Wednesday, February 9

the awc experience

i don't exactly know why i look forward to the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC).  waders aren't exactly my favorite group of birds.  id'ing them isn't one of my strongest birding skills.  i'd rather go bird in a forest than in a wetland. but i keep coming every year to volunteer. why? here are 3 reasons just off the top of my head:

1.  it's a thrill to see so many birds (many different kinds of birds!) in a single place that won't fly off when i make minuscule movements. (even if they are all grey or white or brown some similar monochromatic hue)
2.  do you remember bringing 500 mongo seeds to school and learning to count them and group them by tens?  well, i've finally found a practical purpose for that!
3.  i get to see more than a thousand wild birds in the space of a six hours!

Garganey take to the air, spooked by an Eastern Marsh Harrier on the hunt.

Graceful Black-winged Stilts preening and feeding in large flocks.

this year i joined the balanga waterbird census and the candaba waterbird census.  seeing these birds take to the air and dance in synchronicity is one of the best birding experiences.

The Balanga Nature & Wetland Park information center in Tortugas at 6am

Balanga AWC - 15 January 2011
Total # of species: 37
Total bird count: 13,984
Top 3 species:
Whiskered Terns  Chlidonias hybridus - 3,646
Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus - 2,190
Kentish Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus - 1,210

The roads of barangay Paralaya with Mt. Arayat on the horizon at 6am.

Candaba AWC - 23 January 2011
Total # of species: 39
Total bird count: 8,725
Top 3 species:
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus - 2,415 
Garganey Anas querquedula - 1,332   
Egret species Egretta sp. - 1,319 

unfortunately, the bird counts went down this year.  perhaps one of the reasons is wrong timing.  in balanga, the tides were already high, covering the mudflats in water deep enough to discourage waders.  in candaba, the fields surrounding the sanctuary were all drained and planted the week before.  i'd like to think that the drop in numbers is due to this, and not to an actual drop in the bird population. but sadly, this seems to be the trend in the whole region. climate change? loss of habitat? all of the above?

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