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Birding Mactan Naval Operating Base

Date: October 17, 2004
Location: Mactan Naval Operating Base, Mactan Island, Cebu
Time in the field : 0600H-0815H
Weather: 3/4 Cloud cover, low tide
Observers: Nilo Arribas Jr., Ann Arribas, Tiny Baguio
Contact information of the observers:
Equipment Used: 12x50 binoculars, Kennedy et al Guide

Barangays Looc and Canjulao are located on the Western part of the Island of Mactan. The important landmarks of this place are the huge petroleum tanks of Caltex and Petron depot. I always wanted to take a closer look at the mangrove patches around this area often seen from above commercial aircraft on the final approach to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

On Saturday evening, my friend informed us that she can arrange an early morning trip to the compound of the Mactan Naval Operating Base which is located between Looc and Canjulao. This is restricted area and we need prior permission to do bird site survey activity or any activity for that matter.

The go-ahead signal came at around 9.00PM or roughly nine hours before the birding activity!

Our friend, Tiny Baguio came as scheduled at our meeting place at exactly 5:45AM. It took us only a few minutes and there we were at the entrance gate of the Naval Base. We headed straight to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters (BOQ) to park the car. On our way, I was amazed by the view of mangroves on both sides of the road leading to the Headquarters Naval Forces Central Philippines.

Golden-bellied Flyeater
Golden-bellied Flyeater

Zebra Dove
Zebra Dove

It was the way this area was reclaimed that caught my attention. I noticed that instead of covering the whole area with land fills, only the road and the building area were technically paved. The patches of mangrove were retained in their original state. This gave me some reassurance that wildlife was also preserved in the process. Outside of the perimeter fence of the base, however, I can see settlers building semi-permanent housing structures so I
didn't expect much on those areas.

We started at around 6.00AM and it was also low tide which exposed much of the coral bottoms and mudflats. Small, active and colorful crusteceans were all over! The first bird of the day was a lone Intermediate egret fishing along the small ponds left by receded tides. While Tiny and Ann moved to take a closer look at the egret, I noticed a flock of Asian Glossy Starlings perched on the adjacent electic post as if saying good morning birders! There were at least 5 with streaks on a light colored underparts which indicates that these are immature starlings.

The prominent features of the White-collared Kingfisher also caught our attention. Just like the egret, it is also keeping an eye on small ponds created during low tide. In less than 1 hour, we managed to list more than 15 species. One of the benefits of a restricted area like a military base is that it also offers birds and other wildlife temporary refuge from local hunters. This may not be true in other bases but at least here in MNOB they are protected.


White-collared Kingfisher
White-collared Kingfisher

Asian Glossy Starling
Asian Glossy Starling

Highlight of the trip:
As we walked towards the grassy lot, Tiny pointed at a group of green birds apparently feasting on the "mansanitas" tree. As I approached for a closer inspection, I realized that we are looking a flock of Pink-necked green-pigeons. I also can't believed my luck since the birds are literally a stone-throw away! This is by far better than the hide-and-seek experience we had with these birds in Caylabne Bay Resort in Ternate, Cavite during my previous trips.

They feed on the fruits of the mansanitas (local name of the tree) and I've seen at least 5 males with the distinctive pinkish color on the neck and some patch of yellow on the breast. These birds seem to be a regular visitor since the guard on duty at that time mentioned seeing the "punays" in the base quite often.

The Headquarters of the Naval Forces Central Philippines inside the Mactan Naval Operating Base (MNOB) offers a lot of potentials for urban birdwatching. In just about two (2) hours, we were able to list 26 species which represents grassland/park as well as shorebirds. However, due to camp restrictions which by the way benefited the birds, this site may not be able to provide full access to the general public.

1. Intermediate Egret [Ardea (Mesophoyx) intermedia] -4
2. Little Egret [Egretta garzetta] -7
3. Little Heron [Butorides striatus] -4, seen in different locations
4. Rufous Night-Heron [Nycticorax caledonicus] -1 immature
5. Barred Rail [Gallirallus torquatus] - 2 seen, more heard
6. Common Sandpiper [Actitis hypoleucos] - 12+, the most number seen in a group is 3.
7. Whiskered Tern [Chlidonias hybridus] -3
8. Pink-necked Green-Pigeon [Treron vernans] -9+, seen at least 5 males flying between "masanitas" trees.
9. Zebra Dove [Geopelia striata] -7+
10. Glossy Swiftlet [Collocalia esculenta] -15+
11. Common Kingfisher [Alcedo atthis] -5+, seen singly in different locations
12. White-collared Kingfisher [Todirhamphus chloris] - 12+
13. Barn Swallow [Hirundo rustica] - 3
14. Pacific Swallow [Hirundo tahitica] -5+
15. Pied Triller [Lalage nigra] -2
16. Pied Bushchat [Saxicola caprata] -1 male
17. Golden-bellied Flyeater [Gerygone sulphurea] -H.O.
18. Oriental Reed-Warbler [Acrocephalus orientalis] -3, 2 seen 1 heard.
19. Pied Fantail [Rhipidura javanica] -3
20. Yellow Wagtail [Motacilla flava] -5
21. Brown Shrike [Lanius cristatus] -3
22. Asian Glossy Starling [Aplonis panayensis] -25+
23. Olive-backed Sunbird [Nectarinia (Cinnyris) jugularis] -1 seen, more heard
24. Eurasian Tree Sparrow [Passer montanus] -common, average flock of 10-12 seen
25. Scaly-breasted Munia [Lonchura punctulata] -3
26. Chestnut Munia [Lonchura malacca] -7, 1 immature