Hello Again, Manila Bay

A year after I last joined Arne’s waterbird survey in Manila Bay, I found myself back in the Atlag fish port in Malolos, Bulacan, boarding a small motorized banca, and heading out to the bay. This was my third time to participate in Arne’s survey and for this trip I was with Arne, Tinggay, and Harry.

Boarding our banca at sunrise


Arne discussing our “game plan” with our boatmen

The count officially started as we sped through the river heading out to Barangay Pamarawan. Egrets and terns were flying around us, out to get their first meal of the day, and night herons were flying overhead heading home to roost.

It was low tide that morning so our boatmen had to navigate slowly


At one point, Tinggay transferred to the smaller paddle boat and we were
pushed to deeper waters
We stopped at 8 different sites that day and some sites held quite a number of birds. There were some though that looked like a good spot to see lots of birds but sadly were empty of them. The fishing pens reliably had birds perched on the bamboo poles holding the nets together.

Black-headed Gull


Collared Kingfisher


Striated Heron

Our first stop was on a little “island” in Barangay Pulo-Pulo. There were good sightings there though quite far. We saw Whimbrels, Little Terns, and three Chinese Egrets among other waders.

Our small “office” in Manila Bay =)
Photo by Harry Miller
Chinese Egret busy foraging for food


Some Little Terns on a sand bar

After counting the area, we headed back out the bay and stopped at a place the boatmen called “Capiz Beach” in Bambang. The water was too shallow so Arne and I transferred to the paddle boat and headed to the beach to check for birds. We found almost none…

Arne scanning a potentially bird-y area for birds. Nada.
Our small and reliable paddle boat!
Photo by Harry Miller

As we transferred to our next stop, the fish pens and exposed rocks served as additional “sites” with Greater Crested Terns, Black-headed GullsPacific Golden Plovers, and Ruddy Turnstones.

Terns and gulls in a row
Greater Crested Terns are always a delight to see =)
Pacific Golden Plovers on exposed rocks

The gems of the trip, for me at least, were the salt pans we visited. Aside from it being my first time to see actual salt pans, it was waders galore!!!


That’s Harry on his scope, scanning for birds

We spotted a huge congregation of waders in the inner, empty plots of land so we went for a closer look and found a big group of 68 Far Eastern Curlews! There were also lots of Lesser Sand Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Pacific Golden Plovers, and Red-necked Stints. Another treat for me was seeing Curlew Sandpipers. It has been awhile since I last saw them!



Part of the flock of curlews we saw


Tinggay, Arne, and Harry counting and listing birds

We finished counting at around 5PM, and we sped back, wet and tired, to the fish port in Atlag. We had a total count of 6,127 birds for the day. Not bad and especially since we were able to stumble upon that big flock of Far Eastern Curlews! I’m grateful to have played a small role in this endevor and I can’t wait to read the final report on this project and see the results of Arne’s efforts 😊