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Read about the WBCP’s participation in the 7th Asian Bird Fair in Jingshan, China as written by WBCP Secretary Tinggay Cinco.

The 7th Asian Bird Fair in Jingshan County has been dubbed as the grandest Asian Bird Fair to date.  The event was held last 11-14 November at Jingshan County, Hubei, People’s Republic of China. This was organized jointly by Cun Cao Xin Rural Environment Protection (CCX) and the local government of Jingshan County. The Asian Bird Fair Network was created to highlight the various bird fairs in Asia.  Originally composed of six Asian founding bird organizations such as the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, Chinese Wild Bird Federation, the Wild Bird Society of Taipei from Taiwan, Nature Society of Singapore, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, and the Malaysian Nature Society. The ABF Network aims to promote the environmental protection of birds  by encouraging birdwatching and  responsible ecotourism activities. The 7th Asian Bird Fair  marks a milestone by going beyond the borders its founding countries by holding the festival in the People’s Republic of China with the international participants from the India, Sri Langka, Japan, Mongolia,Australia, the United States, Costa Rica, Argentina, Spain, Slovenia,  Kenya and South Africa.

The Philippines was represented by members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. The ten delegates were  WBCP President-Willem van de Ven, WBCP-Secretary Cristina Cinco, Babie Magadia, Arnel and Christine Telesforo, Mark Jason Villa, Karen Ochavo, Eleanor Tan, Christian Perez,  and Diuvs de Jesus.  Mike Lu, WBCP-Treasurer represented the  Asian Bird Fair Network as a member  of  its Executive Committee.

Delegates being welcomed at Wuhan enroute to Jingshan County.

The four-day festival  began  on 11 November, a day before the exhibition dates of the 7th Asian Bird Fair.  The  ABF delegates were brought to Bazimen Reservoir in the afternoon for some birdwatching activities.  Almost all the species during the bird watching by the WBCP members  were lifers!  The Daurian Redstart greeted the group upon the start of the trek, the Grey-headed Woodpecker was spotted perched on the  bamboo, and the Yellow-bellied Tits flitted about in some of the trees.

The Welcome Dinner at Lu Fang Hotel followed after the afternoon bird watching activity.  This was the first time the ABF delegates from all over the world gathered. Christian estimated close to 400 people attended, composed of delegates from the international organizations, local bird clubs, and volunteers for the festival. A twelve-course dinner was served  showcasing the local cuisine in Hubei province.

The 7th Asian Bird Fair officially started on 12  November at Wengfeng Park in the center of Jingshan. Opening ceremonies took place at the Stadium within the park grounds.   A parade of colors kicked off the ABF, with the display of banners representing the international organizations. A Welcome Address was given by Jingshan’s local  government officials,  speeches were delivered, and delegates were recognized before an overwhelming crowd. The audience was entertained  by performances of school children  focusing on environmental awareness.

The Wild Bird of the Philippines was one of the most visited booths during the two exhibition dates of 12-13 November at Wu Fang Park.   WBCP members were part of the booth attractions. We were a “novelty” and appeared totally foreign  to  the local people of Jingshan. Diuvs was an instant celebrity and willing obliged as visitors often approached him for a photograph.  The locals even asked for our autographs! Club merchandise was almost sold out, moving very fast even during the opening day of the ABF.  The Katala notebooks and pins were a smash hit with the students, while the colorful festival t-shirts were more favoured by the older patrons.  Communicating was quite difficult since English was hardly spoken.  We heavily relied on Mark Villa who was fluent in Mandarin to translate or interpret on our behalf.  Grade school students also came to brush up on their knowledge of basic  English, by saying “hi” and “hello.” After dinner, the ABF delegates were feted with a cultural presentation at a theatre in downtown Jingshan.  The local community were the performers in the show as  school children, teachers and government employees  served as  dancers, actors and singers! The cultural show was much talked about in Jingshan county that tickets for the performances were very difficult to obtain for the locals.  The ABF delegates were very privileged to have attended this show!

The 7th ABF exhibitions at Wengfeng park ended on Sunday, November 13.  We folded up our exhibitions and a Fellowship Night capped the activities for the day.  Dinner was set once again at Lu Fang Hotel.  Entertainment was provided by the local bird clubs from China, a song number  was rendered from the Taiwanese delegation and  a song and dance production number from the WBCP.  The performance from the WBCP was an instant hit!  Members did a folk dance, the “Itik-itik”, followed by the singing of Babie Magadia of the “Ang Pipit” along with Karen and Diuv’s dance interpretation.  To end the production number, Arnel Telesforo sang the first lines of “Peng You,” a song about friendship in Pilipino, a chorus sang in Mandarin then followed by team WBCP, by also requesting the audience to join.  The response was truly amazing! Everyone stood up, swayed and sang “Peng You!” If only for just one night the WBCP, according to Mike Lu, was able to unite the Chinese people from both ends of the straits in a beautiful  song that united everyone in the hall.  That moment was a very moving experience for me!  Karen Ochavo even did a video back drop  relating the stories behind both numbers of the  “Itik-itik” and “Ang Pipit” folk dances in English with Mandarin, displaying even the  song lyrics of “Peng You” in both Mandarin characters and its Romanized text, through the assistance of fellow WBCP member Wenxing Pan.

