In our first quarter newsletter, we featured about migratory birds in Naujan Lake National Park and their importance. Similarly, migratory birds can be observed at the Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.  The ARNP is a component of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) of the Philippines and a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) in Mindoro.

The presence or absence and number of observed waterbirds are important indicators to determine the health and quality of wetlands. It is for this particular account that the MBCFI participates in the annual waterbird censuses of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. On March 28-29, 2019, the MBCFI and the Protected Area Office of the ARNP initiated a bird survey in the Apo Reef with the purpose of monitoring the population of migrant and resident bird species in the protected area and the possibility of discovering and documenting new species records for Mindoro.

Common Sand Pipers

For the waterbird survey, the 40 km transect cruise across Apo East Pass and one km transect walk yielded a record of 99 individuals from 10 species considered as waterbirds.  These include four species from Family Ardeidae (Egrets & Herons), one species from Family Rallidae (Rails), two species from Family Scolopacidae (Sandpipers, Snipes & Phalaropes), and three species from Family Laridae (Gulls & Terns).  The most numbered recorded species were the Bridled Terns (Sterna anaethetus) with 48 individuals, followed by Black-naped Terns (Sterna sumatrana) with 22 individuals and Barred Rails (Gallirallus torquatus) with 21 individuals.

Among the waterbird species recorded, three are migratory species, and seven are resident species. No threatened bird species were recorded. The Bridled Tern is considered a rare species and its nesting population at the ARNP is possibly among the largest in the Philippines. 

Chestnut-cheeked Starlings and Asian Glossy Starling

Aside from waterbirds, a total of 87 individuals from 14 confirmed bird species (+2 identified to family level only) were observed at the ARNP.  The list includes four migratory, nine resident and one Philippine endemic species.  The most numerous were the migratory Chestnut-cheeked Starlings (Sturnus philippensis) with 30 individuals, followed by the resident Eurasian Tree-Sparrow (Passer montanus) with 18 individuals and resident Olive-backed Sunbirds (Cirrynis jugularis) with 11 individuals.

The survey results clearly indicate the importance of the ARNP as refuge of migratory, resident, and endemic bird species, and, therefore, its protection is of paramount importance.