Of Herons and Egrets: A Walk Inside Baras Bird Sanctuary
Black Crowned Night Heron
It’s been sunny for the past 2 days in Tacurong so I decided to push through with an afternoon visit to Baras. The day is good and the roads are dry, it's a perfect time to see those migratory birds. This simple barangay located west of poblacion, houses one of Sultan Kudarat’s most sought after tourist spot, giving visitors a one of a kind bird watching experience.
An eco-tourism attraction, the Baras Bird Sanctuary is a special project of the City Government of Tacurong to conserve, protect and perpetuate more than 20,000 black crowned night herons, cattle egrets and other birds that chose to have their permanent address here.
newly harvested palm oil fruits on the way to Baras
After a good 30 minute drive from a relative’s house inside JM Montilla Subdv., our tricycle passed by hectares of perfectly lined huge palm oil trees, a common sight when you visit Sultan Kudarat province. As we’re nearing the spot, I was reminded of my very first trip in 2008 and how hard it was before to get there. Good thing the local government is currently working to complete its pavement of the road leading to this farm land turned tourist spot (hopefully it’ll be finished soon).
a natural habitat for birds
We arrived at the sanctuary minutes past 4pm. The preserved birds at the entrance I saw in 2008 were no longer there and the place has obviously undergone minor renovations. The path in between trees is now paved, talakudong hats are given before entering the towering kakawete trees, cottages have been built, and more caged animals are on display. Now that this sanctuary is city's major tourist draw, development is inevitable but it's good to see the conservation efforts made to protect the area.
This bird sanctuary should definitely be on your must see list when you get the chance to roam around the southern part of the Philippines. The sanctuary is situated on a 1.6 hectare filled with kakawete trees, formerly a black pepper plantation owned by the Malana family. In 1996, 4 pairs were spotted visiting the area until they gradually increase to now 20,000 birds and still counting. It was in 2002 when the local government declared it as Baras Bird Sanctuary. Squawks and screeches come from birds spotted like rufous night heron, intermediate egret, great egret, black crowned night herons and other migratory birds. They hunt for food to as far as Lake Sebu (I always saw birds hunting for small fishes at our family's tilapia pens that a relative was able to caught one that was trapped in a fish net).
We proceeded on with the tour after paying an affordable Php20 for entrance fee. The hats given were definitely helpful to protect ourselves from being showered with accidental bird poops. Armed with the hat, I feel like a Vietnamese going into a NatGeo tour of sort. I started taking pictures using my 5 year old worn-out Canon Ixus.
No long zoom lens? Just point and shoot. How many birds can you find?
For photography enthusiasts, this is the best time to bring your dslrs paired with a reliable zoom lens. Unfortunately, I only have my digicam to work with, the same old digicam I bought in 2008. So my photos aren’t that sharp. And when I grew tired of all the clicking, I put aside my camera and merely observed the bird life while enjoying the natural bird sound. So don't fret if you don't have the gadget. Bird images will still render in your shot when you point your camera up the towering trees filled with nests, proving just how many flock of birds there are in the sanctuary.
Watch video :)
Best Time to Go
I suggest you go visit the sanctuary between 4pm to 5:30pm, when the birds come home from hunting. It's also a good time to watch Tacurong sunset from the sanctuary.
- Just go on a good weather. It's pretty difficult to drive a tricycle on rough slippery road.
- Always wear the hat given, birds poop big time.
- It's good to bring along a binocular if you have.
- To get some really good shot, bring along your camera lens.