Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A "Mastercard" Moment

After running errands and other things on our to-do lists for the morning, Jops and I headed to La Mesa Ecopark to spend the rest of the afternoon birding. Having no big expectations and just wanting a relaxed birding afternoon, we "packed light" and just brought our bins, his camera, my birding notebook and a bottle of insect repellent. 

We entered the park, saw some familiar faces from the mini-training we gave some park guides some time back, got in for free and headed for the trail. Before reaching it, we spotted our birder friend Jasmin with her friend looking at some plants. She told us she was able to see the Ashy Ground Thrush and the Red-bellied Pitta in the trails. Jops and I trudged onward and found ourselves entering the trail together with small groups of noisy teenagers. We shook our heads and tried to shush them gently.

We picked a spot and noticed a Lowland White-eye perched curiously near the ground. Watching it led us to a Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, also perched very low, and this led us to an Ashy Ground Thrush hopping around the area.

While observing the thrush, we heard another noisy group of kids approach the area. As they neared us, we told them to be quiet and to stop first. The girls stayed put while two boys moved closer to us and asked what we were looking at. When we told them we were looking at a bird, they immediately crouched low next to us and peered at the undergrowth in front of us. The girls tiptoed past us and walked away but the two boys stayed put. We passed them our binoculars and showed them the thrush which was only a few feet away! We were able to spot two adult birds!

The rest of their group came along noisily, and it was the two boys who did the shushing this time =) The new group of boys was also interested and spent some time with us, even spotting the Mangrove Blue Flycatcher as well. We felt so bad we didn't bring our Kennedy guide!

Some of the high school boys who stopped and stayed with us while we observed the Ashy Ground Thrush and Mangrove Blue Flycatcher.

Some of the high school boys were really interested and asked us questions using words like "endemic", "endangered", and "ecosystem." We were pleasantly surprised and were happy to discuss these things with them. So, when a noisy group would approach us, they would be the ones to gesture for them to be quiet and to move slowly. After a while, the boys said their thanks and moved on to join their other classmates. (They did come back a second time and stayed a while before moving on again.)

Jops and I moved further into the trail, hoping to spot the Red-bellied Pitta. After a few minutes (and some more small groups of noisy park goers passing through), we heard a boy calling out from a distance "Birdwatchers? Birdwatchers?" A few seconds later, we saw two boys walking towards us. They left their friends to come and bird with us some more! They were Renz and Lorenzo, first year high school students from a nearby public high school. The two boys stayed with us, carrying and using our bins, spotting birds along the trail, until we left the park. They asked if we did that everyday because they would like to go birdwatching again.

And then there were two =)
These two boys were REALLY interested in birdwatching!

It was refreshing meeting random young "padawan" birders who initially came to the park noisy and unmindful of nature, and leaving with new insights about the park they frequent. This is one of the simple but deep joys we get from birdwatching and guiding people, especially the young ones. When you are able to change their minds and open their eyes to real beauty (and reality) around them, to enable them to explain to others the importance of taking care of the environment, to create more advocates for nature... it's what Mastercard calls "priceless." Jops and I weren't able to use our bins for the most part of the afternoon, but it wasn't any loss on our part.

PS We celebrated with Chinese food after that. But we paid in cash =P


  1. hugs to you & jops! good job!

    1. thank you trinket! hug back at you! hehe =) see you tomorrow! we have more padawans! =)