With 7,100 islands stretching from the Malayan-Indonesian complex in the south to close to Taiwan in the north, sandwiched between the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean the Philippines is both a rewarding and difficult place to bird-watch. The processes of geography and evolution has left one of the highest degrees of endemism known in the world with some 172 species of birds only found within the archipelago. Add to those 8 species mainly found within the islands and a huge potential for further splits and one can see the attraction for birding here.
As if the prospect of travelling through a myriad of islands of different sizes, shapes and forms each often with its own dialect and transportation and access problems was not enough, the element of human influence is also one of the highest in the world. Virtually anywhere in the country there are people, either settlers or native tribes, encroaching on remnants of habitat in each of the islands. This pressure can be so intense that within a season a whole area can vanish, taking with it what was possibly a large percentage of the remaining population of several species in one fell swoop. Hence many visiting birders are told – visit now before it is too late.
The list of non-endemics reaches around 300 species although this has been increasing each year as more people regularly bird-watch and more foreign tours visit the islands. It is important that trip reports be relayed to the recording body so that valuable data may be gathered to add to what is currently a largely word-of-mouth list of sightings and numbers.
There are three generally recognized geographical regions – Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, although for birdwatchers the area of Palawan is a 4th region that must be treated separately.
The largest island with a limited number of associated islands off the north and east coasts, Luzon contain all the major habitats from mossy forest to marshlands. Due to logging there is extremely limited lowland forest left but within most mountainous areas small remnants of forest can be found. The island is relatively easy and safe to move around and with fairly good transportation links. There are a few birdwatching sites within or close to Metro Manila but most endemics are found scattered a day or two's travel away.
The belt of the Philippine archipelago, the Visayas consist of the majority of the islands. In ornithological terms there are two or three major areas – the Negros/Panay complex in the west, Cebu in the centre and the Bohol/Samar/Leyte group to the east, which have many shared species with Mindanao to the south. Environmental degradation in this region is extreme – especially in the east where several species are located in very small forest patches and some species may even be already extinct or in non-sustainable situations. Travel is again not difficult and the area is generally peaceful and easy to access. With most of the islands being small, travel time to sites is normally a day although there are no formal organised transportation links and most visitors use local guides.
A large island close to Borneo, Mindanao is also all to often seen in the news or travel advisory lists as a place to avoid. Instability does occur but in general it is within certain areas and other regions are peaceful and the people receptive. With a host of endemics, and being the last holdout for the Philippine Eagle, one can see why most people still want to visit but areas are restricted and travel mainly must be done with prior organization or with extra days on hand to move about.
Some of the easiest birding in the country and set in a truly tropical setting, Palawan is a favourite for anyone. With its own set of birds quite distinct to the rest of the country and a good set of migrants it makes a pleasant change from the hard work of the heavily trapped and bird-poor forests of the rest of the Philippines.
Other wildlife 其他野生动植物
As with other tropical countries the forests abound with insects and reptiles making a pleasant diversion while waiting to see a bird. Orchids are also abundant and as with the birds, endemism is also common across all the biological communities.
Weather & other considerations
Although Mindanao has a more equatorial climate to the northern areas in general the islands are governed by a dual season climate – wet (June-October) and dry (December – April). Temperatures are normally between 25-35 although the mountains can be cold at night in the early part of the year. Malaria remains in a very few areas but is not a major problem and other diseases are not significant. Most normal facilities (food, health care, airports etc.) are available within a day's trek of any of the birding sites.
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