I was happy to be back at the LPPCHEA (Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area) for a bit of Saturday morning birding with some members of the WBCP.
|The beach at LPPCHEA on a Saturday morning.|
I had not been back for a few years and I was curious to see the beach we once dubbed as "rubber slipper beach" when I was just starting out birding. All sorts of trash littered the beach, from your usual plastic packaging to styrofoam boxes, discarded nets and rope, furniture, handbags, clothes, toys... ANYTHING you can think up, including A LOT of rubber slippers. Well, there was still a LOT of the city's trash washed up on the beach, but it was not as thick as previous times I was there (and no, I don't think we could play the finding a matching-pair-of-rubber-slippers thrown away game anymore).
I had hitched a ride from fellow QC-ers Art and Riza and we were joined by Cathy and Rage. When we arrived, the group was just about ready to enter the inner trail of Long Island towards the ponds and DENR station.
I was impressed by how big the trees which had planted a few years ago have grown, especially the Agoho trees. The ends of the Agoho leaf "needles" held drops of the previous nights' precipitation which twinkled in the morning light.
|Agoho-lined trails at Long Island|
I could not miss the harsh calls of the Brown Shrikes, I counted no less than 10 individuals perched on top of the different levels of vegetation. The song of Philippine Pied Fantails, Pied Trillers, Zebra Doves and Golden-bellied Gerygones could be heard from the mangroves. High above, egrets, Whiskered Terns and Rock Doves flew against the lightening skies. Every so often, a Black-crowned Night Heron would call as it flew over.
I was happily surprised to see several pairs of Grey-backed Tailorbirds in the mangroves. They were calling loudly as they chased each other in the dark undergrowth.
When we arrived at the ponds, I was disappointed not to find any of the Common Moorhens or Philippine Ducks that were usually there.
But I could see that some of the group had moved to the beach so I made my way through the mangroves. The tide was just beginning to go out, but a small strip of sand was barely visible under all the flotsam washed up, mostly trash and piles of the invasive water hyacinth.
Every time I get a glimpse of the sand at the LPPCHEA beach, I try to imagine what it would look like if there wasn't any garbage on the beach, fine grey sand full of white bleached shells.
|Grey sand littered with broken shells.|
Out over the water were several Whiskered Terns. Towards the shallows of the river were Little Egrets. A few Black-crowned Night Heron were perched on sticks. A particularly tall stick seemed prime property as herons, egrets, terns and even a Common Sandpiper would take turns perching on it. A Collared Kingfisher was patrolling by one of the prickly amor plants.
|A Black-crowned Night Heron and a Little Egret|
On the beach, we observed a Little Egret which was very successful in catching breakfast. In the midst of all the pollution, the shallows still provided what seemed like an abundance of small fish. We would constantly see schools jumping at the surface of the water.
|Fresh catch of the day by a Little Egret still sporting its plumes.|
And it was not just the birds who were taking advantage of this bounty. One of the beach dogs had caught a large tilapia and was carrying it back to its home!
|One of the LPPCHEA beach dogs not to be outdone by the fishing birds.|
The rest of the dogs didn't even mind the arrival of the furry fisherman, and they continued to nap in the shade as beach dogs all over the world do.
|While the other dogs are just living the life.|
A little further on, we began spotting a some more migrants. A trio of Pacific Golden Plovers were foraging in the sand near a lone Common Greenshank.
|A pair of Pacific Golden Plovers|
|A lone Common Greenshank got me thinking about the next AWC.|
Later, we were happy to see a pair of Whimbrels with their long curved bills. As the pair were alternately foraging and engaging in a little cockfight, a third Whimbrel was bathing in the water at the shore.
We also saw the unmistakable pink legs of a Black-winged Stilt as a single individual flew past us.
We were all delighted by the sudden appearance of a Common Kingfisher which darted out of the mangroves and hovered for quite some time over the water before diving in for a catch. It would do this several times, gaining appreciative "ooooohs" as it fluttered in place, suspended over the surf.
Suddenly, another bird landed on the beach: a Rufous Night Heron! It stood quite still for several minutes, its neck and body all stretched out.
|A Rufous Night Heron looking all forlorn.|
Eventually it was disturbed by some of the fishermen and it flew over the sea right in front of us. It's slow flight gave me a perfect opportunity to catch it in mid flight.
|Rufous Night Heron in flight!|
Toward the end of our stay, several other groups of visitors began to arrive at the park. One of the groups was a a busload of University students doing a coastal clean-up as part of their NSTP CWTS (National Service Training Program - Civic Welfare Training Service). They were at the start of the beach, and were performing the insurmountable task of hauling trash from the beach.
I was happy to run into Sir Rey Aguinaldo of the DENR who managed the LPPCHEA. He said that they thankfully did have a lot of volunteers who participated in beach clean-ups. But still of course, the trash kept coming in, from that undending source which is all the human settlements around Manila Bay.
As I watched the kids cleaning up the beach, a Little Egret hunting in the foreground came into focus. What a juxtaposition of images.
|A Little Egret forages for food amid the trash as students clean-up the beach further down the shore.|
I can only dream of the time when our trash does not end up in the ocean, and when the white shell beach of the LPPCHEA will sparkle under the tropical sun. When a nature walk here will not only show trees and plants and birds and insects, but actual marine organisms of the intertidal zone!
Do I dare hope it be in my lifetime?