Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bio-blitzin' the Coasts of Balanga

I immediately said yes to Fredd Ochavo when he asked me if I want to come explore the coasts of Balanga in Bataan. They were going birdwatching I thought and I get to tag along to see what the birds hide in or perch on. But when we arrived in Barangay Tortugas where they were holding the first Ibong Dayo Festival, I was told I would be participating in the bio blitz. I heard the term before, but have no idea what we are going to do. I was immediately introduced to Wildbird Club members Anna Gonzales and Lala Espanola. Anna is an architect in charge of bringing to realization the Balanga Citywalk, the site for the festival and future hub for birdwatching in the area. Lala is a biologist who just recently plucked a new bird species from anonymity, the Calayan rail. Both are birdwatchers extraordinaire. Fredd and I were stand-ins for the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society. We were to conduct the bio-blitz activity and guide young participants through the photo exploration.

Biology 101: Bio-blitz is a scientific activity recently formulated and used to help in biologizing an area. A group was to sweep a certain site with photo-documentation, taking pictures of all living organisms, plants, animals, etc. The pictures are then compiled and presented to experts to be identified. Thus the different living things in the would have a record and documented. In turn the participants would also learn about the particular biology of the concerned place.

Tortugas is a young reclaimed area where the Balanga residents planted with mangrove species a score years ago. In 20 years the mangroves have repopulated the old fish ponds and is now teeming with new life. The participants of the Balanga bio-blitz were mostly young students. Armed with their digicams, they first swept through the mud flats, checking out the birds, molluscs and crabs bathing in the shallow water and the baking sun., then to the mangrove area, where they took snaps of the surrounding flora. Lala stood as the teacher. she explained the roles each organism took in their rightful positions in the environment. The students listened with all enthusiasm while snapping away at any chance they get. They picked up crawlers , turned over stones and chased flying insects just to take the asked pictures.

In an hour's time we have only skimmed through the edges but we already had to go round up everyone and head back to Citywalk. We still had to collate the pictures and identify them. Photo-inquest was held in a nearby school where we were joined by DENR forester Jimmy Aberin, who identified the mangrove species. An hour of taking pictures with 10 students (with cameras but about 30 students participated) amounted to hundreds of pictures to see. But again limited time allowed only for 3 mangrove tree species, a coastal tree, a coastal shrub, 2 vines and a few birds to be identified. But the pictures were filed away by the Balanga government and the Wildbird Club to be handed out for identification by other scientific experts. Hopefully after a few days of emailing and posting, Balanga would eventually have its seed record of what types of organisms inhabit their reclaimed mangroves. It would certainly show more reasons why the city government have to continue its efforts in rehabilitating their shores and coastal areas. It would also aid the students in learning more about the plants and animals living in their own backyards.

No comments: