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return to candaba wetlands bird sanctuary

return to candaba wetlands bird sanctuary

Egrets of Candaba
egrets of Candaba

The wetlands of Candaba in Pampanga is (2nd) home to a variety of migratory birds during the months of November to February (late autumn - winter in the northern hemisphere). The birds are plentiful during those months.

I revisited the bird sanctuary last weekend on a mountain bike (68km one way, whew!). Biking to a wildlife/bird sanctuary seemed like a good "clean and green" statement to start the year :).

The fields around the sanctuary were being prepare for planting. During the rainy season these fields are underwater so they are used as fish ponds. When the planting season comes, they are drained and the fish harvested. The small fishes, frogs and snails make up the smorgasbord for the birds.

the birds are used to human presence

I notice that egrets and terns are particularly numerous, sharing the feeding grounds (terns and egrets are fish feeders).

Egrets, Terns, and Egrets
egrets and terns

I was amused at how a flock of Black-winged Stilts(shore birds) and Whiskered Terns(sea birds) just stood there, at exactly the same spot, for hours. These stilts and terns breed in warmer areas and the abundance of food in Candaba this time of the year makes it a perfect nesting ground. Thanks to Romy Ocon for identifying the birds for me.

Stilts and Terns
stilts (on the water) and terns (on the dike)

According to wikipedia: " The breeding habitat of all these stilts are marshes, shallow lakes and ponds. These birds pick up their food from sand or water. They mainly eat insects and crustaceans."

I spotted several specifies of egrets there - Great Egrets, Lesser Egrets, and Chinese Egrets just to name a few. I'm sure there are other species, I'm not just knowledgeable enough to identify them.

To and Fro
a Great Egret foraging

I love watching the terns do their aerial acrobatics. They twist, turn sharply, or dive abruptly. The gull billed terns do not usually dive for fish, instead they catch insects in mid-flight. That must explain their superb flight agility.

I Got Your Back
Whiskered terns in flight

The egrets on the other hand are a graceful contrast to the jaunty terns. They glide and land without making much of splash on the water.

Flight Mode
graceful in flight

preserving the wetlands

Most of the locals (farmers) are conscious about the preservation of the sanctuary. Some admitted that they used to hunt wild ducks there but now guard the area against hunters and poachers.

The town of Candaba also held its first Ibon-Ebon Festival (Ibon means bird, Ebon means egg) last February 1-2 of 2008 to enhance the public's awareness of the conservation efforts and to promote the wildlife reserve as an eco-tourism destination as well as highlight the town's duck-egg industry.

easier access to Candaba
The road linking the bustling town of Baliuag (in the adjacent province of Bulacan) to Candaba is now being concreted (roads like this are part of the "farm to market road" initiative). This road, impassable during the wet season, runs right near the reserve area. If this road becomes a busy highway, it would certainly have environmental impact on the birds.

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candaba, pampanga

candaba, pampanga

Candaba Fisherfolks Time to stretch those muscles and shed off that holiday fat. Last weekend I headed with an MTB buddy to the wildlife reserve in Candaba, Pampanga. Its time to promote a clean and green environment, so going to a wildlife reserve on a bike seemed like a nice "clean and green" statement (for my first ride for 2009).

Tres Pescadores

It was 68km (one way) of non stop pedalling along highways passing through several towns (Meycauayan, Marilao, Balagtas, Guiguinto, Pulilan, Plaridel, and Baliuag) of the province of Bulacan, no trails this time. We practically toured the eastern side of Bulacan.

with Mt. Arayat in the background

We arrived at the wildlife reserve just a little after 9AM. The sky was clear that day and we were treated to quite a sight.

fine sunny day in Candaba
fine sunny day in Candaba

The areas around the wildlife reserve are being used as rice fields during the dry months (they are practically underwater during the rainy season). The fields are being prep for planting at this time of the year.

the birds are used to human presence

Small fishes and frogs are abundant when the fields are being prepared for planting. The birds hunt for food the whole day. I've seen terns diving for fish and snails.

