WATCHING BIRDS in the sky in full flight, their wings beating against the wind, their calls like musical notes in the air—it instills in us a sense of freedom.
Bird-watchers attest to this experience. I’m glad to have become a bird-watcher myself, in just a few sessions. Aside from having a new hobby, bird-watching has brought me inner peace as I, along with my fellow enthusiasts, enjoy a day out in the shade of trees, surrounded by nature.
In December 2010, Anthony Arbias became a member of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). A nature-lover at heart, Anthony is a landscape artist. His interests include native plants and forest habitats. Bird-watching set him en route to life’s peaceful avenue.“It became fun and fulfilling since it was a time of new discovery for me,” says Anthony. “Every time I see a new bird species I get excited and I take time to learn which species it is.”
Bird-watching, according to Anthony, has expanded his “life list,” meaning the number of species he’s seen in his life grew from about a handful to more than a hundred in just a year.
Though he admits that bird watching is more of an incidental activity for him, it gives him a new appreciation for life. “Seeing more ‘lifers,’ or new bird species—it’s exciting. Photographing them ‘in-situ’ brings me more satisfaction than a short glimpse,” Anthony shares.
Since becoming a member of WBCP, bird-watching became a regular thing for Anthony. “I bird-watch from the time I hear and see birds from my window at home and wherever I go,” says the enthusiast. “I go bird-watching when there are club trips, holidays, when I work in the forest and in other natural habitats.”
The first bird-watching session I had was held mid-afternoon at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. I was with a group of friends and other bird-watchers. I was clueless as to what would happen at first. Kuya Anthony brought a few pairs of binoculars and two professional cameras for us to use.
Later, a group of grade school kids and my two-year-old niece came to participate. The children were curious and enthusiastic, wide- and bright-eyed. They were eager. It was refreshing to see. Kids these days, they’re always glued to their computers. Bird-watching was a something new. A novel and exciting experience, and it’s educational, to boot.
After a few minutes of preparation, we started with the “bird appreciation” activity (I prefer the term—to me, it’s not just “watching” but also appreciating the winged little things up there). We were asked to keep quiet. Even the sound of our footsteps should be as soundless as possible, as birds can take flight upon hearing any noise.
The quest for wild birds began.
Most of us were holding our binoculars, while others were looking through the professional camera. After roughly 15 minutes, we saw a few bird species, and our bird mentor named them one by one. The first encounter was with a “yellow-vented bulbul.” Seeing that first bird was definitely amazing—it was like connecting with them on a more intimate level.
We capped the day as sunset came. A total of five bird species were listed on our notebooks—not bad, Anthony told us.
With life as busy as it is today, bird-watching is the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the everyday; from the smog of the streets; from the somber glare of our computer screens.
Getting started is as easy-peasy as cake. Log on to www.birdwatch.ph for a schedule of the Wild Bird Club’s upcoming trips. Get in touch with the club to participate in one of their bird-watching sessions. Further information on bird-watching is also on hand at the site.
According to Mr. Arbias, the club engages on many awareness and education activities, census studies, and conservation and protection initiatives. Club trips and official activities introduce you to a variety of people who share the same love for birds. It’s fun and educational. The exchange of experiences makes for an easier learning curve in their midst.
Bird-watching is best done early in the morning and from mid-afternoon to sunset. Be sure to bring the bird-watcher’s most important equipment: a pair of binoculars, a book of bird species, and a notebook and pen. Come in earth-colored attire for better camouflage.
If you live in Metro Manila, Anthony recommends bird-watching at La Mesa Ecopark; at the Las Piñas Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA); at Manila Bay, or the Pasig River area; and at Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center.
Other bird watching sites in the Philippines include:
- Mt. Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna
- Subic Bay, Zambales
- Candaba Marsh, Pampanga
- Northern Sierra Madre Nature Park, Cagayan
- St. Paul’s National Park, Puerto Princesa, Palawan
- Rasa Island, Narra, Palawan
- Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Cebu
- Rajah Sikatuna National Park, Bohol
- Mt. Kitanglad, Bukidnon
Most importantly, Anthony says: “appreciate wild birds for what they are, and what they do.” (Photos by Anthony Arbias)