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Beyond Online Interactions: The First Birdwatch Philippines Community Day  

By Philip Gabriel M. Opao

Birdwatch Philippines Community (BPC) moderators and members

The Birdwatch Philippines Community (BPC) is a growing (40,000 plus members strong!) Facebook community run by volunteers from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). Last September 24, 2023, the moderators held the first ever BPC Community Day at the Ninoy Aquino Park and Wildlife Center (NAPWC), one of the frequented birding spots in Manila.

The festivities kicked off with an early birdwatching walk, led by WBCP members Tien Oriana and Linda Gocon, along with Yani Barcenas, Myles Holar, Riza Herrera, Patcha Pangatungan, and Martha Tan. Participants, old and young, were taught the basics of how to use binoculars and scopes, with some optics lent by Celestron, one of the merchants invited to the event.

The very eager crowd walked around the lake, welcomed by a very birdy morning with majestic black crowned night herons in flight, noisy common kingfishers, and a hungry swarm of pacific swallows.  

Scanning the lagoon for birds

Mike Lu, President of the WBCP, started the morning talks with sharing his love for wild birds. Pres. Mike made an introduction to what the WBCP and BPC stood for.

A talk on documenting wild birds was given by Jops Josef, one of the BPC moderators.  Jops introduced his printed photographs displayed around the activity area. The beauty of wild birds was brought out most when they were in their undisturbed environments. Capturing the beauty of a subject requires understanding and respect.

It is important to be a birdwatcher first before we can be photographers/videographers that can contribute to the BPC. Bad practices such as tampering and revealing sensitive information to poachers were also discussed to help avoid the potential harm to our beloved birds. The talk also tackled practical advice for all birdwatchers, emphasizing that a great photograph is “50% luck, 30% spotting skills, 10% hardware, and 10% photography skills”.

Jops’ talk on documentation concluded with some practical discussions on preferred binocular and camera requirements. It pays to always cover your basics in birdwatching and to pay for good hardware.

BPC moderators Jops Josef and Karen Ochavo spoke on bird photography and the campaign against illegal wildlife trade, respectively

The next talk on the campaign against illegal wildlife trade was given by Karen, WBCP Vice President and BPC moderator. Karen talked about her life’s experience with birdwatching, from her encounter with her spark bird, a Collared Kingfisher, to her current advocacy against illegal wildlife trade.

Illegal wildlife trading is an environmentally destructive practice, completely altering ecosystems and driving certain species to extinction. Most commonly poached birds such as the Philippine Cockatoo, the Blue Naped Parrot, and the Luzon Hornbill were some of the endemic species endangered by this practice.

Karen also discussed how introducing new species can also affect current ecosystems, indirectly endangering our local flora and fauna. Laws are already in place such as RA 9147 or the “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act” which help deter the illegal wildlife trade. 

Due to its lucrative nature, the problem is far from over.

BPC helps in deterring illegal wildlife trade by increasing the awareness of people to the endangered status of our local species, and thus encouraging others to report known unwarranted activities.  The morning of engaging talks and birdwatching for old and new birders was capped off with games, raffles, and a very special performance from Anne Cortez of Mijon.

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