Nature and outdoor sports are inseparable. Even before working as a wildlife researcher for Haribon Foundation, I was already an outdoors person. I enjoy nature adventures and extreme sports like rock climbing, caving, mountaineering, scuba diving, surfing and mountain biking. In fact, I discovered my inner nature-lover while I found myself engrossed in these exciting activities.
It all started way back in college when I joined a mountaineering organization. My leisure pursuits made me realize that in order for us to continue to marvel at our mountains, we have to protect them. And to cut the long story, I eventually ended up working for bird conservation in Haribon.
Birds captivate me. The charm of these beautifully winged creatures are truly fascinating that I notice them everywhere I go. And as a researcher-conservationist, I get to continue to enjoy doing my love for outdoor sports!
Mountain bikes are increasingly popular these days in the Philippines. With our majestic landscapes, a lot of places in the country are making it to the top biking destinations. One of the more popular locations to ride bikes nearby is Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal. Soaring high within the Sierra Madre Mountain range, this amazing place 300 meters above sea level boasts several trails for different biker skill levels. This mountainous area is also home to various wildlife species, including my classic favorite – BIRDS.
Most of the weekends, and if the weather is fine, I go there with my friends and ride along those trails. Sometimes, the trip can take us several hours and with my acquired “auto bird finding” instinct, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the vast species of birds around the area.
Since it is frequented by visitors, the area is somehow disrupted due to human activity so it felt surprising to take sight of a variety of bird species including rare, endemic, and even threatened species. Doves, flowerpeckers, shrikes, bus chats, and even migratory raptors are just some of the many species we spotted in Timberland.
A remarkable one is the vulnerable Ashy Thrush, which can only be found in the islands of Luzon and Mindoro. I saw it jumping across the trail several times. I even stopped, took a good look at it, and wished I had my camera on hand because it was so near and not even interrupted by a curious human taking a close look at it.
There was also a time while pedaling uphill along a concrete road that I saw a man chasing a juvenile ground bird at the road side. That familiar and resounding bird call kept ringing from nearby, probably the parent of that juvenile bird. So I moved towards the man who, by that time, was already holding the bird inside his fist.
To my surprise, it was a juvenile Ashy Thrush that was just learning to fly. I talked to the man and he said that it was the first time that he saw a bird like that. So I shared with him some information about the bird – that they are now rare and decreasing in number.
The man finally decided to let the poor bird go, which he initially intended to keep as a pet. He carefully freed the young Ashy Thrush to a bushy area leading to the forest, then the little fellow started skipping again. I thanked the man and as soon as he started his motorbike and drove down the road, our group pedaled again.
This sort of situation can happen anytime, anywhere. Sadly, many people are ignorant or simply turn a blind eye. If we are aware of the many bird species around us, we can actually help save them in our own simple ways.
Loving the outdoors is all fun and adventure. But to me, it isn’t enough. So next time you go trekking, biking or do any of your favorite outdoor leisure, be conscious of the natural world around you and do your share for the environment. Remember that every little bit of them counts.