ends by 14 July 2013, marking WBCP’s first 10 years of promoting nature conservation and avian awareness through the birdwatching hobby.

Here is the list of participants:

Professional Category (5)
· Carmela Balcazar · Bram Demeulemeester · Rob Hutchinson · Ivan Sarenas · Felix Servita

Regular Member Category (19)
· Peter Bijlmakers · James Biron · Krees Castaneda · Cristina Cinco · Diuvs de Jesus
· Allan Fernando · Boboy Francisco · Linda Gocon · Anna Gonzales · Karen Ochavo
· Gina Mapua ·  Ixi Mapua · Jasmin Meren · Christian Perez · Dyanne Realubit
· Pete Simpson · Leni Sutcliffe · Sylvia Ramos · Tonji Ramos

The Big Year Ph. Photos by Robert Hutchinson.


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