Birds at Naujan Lake

From January 23 to 25, 2014, we birded in Oriental Mindoro. Our first day and the following morning was spent at the Naujan Lake National Park. Naujan Lake in Oriental Mindoro is the 5th largest lake in the Philippines. It is about about 14 km from north to south, and 7 km from east to west, a total of 13,011 hectares in area. The lake is bounded by the municipalities of Naujan, Pola, Victoria and Socorro.

The Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (MBCFI),  a non-government organization that implements conservation initiatives in Mindoro Island, organized a Wild Bird Photosafari in partnership with the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro (environment and tourism offices), the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the province and in Socorro, and the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines, Inc. (WBPP).

The photosafari aims to generate bird images to be used for public exhibits and advocacy materials to raise appreciation of biodiversity and public awareness for conservation.

WBPP was represented by Alain Pascua, Bj Capacite, Jr. and Olan Balbido. MBCFI official Djop Tabaranza, who is also a WBPP Fellow, coordinated the entire activity. Officials from the local DENR (PENRO and CENTRO) and from the tourism and environmental offices of the provincial government provided full support and actively participated in the photosafari.

Weather was bad on the first day. It was raining almost the whole day and the sky was dark. We were on a motorized banca that navigated the rough waters of the lake. It was the most challenging photosafari – bad weather, dark skies, rough waters, shaky and moving platform, flying models, etc. Fortunately I got some decent shots.

For a few minutes in the afternoon before we called it a day, we all got excited when we saw a pond heron. We thought it was a Chinese Pond Heron and all of a sudden everybody rose in excitement and started shooting frames. The not just one but five or more pond herons were seen. After thorough study, the birds looked more Javan than Chinese, yet even that conclusion didn’t dampen the excitement that we created among the local partners.

The weather the following day is by far better than the previous one. The difficulty in doing wild bird photography is only lessen by the degree of stability of the shaky and moving platform, the motorized banca. Light might have been alright, but the birds continue to elude us.

The photos above of the Purple Heron illustrate the kind of weather and light that we have experienced the previous day (left photo above) and what we had the second day (right photo above).

The banks of the lake provide good terrain and vegetation and many of the birds can be seen there. The motorized banca, however, could not make an approach as the water on the lake’s rim is shallow. Those areas are ricefields usually submerged by shallow water during the rainy season.

We haven’t seen the flocks of the endemic Philippine Ducks and the migrant Wandering Whistling Ducks. Only one or a few sometimes flied by. Maybe they have congregated on rice fields somewhere around or near the lake.

Last January 21, Mark Wallbank and Peter Stevens of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) counted 15 YELLOW BITTERNs Ixobrychus sinensis , 5 CATTLE EGRET s Bubulcus ibis, 51 LITTLE EGRETs Egretta garzetta , 197 GREAT EGRETs E. alba, 23 PURPLE HERONs Ardea purpurea, 1 GREY HERON A. cinerea, 105 WANDERING WHISTLING DUCKs Dendrocygna arcuata, 15 MOORHENs Gallinula chloropus, 2 PURPLE SWAMPHENs Porphyrio porphyrio, 21 MARSH SANDPIPERs Tringa stagnatilis, 1,100 WHISKERED TERNs Chlidonias hybridus, 1 OSPREY – 1, 8 BRAHMINY KITEs, and 1 COMMON KINGFISHER in the lake.

Best photographs taken during the photosafari will be exhibited at the Provincial Capitol and other public places to celebrate the World Wetlands and Earth Days on February 2 and April 22. MBCFI believes that photographs depicting stunning images of birds and biodiversity are powerful tools that can evoke emotions from the viewers. Moreover, when these images placed in the context of conservation can move the public into concrete conservation action. Appreciation of the beauty and uniqueness of Mindoro’s biodiversity will raise public awareness and consequently the public’s concern for the biodiversity conservation. WBPP believes so too. We call this Conservation Photography.

Many thanks to the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (MBCFI), the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro (environment and tourism offices), and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the province and in Socorro for partnering with WBPP in this endeavor.

Thanks Djop for bringing WBPP in Naujan Lake and Oriental Mindoro!

All photos were taken haldheld aboard a moving motorized banca using Canon EOS 7D + EF 300mm L USM IS + 1.4x Teleconverter.

Read Part II Chasing Pato Tsinas in Naujan Lake and Part III Close Encounters with Mindoro Birds.