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9th Taipei International Bird Watching Fair 2007

An Affair to Remember:
The 9th Taipei International Birdwatching Fair 2007
by Teresa Cervero

The 9th Taipei International Birdwatching Fair 2007 was held at the Guandu Nature Park on November 3 and 4, with around 21 delegates from Australia, India, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, People's Republic of China, Philippines, the U.K. and the USA ; over 30 local exhibitors representing conservancy groups, NGOs and suppliers of outdoor gears & optics, some adventure tour companies. The theme for this year's fair was " Biodiversity". The WBCP was represented by Mike Lu, Anna Gonzalez , Goh Yue Yun (a member from Singapore) and Teresa Cervero.

Festival banners lining the
entrance to the park

I decided to join the WBCP team for the Taipei international bird festival while on the road to Mt. Palay-Palay on a Sunday afternoon with Mike and Alex, barely 2 weeks before the festival date. The invitation letter was emailed on Monday, visa application filed on Wednesday and approved on Friday. And that was that - I was ready to go on my first journey to Taipei and attend my first (but surely not the last) international bird festival.

Mike, Anna and I flew to Taipei via Cebu Pacific on the 2nd of November before noon and landed two hours later in high spirits. We were met by a member of the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (WBST), Mr. Wang Ho-kai, who immediately offered us refreshments while we waited a bit for delegates from India and Japan. Soon after, we were shuttled in a comfortable tourist bus to our accommodations: the Chien Tan Overseas Youth Activity Center. The weather was overcast and pleasantly cool (and by our standards, merited donning on a sweater). At the entrance of Chien Tan, we were greeted by the loud call of a perched Common Kingfisher in plain sight and two Common Moorhens swimming around the pond. (We later learned that this year's festival "insignia" bird was the Common Moorhen. An omen of good things to come?).

The eve of bird fair: The Mayor of Taipei City, Dr. Hau Lung-bin hosted dinner that evening, to welcome the delegates. The young mayor addressed the guests in fluent English, later followed by the President of WBST, Dr. Leo Liu. We feasted on a sumptuous spread of Taiwanese cuisine and all the delegates were introduced by the emcee (ala "roll call").

Yue Yun flew in from Singapore late in the afternoon and upon arrival at the welcome dinner, I noticed Yue Yun's bemused reaction when her presence was announced by the emcee: " Ms. Goh Yue Yun, Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, from Singapore"….

NOV 3 and 4: Guandu Nature Park came to life at the opening of the fair at 8:00am.

Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin delivers the welcome
remarks at the Welcome Dinner

Tents were decorated and the various tarpaulins, posters, books, flyers, badges, bandanas, tee-shirts, and novelty items were brought in by the delegates and exhibitors. Music, dance numbers, games, puppet shows, lots of fun activities, lectures and non-stop birding at the Guandu Nature Park kept the visitors high-wired all day long. The interesting bird guide books offered by various clubs, souvenirs and creatively-crafted mementos were too irresistible not to buy. The face-painting booth was a popular stop too by the kiddies and the oldies. Anna opted for the Chinese Goshawk while I had the Taiwan Yuhina painted on my cheek.

Just before the opening ceremony, the arrival of a huge Black Stork circling the festival area enthralled the guests to no end. It was a rare "sighting" and almost everyone craned their necks to have a good look at the Black Stork in flight. One notable thing about being in this fair is the frequent public announcement of bird sightings in the park and upcoming lectures/activities. As soon as the name of a bird is announced, the visitors and delegates would rush to the Nature Center's viewing hall to look for the new sighting. We got plenty of exercise climbing up and down the stairs and leisurely walking around the premises; trekking to the hides to have a look at the beautiful Mandarin Duck and the elegant Whooper Swan.

