• Masked Future

    The article I wrote, ‘Are the Masked Boobies Home for Good In Tubbataha? A rollercoaster ride on the wings of hope’, was published at the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership website in 2020.  It was filled with hope and a smattering of apprehension and despair.  Then, I was confident that we would see the resurgence of the masked booby Sula dactylatra population in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Flyway Network Site (EAAF 123) in the Philippines. This singular pair of masked boobies known in the Philippines, has been with us since 2019.  The second batch of eggs that it laid resulted in one chick that grew to five months, but which the rangers later found dead for unknown reasons. Marine park rangers regularly monitor the seabirds of Tubbataha, with special attention given to this finicky pair. Rangers built a complicated drainage network to rival that of ancient Rome to ensure the nests remain dry during the rainy season.  They would practically walk on tiptoes around these celebrities for fear of causing undue stress. Five times more the pair laid eggs, usually a couple, and these would disappear without a trace, a mystery we have since brought to the attention of seabird experts worldwide through various seabird expert groups.  Luckily for us, many were willing to help. Dr. Enriqueta Velarde of the Pacific Seabird group introduced us to Dr. Roxana Torres of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who specializes in boobies.  Like us, Dr. Torres was disconcerted by the breeding failure of our Masked Boobies. At her behest, we tagged the two Masked Booby with metal and plastic ring bands during our seabird census in May 2022 for identification.  We are poised to install a camera trap to monitor their breeding behavior and to identify the ‘thief’ of their precious eggs.  And so, it is time to wait, to be patient, and to observe in silence. Figure 1. Park ranger, Segundo Conales, and reseracher, Ace Acebuque, installed rings on our lone Masked Booby pair. © B.Jimenez/TMO This couple laid seven pairs of eggs in two years, laying eggs almost every other month during the first quarter of this year alone.  It earnestly wants to survive and is working double-time to perpetuate the species.  As it is, we can but wait and do what little we can to unmask the future that lies ahead.  Meanwhile, the Masked Booby colony we dream of will have to wait. Figure 2. Masked Booby 446 and 256 now sport colored and metal wedding rings. © R.Alarcon/TMO If you have any advice for us, we would be so happy to hear from you! Email Tubbataha at tmo@tubbatahareefs.org or message via Facebook page: @OfficialTubbataha Learn more about this site: https://www.eaaflyway.net/philippines/ Prepared by Angelique Songco, Superintendent, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Flyway Network Site


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  • Baer’s Pochard and Ferruginous Duck at Chukh Lake, Northeast Mongolia

    The Chukh Bird Research Station (CBRS) is located on the…


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  • EAAFP Small Grant Fund project: 2021 Tubbataha Seabird Survey, Philippines

