Last sunday morning, the heat of the sun was just peeping out of the horizon when I was in a packed van of eight people, me, my dad, my tito, my cousin, and other WBCP members with more in the other vehicles. It was my first time to go to Balanga City, Bataan and I was so excited to see the diverse water birds found there.
Our first stop was in Ochog Fishponds; I was so excited not only because of the birds but also for another thing. I went to Kuya Jun, and asked if he brought it. He reached into the trunk of the car and pulled it out. My Field Station Beltpack by Lowepro; the thing cost me Php 3,000, but it was worth it because the bag really does make birding a bit easier, especially identifying and listing. http://products.lowepro.com/product/Field-Station,2273.htm
The fishponds had many Egrets, with the plain eye I thought there were only like 200, but the experts told me to count them, and even gave me tips. They said it was “training” for the Water Bird Census ; it was confusing to count those birds, but we ended up with approx. 660 Egrets in that area.
Behind the Egrets were some Black-winged Stilts, though some looked grey. The others explained that it was a different sub-species of Black-winged Stilt, while in the pond opposite this was a bit deeper, and it had my next lifer. It had several Little Grebes, known as the diving duck since it can dive for alnost 10 seconds, but when it surfaces it’s already in a whole different area. I got to experience this, the grebe was just right in front of me when “splash”, it’s gone. When I tried to find it it was right in the middle of the pond already.
We left for a while, then when we returned the Columbia participants were there. The Guided Trip has started. It was the same birds in that area, so we went up ahead where there some houses, and when we birded near some people whom probably fish in these ponds. We saw a little boy torturing a juvenile Common Moorhen. It’s leg tied to a rope, the kid pulling it up from the water then throwing it back in.
The poor bird looked like its half dead. I myself don’t like seeing any animal get tortured. I’d the kind of person who gets guilty just because I accidentally stepped on a snail. My eyes couldn’t take seeing the bird in pain so I just looked away. In a while we did get the boy to release his victim, but I don’t think it will last long in its condition.
I put the moorhen at the back of my mind and continued birding, looking at the ponds right next to the area where the “torture” happened. I got me 3 lifers in that in those two pond: the Long-toed and Rufous-necked Stint, and the Marsh Sandpiper.
When we were about to leave already, there was a bird that caught Kuya Mike’s attention. It had a black tail and yellow bill with black on the tip. A quick look at the Kennedy, and the bird was identified as the Grey-headed Lapwing. It was rare to see it in the Philippines, being an accidental. We were so lucky to be able to see it here; It was a lifer for nearly all of us.
Once everyone had satisfied themselves with the lapwing, we drove off. But not without seeing another lifer, for while in the car we saw tiny birds on the wet mud. “Kentish Plovers!” they said. I see plovers a lot, but they are one of the hardest birds for me to ID so it’s not usual for me to add a plover to my Life List.
We proceeded to our next destination, Balanga Wetland Park. It was a saltwater area, not like Ochog which had freshwater ponds. We saw several waders off shore, undisturbed. The only waders I could identify were Asian Golden Plovers and Common Greenshanks.
I got three lifers there, not waders but gulls and terns. The Black-headed Gulls which were perching on the wooden poles and on the the mudflats. Two terns, which were the Common Tern which was slightly bigger than the Whiskered Tern, and the Great-crested Tern a large tern with a black crest, very distinct from the other terns.
We walked through a mangrove trail ending up in a “supposedly” empty beach, but sadly it wasn’t. A small group of people were playing and relaxing around. When the other birders went here last time, they said the beach was empty so several waders could be seen along the shore, but now there aren’t much, just a few Common Greenshanks and Sandpipers, but we did get a good view of a Brahminy Kite hunting for food.
We went out of the beach and back through the trail and took a little break, but then we were alarmed by the call of the other birders. They’ve spotted what might be a Chinese Egret which I think is rare. It was a bit hard to distinguish it from a Little Egret, so we took pics, vids and got as many witnesses as we can to await confirmation. If it will be confirmed as a Chinese Egret, then I got me a new lifer.
btw Kuya Jops, if your reading this, I can’t send you the video of the Chinese Egret since the file is too big.
My whole body was agonizingly tired after a whole day of birding. I slept the whole trip back, but I was happy since I got nine lifers in this trip, ten if the the Chinese Egret is confirmed. Balanga was amazing and the diversity of the Water Birds obviously does not disappoint. I can’t wait for the next time I would get the chance to go to Balanga again.