Sunday, January 17, 2021

When Forest & Mangrove Birds Are Seen In The City: Did The Quarantine & Lockdowns Help Birds Make Further Inroads Inland?

Ashy Ground Thrush spotted in Sycip Park Jan 2021
A recent article in Travel + Leisure entitled "A New Study Finds That Improved Air Quality Has Saved the Lives of 1.5 Billion Birds" based on research done by Cornell University begs the question whether this phenomenon isn't just limited to the USA.  Last year, a few months after the quarantine protocols were eased, we saw a Black Crowned Heron (Nicticorax nycticorax) in the garden pond of Ayala's Greenbelt 5 Mall.  One time I crossed the street headed for Waltermart in front of Don Bosco School in Makati I thought I saw some sort of raptor bird (maybe a Brahminy Kite) flying over the roof of the mall. I thought hmmm... maybe just anomalies.

But yesterday while doing my meditation, grounding & Earthing at Sycip Park, I chanced upon a thrush. I didn't know what it was when I photographed it (good thing I was lugging my Nikon at that time) but I thought I've never seen it before.  My friend and fellow birder, Ferdz, identified it as an Ashy Ground Thrush (Geokichla cinerea).  I've seen other thrushes before in the mountains and loner birds (read: shy) that they are, they are usually found in lower and higher montane forests away from human habitations, and certainly not in the middle of the city or within a few steps of the mall at the heart of Makati. It's a pleasant and welcome surprise (hope we humans will not cause them harm for being here in our midst).

Black Crowned Night Heron spotted at Ayala Greenbelt 5 in 2020
A month or so ago, we also spotted and photographed Arctic Warblers (Phylloscopus borealis) at the same park and we thought it a bit odd as they are usually found in forests.  And now a thrush.  Maybe it's got to do with the slowdown that happened during the height of the quarantine when mobility was really restricted to basic essentials, and vehicular traffic crawled to an almost complete halt.  Now that the city is easing back into some semblance of normalcy, I kinda miss the quiet and the cleaner air -- where what little vehicular traffic there is simmers down to almost absolute quiet very early in the evening, and the air is noticeably cleaner.  The neighbors are also quiet so early in the night, no loud music or noisy banter when darkness falls.

I have a suspicion this has got something to do with why we've seen birds far from their usual habitats, venturing further inland when humans suddenly stopped polluting the air with smoke and noise.  If you've got an active imagination, you're bound to think like how some future-forward shows have imagined a future without humans, where the rest of nature takes over. 

Arctic Warbler at Sycip Park>
In any case, it's nice to spot these birds right where we live, a testament to their resilience and adaptability. With the increasing loss of their habitat to human development, birds will have to adapt to living increasingly in the cities and countryside that's becoming more and more human-developed.  I love birds so I'm not about to complain sharing our spaces with them.  Even if you find them oftentimes noisy and messy, they're here to stay.  After all, they predated us by millions of years.  And if you think they're not really sentient beings whose wellbeing should not be considered at all if their presence hamper development as we humans know and practice it, think again.  If we're not careful, they're going to be around long after we've gone extinct.

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