Got binoculars? Go 'birding' with the Wild Bird Club

At the eighth annual Philippine Bird Festival, “birding” was the preferred past time of the attendant adfficionados.

Upstaged by more cooler-sounding activities like surfing, skating, or hiking, birding isn't exactly the most popular hobby in the Philippines. In fact, some people don't even know what it is exactly.

So what is birding? According to the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), “birding” is basically “observing wild birds in their natural habitat,” and can be as simple as taking time to notice the color or listen to the song of a passing bird.

At the Philippine Bird Festival, members of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) educate students on the country's different bird species. WBCP member Maia Tañedo herself admitted that birding isn't that big a deal yet in the Philippines, although she did share that the hobby is slowly gaining popularity.

“Before, when people would see us, they wouldn't know what we were looking at,” she told GMA News Online at the Festival.

“But now when we see people in the park, they're like, 'ah, nagbi-birdwatching sila.' I guess people are becoming more aware already about what it is and what we're doing,” she added.

Tañedo said that birdwatching is a hobby that anyone can get in to, no matter the age, fitness level, gender, or budget. She also said that contrary to what many people might think, you don't even have to travel very far out of town to see exotic birds.

“The nearest places are the La Mesa Ecopark and then the UP Diliman Campus. And then some subdivisions which have trees pa din. Madami na makikita dun,” she shared. “Sa UP Diliman, one of our members who's a professor has recorded I think around a hundred different kinds of birds in the campus alone!”

The diversity of bird species in the Philippines, Tañedo said, makes the country an ideal place for birding.

“The Philippines has one of the highest rates of endemism. So we have more than 200 endemic birds species. Mataas yung number na yun kasi other Asian countries have less than five,” she said, explaining that birding is actually a boon for the local tourism industry, drawing many local and foreign birdwatchers to the country.

“I think it should be recognized as an ecotourism activity talaga. Our neighboring Asian countries like Borneo, Taiwan, sila mas may support ng government, so they have all these structures and buildings that are government supported na for birdwatching and for bird conservation, which we're trying to get here also in the Philippines,” she explained.

But with an activity that requires making as little noise and movement as possible, and perhaps a lot of waiting as well, what exactly is so exciting about birding?

Those who want to get into birding may get in touch with the WBCP. For Tañedo, the excitement lies simply in the joy of the discovery and the return to nature. When once she would spend weekends inside malls, she said that

with birdwatching, she is more attuned to her surroundings.

“It brings us closer to something more interesting and more natural,” she shared.

“Like the bird photographers, it's like hunting without the blood...it's like collecting stamps also. You collect the birds that you see for the first time,” Tañedo said. “It's a hobby, and for most of us it's a passion, or addiction.”--KDM, GMA News Festival photos by Amanda Lago.

Phil oriole photo from Wikipedia.

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