By George and Manette Inocencio
Zumba? While birding? We’re just kidding, of course. But if you visit this newly-identified birding spot on a weekend morning, you just might ask, “why not”?
The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) is constantly on the look-out for new birding sites, which is increasingly becoming scarce in congested urban areas. In Metro Manila, there are several popular sites frequented for their good number of bird species and easy access. In the northern part of the metro with its forest birds are the La Mesa Eco Park and the UP Diliman campus in Quezon City. A bit to the east is the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig for open grassland birds. On the southwest, we have the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-tourism area (LPPCHEA) known for shorebirds, waders, and migrant species.
And now, waiting to be discovered by bird enthusiasts is the Tunasan Baywalk! Located in the southernmost barangay of Metro Manila, the Tunasan Baywalk in Muntinlupa City is a 250 meter-long platform overlooking approximately 20+ hectares of marshy grasslands along the western shores of Laguna Lake. Birders who have visited the place describe it as a “bittern haven” with guaranteed views of Yellow and Cinnamon Bitterns, and sightings of Black Bittern if one is lucky enough. Since being surveyed by the WBCP in July 2016, a total of 41 bird species have so far been sighted, including warblers, crakes, terns, stilts, ducks, and even a grass owl! A few more species are expected to be added to the list as the migration season goes in full swing.
The Muntinlupa LGU constructed the Tunasan Baywalk on reclaimed land sometime in 2005. It was envisioned as a promenade for viewing the lake’s beauty and, along with the adjacent Muntinlupa Sports Complex, is intended as an area to promote health and recreation among the city’s constituents. Living up to its designed purpose, hundreds of residents of Tunasan and nearby areas regularly use the place for exercise and field games.
On weekend mornings, the complex’s parking lot is full of ladies (and some gentlemen) doing aerobic dancing while accompanied by ultra-loud music. Birds seem to ignore the crowd and the loud rhythmic music as they feed and flit about within a few meters from the baywalk, close enough to be observed even without using binoculars. The scene was enough to inspire WBCP member Fredd Ochavo to coin the term “Zumba-birding”.
There is good bird activity in the morning. However, since the platform faces east, the ideal time to bird Tunasan Baywalk is in the afternoon when the light is behind the birder and the trees offer cool shade. The dusk feeders also start to become more active as the herons, egrets, and bitterns begin moving around.
The Tunasan Baywalk is easily accessible by car or public transportation. For those with their own vehicles, just plug in these coordinates in Waze or Google Maps [14.383816,121.053352]. For old-fashioned directions, take the Susana Heights Exit of the South Luzon Expressway. From the tollgate, head east going down to the National Highway. At the stoplight, turn left. Within 50 meters (7-Eleven store) turn right and follow the road until it becomes narrow and bend slightly to the right. Turn left to enter the Muntinlupa Sports Complex grounds. Parking is plentiful.
For public transport, take the bus going to Alabang, then take the jeep going to San Pedro or Muntinlupa. Go down at Poblacion Muntinlupa and take the tricycle with directions to go to the Muntinlupa Sports Complex.
Birders are always on the lookout for new birding sites. If you have one near you or know of a place that is yet undiscovered, just get in touch with a member of the Wild Bird Club, and let’s check it out together. You may yet find a very rare bird just around the bend.
We’ve included here pictures of our young birding friends who have been happily joining us in our weekend birdwatching activities at the Tunasan Baywalk.