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My First AWC Experience

My First AWC Experience
by Cathy Mendoza

My story starts from January 2017.  I came in late at the New Year’s get-together and I knew I had missed something but not quite sure what it was. All I heard was Ms  Gina announcing that the roster for AWC   “is now closed”.

Fast forward to  Dec. 2017 and with Gina, Mike and Willem posting of early sightings of water birds at LPPCHEA, I now know that the AWC stood for the Asian Waterbird Census, and it is an activity a newbie or more experienced birders should not miss.

Knowing that experience and better skills are required for the task, I signified my interest to Willem but waited by the sidelines for an available slot. Insecurity, anxiety, and inadequacy were the counter balance for not being too anxious to be accommodated in any of the sites.  In my mind, I said to myself, “In time I will be a better birder that I can join the AWC”.    Instead of being anxious for a date and place for the AWC, I occupied myself reading and studying the water birds. A brief talk with Tinggay gave me hope that  I could be useful should I be included in a AWC site, she said, “ You can be the note taker, that is just as important as one who can identify and count.” I won’t be out of place then, and that sealed my contribution to the AWC.  I now have a purpose.

Before arriving at Balanga, my first AWC site, I had my first informal orientation with Mike Lu.  He instructed me on how to efficiently write down the numbers he will throw at me during the count.  Though the birds were very visible, the challenge of being involved with the AWC was counting and being able to weed through a sea of birds, so to speak. Black-winged Stilts would be in the company of Black-headed Gulls and/or  sandpipers, etc.  At the end of the Balanga AWC, we had more than 13,000 birds consisting of egrets, herons, terns, sandpipers, gulls, plovers, and other birds. After this experience,  I was now more confident for my next destination at Team Energy, Pagbilao, Quezon.

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At  Team Energy, I was the designated note taker for Ruth, Jon, and Harry. At the ponds the Philippine Ducks, Garganeys, Tufted Ducks, Northern Pintails, Shovelers, among other birds were counted.   There were no less than 730 individuals with 28 species present at the ponds and surrounding areas of Team Energy, Pagbilao, Quezon.

The  days with other birders were  time well-spent.  They were as excited as I am for my lifers.  Ruth, Jon, Harry and Mike made sure that I get acquainted with most of the birds, and that to me is mentoring a newbie.  And with that in mind, “thank you” to all who have contributed to my growth as a birder.

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