Monday, April 26, 2010

Bird Sanctuary

Our village calls itself an official bird sanctuary and has done so for many years. For the villagers, this mostly means that they shouldn’t shoot or harm any of the birds found inside the village. But, what does it mean for the birds? Does our village really provide sanctuary to the birds?

Yes, it is possible that many birds do consider our village a place where they can take safe refuge. Back in October 2009 when Typhoon Santi hit Manila, more than 300 Whiskered Terns took shelter in the polo field of Alabang Country Club. This was unusual since the open fields are not their usual habitat. In the city, Whiskered Terns (Chlidonias hybridus) can usually be found in Manila Bay, Coastal Lagoon, and the Pasig River. Outside the city, you can usually find them in areas with big fishponds, rice fields, marshes, or lakes. They are migrants so perhaps the group that took a break in the polo field was on their way to the bay when the typhoon struck. They saw a big patch of empty land and decided that it was the safest place to take a break from the strong winds of a typhoon! Aside from the Whiskered Terns, there was also a Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos), Asian Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva), and White-Winged Tern (Chilidonias leucopterus) mixed in the flock. These are birds that are also usually found near bodies of water.
The birds were in the middle of the field

     More recently, in April 2010 my husband Tonji spotted a Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) inside the village. This bird is a migrant and is not frequently seen in the Philippines. There were 3 records of this bird in the Philippines before 2000 and a handful of sightings after that. It is usually found in wetlands, lakes and marshes. The Chinese Pond Heron in the village was stalking insects and fish in the canal by the La Salle parking lot. It was probably on its way back to China when it stopped by our village to eat and rest before continuing on its long journey back home.
© Tonji Ramos 2010
Another bird that you would not expect to find in the village is the snipe. Many people are familiar with snipes cooked and served in adobo sauce. It is another bird that is usually found in marshes and ricefields that has surprisingly found its way into our village.
© Tonji Ramos 2010

     It is encouraging to think that all the open spaces, trees, and canals in the village are benefit not only the residents by making our village more pleasant and beautiful, but the birds as well by giving them life, food, and a place to shelter.

Please visit my website for more pictures of Philippine birds

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Meet the Crested Myna


     There are many different species of birds found inside the village. So far, I have seen 55 different species. One of the species that has made its home in our village is the Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus). It is known locally as martines. It is a large black bird, measuring about 10”. It has a yellowish bill and a white patch on each wing that is visible when it flies, and a small crest of feathers at the base of its bill. It is common throughout Luzon and Negros and was introduced into the Philippines in 1850.

@ 2010 Tonji Ramos

     The Crested Mynas in the village have been very active and visible in the past weeks. They can be seen walking on the sidewalks and even in the middle of the main roads such as Acacia Avenue and Country Club Drive. They use their keen eyesight to pick out small green caterpillars from the piles of dried leaves that accumulate at the edge of the sidewalk and the street.

@ 2010 Tonji Ramos 

     Crested Mynas are good mimics and can copy the calls of other birds and other sounds. Unfortunately, because of this they are frequently captured from the wild and sold as pets. Many people do not realize that there is a law, Republic Act No. 9147 The Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act that prohibits the capture, buying or selling wildlife. Not only is it against the law to buy wildlife, it also harmful to the environment. Buying wildlife encourages hunters to capture even more birds and further decimates the country’s already dwindling and threatened wildlife population.

     The more famous relative of the Crested Myna is the Hill Myna. The Philippine population of Hill Mynas is found only in Palawan. The Hill Myna has a yellow patch of skin below the eye and wattles on the nape. Sadly, they are so popular as pets that in some areas their entire population has been wiped out. Hunters look for the birds’ nests in the wild and extract the baby birds when they are old enough to be hand-reared.

 Please visit my website for more pictures of Philippine birds.
You can also see more pictures of Crested Mynas in the Crested Myna gallery on my website.