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Candaba Marsh , Pampanga

Candaba Marsh
Feb.2, 2008

Birders: Rajeet Mitter, Sudipto Mundle, Usha Thorat
Report prepared by Usha Thorat
Bird list prepared by Rajeet Mitter, Sudipto Mundle, Usha Thorat


Taking advantage of an official trip to Manila and presence of classmate and friend from Delhi School of Economics Sudipto there -also a keen birder- we (Sudipto, Rajeet Mitter, also an old friend and currently India's ambassador in Manila, and I ) went to Candaba wetlands early on 2nd February morning armed with alu/gobi paratha wraps and coffee made by Sudipto's excellent cook.

It just so happened that the local mayor Jerry Palayo had arranged a bird festival which was attended the previous day by the country’s president, Gloria M. Arroyo. The festival called Ibon Ebon festival (bird egg festival) was intended to draw attention to the need to preserve wetlands like the one in Candaba to ensure sustainable development. The theme of the festival was balance between the needs of the people and the needs of the environment.

Ducks flying above the Candaba Marsh
Ducks flying above the Candaba Marsh

So there were quite a few regular birders and others who had flocked to the wetland on Saturday morning attracted by the wide publicity received by the festival.

Welcomed by sounds of the Zebra Dove and the Striated Grassbirds (I obviously had not identified these common Philippine birds at that time!) we set off along the road to confront a whole lot of domestic ducks at the nearest water body (Sudipto said that they are usually not seen with the wild ducks in the same waterbody) and saw a couple of shrikes ( Long-tailed Shrike and Brown Shrike ) and a lone Asian Golden Plover.

Purple Heron
Purple Heron

Plenty of Grey and Purple herons were flying to their perches of tall bushes – in a congregation which was obviously a heronry- the Purple , Grey , Night and Pond herons amicably hanging around together!! It was really amusing to suddenly see the neck of a Purple Heron springing up from nowhere. The graceful Whiskered Terns were plentiful and kept plunging into the water for their prey!

Then we saw the ducks which was the main reason for the trip.

Huge numbers (about 1,500) of Tufted ducks, Garganey with a few Shovelers here and there made wonderful sighting as they would suddenly get disturbed take off together to settle down once again. It was not after a long time that we saw the very beautiful Philippine Ducks with their pinky orange stately necks.

Incredibly beautiful Barn Swallows in huge flocks on the rushes reflected in water against a volcanic mountain, Mount Arayat, made a lovely picture. So did the colourful Blue-tailed Bee-eaters which would keep swooping and going back to the bushes above the level of the fields to enable them to keep a close eye for their breakfast. The Common Kingfisher that we often see in India were present every where their warm ruddy breasts against their turquoise blue coloring are always a pleasure to watch. What I missed however -which one would see commonly in similar sort of territory in India- were the prinias and the warblers-strangely not one was spotted. Chestnut Munias were in plenty, flitting from bush to bush, but none of the others we see in Mumbai.
Chestnut Munia
Chestnut Munia
Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Striated Grassbird
Striated Grassbird

The bird I fell in love with was the streaky brown Striated Grassbird which endeared itself by its variety of very interesting calls -they were moving over the place along the path as also the bushes and grasses near the rice fields. The sparrows too were quite different from those in India - with very cute “kajal spots” on both cheeks as one can see sometimes on babies in India meant to take away the evil eye!

The mystery bird was the Yellow-vented Bulbul which we thought looked slightly browner than the description but the characteristic eyeline and white streaks near the eye and whitish breast were sure identifiers as of course its flight that was typical bulbulish.

A lone raptor disturbed the ducks but none of us could identify it.

The egrets against the green rice fields made an unforgettable impact –so many in number mostly little and medium.

I was also happy to see lots of Cinnamon Bitterns for the first time –they did not seem to be so elusive as in India and also spotted the Yellow Bittern amongst the herons. All in all 39 species was the bird count for the morning.

Bird List
1. Grey Heron Ardea cinera 300 +
2. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 100+
3. Egret sp Egretta sp 500+
4. Little Egret Egretta garzetta 100+
5. Pond Heron sp Ardeola sp 7
6. Black Crowned Night Heron Nyticorax nyticorax 10
7. Cinnamon Bittern Butorides striatus 6
8. Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis 1
9. Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris 1
10. Philippine Duck Anas luzonica 100+
11. Gargany Anas querquedula 1000 +
12. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 12
13. Common Pochard Aythya fernia 8
14. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 200+
15. Raptor (unidentified), medium size, probably Pied Harrier( Circus melanolucos), or could be Marsh Harrier (Circus spilonotus) 1
16. Barred Rail Gallirallus torquatus 7
17. White Breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 14
18. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 12
19. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio 5
20. Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 2
21. Asian Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 1
22. Wood Sandpiper Tringa gloriola 1
23. Whiskered Tern Childonias leucopterus 200+
24. Zebra Dove Geopelia striata 5
25. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2
26. White Collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris 3
27. Blue Tailed Bee-eater Merops Philippinas 8
28. Barn Swallow Hirunda rustica 300+
29. Yellow-vented Bulbul Pyconotus urostictus 3
30. Reed warbler sp Acrocephalus sp 1
31. Striated Grassbird Megalurus palustris 4
32. Pied Fantail Rhipidora javanica 1
33. Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 6
34. Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 4
35. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 25
36. Chestnut Munia Lonchura Malacca 45