Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Coast of Birding

The skies were gloriously gray. A breeze pregnant with cool precipitation blew against our determined faces. In front of us white-crested waves rushed towards the shore. Smashing against the rocks it then exploded into a thousand bits of watery sparks. The sandy beach glimmered as the waves drenched the blanket of plastics and an array of discarded footwear among the various jetsam.

This is the LPPCHEA (Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area) or "Coastal Lagoon" as the local birders/bird photographers call it. This is an area that is in the midst of some current controversy. But that is not the subject of this story.

The story is about a bunch of intrepid people who braved the inclement weather to take photographs of the birds in this critical habitat. 

It was on that Saturday morning that I along with my wife, Cynthia, and friends Peter, Irene and Bong stood there on the shore watching a throng of flying seabirds. A slight drizzle made our photographic endeavors even more of a challenge. It was not easy capturing the image of a bird in flight when a pall of grey clouds hung in the skies and raindrops pelted our barely protected bodies.

Despite these discouraging conditions, rewards were reaped. A Grey-tailed Tattler was kind enough to pose for us when we were almost on the brink of despair.

Then a photographer's dream moment appeared when an immature Black-crowned Night Heron which was flapping its huge wings nonchalantly above the raging waves suddenly braked as it were, paused, grabbed a good-sized fish from the sea then surprisingly dropped that fish back into the churning waters. We all thought that the fish somehow slipped off the heron's grasp. Or was it that this benevolent bird was doing the catch-and-release option that fishermen sometimes do? Reviewing the photographs we took and comparing the results, we realized that the fish in question was actually a dead one floating. It turned out that this particular fish was just too big for an in-flight meal and so it went dropping back to its watery grave.

As we moved to the place where the Terns were sallying within spitting distance (not that we were spitting, you know) heavy rain fell. We scurried to our respective vehicles and decided to sit this downpour out. After about thirty minutes and the deluge not showing any sign of abating, Bong gave up and bade us farewell.

Eventually the rain stopped. We continued our tour of the coast and were soon looking at a couple of friendly Common Sandpipers.

Encouraged by this, Peter suggested we try the lagoon. I was surprised to learn that there was an actual "lagoon" in here, and that one had to go through some sort of forest to see it. Well, we did see that patch of fresh water but all we got along the way were mosquito bites with Cynthia getting the worst. 

Upon our return to the security station, Peter and Irene were whooping as they saw a Collared Kingfisher near the structure. My wife stayed in the car nursing the six swollen spots she got from those pesky mosquitoes. I stayed close to her but still with a good view of the kingfisher.

Once again the threat of a heavy downpour made us reconsider our next move. 

"It's about time we have that lunch in Chinatown that I promised you" Peter said.

To which we all agreed.

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