9th Philippine Bird Festival opens Zamboanga City to bird watchers PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 15 March 2014 12:25

The just concluded 9th Philippine Bird Festival has open our city to new kind of visitors –  bird watchers. Birders from other local cities and countries discovered many species of birds in our Pasonanca Natural Park, Barangay Victoria, and even right inside the mangroves of the ZCMST fish ponds (48 species) that most Zamboangueños don’ know.The Birders will fly come again and flock in our city. They love our city.

With the theme, “Pajaros: Bula sin miedo, sin lingasa”—Zamboanga’s Spanish-based Chavacano for “Birds: Fly Without Fear, Without Worries” – it also imbibes a message to our visitors not to fear and worry about coming to our city like wintering Barn Swallows (Layang-Layang). We can see these birds nightly perched in lampposts and side buildings in downtown Zamboanga.

The Barn Swallow—a symbol of peace and cultural understanding—was chosen as the flagship species of the festival to highlight the popular hopes for better ties among the peoples of the region, starting with a common interest in birds and nature conservation.

“The Philippines—with its 600 species of birds and no fewer than 200 found nowhere else—is part of the Asia-wide ecosystem and the conservation of habitats will have positive impact on Asian birdlife and the health and livability in the entire region,” according to Gina Mapua, Philippine Bird Festival committee chairperson and president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), the country’s leading bird watching society.

With its unique habitats across more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines is fast becoming a magnet for birdwatchers in the Asian region and further afield. Yet, with its wealth of endemic bird life, Zamboanga City with its 17,414-hectare of secondary- and old-growth hardwood forest in Pasonanca Natural Park remains largely overlooked by birdwatchers and eco tour operators.

Danish ornithologist and long-time Philippine resident Arne Jensen described Pasonanca Watershed as one of the best-managed nature sites in the whole Philippine and allows year-round bird-watching. The natural park is the showcase of Mindanao-endemic species such as the Zamboanga Bulbul, White-eared Tailorbird and the Mindanao race of the Wattled Broadbill. A short hike from the Pasonanca Park one can already spot forest species like babblers, flycatchers and kingfishers. Higher elevations offer rarer and more elusive species such as the Writhed Hornbill (tuhek) and another forest jewel, the Steere’s Pitta (babaqua).

The coastal wetlands of Zamboanga City attract large congregations of migratory terns (kanaway) and wader species like stilts, sandpipers and plovers (tarinting). The fishponds of Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology, beside historic Fort Pilar, are a nesting area for Rufous and Black-crowned Night-herons (bakaw) and the site of the first documented case of breeding Great Egrets (talabong) in the Philippines.

Environment blogger and WBCP Vice President Maia Tanedo, who documented the breeding egrets, is optimistic that the Philippine Bird Festival will help improve awareness of threatened habitats and species in Mindanao. “We hope that the festival has promoted greater public participation in conservation, encourage sustainable approaches to eco tourism and lead to the protection and expansion of public green space.”
Congratulations to the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the City Government for the success of this Zamboanga eco-tourism event.

By Dante Corteza

"Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land." Song of Solomon 2:12 (NIRV)