2013 ASIAN WATERBIRD CENSUS IN DAVAO

Davao-based WBCP member Pete Simpson joins the Region XI DENR for the 2013 AWC in three sites in Davao and also visits a fourth site on his own.
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AWC in Davao
by Pete Simpson

As when pictures are posted of Ashy Ground-Thrush and Green-Faced Parrotfinch, I looked on enviously from my home in Davao as the Manila birders planned their Asian Waterbird Census itinerary. But thanks to information and encouragement from Alex Tiongco and Ivan Sarenas, I found myself at the office of Region XI DENR, specifically the office of Eduardo Ragaza, Chief of Protected Areas and Wildlife Division.

He was most welcoming and I was invited to join a number of reconnaissance trips and counts for the AWC around the Gulf of Davao.

The Gulf of Davao is a vast expanse of water, over 8,000 square kilometers, it is bounded by over 600 kilometers of coastline and touches all four provinces of Region 11 — Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Davao City.

The Gulf of Davao and the four count sites.

The Gulf of Davao and the four count sites.

Working with the DENR was at times challenging. Annoyances included a 4am text message to reschedule an 8am meet time and them arranging to visit a tidal mudflat two hours before high tide.

But in the end we managed to count at their three designated sites.

Site 1 Malalag in Davao del Sur

The area is source of the regional favourite fish, Bangus. The fishponds we visited were raising Bangus fry until large enough to be transferred to cages in the bay.

Malalag from space.

Malalag from space.

We had planned to meet at the fishponds at 8am. I made my own way there and started a little earlier. I saw the DENR from a distance as they arrived at 10am but did not meet with them until I returned to my car at 12.30pm.

The birds here seem less shy than my local Aquasur fishponds, maybe an indication of less persecution.

Little Egret. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Little Egret. Photo by Pete Simpson.

There were many shallow and empty ponds so the birding was good with a wide selection of waders and some high counts.

Scenic shot across a birdless fishpond. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Scenic shot across a birdless fishpond. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Black-tailed Godwit. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Black-tailed Godwit. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Far Eastern Curlew. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Far Eastern Curlew. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Amongst a large flock of very winter plumage Rufous-necked Stints two birds stuck out. A single bird with body calendar malfunction was already sporting full summer plumage. A second bird had two coloured flags on the upper right leg, black over white, indicating the bird had been tagged at Chongming Island, China.

Flagged Rufous-necked Stint. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Flagged Rufous-necked Stint. Photo by Pete Simpson.

SITE/LOCALITY:   Malalag Bay Mudflats, Davao del Sur
START DATE:         1/24/2013
START TIME:         07:30 AM
TIME IN FIELD:    5
NAME OF BIRDER(REPORTER):       Pete Simpson
ENVIRONMENT CONDITION:          Low Tide 0.4m at 10:00AM
TRIP NOTES:         AWC

BIRDLIST

1.              Grey Heron Ardea cinerea            2
2.              Great Egret Ardea alba  7
3.              Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia                  1
4.              Javan Pond-Heron Ardeola speciosa      110
5.              Little Heron     (Striated Heron) Butorides striata               3
6.              Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus  1
7.              Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus           1
8.              White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea   2
9.              Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola               120
10.           Asian Golden-Plover     (Pacific Golden-Plover) Pluvialis fulva     280
11.           Little Ringed-Plover Charadrius dubius                  4
12.           Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus               10
13.           Lesser Sand-Plover     (Mongolian Plover) Charadrius mongolus 40              14.           Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis             2
15.           Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus                 5
16.           Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa         90
17.           Common Redshank Tringa totanus          140
18.           Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia                  150
19.           Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola               21
20.           Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis         270
21.           Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos                  20
22.           Rufous-necked Stint     (Red-necked Stint ) Calidris ruficollis         450
23.           Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata         16
24.           Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea    2
25.           Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus        20
26.           Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus       850
27.           Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica                   1
28.           Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus      650
29.           Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis             1
30.           White-collared Kingfisher  (Collared Kingfisher) Todirhamphus chloris          8
31.           Pied Triller Lalage nigra                 2
32.           Golden-bellied Flyeater  (Golden-bellied Gerygone) Gerygone          sulphurea                   10
33.           Zitting Cisticola      (Fan-tailed Cisticola) Cisticola juncidis            6
34.           Pied Fantail Rhipidura javanica                 2
35.           Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 20
36.           Java Sparrow Lonchura oryzivora              2

Site 2 La Paz, Carmen, Davao del Norte

La Paz from space.

La Paz from space.

La Paz involved a boat ride from the river bank to the river mouth. On our second visit I had advised the DENR of the low tide times and we did a good count of the area.

Me in action.

Me in action.

A very impressive flock of Asiatic Golden Plover here but tough to photograph from a moving boat, and too much sun for my sensitive skin.

Also of note here, a lone Chinese Egret.

Chinese Egret. Thanks for the ID confirmation Sir Des. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Chinese Egret. Thanks for the ID confirmation Sir Des. Photo by Pete Simpson.

