Sunday, January 22, 2012

Candaba Month

I've been in the Candaba Bird Sanctuary once a week during the past four weeks and it has been wonderful! Two guided trips, one Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) and a trip just for fun... I have fallen in love with the place though there is still much to be hoped for in terms of making it a true bird sanctuary.

Part of the Candaba wetlands with Mt. Arayat in the distance.

My dad is from Tarlac and I grew up going on many road trips along the North Luzon Expressway going to our ancestral home. Riding our family's non-aircon Toyota Tamaraw, I remember riding with my cousins, enjoying the strong wind and views of green ricefields with Mount Arayat in the background. I remember being excited about reaching the Via Duct and seeing the fields dotted with the big, white birds which we would interchangeably call herons or egrets. My dad would explain that that area was the Candaba marsh.

Me and my cousins aboard the family's Toyota Tamaraw. That's me on the left looking bored =P

The word marsh seemed so... strange and interesting to me. I never thought I'd be visiting the area regularly in my adulthood. The route going to the Candaba Bird Sanctuary can be tricky but birders will generously help you when you need directions. =)

The past four trips to Candaba made me experience first hand the changes in the environment and habitat, bird species to be seen and missed and, of course, little surprises along the way. We've encountered a python along the path, paused to inspect feathers on the trails, saw thousands and thousands of ducks take flight, bumped into birder friends and even chanced upon a small egg nestled in a hollow bamboo.

We've counted birds during the Asian Waterbird Census and lazed around for siesta before heading out later in the afternoon to go birding again.

I've seen 15 lifers since first visiting Candaba in January 2011! Some of my favorites are the ducks including the heavily-billed Northern Shoveller and the handsomely "painted" male Green-winged Teal.

A male Green-winged Teal hidden in the grass!

As the month of January ends, the ponds in the Candaba wetlands are starting to dry up making way for the planting of rice and forcing the ducks to move on to find a wetter habitat (we didn't see the huge flock of Philippine Ducks and Northern Pintails anymore.) As we drove away from a pond full of Garganeys, Shovellers, Teals and a few Philippine Ducks, I said a silent but temporary goodbye to this place that has been our constant birding destination the past few weeks. 'Til our next visit!

View from the car window: a pond full of ducks! See you soon again, Candaba!

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