Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, March 13, 2009

Subic hailed as potential paradise for bird watchers

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—They came, they saw, and they were smitten.

Nature photographers and bird tour operators from the United Kingdom have cited this free port’s veritable treasure trove of exotic birds, saying this could be a major attraction to the growing number of bird watchers worldwide.

Tim Appleton, manager of the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in Great Britain, headed a 13-man delegation that recently visited Subic to survey birds at the former naval magazine area. They left apparently impressed.

“Subic has a huge potential as destination for bird watchers all over the world, particularly from America and from Europe,” Appleton said, while his companions happily took pictures in the magazine area.

“Yes, this is a gold mine you have here,” he added, referring to Subic’s feathered attractions, some of which can only be found in the Philippines.

Appleton said bird lovers would be willing to spend good money just to see Subic’s more than 100 species of birds. Subic’s security and well-preserved bird habitat makes it “more encouraging” for bird watchers to visit here, he added.

Appleton’s group visited the Subic Bay Free Port as part of a two-week familiarization trip to some of the country’s leading bird sites.

The group also visited the Candaba Swamp in Pampanga, Palawan and Cebu, which, like Subic Bay, has made it to the Department of Tourism’s top 13 birdwatching sites in the Philippines.

Appleton’s party during the Subic visit included tour operators Stephen Mark Andrews of Wildwings; Stephen Rooke, director of Sunbird; Paul Alexander Dukes, operations manager of Naturetrek Ltd.; Raymund Peter Tipper, senior tour adviser of Avian Adventures; and Dr. John Duncan MacDonald, senior partner and owner of WildSounds Llp.

They were joined by wildlife photographer David Tipling; Matthew Merritt, features editor of Bauer Media’s Bird Watching magazine; Chris Harbard, freelance writer and web site manager; William Henry Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest; Alex Robinson, wildlife and adventure photographer; and Chicoy Enerio, Philippine tourism attaché in London.

As part of their advocacy, Appleton’s group also encouraged Filipinos to take a more appreciative look at the local environment and to understand its value to people, as well as wildlife.

As a bird-watching site, Subic has been mentioned in the book “Bird Watching in the Philippines”, written by Carlos Libosada, Jr. and launched at the World Travel Mart in London last year.

Armand Arreza, administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said Subic hosts about 15 percent of all the bird species of the Philippines, and 29 percent of the bird species of Luzon.

“There are more than 185 species of birds here, some of which can only be found here in the Philippines,” Arreza told Appleton and his group.

He added Subic’s best bird-watching sites are Hill 394, and the Nabasan and Triboa areas in the former naval magazine complex. The area is also home to some of the major nature-themed tourist parks and facilities in Subic, including Tree Top Adventure, Pamulaklakin Nature Park, Apaliin Mangrove Trail and Jungle Joe, Zoobic Safari, and JEST Camp.

Arreza also said among the most abundant bird species in Subic are the Philippine Bulbul, the Philippine Coucal, the Balicassiao, the Guaiabero, and the Blackish cuckoo-shrike, which are mostly found in closed canopy and open- canopy forests of Subic Bay. By Henry Empeneo, Business Mirror

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