    Seabirds spend their entire life in the open ocean, hence, they are a good indicator of coral reef health. Their nutrient-rich droppings fertilize roosting grounds and the surrounding water to the benefit of other marine life. Seabirds are one of the most highly threatened species of animals. Although they have a relatively long life span, they breed much slower and have fewer offspring than other birds in general. Partly supported by EAAFP Small Grant Fund for Working Groups and Task Forces, this year, the Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) use seabirds as an indicator to assess of how well – or how badly – the site are conserving Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, A Flyway Network Site (EAAF 123) in the Philippines. We monitored the population of the seven species that breed in the Park, the: Red-footed Booby (Sula sula), Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster), Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra), Great Crested Tern (Thalasseus bergii), Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscata), Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus), and endemic Black Noddy subspecies (Anous minutus worcesteri). We use various monitoring methods and integrate results for a more accurate estimate of the populations.  Distance counts are conducted once a month, while direct counts are done once a quarter.  In-flight counts are done late in the afternoon, and dawn counts are made before the birds leave the islet to forage for food.  When called for, we would do night counts of birds that come to roost after sundown. Adults, subadults, juveniles, pullus, eggs, and nests of each species are counted.  Two teams conduct the count of the various species in various life stages.  In all, it took a total of 39 teams to complete the survey. In May each year, we join the marine park rangers (MPR) for quarterly monitoring.  The Covid 19 situation interposed several complications that delayed our trip, with interesting results.  Together with WWF-Philippines staff, and volunteers, we were finally able to set sail on 2 June 2021. This year’s survey was funded by the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI). Report of the surveys will be shared by the end of 2021. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is both a Ramsar site and a Flyway Network Site of the EAAFP. Located 92 nautical miles southeast of Palawan, it is a 97,030-hectare marine protected area which was established on 11 August 1988.  It is the largest no-take marine protected area in the Philippines. Its two islets are among the last known safe breeding habitats of seabirds in Southeast Asia. Article prepared by Tubbataha Management Office. The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is in the middle of the Sulu Sea. It is composed of two atolls and a reef. The Bird Islet is in the North Atoll and the smaller South Islet is located in the South Atoll. Marine park rangers construct the ‘Tubbataha Hilton’, our shelter from the sweltering heat in Bird Islet. Photo © Segundo Conales Jr Our team from Puerto Princesa City met with MPRs at the ranger station upon arrival. Research Officer Retch Alaba gave a briefing on the work at hand and assigned tasks for each person. Photo © Rowell Alarcon Our first task before setting foot on the islets was to do a distance count. Park Ranger Jeffrey David (in blue) leads the count in Bird Islet, where 80% of the total seabird population of Tubbataha reside. Photo © Rowell Alarcon In the following days, the teams got busy with their respective tasks. Here, one group counts the eggs of the Great Crested Tern. Photo © Kymry Delijero Showing off their EAAFP hats, Angelique Songco and Rowell Alarcon count Brown Noddies. Photo © Kymry Delijero Marine Park Ranger Segundo Conales Jr., (with umbrella) counts the eggs, nests, and adults of Black Noddy in the structure while John Eric Magbanua, Bantay Dagat of Local Government of Cagayancillo (LGU), serves as recorder. Photo © Retch Alaba From left: MPR Noel Bundal, SN2 Paul Balonsay PN, and Joan Pecson, WWF-Philippines, start the in-flight count at 4:30, when birds begin to arrive from the day’s foraging. Photo © Kymry Delijero The team doing a night count of the Sooty Tern population that landed after sundown. The estimate was 6000 individuals! Photo © Kymry Delijero From left to right: Marine Park Rangers Segundo Conales Jr, SNDP Paul Balonsay PN, SN2 Francis Lim and Noel Bundal (in blue shirt) with tallies their day’s count in the native dining table inside our hut. Photo © Kymry Delijero We observed lesser seabirds, probably because we arrived at the end of the breeding season when most of the adults have left. We also counted lesser eggs because most of the birds were already in the pullus or juvenile stages. Photo © Kymry Delijero Black Noddies continue to occupy the artificial nesting structures we built in 2017. Last year, we added new structures made of PVC and steel pipes (above), which are designed to last longer. Photo © Gerlie Gedoria We planted saplings of native trees in the islet in 2020 but most did not survive. Marine Park Rangers Amado Cayabo (LGU) and Cris Caranay (TMO) construct bamboo guards around a sapling so birds would not build their nests on the saplings and use their leaves as nesting materials. Photo © Kymry Delijero The only known breeding Masked Booby in Philippines lain an egg for the fourth time (!) since 2019. A second egg appeared a week later. Photo © Retch Alaba We used the WWF-Philippines research vessel, M/Y Navorca for the survey. Here, the team disembarks for the survey in South Islet. Photo © Rowell Alarcon This year's seabird survey team. Photo © Rowell Alarcon


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  • Mongolian Bird Ringing Program – 2020 Annual Report

    In Mongolia, bird ringing activities started relatively recently. The first stationary bird ringing scheme was established in 2015 by Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia (WSCC) at the…


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  • The probably oldest banded Curlew Sandpiper in EAA Flyway

    This year, on 21st March, Hong Kong Waterbirds Ringing Group captured a Curlew Sandpiper with an old metal ring coded “NV83515” during their regular waterbird ringing survey in Mai…


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  • Why are we losing our large waders?

    1 March 2017 Graham Appleton, WaderTales  A review of the global threats to the world’s Numeniini (curlews, godwits & Upland Sandpiper)…


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  • Wader Quest Wader Conservation World Watch 2016

    Wader Quest WADER CONSERVATION WORLD WATCH WCWW3 will take place on the 5th and 6th…


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  • Seeking additional band recaptures and resight observations of Beringian Dunlin throughout the East Asian-Australasian Flyway

    Rick Lanctot, Shorebird Working Group Chair Additional information on band recaptures or resight observations of the four subspecies of Dunlin (C. a. actites, arcticola, kistchinski, and sakhalina)…


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  • 日本国内におけるガン・カモ類の調査

    Read in English EAAFPガン・カモ類作業部会コーディネーター 牛山克己


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  • Introducing the Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project (BSCP)

    by Sayam Chowdhury on Wader Quest newsletter Bangladesh Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project EAAFP Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force Assistant Coordinator


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