Manning the WBCP booth: Mike Lu, WBST President
Dr. Liu, Anna Gonzales and WBST volunteer Mr. Chen

Anna, Yue Yun and I would often galivant around the park and leave Mike alone in the booth. (Thanks Mike for being such a patient "bantay"). We peered through the spotting scopes in the viewing room and sat in the hides to study the markings and behaviour of the feathered visitors on the marshes and ponds - Common Teals, Northern Shovellers, the regal Grey Herons, Green-winged Teals, Mallards and Little Grebes. A Crested Serpent Eagle even perched on a pole in the grasslands. We were delighted by the Himalayan Tree pie and the tawny-flanked Prinia flitting from one lotus flower to other water plants, snapping at the tiny insects; the Common Kingfishers pouncing on the tiny fishes in the pond. There were countless Chinese Bulbuls, some Black Drongos and Black-collared Starlings. Children's laughter added to the din.

It was wonderful to watch the eager participation of the children in the puppet shows; quest games and even the art of fish "netting" which Anna tried to do.

The WBCP booth's brilliant- colored back drop of the collage of Philippine endemics (illustrated by Jon V.) was a "must-see" for the visitors. It must have been the most photographed tarpaulin. We almost ran out of things to sell by the end of Day 1. We had a short supply of the tee-shirts (Calayan Rail design and Arnel T's 3rd Philippine Bird Fest logo). The Jon V stickers of "endemic birds of the Philippines" did brisk sales. Many of the visitors where looking for more merchandise, especially the "Philippine Eagle" t-shirts. They inquired about birding in the Philippines too.

We had our usual coloring activity for kids -- the kids were attracted to Robert Alejandro's cut-out bird "flags" which we stuck on "walis tingting" and used as part of our booth décor. Uncle Mike was kept busy cutting out the crayon- colored bird drawings and handing them to the kids.

Legislator Tien Chiu-Chin visits the WBCP booth

Group photo of foreign delegates from Hong Kong, China, India, Japan, US, UK, Australia and the Philippines

There were presentations by the representatives of the exhibitors/bird societies. Mike did an excellent audio-visual presentation about the WBCP and the documentary about the 2nd Philippine Bird Fest and the Unicef-sponsored "Just Watch Don't Catch" educational campaign on the avian flu epidemic which the WBCP conducted in St. Paul's Paranaque/Tambo area. The member of BOCA (Bird Observation & Conservancy Association, Australia) was very impressed by the video productions and the activities of the WBCP.

During the Farewell Dinner hosted by the WBST, all of the delegates were able to express their views on the 2 - day event. We all shared our personal experiences, highlights and thoughts about the birdwatching fair.

Suggestions were also broached for next year's bird festival. Everyone was happy to have been there and be a part of an environmentally conscious and nature-loving community.

My impressions:

1. The event was well-organized and it was a good learning experience for all of the participants. There were 500 volunteers (300 from WBST and 200 from the local community) who helped out. A lot of attention was paid to the details and mechanics.

2. As cited by the Wild Bird Society of Thailand, they did not expect their tshirts/other items to sell like hotcakes - they were out of stock by noon of day 1. The same case for WBCP, we even had less stuff than Thailand. Let's start thinking of new merchandise and educational materials about Philippine birds for future bird festivals . More pictures of our endemics! The Wild Bird Society of Japan was one of the booths with plenty of books, calendars, stickers, buttons, bookmarks, birding-related novelty & educational items to sell. The WBST of course was well-equipped too.

3. It was inspiring to see all the visitors who came to Guandu Nature Park to support the event - latest count was 10,000 in 2 days. The Taiwanese are nature lovers! They were very supportive of the event. Many participants would buy things just to show support. It would be great if the WBCP could find an outdoor venue (not necessarily as expansive as the Guandu Nature Park) for the 4th Philippine Bird Festival. (Alice and Chary - start looking for the right spot in Puerto Princesa!).

4. In line with the theme of the 2007 Taipei Birdwatching Fair, let's try to be more proactive in the advocacy for the conservation of the habitats (the forests, wetlands and oceans of the world) in our own little way. Small steps can lead to bigger leaps. We can begin in our own backyard, our own country. And then perhaps, we can help save this Planet from total destruction.