Saturday, January 20, 2018

Hopeful for Candaba

It was a great morning to go birding. The skies were clear, the sun was up, and a cool breeze was blowing. All that was lacking were the birds.

The Mayor's pond still housed a number of bird species but the vegetation
was so thick, it was almost impossible to see most of the birds

January is Asian Waterbird Census "season" and I was happy that Djop and I were able to volunteer again for this year's Candaba count. The AWC in Candaba last year yielded a total of 6,466 waterbirds counted but things were looking a bit gloomy for the site for the 2018 count. Recent reports from fellow birders described the place as being overgrown, with many parts converted to rice fields which meant birds were few. I personally braced for a dismal count... and that was what we got.

Find the ducks!
This was the most open patch of water in the pond that we spotted that morning

The 2018 AWC in Candaba had a total of 1,449 waterbirds counted, the largest numbers of which were the Black-crowned Night Herons (259) followed by the Purple Herons (226.) The sad numbers of ducks and even species of ducks seen, I guess, are the best evidence of how the place has turned for the worst.

The Black-crowned Herons were one of the most visible birds in the
Mayor's pond that morning

Can you imagine only  120 Garganeys, 40 Northern Shovelers, 12 Wandering Whistling Ducks, 54 Philippine Ducks, and only 1 female Northern Pintail counted? Even the plovers and sandpipers were in very low numbers, the total population counted for that morning not even going over a hundred.

Candaba "bird-scape" January 2018:
A far cry from the hundreds (even thousands!) of ducks
that used to take flight over the Mayor's pond
A lone Wandering Whistling Duck settled in an open spot of water,
the rest were hidden in the vegetation
Our team scanned and scanned for any more birds that could be seen and
counted for the census

I could go on and on about how bad the situation is in Candaba now, especially since I've seen it in better, more birdy-er days BUT it's a new year! And as I spoke briefly to former Candaba Mayor Gerry Pelayo, I saw a faint glimmer of hope and I think things may be looking up for Candaba. It's going to take careful planning, close coordination, and consistent implementation, but the wheels are in place and are ready to start turning, MAYBE there is real hope for Candaba's ecosystem to be restored to it's former health and beauty. We have to wait and see and hope for the best. 

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