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Manila Bay Waterbird Census I

Date: January 20, 2004
Time: Start (6:30 AM) - no wind, slight haze, approx. 27º, 3/8 cloud cover
Finish (1:45 PM) - no wind, approx. 30º, 4/8 cloud cover
Birders: Arne Jensen, Arne's driver, Mads Bajarias, Carl Oliveros, Carmela
Española, DENR staff (Mr. Garcia, Rey Aguinaldo, Leah, Haydee, DENR

Mike wonderfully accommodated (its an experience in itself) Mads and I at his place for a night before the census. We're both from Quezon City so its far and dangerous to travel so early to Macapagal Blvd. That night we went dragon-watching from the fourth floor of Mike's place. We were admiring the very long (almost the length of the street) dragon on the street that the people were painting for the new year dragon dance. Anyway, the three of us enjoyed talking about the club and what it has accomplished so far that we slept around midnight already. The census day also started very early for me because I mistakenly set my alarm an hour earlier than planned. Mads, I'm sorry for robbing you of an hour or so of rest. Promptly after a breakfast of sandwiches, Mike, Mads and I headed for the Petron station. Arne arrived after we hardly made ourselves comfortable on the seats outside chowking. However hard Arne described the activities for the day and the places we were going to on the second day of the census, I still had no idea what to expect. I immediately volunteered to do just the counting. You see this is my first time to join a waterbird census and although plovers and stints are such cute birds, they're not my favorite birds to ID in the field. You'll know what I mean when you check your Kennedy guide or much better - join the next census!

First stop is the restaurant by the mangrove island. Before we even got out of the car I knew the day would be very long. I have never seen such a huge aggregation of birds! WHISKERED TERNS in flocks of hundreds each were circling and swirling about seemingly in choreographed play. Right in the middle of the mudflat, the feeding GREY HERONS dwarf all the waterbirds around them. The EGRETS were in scattered groups around the mudflat. SANDPIPERS, GREENSHANKS and SAND-PLOVERS were numerous bordering the mangroves and scattered among the other waterbird aggregates. Every once in a while a BLACK- CROWNED NIGHT-HERON would slowly glide across to the mangroves. The COMMON MOORHENS and BARRED RAILS feel secure near the edge of the mangroves. A WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN and a WHITE-COLLARED KINGFISHER complete the list of birds near the restaurant. By the way, the restaurant was closed; the census being so early in the morning. We had to set up the spotting scopes for the bird count just beside the restaurant. Arne had a very expensive scope (hundreds of dollars - too much for me to count) that he didn't allow everyone to touch except club members and the secretary - yours truly. We were fortunate that Jon who was with James doing a census of the Tambo mudflats simultaneously, left with us the club's new spotting scope. Mads counted independently of Arne for comparison at the end of the census. Before initiating the count, Arne gave a lecturette on the use of the binoculars, the proper way of counting bird aggregates, the non-emphasis on bird ID to species level, etc. This was necessary since some of our DENR friends were first-time birders.

When I thought I had seen enough to make my day, the next stop had more bird aggregates than the one near the restaurant! The next stop just continued the count along the long stretch of mangrove and mudflat area collectively called by Arne the coastal road lagoon. This time we set up the scopes in the middle of the road that cuts across the whole stretch of the lagoon. Our location gave us best views of the birds from both sides of the road. Noticeable from first glance were the WHISKERED TERNS doing their characteristic acrobatics. Next to be noticed were the GREAT and LITTLE EGRETS flying short distances across the mudflats in search of food. They remind me of ballerinas flitting across the stage. Camouflaged well in the dark boulders were solitary LITTLE HERONS feeding. The most numerous were the small waterbirds with the COMMOM GREENSHANK topping the list. Its slightly upturned bill, green legs and white coloration on the rump extending to the middle of the back were evident. Next most numerous were the COMMON REDSHANK, KENTISH PLOVER, LITTLE RINGED-PLOVER, SAND-PLOVER, RUFOUS-NECKED STINT and MARSH SANDPIPER. The count was systematic with the large egrets, herons, and terns counted on the first sweep of the scope from left to right followed by the small shorebirds on the second sweep.

The third stop was a short ride from the second stop and was by the beach. Along the way we saw a big flock of CHESTNUT MUNIA crossing the road. Mr. Aguinaldo from the DENR talked to the guard who readily allowed us to go around. But before that we had snacks/breakfast. Our DENR friends generously provided the refreshments. And off we went walking along the edge of the mangrove stopping once in a while whenever we hear a bird call. It was here that Arne scared away a male SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT feeding on the edge of the mudflat. Because it was nearly high tide, the waterbirds were all mixed and clumped together surrounded by water like living islands. We identified islands of ASIAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, KENTISH PLOVER, RINGED-PLOVER SP., LONG-TOED STINT, MARSH SANDPIPER, COMMON GREENSHANK, etc. Carl counted all the WHISKERED TERNS out at sea. During the walk we have also heard and/or seen non-waterbirds such as CLAMOROUS REED-WARBLERS, STRIATED GRASSBIRDS, BROWN SHRIKES, YELLOW- VENTED BULBULS, SPOTTED DOVES, GOLDEN-BELLIED FLYEATER, EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS, YELLOW WAGTAIL, and ZEBRA DOVES. On our way back, Arne pointed out the BLACK-HEADED GULLS far away with their characteristic behavior of floating on the water like ducks. With the scope they looked spectacular with their red beaks and black and white feathers. Carl went up the elevated guard post to scout for bird aggregations in the surrounding mangrove areas and to look for best bird spotting places.

