It wades through the water searching for food. Its unmistakable elegant presence with boldly pied plumage, long bluish-gray legs and slender upcurved bill is caught on the lens during the conduct of Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) last January 17, 2023 at Brgy. Latasan, E.B. Magalona, Negros Occidental.

The winged visitor was a Pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta). It was quite a surprise for the team composed of personnel from the DENR PENRO Negros Occidental, E.B. Magalona Local Government Unit, Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (PhilBio), and the ENR Ambassadors and volunteer students from Tanza National High School to have seen the bird as it breed in temperate parts of Europe across Central Asia and to the Russian Far East.

Christian Casio of PhilBio captured in photos the Pied avocet foraging for food around a vacant fishpond together with the Black-winged stilts. The team of Conservation and Development Section (CDS) of DENR PENRO Negros Occidental checked the 2021 and 2022 AWC data to confirm whether there were previous sighting of the waterbird. Forester Rosie Pablico, CDS Chief, confirmed this was the first record of the species in Negros Occidental and in Western Visayas.

“We don’t know exactly what caused the waterbird to change its course and migrated here in the Philippines, and specifically in the province of Negros Occidental. This is another first for us. We know however that the continuous visit of the migratory birds year in and year out only proved that we have rich wetlands,” said Regional Executive Director Livino B. Duran of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 6.

It could be recalled that in February 4, 2017, Western Visayas welcomed the arrival of Brent goose (Branta bernicla nigricans) in the coastal areas of Hinactacan, Lapaz, Iloilo City. That was the first country record as confirmed by the bird experts from PhilBio.

Then on July 20, 2018, the Christmas Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) or Christmas Island frigatebird made its first-recorded visit in Panay Island. Sighted by Andre Bonnie Balderas and Nelson Rondan of Panay Bird Club, the Christmas Frigatebird was seen soaring high over the coastal road in Dumangas, Iloilo. On November 29, 2020, the colorful Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) made a surprising touchdown in Hinactacan wetlands. Both the Brent Goose and the Glossy ibis were photographed and recorded by Rachel Casio of the Conservation and Development Division of DENR 6.

Beautiful winged visitors are here again with their migration that started in September last year and will end by March this year. The conduct of the Asian Waterbird Census provides valuable data which helped government authorities to identify wetland sites for priority protection and management and also set aside wetlands of national and international importance. Such is the classification of the Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area (NOCWCA), which happens to be the 7th Ramsar site in the country.