The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines has come a long way in 10 years! To celebrate the club’s 10th Anniversary, WBCP President Mike Lu racked his brain to come up with this list of Top Ten WBCP highlights. There were many to choose from!
Top Ten WBCP Highlights
by Mike Lu
1. FIRST TV INTERVIEW
Our first media interview was for Side Trip, a 2-minute segment on GMA’s Saksi Evening News. The interview was conducted by Howie Severino at the grasslands behind the Petron gas station on the corner of Macapagal Boulevard and EDSA. This interview was most memorable because it came out on the day that the Club’s papers were released by the SEC on July 14, 2013. We have since granted a number of interviews from general birdwatching and identification of bird species to more controversial issues such as hunting, bird strikes and reclamation.
2. STARTING A BIRD RECORD DATABASE
With each birdwatching trip, a list of birds is generated which includes such information as date, location, name of species and numbers seen. Today, we have a ten-year bird records database which is the only one in the country and which we gladly share to the general public. Club members continue to submit their sightings data and building up the Philippine records including a species new to science, the Calayan Rail discovered in 2005.
3. ASIAN WATERBIRD CENSUS
A few months after we started the bird club, we got in touch with the DENR-NCR to ask for information about bird species found in Metro Manila. Unfortunately they do not have such records. We informed them that there is a site along Manila Bay where good numbers of waterbirds can be seen and should be included in the annual Asian Waterbird Census. On January 2004, the Club and DENR-NCR held a joint survey and generated the first data for Freedom Island submitted as part of the Asian Waterbird Census. After 5 years of monitoring the site, it was declared by President Gloria Arroyo on April 2008 as the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area and on 2013 it was recognized as wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Covention. Club members have since conducted the annual census in Candaba and Balanga and other wetlands in the country.
4. WORLD BANK AWARD
On June 20, 2005, the World Bank country office identified the WBCP as one of the ten organizations recognized as Environmental Champion. The criteria to be bestowed as an Environmental Champions was “reliance on local resources and demonstrating a strong political will to become pioneering champions of environmental protection”.
The World Bank publication wrote:
WILD BIRD CLUB OF THE PHILIPPINES A group of bird watchers started WBCP. Soon members realized that the only way they could continue watching birds was to ensure the protection of habitats. This led to the transformation of WBCP into an advocacy group – identifying critical habitats and raising awareness about the need for their protection. Recently, some of the Club’s volunteers were part of the scientific expedition that discovered an unknown bid species – the Calayan Rail in the Babuyan Islands.
Through their efforts, and working in partnership with other environmental groups, members have identified about 100 bird species and their habitats in Metro Manila. They organized bird watching trips, attend various meetings, and set up exhibits to bring Philippine bird biodiversity, and the threats to the bird habitats to the public’s attention.
5. PHILIPPINE BIRD FESTIVAL
With the World Bank Environmental Champion award bestowed barely two years into the Club’s existence, we knew we have to do more. To reach out to an even wider audience, aside form the monthly guided birdwatching trips, we initiated the 1st Philippine Bird Festival by gathered different conservation NGOs to help promote awareness of birds and the environment through lectures, film-showing, games, and birdwatching to school children. Today, the bird festival has been held in different cities throughout the country and is participated by foreign birdwatching organizations in the region.
6. BIRDWATCHING IN THE PHILIPPINES BOOK PROJECT
The Department of Tourism and Primer Group included birdwatching as one of the activities to be promoted under the Adventure Tourism program. DOT Secretary Ace Durano asked the Club to come up with a book to promote the birdwatching sites. Under the direction of the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation, a team of WBCP members worked on the book. The formal launching in Manila took place on the eve of the 4th Philippine Bird Festival and during the World Travel Expo in London in 2008. With the overwhelming response to the first volume, work on the second volume commenced as soon as the team came back from the UK. Volume 2 was launched at the UK Bird Fair and the Taipei International Birdwatching Fair in 2009.
7. RAPTOR MIGRATION MONITORING
In the early days of the Club, founder James McCarthy led ocular trips in search of migrating raptor routes. Club members have since monitored migration from the Pag-Asa station in Tanay and have done ocular trips to other parts of the country. Today as we continue what was started ten years ago, gradually building up a database with guidance from the Asian Raptor Research and Conservation Network thereby creating the only database in existence for raptor migration in the Philippines.
As we invite foreign bird clubs to participate in our bird festival and also get invited to their bird fairs, we discussed ways to expand our network and reach. The idea of an Asian Bird Fair was formed to highlight the different bird fairs/festivals in the region and promote birdwatching as an ecotourism activity. The Club hosted the 1st Asian Bird Fair in Davao City in 2010, Tainan City (Taiwan) followed in 2011 and Bangpoo (Thailand) in 2012. This year, the Wild Bird Club of Taipei will be hosting the 4th ABF followed by Malaysia in 2014 and Singapore in 2015. Different organizations have already tendered their intention to host the next few ABFs.
9. HOSTING THE 6th INTERNATIONAL HORNBILL CONFERENCE
All hornbills in the Philippines are endemic or found nowhere else in the world, with that statement the International Hornbill Foundation (Thailand) offered the hosting responsibility to the WBCP. Over a hundred delegates, along with more than 30 speakers from Asia and Africa, attended the 6th International Hornbill Conference with an Opening ceremony at the Ayala Museum highlighted by an exhibit of Philippine hornbill artworks and photographs. A two-day conference was held followed by a trip to see hornbills in their natural habitat at Mt Palay-Palay in Cavite
10. WINNING THE 1st BORNEO INTERNATIONAL BIRD RACE
GMA News thus reported: Beating seven teams from six other Asian countries, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) won the First International Borneo Bird Race held in the Brunei and Malaysia portions of the island. The Philippine team, represented by WBCP members Adrian Constantino, Ivan Sarenas and Mark Villa, were crowned as over-all champions of the 10-day bird-watching race, held from May 31 to June 9.