For our last stop for the census, we returned to the second stop (the road that cuts across the lagoon) and walked into the "mangrove island" which is fast becoming a "trash island." It was around this time that Mr. Garcia of the DENR took leave of us. Our intention was to count the waterbirds seeking shelter inside the mangrove island during high tide. However we were unable to penetrate the areas with thick mangroves because of the deep garbage and mud not to mention the stench. So the six of us trudged on stopping to look around every time we saw a clearing in the mangroves with a pool of water. We saw countless bird footprints and bill markings in the muddy edges of these pools. Some markings were very large and we speculated they were those of GREY HERONS or GREAT EGRETS. Eventually we saw several of these large birds. We flushed several YELLOW BITTERNS, a CINNAMON BITTERN, numerous LITTLE EGRETS, and several BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT- HERONS. WOOD SANDPIPERS would fly off noisily when disturbed. COMMON SANDPIPERS stay mostly on the edge of mangroves while happily bobbing its tail as it feeds. We happened upon a COMMON KINGFISHER twice. We passed by grassy areas in the middle of the mangrove island. These areas were planted to ipil-ipil trees, aratiles, coconut, banana, and some vegetables. It was here that we heard and later saw an ARCTIC WARBLER. Throughout the census there were BARN SWALLOWS darting across pools and clearings in the mangroves. Walking back, we encountered a flock of SCALY-BREASTED MUNIAS.

After a hearty lunch again sponsored by the DENR, Arne led the consolidation of the bird list for the census. We then agreed to drop by for a short while at the PEA grounds before finally heading home. Although this area is still part of the Tambo mudflats, we still counted the birds for later crosschecking with James and Jon's list. I think the guys didn't have access to the area on account of their not having the DENR people with them. The place had a huge pond/lake that reflected beautifully the tall business centers and hotels of Manila. It was late afternoon and the tide was still high. Hundreds of WHISKERED TERNS whiz through in a cloud. The waterbirds were all confined to the edge of the lake. COMMON GREENSHANKS share a very small space with the small KENTISH PLOVERS. The grasses at the edge of the lake shelter a GREY HERON, and a couple of immature HERONS possibly purple. GREAT and LITTLE EGRETS also look for food on the edge of the pond. A BARN SWALLOW was last on the list of birds found in the area.

I think I started as kindergarten in my knowledge of waterbirds and finished grade 1 at the end of the day. Thanks to Professor Arne for his patience and very informative lectures. When will grade 2 classes start? Anyone else signing in?

Tambo Mudflat
Tambo Mudflats

Locality: COASTAL ROAD LAGOONS (including mudflats around Mangrove Island, the island’s interiour, mangrove and mudflats south of guard post, Thai-Italia Corp and coastline to Zapote River.
Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Time: 6.30 – 13.45
Weather: No wind, 3-4/8 cloud cover, morning slight haze, but later clear visibility, + 27-30 C.

Participants: WBCP: Mike Lu, Arne Jensen, Carmela Espanola , Amado Bajarias and Carl Oliveros. DENR-NCR: Arthur Garcia,, Rey Aquinaldo, Lea Orcilla and Heidi Diokno

Species and numbers :
1. Grey Heron -- 80
2. Great Egret -- 5
3. Little Egret -- 71
4. Egretta sp -- 20
5. Black-crowned Night-Heron -- 7
6. Little Heron -- 6
7. Yellow Bittern -- 3
8. Cinnamon Bittern -- 1
9. Barred Rail -- 3
10. Moorhen -- 4 (adult 3 + juv 1)
11. White-breasted Waterhen -- 1
12. Asian Golden-Plover -- 10
13. Little Ringed-Plover -- 200
14. Kentish Plover -- 330
15. Ringed-Plover sp -- 70
16. Common Redshank -- 325
17. Common Greenshank -- 575+
18. Common Sandpiper -- 12
19. Marsh Sandpiper -- 43
20. Tringa sp -- 250
21. Wood Sandpiper -- 14
22. Long-toed Stint -- 22
23. Rufus-necked Stint -- 45
24. Black-headed Gull -- 7 (adult)
25. Whiskered Tern -- 800+
26. Spotted Dove -- 5
27. Zebra Dove -- 3
28. White-collared Kingfisher -- 4
29. Common Kingfisher -- 2
30. Barn Swallow -- 30+
31. Yellow-wented Bulbul -- 2
32. Siberian Rubythroat male -- 1
33. Golden-bellied Flyeater -- 1
34. Arctic Warbler -- (3)
35. Clamorous Reed-Warbler -- 10+
36. Reed-Warbler sp -- (5)
37. Striated Grassbird -- 5
38. Grey Wagtail -- 1
39. Yellow Wagtail -- 1
40. Brown Shrike -- 2
41. Tree Sparrow -- 10+
42. Scaly-breasted Munia -- 8 (adult 3 + juvenile 5)
43. Chestnut Munia -- 50+