Thursday, May 4

Stilts at LPPCHEAA

On the 1st of April, a few WBCP-ers (led by Mike L. and Arne J.) attended the groundbreaking for a wetland park at the LPPCHEA (Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area). Finally!  Hopefully, this project, led by Sen. Cynthia Villar, will focus on the importance of the mudflats as a wetland (it is a declared RAMSAR site!) and as a green space in a city choked by urban developments lacking environmental planning.

Adri and I were there but unwittingly skipped the ceremonies as we were captivated by several Black-winged Stilts foraging along a relatively clean beach.  We had lost track of the time and got caught up documenting the graceful stilts as they were feeding along the waterline.

When we arrived at sunrise, I was delighted to see that much of the trash along the coastline had been cleared (still a lot left of course, I would think it almost impossible to clean all of it up, with more trash coming in daily with the tide).  The beautiful shell beach was exposed - revealing a diversity of gastropods and bivalves, together with a bit of plant litter: seeds, twigs (and sadly some plastic knick knacks).  It was definitely a bit of beauty one seldom would expect to find along the Manila beaches of the bay.

I could only imagine all the possibilities of having a clean beach in Metro Manila for the city-dwellers to enjoy.

A lone Common Sandpiper was busy preening in the golden monring light, stanind on a bit of muddy, discarded rubber/canvas/plastic.

A few stilts were on the beach at first, some resting and preening, others busy foraging for food. Many of them were quite vocal, twittering loudly.

There were few other migrants at the beach, although in the distance at the river mouth we could see several egrets, some herons and quite a number of waders.

A few Common Greenshanks flew past us, twittering loudly.

It was not only the birds out foraging, a man and his two young boys were also busy looking for shellfish in the shallow waters.

As the shadows receded with the rising sun, more and more stilts began flying in.  It was nice to see varying plumage, from the usual greyish markings of younger birds to elegant black and white plumage of the full adults.

Adri and I found a nice large log to sit on, under the shade of the mangroves.  The birds soon got used to our presence and began to get comfortable.

We practice in-flight shots with two Whiskered Terns.

And got a good laugh trying to outdo each other with stilts-in-flight shots.

Some of the stilts were flying back and forth right in front of us!  Sometimes they were too close!

We were not the only humans on the beach, several meters away was a man busy with his boat, being ignored by most of the birds.

A few greenshanks decided to join the stilts.

And one of the beach dogs also came out to inspect the debris that had been carried in by the tide.

Soon the tide began to turn and we could tell the ground breaking event had finished, because we could see large groups of people descending on the beach.  In the distance, a large group in orange jackets were busy cleaning up the coast.

Nearby, a group decided to take the DENR trash boat (it had a huge net to catch floating trash out at sea) for a quick spin.  The Black-winged Stilts paid no attention to the people (probably because the people were not paying any attention to them either!)

The tide was eating up the thin stretch of beach so we decided to start heading back.  We ran into some of the participants and volunteers who were with Rey Aguinaldo (DENR Region IV and LPPCEHA Project Manager).  We were happy to show them some of the stilts through the scope.  They expressed their surprise at the number of birds along the beach, even commenting that they were happy that the event (with its many people and loud sound system) did not flush or scare them away.

As we walked back to the car along the more shaded inland trail, we spotted other migrants: a noisy Brown Shrike and a confiding Arctic Warbler.

We also ran into several groups of Barred Rails and Common Moorhens foraging under the mangroves.

At the end of the beach near the car, we saw a small group of three enjoying a swim in the water.  It was not something I would recommend!  I am still hopeful though, that one day, Manila Bay will be clean enough for more recreational activities.  With the threat of reclamation looming, perhaps a wetland park is just what LPPCHEA needs. Not just for humans, but for all the other wild ones that need it too.

Keeping my fingers crossed.

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