Local government units are highly encouraged to formally declare as migratory bird sites those areas where the presence of these fowls are regularly monitored. The passage of a municipal resolution declaring these as migratory bird sites will empower local government units to have a direct management of its protection and conservation,” says Development Manager Officer Ingelina Lantajo of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region VIII.

The DENR sounds off this call for LGUs to take active participation and conservation of migratory bird sites as it joins in the Asian Waterbird Census for the year.

The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is part of the International Waterbird Census. It runs parallel to other international waterbird counts in Africa, Europe, and Neotropics which takes place in January each year. This is in support to the conservation and management effort of wetlands and waterbirds worldwide. Since the inception of the AWC way back in 1987 in the Indian subcontinent, it has grown rapidly to 26 countries in South Asia, East Asia, South East Asia, Pacific, and that of Russia Far East. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has joined the AWC in the 1990s through its regional offices. In Region 8, DENR has identified seven (7) bird sites in the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, and Eastern Samar where the presence of diverse and numerous species of migratory birds was documented. 

For this year, all sites were visited except for Guiuan Intertidal Flats in Eastern Samar due to LGU restrictions following an upsurge of COVID-19 infections. For the province of Leyte, the waterbird census was conducted at the Ormoc Bay Wetlands, Ormoc City; Lake Bito Inland Wetland in the municipality of MacArthur; Carigara Bay Wetlands in Carigara and Barugo and the Tres Marias Islands in Palompon.. The Southern Leyte Bird Sanctuary in St. Bernard, Southern Leyte which covers the barangays of San Isidro, Panian, and Himbangan was also visited for the waterbird count. In Samar, the waterbird count was done at the Maqueda Bay Wetlands within the towns of Motiong, Jiabong, and Paranas.

Most migratoy birds that were consistently found on the identified bird sites were Philippine Duck, Little Egret, Greenshank, Purple Heron, Common Sandpiper, Whiskered Tern, Great Knot, Whimbrel, Lesser sand Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Rufous night Heron, Kentish Plover, Intermediate Egret, Common Tern. Moorhen, Grey Heron, Javan pond Heron and Black-winged Stilt.

Just like last year, there was a noted decrease in the number of migratory birds counted although the same types of species were identified. Since there was no apparent denudation of mangroves forest and degradation of their wetland habitat, we can surmise that the typhoons of last year may have forced the migratory birds to shift to other sites for their food and roosting place,” says Ms. Lantajo who also serves as the DENR focal person for the conduct of the waterbird count.

The annual Asian waterbird census is conducted mainly to monitor the population, as well as the changes in waterbird numbers and distribution by regular and standardized counts of representative wetlands. Likewise, it is an activity geared towards increasing the awareness of the communities on the importance of wetlands considered as the kidneys of the earth and as the natural habitats of these fowls.

While there was a decrease of the monitored number of migratory birds for this year probably because of weather disturbances, the fact alone that these can be found in our wetlands is an indication that we still have an ecologically healthy wetland ecosystem. These migratory birds remain as our environmental indicators of our wetlands ecosystem. Ensuring the integrity and protection of these wetlands ecosystem should be seriously considered by the LGUs,” says DENR OIC-Regional Executive Director Tirso P. Parian, Jr.