MANILA, Philippines -- A two-hectare lot, which more than 100 species of migratory birds have turned into their temporary home, will soon become one of Valenzuela City?s main tourist attractions.
The city government earlier declared a swampy area in Villa Encarnacion, Malanday, which is surrounded by trees and teeming with water lilies, a bird sanctuary.
Residents said the birds, which are from Indonesia, according to experts, have been flocking to the area for more than five years, prompting Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian to sign a memorandum of agreement with the owners of the property for its development into an eco-park.
?The landscape in the area will not be touched but it will be developed into a bird and wildlife sanctuary,? Gatchalian said.
No one knows exactly what and how many kinds of species abound in the two-hectare property.
The city government said it would coordinate with enthusiasts and experts from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines to identify and catalogue its fine-feathered visitors.
One of the species that has been spotted in the area, however, is the ?bakaw-gabi? or black-crowned night heron.
Gatchalian said wooden view decks will be built around the area for the convenience of bird watchers.
?The decks will surround the swamp to give people a good vantage point without disturbing the birds,? the mayor added.
Best of all, the eco-park, according to Gatchalian, will be open to the public free of charge.
?We want to protect the birds and at the same time provide enjoyment to residents and tourists,? he said.
The sanctuary, which is just an hour?s drive away from Makati City, will also be ideal for students going on field trips.
?The objective is to also educate, not only to entertain,? Gatchalian said.
According to residents, the birds probably flock to the area, which used to be a rice field, because they can find food there.
?We see them fly low and dive under the water lilies and stay there for a while, probably to look for food,? a man observed.
He added that migratory birds abound in the area during the summer months.
For Gatchalian, the birds come to Valenzuela City for various reasons.
?According to experts, our tropical climate is conducive to molting, feeding and breeding,? he said.
Residents who live near the swamp said that at first, the sounds made by their fine-feathered friends gave them quite a scare.
?They chirp and make a lot of noise especially at night, which could be scary if one is not used to it,? said Mario Jaber, whose house is closest to the proposed bird sanctuary.
?When we moved in here five years ago, the birds were already here,? he added, saying that some residents in the area who have lived there before him told him that the birds started arriving one day and have been coming back since.
Jaber said that he has the best ?front seat view? of the birds of any resident in the area, referring to a tree full of nests right in front of a window on the second floor of his house.
For those planning to go bird watching, the best time to go is around 4 p.m. until sunset. During this time, the birds fly around in droves.
At daytime, they remain in the tree or in their nests, flitting from one branch to another.