As the saying goes all things must soon come to an end.  The four-day Asian Bird Festival at Jingshan came to a close on the 14th of November.  The organizers of the 7th ABF in Jingshan arranged for a post festival birding trip to spot one of  the PROC’s most iconic bird, the Mandarin Duck in its natural habitat in Hubei Province.   Seven bus loads of delegates were shuttled to a site called  Yuanyang Lake or the Mandarin Duck Lake in Hubei.  The lake named after the Mandarin Duck did not fail us, immediately, some 30 of these  ducks were easily spotted a few minutes upon arrival at the site.  After seeing the Mandarin Ducks the delegates were toured to such scenic views in Lulin called Beauty Valley. The also went to the Mandarin Duck River where we had a good sightings  of the Crested Kingfisher. We had lunch in Lulin along the edges of the Mandarin Duck River, a very picturesque place dotted with Chinese pavilions where the delegates also had a chance to do a bit of birdwatching.

As a final stop, we visited the elementary school  in Sanyang Town where James Zhang of the CunCaoXin Organization, studied.  We were told that upon being successful, James donated a school building equiped with educational tools pertaining to birds.  The elementary school has also incorporated the study of birds into their curriculum, since James, its former student was an ardent birdwatcher.

After being treated to a tour of the scenic sights of Hubei province, we had our final dinner during the turn over ceremonies for the next hosts of the 8th Asian Bird Festival.  The ABF Executive Committee made the official announcement that the 8th Asian Bird Fair is going to take place from the 24th-27th of February 2017 in Ulsan, South Korea.  Exchanges of banners, tokens, and speeches were made from the ABF Execom, the current 7th ABF hosts in Jingshan, and the South Korean organizers from Ulsan .   The 8th Asian Bird Fair organizers from Ulsan extended a formal invitation to join the forthcoming ABF event in 2017. A special recognition too was awarded to Ms. Cindy Zhen of the Cuncaoxin Organization for all her contributions and hard work in making the 7th ABF a success. As the incoming hosts of the 8th Asian Bird Fair, the South Koreans raffled off several beautifully designed name card holders that created much excitement in the audience. Majority of the Philippine delegates won during this raffle.  More items from ABF participating countries were also raffled off too as prizes. Name cards and gifts were also exchanged too amongst friends and delegates.  A night full of memories to end one of the biggest bird fairs in Asia.

We said our good byes the following day at the Hawei Carrey International Hotel in Jingshan . The WBCP members also parted ways as Mike, Diuvs and Karen started their journey back to Manila. Mark further went on his own to further explore some birding sites in China.  Willem, Christian, Tin, Arnel,Babie, Eleanor, and myself chose  to stay behind and avail of  a one-day bird watching tour in Wuhan province .  Forty nine birdwatchers  from the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Mongolia, went bird watching  at the Chengdu Wetlands in Wuhan Province organized by Alpine Tours. Once again we had several lifers  to add in our China bird list- the Common Crane as one of the more significant ones.  A dream come true for me when I finally  saw  Eurasian Hoopoe in Chengdu!  By sundown, the ABF delegates who joined the post birdwatching  tour began their journey back home.  The Thai delegation were the first ones to be dropped off at Wuhan International Airport.   The members from the WBCP had to stay overnight in Wuhan to catch the early morning connecting flight to Shanghai, our gateway to back to Manila.

Birdwatching in the rain, fog, and very cold temperature close to 0 degrees at Chengdu Wetlands, Wuhan Province

Joining international bird festivals like the Asian Bird Fair is a life  learning experience. As  a bird watcher,  you get to see the birds of the country of your destination and lengthen your life list.  As a participant  you can personally observe the various educational activities program during the festival proper. The bird fairs in the various countries gives one a chance to socialize  and  reunite with the other Asian delegate attendees that you  have met in previous Asian Bird Fairs and making new friends among the locals and other foreign countries as well.  As for my own personal experience, being in Jingshan was such a novel experience as  I was able to get the “feel” what is like to be in Central China, which only a few people have chances of visiting.  From the very cold and windy  weather to the extra-ordinary Chinese cuisine I have sampled (I am more used to  Cantonese and Fookien cooking ), to the warmth of locals who greeted and mingled with us . Yes, communication  was still difficult since the use of the English language  was still quite new in Jingshan county, but one can see the effort that the locals are willing to make to  learn the language  by having smart phones have applications that can easily translate voice commands from Mandarin to English.  Hopefully, the other members of the WBCP will find the time  to be a part of  the other Asian Bird Fairs in the future.  These bird fairs are places for new adventures and discoveries. As a participant, I take pride in being able to show our country’s avian treasures to the international community.   This, after all, is the reason why  the Asian Bird Fair has gotten bigger and better each year. The love of birds  and  the message of conservation has  united  nature enthusiasts  has spread  across borders,  not only in Asia but has also become worldwide. Truly grateful to the organizers of the 7th Asian Bird Fair in Jingshan for a wonderful experience in the People’s Republic of China.  Looking forward in being present once again for the 8th Asian Bird Fair in Ulsan, South Korea, wishing them all the best for  their forthcoming event in 2017 February.

7th Asian Bird Fair delegates at Jingshan

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