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Migratory birds find 'wetter' shelter in Candaba

By Tonette Orejas

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Inquirer Central Luzon
9:16 pm | Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

CANDABA, Pampanga—A better environment greeted migratory and local birds as they flocked to a wetter Candaba Swamp this year.

Because of the ponds of rainwater left by Typhoons “Pedring” and “Quiel” last September and October, more birds came this year, the head of a group that conducted a bird census here on Wednesday said.

The group Kaakbay tallied some 12,600 birds in four sites during the census in Sitios Macagatal and Doña Simang in Barangay Vizal San Pablo and in the villages of Paralaya and Lanang, said Orlando Balbido, deputy executive director of Kaakbay.

The birds escape winter in other countries and start flocking here in October, their numbers peaking by December or January. They are gone by March.

At least 40 species were seen, mostly herons and ducks. Some 2,000 Philippine ducks, called dumara by residents here, were seen mingling with migratory wild ducks in a pond in Macagatal, Balbido said.

“There are more dumara now,” farmer Isaac Canasa told bird watchers.

These ducks, considered a delicacy, used to be hunted until the local government banned it.

Floods had topped the dikes in Candaba and lasted 16 days, Mayor Jerry Pelayo said.

Wednesday’s tally was higher compared to that of the Asian Waterbird Census in 2011, said Balbido.

The bird population dropped to about 8,500 last year after Pelayo drained the largest pond in the area and cleared it of lilies and shrubs to renew vegetation.

“There are lots of water and with it, more vegetation, more food. The environment has regenerated,” Balbido said. “They have wetter habitats now.”

There are no sightings yet of rare species, he said, however.

A bean goose, known only to live in Europe, was first seen at the Candaba Swamp in March 2010, the Fauna and Flora International, the oldest conservation group in the world, said.

It was photographed by Alex Loinaz, a member of Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), near the rest house of the Pelayo family in Sitio Doña Simang. The family stopped growing rice and fish in their 72-hectare farm to provide a sanctuary for the birds.

In the 2010 census, the WBCP and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources found new species of wild ducks—the mallard and grey-headed lapwing. The great bittern was seen again in Candaba in 2009.