along the Baliuag-Candaba road

Some of the birds we saw that day:

a flock of terns

Gull-billed Terns

Egrets and herons are the most common birds there. There were Great and Little Egrets, and Chinese Egrets.

looking for food

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real moods

real moods

A real moody Real

It's one of those unplanned "let's go somewhere this weekend" trips with my housemates. Our destination: Real in Quezon on the eastern side of Luzon, facing the Pacific Ocean. Several points had been raised just hours before the trip like: its constantly raining in Real nowadays, wasn't there a typhoid outbreak in Real several weeks back. These were met with a nonchallant "So?". The final decision: strap two bikes at the back of the car, pack lightly, and head to Real at 10PM.

By midnight we were sipping hot "goto-Batangas" (a thick stew of ox skin and innards) in Siniloan and by 2AM we were navigating the endlessly snaking roads on the Sierra Madre, with a fog so thick visibility was reduced to a couple of meters.

Tingnoan Shores

We arrived in Brgy Tingnoan at around 3AM amidst heavy downpour. Even with the heavy rains I can still hear waves thundering as they pound the shore. I woke up in a different Real, far from the sunny shores I remembered the last time I was here. Different but still beautiful.

So what does one do in a weather like this?

No stoppin'

Go wave bashing! Its accurately more like the waves bashing us around like rag dolls. Some waves were more than 5 feet tall!

I biked around trying to find some rocks to shoot. I found a nice formation just a kilometer or so from where we were staying. I started taking shots while the the waves got bigger. The locals must have thought I'm crazy. It was raining and I was on these sharp rocks, too close to the edge for comfort.

The "channel"

Crazy or not, I went back there the next day. This time the sea was friendlier and calmer (by Real's standards). Here are some of the shots that day:

Real's rough coastal beauty

Ethereal Real

Taking photos in conditions like this can be very tricky. I was soaking wet the whole time. I had to hold an umbrella with one hand and hand hold my GND filters with the other. Triggering the shutter was an acrobatic feat, believe me. My filters are full of water droplets within a few seconds and I have to constantly clean them. I would hold them in my mouth as I change camera settings (yucky I know, and I bet nobody's going to borrow my filters any time soon hehe).
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glan | gumasa: a bountiful morning

glan | gumasa: a bountiful morning

fish landing
Part of the reason why we stayed at the fishing village rather than the resorts in Gumasa was to be near the small-scale fish landings in the area. Thats where you can get the freshest of catches at a bargain, before they bring the bounty to the city (General Santos City) where the price doubles.

The boats started coming in at 2AM in the morning. These outrigger boats went out to sea the previous day and they fish close to shore using spear guns and small nets (and hopefully not with dynamites!).

The waves were still lulling me to sleep and my wife practically had to peel me off the bed (a straw mat on a hard bamboo floor - still very inviting given the cool breeze).

We arrive at the one of the fish landing just as they were offloading the catch. Then the transactions began - a few kilos of these, a few kilos of those. They were trying to sell me a good sized ray but I turned it down, don't know how to cook it :). We bought several kilos of indangan (surgeonfish) and a couple groupers (they only caught a few, mostly small ones). My wife wanted more groupers so we had to walk to another landing site and we see what they got there.

2AM at the fish landing

The prices went up a bit, probably because its New Year. It would be steeper if they figured you for a tourist. With my DSLR, I really looked like one. But I can haggle since I can speak their dialects, besides I'm practically a "local" :). In the end we still got a good price, knowing how much the groupers cost if we buy them at the local fish market.

some groupers and surgeonfish

I still had a few hours before sunrise so its back to bed. Sunset the previous day was far from spectacular and I was hoping for some colors on sunrise. I actually overslept and woke up at about 6:00AM! I had to hurry to the beach to find some rocks :D. Luckily its still overcast and I thought I can still get some long exposure shots given the lighting condition. Overcast sunrise may not be that bad sometimes :).

smoky waters and rocks
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