SITE/LOCALITY:   La Paz, Carmen, Davao del Norte
START DATE:         1/23/2013
START TIME:         09:00 AM
TIME IN FIELD:    2.5
ENVIRONMENT CONDITION:          Low tide @0.4m 09:00AM

BIRDLIST

1.              Great Egret Ardea alba 1
2.              Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes            1
3.              Little Egret Egretta garzetta        175
4.              Javan Pond-Heron Ardeola speciosa      30
5.              Little Heron     (Striated Heron) Butorides striata               1
6.              Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola               40
7.              Asian Golden-Plover     (Pacific Golden-Plover) Pluvialis fulva     1200
8.              Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus               60
9.              Lesser Sand-Plover     (Mongolian Plover) Charadrius mongolus   25           10.           Greater Sand-Plover Charadrius leschenaultii  4
11.           Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus                 8
12.           Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia                  35
13.           Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola               2
14.           Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis         10
15.           Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos                  5
16.           Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinerea                  20
17.           Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres      25
18.           Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris                 8
19.           Rufous-necked Stint     (Red-necked Stint ) Calidris ruficollis         350
20.           Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus       20
21.           Black-headed Gull     (Common Black-headed Gull) Larus ridibundus       5
22.           Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii               4
23.           Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus      250
24.           Golden-bellied Flyeater              (Golden-bellied Gerygone) Gerygone sulphurea                   2

Site 3 Banay-Banay, Davao Oriental

The furthest site and that I only visited on one occasion. The Banay-Banay area is famous for its quality rice production, but I drove through the paddies to reach the fishponds that would be the site of our count.

 Banay-Banay from space.

Banay-Banay from space.

Again I birded the first few hours alone before the DENR arrived. It seems the method of harvesting has changed recently and the ponds are no longer completely drained. There were a number of ponds with water shallow enough for Black-winged Stilt only, and as with Malalag, they were there in big numbers.

Black-winged Stilt. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Black-winged Stilt. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Absence of smaller waders gave me time to check out the bushes which resulted in me clinching this Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler.

Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler. Photo by Pete Simpson.

On arrival the DENR showed me to a small area of marsh/swamp where the land owner enforces a ban on fishing and hunting. Twelve Wandering Whistling Duck were a welcome sight.

Wandering Whistling Duck. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Wandering Whistling Duck. Photo by Pete Simpson.

SITE/LOCALITY:   Banay-Banay, Davao Oriental
START DATE:         1/25/2013
START TIME:         07:30 AM
TIME IN FIELD:    4.5

BIRDLIST

1.              Little Egret Egretta garzetta        10
2.              Little Heron     (Striated Heron) Butorides striata               3
3.              Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis             25
4.              Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus      4
5.              Wandering Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna arcuata            12
6.              Osprey Pandion haliaetus            1
7.              Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus  2
8.              White-browed Crake Porzana cinerea   3
9.              White-breasted Waterhen (White-breasted Bush-hen) Amaurornis phoenicurus            2
10.           Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus                  2
11.           Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola               2
12.           Common Redshank Tringa totanus          38
13.           Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis         8
14.           Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus       1000
15.           Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus      150
16.           Spotted Dove     (Spotted-necked Dove) Streptopelia chinensis                   6
17.           White-collared Kingfisher  (Collared Kingfisher) Todirhamphus chloris          2
18.           Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica   100
19.           Clamorous Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus       2
20.           Middendorff’s Grasshopper-Warbler (Middendorff’s Warbler) Locustella ochotensis    1
21.           Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 5
22.           Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus   4
23.           Olive-backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis                 8
24.           Chestnut Munia     (Black-headed Munia) Lonchura malacca       40

Site 4 Bucana Beach, mouth of the Davao River

I carried out and will submit one AWC count independently, Bucana Beach, the mouth of the River Davao. The DENR tell me they used to include this site but stopped when squatter encroachment caused disturbance and made visits uncomfortable.

Davao River mouth from space.

Davao River mouth from space.

I agree that birding my local patch is not a pleasant experience, one has to watch where one treads, but the birds are still there. With over 500 birds on the day and an impressive flock of Black-headed Gulls, I hope it gets re-included in the annual census.

Mangrove destruction to the west of the river mouth. Photo by Pete Simpson.

Mangrove destruction to the west of the river mouth. Photo by Pete Simpson.

SITE/LOCALITY:   Bucana Beach, Bucana, Davao City
START DATE:         1/21/2013
START TIME:         06:30 AM
TIME IN FIELD:    2
ENVIRONMENT CONDITION:          Low Tide @ 0.4m 06:05AM

BIRDLIST

1.              Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes            2
2.              Little Egret Egretta garzetta        5
3.              Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus               5
4.              Lesser Sand-Plover     (Mongolian Plover) Charadrius mongolus                  20
5.              Greater Sand-Plover Charadrius leschenaultii  4
6.              Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus                 6
7.              Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia                  30
8.              Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos                  5
9.              Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinerea                  55
10.           Grey-tailed Tattler Heteroscelus brevipes           42
11.           Sanderling Calidris alba                 2
12.           Rufous-necked Stint     (Red-necked Stint ) Calidris ruficollis         30
13.           Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus       151
14.           Great Crested Tern Sterna bergii               6
15.           Little Tern Sterna albifrons          10
16.           Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus              160

The DENR say they have been counting at the first three sites for more than ten years. I cannot comment on the trends as I do not have access to that data, that is for the AWC office.

For the AWC next year I would like to investigate more sites in the Gulf of Davao, to get an idea of the percentage that these counts represent of the total number of birds wintering in the Gulf, and maybe find some better sites.

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One thought on “2013 ASIAN WATERBIRD CENSUS IN DAVAO

  1. Pingback: February 2013 | e-BON

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