Sunday, July 26, 2020

Birding in the City: Black Crowned Night Heron and other Makati Birds

Black Crowned Night Heron visiting Greenbelt Park
It's almost four months since Metro Manila was put into quarantine mode, moving from ECQ to GCQ, GCQ to MGCQ, and maybe a return to MECQ if the number of Covid 19 cases would stay in the thousands for the remainder of July.  I honestly been very diligent in staying home as much as I can the whole time, only going out to do essential business, get food and medicines, procure and send out deliveries whether personal orders or for my food delivery enterprise.  With the relaxing of the quarantine, I still try to stay home but welcome the prospect of stepping out, not to visit the mall (hardly miss them) but the Makati parks.

The quarantine have kept the economy stagnant admittedly.  Nature, however, moves on.  It may even seem wildlife thrived in the interim.  We keep reading and hearing in the news about various wild animals being spotted in areas where they used to be absent -- turtles on deserted beaches in the south; sea otters going inland from the Singapore quay; a Brahminy Kite getting more comfortable soaring over parts of Metro Manila far from the mountains.
Black Crowned Night Heron

In our area of the metro, I keep encountering an increasing number of birds. The Eurasian Tree Sparrows that visit my patch of garden ledge outside my window doubled, nay, even tripled from pre-lockdown numbers.  At first light, the first batch sometimes consist of almost two dozen noisy (but happy) birds that it sometimes sound like a poultry coop at feeding time.  I'm not sure if my neighbors can appreciate the 5:30am ruckus but to me, it's a semblance of sanity, a reminder of nature's cycles that go unperturbed by a pandemic.

Going over to the green spaces (or "green belts") in Makati, one can spot a wild bird or two if he/she is diligent and patient enough to quieten him/herself and enjoy a bit of nature in the middle of the city.  I've written about the increasing number of Philippine Pied Fantails (Maria Capra in the local lexicon) at the Ayala Triangle and Sycip parks.
Philippine Pied Fantail nesting high above the Ayala Triangle Park benches

Even walking along Ayala Avenue, you can look up the tall trees and spot a bird with yellow belly merrily making a ruckus -- Yellow Vented Bulbuls.  At times, you can't spot them but hear them (they're that noisy but in a merry kind of way).

Just yesterday, after a food delivery to my best buddy whom I met halfway in Ayala Triangle Park, we repaired to Mom and Tina's along Perea for coffee.  But not after passing thru Greenbelt Park and stumbling across a magnificent visitor we only previously spotted in a lake-side setting -- a Black Crowned Night Heron.  It was unmoved by the flow of people moving from one section of Greenbelt Mall to another, keeping its eye on the lovely kois in the shallow ponds.  We don't think it's a local denizen of these parts; this bird usually haunts the wetlands, rivers, mangrove areas, not a mall park at the heart of the country's premiere business district.  Our hypothesis is that given the lockdown and the sparseness of humans venturing outside, it has bravely ventured well outside its known habitat and territory.

The heron was largely unmindful of us taking picture after picture. True to what the guidebook says, it stayed at the edges of the shallow ponds, watching the movement of colorful kois.  Only after the number of walkers multiplied did it flew to the dense tree cover of the park.  For a brief moment, we were treated to a spectacle we usually have to venture far for, the mangrove sanctuaries or river side transported to the middle of the city.  For a few minutes, everything was put on hold -- life, the pandemic, concerns, even the hankering for a first caffeine and sugar rush at five in the afternoon.

Proof that wildness and wildlife can be found wherever you are.


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