By Tinggay R. Cinco and Mike Lu
The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is part of the global effort by the International Waterbird Census done to monitor the status of migratory waterbirds. In the Philippines, the assigned government agency tasked to conduct these surveys is the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Throughout the years, the WBCP members have volunteered and assisted the DENR in counting waterbirds in the various regions of the country during designated dates from the 2nd to the 3rd week of January, only having a hiatus due to the quarantine restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic from 2021 to 2022. The annual AWC is one of the major activities of the WBCP to promote bird conservation awareness and appraise current wetland conditions that may determine the status of bird populations.
For 2023, the BMB-DENR scheduled the AWC on January 7-22, coinciding with the mid-winter migration season in the Northern hemisphere.
The WBCP participated in the 2023 AWC in several provinces, which included the National Capital Region, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Bataan, Cavite, and Camarines Sur. Members committed to join and lend their birdwatching skills to survey teams composed of the regional DENR offices and Local Government Units.
The 1st edition of eBon for 2023 wishes to highlight the dedication of WBCP members who volunteer for the Asian Waterbird Census. Most notably appreciated was the participation of new and active members who were willing to learn and hone their waterbird identification skills.
Quoting WBCP member Juan Mesquida during the AWC in Balanga, the participation of the younger members of the bird club will ensure the continuation of this important survey activity in the future.
This eBon edition presents the 2023 AWC data gathered during the waterbird counts in the various sites. It also highlights citizen science in action—WBCP members fulfilling the club mandate in contributing not only to the local conservation efforts but also doing every individual’s share in the global community for the responsibility of wildlife protection.
National Capital Region
Las Pinas Paranaque Wetland Park – January 12, 2023
Participants : DENR-NCR – Data Source
Total Waterbird Count: 2,962
Number of Species: 20
Valenzuela-Bgys. Malanday and Tagalag-January 12, 2023
Participants: DENR (NCR) Lead: Justin de Ramos
WBCP Members: Irynn Abano, Riza Melicor, Janina Castro, Michele Logarta, Helen Ong
Total Waterbird Count: 1,968
Number of Species: 20
Highlight Species: Wandering Whistling Ducks ( 114), Purple Herons (154), Common Moorhen (200), Whiskered Terns (1,333)
Sual, Pangasinan-January 11, 2023
Participants: DENR Region 1 CENRO, PENRO and MENRO representatives
WBCP Member: Mike Lu
Total Waterbird Count: 465
Number of Species: 11
Highlight Species: Philippine Ducks (12)
The AWC in Sual, Pangasinan was done upon the invitation of Team Energy Foundation. A notable observation was that wild vegetation had created a safe habitat for the existing population of Philippine Ducks at the decommissioned ash pond inside the Team Energy Power Plant premises. At the adjacent Baybay fishponds, nylon mesh nets prevented the birds from feeding and resulted in low wader counts.
Canarem, Victoria, Tarlac-January 10, 2012
Participants: LGU of the Municipality of Victoria led by Mayor Rex C. Villa Agustin, Victoria Tourism Office, Provincial Development Office, Cenro-Capas, DENR-Region 3, Canarem Biodiversity Conservation and Protection Team
WBCP Members: Mads Bajarias, Lu-Ann Fuentes Bajarias
Total Waterbird Count: 1,665
Number of Species: 28
Highlight Species: Wandering Whistling Ducks (900), Northern Pintail (200), Black-crowned Night Heron (200)
Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetland (SPCW), Sasmuan – January 14,2023
Participants: DENR Region 3, PENRO
WBCP Members: Cheta Chua, Janina Castro, Linda Gocon, Maithri Jansz, Dale and Lisa Pagkalinawan
Total Waterbird Count: 29,678
Number of Species: 26
Highlight Species: Whiskered Terns (16,779), Little Egret (10,707)
Lower counts in the Sasmuan Bangkung Malapad Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (SMBCHEA) wherein there was an overplanting of mangroves which has encroached in the feeding grounds of the waterbirds. Lesser counts compared to previous years due to unfavorable tidal conditions. The Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetland is the 8th Ramsar site in the Philippines. A Slaty-breasted Rail was sighted by Cheta Chua at the SMBCHEA.
Balanga City and Muncipality of Pilar – January 21, 2023
Participants: DENR, Balanga City LGU
WBCP Members: Ana Alcantara, Leo Barcenas, Tinggay Cinco, Diuvs de Jesus, Kenner Garcia, Aly Kangleon, Michele Logarta, Mike Lu, Art and Riza Melicor, Juan Mesquida, Karen Ochavo
Survey Sites: Balanga City -sites: Puerto Rivas Ibaba, Sibacan, Puerto Rivas Lote (including Uchog fishponds), Tortugas (Balanga Wetland Park), Pilar – Balut I Mudflats of the Talisay River bank, Balut II fishponds adjacent to the Talisay River bank
Total Waterbird Count: 16,026
Number of Species: 41
Highlight Species: Little Egrets (1473), Great Egrets (1158), Kentish Plovers (711), Whiskered Terns (974), Marsh Sandpipers (602), Philippine Ducks (3, Balut II, Pilar)
There was a notable increase of 8% in waterbird counts, with 14,693 individuals in 2022 to 16,026 in 2023. Their numbers at the Balanga Wetland Park were affected by the overgrown mangroves along the shoreline due to over planting. The mudflats by the Talisay River bank had expanded due to the dumping of dredged materials.
Participants: PENRO-DENR (Cavite)
WBCP Member: Ruben Bala
Total Waterbird Count: 394
Number of Species : 10
Highlight Species: Black-winged Stilts (325)
A survey was conducted of the Ylang-ylang River at the Mangrove Project station in Bgy. San Rafael IV, Noveleta. The boat could not be navigated to Bacoor Bay due to the low tide. The mudflats were too soft too land. Birds were few and far between; resident birds like the Philippine and Wandering Whistling Ducks were not sighted.
Cabusao Wetlands Critical Habitat, Cabusao, Camarines Sur
Participants: DENR Region V
WBCP Member: Forrest Jarvis
Total Waterbird Count: 1,347
Number of Species: 21
Highlight Species: Northern Shoveler (1100), Garganey (120), Greater Scaup (2) (rare migrant to the Philippines)
*Data gathered for the AWC- WBCP posting were from the following sources:
- Asian Waterbird Census Forms – Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetland (SPCW) and Balanga/ Pilar
- eBird, Org – Canarem (Mads Bajarias). Noveleta (Ruben Bala), Cabusao Wetlands Critical Habitat, Cabusao (Forest Jarvis), Tagalag (Justin de Ramos), Malanday (Riza Melicor)
**Species encoded are the waterbirds. Other species included are Kingfishers and existing raptors in each location.