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Go the way of the dodo

The rain kept tapping on the windows of the van, seemingly asserting its presence to everyone in the vehicle. A storm by the name of “Gener” was slowly introducing itself to the fifteen passengers in the van. Road visibility was near zero and I have already worn my jacket to ease off the cold brought about by the weather. As the van weaved its way to our destination, I told myself, “This is not a very good day for bird watching.”

In the middle of the raging sea, one could see a solitary strip of land surrounded by trees, with a stone and gravel path cutting across the landscape. Its coast was full of broken shells and some plastic bottles. The island pales in comparison to the huge malls and buildings surrounding the area. The island was a welcome surprise amidst the continuous downpour of the rain brought by the escalating storm.

Armed with jackets, umbrellas, binoculars and cameras, we traversed the path along the coast. Silence and stillness gradually slipped in, but after some time, we saw something soaring and flying. It seemed like a warrior on the lookout, guarding the castle that it vowed to protect. A bird was traversing the dreary sky, eventually perching on the land, atop the rocks spread along the coast.

Our group, together with four guides all from Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), were exploring the Coastal Lagoon near Manila-Cavite Expressway, known as Freedom Island to many, to do some bird watching.

Bird watching or birding is the identification and observation of wild birds in their natural habitat as a recreation.

“Bird watching is like hunting without shedding blood,” said Jops Josef, one of the guides and an avid birdwatcher.

Guys like Josef go to places without the any certainty of seeing the birds they are looking for.

Though seen as a recreation activity, Josef emphasized that birding is not for everyone. Not all people are into nature to bear the long wait, he said. But their team was fortunate enough to realize that there are better things to do than malling, he added.

The lagoon may just be a small piece of land for many. But for the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, this is their tiny piece of paradise. Haven to thousands of birds, this strip of land serves as habitat to different migratory birds visiting the country each year.

Mike Lu, founder of the WBCP, said that there used to be about ten thousand birds visiting the place but because of the continuous building constructions around the area, it now went down to two thousand.

Birds like little egrets, kingfisher, and heron are just a few of the birds that we have seen. According to Josef, birds come flocking to the lagoon on the second week of September. It is what they call peak season for birdwatchers. But still I count myself lucky enough to see these birds in action at close range.

Some birds that visit the island are Grey Heron, Great-billed Heron, Great Egret, Malayan-night Egret, Philippine Hawk Eagle and some kinds of falcon, says Lu.

For first timers, they recommend the Coastal Lagoon without the rain, the University of the Philippines Lagoon in Diliman and La Mesa Eco Park in Fairview, the latter are both in Quezon City.

Anjon Galaunan, a student and first time birdwatcher, said that he would like to do birding again sometime in the future when it is not raining.

The Wild Bird Club conducts a guided tour every month.