When it comes to controversies in the birding world I normally do not get involved. However, the ongoing brouhaha regarding the charging of exorbitant fees in order to see the Philippine Eagle in Davao hit close to home.
My wife and I will be in Davao next month primarily to attend her niece's wedding. Inasmuch as we will be there and there had been some awesome sightings of the national bird of the Philippines, I thought "Why not take some time off and visit the place?" Sounds very plausible, doesn't it? When I made inquiries as to the details, I was shocked to learn that there are some "fees" to be paid. Please note the plural. There is the "Barangay" fee which is 200 pesos per person paid to the local district. Then there is the 2000 pesos "Photography" fee for locals and 5000 pesos for foreigners. One look at me and I would definitely be classified as a "foreigner". I even have a foreign name. The fact that I was born and raised in the Philippines and speak Tagalog better than most Filipinos would just come to naught. Now add to these the 300 pesos "Porter" fees for the locals who will carry your gear for the 30-minute walk to the viewing site. If you stay the whole day you naturally will have to pay for lunch, something I'm not even sure would satisfy my gastronomical needs, picky about food that I am.
What was upsetting was that a group suggested these fees to the locals allegedly to help protect the eagles. It would have been nice though if they first consulted other birders, bird photographers and tour group leaders who would be definitely affected, before making this unilateral decision.
I was in this surly mood when I got an invitation from our friend, Irene, to go see the Philippine Eagle…Owl.
It was still dark when the three of us arrived at the place. As soon as the skies cleared with the breaking of dawn, we saw our quarry. For two hours we enjoyed the beauty of the largest owl found in the Philippines. Should there be a national nocturnal bird, this species would be the hands down choice.
At eight in the morning, the place officially opened for business. We diligently paid the 20 pesos per person entrance fee. Prior to that we offered to pay the fees to the Security Guards. They politely refused to accept the money and told us to wait for the manager so he can issue us the official receipts.
For just 20 pesos we saw a rare, beautiful, majestic raptor. The personnel were even helpful in pointing to us the owls (there were two of them) and provided information about the other birds in the area at no extra charge.
Not only that I even saw a pair of Elegant Tits.